Downhome Magazine

Damn It, I won.

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By Cyril Griffin

Back when I was in grade six, (for you sticklers for time, that was approximately two weeks after Noah's ark slipped away from its moorings. In fact, I can remember helping his son Lot load the boat and, being young and innocent at the time, I kept wondering to myself, "isn't one each of these animals enough?" Let's just agree, it was a long time ago when I was in grade six.) my school was presented with this old lady's "bazaar book" because she was unable to go door-to-door selling tickets. It was expected that each child at the school would purchase a ticket for the sum of ten cents each.

Now, I should take some time here to explain just what a bazaar book was. Basically it was a little black notebook with lined pages and a hand written number assigned to each line. These books would be given out to older member of the parish, mostly women, who would then go door-to-door selling chances on a prize they had either bought or most likely made, like a pair of homemade mitts or socks, sometimes even a homemade shirt. This was done to make money for the church. When you bought a ticket, the person would write your name on one of the lines in the book, some would let you choose which line. When the person with the book had managed to sell enough chances to fill all the lines - and not before - they would return the book and the money to the parish priest. The priest would accept the money, ask the person how many numbers were in the book, cause they were not all the same, then the priest, without looking in the book because people's names were written beside each number, would pick a number. Then both he and the person would check the book together to see who won. This was done to keep everything above board. The last thing you wanted was a court battle over a pair of socks.

It was called the bazaar book because the funds raised from these books was used to put off the annual bazaar which was the biggest fund raiser of the year. Therefore, you were raising money to raise more money. We Catholics think of everything, it's the Irish in us. By the way, while I've got your attention, do you know how Noah's some I mentioned earlier got his name? Well, I'm not sure but there was talk around the wharf while we were loading the ark that Noah's good wife was "with child" years before and when Noah visited his wife in the birthing tent, she informed him that they had another son. To which Noah, considering the family he already had and perhaps hoping for a girl this time said "that's a Lot," and the name stuck.

So. Now that I have explained all that, I can get back to my story. All the children in the school were encouraged to buy a ticket. Having said that, you should be advised that the term "encouraged" would not meet the definition of the word in either the Oxford or Webster dictionary. There were at this time some two hundred and fifty children from grade one to six in the school at the time. By and by the tickets were sold. Some families had to buy more than others because they had several children in the school at the time. To make a long story short, as they say, it came to a point that there was only one child in the whole school who had not bought a ticket. Now guess who that was. I should mention here that the prize was a big walking doll which was almost three feet tall. It was on display in the store window of the lady who owned the bazaar book.
There was just no way I was going to buy a ticket on some doll.

My teacher, who was by the way, the only male teacher on staff, tried everything to get me to buy a ticket. My mother was told that I was the only child that hadn't bought a ticket, even my older brother, who was also in grade six, had bought a ticket. Eventually, between my teacher and my mom I was encouraged to buy a ticket, keeping in mind my previous statement about the two dictionaries and the definition of encourage. But I was glad that was over - the pressure was getting to me. I forgot about the whole thing until one Monday night a couple of weeks later when my mother came home from the parish bingo, which was another weekly fundraiser. I was in bed asleep by that time when she woke me up to tell me I had won the doll. Being half asleep and thinking it was all just a bad dream, imagine my horror at breakfast when I realized it was true. It wasn't a bad dream -it was a real nightmare.

So off to school I go, hoping this doesn't get out into the public domain. Some chance of that, almost every woman in the parish was at the bingo the night before. My teacher told me I would have to go down Water Street to the old lady's store and pick up the doll. That didn't sound too bad, after all, the old lady's store was on the water side of Water Street, only about twenty feet from the harbour. I could easily weigh the doll down with beach rocks and throw it in the harbour. The tide would do the rest. Not so lucky was I, says you. My teacher told me I would have to bring the doll back to the school because many of the children who had bought a ticket never saw the doll. Does the pain never end?!

So I brought the stupid three foot tall walking doll back to the school hoping they might place it in the hallway somewhere so everyone could see it on their way in or out. I was not to be so lucky. Will the torture never end?! My teacher told me I would have to visit each of the classrooms in turn and let everyone in the school see the doll they had bought a ticket for.

Imagine. I'm a twelve year old boy, parading around the school with this huge doll under my arm. I felt I had died and gone to the other place the nuns warned us about. Well, I did go to the two lower grades one and two, no kindergarten here thank god. When I walked out of the grade two classroom I looked up to Heaven and said a silent prayer that God would strike me dead before I had to make another step. After all, mom would have come to terms with it after a while. It was not to be. God had other plans and I would have to come up with a plan of my own. My plan was to hide somewhere until enough time had passed and I could go back to my class, tell my teacher I had visited all the other classrooms and everyone saw the doll.

I hid in a closet outside the grade five classroom, directly across from my own grade six room. In those days in Catholic schools after each period or subject everyone would stand and say a prayer before starting the next period. I could hear the noise from my closet hide-away and when the last period was about to start I exited the closet. I went back to my class, told my teacher I had visited all the classrooms and everyone had seen the doll. Back in those days there was no staff room for teachers to gather between classes so my teacher didn't get to talk to his fellow staff member and learn I hadn't been to their rooms.

Thank God that was over! But I still had to walk home with that stupid doll under my arm and meet up with the Protestant kids who were returning home from their schools. My very own journey of tears. After getting home and whispering a silent prayer of thanks the ordeal was finally over, my mother said I should show the doll, which was expensive, to my grandparents who lived across the road and my other relatives who lived up and down the road nearby...

My father, for reasons I cannot explain, decided to build a display case for the doll and mount it over the dining room wall where it hung for over sixty years before the house was torn down. My own youngest daughter had expressed a desire to have the doll so my brother gave it to me. Now it stands, face-to-the-wall cause my son-in-law thinks it's scary, in my granddaughter's bedroom on the mainland. Years later - and I do mean years later - when I myself was a married man with children in school, I told my old teacher what I had done. We had a laugh together.

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