“If you don’t start behaving I am going to send you over to the priests to take care of you,” was my grandmother’s direst threat if any of us were being little jerks, as only kids can be.
Threats of wooden spoons or being locked in the closet had failed, so it would be left to the priests to work their mayhem. I didn’t know if those clerical chaps brought about Inquisition style mayhem in those days. I wasn’t a Catholic. Neither was Granny, but the spectre of torture chambers a la el Greco loomed somehow in the back of my mind. However, I was never actually sent there.
And if I had been it would have been confusing. I mean, we used to go over there to play in their gym and we knew the priests, nuns and (what we called) Priory Boys. Known as Westminster Abbey the operation, after 1954 moved to Mission, BC. Actually I found the appellation Westminster Abbey rather odd, since the original of that name is an Anglican institution. But, I am not to quibble. The priestly sorts set up camp on what was known as the Fairfield property in Burnaby in the 1930s. A lovely spot that latterly became an arts and culture centre in that municipality, and which was possessed of a couple of grand houses even when the churchy lot was there.
I liked them being there. When I was little I liked talking to the priory boys because they came from all over. I had a conversation with one when I was maybe about seven. I had no idea, of course. “I come from Africa,” he said. Oh come on, I thought. People from Africa (within my limited scope) were somewhat duskier of hue. I think I did ask him if he was afraid of lions, what with living there and all.
Anyway, they were good people. We always made sure we went to see them on Halloween and the nuns were very generous. And then there were the bells. The Priory Bells were a daily occurrence to mark time, and on Sundays, however, the whole array was put into action. The institution boasted a carillon and on Sundays the full array of bells would punctuate the mood of the adjoining neighborhoods. Nobody complained, to my knowledge, and I was too young at the time to have hangovers so I just thought it sounded nice. When it sounded especially nice was during the Christmas season when carols would be played throughout.
And then they went away. I was by then old enough to no longer fear their wrath so I guess I didn’t pay too much attention. I only paid attention when they were replaced by a wacky cult religious order run by a charlatan of the vilest sort. What were the good Fathers and Brothers thinking of when they sold to such assholes? In any case, from that point and for a few brief years the place was verboten in terms of access to non-cultists, which for us was, of course, an invitation to invade. Oh we didn’t vandalize, we’d just go on to the property and see how far we’d get before some dickhead screamed at us to get out and threatened police intervention.
The good priests never threatened us with the cops. We missed them.