The Eagle Café – circa 1943 /44
Written by Marcel R Pitre
All Chinese Restaurants have an aura about them, most on the bright side with a few that do not challenge. Jim Sing ran a very “bright-side” business... on the “north-side” of town. The small restaurant had an entrance with a space between two doors offering protection from the north wind to those inside in winter months. Old time seating arrangements were of the type that the times dictated. Chinese cuisine, as always, was consumed with delight in a manner that cultural preference or ability would choose. Not all could navigate through the contortions of chopsticks.
Memories do not fill in the brain cavities I have of the food, nor did I have the money needed for the finery that Jim Sing’s eatery presented to a customer. It was a school teacher’s desire to obtain the words of a song for his class from the Wurlitzer that had two students expend some time there. I was one of them. What a great way to not attend classes and yet be part of the daily chores dictated by the school curriculum... and that great teacher Mr. Solar. The song we were to obtain the words to was popular at the time though that particular number escapes me now.
It was musical education time; singing was the only instruments we had. There was a need for lyrics to bring us up to the modern melody we desired. It was then that Mr. Solar directed Blyth Reid and myself to take pencil and paper to Jim Sing’s music box, play the desired tune wanted, all within the time that five nickels would offer, and bring the words back to class. And he supplied the change!
It was during the listening and writing time that the two of us were in a fit of laughter. Many people frequented Jim’s eatery which included the customers from the nearby Casey’s Inn. Some were not in the joyous mood that the main beverage sold there should have held them and they took exception to our laughter as a slight upon themselves. Their immediate intention was to take me outside and “clean-my-clock”. Thanks to the double doors I mentioned they could not maneuver me to the outside, we became knotted in a confined space. Jim Sing’s humour, at time, had him display his healthy meat clever to those he wished to impress... or change their minds. Though he always did so in jest I fervently hoped, while snared between two doorways, that he would have shown up then. No dice... Jim was cooking I suppose?
It was then the Dr. William (Bill) Reid, father of Blythe, appeared on the scene. It happened that there was a need to see his daughter at the school and was told where she was. Never at a better time! Dr. Reid did not take much from anyone, particularly the two inebriates. Needless to say we did not have to put ourselves through the “contortions” of chopsticks though truly amazing twisting efforts were needed to dislodge ourselves from between the two sets of doors. The end results were that... we did get back to school with the words to a great tune, Mr. Solar was happy, Dr. Reid was glad to be in the right place at the right time, as were we. Blythe and I had a great experience on Mr. Solar’s two bits. And Jim Sing did not feel need to demonstrate the effectiveness of his meat cleaver.