Written by Kate Estrada
Tomorrow is the 111th WCTU Christmas Bazaar. 111th! That’s over a century of a community gathering together to enjoy some homemade turkey and dressing in a building that was built because of the turkey and dressing they’re eating. Surprising to me as a home-grown Canadian, there are several people, native and otherwise, that have no idea what the Bazaar is, much less how it all began. So, for those curious few, here is a brief and very roughly written (on my phone while in the car coming home from Amarillo) history lesson.
When Canadian was first established, there was a church to saloon ratio of 11:1 (or something close… remember, I’m on the road) to entertain the influx of transient, vagabond types that moved in to work on the railroad. With the menfolk spending their evenings at the taverns, the unimpressed ladies of the town decided to take a stand and establish the Hemphill County branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Their objective was not just to shut down the local watering holes, but to build a solid foundation of productive and compassionate citizens for their town.
The organization quickly outgrew the kitchens and living rooms where they originally met, and decided they needed a building. In their short existence, they had begun to feed the public by cooking meals at their homes and hauling the food, their personal china, silver, and linens, and even their tables and chairs, up to the town square. Hungry townspeople would eat a home-cooked meal and pay with a small donation. Once the women realized how lucrative these dinners were, they began to charge per plate to earn enough money to build their very own building. Thus, the creation of a now century-old tradition. The women of the WCTU were responsible for more than just a delicious meal. They transformed their building to a temporary hospital during a flu epidemic and cared for patients, took in a French orphan during the war, along with supporting local events and early development of the town. Their aim was to keep their town a safe, beautiful, family-oriented community, and they were determined to pass on their ambitions to younger generations.
Hopefully, if you are still reading this, you’ll feel a sense of tradition and a smidgen of responsibility to uphold your duty as a Canadian and keep this annual tradition alive. It’s an important part of our history as a town because it proves that we have always been a community that shares, that supports and that loves. Tomorrow will be the 111th time that the ladies of our little town will come together to cook a turkey dinner for the entire community and serve it as the WCTU building, which is the only one in the U.S. Still owned by the local branch of the organization. So make an effort to be a part of history. Teach your kids the importance of tradition. And most importantly, eat some dang-good homemade turkey and dressing TOMORROW 11:30-1:30 at the Library!