Submitted by Nancy Flett - firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was told to me by Mary Adele Emma Myers, born April 9, 1907 in Prince Edward Island. Emma died in August 2007 in Miramichi, New Brunswick. Emma was a woman with much integrity and was very respectful of other people. Thus, throughout her story telling, she was unwilling to identify last names.
Her father name was Narcis Joseph Myers/Maillet (31 Jan 1878) and her mother was Mary Eleanor (Lenore) Poirier (1873). Narcis married Celeste Laviolette after his wife died.
Narcis parents were Callais Myers/Maillet and Mary Arseneault, both from Prince Edward Island.
Miramichi, New Brunswick
Table of Contents
- Early Beginnings in Prince Edward Island
- Our Family Life at Bedeque
- Our Move to New Brunswick
- Married Times in Chatham
Early Beginnings in Prince Edward Island
My family was from Prince Edward Island. My father's name was Narcis Myers. He was born on January 31, 1878. My father's mother died when she was very young leaving my father and his siblings to be brought up by my grandfather. When my grandfather went to work, he had his cousin look after the children. She was never married. My father said she was mean to them and would hit the boys with sticks. My father traveled to Chatham from Prince Edward Island by schooner when he was seventeen years old. Times were very hard on the Island and there was no work and no money. His father, my grandfather, gave him a calf to sell for money when he got to Chatham. Because the family lived on a farm, they had no money and his father knew my father would need a way to live. My father sold the calf for $7.00. Today, the calf would have been worth about five hundred dollars, maybe more. The money that he received was enough for him to buy food and find a place to stay until he went to work. There was lots of work in Chatham at that time, four or five mills along the river. My father got a job at the Snowball Mill. Although he had a job, the pay was not very much. I don't know how long he stayed in Chatham before he returned to the Island.
1903 - 1914
My mother and father were married in Prince Edward Island. My mother's name was Mary Eleanore Poirier. She was born in 1883. Calais, my brother, was born on January 31, 1905. I, Emma Mary Adele, was born on April 9, 1907. My two youngest sisters were Clara, born on February 9, 1909 and Dora, born on May 28, 1914. Calais, Clara and I were born in Waterford, Prince Edward Island. Dora was born in St. Louis, Prince Edward Island. My father used to tell me often about the day I was born, especially when he got older. He said I was lovely baby. He told me I was born on a Holy Day during Holy Week, around Easter. He said he was the happiest man on the earth because he had two lovely children. When Dora was born, Calais and I went to stay with the neighbor overnight. Clara stayed at home because she was only five and really wouldn't know what was happening. When we went home the next day, an old aunt of my mother's said "Come Emma and see what I have". It was a little bundle and when she opened the blanket, there was the baby. I was only seven so I said to her "Where did we get it". She told me that the baby fell off the train. We lived beside the railway station. I remember telling other people that that was where the baby came from. I remember there was a big thunder and lightening storm that night. My mother gave us the names Emma, Clara and Dora (Dorothy) because they were names that were easily translated from French to English or from English to French.
My grandfather, my father's father, had a large farm. His house was, also, the post office in the area. They raised fox and sheep. Many people on the Island raised fox then. That is not done any more. The fox that my grandfather raised were the red ones, not the silver ones. I remember them when they were very small. They were so cute. The priest in our parish raised fox too. During that time, priests farmed and worked in the field. They had to work like others to survive.
We used to visit my grandparents. We only had one set of grandparents to visit. My father's father married my mother's mother. My father was the oldest in his family, fourteen when his mother died. There were ten in his family. The youngest child was two years old. My mother's father died and left a big family too. My father used to joke and say he married his sister. Of course, they really weren't related. My grandparents married when their children were older. Most of their brothers and sisters, my aunts and uncles, went to the United States. The oldest would go and get jobs and then, they would send money home to the next brother or sister to join them. My mother and her brother were the only ones who stayed in Canada. Her other brother and sisters went to the States.
Mama's brother, Uncle Joe was in World War I. He was married and lived in the States but he never had any children. He always kept his mother, my grandmother, in her footwear. Mama's other brother, Medric had four children. One of the children was a doctor. He interned in Quebec but practiced medicine in the United States. He was in a car accident and died.
My mother's sisters often would come to the Island and visit us from the United States. I remember one of my aunts while she was visiting had white button boots. I had never seen white button boots before. They were very fancy. She was going on a date with a young man so she washed the boots and put them on the doorsteps to dry. I can see them sitting there yet.
