I arrive at the Retro in Brunswick and go upstairs to find a long table set for 40 people, complete with candelabra and silver service. Soon I am surrounded by a group of funereal looking gentlemen in dark suits who ask what I am doing here. “Well, had a call from Warren Smith” I say. “He wants me to interview all of you and write a memoir of his father, Reg Smith”.
I stand next to Norm Beechey. Turns out that Norm’s an old racing driver with a big grin and lots of stories. He has a wonderful deep laugh and asks me what on earth I’m doing at this ‘old ghost’s reunion’.
Some time later, an attractive woman named Debbie introduces me to her husband who looks me in the eye and says. ‘It’s just balls, that’s how these men succeeded!’ I am then introduced to Bob Jane who, on being told that I am going to write a book about everyone, gives me a baleful stare and immediately moves away.
Warren Smith arrives and says he is glad I could come, and that he will do an announcement at the lunch, get all the names and addresses, and talk later. He disappears.
I sit next to Lou Molina at the lunch. It is his restaurant and he is anxious that I enjoy my food. Lou is feeling sad because he recently lost his wife. I notice that he doesn’t drink anything stronger than mineral water. Margaret Beechey sits on my other side and tells me that she and Norm have been married for 30 years. Warren welcomes everyone and then asks me to stand. He introduces me and explains why he has asked me to the lunch. He suggests that all the men give me their names and telephone numbers so I can contact them later.
Sitting there, surrounded by all these men in dark suits I am reminded of the film “The Godfather”. One by one they all stand and introduce themselves and relate a personal anecdote. Some of these men haven’t seen each other for 20 years so there is much reminiscing and back-slapping.
It’s a remarkable experience and I busily take notes as all the speakers bob up and down. Max Kirwan and his son could be identical except for their ages. The atmosphere is one of bonhomie, of respect, reverence, and family. My turn arrives and Warren asks me if I want to say anything. I stand up, and all eyes are on me.
“Thanks for inviting me here today. It’s not often that someone calls you from your ad in the Yellow Pages, invites you out to lunch, and asks you to write a book.”
© 1995 Tina Blackmur