top of page



"sisters and the plight with boys"

Folks in the rustic, coastal town of Cliff Harbour would say Pearl, Augustine, and Holly were thick as thieves. You would get the impression they were sisters by blood, but then the three would chuckle and tell you, no, they were closer—their souls were one. Holly was the self-proclaimed sophisticated one, Pearl was the rowdy, spitfire one, and Augustine was dubbed the church girl. The three teenagers became fully acquainted back in the third grade. They bonded by their time and place in history and circumstances beyond what their young, carefree minds could fully comprehend. The three personalities just naturally aligned.

Times in the late ’40s and early ’50s in the province of Nova Scotia, Canada, had numerous challenges, as did the world. World War II had ended, the civil rights revolution was still being fought, and the local politics of race and class was an uphill fight for many black Nova Scotians. Nevertheless, through everything, the three girlfriends felt fortunate to have each other. Their friendship allowed them to escape the real world and form their own exclusive reality.

Holly was considered luckier than the other two because her family was wealthier than most in the mid-sized farming and fishing commu­nity. She was the daughter of the renowned Bradley Bennett of the Henry Bennett Tool Company. A descendant of escaped slaves and freed blacks from the United States, Mr. Bennett carried on his long-held family business of manufacturing metal tools for not only coal mining but also for farming and building construction. Life didn’t get considerably easier for his ancestors living in Canada, but his family fought, struggled, and was determined to live a quality life; now Mr. Bradley Bennett was one of the few successful black businessmen in the area. He made sure to teach his own family that business independ­ence was the only way for blacks to be truly free. His lighter skin colour (given a combination of white and black running through his family’s bloodline) also gave him the advantage of doing business with some whites as well. But the Bennetts despised being labeled by their own people as “privileged” due to their outward appearance. They claimed to have fought and suffered like any other blacks during these times; however, they were able to persevere. Regardless of Mr. Bennett’s stance on their true success, he and his equally complexioned wife embraced both of their families’ mixed heritage and were determined to prosper and secure wealth for generations to come.


Pearl’s father, Walter Spencer, became a fond acquaintance of Mr. Bennett through their businesses. Mr. Spencer, a son from a line of proud farmers, was a local farmer who owned his own produce farm, and business was thriving. His ancestors dated even further back, as they were amongst the first slaves from Africa brought to the province via the West Indies. He purchased and leased his farming equipment from Mr. Bennett, thus maintaining a magnificent personal and profes­sional relationship. For this reason, their families, especially their daughters Pearl and Holly, were close.


Augustine’s father, Brother Richard Bowes, was an elder at the local church. Years ago, he had served in the Canadian military until a landmine in Europe ended his battle career. Severely injured and having lost most of his hearing and his lower right leg, he was honourably discharged. But it wasn’t the physical injuries that truly impacted this former veteran—it was the emotional toils of war. It was the sight and smell of bloody, mangled, burnt bodies of deceased soldiers and civilians around him. It was witnessing comrades being obliterated before him. It was the ear-piercing blast of shells and the haunting screeches of fighter jets falling from the skies. It was the disheartening fact that he could no longer carry on the honour of serving in the military like his father.


Indeed, Brother Richard was no longer the man he used to be before the war. He became reclusive, overprotective, and resentful. His wife, Gloria, and four children were all he had left, and his mission was to safeguard them at any cost. To uplift his spirit, Gloria encouraged him to attend church with her and the children. That was when Brother Richard regained purpose—a life devoted to God, who spared his life from a war that ended countless of his comrades’ lives. North St. Church of Higher Praise became his life. He and his family never missed a service, and on days where there was no service, there was Brother Richard—devoting himself to a calling larger than himself and helping his elderly pastor bring souls to the Lord by being the pastor’s righthand man and assisting him in any way possible.


Augustine sang in the choir and was Brother Richard’s eldest dau­g­h­ter. She also aided in the church’s administrative office and dreamt of becoming a secretary one day. Brother Richard and Gloria wanted Augustine to be a role model for her younger siblings, Thomas, Andrew, and Eve, as well as all the young people in the community, by exemplifying what a sanctified Christian girl should be. They preferred that Augustine not have unsaved friends like Pearl and Holly; they would much rather she stay at home or only associate with other like-minded youths in the church. But not even her parents or their prayers could stop Augustine from being with her gal pals. Augustine was forced to hide who her true friends were to her parents, and sometimes she would sneak out of the house to be with them.

Regardless of being young, being told what to do, and being born into a time where peace, justice, and equality were still being fought for, like many others, the girls tried to make the best of life as they grew up in the bustling town. They had school and their studies, they had their families, and they had their families’ legacies and reputations to uphold. They also spent some days roller skating at the segregated rink, snack­ing on ice cream from the local ice cream parlor, and socialising with other peers. On picturesque summer days, the girls would ride their bicycles everywhere, go hiking in the countryside, explore the endless seashore, or go swimming in the lake. Sometimes the trio would merely spend time at Holly’s house, playing board games or dancing to the latest songs, like Amos Milburn’s “Chicken Shack Boogie.”


Certainly, the threesome were inseparable friends—more like sisters forged from gold, they would correct others—and it appeared that nothing would ever come between them: not family, not the times of war and racial division, and not even their diverse personalities, until the most inconspicuous entity happened—boys.



bottom of page