On the south-eastern corner at the junction of Camp and Lamaha Streets, a landmark building is being demolished. At least so it seems. Last Saturday, my wife and I passed that way and we saw the concrete building that has occupied that spot for probably more than forty years being reduced to rubble. We reminisced about what we knew of that spot, going back more than thirty years, when as schoolchildren, we would both pass that building every school day. Of course, back then we dreaded to look inside the building, remembering that our parents had told us not to even point our fingers at it.
The building of which I write, used to house the Lee Bros Funeral Home. After that business ceased, the building remained closed and vacant for a while. And then, about 7-8 years ago, a series of merchandising businesses opened, but none seemed to have lasted any particular period of time, and after each failed attempt at sustaining a new business, the owners would put up back the “for rent” sign.
One is led to wonder why such a convenient location has failed to sustain a business. Is there something spooky about the place that drives customers away? As a multi-cultural country, we have a very rich history of folklore that thrived up to the time that television and the Internet, along with our hectic lifestyles all but put an end to the evenings of gaff. Back when we were children, after a good session of story-telling about ‘jumbies’, ‘old higue’ and Dutchman spirits roaming the neighbourhood, an older person had to walk you to your room, because you were certain that whatever they spoke about was close at hand, hearing everything said about them.
So does this explain the short duration of businesses in the old Lee Bros building? A funeral parlour back then, was said to be a place where the souls (ghouls?) of the departed gathered, and that young people had no reason to be anywhere close. I remember hearing students from Queen’s College say that they felt uncomfortable standing under the eaves of that building, while waiting for a bus, or sheltering from the sun and rain. I recall that one day the minibus I was heading to school in had stopped just as it rounded the corner to put off an elderly woman, when she rebuked the driver for stopping right in front of the funeral parlour. She had asked him why he could not go up Camp Street, two or three buildings more before stopping, and she had added that it was not her time yet to go to the parlour.
As my wife and I chatted away about that corner, we could not help but remember that an easy doctor to reach when you had the flu was located just east of Lee Bros.
The first time I had gone to that doctor, my wife had asked if I really had to go to a doctor who worked right next to the funeral parlour, and if I could not find someone else. In the parlour building, some time last year there was a business that had been selling car accessories very cheaply, and I had gone there to buy some things I wanted. Of course when I got home, I boasted about the good deals I had gotten and where I had gone. Needless to say, I was discouraged from putting any of the stuff I had bought, in the car. I still have them.
It all depends on what you believe. You see, as a people we still hold on to that rich cultural history we have, only that it is getting a bit watered-down as time passes. I do not believe that anything untoward actually occupies the old Lee Bros building; it is just that we remember what that place originally was, and somehow cannot see the building as being right for anything else. It seems, after all, that our superstitious beliefs can actually impact otherwise good business prospects.