JAC Online

A Veteran Woman Tells Her Story
by Colonel Edward H. Joy

This is a selection from the unpublished manuscript,
'Our Fathers Have Told Us',
some early-day stories from The Salvation Army

Here is a story told by an American veteran woman Salvationist as nearly as possibly in the words which it first reached me; it is altogether too good to be entirely forgotten.

“Headquarters informed us,” she said, “that we were to do what Horace Greely had advised young men to do – ‘Go West!’, and so, though we were in the midst of a much needed furlough, my husband and I packed up our few bits of belongings, and started off on the long – and then tedious – journey needed to bring us to our new appointment.

“I had often heard about the Wild West, and had imagined that my pictures of Western life had been overdrawn, but my eyes were soon opened to the fact that not half had yet been told.  We should ourselves in a town where the newspapers were full of the most objectionable and untrue tales of The Army, some of them so vile that, if it had not been for the upholding grace of God, I would not have dared to walk down the street, - o vile that respectable women instinctively drew back their skirts as I passed them!

“There was one story that was true, however, and this was that we were on the job in an endeavor to close down all the saloons, and we soon found that all the saloon-keepers were thoroughly scared, and that they would leave no stone unturned to get rid of us.  I think they regarded me as a second Carrie Nation, for I did not mince my language about them.  In most of the bars there were notices to the effect that ‘Free drinks would be served to all who helped to turn The Army out of town.’ 

“Whe the time came for us to being our first meeting the streets were black with people, and it was with difficulty we forced our way through the crowds.  Scarcely had we opened the doors of the Hall before it was filled to suffocation with the toughest bunch of toughs I had ever seen.  Every time we attempted to sing or speak the mob would begin to howl, and completely drowned out our voices, and we could only stand and pray that God would give us the victory.  The position was all the more grave because we could see the police at the rear of the Hall enjoying the fun as much as the rowdiest. 

“Before the meeting was over the audience had smashed eighteen of our new benches; the windows were broken by great cocks which came hurtling against them from outside; our lamps were out of commission, and we were soon in darkness.  Then the crowd began to crow like roosters, mew like cats, bark like dogs, and neigh like horses – it was pandemonium.  And not the least of the terror was that we knew there were evil men creeping around with even worse intent in their foul minds.  After the first night we were better prepared, but we never went to a meeting, nor ventured into the streets, without literally taking our lives into our hands.  All that the police did for us was to laugh at us, and call us fools for our pains.

“It generally fell to my lot to stand at the door and try to sort out those who endeavoured to get in, - being a woman they were not quite so rough with me – but I had a high time of it in more ways than one.

“The mob had gotten into the habit of pelting us with rotten eggs, - our clothes were in a filthy state, clean them as much as we would – and almost every time I opened the door in response to a knock from without there could come a shower of stinking eggs.  Sometimes a stray one would find its way through the half-opened door and alight on an unsuspecting member of the congregation.

“There was a certain lady, a great friend she was, who always sat well to the front, where she thought none of the noise or missiles would affect her.  But in her case, it was dangerous to be safe, for, one night, just as I opened the door, an egg came whizzing in and took a straight line for the lady’s bonnet, a dainty piece of millinery, knocking it well over her face, and the rotten contents of the eff streamed all over her head and down her neck.  What a sight she was!  She didn’t come to the meetings after that!

“One evening the Brigadier of the Division came.  He was a nice, sociable fellow, and we rather liked him, but when on duty he was very careful of his dignity – always trim and well groomed.  When getting ready for the meeting, he drew a new suit from his valise – all pressed and with shining regalia, - he had just been promoted.  I remarked that I hoped he wasn’t going to wear that suit on the march.  He looked at me rebukingly and said, “I’ve never been afraid of a mob yet, and they’ll soon see they can take no liberties with me!”  I left it at that, and off down the street we went.

“We were to march from our own Hall to the City Hall which we had taken for the occasion.  No sooner did we begin to move, and to sing, ‘The day of victory’s coming’, than every saloon seemed to belch forth a crowd of hooligans, who ran to the stalls and stores, armed themselves with eggs, and made their way to where the Braves of The Army were making their parade.  The tall Brigadier in his immaculate suit – a knight in shining armour – was a splendid target.

“Suddenly, a well-aimed egg struck him right behind the ear.  “Oh,” said he to his colleague, “that isn’t an egg, it’s a rock!”  “No,” said the Adjutant, “it’s only an egg.”  “But, my dear fellow,” said the Brigadier, “I’m sure it was a rock, I can feel the blood running out of my ear!”  “No,” said the Adjutant, “It’s only an egg, reaching up his hand to assure his superior, “It’s an egg – smell!”

“Poor Brigadier!  What a sight he was, as he passed into the Hall; eggs from top to toe.  Even his hair and his moustache, with which he tool much pains, had been changes from a sleek black to a golden yellow, and his new suit was a pitiable sight.  When he went home from the meeting he declared, ‘It was the toughest go he had ever had, and as for eggs, he’d never touch another as long as he lived!’

“Say, but we had a rough time of it in those days, and it is a wonder some of us lived to tell the tale.  We could have put up with it better if some of it had been done for mere devilry, but when we knew the fierce hat being it, and the strength of the enemy, our hearts often wilted, and our faith sometimes faltered. 

“One night as I walked home through streets that seemed unusually quiet, in a silence which out to have warned me, someone threw a half-brick which hit me on the back of the head.  I was stunned, and reeled, and just as I was recovering myself I saw a form hurrying down the street and heard a mocking cry.

“Another evening I was seated on the platform of the Hall and saw an evil face peering through one of the windows, and the next moment a huge stone struck the seat on which I was sitting, and smashed the tambourine I had just put down beside me.

“But through it all we were wonderfully preserved, and sometimes there were funny sides to our adventures.  But, glory be to God, there was scarcely a night when we did not have the joy of seeing sinners at the Mercy-Seat crying for pardon.  It was worth it all!  Now in the evening of my days, by dear husband gone on before me, I sit with my memories, and thank God for ever giving me the honour of living ‘in the good old days’!”








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