One picture that I can still see is my mother, my uncle and we three kids, in the horse and sleigh, going to visit my grandparents. My father worked away a lot so we would go and visit our grandparents some weekends. I remember my mother's cap that she had gotten from her sister. It was kind of a brown color with a peak. It looked very nice. That style of a cap has come back since then.
I remember my godmother, my mother's sister, came to visit us one time. She brought me a ring. It was too big for me so my mother put it away in her trunk. My mother had a small trunk that she kept her valuables in. She didn't have a lot of valuables but she used the trunk to keep things safe. My father had a larger trunk that he used to keep his personal things in. Dora, still, has my mother's trunk and I expect that my father's trunk is in the old house where we lived. Anyway, one day when my mother was away and my father was looking after us. I don't think he could have been paying close attention to what we were doing because my brother decided he was going to burn some rings. The rings had come with candy we had gotten from relatives in the United States. Well, he threw all the rings in the "STAR" stove and then he remembered my ring in my mother's trunk. He went to the trunk and took the ring and threw it in the stove to burn. The next day when my mother was cleaning out the stove, she found what looked like the ring. She said "This looks like Emma's ring" although it was ruined. She checked in the trunk and my ring was gone. She inquired to us about the ring and Calais told her what he had done. Of course, the ring was no good and had to be thrown out. I suppose Calais got a "licken". Calais was always a quiet boy and never got into trouble. I don't know why he wanted to burn the rings but he was a rascal that day.
Clara fell on the "Star" stove once and burnt her hand very badly. She was only about two or three years old. Mama almost went crazy because she didnít know what to do. This man in the community where we lived gave Mama some paint oil to put on Claraís hand. He said it would help. She was laid up all winter with that sore hand. It was then that she started to use her left hand and she is still left-handed today. Clara had the most beautiful hair. One day, my father was in the barn quite some ways from our house. He heard the most murderous cries and screeching so he ran to the house because he thought something was wrong. Mama was washing Claraís hair and she was making a fuss. She used to get very cranky sometimes. Another time, when we were young, Clara and I were drinking some tea. There was a saying that if you got a tea leaf in your tea cup, you would get a letter. I got the tea leaf in my cup that day and Clara bit me on my arm.
I remember a red coat I had one time. I was only young. Dora wasn't born then and I am only seven years older then Dora. The coat had a feather collar. Sometimes the feathers would fly out. I have never seen a coat with a feather collar again. I think my mother's sisters sent us clothes from the United States. I remember they sent my mother a velvet hat one time. It was like a man's hat with a peak on the front. I was very taken by that hat.
I remember going to school when I was four or five years old. In the country it didn't matter when you went to school. Calais was going to school so I wanted to go with him. There was only one teacher in one large room with a wood stove in the middle. When we went to school, the teacher would go around and check each of us for clean hands, a clean slate, a bottle of water and rag to clean the slate. If you didn't have the bottle of water to clean the slate we would spit on it to clean it.
When I first went to school, I was so scared that I would cry all the time. One of the bigger boys would make faces at me when I would cry and then I would cry more. One day the teacher asked me why I was crying and I told her about the boy that was making faces at me. She told him to stop. He did!
In those days the mail was kept in different houses in the country. There was a house close to the school where we would get our mail. Mama always got lots of mail because of her sister's living in the States. One day I went to get the mail from the house near my school. There was a letter for my mother. I was always scared of snakes, garden snakes and any other kind of creepy things. On my way home, I had to cross a bridge to get to our house. I used to love to stop on the bridge and look over at the water. I was fascinated by the water as I looked down from the bridge. Anyway, this day I stopped on the bridge and was looking at the water and I heard a noise. It was the men who were working on the thrashing machine that made wheat but I thought it was a snake. I was sure that there was a snake behind me making the noise. I started to run and I lost Mama's letter from under my coat. When I got home, I didn't tell Mama about the letter because I was afraid. A little later a man came to the door with Mama's letter saying that he thought that her little girl, me, had lost the letter on the way home from school. Mama asked why I didn't tell her and I said "I was scared". I told her the story about the bridge and the snakes. She said I shouldn't be stopping on the bridge to look at the water.
Another time I was taking a letter that Mama had written to one of her sisters and I was supposed to mail it at the house across from the school. Mama had given me three cents to mail the letter. Imagine, that is what it cost to mail a letter to the States. On the way to school, I stopped at the bridge. While I was standing on the bridge, I lost the letter into the water. The water was like a little pond that flowed into the river. Anyway I went to school and when I got home that day, I told my mother. She was upset because the only address that she had for her sister was on the letter. My father went to the pond to look for the letter. It was there, so he took a long stick and pulled to the side where he could get it. It was wet but the address wasn't ruined so my mother could write to her sister again.
