Today, in a moody late winter day, we have had ice and overcast skies, puddles of melting snow and brilliant sun.
But for our little town of 1000, it has been a tragic day. Blair’s Barbershop has burned to the ground. The people above the shop have lost their home.
While the details will come out in the news in the next several days, my eyes tear up. Blair had one of the longest, if not THE longest running business in town… 45+ years. His shop was a cozy place. Small, smoky from the woodstove and the lingering scent of customers, filled with memorabilia, deer antlers, antique toys and more. It was a landmark.
And as I write, it is being torn down, smouldering, stinking. Charred, rippled, century old beams- some of which are still in one piece- are toppling to the backhoe that sits in a narrow lane by the post office. It barely has room to swing around. I see the BLAIR’S BARBERSHOP sign in blue lettering get crunched. The sun is bright and people stand around in winter coats, but no toques or mittens.
Blair’s Barbershop shared an old stone wall with Stedman’s Department Store. That wall, and the valiant efforts of our local volunteer fire team, have saved Stedman’s. And the brick post office beside it. The post office is closed indefinitely due to smoke. The department store must also be.
I spoke to Giles, Stedman’s soon-to-retire owner, and he said, “You never know what you’ll wake up to, do you?” He is thankful. But he immediately thinks of Blair.
Moments before, I crossed the street under police direction to go to FoodMart to get some of life’s essentials. I saw Blair coming the opposite way.
An OPP officer was leading him, almost supporting him. Blair is a man in shock, and I don’t think he even saw me. I feel nothing but sorrow for the man. He was alone when I saw him, and I felt grateful for the officer who was doing his duty with dignity. Blair’s entire life’s work and efforts and memories have gone to flame in a matter of hours, minutes even. Heartbreaking. Nothing will ever replace it.
I could have taken photos today, but it didn’t seem right. Even though the sidewalks had many people around, it was quiet, hushed almost. The cracking of timbers reverberating off the buildings across the street. It didn’t seem right to freeze such a moment in time into a still-life.
Ironically, there is a funeral home within a stone’s throw of the barbershop- basically at the back door. There was a funeral today. Everyone dressed in black. Exiting the funeral as the burned building is taken out. Parking is full on both sides of the street, some on snow banks. Traffic is moving in slow motion as this is also the detour route around Main Street.
Life is full of twists and turns that would probably overwhelm us if we saw them in advance. You never know what you’ll wake up to. So give thanks. Give thanks that you woke up. Give thanks for all the good in the world. Give thanks- always.