AMONG FRIENDS BY ROSALIE MACEACHERN
Earle Brannon of the Westville Heritage Club displays a painting by Doug Guthro. The group is looking for others interested in trying their hands at painting. Rosalie MacEachern photo
Earle Brannon’s interest in painting goes back to his childhood when he would scrape the paint cans his father brought home at the end of his day’s work.
“There was always a little bit left in the can and I’d pry it open and play with it outside. As I got older I started making kids’ toys, painting them and giving them away.”
When he was old enough to be useful he’d tag along and help out on his father’s jobs.
“I was with him the first time he ever used latex paint. We wondered if it would be any good.” These days Brannon, 88, has an easel set up in the living room of his home and he co-ordinates a painting group for the Westville Heritage Club.
“I am not a painting instructor, not by any means, but I do what needs to be done to keep the group going and I try to encourage people. Right now I’d like to get some new people interested.”
One of the most gratifying things about painting is that you can putter away at it by yourself, maintains Brannon, whose wife, Ellie, passed away in 2009.
“It is a great pastime for people who are on their own,” said Brannon.
He joined the painting group when the Westville Heritage Club got underway in 1984 but only because his wife wanted him to go with her.
“At first I wasn’t that interested but I remembered somebody gave my father one of those old paint by numbers kits when he was 72 and he got quite a bit of satisfaction from finishing it in his own way.”
Anticipating other seniors may be reluctant to try something new, Brannon has put together several starter kits.
“I’ll give them to people so they don’t have to worry about what supplies they need to get started. All they have to do is come to a Heritage Club meeting and let us know they’d like to try a beginners painting class. They can come in and see if they like it.”
Brannon grew up in a family of 10 children and his parents struggled to raise a large family during the 1930s.
“When I was a young child I can remember moving from place to place because we could not afford the rent. My father hurt his back at work and times were very tough for us.”
He was seven or eight when his parents left Massachusetts to return to Nova Scotia, settling in the Dartmouth area.
“We moved into a house that had been vacant. There were no locks on the doors and no beds so we slept on the floor for a long time. We often had powered milk and crackers for breakfast and lunch. The only meat we ever saw was on Sundays and I don’t know how my mother managed to keep everybody fed but there were many families like ours in those days.”
Brannon still remembers his first Christmas in Nova Scotia.
“It was Christmas Eve, or close to it, when the Lions Club arrived with bags of groceries and a few toys. They made Christmas for us, I can tell you.”
Wherever they lived, Brannon’s mother played the organ at a local church.
“She played the guitar and the mouth organ but she always had a job playing the organ in a local church. I never remember my father setting foot inside a church but he could sing hymn after hymn.”
Brannon had a high school teacher who encouraged him to go to Normal College for teacher training.
“I was interested but when she told me it would cost $200 I had to tell her my parents had never had $200 in their lives.”
Brannon joined the Navy and the Air Force and spent several years as a paratrooper before marrying his wife, who also served in the Air Force. Later he took a two-week course in poultry management at the Agricultural College in Truro because his father was managing a farm for a Halifax area doctor.
“The course went very well and soon after I got a call from Proudfoots in New Glasgow asking me to come and build them an egg-grading station. It was a paying job so I took it but I still don’t know why they thought I could build a grading station. I managed and one thing led to another so I ended up working for Proudfoots for about 40 years.”
His first few nights in New Glasgow were spent sleeping in his car but he and his wife eventually built their own home and raised a family on Munroe Avenue Extension.
With more time on his hands in recent years, Brannon has written several accounts of his experiences as a young man, in case family members are ever interested, but he continues to enjoy painting.
“I don’t know if I’d be doing it if I hadn’t got started with the Westville group. Many people worked hard to get the heritage group going and we’re lucky to have others carry on today. If you’re interested in painting, we’ve got a spot for you.”