I was born in Prince Edward Island (a province in Canada) and spent the first eight years of my life there. A year after I was born, my mother was told to stop wearing her wedding ring. The worker (George Walker) said she no longer needed it because she had a baby and therefore did not need to prove that she was married! Little did he know about hormones! (NOTE: This was the George Walker who was married to Margaret Walker, and were a married worker couple)
In 1940 we moved to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and I remember, even at that young age thinking that things were much the same in the truth.
FEMALE DRESS CODES:
My mother always wore black stockings and so did my older sister. My younger sister somehow escaped this plague. All the sister workers wore black – in many cases, it matched their personalities.
Wrist watches were not timely. Many of the sister workers wore small pocket watches on a ribbon tied to a button on their blouses. It was sometimes distracting to see workers in gospel meetings fumbling inside their blouses to find the time. Broaches were banned.
Any shoes, except laced black, were stepping toward sin. Toeless shoes, and holes anywhere else in them could lead to pneumonia and were considered unhealthy. Even today, on Prince Edward Island, white shoes are a sign of decadence.
Slacks, pants of any description and any type of pant suits were banned. Andrew Abernethy said from the platform at Almonte, Ontario Convention that he watched people coming out of a worldly church and many of the women were wearing pantsuits which proved they were unsaved.
Claire lived in Chicoutimi, about 125 miles north of Quebec city. Winter temperatures would often dip to -30 or -40 degrees. She had recently professed and Muriel Molina, the senior worker told her she must send her nine-year-old daughter to school in a dress and stockings. No snowsuit. This was pure cruelty and the poor kid suffered tremendously from the cold. So much so that the teachers would write to Claire telling her to dress the child more warmly. Muriel Molina would not hear of this, and Claire in her innocence obeyed. At one point Muriel did say that she could wear a snowsuit, if SHE WORE A SKIRT OVER IT! Can you imagine how stupid that would look.
In 1990, on Prince Edward Island, the workers were still against girls wearing gym shorts, and parents were expected to have their girls excused from gym. One zealous soul, bragged about sewing an apron to the front of her daughter’s gym shorts so they would be “decent”. Imagine the school’s reaction.
Dresses were high and long, with long sleeves, dark colors and black buttons. Actually, in the West Indies in the early ’40s, the women were advised to all wear the same color and style of dress – sort of a uniform. Three years ago, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Marlene Greer, the older sister worker, said the girls should not wear calf-length dresses – too sexy – too much of a temptation for the boys. She said she never wore dresses that length – she did not need to worry about tempting the boys.
Some of the friends brag in meeting about this madness. One older lady (75) in her testimony, told us that when she washes her kitchen floor on her knees, she had to be modest in front of her husband who is not professing. So told us she wore slacks, but always with a skirt over them. No wonder he thinks we’re bonkers.
Another younger woman in our meeting told us in her testimony. “We were out walking and my girls ( 5 and 7 years old) said to me, mommy you look so pretty in a skirt – look at all those women wearing snowsuits – they look so ugly” Alms before men – a month later I saw a picture of this devoted soul – in a snowsuit!
Until 1950, hats, the uglier the better, were de rigueur. Even today, it is considered proper to wear a hat in the West Indies.
Any form of makeup was, and still is, considered “painting your face”. In the 1940s in Montreal, sun tan lotion was considered makeup. I still suffer from skin problems due to the effects of bad sunburns in my youth, because I was not permitted to wear any protection against the sun’s rays.
MALE DRESS CODES:
While the dress codes for men were more subtle, they were still there. Neckties were to be black or dark brown without any pattern – geometrics were Godless. Colored socks – no – diamond patterns – demonic.
Suits were sombre. Sports jackets were out. Shirts were white – mine had turned yellow. Facial hair was considered a fungus – actually as recently as 1982 people in Quebec could not be baptised if they wore a beard.
Until the late 1940’s only pocket watches on a fob were accepted.
Women – long, but make sure it is in an ugly bun, so no one will know its length. Let the gray show your wisdom. Translation – make a potato out of a tomato.
Men – short, must not touch the ears, graduated in the back – no square cuts, crew cuts frowned on, no sideburns.
EAT AND DRINK CODES:
Wine is wrong – in 1945 the overseer in Quebec, Jimmy Patrick, (who surely would have known William Irvine) said Jesus did not turn the water into wine but into grape juice. Beer is bad.
As late as 1957, Horace Cullwick, an older worker, would not eat fruit cocktail – cocktail sounded too much like alcohol.
Fancy pastry was frowned on. Royal dainties belonged in the Bible—not on the table.
In the ’40s cars were frowned on, for people living in cities, and especially single people. They should use public transportation. Cars were a temptation for all sorts of things. (See Love Codes below.)
