I grew up in an old and elegant town on the edge of the Great Northern Forest in Saskatchewan. Prince Albert was built by “second sons” and adventurers from Britain. On the hill they created a world of magnificent homes with ballrooms, sterling silver chandeliers, and often a porte-cochére for waiting carriages and red clay tennis courts.
On the flat up from the river on Central Avenue they built a Gothic City Hall. On side of the City Hall were watering troughs for horses. The taps were lion’s heads verdigris with age, water trickling from their gaping mouths into deep troughs. On a hot summer day we would plunge our arms into the cooling water. Each side of the trough large iron rings were imbedded in the concrete curbs. Teamsters would water their horses then tie the reins to the rings.
On the other side of our City Hall was a small park and the bandstand. Every summer Sunday night the city band, splendid in red and gold uniforms, played. We listened, sang, waltzed and marched to the music. Sunday night band concert was a traditional family outing.
Our shiny black beast of a car, complete with tasseled blinds, carried my two sisters and my dog Scamp, down town. First stop McConnell’s; part cigar store, part magazines and newspapers and most important part ice cream parlor. It was a long, narrow store with creaking wood floors, and the heady aroma of cigars and newsprint. At the back of the store one could sit on wire ice-cream chairs at small round marble tables, and have fountain drinks and ice cream. Our father would buy us ice cream cones. My favorite was cherry custard. We would stroll down Central Avenue to the band concert trying to make our ice cream cones last as long as possible.
When the shadows lengthened the band would play God Save the King. We would stand very still and very straight. Reluctantly and slowly we would make our way back to the car, humming the music and taking the magic of the night with us.