I’d never been in the place before, despite it being across the street from our apartment. Respectable people didn’t frequent Pembroke Ontario’s Windsor Tavern.
My biggest memory of the place came from my days as a newspaper reporter on the court beat for The Pembroke Observer. The place was the focus of a domestic assault case featuring one of the more novel (and futile) defences I witnessed in my time covering the court.
The accused had been drinking at the Windsor Tavern right before assaulting his wife. The defendant’s lawyer admitted that fact. But it was her fault s was beaten.
If she hadn’t come down to the tavern looking for her husband, thus embarrassing him in front of his drinking buddies, he never would have slugged her. I thought the lawyer should have been embarrassed to offer such a defence, but he didn’t even blush.
It was that sort of place. Police were regularly called to deal with disturbances. Occasionally I would see people stumble from the Windsor into the park next to our building. I never called the police to report cases of public intoxication, but I was tempted.
I suppose I should have checked out the place at some point, but I knew what a seedy bar looked like – why waste my time? Now though I have a mild sense of regret at having never seen the interior of perhaps the most disreputable bar in Pembroke.
We’ve been gone for 20 years. On Saturday, as I wandered through the downtown, visiting some old haunts, I discovered the Windsor has been reborn.
I saw the sign in the distance and did a double-take. “Mission Thrift Store.” Really?
So I went in and looked around. I’ve been in other stores in the chain, this one too was bright and airy. Didn’t look like it had ever been a bar – but it is a big place, must have been a really big bar.
I’ve donated things to the Ottawa location of Mission Thrift Store, and shopped there too. I’m always on the lookout for good deals and have no qualms about buying second-hand goods, depending on the product. Even more so though, the stores support the work of Bible League Canada, an organization that I have interacted with on several occasions and whose work I respect.
It seemed fitting somehow that the old Windsor Tavern, a place that has seen more than its fair share of sin over the years, is now being used to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I suppose its transformation could be seen as an allegory. As God offers forgiveness to the worst of sinners and transforms their lives through the love of Jesus, so too the Windsor, once a bastion of the sinful has now become a house of light.
On a Saturday afternoon in Pembroke, I thought that was something I should share with you.