Read these personal accounts of what life was like way back when in Newfoundland and Labrador, sent by our readers.
Mom Downs' Healing Gift During high school in the '70s, my best friend Nora Downs from St. Lawrence had the most wonderful parents. They were funny, loving, and comical as all go get and just absolutely good people. I had a really bad case of warts on both of my hands and being a teenager, tried to hide the hideous things. Nora's Mom, Betty, who I endearingly called Mom Downs, said, "I can fix that me child. Come I ... click to read moreDuring high school in the '70s, my best friend Nora Downs from St. Lawrence had the most wonderful parents. They were funny, loving, and comical as all go get and just absolutely good people. I had a really bad case of warts on both of my hands and being a teenager, tried to hide the hideous things. Nora's Mom, Betty, who I endearingly called Mom Downs, said, "I can fix that me child. Come I shows ya." She withdrew a stick of white chalk that she had in one of her kitchen drawers, crossed all of my warts with an "x" and when finished, she marked three "x"s in her oven. She said that when the chalk in the oven was gone, so would my warts. The only thing I had to do was believe.
Of course, I'd have believed anything at this point, because I'd tried everything to get rid of them...Compound W, burned by the local doctor, cut potatoes and whatever was on the go during that time. But I believed Mom Downs. Like any teenager at this point in their life, we were busy with softball, volleyball, school, and friends and so on. You can imagine my surprise a few days later to discover all of my warts gone. Stunned was an understatement. The best part of believing was yet to come.
Life went on and years went by. Like most Newfoundlanders, I moved to the mainland, started a family and only got to visit home once in a while. My daughter Lenna was a swimmer since she was a youngster and through the years, developed planter warts on her feet - all over her feet, in between her toes, just everywhere. Poor thing suffered so much with them. Anyway, one year we decided to come home to visit and it was during that visit, I found that "Poppy Downs" had passed away. I went to visit Mom Downs just to let her know that I was thinking of her and to offer condolences. When Lenna and I knocked on her door, there wasn't any answer, and as we started to walk away, we heard a hello. Turning around was the woman I've loved always, standing in the doorway, squinting her eyes, saying "Elaine?...My God, you look the same as always." We hugged and said hellos and reminisced about Poppy as she was still grieving over her recent loss. We chatted about our shenanigans long ago and she asked me if I had any warts come back and I reassured her that no more made any appearances. I told her it must have been passed onto the children, and filling her in on Lenna's "wart story," she told me to hang on a minute. She went to the same drawer, pulled out the SAME piece of chalk (she told us that it'd been there since she last used it on me), crossed them over Lenna's feet and marked her x's in the oven. Lenna thought we were nuts! We left her with lots of hugs, and promised to keep in touch.
We had a great time on holidays that year. Lenna got to swim in a "real ocean" for the very first time. She got to meet her grandmother, aunts, uncles and lots of extended family. And of course it had to end. And warts were the last thing on her mind. So back to Ontario we went where work and school was the next big thing. We were only home for a few days in Ottawa when, like you would, we started rehashing the holiday and all the fun we had. It was then that we remembered the warts. God Lord Almighty! The bottoms of that child's feet were as smooth as glass and not a single black dot could be seen anywhere. Yep! Every single one of them was gone.
That woman with the sweetest smile and the biggest heart made our daughter a very, very happy little girl. She will always hold a special place in my heart. Bless you both Mom and Pop...hope you're clearing up the warts of angels! (You know they got big ones when the thunder's too loud and you'll need BIG sticks of chalk for that crew!)
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Christmas Without a Tree The year was 1956 and times were tough. People didn't have the money they have today for buying gifts for their family, friends and loved ones. The people in our neighbourhood barely had enough money to put food on the table and clothes on their children. Gifts were an extra burden.
My father was a house painter and very seldom got any work after September. My mother started going out to work cleaning peoples' ... click to read moreThe year was 1956 and times were tough. People didn't have the money they have today for buying gifts for their family, friends and loved ones. The people in our neighbourhood barely had enough money to put food on the table and clothes on their children. Gifts were an extra burden.
My father was a house painter and very seldom got any work after September. My mother started going out to work cleaning peoples' homes for $3 a day, which was the going rate at the time. My mother would work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. five days a week for a total of $15 a week.
As Christmas approached Mom would go down to Woolworths and put a few things on the lay-away plan for her family and paid a little each week when she got her $15 on Fridays. That was the only way many of the people in our neighbourhood could afford to buy gifts at that time.
Christmas Eve came and Mom had to go to work as usual. We didn't have a Christmas tree and I overheard Mom and Dad discussing how were they ever going to get the money to buy one, they were so broke.