I always wanted to tag behind my brother, Calais. I was a real Tom boy. One day I saw a toad in our yard. A toad in French is a "crapeau" so from then on I called the toad "my crapeau". This day a friend of Calais was in the yard and killed my crapeau with a stick. I was so mad that I took a stick and chased after the boy hitting him. He was bigger then I was but he ran home because he was scared. Years later when I was visiting Dora on the Island we saw he and his wife in their yard and stopped to visit. I asked him if remember the time that killed my crapeau and I hit him with the stick. He said "Yes Emma, I remember" That was sixty years later.
One day Calais and I went out in a row boat. We just untied it and went out in it. That was when we lived in Waterford near Dora's house. We weren't supposed to go out in the boat. First thing the wind came up. My father had come home from work and asked my mother where we were. She said we had gone out to play. He came looking for us and saw us out in the boat. He had to come out and get us. We got a "licken" that time. If he had not seen us, we could have ended up drowned because we would have drifted out to sea.
At home in Waterford, we always spoke French but it was an English community so we talked English when we were outside playing. We grew up speaking both languages. I remember a story that my father told me one time. He always told us stories. My grandmother and grandfather were driving to visit my grandfather's sister, Aunt Fanny. Grandma was my father's second wife. She was my mother's mother who had married my father's father. Aunt Fanny lived in Alberton. It was a good drive away by horse, probably 25 miles. It was in the winter and Adele, Grandma, was getting cold so Grandpa said that he would stop at one of the houses so that she could get warm. Grandma didn't speak much English but Grandpa did. She didn't travel much. Most of the people along the road were English. Anyway, they stopped at the house and the woman of the house made Grandma a cup of tea. While they were talking, the woman of the house asked Grandma how old she was. Grandma thought for a few minutes and then answered 60-10. She knew she was seventy but didn't know the word in English. Imagine 60-10. I remember my father telling me that story.
We always spoke French and English as children growing up. My mother spoke French in the house. She could speak, read and write in French. She knew if we didn't learn to speak French in the house, we wouldn't learn. We had always lived in English communities. My father spoke French to us too.
My grandfather always went by the name Myers. There was a deed in my father's old trunk that had belonged to my grandfather. The land was registered in the Myer's name. I don't know when the name was changed from Maillet to Myers. When we were baptized, the parish priest who baptized us was French. He registered us as Maillet. I suppose he knew the translation of Myers was Maillet. My brother-in-law used to say we should have been arrested because we had two names. My sister was never registered. One day I got a letter from her saying that I had to sign the enclosed papers swearing that she was my sister. I didn't want to go to see a lawyer to have it done. Dickie took them to a lawyer (John T.) up town and he completed the papers. He told Dickie to have me sign them with my maiden name. I signed them and sent them back to her.
For spells during the winter, Papa and Calais would go to the woods to cut wood. I was just a little girl. It was before we moved to Chatham. They would be in the woods all day and they didn't want to leave the horse with them. I used to take them there, drop them off and then bring the horse home. My father taught me how to harness the horse. The horse was very gentle. Around four o'clock, I would harness the horse and go and get them. I remember the time that my mother took Calais and I for our instructions for our first communion. I wore a pair of black patten shoes and a straw hat. The hat was made like a hornet's nest. I never knew that I had three names - Mary Adele Emma. My mother sprung it on me when we going to see the priest and told me that I would have to say all of my names. All the way to the instructions, I kept saying, Mary Adele Emma, Mary Adele Emma. When we were walking on the dirt road my patten shoes would get dirty so I would spit on my fingers and wipe the shoes clean.
I remember the first time I ever saw a Christmas tree. I was probably five or six years old. We had gone to Christmas Mass and there the tree was with beautiful big colored balls and candles. I suppose they lit the candles for a short time during mass. We didn't know anything about Christmas trees. We didn't have magazines or a radio to tell us about such things. I remember Calais going to the woods and cutting a tree and putting it in the middle of the table. Maybe it was the year after we saw the tree at Mass. We decorated it with the Christmas cards that Mama got from her sisters. Those cards had pictures of Santa Claus and other Christmas things.
