Have you ever had one of those friends that you go a really long time without seeing, but, when you do get a chance to catch up it’s like no time has passed at all? You remember their mannerisms, attitudes, secrets and virtues; and all the feelings and memories, good times and bad come back as if they were never gone?
Does that feeling end with people, or can a building too hold such an unbreakable bond with our hearts?
It’s been 20 years since Andrea Brocker last worked at the Royal Connaught, and still the memories of her childhood spent in the building bring tears to her eyes.
“I was practically born here, and I grew up here,” said Brocker. “I was walking the halls by the time I could walk… I knew every nook and cranny of this place.”
Brocker returned to the Royal Connaught Thursday night for a dinner. It was put on by Pop-Up Hamilton for the winners of a writing contest called “Memories of the Royal Connaught”. People were invited to submit their memories of the landmark for a chance to win this private dinner.
Andrea’s father, Dick Brocker started working at the Royal Connaught in 1958, and worked his way up from being a dishwasher in the kitchen to eventually becoming the General Manager of the entire hotel. Andrea too, worked for her father at the Connaught on two different occasions for a total of nine years.
“Working for my dad, he taught me work ethic, and he didn’t let me get away with anything so I had to live up to his standards. And at times it was really difficult because it was just hard to do that sort of thing, and you always question yourself, whether or not you are doing what he wanted.”
She went on to explain how important the hotel was to her father who passed in April 2013. For her, she said, it was sad to watch the building be closed and begin a decade of rotting. “And for my father, that was the worst thing, because he passed away without knowing that [the renewal] was going to happen.”
Brocker shared the contest prize, a dinner for 20 in the building’s lobby, with 93-year-old Margaret Sardo who worked at the Connaught in the 1940’s, and had her wedding at the hotel in 1945 for only $1 per plate.
She too expressed great excitement for the renewal of the historic building. “I’m so excited I can’t remember anything.”
Sardo reminisced about her time as an events booker for the Connaught among other jobs, enjoying summer evenings underneath the circus tent roof of the penthouse, and lunch breaks in the hotel’s restaurant.
Sardo and Brocker were just two of the hundreds of entrants in the contest, proving that even though the building has been closed for more than 10 years, it has not been forgotten.
“This hotel was meant as a place to come and have wonderful events… All of its memories I believe are happy ones, joy and laughter, and it just gives you a really good feeling,” said Brocker. “You don’t want to see something of such beauty and something that holds such wonderful memories deteriorate. I mean, you could feel the sadness in the building itself.”
Andrea Brocker speaks about the Connaught as if it were a person. “I knew her so well, and I could feel what she was feeling, and she was just sitting there waiting for somebody to take over the challenge to bring her back.”
Now someone has. With more than 70 percent of the 122 units sold, the Royal Connaught condos promise to give breath to the historic building for years to come.
“This is what she deserves, to be brought back as a Hamilton landmark,” said Brocker.