Goodbye to the old Tin Huts! Hello Springtown!
I was a child when we arrived in Springtown but an adult.when I left. And anything good or worthwhile .I have done in my life is a direct a result of that experience. The first important lesson I learned from Springtown was never to confuse the physical environment of people with the people themselves. This was not an easy thing to do in a society that judged people by the size and location of their homes the clothes they wore, or other symbols of social status. Springtown to me was not the old tin huts whose closing we commemorate but a community of people driven to the edge by circumstances over which they had no control. and who survived that experience with grace, humanity, and, frequently, heroism
We were referred to as squatters. And the second lesson I learned from Springtown was not to let others define you. Springtowners knew better and went about the business of defining themselves. A glance at the nicknames on the Website does not describe anonymous, faceless people. . Those nick names brings to life individuals fashioned by a larger imagination. I don’t think it’s an accident that Springtown has its share of poets and storytellers.
I was twenty when I left Springtown for the last time" Sadie Puri
We spoke in a vernacular some described as slang. The critics, in their ignorance, believed we lacked the facility to in speak standard English, a standard forged for upper class English whose culture was very different. from our own. The real truth is most of us could use standard English as well as the next, but found it inadequate to our needs. And created our own forms of expression that more accurately reflected our values and everyday experiences. When my mother was skeptical of something, skeptical was not the word she used. She would say “that’s as I roved out and forgot to rove in again.” There was no comeback. She refused to allow standard English to imprison, either her mind, or her eloquence.
Others’ perceptions and judgements could sting but we didn’t have the luxury of wallowing in hurt feelings or victim hood. Men and women were engaged in the relentless, struggle for food, heat and clothing. Lives were at stake. Survival was not a long-term romantic dream but an ever-present challenge. “Give us our daily bread”was more than a pious invocation. It was a heartfelt plea for flour to make a scone or to scrape up enough money to buy a loaf from Herbie when Hunter’s Bakery van stopped outside the door.
In spite of all this, hope was always present and it came in many forms. When a sick wain’s wheeze disappeared after the application of castor oil and brown paper to the chest, or a hacking cough brought on by the cold, damp, and poor ventilation, was cured by an infusion of onions boiled in milk, God was thanked with fervour, as well the neighbour who prepared the cure or who had kept an overnight vigil with the anxious mother. In the absence of doctors or medicine, Doon Well water was passed from one hut to another. It was used sparingly as the demand was great. I can personally attest to at least one miracle.
I was twenty when I left Springtown for the last time. The people of Springtown, by their example, prepared me well, for my life’s journey. They taught me about love, hope, courage, and persistence and they continue to inspire and raise me up.
Love, Wee Sadie Clingain.