The Man With The Giraffe Neck! - Salvation Army Canada
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    The Man With The Giraffe Neck!

    Retrospective #23 October 4, 2017 Randy C. Hicks

    I don’t know about you but when I was a little boy I scared rather easily even when I was at the barracks, which I knew as my church. You could argue of course that we were/are an “Army” (drum beaters) and not a “church” (organ players) and oodles of more time could be wasted as we go back and forth on the issue; (I may have just disturbed a wasp nest!) but where I grew up Christianity was the only major religion we knew. The boundary lines were drawn between denominations in such a way that I understood the Citadel to be my “church” just as St. Albans was my Anglican friend’s “church” and St. Josephs was the “church” of my Catholic friends; although officially I wasn’t supposed to play with Catholics and maybe only sometimes with the Anglicans whom we called “Churchofvingland” = Church of England; then there was the United Church “church” for my UC friends and finally the Pentecostal Tabernacle “church” for my Pentecostal friends.. Yes, I had friends from those places as well, but don’t tell mom!

    The Citadel was a large white, box shaped building not unlike many of its Salvation Army cousins. The main floor of course was known as the “sanctuary” (a church word) and treated far more like a “church” than a “barracks” I might add. Ssshhh! No running! Sit still! No climbing over the “pews” (a church word)! No gum, candy, chips or drinks of any kind - although sometimes the officer got to drink from a glass of water. Don’t giggle! Don’t laugh! Don’t whistle! Don’t turn around! Stand up! Sit down! Bow your head! Close your eyes! (church actions) You could clap your hands and do other “actions” when called upon to do so during the singing of certain choruses – but only then. This was the culture of the day and in conversation with non-Army friends they said it was pretty much the same in their “churches.”

    Rules for the basement, known as the Young People’s Hall, were pretty much the same except when it was being used for activities that required a more relaxed atmosphere. Being the basement of course, natural lighting from the outside was scarce and with no lights turned on it could be hollow and eerie, especially as “he” was in there. “He” was the man in the picture hanging over the small platform/pulpit end of the room. The man, who when the lighting was poor, appeared to have a giraffe-like neck or was it that his head was on the end of a red post? I am not being disrespectful. That’s what we kids saw and I’m willing to venture that there are many of you reading this who know exactly what portrait I’m talking about! If you entered the room from the opposite side – the street end, when only the small pulpit light was on; it became a test of the nerves.

    Here at the archives we have a sizable collection of portraits and paintings of this very man. We actually have copies of the same picture that hung in the Y.P. Hall over fifty years ago. And I confess, it still makes the kid in me a little uneasy. It is my humble opinion, and you are free to disagree, our Founder, General William Booth was not a photogenic man. That being said, he was not one to avoid having his picture taken. If I had a wish concerning them it would be that we had in our possession more pictures in which he is smiling or laughing. Again I realize it’s a cultural matter, it’s the Victorian age and it wasn’t just William Booth. We have reams of snaps here form bygone days and I’ve often been heard to say, about the non-smiling faces, “Just think what they would look like if they weren’t saved?!” I’m pretty sure that since I’ve been here I have come across a picture of William with a great, warm smile but I can’t remember where it was! Had I realized it was so rare, I would have scanned and saved it immediately. When I find it again I’ll share it with you.

    The picture this kid was afraid of was indeed one of our founder. You will see copies of it below along with others in our collection. And before you take shots at me - I do realize he was a man of great conviction with a mission to get the news of Salvation out to the whole world. It was a very serious undertaking and required a great deal of focus and dedication with perhaps little time for mirth. True, but sad.

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