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18 June, 2010


Did you ever have someone offer to do something really nice for you but you were not in a position to totally accept their kindness?  Well I have and it is an awkward, terrible, unforgettable feeling.

In reflecting on people who have had an influence on me in my life, the name Charlie Aiken always comes to mind, not necessarily because of what he did, rather for what he offered to do for me.  It is really a bitter sweet story.

Charlie (Mr. Aiken to me at the time) owned the only departmental store in Dresden and just happened to be band master for the Dresden Community Band.  He was a neat, trim, gentle man who greeted townsfolk with a smile and polite nod of acknowledgement.  He also lived just two doors from my family's home and was a good neighbour.

My father Ken passed away when I was 14 years of age and Charlie, bless his heart, took it upon himself on one occasion to fill the void in my young life.  Knowing of my interest in music at the time, he invited me to attend a parade in Chatham that was featuring a large number of marching bands.  He treated me to an ice cream sundae at a restaurant on the King Street parade route and regaled me with stories about when he was a young man starting out in business.  

Fifteen minutes into the parade itself he suddenly turned to me and asked:  "How would you like to come and work in my store part-time after school?"

Taken by surprise, I felt a twinge in the pit of my stomach.  "What am I going to say?" I asked myself.  "This can't be happening!"

Mustering up all my adolescent courage, I blurted out:  "I'm sorry, but just yesterday Don Weese asked me to work in his store (Don Weese Men's Wear) and I'm going to be starting on Saturday."

"Oh, that's too bad, but I understand," Charlie responded, quickly drawing my attention to the colourful uniforms of one of the passing bands.  The subject was never discussed again and I do not remember much about the remainder of the day other than how terrible I felt for not being able to accept the kind job offer.  I not only felt awkward  for myself, but sorry for Charlie too.  It was like I was letting him down after he had been so thoughtful.

Just my luck...Two first job offers in a 24-hour period and I didn't ask for either one.

Almost 59 years later and I still feel badly about what I had to say in response to a well-intended gesture.   But what a nice thing it was that Charlie tried to do for me, out of the goodness of his heart. 

It was my first experience at having to say something very difficult to someone.  I have never been very good at it.


Wanda (Gray) Pellerin said...

I too remember Charlie Aitkin. He was a sweet man. Thanks for reminding me Dick.

When I was a little girl of 10 or 11, my sister and I used to take our batons and go across the street on Sunday evenings to the band shell in Jackson Park.
Mr. Aitkin was the band master and we used to pretend to march as majorettes, back and forth in front of the bandshell, practicing our twirling, while the band concert was playing.

It must have been an annoyance to him, for us to be there, but he never said anything to us. Maybe he was just happy that we enjoyed his music so much!

I remember that cars used to park on the grass in rows and people used to sit in their cars or put down a blanket to enjoy the music. After every song, the people would honk their car horns in lieu of applause to show their appreciation. Someone would pass a hat around to the cars each concert and people would give what they could to help support our town band.

This was in the late 1940's when money was still not very plentiful after the war.
You would always see our town band, led proudly by Mr. Aitkin, heading all the parades on every special occasion, smartly dressed in their uniforms.

Those were the days when life was uncomplicated but very good!

By the way, I was the first female majorette in the Town of Dresden at age nine, for the infamous "Boy Scout Band, led by Mr. George Brooker. I stayed with the band until I was 15.

Dick said...

Great memories Wanda. Your recall is very accurate and descriptive. Thanks for contributing. I actually remember you and Karen parading in front of the bandshell. My folks rarely missed a Sunday evening concert, parked on the grass in our old Ford sedan.

Richard K. (Dick) Wright said...

Would appreciate hearing from anyone else who would like to share memories of "growing up" in good old Dresden.