There were four of us children in the family and we didn't understand anything only that Santa brought you gifts. We were asking, "When are we getting our tree"? and Mom would say that maybe we wouldn't have a tree this year. We were very sad, but didn't say anything.
In those days people would come to town from the country with trees on their wagons or trucks and go door to door selling them for $1 each. At the end of the day when it was dark and everyone was at home with their families, there wouldn't be any sales for the trees, so the people selling them would just put them along the side of the road and head on home.
My brothers and I decided that we would go out looking around the streets after supper to see if we could find a tree, but nothing was to be found. We came home very downhearted. At a time when we should have been overjoyed at the coming of Santa, we had no tree for him to put our gifts under. We were sure that without a tree Santa wouldn't leave us anything.
When my mother came home from work that evening she was so very tired and really sad. It was written all over her face. She had tried so hard to make a wonderful Christmas but the main thing that represented Christmas to children, the tree, was missing.
We went to bed that night asking each other if we thought that Santa would come even if we didn't have a tree.
Christmas morning came and we all rushed downstairs to see if Santa had come. We were so surprised when we opened the door to our living room and there stood a beautiful tree with our gifts underneath. We were overjoyed. The lights from the tree put a magical glow to the room and there seemed to be a feeling of peace. I looked over at Mom and saw a smile on her face, something that I hadn't seen for a long time.
Several years later Mom and I were talking about special people that come into your life and make a difference and Mom told me a story. She said that the woman she had worked for on Christmas Eve had a beautiful tree in her large living room. It was filled underneath with brightly wrapped gifts. It was a scene right out of Curry and Ives. She asked Mom if she had her tree up and dressed, and Mom said that we wouldn't be having a tree this year because she didn't have the money to buy one.
Later that evening around 10:00 p.m. Mom said there was a knock on the door. Dad opened the door and in walked Mrs. Brown, Mom's employer that day, carrying a large Christmas tree. She told Mom that she had bought her tree earlier in the day and had decorated it as a surprise for her husband when he returned from work. Well, when he walked into the house that evening, he was carrying a tree he had bought on his way home as a surprise for her. She wanted to know if Mom would do her a favour and take this tree and use it. This would mean a great deal to her. Mom said she didn't know what to say. Mrs. Brown had a smile on her face and there seemed to be a twinkle in her eye. Mom thanked Mrs. Brown and she was on her way.
The next morning Dad opened the kitchen door to the porch to shovel the snow from the steps and found six parcels with our names on them. Mrs. Brown had bought a gift for each of us and had left them as a surprise.
The love and generosity of Mrs. Brown towards our family, at a time when we didn't have very much, was a sign of love and caring.
When it comes right down to it, isn't love the greatest gift of all?
A Special Christmas Gift Christmas 1958 was a very difficult one for my family. My father, who worked as a house painter, had not had work since September and my mother had to go out to work cleaning people's homes. She would work five days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for $3 a day. It was very stressful and very tiring for her.
I was in grade eight at the Presentation Convent on Barnes ... click to read moreChristmas 1958 was a very difficult one for my family. My father, who worked as a house painter, had not had work since September and my mother had to go out to work cleaning people's homes. She would work five days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for $3 a day. It was very stressful and very tiring for her.
I was in grade eight at the Presentation Convent on Barnes Road that year. For Christmas I desperately wanted a school ring because the next year I would be attending Holy Heart of Mary Regional High School. The school rings were very expensive but I asked my mother for one anyway. I desperately wanted one for Christmas. At $3 a day that my mother earned, it would take her a long time to save up the money for the ring. Even though I had asked her for the ring, I felt guilty for putting that pressure on her.
Shortly before Christmas, as we were having supper one evening, Mom said she had to discuss something with us. She told us that as well as working from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily she would have to be out of the house after supper from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for a month. She had gotten another job cleaning offices and Dad would have to go with her to help. There were four of us children in the family. Our older sister, who was 18 at the time, would take care of things for us.
Christmas morning finally came and I got up early. I was in the school choir and we were singing at the 9:00 a.m. Mass at the Basilica of St. John the Baptist on Military Road. My father and I had breakfast together and as I was putting on my heavy coat Dad handed me a little gift. My heart jumped. I was hoping it was my ring, but was afraid to open it just in case it was something else. I held it for a moment and Dad said, "Well, aren't you going to open it?" He had a big smile on his face.
I gently opened the package and there in a little yellow box was my Presentation School Ring. My special treasure. Tears started rolling down my face as I took the ring from its box and put it on my finger. I gave my dad a big hug.
I realized as I walked to church in the snow, that as much as I loved the ring and felt special wearing it, the true Christmas gift that year was the selfless act of love shown by my mother and father.
