As I Remember It: Teachings (Ɂəms tɑɁɑw) from the Life of a Sliammon Elder

New Year’s Dance

And New Year’s, there would be a dance. We had a dance hall – a small one, which was behind our, um, where our church is now? It was in a small lot directly behind there. And it was a small building. And we used to have a fella that played the accordion come from Wildwood area. Think his name was George Zorzi. He was a brother to Carmella Toigo, who was a friend of mine. And they’re one of the first families in the Wildwood area. And they were very good friends of ours. So her brother used to come out and play the accordion for a New Year’s dance for our community. And there were no tables set up, of course, ’cause the place is small, and you know, there’s benches all around the perimeters of the hall. And it was a grand old time! Ever since I was little I remember going and just sitting with the grandparents and – everybody went, the Elders and the younger people. That little place would be packed. And there’s a big barrel of a stove – like, an old oil barrel of a stove that was cut down as a wood stove. That’s what heated the building. And someone would bring a big kettle of tea. That’s what we had. So when you left home, you took your teacup with you. And a bag, something, maybe it could be a pillowcase, because they’re going to pass around the Jap oranges, or regular oranges and apples. You pass around the fruit. And there’s sandwiches. They would make sandwiches. Some people make sandwiches and they got passed around as you’re sitting on these benches, and they’d come passing it around in boxes. And you’d just grab a sandwich – they’re all wrapped up – and you had your midnight snack there. Then someone would come with a kettle with tea, big kettle of tea. And you dig out your cup and they pour your tea for you. So that was our celebrations back then, and you went home with your bag of goodies and your pillowcase and had your fruits to take home.

“And he would play those drums like nobody’s business and these guys are playing the guitar and playing the accordion.”

There was dancing to the music. And then later on, some of our own people used to play music. They had guitar players, a drummer, accordion – we had three fellas I would say. They were all cousins, related. There was Moses Wilson, he played beautiful music. He played the accordion, but he could play the guitar as well. And his two cousins, Joe Harry and Stanley Harry, that played the accordion. And some relative of theirs, I think that was their uncle, who had come down from the Homalco reserve, and would come and play. And he would play those drums like nobody’s business and these guys are playing the guitar and playing the accordion. Joe Harry was such a great player of the accordion. He was a small man, but he had this huge accordion and he just – going at it. And I just used to be so fascinated watching him. He was a great, great player. They were happy. They had so much fun playing. Nobody was getting paid, but they sure enjoyed playing. We sure enjoyed their music.

My late husband used to play the guitar. He used to play the guitar with Moses Wilson. And they got along famously. Course they drank together and played the guitar. They’d be up all night playing the guitar. And it was, a lot of it was country and western music. And they just loved that. People loved that. They were always getting invited to go: “Bring your guitar,” and “Want to hear some music.” Years ago our guys never learned to play music from any instructor. They all just learned by ear. And we had quite a few in Homalco, guys that were beautiful musicians.

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