I remember the food that we had a Christmas. On Christmas morning, we would have meat pie. Mama would make the meat pies from all meat - rabbit and pork. She would line a pan with a rich biscuit dough and cover it with the meat. She called it "patti pate". Without that meat pie, it wasnít like Christmas. We always had a goose for dinner at Christmas dinner. Mama would make molasses cookies, sugar cookies, molasses cake with raisins, a white cake and brown and white bread. I didnít see the fancy squares and cookies that people have now until long after I was married.
There weren't as many different kinds of food, then, as there are today. Mama would make us different things to eat but with the same basic food. Potato pancakes were one of the foods that she would make. She would scrape that raw potato and then mix that with flour. Pancakes were even made with old, dry bread, soda, flour and cream of tarter. We didn't have the yeast that we have today. Mama would make the yeast for her bread from the buds that grew on bushes. They were called hops. We used to have those buds growing on bushes around this house when we first came here but they are gone now. Mama would pick the buds off the bushes and boil them in water. Then she would pour the water off. She would cook potatoes and mix the potatoes with these boiled buds and put this in a glass container to cool. She would use a cup of this mush with flour and salt to make bread. Another meal that Mama would make was to scrap raw potatoes into a pan with raw pork and then cook it. She would cut it into large squares. This was a French dish. My father loved it. Another French dish that Mama would make was called "pot pot". She would layer raw meat, potatoes, vegetables, and dough boys in a large pot and almost cover it with water. Then she would simmer it on the back of the stove with the cover on it. It would cook all day and be ready for meal time.
In those days killing a pig was a big thing. Every part of the pig had a use. The bladder was cleaned and used to make a football. The head of the pig was used to make head cheese and the blood was used to make blood pudding. If you wanted to keep food cool, it was put in the cellar. People would keep the cream cold in the winter by putting the container which the cream was in on a piece of rope and hang it in the well. If you wanted cream you would just pull up the rope and use what you wanted and then return the container into the well.
My mother made everything by hand in those days. She would sew a quilt, piece by piece. She had a sewing machine that she bought from a traveling salesman. She paid $1.00 a month for that sewing machine. She made a lot of our clothing by remaking old clothes. We always had one good outfit for Sunday. It was very hard to get that one set of clothing for each of us.
One of my father's brothers, Joe, stayed with us for a while. He wasn't married at the time and used to drink a lot. He was next to my father in the family. Our house was quite a distance from the front gate by the main road. One night there was a big snow storm and Uncle Joe went out. My father was worried about Joe because he knew he was drinking. In the middle of the night my father woke up when he heard a noise. He looked outside at the snow storm and noticed a black spot out by the front gate. He returned to the bedroom and told Mama that he thought that the black spot at the gate was Joe. He got dressed and went out to check. It was his brother so he carried him back to the house. Uncle Joe would have died out here in that snow storm. My father often said that he doesn't know what woke him up that night - maybe, it was the old cat. Uncle Joe went out west to Snow Lake, Manitoba. He got married to a woman and had five daughters. Sometimes the daughters would return to the Island to visit grandfather. The oldest daughter's name was Olive. She used to write to grandfather. I remember she sent him a beautiful calender. Joe's wife died young and he brought up the girls. My father said that Joe's wife had red hair.
My father's people were very musical. They say that the first piece of furniture that Uncle Henry bought for his house was a piano. Uncle Henry was my father's brother. He played by ear. He could play the violin and the accordion too. My father played the accordion too. None of us were ever were musical, nor were my children. Calais played the fiddle and I remember his daughter Shirley would say "Calieeee, play the Diddle Dum"
My father was always making up jokes. One time someone asked him how he was getting along "batching it" (being a bachelor) when my mother and we kids were visiting my grandparents. He said "great". He said he had a great dishwasher - an old Tom cat. Every time after he ate, he would just put the plate in front of the cat and he would lick the plate clean. But he said one day after he had finished his meal and was just about to put the plate in front of the cat and the cat licked his "ass". Well, the cat lost his job and never was to have a plate in front of him again.
Our Family Life at Bedeque
Dora was just a baby when we moved to Bedeque. She was born in St. Louis, Prince Edward Island. I remember we lived in the upstairs of a house. It had one big room, with no partitions. The stove was in the middle of the room with the table and chairs on one side and our three beds on the other side. There was a doctorís office down stairs. Our family left St. Louis and moved to Bedeque in 1914. It was during World War I. My father had a job with a potato farmer there. Jobs were very scarce on the Island during that time so we moved to where my father had work. We had a house there and my father looked after the farm. The farmer, Mr. C., had lots of land so we grew strawberries on a piece of the land. My father used to take the strawberries into Summerside to sell them. Lots of people would sell fresh produce in Summerside. We lived on that farm for five years.