A Warm Shawl of Christmas Memories Every family has their own unique blend of Christmas traditions, from warm and wonderful gatherings with friends old and new, to trimming the tree, making holiday treats and of course consuming the turkey dinner that always manages to taste better at Christmas than any other time of the year. And we carry these traditions with us over our lifetime until all that remains is a shawl of festive memories we carefully put away with the ... click to read moreEvery family has their own unique blend of Christmas traditions, from warm and wonderful gatherings with friends old and new, to trimming the tree, making holiday treats and of course consuming the turkey dinner that always manages to taste better at Christmas than any other time of the year. And we carry these traditions with us over our lifetime until all that remains is a shawl of festive memories we carefully put away with the decorations each year to be retrieved when the season comes 'round again!
And with every year that passes I take out my precious shawl of memories and wrap it snugly around my shoulders. It's crafted from a beautiful fabric woven out of a unique blend of joy and sadness, two emotions that for most of us seem to be in continuous conflict during the season of joy.
I grew up in Stephenville, on the west coast, and our big happy family was blessed with lots of relatives and friends! We were a family of seven children and although times weren't always good, Mom and Dad did the best they could with what they had and I don't have a single Christmas memory that isn't filled with an abundance of love and happiness!
I remember when I was very small one of our annual Christmas traditions was the trek to church for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Of course it was the last place children wanted to be while awaiting Santa Claus! But looking back, I realize that Mom and Dad wanted to be sure we were good and tired so we'd sleep past four a.m. on Christmas morning.
By the time mass began, it would be wall-to-wall people with standing room only at the back of the church for those who arrived late. Mom and Dad would squeeze all seven of us between them in the pew, and the fun would begin!
We didn't much care for the smell of alcohol in the church that was enough to knock a horse out cold! It permeated the warm stuffy air and hung like a cloud over the crowded pews, but everyone was in a good mood and hilarious stuff began to happen as the service progressed.
More than a few times during mass, Mom would reach across us and give Dad a poke in the ribs for snoring, and with a grunt he'd sit up as fast as he could! We'd giggle while she gave us what she thought was a stern look. And a few minutes later, he'd be snoring again and we'd be fairly bursting to laugh out loud.
Now the lateness of the hour might suggest the children would be the ones falling asleep. But that wasn't the case at all, and we spent our time looking around to see which man was going to get the next poke when his missus caught him snoozing.
As well, it goes without saying the conscious mind can most often execute a quiet, albeit unwelcome, bodily emission, but when a person falls asleep they are at the mercy of the dreaded flatulence sprite! And that was another source of entertainment for us during mass. One minute there'd be the sound of snoring and the next a rather loud reverberation upon the hard wooden pew that sent us into yet another fit of giggles.
By the time mass was over, we were tired and looking forward to visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads! But we excitedly anticipated the drive home.
And that drive home was pure magic! Especially if it was a clear night and the moon made the snow glisten like a million diamonds! Eyes filled with wonder, we'd watch the rooftops because Mom said if we looked carefully we just might see old Saint Nick! And I swear there were times I was sure I did!
Many years have come and gone, and most of the old familiar traditions have faded like the tinsel we decorated our tree with year after year until it practically disintegrated. All I have left now is my priceless shawl of memories and it brings me the greatest joy.
Mom and Dad look down from the stars on Christmas Eve now, and there's a powerful ache in my heart for those days when they were here. But if I'm out late, and the moon is shining brightly on the most peaceful night of the year, I still find myself searching the rooftops and the sky for a glimpse of the magic Mom said I'd find if I looked carefully enough.
Many times I have sat on the grey sandy beach in front of my pop and grandma's house looking at the tall mountains that fence the bay and the seawater glistening as the waves calmingly collide against the ... click to read moreBy Tracy Reid
Many times I have sat on the grey sandy beach in front of my pop and grandma's house looking at the tall mountains that fence the bay and the seawater glistening as the waves calmingly collide against the uneven shore. Taking in the breathtaking scenery and filling my soul with the peace that the beauty and quiet brings, has always created a deep love for this place.
I have thought about how I, as a child, explored this place with my brother and cousins, running up and down the seaside looking for washed up treasures. Smooth coloured glass, eye-catching shells, and rocks with glittering specks of quartz were what made up our bounty. When the tide would go out we'd search under the seaweed and large rocks that are usually water covered, to find crabs and starfish. After scooping them up in an old salt beef bucket and showing with pride to our family members our discoveries, we gently put them back in their homes to find another time. We'd wade through the tepid water up to our shins and if we were brave, sometimes up to our waists. When I think of it now I have never stopped doing these things, I still get filled with the enjoyment it brings. When evening time comes and the moon is rising over the hills on the other side of the bay casting a yellow glow over the water, we have an enormous bonfire. We burn drift wood we collected, scraps Pop had around and rejoice in the large flames that reached out to the night sky. After roasting marshmallows, wieners, all the while laughing and singing songs, we go to bed tired and fully content.
