It was always 7:30 a.m. when Ernie Riley would arrive at the Olympia Tea Room and start preparing for the morning onslaught of customers seeking their daily fix of hot coffee. In some cases, they had toast to go along with their drink.
The morning coffee clique that usually gathered about 10 a.m., consisted of well known men such as James Mackey Sr., fellows from the post office across the street, namely Hank DeBois, George Hodgson, Aubrey Warner and Elwood Coombs. Charley Meehan represented Boxall and Matthie, and Teddie Oak was a regular on behalf of Edward's Hardware Store. Charlie Perkins, owner of The Little Book Shop would show up, as would Ford Moynes and Stan Pitts from the Warder. Ken Richmond from Fee Motors would put in an appearance, as would Rev. C.D. Cross, who was usually asked if he had converted anyone recently.
But the one man who caused the most turmoil of all was rev. Father Meagher from St. Mary's Parish. He and Ernie Riley could cause more arguments than all the rest put together. Of course when Jim Mackey walked in the usual question was "Did you lay anyone out overnight Jim?"
Moynes and Pitts were asked for the latest gossip and each of the other fellows were asked pertinent questions that might stir up some controversial conversations. The worst of the two were Riley and Meagher. Both were Irishmen and were very close, and even though they were not of the same religious faith, they were like brothers. I remember Father Meagher would wait until he knew Ernie's break would come and the two of them would huddle in the furthest seat at the back of the restaurant and quietly chat. No one ever knew what their discussions were about but the Father would tell Ernie to ask Meehan about a certain situation and when he did so, Meehan would bolt from the restaurant and accuse Ernie of "spying."
Father Meagher loved this and would constantly tell Ernie about things just to make Charlie upset.
"Riley, there's no doubt in my mind that your folks dropped the 'O' from your name when they crossed the pond," said Meagher.
As time passed, Father Meagher died and it was but a few short weeks later that Ernie Riley's life came to a sudden end.
I entered that smoke shop and the first thing Ab Ashmore said to me was, "I guess Father Meagher wasn't able to get in up above without Ernie."
"Maybe so Ab, maybe so."