Sadie Or­gan

Isle aux Morts ma­tri­arch ap­pre­ci­ates how things have changed since her youth.

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front Page - BY ROS­ALYN ROY Ros­[email protected] Twit­ter: @tyger­lylly

Even though she is 98, Sadie Or­gan still pos­sesses a girl­ish charm when she laughs, which is quite of­ten.

She is the mother of 11, who cur­rently range in age from 82 to 57, and now lives with one of her sons next door to the house where she raised her chil­dren.

The move to the smaller bun­ga­low was ne­ces­si­tated when her hus­band was un­able to man­age the stairs in their home any­more.

“My hus­band’s been gone now for 15 years,” says Sadie, who up un­til last year was still pretty much in­de­pen­dent.

She’s seen plenty of changes since she was born in 1920. She had nine sib­lings of her own.

“Imag­ine,” she says with a sharp peal of laugh­ter. Sadie isn’t re­ally a fan of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

“I think it’s too big a thing.” The town of Isle aux Morts, where she was born and raised, has seen a few changes too. A lit­tle store close by is long gone, and there are a few new roads and more tourists. Those kinds of changes were in­evitable.

“Not to say they’re so dif­fer­ent, but it’s dif­fer­ent. Years has passed, from 1920 to now. Ninety-eight years is a lot of years.”

When she was a teenager Sadie worked in the fish­ery, dry­ing fish on the flakes. That would start in March.

“In July it was all fin­ished and dried,” says Sadie. “The three­masted schooners would come into the wharf and we had to go down and carry it aboard.”

“I was 14 the first year,” re­calls Sadie. “I got mar­ried at 16. I had an in­fant baby to take care of and a hus­band. And I’ve been good ever since!”

She laughs again, but ad­mits that 16 was per­haps a bit young for mar­riage, even back then.

“How things hap­pen is funny, isn’t it?”

Sadie only at­tended school un­til she was 14.

“They had no out­houses built. I don’t know why, but I sup­pose you didn’t take no­tice,” says Sadie, who lived up on a hill, some dis­tance from the school. One morn­ing she had to avail of the fam­ily out­house be­fore head­ing to school and that made her late. “She (the teacher) gave me a strap be­cause I got late.”

That was in win­ter, and Sadie’s hands were al­ready hurt­ing from the bit­ter cold even prior to the strap­ping. “I got mad,” she re­calls. That was her last day as a stu­dent.

“I got my school­bag and I got my books and I went home. I never went back to school no more.”

She es­ti­mates the strap marks took a good two years to fade en­tirely. Her mother never remarked on it or forced Sadie to re­turn to school.

Her hus­band, Ge­orge, was 24 when they mar­ried. He also worked in the fish plant when he was younger, or some­times as a fish­er­man, and even­tu­ally found work as a river war­den for about a decade be­fore re­tir­ing.

The young cou­ple were obliged to live with his fam­ily when they first started out, but it’s Sadie’s fam­ily that tends to get re­mem­bered more these days. Her maiden name is Har­vey, and she is re­lated to the fa­mous Ann, around whom the town hosts an an­nual fes­ti­val.

“That’s my peo­ple, as they say, the great­est of the great­est,” she says with another con­ta­gious laugh. “I don’t know much about them, I didn’t hear much about them, be­cause I didn’t have time to hear my fa­ther talk­ing about them in them days be­cause I was grow­ing up my­self.”

Back then folks worked for goods, not cash.

“No money cir­cu­lat­ing them days,” re­calls Sadie. That first year she was paid via I.O.U. which she took to the store to buy clothes and gro­ceries.

That sec­ond sum­mer she was sup­posed to get mar­ried, and was work­ing to­wards her wed­ding dress. Ge­orge was obliged to look for work a bit fur­ther afield in Cor­ner Brook or Deer Lake to saw trees for the pa­per mills to af­ford his wed­ding clothes.

“Didn’t have much grow­ing up,” says Sadie, but “You never went hun­gry. Never had what you have to­day though.”

Some of her sib­lings were lost to dis­ease such as menin­gi­tis or treat­able con­di­tions like ap­pen­dici­tis. She re­calls one brother’s bat­tle with ty­phoid fever.

“With that there’s an aw­ful bad sick­ness. You’re in bed, you can’t eat. Noth­ing,” re­calls Sadie.

One day while her brother was lay­ing fever­ish, Sadie heard him cry out. As the old­est child in the house, she went to tend to him.

“He was singing out the room was full of dogs. I said, ‘I’m not go­ing in the room if the room is full of dogs’.”

There were no dogs. Her brother’s fever had got­ten dan­ger­ously high and he had be­gun to hal­lu­ci­nate. Even­tu­ally his fever broke.

“He got up and cooked his own pan­cakes for his break­fast,” she re­calls.

But one of Sadie’s own chil­dren would also bat­tle the fever.

Heck­man was only two years old at the time, and Ge­orge came up with a creative im­promptu med­i­cal treat­ment in­volv­ing a pud­ding bag and some river ice to save his son.

“His mother said, ‘ I don’t think you should do that Ge­orge be­cause that could give him a chill and kill him.’ He said, ‘Mother, he’s go­ing to die any­way’,” Sadie re­calls.

Ge­orge’s tac­tic worked and Heck­man, who the fam­ily refers to af­fec­tion­ately as Heck, is still around to tell the tale. Sadie did lose one child who died at the age of 5, and a year ago she lost a son to can­cer.

“All the rest is still hang­ing on yet.”

As the roads came through so did the cars; once the hospi­tal was built in Port aux Basques women didn’t use mid­wives as much any­more. Med­i­cal care which had eluded the smaller south­west coast pop­u­la­tion was sud­denly much more ac­ces­si­ble.

“We got the roads through and then the elec­tric­ity came through, and then the phones,” says Sadie.

Nowa­days Sadie says she is do­ing pretty good. She has some arthri­tis and uses a brace and a walker, but her mind is still sharp and she con­sid­ers her­self lucky be­cause of it.

She’s seen too many el­derly pa­tients who aren’t as for­tu­nate in that re­gard.

Sadie hopes the younger gen­er­a­tion ap­pre­ci­ates just how good they have it com­pared to the hard­ships she faced through­out her child­hood.

“To­day’s good times, my dar­ling. It’s good times but they don’t know how to take care of it.”


Isle aux Morts se­nior Sadie Or­gan, 98, is a rel­a­tive of leg­endary Ann Har­vey.

Kristin LeFrense (shown with direc­tor Kevin Wool­ridge) por­trayed Ann Har­vey in “Song of the Mer­maid” dur­ing the 2017 Isle aux Morts Theatre Fes­ti­val.

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