Note: “Nanny”- Mrs. Orman Garron of Shag Harbour
I can see her now in my memory, coming over Meeting House Hill on a windy day. A tall, thin, whispy sort of a woman, dressed mostly in black, the wind blowing her long skirts, making her lean against the wind to keep her balance. Then the shout would burst forth from the assorted group of children who had been whiling away the minutes on the Hall doorstep. The girls sitting on their empty dinner buckets with their skirts pulled down over their knees against the chill day; the boys throwing stones and wrestling.
“Here comes Nanny now”, we would shout; and we would drop everything and run to meet her, crowding close to her and vying for position to take hold of her hand and hang on to her skirt. Yes, she was known as “Nanny” to all of us. To be sure, she really was “Nanny” to a large percentage because many of them were her grandchildren.
This was “Band of Hope Day” and Nanny was our leader. Every Monday after school boys and girls between the ages of eight and fourteen met in the hall rooms of the Sons of Temperance Division. The elements were seldom too fierce to prevent Nanny coming. On rare occasions, such as a blizzard, she would send word to the schoolhouse by someone to cancel the meeting and groans of disappointment would be heard at this announcement.
A typical meeting was preceded by Nanny unlocking the door and lighting a fire in the combination coal and wood stove to warm the room. Meanwhile, we busied ourselves with arranging the chairs and tables, passing out regalia and assigning substitutes for possible absent officers.
One rap of the gavel by Nanny called the meeting to order and seated it when standing. Two raps called the officers and three raps called up the band members. Officers consisted of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Chaplain and two sentinels. Dues were ten cents a month and the password was changed quarterly, as were elected officers.
The Chaplain opened and closed the meeting with prayer. The Sentinels admitted late comers by receiving the password through a wicket in the door. If a member had forgotten the password, he could be vouched for by a member in good standing. I remember so well the pledge we took on joining and which we renewed at each meeting:
I hereby solemnly promise and pledge myself to abstain from the use, purchase, and sale of all intoxicating drinks, spirituous and malt liquors, wine or cider; also, from the use of tobacco in any form, and from bad language.
After the opening ceremony and after reports had been received from the various committees, we always looked forward to “Good of Order”. Nanny constantly had something planned just in case the entertainment committee had nothing to offer. Usually she read us a story. She had a husky, soft voice, good expression, and the stories were always so interesting; enraptured, we sat still as mice. Also at each meeting she read to us a chapter from a classic, after a brief discussion to refresh our memories concerning last week’s chapter. I can remember my mother often wondering where Nanny found such interesting and educational material to offer, with there being no library in our small village.
We always had a refreshment committee who supplied dainties and on cold days, hot chocolate. Each refreshment committee entered into the task with fervour, serving new things and maybe something just a little bit better, trying to out do their predecessors.
Nanny always gave the warmest praise to all workers, but never showed favouritism. The refreshment committee often came unprepared for some reason or another. At those times Nanny found something in the pantry which she said was left over from a meeting of the Sons of Temperance Division of the previous Saturday evening. It never occurred to us to wonder how she miraculously found cookies or cake just on the day our committee had slipped up. Also, delinquent dues would suddenly come up in just before our quarterly visit to Division because you had to be a member in good standing to attend.
The expression “Band goes to division this Saturday” would be heard all over the community. Groups of girls would be discussing what they were going to wear and what part they had in the program. Boys seemed less concerned, but I always noticed if anyone reported to Nanny, “Sammy broke the pledge; he swore”, she took him aside to talk. I remember Sammy now, standing before Nanny looking up with big brown eyes, a sanctimonious look on his face, ready to renew his pledge with gusto, because for anything in the world, he surely wouldn’t want to miss attending “Band going into Division”.
The meeting of the Guiding Star Division, Son’s of Temperance, was at 7:30 each Saturday evening. Hours beforehand, little girls in their starched petticoats, dresses and patent leather slippers, and little boys in their Sunday best suits would be racing around the Division Wall long before the doors opened. Then Nanny would appear and take charge. It’s a wonder, our enthusiasm. Of course, we had all been practicing our speeches, recitations, dialogues and songs for weeks and having dress rehearsals for “Good of Order” at our weekly meetings.
