Canada's History : 2020-08-01

TRADING POST : 45 : 45


equivalent to $2,700 today, to look after the bird. Louis reportedly pined for his deceased mistress and could be heard calling “Miss Wilson, Miss Wilson, I want some water.” “He subdivided the existing house into six apartments and sat down to wait out the old bird,” magazine reported in 1963. “But Louis callously recovered from the pain of his mistress’s passing and, to Abrams’s rueful astonishme­nt, seemed to take a new lease on life.” Unfortunat­ely for Abrams, Louis was one of the (rare birds) with a longer-than-average lifespan. Like the reclusive Hollywood star Greta Garbo, Louis wanted to be left alone by the public. He apparently disliked having his picture taken — flashbulbs put him in a foul mood. Thankfully, he had very few visitors. Each year, a representa­tive of the Royal Jubilee Hospital looked in to see if Louis was still ticking. From time to time, a member of the law firm administer­ing Wilson’s estate dropped by for the same purpose. Abrams waited nine years for the parrot to croak before giving up in 1958. He sold the property to two Victoria businessme­n who also claimed that they were willing to wait out Louis. As the years rolled by, Louis outlived all of Wilson’s other birds. Meanwhile, the media continued to flock to the story. A spate of tongue-in-cheek newspaper articles were published, including the 1959 story Life A s Victoria Jane Wilson had lived in seclusion in her mansion, the rest of downtown Victoria slowly built up around her. Gradually, many of the fine old homes of similar vintage to hers were torn down to make way for high-rises. After her death, her mansion and spacious grounds were sold to Douglas Abrams, an apartment developer, who announced his intention to demolish the house and develop the property into a modern, multiple-unit, high-rise apartment complex. But he had overlooked Louis. Tucked away in Victoria’s will was an escrow clause stipulatin­g that Louis must live out his days in the home — and that under no circumstan­ces must his environmen­t be disturbed. This meant that the White House, including its then-attached aviary, heated from the same furnace system as the house, had to remain standing until Louis dropped dead. At the time of Wilson’s death, the parrot was believed to be eighty-six. Calculatin­g the actuarial odds, Abrams figured Louis’s days were numbered. rarae aves Calgary Herald 45 AUGUST–SEPTEMBER 2020