nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

from the pages of an old diary – community

with 4 comments


It is obvious from my great-aunt’s diaries, her community activities were as important to her as any other aspect of her work.  This work was about people… about spending time with her friends and pursuing the idea of ‘many hands make light work’.  She also had specific skills to contribute to the community.  She loved to bake, sew, quilt and visit.

She belonged to three community groups:

  • the  Women’s Missionary Society (W.M.S.) –  met on Tuesdays (about 23 women)
  • the Red Cross – met on Fridays (about 9 women)
  • the Xmas Club – met once per month (about 10 women)

The Red Cross worked on specific projects, for example a baby layette for a new mother, or a quilt for a family in need.  The Red Cross had a room, perhaps in the Presbyterian church (on March 27, 1957 my great-aunt wrote, ‘ … I went to A.C.’s funeral up at our church. then went down to R.C. room and quilted for a while…’).   She often mentions ‘binding’ a quilt at home as part of her contribution.  The clubs also made quilts to raise money (a ‘square’ could be bought for $.10, April 12, 1957), and held rummage sales (June 1 and June 8, 1957).  

The W.M.S. was associated with the Presbyterian Church and had a program each week.  My great-aunt mentions preparing the ‘lesson’ with another woman.   The group worked with the Red Cross to make quilts for charity (Dec. 3, 1954), and sent flowers to funerals (Nov. 18, 1954).  They also interacted with the CGIT group (Canadian Girls in Training), a church-based program for girls 11-17 (April 2, 1957).  I remember attending CGIT when I was in Junior High and according to the Internet, it continues today.   When she writes about the W.M.S., my aunt always writes the ‘S’ as a dollar sign ($), suggesting she associated the group with money.  She does not do this for her references to the R.H.S. [Regional High School)! 

The Xmas (Christmas) Club met once a month at a member’s home.  They held a summer picnic (July 22, 1954 and July 17, 1957) and a Christmas Dinner in early December where they exchanged presents (Dec. 6, 1954 and Dec. 2, 1957). 

My great-aunt was also interested in the administrative side of these groups.  She made note of how many attended and who missed each meeting, as well as attendance at community events and how much money was made.

In addition to her clubs, my great-aunt also did personal charity work, taking ginger ale to sick people on many occasions, making rolls and squares for various teas and meetings, and hemming sheets for the hospital (May 28, 1957).  She was also a good neighbor, sharing a buttercup root with a friend, for example (May 19, 1954).  It is noticable from the diaries that community members helped one another to get around, giving each other ‘lifts’.  For example, she writes, ‘R. took M., M., [and] I down to Xmas Club… B. came for us.’   

Another important weekly activity was going to church.  My great-aunt and great-uncle attended church regularly, and sometimes went to other community churches for special occasions.  At Easter in 1957, they drove to the Presbyterian Church in New Glasgow to see the 3000 white Easter lilies on display.  She also attended the World Day of Prayer services (May 5, 1954, and May 8, 1957) and ‘read a piece’.

Reading my great-aunt’s diaries, I am left with an image of her place within the small community where she lived and the importance of the daily interactions among people.  These interactions were the community life-blood, enabling people to keep communication going, to support community economies and to keep the population healthy and supported.

Compared to this, how do we contribute to our communities today?  

 

~

~

reckoning the day

                -respose to a diary entry for March 28, 1957

Thurs  cold snow flurries. I finished cleaning kitchen. hemmed 4 sheets for hosp.  I. G. here got my blue dress to fix.  Mrs. C. called got sheets. H. B. here for Red Cross money.  S. M. house burned.   

–          A.M.W.

they wait to collect

your phial of tears

chill at the doorstep

outside the heat dome

where snowflakes sizzle

a moment before they melt

twisted metal hangers, closet a shell

lined with ashes, empty of dresses

quilts and bed-sheets blackened, edges

hemmed in charcoal

kitchen the worst, paint curled

against metal, china charred

crockery smashed, the tines of forks

splayed every way

pattern on linoleum

scoured clean beneath layers

of flammable wax

~

~

©  Jane Tims  2012

4 Responses

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  1. Your great aunt sounds like an involved and generous member of her community. It kind of makes me nostalgic for a slower paced life with more connections to people than most of us have today…

    Like

    Barbara Rodgers

    February 15, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    • Hi. I definately think we can learn something from those days. Although new ways of communicating have advantages, there is nothing like just talking and listening to other people. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      February 16, 2012 at 7:08 am

  2. Nicely done Jane. Excellent poem. Like the opening and like the line snowflakes sizzle

    a moment before they melt

    Take care.

    Denis

    Like

    JD

    February 15, 2012 at 9:12 am

    • Hi. I’m glad you like the poem. It is the first in a series of reponses to the diary entries. I can never know how my great-aunt really felt about any particular circumstance, but I always feel the writing of the poems brings me closer to her experience. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      February 16, 2012 at 6:57 am


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