It happened on a corner just up the street on my way home. It was about 9 o’clock on an October night, and the only thing to do was just walk home, since there was nothing else to do to get my kicks in this town.
Being sort of balmy for a fall night, the streets were covered with wetness; the reflections of the street lights were dimmed by layers of shifting fog.
It was sort of like a movie scene in England in which one could imagine a werewolf or Jack the Ripper to appear any moment (thinking of Lon Cheney in one of his movies). There were few people on the street; absolutely no reason to expect anything to occur. The only sound was the industrialized hum — the signature of the cotton mill.
Occasionally, there were figures in the fog, walking either home or to the café, and a few mill hands sitting just outside the gate who had come out to take a smoke.
Suddenly, there were distant, intermediate sounds of music, harmonizing with a rhythmic beat.
It sounded like it was coming from just up the street. I walked faster and faster toward the festive sounds.
“Oh! Of course!” saying to myself. “Should have known . . someone sitting in a car parked on the street with the radio on. . . . That’s what it is.”
Casting out the idea that maybe . . . just maybe . . . there might be something exciting just ahead — something lively, something never before expected to happen at this time of night . . . not in my hometown. These exciting thoughts were racing through my head; things like this just couldn’t happen in this town.
But then, straining my eyes through the fog, I could see an image on a major corner. Approaching closer, the musical sounds became louder.
What do you think I saw?
There were eight guys, all of whom were my high-school senior classmates, standing in a huddle. They paid no attention to my arrival; they were too busy harmonizing, and they were good at it, too. The tenor who did leading parts in the Glee Club, was in the center, doing that soft-shoe number of his, imitating Fred Astaire, keeping in step with clapping hands to the beat of a lively tune. All he needed was a top hat; he was good, too. It was something that should have been before an audience on a stage. Being a member of the Glee Club, too, I joined the festivity.
As a gag, there even were some in the huddle holding out their hat or a hand. A small audience of a few passers-by formed. Trying to see what the action was, they actually took pity and dropped in a coin or two. We kept going and collected a few bucks. After we broke up, I never heard such laughter; we had been taken seriously. I don’t remember what we did with the offering. We may have stopped off at Joe’s Pool Room and celebrated.
Since then, I have never experienced an event like this one. It was spontaneous, unusual and it said something about my hometown. In comparison to then and now, at least, it was not a riot, or a protest, or any form of disorder.
Maybe it was an event that could occur on a street corner here in Richmond Hill.
Francis Bond lives in Richmond Hill.