As I have gotten older I have become more aware of my family's history on that beach. Through pictures and stories I came to find that not only had I enjoyed this captivating place but a long line of relatives that travel back to the 1800s. It all started with my great-great grandfather who had moved to this area from Greens Pond and settled here with his wife to raise his family. My great grandfather was born here and lived in a house right on this beach with his wife and children, one of which was my grandfather, who also was born here and grew up on this shore. Not to mention great uncles and aunts with their families living a few feet away. To add more roots to this area, my grandmother was also born in this community as was her mother and father. Though my mother didn't live here she spent a lot of weekends and summers on this beach. Where my great-grandfather's house stood my pop built a summer cabin, which then was built into a home for him and my grandma after he retired. So for five generations my family has congregated here enjoying this beautiful spot. When I think about this, it fills me with great pride and wonder knowing that I share the same attachment to this place with many many others.
Sitting on the seashore, I now watch my children playing on the beach. Smiling and giggling, my son throws rocks and seaweed into the oncoming tide and my daughter squishes the sand between her fingers. They are now the sixth generation to be a part of this magnificent privilege. They play where their great-great grandfather walked, they wade in the water where their great grandfather waded as a child, they sit by fires where their grandmother sat growing up and they turn over the same rocks their mother turned over when the tide was out to uncover the ocean's treasures.
"The Harbour Gracian who repaired Gandhi's dentures."
Attached is a scan of Dr. Herbert M. Butt.
(An earlier version of this story appeared in The Compass, the newspaper serving Conception & Trinity bays.)
The Harbour Gracian who repaired Gandhi's dentures
... click to read more"The Harbour Gracian who repaired Gandhi's dentures."
Attached is a scan of Dr. Herbert M. Butt.
(An earlier version of this story appeared in The Compass, the newspaper serving Conception & Trinity bays.)
The Harbour Gracian who repaired Gandhi's dentures
By Burton K. Janes
By 1931, Herbert Mercer Butt (1907-2005) of Harbour Grace was a dentist in Poona (an anglicized form of Pune), India. The road he had traveled to get there was no less interesting than the variety of clients in his dental practice in the country.
Receiving his early education at Coughlan Hall, as a young man, he entered Montreal's McGill University.
He originally planned to make a career as an electrical engineer. Detecting some degree of dexterity with his hands, he determined instead to become a surgeon or general practitioner. He changed his mind again when he thought back on Dr. Charles Cron (1886-1962) of Harbour Grace, who rarely had time off. A career in dentistry, though, would provide Herbert with both regular working hours and leisure time.
Between academic years, he worked summer jobs, including on a paddlewheel ferry between New York and Albany, as a truck driver in Boston, and as a door-to-door salesman.
On Christmas Day 1931, he arrived in Bombay (now Mumbai), later assuming the duties of dentist in Poona. (His mentor, the Oregonian, Dr. Dexter Davidson, had established a dentistry practice in the city.)
In 1937, Herbert, now popularly known as Robin because of his red McGill sweater, returned to Harbour Grace, in search of a marriage partner. However, he returned to Poona, still single, but with pleasant memories of time with family and friends.
One morning, two months after arriving back in Poona, Robin was pleasantly surprised to receive in his office an attractive young missionary, assistant principal of a girls' school. Lois Jean Denniston (1910-2005), daughter of an Australian merchant, had a toothache. He treated her, marrying her in 1938.
Dr. Butt Sahib (owner or proprietor), as he was known to his Indian clients, tended a wide variety of patients. For example, he worked on the teeth of "Tommies," common soldiers in the British Army, and full Generals. There were ladies, rajahs, maharajahs and celebrities. There was the Aga Khan, the millionaire leader of a small Indian Mohammedan cult. There was the Nizam of Hyderabad, then the world's richest man. There was Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark (1908-80). There was the Viceroy of India, who has been described as having "the power of an absolute monarch, with no responsibility at all to the Indian people and subject only to the British government in London."
Perhaps best known of Dr. Butt Sahib's clients was one Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), the pre-eminent political and spiritual leader of India during the Indian independence movement. Ron Pumphrey referred to Gandhi as "the then upstart and now Indian hero."
The Butts' son, Trevor, recently emailed me: "While Dad was doing dental work in Pune (Poona), Mahatma Gandhi was incarcerated there."
Actually, Gandhi had been held in prison on several occasions, his first imprisonment in India being in 1922. In 1932, his prison cell was in Poona. On May 6, 1944, he left a British prison for the final time in his life. He had spent an almost unbelievable six-and-a-half years in then: 2,089 days in India, 249 days in South Africa.
