June 9, 2009

Smell Memory

The smell of salty french fries and ketchup drifted over to me from the Sherlock Holmes pub as I was walking home from work today. Immediately I was back in the summers of my childhood at the Waegwoltic Swim Club in Halifax.

I have lots of memories of the Waeg – learning how to swim in the shallow pool of the “Little Lido”, later taking swimming lessons in the big pool, hanging out with my sister and our neighbours on our towels on the grass, jumping off the scary high diving board. But one of my most distinct memories is the food there.

There was an indoor candy store and an outdoor canteen at the Waeg. At the store you could get 5-cent candies and lots of different flavours of hard ice cream, and it was hot and the air was thick despite the constant whirring of big stand-up fans. The screen door banged as you went outside and carried your ice cream down the pebbly-stone path.

At the outdoor canteen you could buy huge chocolate-chip cookies, probably six inches across, wrapped in saran wrap. They sat out in a pile on the counter in the sun and got soft and gooey. And you could get paper containers of french fries. The fries were thin and golden, the kind with crispy ends that crackled with grease in a satisfying way.

The smell of the canteen was the smell of those salty french fries, and the ketchup that kids squeezed out of the plastic bottle on the counter. And it was the smell of summer too.

I haven’t thought about those fries in a long time. My family stopped going to the Waeg when I was about nine because we couldn’t afford the expensive membership fees any more. In spite of all my great memories, it was actually a pretty snobby place, where rich South-end parents paid lots of money so their kids could learn how to swim, sail and play tennis.

But today when I smelled those fries on the wind, for a moment I wished I was seven years old again, slouching in my wet bathing suit, wet hair and sandals by the canteen, squeezing lots of ketchup onto my crispy, salty fries.


Chris said...

What a lovely memory.

Jamoo said...

I was back in Halifax (I grew up in Mt. Uniacke) a few weeks ago. It wasn't quite summer, but the Bud the Spud truck was out and it smelled wonderful.

Anonymous said...

That's a great post. Thanks for sharing!

Anne said...

I read that Bud and Nancy True are retiring this year, so Bud the Spud won't be here much longer. They're the greatest!
Isabelle, I'm fascinated with what you remember -I really don't recall the food at the Waeg - maybe the ice cream? My memories are all about you and Claire swimming. I got a brochure in my mailbox about how they have a few openings this year, and the astronomical fees were listed - whew. But it sure made a handy nearby place for a swim. I swam a lot there the summer you were born, the best thing to do if you're pregnant in the hot summer!.... love, Mom

Sandy Mesmer said...

Great post about smell memory. I think this is much more powerful than we normally give credit for.


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