I remember we had to get the train from Tignish to Summerside when we moved. We had to stay overnight in a boarding house. My father had given my mother the name of the place we were to stay. He was coming to pick the five of us up the next day. Summerside was only about 25 miles from Bedeque. When we got to the boarding house, there was no room. No room in the Inn. The woman who owned the place said we were welcome to stay. She said that after dinner the dining room would be empty and she would make up beds for us on the floor. She made three beds for us and we went to bed on the floor. My mother sat in the rocking chair with the baby. Dora had been born in May. A man came in that night and I suppose he was touched by the scene that he saw in the dining room. He gave each of us 25 cents. Twenty-five cents was a lot of money then. We were so excited to get that 25 cents. The next day my father came to get us. We had to cross the Bedeque River on a small ferry on our way. When we moved to the farm in Bedeque, Mr. C. was not married. He lived with his mother on the farm. He got married when we were there and had two children, Shirley and Charles. Mr. C.'s mother was a Montgomery. My father said he thought that she was related to Lucy Maud Montgomery because she had come from that part of the Island. Mr. C's middle name was Montgomery. Lucy Maude Montgomery was an orphan. She was brought up by her grandparents. She married a Minister and moved to Ontario. She had two children but she never lived on the Island again.
I can remember seeing my first car. It belonged to Mr. C. I suppose I would have been nine or ten years old. I couldn't believe that it could move without a horse.
We never went very far during those times. That was country life. We would make our own fun. We would go to Mass on Sunday and to school. I remember when Calais and I went for instruction for confirmation in Bedeque. We were the only French family in the Parish. The church was called Kinkora. My mother had taught us all our prayers in French. The priest, Father M. taught us the catechism in English. We took a copy of the catechism home and my mother taught us it in English. Father M. told us not to worry about our prayers because God understood French prayers.
We had no telephones, no radios, no entertainment. Kids made their own fun. We played in the snow. We fished. Our house was near a pond. It was only a small pond but we used to go there to fish. We would make our own fishing rods with a switch from the woods and a piece of twine. We even made our own hooks. Trout used to come into that small pond. One time Calais said that we should go to the big pond because there were no fish in the small one. We took Dora because she was the baby and went everywhere we went. Calais had made her a wagon. Anyway we were not allowed to go to the big pond. It was very deep and was used to run a mill. There were men who worked at the mill but there wasn't anyone around to watch us. When my father came home for supper and asked where we were gone, my mother said we had gone fishing. He saddled up the horse and came looking for us. Calais had gotten a big string of fish at the pond and we were on our way home when we met my father. We got a "growling" from Papa for going to the big pond. My father was very good to us children. He would never touch us although my mother would give us a clipping for discipline. He would growl at us but never hit us.
There was a house in our neighborhood that we were not allowed to go into. We played with the children outside but my mother had warned us never to go inside the house. One day, I wanted to see what was in the house so I went in with one of the children. There didnít seem to be anything different about that house. My mother found out that I went there and she made me stand in the corner facing the wall. I never found out why she didnít want me to go there. Maybe she was afraid of tuberculosis. There was so much poverty that Mama was always afraid of illness.
People never worked on Sundays. Sunday was considered a day of rest. Of course, they would make the meals and look after the barn work that had to be done. Sunday you went to church. Women had to wear hats or their head had to be covered with something. Funny because now, it doesn't matter what you wear to church,
I was eight years old when I cooked my first meal. My mother had to go out and so she told me what to do. At eleven o'clock AM, I washed the potatoes and put them on to cook, then I cut up the meat and put it in the frying pan. When my father came home from work at twelve noon, he ate what I had cooked. He said it was the best meal he ever had. Another time mother had to go out and I had to cook the bread. She told me to watch it until the bread was round at the top and then to put it in a hot oven. I did and when my father had some of the cooked bread he said it was the best bread he ever had.
In the fall of the year when the leaves turned many colors, I would walk though the field to the edge of the woods. It was quite a distance. I would look at the many colors of the leaves and pick some of them. I still think of those times when the leaves turn colour in the fall.
We used to get some of our clothes from R.T. Holmanís in Summerside. They had a catalogue for ordering different things. In the winter, we would wear leather boots. Mine was all leather but Clara had the ones with copper toes. I had straight long black hair that was done in two braids that hung down my back. Calais hair was like mine, straight and black. Clara had lovely long hair that Mama would do in ringlets. Dora had hair like Clara's.
