Volume 8, Number 44, 2005

Vine Hall Café
By Cindy MacKenzie

“It would be so wonderful to have a summer house again.”

Aunt Sadie and Aunt Irene were my father’s two maiden sisters who lived with us. They also had grown up in this home. They had grown up in a time when many homes had such structures in their front yards, and they longed for one. Their pleas did not go unheard, and one morning after the chores were done, Dad and my oldest brother, Art, brought a load of lumber into the front yard, and began sawing and hammering.

A spot was chosen to the right of the path leading to the big iron gate at the entrance to the front lawn, and between the rock garden and the board swing. Here it would be out of the way of the lawn mower and sheltered by the large sugar maples at the back.

I watched in awe as the frame began to take shape. It was sitting on sturdy blocks to keep it level and to keep it up off the ground. They created a rectangular frame, then proceeded to board in the roof. This completed, they attached chicken wire all around it leaving only an opening for the door.

After the frame was completed and wrapped in chicken wire the ladies went to work. They planted vines all around it, hops, scarlet runners, and wild cucumbers. Within weeks the summer house was completely covered in vines, creating a cool retreat inside. An old couch was put into it, along with another padded seat which was comfy for shelling peas or snapping beans.

This summer house was the only one in our community. It was used daily. On hot afternoons it was a place to knit, or read a book, or even for an afternoon nap. A place to catch up on the news of family and friends when neighbours dropped in for a visit.

We kids had a special use for the summer house. We painted a sign and nailed it above the door. The sign read, “VINE HALL CAFÉ.” The café was open many hot afternoons. We served things like honey balls, which were the flowers from clovers. We would pull out the little florets and suck the nectar from them. Cherries and strawberries were served in season. Mint delights, which were a chocolate maple bud served on a mint leaf, were a special treat, and when we could get away with it, brownies or raisin puffs from the pantry.

One day I was serving my older sister Sylvia. She, thinking she was being smart, ordered a bowl of celery soup. Without a moments hesitation I ladled make believe soup into a make believe bowl and served it to her. To my utter surprise she returned it promptly complaining that there was a fly in it. Only in VINE HALL CAFÉ could there be an imaginary fly in an imaginary bowl of imaginary soup.