Gandhi's upper dentures were sent for repair to Dr. Butt Sahib's office in Poona.
Interestingly, William L. Shirer (1904-93), the well-known American journalist, war correspondent, historian and author of Gandhi: A Memoir, chatted with Gandhi many times. Their first meeting was on February 22, 1931.
"As our talk began," Shirer wrote, "I tried to take in not only what Gandhi was saying but how he looked.... His actual appearance...was not one you would have especially noticed in a crowd." At 61 years of age, Gandhi was showing wear and tear on his face. Shirer remarked on his turned-down nose, widened at the nostrils. Another impression stayed with Shirer. Age, fasting, the Indian sun, the years in prison, and the "long, hard, nervous work, had...sunk in his mouth just a little so that the lower lip protruded, and teeth were missing â€" I could see only two."
Admittedly, Dr. Butt Sahib did not actually meet Gandhi face to face. However, the Harbour Gracian did hold in his hands and repair the Indian leader's upper dentures!
The Butts returned to Newfoundland in the late 1940s when, in the words of Jack Fitzgerald, "British troops were being withdrawn from India and an Indian civil war was anticipated."
Cough Cure and Oil Bottles From 1894 Kickapoo Show
While patent medicine makers have always advertised and promoted their products heavily, the most colourful promotions were the travelling medicine shows. The most successful of the medicine show business was the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company, which was founded in the fall of ... click to read moreWhile patent medicine makers have always advertised and promoted their products heavily, the most colourful promotions were the travelling medicine shows. The most successful of the medicine show business was the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company, which was founded in the fall of 1881 in New Haven, Connecticut, by John E. Healy, sometimes known as "Doc Healy," and Col. Charles H. Bigelow, better known as "Texas Charlie." They sent out as many as 75 complete shows to provide entertainment and therapy, not only to local villages and hamlets, but to many cities of some size in the United States, Canada and abroad.
Healy, a second-generation Irishman, born in New Haven, had been a Civil War drummer boy who took a liniment down to Savannah in Reconstruction days. Temporarily sidetracked with a troop of Irish minstrels in 1879, Healy had been on the road selling liver pads. When the red spot on the pad was applied to an aching area, the warmth of the body released the medicinal qualities of the herbs, which penetrated directly to the ailment, affording instant relief. The liver pads were only a cloth bag stuffed with sawdust that had been treated to smell like a drugstore. The "red spot" was red pepper and glue which was released when the body started to sweat. Doc Healy's pads came in two sizes, $1 and $1.50. The larger contained more sawdust, more red pepper and more glue than the smaller size. Healy did an enormous business before he and Bigelow joined forces to think up the Sagwa cure, then to select the Kickapoos, which were a mix including Mohawks, Iroquois, Crees, Sioux, Blackfeet and braves of the Caughnawagas from the St. Lawrence River area above Montreal. As many as 300 Indians, including women and children, were hired and cared for.
Col. Charles Bigelow was born in 1855 in Massachusetts, and was a notable figure in Western pioneer times. In his earlier life he had been a warm friend to Col. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, and was with him in many tours of the Western Wild Shows. Col. Bigelow had one of the most extensive collections of Indian relics in the United States. He witnessed many Indian fights and lived through the stirring scenes that go to make up the history of the romantic Southwest.
In quick time the Healy and Bigelow shows gained a reputation for all-round reliability. Several licensed shows, equal to small circuses in size, went abroad to Europe and Australia. In March, 1890, they were playing Rome, Italy. In the United States and Canada, the outfits played during summer months under their own canvas, and in winter booked into town halls and opera houses.
On August 17th, 1891, it was announced that the Kickapoos were coming to St. John's as a contract was signed by agent J.H. West for the use of the Star of the Sea Association Hall. Part of the troupe that was touring Europe arrived from Liverpool, England on August 27th under the management of John E. Healy. The well-known Mr. Healy, who was so favourably known to the people of St. John's as a caterer of the drama, had put on a show back in 1879.
It was advertised as the Kickapoo Indian and Wild West Show. The famous travelling troupe exhibited life on the great western plains of the United States. Four of their Indian chiefs, in full warpath costume of headdress of feathers, and tunic and trousers with coloured fringes, created a sensation as they passed up Duckworth Street on the morning they landed, followed by the gaze of the curious. Buffalo Bill's famous entertainments would be seen in miniature, and the manners and characteristics of the American Indians, such as heretofore had never been known, but only through books, would be seen and heard with painful whoops and brandishing their scalping knives. Nothing like it had ever been seen here. During the day, they gave no show, but their Museum of Indian curiosities and relics were exhibited free. Shows were held at 8 p.m. with a Saturday afternoon matinee for ladies and children. Admission was 10 cents for children and 25 cents for adults.
