GUEST COLUMN: Here today, gone tomorrow – like Uncle Will’s store

Bob Boulton

What I remember most about my Uncle Will was a visit as a young boy to the apartment above his store.

This wasn’t long after the death of his second wife, Aunt Jean. Though I’d never met her, I knew that on that day my best behaviour was required.

Bob Boulton

Uncle Will’s small store, W. H. Tricker Groceries, was at 242 Wellington St., between College and Brock. I can picture myself standing there, watching him stock the shelves. I was eager to get away as quickly as possible and wondered if anyone would notice if I just disappeared.

Five of us had gathered – Uncle Will, his daughter, my mother and father and myself. We sat upstairs in hard-backed chairs around a floor furnace vent, as if it were a campfire. I wore a scratchy new Christmas sweater, and the coal-fired heat blew on us without mercy or remorse.

When he wasn’t minding the store, Uncle Will smoked White Owl cigars, one after the other, which only added to the atmosphere. It was like sitting in a sauna next to a forest fire and listening to bees drone. As I suffered through a cigar smoke haze, the adults shared memories and reminisced.

They talked about Mary Scott, known as May. A Seaforth cousin of my grandmother, she was the widow of William J. Scott, a past Sarnia mayor. No doubt she did important things, but what my father recollected was her taking our family to dinner in the private upstairs dining room of the old Colonial Hotel, which my teatotalling family had never before set foot inside. What I remember of that was being allowed a chocolate sundae for dessert.

And they shared the neighbourhood scuttlebutt about the teenage boy on my block (who ended up a prominent Sarnia citizen) who threw his younger brother – my friend – off the roof of the garage to make a man of him.

Over time, the things we think important about ourselves can evaporate. We never know for certain what will last, what will be remembered. Big achievements disappear without notice. Uncle Will’s W. H. Tricker Groceries store is now a parking lot on the south side of the Sarnia Arena and Community Centre.

On the other hand, some everyday experiences we have make a lasting impact. We just can’t predict which ones. Sometimes, we make a difference when we don’t realize we’re doing it.

If my Uncle Will were still here, he would nod his head at that and light another cigar.

Bob Boulton is a Sarnia writer of stories, articles and light verse