I remember a young lad hanging around our house with Calais. He put my father's fishing boots on one day. The boots were leather and they got stuck because he put them on over his own boots. My father said to him "I guess I will have to cut off your feet". He believed my father and started to cry. My father was always making jokes.
When I was a little girl probably around nine or ten, I woke up one morning with water blisters all over my bottom lip. We were living in Bedeque. I hadn't been sick or anything. My mother and father were terrified. People didn't often go to the Doctor back then. We lived quite a piece away from the doctor. That night after work, my father harnessed the horse and he and I went to the doctor in North Bedeque. That was the closest doctor. When we got there, the doctor took me into his office. My father stood in the door. The doctor's office was like a little cubby hole. The doctor took my head and he turned it from side to side and turned it again and again and again. My father said he thought that I had cold sores. My doctor agreed and he went into another room beside his office. It was like a cubby hole too. He mixed powder and liquid and more powder and liquid and mixed and mixed. It turned out to be a pure white salve. He told my father to put it on my face for three or four days and it would dry up. I remember we were preparing for confirmation then. I was one of the last to be confirmed and my face was completely clear. I have never had a cold sore since and I was not left with any scars on my face from the cold sores that I had.
I remember the Halifax Disaster. I heard it on the Island, from Bedeque. Because there was no way to find out about survivors, my father's boss had to go to Halifax. His sister and her family lived there. Many people died at that time. His sister was fortunate because they lived on the opposite side of Halifax from where the disaster happened. Her husband had come home that day for dinner and grabbed the baby and they went to the basement until the shaking was over. He had a job in Halifax as a Station Master, although he was from Moncton. When the family came upstairs from the basement all of the glass was broken out of the windows in the house and all the dishes had fallen out of the cupboard and were broken on the floor. It was an awful mess. One day many years later when I was cleaning out my cupboard in this house, I had spread out a newspaper to put into the cupboard. There was a picture of a young man in a uniform so I read it. The young man's name was Kenny N. He was one of the sons of Jim N., Papaís bossís nephew who was a baby during the Halifax Disaster.
I remember Armistice Day when peace was made. Church bells rang all over the Island. We couldn't hear the bells though because we lived in the country. It was when the war ended, we moved to Chatham. Mr. C. was very sad. I remember when he took us to the train station, he cried. My father always regretted leaving that place.
I went back to live with them for a while and look after the children for the year. They had a new baby, Douglas, while I was there. I can still see that baby. It was the first time I ever saw a newborn baby after it was born. I loved those little children. Mr. C. sold the farm later and moved West. I didn't know at the time but he had cancer and thought maybe the doctors out there might help him. When they moved out West and I had gone home, I got a post card from them. I could have gone out with them anytime. He told me that he would have paid my way and that he would have paid for me to become a nurse or whatever I wanted to become. I was just a young girl and was lonesome for my family in Chatham. I often regretted that I did not go, but it was meant to be. God had a plan. I wouldn't have had all my lovely children. Those people settled in Winnipeg. That is where they had gone on their honeymoon for a year after they were married and my father ran the farm while they were away.
Our Move to New Brunswick
After we left Bedeque, our train arrived in Newcastle. That was in 1919. I was twelve years old. Although my father had been a farmer on a successful farm, times were very hard and he wanted to work for money for the family. My mother would come to wish that we had never moved to Chatham. As we disembarked in Newcastle so that the train could go on to Ontario, we had to get another train to Chatham. All of our freight followed to Newcastle. I remember my father going to the freight station in Chatham looking for our freight. Finally, one day, one of the men told him that he should check the freight station in Newcastle. He did and our freight was there. When he went to get it, the cartons were all broken and pieces of furniture were broken. Even a piece was missing from our "Star" stove.
On our arrival at Chatham, we had to stay a whole week in a boarding house. We had one room with three beds. There were four of us children and my mother and father. They didn't mind though. My mother could watch us since we were all in one room. I remember they served great food in that boarding house. They were very good to us. The boarding house was full to its capacity. There were very few places to stay then. My father used to put what little money he had under the pillow when we stayed there.
My father found a place for us to stay. There were six apartments together and they were called the Barracks. The soldiers lived there during the Boer War. It cost $3.50 a month rent. It was really hard to find places to rent. That was where I was bitten by the rat. It was full of bed bugs and rats. My mother and father never slept at night. My father would set rat traps all night. I remember the scraping and cleaning that we did to that place. It was so clean when we left it. My mother was a very clean woman. We stayed in that house for a year and then we moved into another house. Our second house was a double house and another family lived on the other side. There were no rats in that house.
