Friday, 9 March 2012

Who the F is the Infamous Fred? – OR – A Reunion at the Dominion House, Stratford.

The success of a local Pub should not have to rely on just the revenue from wild weekends or occasional office parties, and Downie Street’s Dominion House in Stratford proves this.  The Pub has been in existence since 1865 so obviously this establishment must have something special going on and last Saturday, March the 3rd we witnessed the why to its prosperity.

My family and I are recent residents to Stratford so when we received several invitations to a “Homecoming for Fred” at the Dominion House, how could we say No?
From the outside, the Dominion House is not much to look at, which is a shame because for months I avoided it even though it’s just down the street from where we now live.  Next to the Railway Station and across the road from a boarded up building entitled, Shenanigans, I imagined that Hell’s Angel people frequented there and though I personally have nothing against Hell’s Angels I don’t believe they’d want to hang out with a bookworm like me.
Thanks to our new friend, Yeager we were acquainted with the Dominion House from his Sunday afternoon Open Mics, unfortunately these sessions were not well attended and we wondered how the Dominion House managed to make ends meet.  During one of these Sunday Gigs, my husband and son (Fitz&Fitz) played for several hours with Yeager, his drummer, Bailey and a few other talented musicians and we had a wonderful afternoon.
“You must play at Fred’s Homecoming!”  Yeager said and before I could ask who Fred was, he was beckoned away by one of his many friends.
“Are you coming next Saturday?  It’s wonderful that Fred is arriving!”  Maggie, a lovely blond, asked. 
“Who is Fred?”  I enquired and she actually explained to me who Fred was but I couldn’t hear her properly, with the loud music and being partially deaf in one ear.
A few days later, I had an invitation email from my cousin, Rhona inviting me to a Grand Gala basically saying, “All Hail the Return of Fabulous FRED!”  But this time I was more than curious and wondered, Who the F was FRED?  I hit reply on her email, Yes, we were coming, but Who is Fred?  There was no reply.  And so, the Fabled Fred remained a mystery.
I imagined and queried all the Famous Freds of Canada, was he Fred Penner? Fred Perry?  Maybe Fred is an Actor in the Festival or a perhaps some hippie artist/poet touring the world!
Because this evening would also be my son, Tyler’s last weekend with us, I invited my sister and her husband from Toronto to join us on this venture to Dominion House.  During dinner my sister asked me, “Who is Fred anyway?”  Furiously Frustrated, I replied, “I have no idea!”  We joked, guzzling our wine, that we’d present Tyler to Fred, as his long lost son.
Upon entering the establishment by the backdoor, passing smiling smokers and a well-played pool table, the place was packed.  I half expected some Biker Boys to surround my geeky guitar carrying son and duff him up for not wearing leather or a Rude T-shirt. I whispered to my sister, “Don’t worry, we won’t stay long.”  However, how wrong I was.  Inside was a group of happy, dancing well-wishers who made room for us at a huge table. 
My cousin, Rhona came forward gave me a warm hug and so did her Husband, Ken and her friend, Marie.  I can honestly say I’ve never in my life felt swept up by a more harmonious and good-humoured crowd, all extending a hand of friendship to a bunch of new faces!  There must have been over a hundred people and usually I get anxious in large crowds but this miraculously never happened.  My sister, who’s usually shy in gatherings, suddenly succumbed to a dancing crowd in pleasant pandemonium, I could see her blond locks tossing in the distance.  All to the beat of a Tom Petty song, performed by Yeager and his band, Harmony Bridge.  After I recovered from my stunned stait, I gulped in amazement at my bashful in public places sister, usually she expected me to follow, but Bloody Hell!  She was just GONE! I then took deep breaths and joined in as well!

It was evident that the Pub was rocking with a great appreciation for good music and the easy comfort of long acquainted companions.  I was in pleasurable awe and we couldn’t stop smiling.  (Only because in Victoria, BC we had never experienced this.)  Victorians are so reserved and anytime my sister and I danced to music in that town, we were usually the only dancers, receiving glances of distain.  Here in the Dominion House, we were excited by the individuality on the dance floor and CRIKEY!  MEN INCLUDED!  There was even an agreeable crazy clog dancing dude!  IT was so much FuN!  These dancers had no inhibitions, they let loose, unleashed carefree abandon, like patrons in pubs I’d experienced only in Britain.

Well, guess what?  It was on the dance floor that we finally met the FAMous FRED!
I realized why Fred was so special and I was envious, he had more friends than anyone I had ever known.  He’d been round the world to Australia and back, his wrinkly smile lines and balding head did not belittle the fact that his heart was warm and his dance moves smooth, he was in his element surrounded by his life long pals. Yet, he embraced my family and we embraced him! 
The evening went on to get even more interesting.  We had a wonderful performance of Belly Dancing Gals led by the Gorgeous and Charismatic Karen, of Studio Oasis.
After their choreographed upbeat Egyptian shimmies, she invited anyone to join in.  Many obliged including my shy sister and Fred, also a woman with a RCMP shirt on.  I kept thinking to myself, why hadn’t I moved to Stratford sooner?

Yeager, graciously, invited my husband and son to play which was so great of him, since this was his gig.  Fitz&Fitz, (with accompanying home studio backtracks) said afterwards, how refreshing it was to play to a group of sincere admirers who responded with gusto and true positive vibrations.

Fred, over the microphone, gave a salute to them both, praising Tye’s guitar playing and urging him not to leave and go back to the U.K.  It was a tremendous truthful gesture and certainly made me feel teary.
Harmony Bridge continued on, with Fred on harmonica and the occasional song as well.  Everyone was suitably refreshed in the liquid department and my brother in-law dragged my reluctant sister out of there,  we finally stumbled home smiling in the soft falling snow, I was astounded that it was after 2 a.m.  What the F?  I never stay up that late!  

Thanks to The Dominion House and Staff with all my heart.


  1. Wow!!! That was such fun reading and seeing your blog. It actually brought back some memories of the night! And a tear or two. But really thanks for coming along and meeting 'Fred'! Hope to see you again soon as I've finally hung my hat at Yeagers place for a while. cheers Fredy

  2. I'd bang Karen!