Their first performance was well-attended, considering the unusual hot weather, and consisted of Indian dances, sharpshooting, comic and sentimental duets, juggling, music, magic and a Wild West drama. Everybody went away well pleased. Over the next few days, a change of program was held, with an Indian drama called "trading fair," a medley of realistic and humorous exhibitions typical of life, in peace and war, amongst the American Indians. As the entertainment continued, the price of admission was dropped to ten cents, with a refund to all persons purchasing medicine. The show continued to draw large crowds, in spite of inclement weather and the new attraction of the drama "Nevada" held at St. Patrick's Hall.
The Kickapoo Indians went with the show usually, and stood around looking very healthy, and would say "ugh" when asked if they took their own concoctions. An Indian Chief with the manager was to be seen during the day, conferring with one or the other druggist in St. John's. This was a fine piece of public relations, as the Kickapoo remedies were not sold exclusively at the show. They could be bought from the local druggists, where the complete Kickapoo line was placed on consignment, thus making friends with the druggist, who otherwise might protest. Between the entertainments, the show would be interrupted by the Lecturer, like today's commercials, followed closely by sale in the audience of the remedies. Then suddenly, at the end of a lecture, war whoops from the Chiefs would shake the house, and down the aisles they came, each toting a basket stacked with bottles that were quickly purchased. "All sold out, Doctor!" shouted the redskin salesmen in pretty fair english, and the entertainment would resume.
The Kickapoo line of remedies was long. Sagwa was the leader, followed by Kickapoo Indian Oil, Salve, Cough Cure, Pills. Prairie Plant, Sage Hair Tonic, Soap and Worm Killer. Sagwa sold for $1 per bottle or 6 bottles for $5, Kickapoo Indian Oil sold for 25 cents per bottle, and both cures contained nearly 30% of alcohol.
In late September, the Kickapoo Company donated the night's funds to the widows and orphans of the crew of the wrecked barque Camellia, which was lost in a gale off Sydney, Nova Scotia. The company also donated a night's funds to the Star of the Sea Association. On October 3rd, the troupe again donated the night's funds of $13.50 to the widow and orphan fund. On October 5th, for their last show, the company gave a benefit entertainment to Messrs. Henry and Burton, the comedians of their troupe. These gentlemen had delighted thousands of people. On October 7th, the company left for Harbour Grace for a four-week show, and sold out many nights. Here they did as well with both medicine and entertainments as they expected. They completed their first Newfoundland tour with success.
The Kickapoo elixirs were now sold by every druggist in North America, and were available from the Trading Post on the Frontier to the fashionable drug stores of New York City.
The Kickapoo Medicine Company returned to St. John's from New York on June 17th, 1894, under the management of Mr. Will George, who also extracted teeth on the platform, free of charge, and could also drive rheumatism away in quick style. They pitched their camp on a vacant piece of land on Scott Street off Cook Street along the Freshwater Road. They gave a series of al fresco entertainments such as songs, dancing, magic, ventriloquism, and, of course, the Indian agent would lecture on life among the Indians, their medicines, etc. All persons suffering from rheumatism, sciatica, lumbago, neuralgia, earache, etc. were encouraged to give their names to the manager, in order to show the properties of the Kickapoo Indian remedies. One case was taken every night and cured free of charge, proving that when rightly used, the Kickapoo Indian remedies were the best. For their first night, they offered free entertainment; afterwards, 10 cents was charged.
Dr. Will George, the genial and clever manager, quoted that the first night's crowd "beats my wildest explanations." There was a centre platform, of a good height from the ground, from which Dr. George addressed his large audience, relieved his patients and entertained them right royally in the bargain. On either side were two small tents, one used as an office for consultations, and the other for a dressing room. Dr. George was possessed of a resonant voice, which was clearly heard on the very edge of the crowd,and being of pleasing address, besides possessing the happy knack of soon "gripping" his audience, his interesting speech detailed the ills of mankind, and the benefits from the use of his company's specifics, and was listened to by the crowd with the greatest attention. A most laughable sketch opened the evening's entertainment, entitled "The Baby Hospital," and evoked shouts and roars of laughter. Dr. George then invited any who were suffering from that blissful and fashionable complaint of toothache, to step right up and be relieved. Immediately there was a raid on the platform, and operation on the molars commenced. Quick as thought, the Doctor relieved the first applicant of five teeth, before he called "enough!" Two from the second, two from the next, and so on, right through the whole crowd of sufferers he went, until there were no more. Then he began to talk to them, and those who had been the witness of this effectual mode of obtaining relief. After this, Professor Alfred Walter, the well-known Magician and Ventriloquist, who was the possessor of a beautiful gold medal, which everyone had the opportunity of looking at and admiring, gave a really clever exhibition of his ventriloquial powers, assisted by two little wooden friends of his, a lady and a gentleman, much like Punch and Judy, which kept the audience in perpetual smiles. The Professor was also a remarkably clever magician and conjurer. Dr. George, after this, again addressed the crowd, stating that he could be seen every morning at the office for private consultation, and for the sale of the Kickapoo remedies, inviting all who were suffering to call on him. Another sketch, by the Professor and Mr. Charles Fox, concluded the evening's entertainment, and after a few closing words from the Doctor, in which he thanked his audience for their attendance, and stated his intention to remain at least a fortnight in the city, the large crowd, who had listened during the whole time with interest and enjoyment, gradually dispersed to talk over the Kickapoo remedies and the fun they had witnessed.
