Listowel, Ontario

1984 was probably one of the hardest years of my life. Wendy I were sent off to Listowel in 1983 to be the corps officers of The Salvation Army there. We were still young in age, young in marriage, and suddenly sitting on the main street of a small rural town. We were new to officership and if that wasn’t enough new, we were new parents. On top of that we were so poor. I remember one week running out of food in the house and out of money. I had to go down to our food bank to feed us.

There were many things that were a struggle. I had never sent kids to camp before and that didn’t go so well…. no I don’t want to tell you what happened. It was the first time of planning a year of programming for the corps and everyone but me seemed to know what I should be doing. My predecessor left very little information.

And the greatest struggle for me was living in this rural setting. I was used to big roads, bright lights, everything open 24/7 and a fast pace. The town of Listowel had two traffic lights, gas stations and most everything else closed Saturday night at 6 and re-opened Monday at 8. In hindsight it isn’t a big deal but with the layers of other things in our lives it was just one more irritant. I should have told some of our leaders but I was too worried about being seen as competent and capable.

George Bernard Shaw said, youth is wasted on the young. I was young, immature and self-centered.

It wasn’t all loss though, as it was a great time of growth for me and in the end we had a very successful stay with good growth in the corps and our reputation and effectiveness in the town.

Listowel also became the birth place of both Jason (1984) and Philip (1987). And through the struggles, tears, prayer, apologies and the blessing of God, we left with a sense that we were different people from when we arrived.

A wonderful gift at the time of our farewell was this lovely bench with a family on it. The bench is a music box and the people are ceramic. The original set had a boy and girl, but one of the women in the corps. lovely Jean Cole, who looked after Philip and Jason for us when we needed help and support, talked the store owner into breaking the set so we could have two boys. How lovely was that thoughtfulness. Jean was a treasure – a saint – and we will forever be indebted to her though she’s since gone to her reward in Heaven.

Jean had this created and added it to the bench. A reminder of the dates and the place.

We’ve been back to the corps, and while quite a bit has changed, it was good to see some familiar faces and places. What seem humorous to me now, is how much I would actually like to live in a town like Listowel. Some place where you can walk to the grocery store, to the bank, to church, to a friend’s house.

Jason – shortly after birth – 1984

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Margaret Waters says:

    A lovely town to live in and how great that you had that opportunity for your first appointment, many kind Salvationist at that Corps and no doubt many happy memories

  2. Susan Mayhew says:

    What a lovely story, Fred! You were only a few miles from my home town of Exeter and I know exactly what you mean about the retail shutdown on weekends. We were hard pressed to find anything open – even gas stations – on Sundays and all stores closed at 5:00 pm on weekdays. It’s still that way with most stores in Exeter and I found it rather sad when Sundays were no longer truly a family day because stores were open. People were forced to work on Sundays in the service industry – despite assurances to the contrary – and now Sunday is like any other day in the week for so many.

    Best Regards,

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