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A Side Street Named St. Thomas + A Pencil Moustached Gentleman + Can we Change the Subject?

A Side Street Named St. Thomas + A Pencil Moustached Gentleman + Can we Change the Subject?

Good Morning from Warren Grove, Prince Edward Island

What a beautiful morning it is. 

“For each new morning, let there be the flow of love.

Let there be a light of happiness in every direction.” ~ Amit Ray

Thank you for allowing me into your time and space today. 

I hope you had a great week. 

Last week, I shared a bit about how I began the journey of pursuing my dream of being self-employed through making and selling preserves. 

This is Part 2, you might want to read Part 1

Walking around the Bay and Bloor Street neighbourhood, I came upon a side street named St. Thomas. I started down the sidewalk admiring the quaintness and quiet of the area. 

I came upon a white low, single-story white stucco building with a two-story addition on one end—a grand old wooden door at the front entrance, classic paned windows and lovely landscaping. Printed on the sign was Le Provencale Fine European Dining. 

I thought this is it and marched to and through the front door filled with confidence, looking for a server position. 

A very well-dressed pencilled moustached gentleman met me with an accent I didn’t recognize. 

I introduced myself, shared that I had been a dining room manager on Prince Edward Island, now in culinary school in Toronto, and looked to be a waiter. 

He pointed to a dining room table set with fine silver, dinnerware, and glassware. 

I looked at it, and then he said, ‘clean it.’ Meaning I was to imagine diners were seated there and to remove the dishes. So I started to remove items from the table before he stated firmly, “you know nothing!”   

It was a quick hit to the ego, but being hungry and having to think quickly, I stated, “perhaps, but I want to learn.” 

He said, ok, “I will hire you and train you to be a busboy. It is 3.25 an hour and a meal before your shift.” 

The meal before my shift was music to my ears, and I said yes. 

Now I have a job, I am in school, and I need to find a place for a longer-term stay. 

Hearing of a place in Toronto called The Beaches, and being from an Island, I needed to see the beaches. So I took a streetcar to the end of Queen Street East. I stepped off near a fantastic Art Deco Building and green space. It was the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, and I walked around it in awe. 

After turning the corner from the ‘beach’ side of the building, I noticed a few smaller apartment buildings and thought to check them out.  As I got closer to the buildings, I saw an apartment for rent sign in a window. 

The building was under renovations, and I happened to meet the superintendent on his way out. I introduced myself, told him what I was doing in Toronto, and looking for an apartment. 

He led me up the stairs to a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette and another room equivalent to a large closet. Knowing I had two acquaintances from Prince Edward Island moving to Toronto looking to share an apartment, I shook hands with the super for this 800 dollar apartment with a view of the water.  I gave him a small deposit, and he gave me the keys. This kind of thing would not happen today. 

Now, I had school, a job, and an apartment. 

I surrendered my desire for a bedroom and was happy with the closet for a little less rent. It didn’t matter to me; all I had was a sleeping bag and suitcase. 

A few days after moving in and before they arrived, I walked into the neighbourhood and noticed that everyone had put out old furniture to take away—couches, chairs, beds, etc. 

That day, I lugged enough stuff back to the apartment to furnish it. 

On man’s trash is another man’s treasure. ~ An English proverb

Now, I had school, a job, and a furnished apartment! 

All set. Here we go. 

The school was one end of the city with only one transfer, work was only three transfers away from school, and home was only two transfers from work. So, the weekly journey begins—thirty-two hours of school, 17 hours of streetcars & subways and 40 hours of work. 

Work was interesting. I had never met people of different nationalities before. 

I learned, Gus, who I met at the door the first day, was from Spain; he was the Maitre D’ and the Sommelier. His brigade looked like this; the captains and bartenders were Argentinian; the waiters were Portuguese, and the busboys were Chinese, and then there was me, a Canadian Maritimer. 

After working for a few weeks, I remember thinking everyone seemed so uptight. There seemed to be no fun in this place. 

One evening, a guest dropped their Visa card on the floor.  I bent down to pick it up and return it to the gentleman. I noticed that the name on the card was the same as mine. Bruce A. MacNaughton. It is not every day that I meet someone with the same name, and when I do, I find it noteworthy. So I gleefully introduced myself as having the exact same name. 

I don’t remember his reaction, but I do remember the response of fellow employees; it seemed I had done something equivalent to having slapped someone.

