After the death of my parents in 1981, I quit my job in Hamilton and returned to St. Catharines. I got lucky and was able to land a job at a nice law firm at 14 King Street (Sullivan, Mahoney, Matheson, Graves & Muratori). This firm (established in 1953) had set up shop in an old home with each and every room of that house occupied by someone or somebodies. The front hall housed Patsy, the receptionist and her old-style switchboard, one sitting room housed a few senior secretaries, the old kitchen, dining room and another sitting room housed mid to junior secretaries and the bedrooms encircling the house downstairs and up, contained lawyers practising everything from corporate to litigation law. Even the hallways upstairs housed secretaries. Where there was a nook there was a body.
My memory not being conducive to retaining numbers, I’d guess that there were about 8 lawyers along with a couple of articling students and close to 20 in staff – secretaries, bookkeeper, errand girl and receptionist. Not too bad a size for the early 80’s and I was glad to be a part of it, despite the fact that the old wooden desks at the time were extremely inefficient to work on, the typewriters were clunky and the floors creaked.
Within a few years, the firm was growing and new premises were renovated at 40 Queen Street and today has down-sized its name (Sullivan, Mahoney) but has grown to over 23 lawyers and I’m fairly certain over 60 in support staff (but God knows, I’m probably way off!). The most amazing fact, however, is that today quite a few of the original secretaries from 14 King are still there and the family bond has remained steadfast well over 45 years. Me, myself and I, however, retired in or around 1997 or 1998 while on dialysis. It was just easier for me and the best boss I’ve ever had could get on with his corporate practise. Looking back it was a good decision, albeit I still miss the comradeship of my fellow secretaries and the family bond that was apparent at every get-together. I’ll even admit to actually missing the “typing” part. Having had an obsession to push buttons from the day I could walk, that love affair remains today. Give me a button and I’ll press it!!
Naturally with the passage of time many things have changed. The founding lawyers of the firm have now passed on, along with one beloved senior partner from cancer. Two senior partners have been appointed to the Bench, a couple partners set out on their own, one has retired for medical reasons, marriages have taken place and fallen apart, children and grandchildren born and every illness in the medical journals has probably been covered somehow or other. (There’s a book in there somewhere, I’m sure!!). Still, the not so little law firm chugs away, grows and maintains a reputation that has (to my knowledge) remained untarnished.
Since my retirement and especially since our move to Ridgeway, I’ve not kept in touch with a lot of the senior girls, much to my regret, but have managed to keep up with a lot of the firm’s activities via emails and family get-togethers with Michele, a sister that has worked there for over 20 years and is now classified as one of the seniors. I, for one, am proud of her longevity, stamina and endurance over some pretty rocky periods. Having said all of that, I attended a get-together last night at the home of one of the partners appointed to the Bench. He and his other “Bench” colleague hosted a small affair for the senior secretaries and staff at his home in St. Catharines. Not having been to the previous affair, I made it a point to go to this one. I was anxious to see some old friends, renew some friendships and hopefully have a great laugh. I wasn’t disappointed. The night was great, despite my nerves and chitter chatter. The food was fabulous (I really want to know where those Focaccia Sandwiches were from), and the “Old Gals” were in fine form. I felt like I was home again. I felt as if I had never left, but was just away on extended holiday. Everyone had barely changed, even though their actual lives had, and we enjoyed laughs, memories and updates. This is one tradition I hope continues. As the bodies age, the memories fade and the stories get exaggerated but there’s always going to be that bond. A bond that somehow has never been broken despite many years of “I’m getting the hell outta here, they don’t pay me enough for this crap” or “It’s either him or me!!” , along with those smoking days of old and gossipy tales and rumours in the lunch room. Thanks for the memories, Sullivan, Mahoney, and Rosemay, Patsy (in Memoriam), Bev, Judy, Pat, Roberta, Chris, Sharon G., Marian, Carol M., Carol H., Michele, Diane, Kelly, Suzanne, Nancy, Pam, Darlene, Elena, and anyone else I’ve forgotten and for which I apologize.