Almira Fort is one of our longest-tenured parishioners. Here she talks with Dick Anderson in an interview recorded in 2017 about her memories of St. Paul’s.
Almira: In 1959, I joined the roster. And we’ve been coming to St. Paul’s ever since. Then I met the Minchendens, Mrs Minchenden and her husband. I could say that to me they were very true Christians: very loyal, very involved in the church. And she encouraged me to participate in some of the ministries here. So then, I got involved with the Sunday school. And then I got involved with the sacristans’ group and became a sacristan. Canon Franklin is the one who encouraged me to be a chalice bearer and he trained me to be chalice bearer; and I worked, I served as a verger. Then I worked at the thrift shop for 30 years, also, serving as a Eucharistic minister. I really loved that ministry because it gave me a chance to go out and meet the people that are not able to come to church. So we take the church to them. And that’s very fulfilling to me. So, I’d head out with the help of Frank Palms; he passed away.
And we worked in the Spanish congregation. We trained the first acolytes in the Spanish congregation. And that was very meaningful to me. Then I wanted my kids to have a, you know, a religious foundation. So I steered them into church work. My oldest son, Roberto, he served as an acolyte and my youngest son Wayne, he was a chorister, he sang in the chorus, in the choir for many years. And, of course, he was very honored to sing for the Queen when she visited San Diego in 1983. And that was a glorious time for us. And there are several people I met in the church that were very nice to me; Margaret Brown was one of them. A fine lady, a very, very devoted Christian. And she was the godmother of my second son, Wayne.
Interviewer: Maybe you could talk a little bit about the thrift shop? You know, I don’t think we had that from anybody else, much about how it worked and what it did and, or anything like that, that you have memories of the thrift shop.
Almira: Yeah, the thrift shop was really a great ministry, I think people used to come in just for conversation or to get things, purchase things, and the funds that we got from the thrift shop were really used to help the homeless in the community. That was the main purpose of the thrift shop when I was there. I was really kinda disappointed when we had to close the thrift shop, because, I think, the rent was too, too high, they went up too high. But lots of people would come in there, and we got good merchandise from the people that the you know, the parishioners, they really supported the thrift shop, and even people in the community. They would support the thrift shop, they brought in things and they bought things. And that was a great ministry. And I really enjoyed that. But you know, everything has to come to an end. Yeah.
I want to say, some of the festivities we had at the cathedral here: it’s very wonderful. St. George’s, you know that’s my favorite thing. I love St. George’s Day, the pageantry, the music, the food and just one big family. And I look always forward to the tradition of making the dragon bread. I’ve done that for 34 years. I used to do it at home and then about five years ago, I decided to bring it to the cathedral. So we make the Dragon Bread here. I have several people that come in and you know we work on it. And we have two little girls from the chorus, from the St. Cecilia choir. They come in, and those are Martin Green’s two daughters. They come and they help work with the bread and we have our aprons, all dressed with a big dragon right here in the front. And it’s a fun day and the kids love to take the bread in parade. I know my son Wayne that lives in Anaheim. He always brings his family down to St. George’s day. And his son, he loves to carry the bread. So they lead out the precession in the street and come into church, take the bread around and bring it to the great hall. And it is sliced in there. But that’s a fun day, because you know, we have the pipers and the highland dancers out there, just one big family. And I just love St. Paul’s, because they work with community leaders to make San Diego a better place.
Interviewer: They used to have … women were in groups as I recall, there was St. Mary’s Auxiliary. And then there was St. Margaret’s Guild. Maybe I’m not remembering them.
Almira: We had a group thing we called the Episcamigos. Yeah, I remember that. And we used to meet in different places. You know, sometimes we met here. And they were mostly singles. That was our singles group. Yeah. And Canon Franklin was in it. And we had been to several places. And he came to my home when I had the group there. We don’t do those things any more.
Interviewer: Things are changed, right?
Almira: Yeah. And if we do get a group, well, probably people come two or three times and then it just started …. Especially the singles group. Remember that for a long time? Yeah.
Interviewer: Yes. The St. Margaret’s Guild I remember was singles, working women mostly. And there was a ministry to single people. I was single here. And I felt very much at home here.
Almira: This is is a wonderful place to be. You know, everybody, everybody’s this welcome. You know, the clergy, they invite: they welcome everyone, and the members: if we would see anybody in the patio, we would welcome them and offer them a cup of coffee, sit down and have conversation. So St. Paul’s, I think has done a lot for many people. We have done a lot. And of course I couldn’t see myself in any other place. I just love it here.