A Wedding

by Bubby/Auntie Bessie

There was a time when the young people in our family were getting married, and I attended all the weddings. They were not at all like weddings today. Perhaps you would like to hear about one.

When the news came that someone in the family or the community was planning to get married, my mother and my aunts went into action. They were expert dressmakers who sewed their and their children's clothes. There were consultations about what everyone would wear. Then a trip to a special dry goods store was organized. A man by the name of Poyaner owned the store and there you could find patterns, a variety of materials, laces, pins, needles, snaps, hooks and eyes and thread.

One fine day after school, we all got on a streetcar at Greene Avenue and St. Catherine Street and rode all the way to St. Lawrence Blvd. A few doors from the corner was Poyaner's store. I'm sure Mr. Poyaner and the sales staff were happy to see the five of us on the other side of the door, since we always found many corners to explore and many things to handle.

After much deliberation, patterns, materials and trimmings were selected and with everything in parcels and bags, we crossed Main Street to my Uncle Frank's store. It was a fruit store and had a soda fountain and uncle Frank always gave us a treat and a flavoured glass of soda water and a piece of halvah or Turkish delight.

Both sets of grandparents were strictly orthodox and observed the rites of prayers and the Kosher laws. When they arrived in Canada, they immediately formed congregations and held services in a member's home. The congregation my family founded is called Shomrim Laboker and my grandfather Isaac Borodoff had the honour at one time of being the president. In the cemetery on De La Savanne, my grandfather's grave is the first one and his picture is on the gravestone. Building a synagogue came much later on and the house on St. Dominique served for a long time, so when a special meeting place or hall was needed, a hall was rented and Sinclair's Hall was perfect.

When we were all dressed and ready to go to the wedding, my father went out and came riding back in a horse-drawn caleche (that was the taxi in those days) and off we rode to the splendour of Sinclair's Hall. Where was Sinclair's Hall, you ask? Downtown - which meant anywhere in the vicinity of St. Lawrence and Ste. Catherine and a short distance up the streets branching off.

The main hall was a room with hardwood floors, waxed and highly polished for dancing, for us it was perfect for sliding, especially with our new shoes. We were in everyone's way and under their feet but I don't remember anyone reprimanding us or stopping us.

A canopy was put into place for the marriage ceremony and the crystal chandelier was lit. The crystals sparkled like diamonds and tinkled in the slightest breeze.

The guests gathered around the couple and the rabbi, and the ceremony went on. This has not changed over the years, except then everyone held little white candles which were lit. Even the older children were given lit candles to hold.

After the ceremony, the Klezmer band played traditional music and had everyone singing and dancing.

When the little ones got tired, they went into a room set aside as a cloak room where the clothes were placed on wooden benches. There the children fell asleep, watched by a woman who was hired to stay there.

After the ceremony, long tables and benches were set up and a full traditional meal was served. Usually caterers were hired by the bride's family, who provided the meal. What I remember most were the fancy cookies and candy.

I looked forward to perhaps finding new friends, some relatives of the other family, who might be my age and a few times it happened that I did find a new friend and we kept up the friendship for years.

Painting by Bessie Sager
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