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Swallow, Snow and Baldwin

l first started hanging out in the tattoo shop in the late 1950’s and started tattooing there in 1960. l worked the shop with Snow until they tore the old place down in about 1967 to make room for shopping centers and wider streets...

by horiryuArtist

March 1, 2006

After the tear down they ended up really not using the spot where the old shop was, and today you can still go downtown and see the granite step and cobble stones which were part of the foundation.

Prof. Fred Baldwin was originally from England, l don't know exactly when he landed in Canada but he went overseas to fight in the Boer War in South Africa about 1899, and was tattooing then. There is or was a photo of him tattooing a soldier in the field at that time, but l do not know what happened to it. He tattooed by hand then. From then on, from what Charlie Snow tells me, Fred tattooed in a shop in Montreal, St Laurent blvd.

That's where Snow met Baldwin.

Charlie had run away from home at the age of 15 and signed on with the British Merchant Navy Service. l don't think he had ever returned. He did have two sisters that in later years he used to visit in London.

Snow had told me the first ship he was on was a square rigger, and was a cabin boy. He stayed there awhile, and was one day sent to buy bread and never returned. At the start of WW1 he signed up on a ship that carried and distilled water for the troops, and in 1918 pulled into Montréal, got drunk and went to see Baldwin and got a tattoo. They hit it off well, as they both were from the same place. Baldwin decided to give Charlie a go at tattooing and Charlie started tattooing with Baldwin where he stayed until 1922 l believe, until he left to open in Halifax where he stayed till he died.

l never knew Baldwin very well but remember seeing him at Charlie's place. l was young and he was an old man then. Charlie used to fill him up with rum and they'd talk. But Charlie never forgot Baldwin. He talked about Charlie for the rest of his life. Charlie had mentioned that Baldwin had taught Doc Forbes as well, but they never hit it off, so Forbes moved out west.

Baldwin and snow were good friends with Percy Waters and Waters used to visit them and worked on tattoo equipment and things. Baldwin was also friends with George Burchett; both Charlie and Baldwin.

Also the great Omi was a buddy of Charlie's and many years ago would visit Charlie's shop and have a drink. Charlie said he would wear a ski mask until he got in the shop.

Charlie snow got his first tattoo in Malta: A sailing ship on his chest done by hand. He had a few done that way. He had General Custer on his chest and Sitting Bull as well; done by Baldwin.

l believe Baldwin had bought some of his first tattoo machines from Waters, then Snow ended up with them and l ended with them after Charlie died.

Charlie tattooed in Halifax up until he died in 1969. There were others who tattooed with him over the years such as Circus Leo, Ted Liberty (Capt. Ted) and his brothers.

At the start of WW2, Charlie was real busy there due to the sailors and soldiers in Halifax and the city being the main port of departure for the men going overseas. So he had Baldwin come to help him.
Baldwin painted his flash on window blinds and at night would roll them up. His work from the pictures l had seen was very nice for the times.

They would work on the soldiers and sailors near 20 hour days with line ups like a movie show out front. People offered money to get ahead of each other!

After the VE Day, Halifax had big riots and looting but the shop stayed intact.

l really cant remember when Baldwin died but his daughter came to get him in Halifax and took him to Montréal where he died in St. Anne's Veteran's Hospital.

l started with Charlie in 1960 and stayed with him until his death and of all the people he knew, l was the only one at his funeral.

- Sailor Jerry Swallow is a tattooer of over 40 years experience, currently located in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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