It was about 1978 – shortly after I bought my first house – that I entertained my long-standing friend Jo Ann Trudeau from Toronto. She and I had attended undergraduate university at Glendon Hall together. We shared many singular occasions. Among them was watching the televised landing of the first man on the moon from her parents’ two-storey penthouse on St. Clair Avenue East. There were other less dramatic incidents like my introduction to the Bodum French coffee press – also on the balcony of her parents’ place one sunny Saturday spring morning. I recall too some fairly vivid memories surrounding chocolate milk shakes which my discretion prohibits me to repeat. But what lingers most prominently is Jo Ann’s gift of a single red rose. She gave it me as a “house warming” gift. It was boxed in a large flower cardboard carton complete with white tissue paper and green ferns.
The problem with the rose was that I didn’t own a vase. At this early stage of my domestic career – having only recently arisen from a rather unglamorous residency as a Don of Devonshire House at the University of Toronto – I hadn’t yet devolved into the arcane niceties of floral arrangements. Though I can’t recall in what I placed the single rose from Jo Ann I do recall having been promoted not long afterwards to drive into Ottawa where I visited Robertson Gallery on Laurier Avenue West adjacent the Lord Elgin Hotel to purchase a Lalique vase.
Apparently my enthusiasm was so gleeful that I distinctly remember having put Jo Ann’s single rose into the Lalique vase and put them both on top on my Mason & RIsch upright piano for display.
“Thomas G. Mason, Vincent Risch and Octavius Newcombe entered into partnership in 1871 to form the firm of “Mason, Risch & Newcombe” in Toronto. The firm started out as retailers of pianos, organs and musical merchandise, initially importing their instruments from the United States.
Mason, Risch & Newcombe begin building their own instruments in Toronto in about 1877, and these instruments were met with great success. In 1878 the firm was reorganized as “Mason & Risch” when Newcombe left the partnership to open his own firm. Mason & Risch quickly became one of the largest music store chains in Canada. Mason & Risch built high quality pianos for decades, and enjoyed a very good reputation.
In 1900 Mason & Risch entered into a contact with Eaton’s Department Stores, Canada’s largest department store chain, to build pianos under the brand name of “T. Eaton”. Instruments labeled as “T. Eaton” were sold in Eaton’s Department Stores for decades, giving Mason & Risch the revenue needed to survive the economic downturns of the 20th Century. The firm also produced a successful line of organs under the “Vocalian” brand name.
In the 1950’s, the firm was purchased by the Winter Piano Company of New York, and it became part of the large Aeolian-American Corporation. The Mason & Risch brand name was discontinued in 1972.“
The vase was my introduction to good ornamental stuff. It captured the superiority of design over mere convenience. The vase is one of the few things we brought with us after downsizing. Significantly it didn’t require either polish or mechanical adjustment, two of the things we specifically sought to avoid. This purification certainly extended to sterling silver, brass candlesticks, clocks and the grand piano. Frankly my curmudgeonly disposition resists accommodation generally. My happiness is now reduced to perceptible binary decisions.
Oh, and did I mention, I bought four face cloths at Walmart after collecting six stemmed wild roses?