Today I’m going to give you a little history lesson about the town I grew up in.
It’s a typical small town with typical small town stories and the historic buildings that often go with them.
There was the mansion on Victoria Street that sat vacant for decades, every kid in the town telling stories about how it was haunted. (turns out it wasn’t haunted so much as neglected by the owners who inherited it) The house was sold and fixed up recently.
There were the cactus greenhouses. Our town was at one point, the Cactus Capital of the world. A bit of an anomaly, what with it being in Southern Ontario, Canada and all. The greenhouses shut down some years ago, the glass bulidings falling victim to kids with rocks and falling tree branches.
And there was The Deluxe.
The Deluxe restaurant was opened by the Wongs in the 1940’s as a diner. It was a successful little place until the untimely demise of Mr. Wong in the 1970’s. In the days after Mr. Wong died, his wife walked down from the apartment she shared with her husband above the diner, crossed the linoleum floor, and locked the front door of The Deluxe forever. She never opened it again.
The doors to The Deluxe remained locked for the next 40 years. A time capsule. A shrine to her late husband. Everything stayed exactly as it was the day it was installed in the 1940’s. The soda fountain, the long wooden candy bar and the booths with their newfangled juke boxes hanging from the walls in each booth. Even the cigarettes and candy in the glass cases sat untouched for the next 4 decades.
Many residents of the town, myself included, never knew the restaurant as anything other than something to look at. We’d peer into the front windows whenever we walked by and wonder if it’d ever be opened again. We’d shield our eyes from the glare of the sun and press our faces to the glass, taking in a scene you’d normally only see in movies. Occasionally you’d see Mrs. Wong, down from her apartment, watering some plants inside the restaurant’s front windows.
And then one day a picture show came to town. They were looking for a place to shoot a movie and old Mrs. Wong gave them permission to shoot in The Deluxe. Then came another, and another. Over time The West Wing, Haven, Cabin Fever, and Man of the Year were shot in the restaurant because it was a 100% authentic 1940’s diner. There was nothing like it anywhere else. It was a perfectly preserved piece of history.
And then in 2003, at the age of 104, … Mrs. Wong died.
Now what? What was going to happen to this landmark? Half the town was hoping it would be reopened exactly as it was, and the other half was hoping it would be torn down and updated. I was in the former group. I wanted The Deluxe to be reopened as the diner it had been 40 years ago.
And then it sat. Nobody wanted to lease it, nobody wanted to run it and nobody (Mrs. Wong’s sons) wanted to sell it. So there it sat again. For years.
Then in the summer of 2009, an article appeared in the local paper announcing a decision had been made regarding the town’s most famous and beloved landmark. The entire contents of The Deluxe were to be sold at auction so it could be transformed into a Thai restaurant.
Oh. My. God.
I went to the auction even thought I didn’t want to. I didn’t buy anything. I went to say good-bye to the things I never even got a chance to know. To the things I saw through the window. I went to say good bye to a piece of history that would never and could never be replaced.
I hear the new Thai restaurant “The Bankok Deluxe” is good. I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been. I can’t bring myself to go. I’m still angry about the loss of something so rare. I’m sure one day I’ll relent, but it’s been open for close to 2 years now and I haven’t stepped foot over it’s threshold. I have nothing against the restaurant itself or the owners. In fact they’ve done a beautiful job with the place. They’ve installed elegant modern windows in the front that open up to let the breeze through in the summer. I hear the food is delicious and it must be because it’s packed every night.
I’m just not ready yet. I’m a bit of a curmudgeon that way.
And I’m not the only one who loved The Deluxe. The whole town has a special place in it’s heart for the diner and the history behind it.
My sister even painted a picture to commemorate the old gal. All those folk art lessons in the 80’s seem to have paid off.
She’s had 100 prints made up which she’s selling for $95.
If you want to buy one … lemme know. I have an “in”.
“The Deluxe” as painted by my sister.
(here it is in perspective)
The more I hear about the new restaurant, the closer I get to going to it. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in town boycotting it for historical reasons. I’m also pretty sure I’m not quite ready to go there yet.
Hell. I’m still upset that house isn’t really haunted.
To contact me about a print email me at firstname.lastname@example.org