This has nothing to do with living off the grid or the nature channel. But, I have kept the secret for fifty years and I think it’s an interesting story so I’m going to tell it.
She had just moved into the house with her parents and sister. Her father, who owned a construction company at the time when houses and malls began to replace the historical blueberry farms in Richmond, was now able to buy a large stately home for his young family. Her neighbours had their names on the sides of office buildings and department stores in Vancouver. Million dollar mansions on the finest street. It was 1967.
I met her swimming at the pool in the community park and we became immediate friends. One wet July day, when we were forced to set aside our swim suits and towels to play indoors, she invited me over to her house. I climbed the tall concrete steps to her front door. It opened into a foyer next to a living room the likes I had only seen on TV. The room more suited to ball gowns and cocktails parties than television shows and board games, had hardwood floors and ornate plaster columns between the plate-glass windows. We climbed onto the window seat at the far end of the room and spent the morning teaching ourselves how to shuffle cards like they did on our favorite show, The Wild Wild West.
Left alone while her mother went shopping and bored with our card games, Kelly suggested she show me around the house. The dining room adjacent to the living room was built for formal dinner parties, black tie affairs. Carved oak sideboards were built into two of the walls while the windows on the other two walls faced the private gardens. The kitchen adjoined a smaller dining room. Presumably, when the house was built at the turn of the century the staff would have served the meals to either room through the swinging privacy doors.
We headed up the stairs to her parents room. It was located above the living room and boasted the same square footage. Space for the king size bed, a sofa, chairs and two walk in closets. White wall to wall carpet provided another hours entertainment while we did head stands and tried cartwheels across the room. Again, bored with our antics, sitting on the floor trying to think of something else to do, Kelly said to me.. “Wanna see something? “but you can’t tell anyone”………. Well, if you know me at all, I of course, said “sure!”
She took me into her mothers closet. On the hardwood floor, she moved some shoe boxes aside to reveal a latch in the wood. She gave it a small tug and a four-foot piece of the flooring lifted up to reveal a stairway going down. I followed her as we headed down the stairs. A string hung at the side of the wall, when pulled, it lit our path. We climbed down two flights of stairs taking us beneath the living room. We had arrived to what seemed like another world, yet we were standing in a hallway on ground level even with what would be the driveway. On either side of the hallway was room after windowless darkened room, filled with spider webs and dust. At the far end was another stairway which continued down to what would be basement level at my house, with more rooms, more hallways and more spider webs… It was creepy, bizarre and I still have nightmares of the labyrinth.
Kelly told me there was a door at the back of the ground level floor which opened into a garden shed in the back yard. One room on that level was sealed off with access to the kitchen above. It was the families laundry room. All of the other rooms on the two secret floors could only be accessed through the hallway to the garden secret door or through the stairway to the master bedroom…
Apparently, the story they had been told by the realtor was that back in the day the house was used for illegal activities, probably smuggling alcohol during prohibition… Kelly had been sworn to secrecy by her parents. But, we were bored and how could she not show it to me, we were ten!!!
So the moral of the story is, I can keep a secret.. at least for fifty years.. after that, I
can’t be trusted