At the end of the shift, Gus felt the need to scold me in front of the team. I thought to myself, wow, these guys are way too uptight. 

I determined fine dining is not for me. I dislike pretentiousness. 

"My idea of good company is the company of clever,
well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation;
that is what I call good company." ~ Jane Austen

Give me good food, good people at a reasonable price, and I am in my happy place. 

You don't need a silver fork to eat good food. Paul Prudhomme

Coming on near Christmas break, I mentioned I was a culinary student to the chef.  Upon telling him this, he seemed agitated with me.  And in another accent, I never heard before, barked, “What are YOU doing in the dining room? You should be in here.” 

I managed to bark back, “I need to work.” 

He sternly expressed, “after Christmas, show up and be ready to work with us in the kitchen. You come in the kitchen door from now on.” 

I learned later the chef was of German descent. 

So I came in the kitchen door after Christmas. 

Next week, I will share my kitchen stories, including how I single-handedly cleared a full, busy restaurant onto the street as the firetrucks flashing lights filled the night sky. And the quaint side street called St. Thomas was filled with the sound of sirens. People dressed to the nines stood on the sidewalks brushing off powered fire retardant which accompanied them with whatever course they had been on. 

It was definitely was a night out.

Before I go, I wish to share something with you which gave me even more appreciation for keeping a positive attitude. 

I loved her approach and her attitude in the video below. The year before she performed, she was told she had six months to live, and then her husband divorced her two weeks later.

This week,  I have been listening to the beautiful piano of Dustin O’Halloran.  It is a bit quiet. I hope you enjoy it. 

Sample listen here.

Have a wonderful weekend and take care of each other. 

With love from Prince Edward Island

Bruce + Mille

ps. Your Morning Smile 

My wife: You need to do more chores around the house.

Me: Can we change the subject?

My wife: Okay. More chores around the house need to be done by you.

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Stephanie Vargas - June 19, 2021

I always enjoy your stories. :o)

Cathie Sabourin - June 19, 2021

As a born and bred Torontonian, I can follow your tracks thru the ‘big’ city with delight.
Great story and as mentioned last week definitely a storyline for a Hallmark movie.
Your passion and desire is the fuel for success. So many young people theses days don’t have it and don’t know where to get it.
Have a great weekend and enjoy your Father’s Day.
Cathie Sabourin

Kathy Gorman - June 19, 2021

Can’t wait to hear more of the story next week. Love your blog. God bless until next Saturday morning!

althea - June 19, 2021

Lovely joining you at breakfast, Bruce. Thanks for all the word pictures. What a delightful way to start the weekend. Thanks galore. Btw, what year was this?

Tati - June 19, 2021

Oh how well I know these places! What memories were stirred in this post for me. In the early 70’s my mum bought a house on Neville Park, South of queen. We had a lake view as well. It was the only run down house on a street of rather elitest home owners. They even ran a petition for her not to buy the house. We were not anglos you see. The house even had little green fogs in the basement. But they cleaned and worked in it and created a beautiful garden too. I know the street car and subways and St.Thomas st. I worked at a theatre on St. Joseph…in those days of early Canadian Theater companies that found homes in garages and industrial buildings. I always wondered about Le Provencal Restaurant but would never have the funds for it’s menu.

The beaches were a great place to live back in the day. One of the last “dry” neighbourhood s in the city for a brief time. Did you go to the “goof” or see movies at the Fox?

I miss those neighbourhoods now. That supported local cinema, and small businesses.

We were lucky I think.

Thank you.

judi - June 19, 2021

this touched me deeply. thank you so much for sharing…

Valarie LaBore - June 19, 2021

Love your continuing story, Bruce! Your choices were definitely your right path. It reminds me of my favorite quote that I always carry with me: “The moment you make a decision, the Universe moves in to assist you.” Author unknown.

Mary Hodgman - June 19, 2021

Thank you for the video about Nightbird. Her beautiful voice and positive attitude give me inspiration and hope. As someone that has been battling ovarian cancer for over 2 year it inspires me to keep strong and positive as I work towards remission.

Kay - June 19, 2021

That was beautiful, thank you so much for sharing!

Tony Rizzuto - June 19, 2021

Great story Bruce – thanks for sharing – I can’t wait to read installment #3! It’s amazing how opportunities present themselves a) when actively we seek them out and b) are open to making whatever comes at us WORK! Always look forward to my morning coffee and your blog. Be well – hope to come up in the fall when borders open!

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