As Auburn’s eldest citizen, tradition holds that she is awarded with the Boston Post Cane. AMD has covered six or seven Boston Post Cane presentations, always held at either the Senior Center or one of the assisted living facilities in town. Not this time.
Dozens of family, friends, dignitaries, and well-wishers gathered or drove thru at the Auburn Historical Museum to offer their well-wishes. American Legion members held flags and stood at attention, lining both sides of the museum parking lot on this bright, sunny, chilly March morning. A long parade of cars and emergency vehicles led by Auburn Fire Rescue and Auburn PD headed up South Street and through the Historical Museum parking lot. Many more cars honked and waved as they passed. Mrs. Gallant smiled and waved to each as they passed, clearly appreciative of the event.
Mrs. Gallant has a long list of life accomplishments, and one of them is having served as a nurse during World War II as a member of WAVES – Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service – which was then a branch of the U.S. Naval Reserve. Mrs. Gallant served at the Naval Hospital in Norfolk, VA for nearly two years. Since then, she has been an active member of the American Legion, perhaps best known as the former chaplain and the Legion flag bearer in local parades for more than 55 years.
The throngs were out for more than just birthday wishes. Mrs. Gallant was also presented with the Boston Post Cane by Town Historian Ken Ethier. She was also presented with a commemorative plaque by Town Clerk Debra Gremo. Selectman Doreen Goodrich presented a commendation from the Massachusetts Legislature on behalf of State Senator Michael Moore’s office, and Selectman Dan Carpenter presented a proclamation from the Auburn Board of Selectmen.
The Boston Post Cane tradition dates back to 1909 with Edwin Glozier, publisher of the Boston Post. Glozier commissioned J.F. Bradley and Co. to craft 700 ebony canes with gold heads. The 14Kgold head was engraved with the inscription “Presented by the Boston Post to the oldest citizen of Auburn…” (or other town). The canes were distributed to the boards of selectmen in New England towns (not cities).
The oldest citizen would keep possession of the cane until his death. Yes, “his” death; The canes were originally presented to the oldest man in a town. According to Town Historian Ken Ethier, by 1930, towns had given way to women’s equality and had begun awarding the cane to the oldest citizen – male or female.
Upon the Boston Post Cane holder’s passing, the cane was to be returned to the town, which technically owned the cane. This did not always happen. Over time, some families did not realize the significance of the canes and kept or discarded the canes. Many towns did not continue the Boston Post Cane tradition, and some towns modified the tradition. Auburn is one of the few towns that both possesses its original cane and continues the tradition of awarding the cane to its oldest resident. To be completely accurate, the original Auburn Boston Post Cane is kept by the Auburn Historical Society, and a replica is awarded to the oldest citizen.
Mrs. Gallant continues to live independently here in Auburn in the original house into which she and her late husband Seymour moved. Interestingly, around 1964 the house itself was moved from its original location on Warren Rd. to its current spot on Goulding Drive.
Phyllis and Seymour raised their four children, David, Edward, Ginger (m. Gulick) and Steve, all of whom remain close with their mother allowing her to maintain her independent lifestyle. Mrs. Gallant also has seven grandchildren and numerous great-grandchildren.
We send our heartfelt thanks for Phyllis Gallant’s service to our country and our community. May she hold the Town’s Boston Post Cane for a good long while.