Sarah and William Paul - 60th Wedding Anniversary
May 15, 1998 Halifax Herald
Mom and Dad: may the Great Spirit cherish them
Mom and Dad: may the Great Spirit cherish them
To coincide with the season for expressing appreciation to parents for the gift of life, and for the material benefits they provided, I offer this tribute to the memory of my late Mom, Sarah Agnes (Noel) and Dad, William Gabriel Paul. Mom was born to Jane (Cope) and John Noel on November 17, 1905, at Enfield. Dad was born on August 4, 1896, to Rhoda (Hubley) and John Paul at Mushaboom. Their paths crossed in Truro in 1919; they were wed on June 7, 1920. Their marriage spanned 63 years and produced 14 children. Seven children and dozens of grandchildren survive them.
Many people believe parents of yore were too restrained to enjoy life. The courtship of my parents make a fantasy of such beliefs. Mom and her good friend Rosie Googoo, residents of Millbrook Reserve near Truro, both had an eye on Dad. As a matter of fact Rosie and Dad were the original item. Then Dad, who resided in Sheet Harbour, took a good look at Mom and his heart was lost. This is where one can get an indication of how smitten he was; he had to walk to Millbrook from Sheet Harbour and back to do his courting. Rosie was not a sore loser, she was the Matron of Honour at their wedding.
The reception was quite the party. At that time, it was against the law for Indians to be in possession of booze, and thus they had to resort to other means for refreshments. My Grandmother concocted home brew, and other relatives and friends contributed moonshine. The stories I've heard about the event were eye-openers.
Afterwards, they resided on Millbrook reserve for a short while and then moved on to New Brunswick - where most of my older sisters and brothers were born. While in N.B., they lived in many diverse places, such as Eel Ground, Red Bank and Saint John. At one time they even had a short residence in a New Brunswick poor house. My late brother Bob was born in the place, and often good-naturerdly stated that he was "poor-house-born."
Saint John is where Mom and Dad were cruelly victimized by the terrible racism that this country practised against Indians. Dad was working on the City's waterfront in 1935, paying his fair share of taxes, when he was laid off because of depression-related cut backs. This compelled him to apply for welfare. After the family began receiving it, a God-fearing white supremacist took the issuance of such as an affront and reported to the city fathers that they were wasting the city's resources by keeping and feeding a bunch of Indians.
The City Fathers were properly shocked. The immediate steps they took to end the "waste" proved them to be as white supremacist as the affronted citizen. Without a trace of compassion, ignoring the fact that it was late fall and that the family had no money for winter accommodations in Nova Scotia, they came up with a brutal decision. Post haste, without any regard for human rights, the City deported them to Indian Brook Indian Reserve near Shubenacadie.
I've often wondered about the terror Mom and Dad must have felt. In a strange place with small children and a baby on the way, winter approaching, no place to stay, no work, no nothing. It gives me the willies thinking about it.
Making the best of scary situation, Dad built a tar-paper shack in which the family spent the winter. The following spring my sister Jane was born in it. Shortly thereafter, Dad built a small log cabin where twin girls (1937) and yours truly, the 12th child, (1938) were born. After this, Dad traded his labour to a lumber mill to have logs he had cut on the Reserve sawed into lumber to build a small house.
The term "poor as church mice" nicely describes our living conditions. We had no conveniences whatsoever. A tin stove for heat, an outhouse for facilities, drinking water had to be hauled by hand from a mile away. Food was frequently scarce - stuffed porcupines, more often than not, filled in for traditional turkeys at holidays. Hand-me-down cloths and toys were the norm.
When he couldn't trade his labour to have fire wood hauled out of the woods by an owner of a team of horses, Dad carried it out on his back. Mom scrubbed our rough wooden floors on hands and knees, and washed our cloths with a scrub board. We were so poor that I thought the poor white folks who lived along the way to Shubenacadie were rich!
Amid all this we managed to have fun. We invented our own games and entertained ourselves by utilizing vivid imaginations. During the war we had a battery radio and when Dad could afford batteries, we often listened to Gabriel Heater's news and other programs, such as "The Shadow."
Mom had a laugh that could be heard from quite a distance, and never was she defeated by life. Neither was Dad. He was frequently away from home searching for work. When it could be found, he often walked for hours through some of the harshest elements to get to it. Yet neither one ever complained or questioned the compassion of the Great Spirit for the trials and tribulations they suffered.
Both went to reside with the Great Spirit with a lot of class. In her fifties and sixties Mom developed several fatal illnesses, but shrugged them off as if they were minor nuisances. She regularly attended church and took trips. Despite ill health, she managed to live 79 years. She embraced her passing on March 15, 1984, as if it was just another trip. Dad was a few months short of 98 when he went. He called me in one day, told me it was time for him to pack it in and join Mom. He gave me instructions about his estate and passed away quietly a few months later, March 8, 1994.
The hardships and heart-breaks my parents suffered during their lifetimes would have defeated all but the most stout of heart. They took it all with dignity! When down, they got up, dusted themselves off and proceeded with renewed determination to enjoy life. May the Great Spirit cherish them for eternity!
Daniel N. Paul