JOHN B. LEE is one of Canada’s most prolific poets. He sent me this piece by e-mail the other day after I told him I had been at the Lee Plaza Hotel a week ago. This once beautiful, art-deco building is abandoned now. The windows are all gone. Before dawn Sunday morning, I wandered through it, and stepped into the rooms. I found the remains of a piano in the ballroom. I found an entire closet full of clothes in another room. I found women’s hats, an umbrella, broken lamps and a jar of honey. I was with Windsor, Ontario photographer Jessica Bracken who spotted this white dress near a closet. I photographed it from the side. What follows below is John’s story of that hotel when his mother and father went there on their honeymoon.
My mom and dad were married in a home wedding on an uncommonly warm winter Sunday, January 9, 1949. After the ceremony in my mother’s homestead they went outside to be photographed in shirtsleeves on the lawn of the small hardscrabble farm a mile from Mull crossing. They set out from there in the dying hours of the day for the motor city where they stayed at the Lee Plaza hotel located in the shadow of the Olympia. That evening, my father and his new bride watched a game between the Leafs and the Wings from the standing-room only section of the arena. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, and Mother always remembered the pain in her feet standing on the hard and unforgiving floor in brand new high-heeled shoes. That was the first hockey game I attended, though my ovum waited in the warm darkness for nearly two years, a lonesome egg was I. Somewhere else, the team I would come to love, the Chicago Black Hawks, were waiting for me to be born a fan, though the first uniform I wore when I played my first game at 6 years of age would be that of a New York Rangers. Jar rings holding my shin pads and socks in place, I stumbled onto the ice like Andy Bathgate’s wobbly kneed newborn calf, I would have preferred a Black Hawks logo, but then, my father wasn’t one to ask me what I wanted. It seems my Mother was his willing partner even then. She hated hockey. She loved the man who took her to that game and made her suffer to be his companion in life, though now a widow, she still says of him, “he was the best man I ever knew. He gave me a good life. I miss him so.” I think of her there, her beauty often compared to that of Grace Kelly, so much did she resemble the lovely movie star, my aunt Emily bought her a Grace Kelly dinner plate that she placed on the dining room buffet. Still a great beauty at 87 years of age, my Mother laments those toe pinching high heeled shoes, the ones she wore the first night of her honey moon with George Emerick Lee on her arm as she headed for the Lee Plaza and the room where they would make love for the first time.