The company soon rented the West End Amusement Hall on Hamilton Street, with an admission of only 10 cents. On their last night, every lady in the hall was presented with a copy of the "Kickapoo Dream Book." There was a pretty full house, the quarter part of the audience being composed of young boys and females of various ages. There was a pie-eating match for the boys, that kept the audience in continual laughter while it was going on. There were prizes of money, lamps and bottles of Sagwa. After the performance, two large balloons were set up. Due to being one of the best shows ever in St. John's, they decided to stay an extra week.
However, not everybody had a good time that night; one irate citizen had written the editor of the local newspaper on how vile the performance was. He complained that the performance was of the loudest and most vulgar kind, and some of the jokes, songs and explanations were of such a gross and indelicate character that no one would use on a public platform but in the company of men only. He felt that the language of the gutter, though it might do for the Kickapoos, was not suitable for the inhabitants of a civilized city like St. John's.
On July 14th, the company gave their last performance for the benefit of the West End Amusement Club. It consisted of fancy sketches, songs, dances, feats in ventriloquism and magic by Professor Walters, and recitations. A Mr. Eagan sang "One leg longer than the Other." The entertainment closed with the sketch, "He wouldn't let me Marry," which kept the audience in continual laughter.
In early 1895, the firm of Healy & Bigelow, which now ranked as the fifth largest in the world engaged in the manufacture of proprietary medicines, was dissolved. John E. Healy sold his interest to F. N. Davis and J.W. Averhill of New York City, and they, with Charles Bigelow, who retained a controlling interest, organized a stock company with a capitol of $200,000. Healy moved to Australia.
In early 1901, the company spent thousands of dollars to create a demand for their goods and to bring customers into retail stores, supplying free books, paper dolls, trade cards and other printed matter for distribution to all druggists who would send for it.
In June, 1901, the company expanded into new, larger quarters in Clintonville, Connecticut, with a new and well-equipped laboratory. Chas. Bigelow then went out west in quest of Indians for the various shows.
In 1902, Col. Bigelow retired from active business and devoted his time to travel, visiting every civilized nation of the globe.
On Saturday July 2nd, 1904, the Kickapoo troupe returned for the last time, but this time they featured a grand show under the management of Col. Charles Bigelow himself, who promised to give a fine, high-class entertainment, free from coarseness or vulgarity.
Their first show was held July 4th at thee Temperance Association Hall with a special feature with Col. Bigelow giving illustrated Lectures on Egypt, China, Yellowstone Park, Mexico and the Indians, all finely illustrated by a powerful stereopticon and appropriate motion pictures. Col. Bigelow had a wonderful way of describing scenes and places, making his audience almost feel they were there, instead of listening to a lecture and gazing at the magnificent, dissolving views. The company also brought 30,000 feet of new, up-to-date moving pictures, which received great applause, including "Little Red Riding Hood," "The Attack on a Stage Coach," "The Royal George," "Driving Lucy," "Daylight Burglar," "The Queen's Musketeers," "Battle Scenes" and "The Great Train Robbery," which was very popular and requested often at the shows. Admission was 20 cents for the pit area, 30 cents for the gallery area, and 40 cents for the orchestra area.
With Col. Bigelow was 33-year-old Charles F. Endor, the famed magician and Irish comedian, and his beautiful wife Minnie, whose illustrated songs were among the special attractions. The Endors started in New England, from a little factory in which the medicine was made, and stayed with the company's shows for its 35-year run. Charles, a magician, chose the stage name, Endor, from the Bible of the Witch of Endor. His real last name was Knapton. When the curtain went up, Minnie would begin by playing the piano as an introductory for "Endor the Magician," "who learned his magic from the Witch of Endor's secret formulae booklet." Then Minnie would step to the stage; she was a licensed Doctor of Medicine, with a certificate to show, and began spreading the gospel of Kickapoo. She talked and sold until Charles returned as a blackface comedian, or a cowboy, or a German immigrant, or one of his various disguises. They both could sing and play a bit. They brought along a couple of actors, and would stage small playlets. In short, the Endors put on a show of some two hours; a highly entertaining show it was, too, and sold Kickapoo.
