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Sketch of Firemen Sailors

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You can't win it all

Staff Article
Interview Recorded: April 10, 2005
Posted: April 15, 2005

The Fireman Dance is one dance and the Sailor Dance is another dance. There are two different dances. In those days, it is coal that was being used. So you had Firemen with shovel, and you had Firemen with pokers, you have the engineers with spanners and oilcans. From the time you talk about stick it is sailors. A lot of movements come from the shoulders. To know that these fellows invented this dance is good. That dance really and truly is as if you were walking on a boat at sea. The way how the boat was moving and rocking, your body was moving with the boat.

Now look at the sailor's stick. How these things come in that you see these sailors playing mas' with, is from way back before the war when these boats would come in. They couldn't come in and dock, they would stay out in the stream and these sailors would come in on shore leave. When they were going back to the boat, we had a lot of vendors that would sell under the stores by J.T. Johnson, Millers and Salvotori. These vendors would be selling under there, so they sold sticks and pipes and a lot of other things. So sailors would buy things to take back on the boat. If they buy a pipe, they would have it in their mouth. What he did with a tin of powder I don't know. You see a fellow with a basket of fruits; sailors use to pass in the market, buy their fruits and put them in a little basket and have it in their hand going back on the boat. So the sailor mas' that they portray, they got that from the Sailors who came ashore.

The same stores I spoke about, when the sailors came, they would gamble right there on the road with dice. You would see sailors come out with dice, they got it from them, and so they just followed the things they did - a lot of things. You would see a fellow come out with his stick doing his thing. Well, we invented the dance, but the stick business is the fellow who was carrying goods back onto the boat. The pipe, the powder, you see him with a cocoa in his hand, he passed in the market and bought those things. It must be the first time he was seeing cocoa, a little basket with fruits. So they followed that. A lot of people must have felt, these fellows just come out with a portrayal, but that is what they saw.

But in those days carnival was so nice. I tell you, Desperados I heard with this crab business. I meet them around the bridge, a fellow put down a mas' on the ground and it was walking, because he had a spring in it. I said, "Boy, head mas' has to be on your head and take your stick and do something." I saw a lot of head mas' while I was freelancing. I used to call them ground mas'. I am not criticizing it, cause everybody is a friend. So it was nice. When I hear certain things happening in carnival here now, I say there must be a lot of people who passed away are turning in their graves now, because in those days people were so happy. I went to Belmont Intermediate Boys, and my headmaster was a fellow called Mr. De Four and you know he always used to be with the boys, and he said, "listen, the referee's and the empire's decisions are final." I am glad I went to that school and grew up with that. You know how many things I lose already? You can't win it all. He instilled that in your head. Sometime you feel you win, but you lose because the judges said so. A fellow would tell me, boy you know you came in the wrong time, I tell him no, I came in the right time. I cannot understand this injunction for this and injunction for that. I say anyway, we are in a different era.


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