I was thirteen years old the year that we lived in that house where I was bitten by a rat. It jumped up on my bed and bit me on my lower lip. I got Typhoid Fever as a result of the bite. I was very sick and the doctor had to come to our house every day. There was no medicine at that time for Typhoid. The doctor gave my mother a powder of some sort to help fight the fever and medicine to keep my bowels working. I remember him coming to the house one morning and telling my mother that if I didn't get better by the next day, he would have to put me in the hospital. People didn't go to the hospital in those days because it was costly and people had no money. The doctor was afraid I was going to die. I think my mother must have prayed all night because the next day I was better. The doctor was very surprised at my improvement when he visited me that morning. I was left very weak because of the fever. I remember getting out of bed and starting to walk. My mother said she would help me and I said "No, I can walk". So she let me try and after I stepped I fell down. I was weak for a long time. I remember the first time I walked across the street after I had the fever. Funny the things that you remember. I think that my loss of hearing is because of the Typhoid Fever.
A very short time, a few weeks, after I got over the fever my brother, Calais, got Scarlet Fever. Our house was quarantined. They came and put a sign on the house because Scarlet Fever was contagious. The doctor was very worried about me because I was still so weak from the Typhoid Fever. He told my mother that if I contracted the Scarlet Fever from my brother, I would die. There were two houses then in the community. One was for the poor people and it was called the Alms House. Poor people who had no place to stay and no food went to the Alms House. The other house was called the (pronounced) PESS House. It was a place where people went if they had Scarlet Fever. Today. there are two Senior Citizen homes where those two houses used to be, one in Chatham and one in Chatham Head. My mother and my brother went to the Pess House to live while my brother had the Scarlet Fever. Mama was so afraid that I would get it. She had to go by herself and live there until my brother was better. My father would walk there every night after work to visit her. He was not allowed in the house because people there had contagious diseases so he and my mother would sit out front and visit. My sister and I stayed at home. My mother and brother were the last people to go there. It was torn down about a year after they left it. I had a very hard time for many years to think of my mother and brother being there by themselves. It was very sad for all of us, especially for my mother.
The last house where my family moved was on Duke Street. It is still standing but it is all boarded up. I was married from that house on Duke Street. It was when we lived in that house that I went back to the Island for a year to stay with Mr. C. and his family. They were very good to me but I was so lonesome.
When I came home from Prince Edward Island, I went to work at the Benson's. There were three spinister ladies that lived there - two sisters and a niece. I was their maid. They had a nephew that owned and operated one of the newspapers in Chatham. The Bensonís owned a whole block on Water Street in downtown Chatham. I lived there having my own room and my own bathroom. I waited on them all the time. It was hard work. But I was able to do my work the way I wanted. I worked there for four years and then I left. I was tired, worn out. I always had low blood. They didn't want me to leave. When I finished, Clara and I went to the Island for a visit. The women got another girl for the summer. Miss B. came to our house after the summer and offered to raise my pay to $14.00 a month. I wasn't one to sit around so I went back to work for them. I only stayed a year because I got married the next fall.
One night when I was working at the Benson's, we heard a noise. We were all women living there. We jumped out of bed. I was going to run down stairs and check if someone was at the front door. I was worried because Mamma had taken ill with a sore face. I thought Papa had come to get me because Mama had taken badly. They stopped me. We opened a window upstairs and yelled to see if anyone was out there. We knew if it was Papa, he would have answered. No one called back. When we checked, the outside door was open. A man who used to work there in the daytime used to lock the outside door when he left after work so we knew that someone had tried to get in. They called for the police. It was the only time while I worked there that anything like that happened.
My parents lived in Chatham for fourteen years before they moved back to Prince Edward Island. Dora was nineteen when they moved. She stayed with me while she finished high school in Chatham. Dora was only five when we moved to Chatham and I remember someone giving her a pair of garters. That was what girls and women wore to keep their stockings up. Dora's garters were really fancy. Dora used to pull up her dress and show everybody her fancy garters. We were always losing the garters for our stockings. What we would do, so that we wouldn't lose them, was to role the top of the stockings and tie them in a knot to keep them at the top of our legs. We had to wear dresses to church during those times. It would have been considered a sin not to wear a dress to church. It was really cold too. I can remember thinking I hope I don't lose my stockings at church. I never did! The knots worked.
Clara went to Saint John when she was only eighteen. She never came back. She went with a family to babysit their baby. She met her husband there and married.
