"This is it?" the visitor from Petaluma, Calif. or De Land, Fla. asks as he walks up the ramps and stairways, following so many twists and turns he loses all sense of direction. "Where is the picture I've seen on television? Where is the parquet floor? Where are the flags from the rafters? Where?"
A final door is opened. The inside of the building has been cleaned and painted in recent years, sky boxes added, everything covered with a citrus color scheme of orange and yellow. The configuration has not changed. The seats still seem to hang from the walls, everyone pushed together on the sides of a tall, giant box. The familiar patterned wood floor is in the middle of the scene, the leprechaun smiling from the Boston Celtics logo in the center circle. The flags hang from above, all of those championship years, all of those retired numbers of retired players, standing at green-and-white attention.
"What do you use to clean those things?" someone asked the late Walter Randall, the Celtics' equipment man, one day as he stuffed a couple of world championships into a large washing machine.
"Tide," Randall replied.
This is it.
"I was 18 years old, just up from Kitchener, Ontario," Milt Schmidt says. "I was coming to practice and I was starting to walk up the ramp. Dit Clapper spotted me. He was a veteran. My idol. 'Schmidt,' he says. 'Yessir,' I said, because that was a time when you always called a veteran 'Sir.' 'Don't walk the ramp,' Dit Clapper says. 'Here. Use the elevator with me.' He shows me an elevator I never knew existed. I ride up with him. Dit Clapper, my idol, and me."
Schmidt is now 68 years old. He has been a Hall of Fame player, coach, assistant general manager and general manager with the Bruins. He now manages the Garden Club, a private restaurant in the building. He is here every day.
"I just rode up here in that elevator," Schmidt says, amazed at the sudden thought. "Just now. Fifty years later I just rode up in the same elevator."
The past can be recalled with the push of a button, the blink of an eye, a click of the mind. That is the daily tale in the Garden. The past is a functional past, not a collection of do-not-touch exhibits guarded by a nervous curator. See that wooden folding chair over there? That could have been the chair Sam Jones held over his head, trying to whack Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain wanted to shake hands. Jones wanted to lay some lumber on the big man. See this stuffed chair, in the middle of this office? A baby giraffe was born on this very spot. That's the story. The giraffes used to be right here during the circus before this office was an office.
"This is my home, really," says Celtics coach K.C. Jones. "I just go to Wellesley every now and then to sleep. I've been here since I was 24 years old. Came in with the College All-Stars to play the Harlem Globetrotters. That's when I first got my reputation. I missed some shots, and everyone said, 'K.C. Jones. That guy can't shoot.' "