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Churches and Schools: Keeping Communities Alive

By Maelissa Watson 

Stories keep people and events alive.  Stories are the motivation for our social history. The Tangier School/Church Hall’s silent walls record memorable and life changing events of more than half a century of a rural Eastern Shore community. There, in the cracks, crevices, and knots of hand hewn timbers of a local spruce, are echoed and embedded the cries of children going unwillingly to school for the first time. Images of generations of mothers and their children are locked within the walls. Nova Scotia Church Halls are "the storehouse of the past and the birthplace of the future." 

In this school built by local volunteers to educate their children lie the essence of a proud and ambitious community spirit. During Nova Scotia's early settlement days, missionary preachers, generally from England and Scotland, taught children basic skills on individual slates in the homes of the people. Bernice Logan has noted that there was a Tangier school in the early days before this two room school. The foundation is not preserved, but it is recorded on a late 1800's map. 

Historically, Tangier’s school was the lifeblood and social lifeline of the community. At the end of school year, the grounds bubbled with excitement in anticipation of new adolescent life for 6th grade graduating children who had come of age. The European ancient tradition of songs, poems, musical recitals, and perhaps a drama or play were adopted. Recitations and elocution, coupled with good diction were deemed important in those days; and Irene Nelson, Bernice Logan, and Valerie Prest today have a ready repertoire. According to Irene Nelson, back in the day, “Every house had children in school because families were large, and it was a growing community.”  

We may no longer be a growing community, but we are a privileged and distinct community surrounded by ecologically rich coastal habitats. We have a local history and culture. Take Bill Bradley (1910-1997), a local author with a masterful knowledge of our land, our minerals, our shipping, transportation, and the methods by which our ancestors eked out a living from the land and sea, all in his Tangier: Birth of a Village, edited by Anne Thomas. His philosophy as a free independent entrepreneur, answering to no man, or punching no time clock, predominates in his book.  

And just where did the launching of this book take place on October 14, 2006? Why right in the Tangier Hall. The packed hall, with book readings afforded a cultural Mecca for generations, young and old. 

Another memorial event in 2011 was the 50th year Homecoming in the Tangier Hall. This reunion brought home large numbers of former residents from all parts of Canada. The joy, laughter, and comradery echoing those timbers was almost like a sacred spiritual revival. Thanks to Dan Hutt, who made a photographic storybook memorializing the occasion. 

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