An in­ter­view with Small­wood

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes bur­

On July 7, 1981, I sat down with the Hon. Joseph Small­wood at his St. John’s of­fice and in­ter­viewed him about one of his hero­ines.

Alice B. Gar­ri­gus (1858-1949) was the founder of the Pen­te­costal As­sem­blies of New­found­land and Labrador.

In his mem­oirs, “I Chose Canada,” Small­wood refers to her as “an Amer­i­can of quite re­mark­able per­son­al­ity.” He got to know her well, for he of­ten vis­ited her Bethesda Mis­sion on New Gower Street in St. John’s.

She was, he adds, “an ex­traor­di­nar­ily able and a saintly woman.” He was pro­foundly af­fected by his friend­ship with her.

Small­wood’s bi­og­ra­pher, Harold Hor­wood, writes: “He prob­a­bly en­joyed the emo­tional at­mos­phere and the loud singing and pray­ing and per­haps learned from th­ese meet­ings some­thing about how crowds can be swayed by mass emo­tion.... Later, he would use many of the same tech­niques him­self: the end­less rep­e­ti­tion of sim­ple slo­gans, the loud­ness and earnest­ness of voice, the straight­for­ward ap­peal to sim­ple, ba­sic emo­tions.”

Not sur­pris­ingly, Small­wood’s voice choked with emo­tion even be­fore he re­sponded to my first ques­tion.

“I got a job with her,” he said. He worked one sum­mer with her while she over­saw a build­ing ex­ten­sion.

“I was not a car­pen­ter,” he ex­plained. “I was a boy of maybe 12 or 13 years of age on my sum­mer hol­i­days from Bishop Field Col­lege. I was the son of one of her con­verts.... Miss Gar­ri­gus paid a lit­tle at­ten­tion to me and gave me the job.

“I for­get what I got, maybe 50 cents a week, or it might have been a dol­lar a week. It was not big pay. It was only to help run mes­sages and fetch this and that for the car­pen­ters, be­cause she had, I don’t know how many car­pen­ters, one or two or three, em­ployed con­struct­ing this ex­ten­sion. I would have to run for tools or run for this and gen­er­ally be use­ful and help.

“I re­mem­ber that the weather got to be quite hot and Miss Gar­ri­gus pro­vided a large bucket of cool drink. The drink con­sisted of bar­ley wa­ter or, if not bar­ley wa­ter, some kind of ce­real soaked in wa­ter – just plain wa­ter – and maybe she added some sugar to maybe give it a sweeter taste. It was not al­co­holic in any de­gree what­so­ever. But it was a very pleas­ant drink and it was the first time I had ever had it and I don’t know that I’ve ever had it since, but it was so pleas­ant that I still re­mem­ber it....

“I do re­mem­ber be­ing won­der­fully im­pressed by her per­son­al­ity. First of all, she had a fine voice, a deep voice, al­most a mas­cu­line voice – not mas­cu­line, but a deep, rich voice. She had a good vo­cab­u­lary. She was an ed­u­cated woman. She spoke well with a f ine voice and with ab­so­lute, ab­so­lute sin­cer­ity. There was no way to doubt her sin­cer­ity, or that ev­ery word, though fash­ioned by her brain, came out of her heart. She meant ev­ery word; she be­lieved ev­ery word she said. She was a very im­pres­sive woman. She was a small- sized woman.... I would say she was five feet, two or three....

“Ev­ery­one that she knew ... re­spected her and loved her. She, I think, and Mrs. Eleanor Roo­sevelt and the present Queen of Eng­land, were per­haps the three most im­pres­sive women I have ever met in my life.”

I asked Small­wood if he saw Gar­ri­gus in her later years. “I hadn’t seen her f o r years,” he re­sponded, “be­cause she was liv­ing over in Clarke’s Beach.” She had cho­sen the Con­cep­tion Bay town as her re­tire­ment home.

Small­wood was in his early 20s when he last saw or heard her. “I knew her over a pe­riod of, let’s say, 10 or 12 years. I got her to write an ar­ti­cle for me – and she did – for ‘ The Book of New­found­land.’ “

At one point in my in­ter­view, Small­wood asked me to turn off my record­ing de­vice while he wept silently. “Un­doubt­edly,” he said, “she would ask me if it was well with my soul, by which she would mean, ‘Have you had the re­birth? Are you a born-again Chris­tian?’ She knew that I knew what she meant, be­cause I was quite fa­mil­iar with all the ter­mi­nol­ogy, with the phrase­ol­ogy of the Pen­te­costal move­ment.” Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at


Sub­mit­ted photo

Alice B. Gar­ri­gus

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