Mona Petten-Old Time Concerts
Adapting Old Time Concerts to Modern Day Times
Local, Mona Petten, performs Old Time Concerts in Port De Grave.
Mona Petten, from Hibb’s Hole (now Port De Grave), knows a few things about Times, Concerts, Drills, Skits, and Dialogues. These words are not necessarily common to everyone across the globe but her in Newfoundland and Labrador these things bring about fond memories. Mona breaks these words down for those who are unfamiliar with the terminology.
Mona says “A time usually involves a supper put off by the local lodge or ladies church group, there is usually some crafts for sale, games for the children to play, and usually at the end there would be a dance.” This differs from concerts which she describes as involving “a lot of practicing for weeks of skits, songs, and drills.” Following the concert, a supper was served and there was often a dance.
Dialogues were different says Mona “They involved acting out a story” on stage. Mona has a particularly vivid memory of one dialogue that was often performed at a concert.
“It was called Want of a Housekeeper, it was about these two old bachelors who were living alone and they decided they were going to get a housekeeper to come and work for them,” describes Mona. “So, they interviewed several people but all of them were turned down for some reason or another. They [the interviews] were quite funny by asking the questions that they asked. Anyway, one housekeeper came in and didn’t speak English very well. There was another one who came in and all she knew how to cook was pea soup. Then another one came in and she was kind of bossy.” “Finally they had this beautiful girl come in and she had everything they wanted in a housekeeper. The two bachelors began fighting over her about who was going to take her to the time, or dance, and anyway she said that she wasn’t staying there anymore with them. She said that she had enough of all the fighting and she left. Anyway, at the end, here was the two old guys back to where they started.”
The dialogues that were performed at a concert were often chosen from books that could be bought at the time. These books were also passed down through the schools. Mona says “When I look back at them [the books] now you can imagine that some of them wouldn’t have been politically correct today.” Another popular thing to do with dialogues, explains Mona, was to take a Pigeon Inlet story and make a dialogue around that. Every year the dialogues, skits, and drills would rotate and be different from the year previous.
Mona’s stories about concerts and times around the Port De Grave area are not just from the distant past.” She has been crucial to the survival of this tradition in the area and adapted the old time concert to modern day times.
“Back in 92-93, this friend said to me ‘there’s one thing I’d like to do before I die and that’s to take part in an old fashioned concert’ because we hadn’t any concerts in awhile, probably as long as 20 years.” says Mona. She describes how these two women put their heads together to come up with a plan for a concert which they then implemented. Mona says
“We were amazed at how well it was received, we ran it for 3 nights and for 3 nights it was packed with over 200 people each night. They came from all over, from other communities, it was like they were starved for an old fashioned concert or maybe starved for a laugh.”
Mona reflects on how hard times were upon most families in the province due to the fishery collapse. She believes that the concert gave some people a relief from the difficulties they were facing at the time.
Mona has many fond memories of the old time concerts she performed in and she is widely known as a bearer of this tradition along the Baccaileu Trail. She says “ I suppose you could call it a time because a time meant you were going to have a good time. So, I suppose you could call it all a time.” For Mona, a time can be had by all at a concert.