by Michael Daykin from Maple Ridge, BC
I was thinking recently about the iconic, and now defunct, Canadian chainstore, Zellers.
I have many memories of our local Zellers: the dreaded trips with my mom to get school clothes, begging to look at the toy aisle when I was little and then browsing it 25-ish years later for my own children. What I miss most however, is the restaurant; not because I ate there, but because of those who did.
You see for many years our Zellers restaurant was the meeting location of the “Maple Ridge Senate”: a group of guys, all over 80, who gathered weekly for coffee. They called themselves the “Senate” because they were a bunch of old guys sitting around, shooting the breeze – the named seemed appropriate.
My grandfather was a regular member of the senate and thus I was able to sit in from time to time, mostly on the days I drove him. The stories shared around the table were rich and colourful. These men with 8 or 9 decades behind them had a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and a fair bit of mischief. They shared stories of days gone by and stories of what their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were up to. Zellers was kind enough to put their group photo over their table, as well as the picture of their holding the Stanley Cup when a member's grandson Andrew Ladd, brought the cup to town. The Stanley Cup in our Zellers after all was probably one of the most exciting things to happen there.
My grandfather passed away recently, as many of his fellow senators have as well, and I'm not sure where, or if the Maple Ridge Senate meets anymore. I think of Grandpa and his friends every time I walk by that shuttered storefront and I miss him.
At the same time, I am comforted because I am now working in a sales job that requires a fair amount of travel and I've learned something: there are “senates” all across this country of ours. I've come to find that on any given morning you can walk into an A&W or a Tim's or a coffee shop just about anywhere, be it Jasper, White Horse, Regina, Winnipeg, Waterloo or Quebec City and off in the corner you’ll find a group of Senators, shooting the breeze, talking about the way things were and where they are heading. And whenever, and wherever I see what looks like such a gathering, I think of Grandpa and our local Zellers.