The shows attracted large audiences, and an entire change of program was held each night. The moving pictures exhibition was well-received, as were the performances of the Endors. Mrs. Endor's illustrated songs on finely coloured slides included "The Gilded Cage" and "Where the Sweet Magnolias Bloom," that often brought down the house. The Endors also performed a laughable comedy called "The Baby."
On July 6th, while coming from the Hall at 10:30 p.m., Col. Bigelow and Charles Endor came to the aid of a West End gentleman who was taken suddenly ill on Duckworth Street, near the foot of Bell Street, and fell heavily to the ground. The good Samaritans helped raise the man from the ground, and assisted him on his way home till he had completely recovered.
On July 8th, the company gave a free concert to a crowded hall, and then reduced their admission prices. A new feature was a biograph illustrating, in a very lifelike way, the working of a fire brigade in a large city. The Indian herb and root cures found ready sales. The audiences got so large that people were turned away at the door. The company had made many friends in St. John's by their first-class entertainments and excellent business methods.
On July 14th, Minnie gave a lecture to ladies only on the treatment of children, etc.
On July 22nd, a benefit program was given for Mrs. Endor on the occasion of her birthday, and she received the entire proceeds. The last show was held in St. John's the following day. At this show, the Kickapoos exhibited a tapeworm measuring 47 feet long, which was taken from a resident of Circular Road during the week. The medication was taken by the person at night, and the next morning, the worm was gotten rid of.
Col. Bigelow was so impressed with Newfoundland that he prepared a lecture on Newfoundland, and collected interesting pictures for illustration. This he proposed to use later in his travels elsewhere, for a future talk among his collection of exotic and interesting places.
The company then moved to Torbay for a few nights, where they had very successful concerts, and a special entertainment was given for the benefit of the Sisters at the Convent there. They then did a few shows at Wabana, then Holyrood, then Harbour Grace. At Harbour Grace, crowded audiences greeted the performers in St. Paul's Hall, and the residents were very pleased. The company then moved on to Carbonear, then Heart's Content, then Placentia, and Brigus. At Conception Harbour, they gave a benefit entertainment for Father Veitch's parish, but the next day, on November 22nd, there was a miniature riot at the R.C. Hall. A committee was in charge of the hall, and there was a plot to shut down the show. When the entertainment was in full swing, two men named Gushue walked up to the stage and demanded whiskey from a man named Costello. The constable, M. Sullivan, was asked to put the men out, but was powerless, and he was assaulted and badly beaten. With the help of some men, the disturbers were ejected, but outside these were again assaulted and badly beaten. The Gushues were fined $96 dollars and costs, or six months imprisonment, and five others were fined $2.50 for being drunk and disorderly, another was fined $10 for assault, and another $5. The fines were paid by most, but the Gushues were brought to St. John's and taken to the Penitentiary.
This completed the company's tour of Newfoundland, and they left for Halifax on November 26th. The company ran a series of 14 different advertisements in the Evening Telegram over the next year, praising the virtues of their cure-alls.
During their four-month tour of Newfoundland, many of the Kickapoo influences were adopted into the local dialect. People who were before the court under the influence of alcohol were often referred to as "having too much Sagwa." Drunks yelling and people upset were using "warhoops."
The Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company was sold in 1912 to a new corporation for more than $250,000. The travelling shows continued for just a few more years afterwards.
Much of the success of the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company over its 35-year campaign was due to fine organization, superior showmanship, and what amounted to ethical standards in a business notorious for cynical con men and fly-by-night troupes.
Col. Bigelow married in 1910 at the age of 55, but had no children. He settled down in Liverpool, England in 1911, died December 30th, 1917 at Houston, Texas, and was buried in New Haven, Connecticut.
The Endors had a son that went by the name of Chick Endor, and became a famous nightclub entertainer and singer, with several records produced. He once said that he never touched the Kickapoo cures, as his mother believed in castor oil.
The last sales of Kickapoo products were though drug and general stores, and the company went out of business in the 1920's.
The name Kickapoo was immortalized by Al Capp when he introduced Kickapoo Joy Juice in his comic "L'il Abner" in 1934. Kickapoo Joy Juice was also a soft drink based on this comic and was introduced in 1965.
Occasionally a bottle that once contained Sagwa, Kickapoo Oil, or Kickapoo Cough Cure is found in the recesses of an old house or basement that once contained the famous cure-alls.