Dinner at the Golden Lion or I eat snails

Dinner at the Golden Lion2

When I think of Christmas in the workplace, it always recalls to my mind A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (as I am sure it does many of you), and in particular, one of Dickens’ characters whom we meet in Scrooge’s encounter with the Ghost of Christmas Past, Mr. Fezziwig. There is something very attractive and warm about this character, the first example to the young Scrooge as a man who knew how to “keep Christmas.”

And when I remember Bud Saffle, my old boss at the Saffle Theater Service, echoes of Fezziwig reverberate, at least for one occasion – the office Christmas party.

That one year, Bud and his wife Diane, took his employees – myself and Lori B. (with our significant others) to the Olympic Hotel and its renowned Golden Lion restaurant. It was situated up in the area nearby my old workplace, the Fifth Avenue Theater. Though I had been working within spitting distance of this destination for a couple of years, I had never seen it, much less been in it. (We were more familiar with establishments of the fast food variety).

The Golden Lion was a high-toned eatery with decor and a wait staff decked out in a style reminiscent of the British Raj. (Turbans adorned those flaming the special dishes). It was a mite intimidating for one who didn’t know a chafing dish from a salad bowl. But our host put us at ease, and told us to order whatever we wanted.

Appetizers were first on the menu. Our first major decision. My eye landed on the word “escargot.” Having been a French major in college, I knew what those were – snails. I was not an adventurous eater, a truth to which my wife can testify. So, she was surprised when I opted for this gastronomic oddity. I admit I was curious as to how they would taste. And I learned that anything tastes GREAT in garlic butter sauce. Warm bread was supplied to mop up the extra.

After one bite of her appetizer my wife wished she had opted for something else. Perhaps one of the soups. She had ordered smoked salmon, easily her favorite fish, but in this instance NOT. One second through the smoke before serving, one step above raw, made her stomach blanche – (no, neither of us like sushi). I slipped her some bread with the heavenly butter garlic sauce.

The main dish selection was a foregone conclusion. We decided the minute our scan down the menu fixed on Chateaubriand Bouquetiere, a dish which just happened to be our favorite. We didn’t have to chew the rest of the evening. (The escargot had been springy, so for that course I got in all my chewing for the evening).

And dessert if I remember right was Bud’s selection, Cherries Jubilee in all its flaming beauty.

It must have been a banner year for the company. It was certainly a memorable Christmas dinner for us.


Three Kings Went Forth

WeThree Kings

Green and red. And flashing lights.


The day after Thanksgiving in Colville, all the decorations came out to festoon the lamp poles. And even bigger ones were strung on wires and suspended across Main Street.


And little hearts rejoiced for they knew that Christmas was on the way.  And all that meant to a kid in their childish understanding and expectations. Mostly their expectations.


We were taught Christmas carols and sang them in class. For some reason I was chosen with two other boys to form a trio and learn a carol by heart.


We must have spent a few days rehearsing the number. There were a lot of new and strange words. “Orient,” for instance. And “traverse afar.” I know – two words, but it rolled off our tongues as one.


I don’t remember the lead up, that all fades to the background in the light of the actual performance.


The three of us were dressed in white shirts, vests and bow ties.  Come our turn we mounted a stage or a dias and sang “We Three Kings” before an audience of businessmen, whether that was the Chamber of Commerce or the Kiwanas I’m not sure. I couldn’t make out any faces, only vague forms from my viewpoint. Which is just as well, I would have probably frozen otherwise. Anyway, it came off flawless, we kept in tune and sang all the words, no fumbling or hesitation.


Our family did not attend church. My folks were married in the Colville Congregational church, but after that, there was no commitment, churchwise. We were positioned under the overarching label of Protestant. With this my father was content.  He had suffered through his youth in a split family – not divorced – but a Protestant mother married to a Catholic father, who often absented himself to be with his mother and unmarried sisters, all of whom looked down on his wife. Between themselves, my folks decided that their children would make their own decisions.


I found that I liked the tune. Both it and the lyrics had a certain beauty to them. Singing them I even felt, dare I say, “holy?”  Reverent at the least.  The author knew something, and he communicated it, though it would be years before I understood and believed it.  But more than that he evoked a longing, and that is what I resonated with.
“Westward leading,
Still proceeding,
Guide us to
Thy perfect light.”