MEMORIES OF THE OLD RED BARN
It had just stopped raining when I parked my car on Grand River near McGraw in Detroit. It was a typical fall day in September 1987. All the leaves were turning vibrant colors, with some of them floating to the ground. I turned on the windshield wipers to clean the last residual rain off my windshield and looked out. There it was, Olympia Stadium, which had been my second home for years. How majestic she looked against the breaking gray clouds. How I wished I could go inside one more time and smell the stale beer, popcorn and cigarette smoke. Shutting my eyes I could almost hear the shouts from the fans when the Red Wings scored. I saw all the great ones play there, Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr, Stan Mikita and Maurice (The Rocket) Richard. The list goes on and on. Those were the days when hockey players played with dignity and skill. There was none of this brute force we see in hockey today, why not one of these players even wore a helmet back in those days. Oh there were fights back then, gloves would drop and fists would fly, but no player would intentionally ram an opponents head into the boards. Everything changed so quickly after the 1967-68 expansion.
I began to smile when I though of the seats I had on the visitor’s goal line. They were the best seats in the house. I could see Ted Lindsay and his wife sitting four rows in front of me and then his empty seat when he returned to hockey in 1964-65. The Red Wings finished in first place that year, only to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs. The fans, as well as I, were so disappointed.
My thoughts were now reeling inside my head remembering all the friends I had made over the years at Olympia Stadium. The Canadian fellows sitting behind me were from Windsor and always rooted for the visiting team. I remembered the night they gave me a program autographed by Gordie Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Bobby Hull, Bobby Orr and a few other hockey greats. I knew the signatures were not real, but I kept the program just the same. Those crazy Canadians were very good to me. If I went to a game with a girlfriend, instead of a date, they would buy us beer and we would chat by the bar during the intermissions.Not a game went by when they didn’t tease me about something or another, especially when the Wings played Toronto. Mike Rosenthal and his lovely wife, Ann, sat in front of me. I remembered how he shouted out advice to Sid Abel (the Red Wings’ coach). He was an avid hockey fan and always yelled at the referees about a bad penalty call, with his wife tugging on his suit coat, telling him to sit down. The wives of Andy Bathgate and Val Fonteyne were a few seats away and two retired doctors from the hospital ship, the USS Hope, sat beside me. Oh how I wished I could see these friends one more time. To my dismay, my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a very loud bang. Opening my eyes I saw the wrecking ball about to hit the building a second time. I quickly closed them tightly and felt the tears beginning to stream down my face for I knew soon my second home would be gone forever. I can’t remember how long I stayed listening to the screams of the Old Red Barn, a building that stood at the corner of Grand River and McGraw for 60 years. Soon my thoughts were interrupted by a soft tapping at the window on the driver’s side of my car. It was middle-aged man wearing a hard hat. He nicely asked me to move my car for fear of flying debris crashing down on it. When I looked out I was amazed to see more than half the building had now been turned into rubble. I grabbed my purse for a tissue to wipe off the mascara dripping down my face and to touch up my make up, before I started the car. Maybe I was taking too long, as the same man was walking toward me again. I quickly turned on the ignition, but not before he reached my car. I rolled down my window and to my surprise he handed me a brick saying, “Here is a little memento for you”. I took the brick and thanked him, then broke down in tears again. He too seemed to be sad, maybe he was a hockey fan and also loved Olympia Stadium. I will never forget his kindness or the wonderful times I had at The Old Red Barn.
I still have that old red brick from Olympia Stadium. It is in my garden amidst the Asian lilies. Some of you might be interested in the cost of my two tickets back in the 60’s. They were $7.00 a piece in my section of the arena. Today they would sell for well over a $150.00 each.
This is my first entry to the Moonshine Grid at yeahwrite.me… Betty