Marina Endicott's The Little Shadows

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Calgary's Starland Theatre in 1909 (116a-8th Avenue SW). "The Starland itself," Marina Endicott writes in The Little Shadows, "was a plain box on 8th Avenue, not near as grand as many of the other theatres." (Photo: Glenbow Museum)  

Calgary's Starland Theatre in 1909 (116a-8th Avenue SW). "The Starland itself," Marina Endicott writes in The Little Shadows, "was a plain box on 8th Avenue, not near as grand as many of the other theatres." (Photo: Glenbow Museum)
 

A May wedding at Calgary’s elegant Palliser Hotel. The groom – the renowned vaudeville impresario Fitz Mayhew, decades older than his young starlet bride – has made all the arrangements. A spring menu in the Maple Leaf Room of turtle soup, roast capon and hot-house peas. A band and a parquet dance floor. A jeroboam of champagne and a layered wedding cake. To fill the dozen tables, Mayhew has invited every pressman he can find with an eye to promoting his new show at the Starland Theatre on Stephen Avenue. But hours before the wedding, the bride’s sister wakes up to find the city’s weather has changed overnight.

 

On the night before the wedding it snowed. Silent, constant, nickel-sized snowflakes fell all night, in no wind, and in the morning when Clover awoke the light in the room was blue.

Mama gasped when Clover pulled open the curtain to show snow heaped halfway up the window. Snow covered the entire landscape like fondant on a wedding cake, smoothing definition of curbs and corners. The street was deserted, and snow was still falling, fifteen inches already on the ground – late May, and the worst blizzard of the year. A shell of ice waited on the water jug…

The girls and Mama spent the morning washing and putting up their hair; in the afternoon they dressed in their wedding clothes – an all the time the snow fell.

The draycart’s wheels shrieked and the snow squealed as they lurched along, but it was a pretty drive, through slow-falling flakes that dazzled in occasional spears of sun. Mama raised her white lawn parasol to shield Aurora’s veil. When the wedding party disembarked at the Grain Exchange building, where the justice of the peace had his office, it was to silence. No streetcars were running, nor carriages or cars rolled through the streets.

 

Marina Endicott, The Little Shadows (Anchor Canada, 2012)