A Picnic in the Park

Sometime early during my first term at Victoria College I got up my courage to ask a girl out for a picnic. She lived in Annesley Hall and we had met at one of the evening "hops," where one danced to music from the record player, under the eagle eye of a don. Those occasions were important events for us fellows in Burwash Hall. At any rate, I called for her one lovely sunny Sunday afternoon, equipped with a picnic basket that contained some nice food, napkins, and a bottle of wine. She came from a small Ontario town and was quite excited about this outing. When she saw that I had no car and asked where we were going, I replied that we were going to the Park across the street [to Queens Park], where I had already picked out a singularly stately oak as an appropriate setting. It was almost within view of the principal’s house where I had stayed with Walter Brown’s family after first arriving in May of that year, 1942.

Walter Theodore Brown

Walter Theodore Brown

She seemed a little surprised, but I assured her that this was just fine as there was very little traffic around the park on Sundays. So I spread out a blanket for us to sit on and conversation went along easily except at one point when I had to admit never having heard of her town which she considered quite extraordinary, but we got on to less troublesome topics such as the food in the residences, classes and professors, exploring Toronto, and other weighty subjects. Fortunately, she posed no close enquiries about where I came from, since I had told her that I had been staying with the principal’s family before moving into Burwash. As we prattled on, tucked into the supper and sampled the wine I had brought, Toronto took on a rosier late-afternoon glow; it really seemed a pretty civilized place to me after all, and Queens Park became an acceptable picnic venue to her. So we had a pleasant time but then, suddenly, I saw this large pair of black boots in front of the blanket. Looking up, I discovered a policeman looking down on us. We had not heard him coming and he appeared enormous from our vantage point. He asked us what we thought we were doing, and we both smiled up at him saying that we were having a Sunday picnic. At this point, I fear, this tale changes its tone.

Our apparent innocence seemed out of line to him and, with closer attention, he then asked me: "Did I not know the laws of the Province and Country?" I had to admit that I really did not; what else could I say? That tore it for the poor man, who perhaps thought we were being too smart by half, and we were invited rather brusquely to come down to the police station with him, and he walked us over to his car (with the ruin of our picnic). My date had already decided that I was not a proper companion for her and sat as far away from me on the back seat as possible. Next thing I knew, we were sitting on a wooden bench in the Dundas St. station, being interviewed as to who we were. When the sergeant asked her whether she would like him to telephone her father, she let out a little shriek of "Please no!!" and scootled away from me even further, to the very edge of the bench.

Then I was queried. I made the request to phone Principal Brown. Well, the policeman called him, and I could pretty well hear Walter Brown at the other end (mostly because he was deaf and tended to shout at people as well as into the phone). I heard him say "You bring him here right away." So we were packed once more into the police car. She was delivered to Annesley and I was taken to 31 Queens Park. I don’t know what her reception was there, but I do remember mine only too clearly.

Walter Brown was beside himself with anger, "Did I not know that drinking was improper and particularly on Sundays, and above all that it was forbidden by law in public places?" Well, I had to admit rather lamely that I did not know about such laws. This made matters even worse and he went on and on about how disappointed he was with me, etc., etc. In the end, I had to promise to study the ordinances of Ontario and, finally, was allowed to slink back to Burwash, next door. I came to the conclusion that, after all, Toronto really was not such a civilized place in 1942.

I never saw my erstwhile date again, but I had survived the day.

Submitted by Vernon Brooks Vic 4T6

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