Nanny would shoo us all into a downstairs room while the opening business of the Division was being cleared in preparation for their visit from the “Band of Hope”. While we waited, she would attempt to maintain order and rehearse our parts with us. Sometimes the din from the noisy, pushing, yelling group of children would reach such a pitch that Nanny would have to use her gavel to bring us to attention. Then she would say, “Now, children, we are getting a little bit noisy, I want you to be quiet so I can see if I can hear this pin drop.” She would hold up a common pin. The noise immediately subsided – but not that much – then Nanny would drop the pin and in a voice barely above a whisper, she would say, “Now, I heard it… did you?” Believe me; she got our attention without even raising her voice. Then she would say, “If we are real quiet and listen, Division is having an initiation tonight and we may be able to hear them ‘ride the goat’.” We would strain our ears to listen because we younger ones usually believed that “riding the goat” was a bit of horseplay required of all new members at initiation into Division.
Suddenly, someone would look in and inform us that “Division is ready and waiting to receive the ‘Band of Hope’.” We would all line up and, led by our sentinels carrying our staff and banners, file up the stairs and into the presence of The Order of the Sons of Temperance.
On the program would be all the things we had rehearsed so well. Nanny would be in the wings, ready to see each one through his part, or prompt, if necessary. There were always the few mistakes and the few who would burst into tears before the audience and run off the stage to seek refuge in their parents’ arms, or in their absence, Nanny’s arms. Our program was always followed by the adult performance for our entertainment, which we thoroughly enjoyed.
Then would follow a blackboard talk by the Worthy Patriarch on the evils of alcohol, through which many of us fell asleep. After refreshments were served by the Division, we were dismissed with a vote of thanks and the prospects of returning again next quarter.
At our first meeting after “Band went to Division”, Nanny would praise everyone for the performance they had given, singling out each one. To those who did not perform, she would tell them what nice manners they had and hoe pleased she was that they had come.
We had an annual event called “The Clyde Picnic” to look forward to each summer. This was sponsored by all Sons of Temperance Division in our district. How we waited, looked forward to and saved our money for the day which usually was set aside in August. Finally, when Picnic day dawned, there was usually rain or very thick fog, but we always went anyway. Nanny always had a large number of children in tow for this occasion; many of them would not have been able to go without her willing supervision.
Motor cars were not very plentiful then, so a special train was charted for the trip of about thirty miles from our village. The train left a town some fifty miles distant early in the morning, picking up the picnic crowds all along the way. It was overloaded by the time it reached our station, but it wouldn’t have been half the fun if it weren’t crowded. Along the last thirty miles, it bulged at the seams.
About noon we would reach our destination and then the sun would be shining. The train was pulled onto a siding where it remained for the day. We had finally reached the picnic grounds, gay with tents representing Divisions from all over the district; some selling dinners, lunches, fruit, ice cream, and of course, fancy work.
We were most fascinated by the vendors’ stalls as the vendors called out “Cupie Dolls, ‘whips’, canes, and balloons – 15 cents. Pins only a nickel – half a dime” and the man would pin one on us which maybe said “Oh You Kid!” Never were there any games of chance.
The bands played. We ran and raced for prizes and when we had eaten our lunch, walked all around the place twice and saw everything. Everyone assembled on the hillside to listen to speeches by the dignitaries.
Late in the afternoon, walking back to the train, early to be sure of a seat, loaded with balloons, whips, canes, and always a celluloid cupie doll, we felt it was a happy day well spent.
Then I remember the man slumped in a seat on a train, his face white and awful. Someone said he had been there all day. I thought he must be very sick but someone said “He’s drunk, dead drunk.” We didn’t know what it meant and our mothers hurried us away.
At our next meeting of “Band of Hope’ we plied Nanny with questions and she explained being drunk was the effect of alcohol. She was deeply concerned that we should see someone drunk and at, of all places, a Temperance Picnic. Thus, we began our meeting as usual, by faithfully repeating the pledge which we had taken and which we now renewed:
I hereby solemnly promise and pledge myself to abstain from the use, purchase and sale of all intoxicating drinks, spirituous and malt liquors, wine or cider; also from the use of tobacco in any form, and from bad language.
And the response:
Let us hear the conclusion of this whole matter .
And the reply:
Fear God and keep His Commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Account given by Amy Hasford