I was digging around in my old desk for some reason this morning, and came across a familiar bulging folder overflowing with hundreds of little notes, all slightly crinkly still from being stuffed into the enlarged coin-slot of the old donation-box I installed down at the hot spring years ago.
Chances are, if you ever put a note the the old box, I still have it.
Way back in 1996 I had installed a donation box down at the hot spring between the two foot walks to help out with some direct costs and a few small improvements, the donation box itself being one of them. I recall at times being excited over maybe getting $25 on a packed weekend, and use to joke that I was having a hard time paying for the donation box, but in actual fact. the box had been donated too.
After a bit people did warm up to the idea a little and it was not unusual to have a party leave a thank you note with $5 to $20, or more. Also stuffed into the coin slot over time was all manner of proposed legal tender such as, and not limited to, Canadian Tire money, a partly used boarding pass to Bowen Island, cigarettes, cigarette butts, pull-tabs and several pounds of flatted beer bottle caps.
Little crinkled notes often tumbled out when I unlocked the bottom. Strips of cigarette pack was a common medium, as were words written on the back of Petrocan, or government liquor store receipts, or on occasion spare coffee filter.
One notable exception was written on a strip of paper thin birch bark.
Some were a few bold words with a stubby felt tip pen, while others wrote really tiny on both sides, or scripted very carefully on a sheet of toilet paper.
Generally they followed the same theme of, "Thank you Thank you Thank you!!
Some were propositions, such as the offer of a sail boat trip, places to crash in the city, ...and worse. A scented note of the same hand would appear every now and again, all it would say was, "Cute bum!". I like to assume it was from a woman.
As awful as it may sound now, I use to have my name and address up in all the old outhouses. I had notices stapled up in there with some basic rules of the establishment, and a box number in Mt. Currie. Most of my notices ended up down the hole, ...for purposes other than reading, and I had a hard time keeping them posted. If you look on the walls of the older outhouses, you will see about a million staples. Eventually I got my notices printed up on sheets of sand-paper which drastically slowed down the consumption. Over time I received mail from literally around the world. Some were from campers who didn't have money at the time, but mailed a cheque or Canadian Tire money later. Well OK that only happened once or twice, but still.
I almost hate to bring this next one up, but a letter arrived once from a large young couple whom I remembered from a summer or two before. I recalled them as 'The Splashers'. It was a full page and neatly typed, and went on to explain they '...had tried for a considerable time to conceive a child prior to their camping trip to the hot spring'. They mentioned a 'particular' evening one quiet week night, and let me know they had drained what was left of the water after. I'll quote their words, 'however, it was the magic of St. Agnes Well that did the trick'. The letter came with pictures of a new born baby of huge proportions.
Not all the notes were complimentary either, sometimes there were complaints about users who disrespect the place, you know the type, and the odd note may serve to bring my attention to a certain outhouse that required attention, or had run out of notices.Some were downright nasty.
Well, you get the idea. Theres been several times over the years I've come across the note folder and had to question keeping them all, but I always put them back, thinking I might want to write about them someday. I remember the good feeling I always got from these notes way back, simple thanks in a different time, when it took a lot of my time, at all hours, often in the dark by myself with a rougher crowd than you see these days. It is the same thing now, when I open that folder during a desk clean and then sit going through them all, they always make me smile, and some make me laugh. While most are from people who have gone on to other places in life, some are from folks that still frequent the hot spring, while several are from folks whom have passed on in the ensuing years.
I think I better put all those notes back once more to enjoy another day, they always take me back to a simpler time and the prime of life. I'm going to save them to enjoy at the old folks home someday.