When Papa George’s shut down for good last October, it left a gaping maw at the heart of the Village. Until a few weeks ago, the gutted shell of one of Osborne’s oldest and most iconic businesses was hidden from view by scaffolding that created a series of cavernous tunnels at the corner of River and Osborne.
Almost as if it’s a universal law of human behaviour, people took it upon themselves to ‘decorate’ the plywood walls with posters, messages, and crude sketches.
The biggest sketch was of a distorted face, a demented and disfigured creature, part Ralph Steadman, part Pablo Picasso, that greeted people as they entered the threshold on River.
Adjacent to it, someone wrote ‘love’ in cursive letters, to which somebody else added ‘is for suckers.’
Inside, ‘no war in Syria’ was written in one corner, and underneath it a roughly drawn telephone receiver with a long cord stretched the length of the wall. At the end of the cord, the message ‘call the cops’ inspired someone to dub it the ‘rat line.’ Someone else tied a wire into the connection, and in muddy red paint wrote ‘crust time?’
At the farthest end from river, someone decided to offer fashion advice, insisting ‘girls wear your cutoffs with black high heels!’ as though this were a self-evident truth.
Put together, what did it say about the Village?
Were these the expressions of a politically engaged community with a rebellious edge? Were they the mindless nonsense of indulgent and superficial youth? Did they show an oddly strong yet dysfunctional unity between different types of people, each one adding a new layer to what the last person contributed and having a laugh?
Or was it the ugly work of vandals who wasted no time in defacing the newly renovated storefront?
Commuters who use the street only as a thoroughfare probably only saw ‘Slack" written in massive letters, punctuated by an exclamation mark shaped like a lightning bolt.
For people who walk past, the posters were what they probably saw first. The biggest of them, advertising a brand of chewing gum, had a smaller one plastered in the middle of it — as if in protest at big business creeping any further into the comfortably and confidently independent community.
The scaffolding is gone, and the new, locally owned business is taking shape. But the people who ‘decorated’ the walls are still around, part of the community that Papa George’s played an important part of for 35 years.
Hopefully the new tenants add something to the mix, and successfully fill the void.