A young girl with pigtails and a shy smile, wearing a frilly pink party dress, held out a silver tray to the four guests seated at our table.
“Would you like a crab bite, clam in pastry or salmon-dill on cucumber?” she asked, indicating each in turn with a nod of her head.
Terry stretched her arm past the vase of gorgeous fresh-cut lilies on the centre of the table and daintily selected a cracker with cream cheese and shrimp. Her tiny hat and string of pearls complemented her flowered spring dress. The fringe of her shawl brushed the linen tablecloth.
Tea on the Tarahne is a first-class tea party with all the trimmings.
It is, as well, a living history. The M.V. Tarahne was built on the shores of Atlin Lake and launched in June, 1916. Abandoned during the depression years of the ’30s, it is now restored and, though in dry dock, hosts this fabulous annual social.
“May I pour?”
The polite voice came around my shoulder at the same time as the sterling silver teapot.
That teapot! My grandmother had one exactly the same … or almost exactly the same. There was a matching creamer and a little silver spoon poking out of the hole of the sugar bowl lid. It was all set out on a lacy doily she herself had tatted, but it was only used for company …
“Yes?” the voice asked. The teapot hesitated.
“Oh, yes, of course, please.”
Alice adjusted the embroidered napkin on her lap as she filled in bits of local history, prompted by the slide show we had seen on the lower deck upon boarding the Tarahne. Maureen nibbled on a pinwheel sandwich. Teaspoons clinked on saucers.
Looking past hanging baskets dripping with lobelia, the gorgeous view of Atlin Lake just outside the windows could trick you into believing you were actually sailing.
The dancing hat ribbons and buttoned shoes of the ladies, the bow ties and black silk vests of the men – we were lulled into the days of the Roaring ’20s.
“Time to roll the dice, ladies!”
The roaming croupier had been working his way around the room. Tiny handbags snapped open. A couple of paper bills were tucked into the garter on his sleeve in exchange for coins to be placed on his portable gaming table.
“Anything over 26 pays out,” the croupier announced as Terry shook the dice. “And anything you don’t win goes toward next summer’s tea.”
A small boy squeezed himself in between everyone to offer up a china plate of chocolate-covered strawberries sitting on fresh nasturtium flowers. All four of us reached around the vase of lilies at the same time. After all, this was a tea party and it was a perfect afternoon.
Tea on the Tarahne is normally held the first Saturday of July, the first sitting at noon and the second sitting at 2 p.m. Information on next summer’s 19th annual tea is available by calling the Atlin Historical Society at (250) 651-7522. P.S. There are prizes to be won, too, but how that happens is a secret.
PHOTO: CATHERINE MILLAR