Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Once Upon A Time At The Grand Hotel

I signed up to take part in The Scintilla Project.  Every day for two weeks, those of us taking part receive 2 prompts via email. We're to pick one and write about it.  It started today, with "Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so."  Not quite the type of prompt I was expecting but here goes:

I'm not much of a drinker.  The number of times I've been "drunk" are few and far between (much to the dismay of certain friends and family members who'd like to see me "wasted" for some reason) and when I was underage, it just didn't happen. 

Nevertheless, I did have my first illegal drink at the tender age of sixteen.  I remember the occasion well, although I can't remember what time of year it was.  I was in grade 12 and younger than most of my friends, both because I had a late birthday (November), which meant I started kindergarten at age 4 instead of 5, and because I had accelerated in school (did grades 3, 4 and 5 in two years instead of 3).  So I was 16 in Grade 12 when several of my friends were already 18.  (The next year, they raised the legal drinking age from 18 to 19 which put me yet another year behind - I wasn't legally allowed to drink until my second year in university!)

One day, it must have been a Friday afternoon, a bunch of us girls headed to The Grand Hotel, a local drinking establishment on the main street of our small town that was known for its cheap reasonable prices and lax attitude towards underage drinkers.  I do recall that I had borrowed someone else's I.D. for this occasion, as they were known to check for I.D. the first time you came in and after that, you would be a known entity and they wouldn't ask again.

At that age, I had no idea what to order. One of my friends suggested her favourite drink, a Tom Collins, so that's what I got.  I showed the waitress taking our order my fake I.D. and that was it, next thing I knew I had a drink in front of me.  We all giggled and felt extremely grown up and mysterious, having fooled them into serving us drinks when we were underage.  Truth be told, I'm sure they knew exactly what we were up to!  We then proceeded to have a "grand" time.

Photo found on
I didn't know what was in a Tom Collins at the time (gin, lemon juice, sugar, carbonated water) but it tasted a bit like lemonade and I liked it.  Can't say I've ever had one since though! 

We spent many a pleasurable afternoon (playing hooky from school) and evening in The Grand during my high school days.  It was the thing to do in small town Ontario in the late 70's.  There was a "disco" establishment called The Miss Susannah in a strip mall on the edge of town, we partied there as well but The Grand was the place we spent most Friday and Saturday nights - talking, drinking, flirting with members of the opposite sex, passing the time waiting to grow up and get on with our lives.  In those days, there was the gents side and the ladies side, each with their own entrance and a flight of stairs dividing the two (lead upstairs to what would have been hotel rooms in the early days of the hotel's history, although I don't think they were renting out rooms by that time, or down to the bathrooms).  Technically, we girls could go over to the guys side any time but there were often a bunch of drunken old boozers hanging out on that side, so we mostly stayed on the ladies side which was actually unisex.

Today that place is known as The Grand Experience and it's more of a family-style pizza restaurant than a drinking establishment.  They've expanded from the original building on the left, where I misspent those days of my youth, into the building on the right. 

Photo from
Times have certainly changed over the past 35 years!  They're probably not still serving underage drinkers but I like to think they're still serving a Tom Collins every now and again...

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