For those who owned cars – black – dark interiors – no radios – a minimum of chrome.
Homes, the height of hypocrisy, yesterday, today and forever. Low key decorating, no bright colors, no radios, no stereos, no TVs – other than in the closet – the previous tenant forgot it here!
In 1995, I asked Carson Wallace, a senior worker in Quebec if they had considered the implication of the Electronic Super Highway for professing homes and that eventually TVs would be a necessity, or that computers would do the same thing as TVs. He said there would be no reason for either, because the Electronic Super Highway was a myth and would never happen!
Pianos were fine, except that they were designed for playing hymns. No worldly music. Effie Moore, an old worker, told us that playing fast music was like dancing! “How?” I asked. Well, she replied, “In dancing you make your feet go fast (she never heard of a waltz), so to make your fingers go fast is equally sinful.” What about running to catch a bus?
In 1966 we bought a radio. My first wife thought it would be helpful to learn French. We did not hide it. The local worker had a bird – all that was missing was the feathers! We agreed to “put it in the closet”.
A family of zealous worker worshipers from Quebec city often went to Chicoutimi for union meetings, and invariably would stay with some of the friends. The woman made a practice of reporting anything that she saw, and considered, “out of line” to the workers. Needless to say, they were the workers’ pets and were spoken of as good examples of devotion.
Some areas are much more liberal today, but the hypocrisy is still hyperactive.
Spare me the spasms! No dancing, even in Gym classes. Until grade eight, I always brought a note to school to excuse me from dance classes in physical education class. As an adult, I missed dancing. Not knowing how to dance caused many embarrassing moments during my business career.
Movies were not permitted. An educational documentary, a Dickens classic, or a cowboy film were all classified the same. Here again, we brought notes to school to be excused from “such trash”.
Contacts with outsiders were frowned on. Definitely no dating with “worldly” people. Muriel Molina was really upset when I let my children date outsiders even though my children were professing. She brought all sorts of pressures to bear. For example, she started a policy of having the young people play the piano in gospel meetings. My daughter was allowed to play, but my sons were not because they had bad “girlfriends”. When their girlfriends came to gospel meetings and eventually professed, Muriel ignored them completely, and made them feel they were not wanted in the truth because it was only to “have” professing boyfriends.
Until the death of John Stone, the overseer in Ontario and Quebec, public address systems were not allowed at conventions, with the result that those far from the platform heard very little. According to John, electronics were worldly. Incidentally, he was also against front lawns – much more sensible to plant a vegetable garden!
Many homes are dull and dreary places. There is nothing for the children to do. You don’t need friends, you have God as your friend – go and read your bible. The parents are often equally bored, which has resulted in all sorts of weird behaviour and abuses, including mental and often physical. Probably this is also the reason why the greatest hobby in the truth is GOSSIP.
Here again, the workers had their say. They were against any outside learning other that what we heard at gospel meetings. In 1942, even the story books, used in elementary school, were considered lies and were bad for the soul. Try explaining this to a teacher when you did not do your homework of reading Brer Rabbit or Little Red Riding Hood!
In the 40’s and ’50s, girls were strongly “advised” not to attend universities or any form of post high-school education. If they did there were only two acceptable alternatives – teaching or nursing. The workers did not believe me when I told them that at university level, male students considered the nursing students the best targets for dates.
Boys were told to work and support their parents – like those on the farms do. No matter that we did not grow wheat on our sidewalk. I was castigated when I insisted on going to university. The senior worker told me that, unless I wanted to become a priest, I did not need higher education.
Yes, believe it or not. Love codes. I will not separate the boys from the girls, because the codes applied jointly. The priority of single people should be “going into the work”. If they did not go into the work they should remain single to support those who did go into the work. Today, we see the effects of this in the UK where there was a generation of young people years ago who obeyed this nonsense, resulting in many older single people today, with no descendants.
No girl in the city should date a boy who owned a car. Too much temptation. Ever try anything in a two-door 1941 Ford Coupe?
The workers wanted to be advised if people were courting. This resulted in many covert relationships. It was not unusual to be informed of an impending wedding the previous day (or the following day) and have no idea the couple were going together. This resulted in some very strange households.
Today, contrary to what the workers say, Convention is a good meeting place. Not so in the first half of this century. Even married people, with children, were not allowed to sit together in the tents. The women on one side and the men on the other, separated by an aisle. Talk about separating the sheep from the goats!
I was raised amid this nonsense and absurdity. Things are changing in the Way, but not necessarily for the better. Claire and I agree that the mind control is becoming more subtle and the shunning better organized, but the hold that the workers hold over the “flock” is as formidable as always.
By Leigh and Claire Townsend