The railroad used to go from New Brunswick to the Island and all the way up to Tignish. When my mother died, Clara and I traveled by train home. My mother died at 54 years old, She had contracted pneumonia. My father outlived his whole family and he was the oldest member of his immediate family.
Married Times in Chatham
I got married on November 14, 1927 at St. Michael's Church in Chatham. It was a small wedding. After Dickie paid the priest, he had $2.00 left. He went to bootleggers and bought some beer. He wanted to celebrate the wedding. People in town made their own brew in those days. After we were married, we moved in with Dickie's parents. Jack and Bob were born in their house. The B.ís had horses, Dickie and Mr. B. worked across the river at the mill. They would bring the pulp across the river in scows, then load the pulp and take it by horse to the railroad cars. That pulp was sent to many places to make paper.
We moved from Dickie's parentís home to a house up the street. It was during the Depression. Times were very hard. People were very lucky to survive. The pulp mill closed and other businesses closed. Places to live were very hard to find. People considered themselves lucky to have a roof over their head. Things got worse and worse. There was no help for people in those days. It wasn't like it is today. If you didn't work, you and your children went hungry.
I remember after Dickie and I were married, I walked to Newcastle one day. Jack was just a baby. Dora kept him. My mother was still living in Chatham then. Dickie was working in the woods. He had sent me a slip of paper to get some money from the company office that he worked for. The office was in Newcastle. In those days when women needed money and their husband was away working, you could get some from the company if you had permission from your husband. For a while on the walk, I had company, a young girl. On the way back, I thought to myself if anyone stops to pick me up I will get in only if there is another woman. Sure enough a man and a woman stopped their car picked me up and drove me right to my house. There were not very many cars back then.
We moved into the house that we live in today in 1931. Betty was seven years old. It was a two-family house and we moved into one side of it. It had been empty for eight years. There was not a door knob, a window pane nor an outside door when we moved in. Of course, there was no such a thing as a new house during that time. You just never saw a new house. Times were tough. This house was one of the oldest on the "Hill". That is what Dickieís father told me. When we first moved here, we rented the house from Brownís and when those people died, the property was left to their son. He didn't live around here. The house was taken over by the town for taxes. We had to pay rent to the town, $5.00 a month. That was a lot of money in those days.
When the Depression got really bad, we didn't have to pay any rent because there were no jobs and no money. The town decided to sell the houses so that they could collect the taxes. Dickie put a bid in on it and we got it. We had been renting it for probably two years before we bought it. We were always fixing it up. When this house was first built there were no lanes, like the one that is here now. The driveway to our house was from Water Street up to what is now Groat Street and in through Teddy V.'s house. The property that is between our house and Barry Lane did not belong to us at first. Our property ran from the fence beside the grave yard directly across to our neighbors, the G.'s and down to V.ís. During that time people were building shacks and small unkept houses of all kinds. We didn't want anyone building on the property directly behind the house so Dickie went up town and put a bid in on the property. We got it. We tore the old house down that was on the property and planted grass. The property had originally belonged to the D.ís. That property today is the driveway and front yard.
When we moved into our house, the R.ís lived on the other side. Willie R. was handy at doing things around so he made our outside door out of a few boards he found. We put all the panes of glass in the windows. The landlady would take so much off the rent for the repairs that we made to the house. I used to walk up town to pay the rent. The family lived where the old Presbyterian Church is now located. One day the woman gave me some rhubarb. I was always pale and had low blood. She told me that rhubarb was good for low blood. She said that I should boil the rhubarb in water then strain the rhubarb from the boiled water and drink the juice. It was full of iron and would be good for me. She is the one who told me about the "hops" growing on the bush in our yard. If you boil hops and cool it, then put some sugar in, it too was a good source of tonic. I remember my mother would make tonics and take two or three teaspoons of the tonic every day.
In those days this place housed two families, and one chimney did for the two parts. I can see the day that I moved into this house when the men moved my belongings in. We had a double bed, a single bed, an iron cot for the baby, a washboard and tub, an old cupboard, six chairs and a table, a "Star" stove, one cooking pot and a few pans for cooking bread, a bread dish (you had a bread dish for just making bread), a few dishes and a slop bucket. I had a big truck with our bed clothes, the childrenís clothes and my own clothes. After Dickie bought the house and as our family got bigger, the R.ís moved out. They moved up to a house at the top of St. Andrews Street. We stayed good friends and I used to go there and visit with them.
Times were very hard during those years. Young people have no idea what it was like then. Young men would work all day for 15 cents. You would be so embarrassed. We were so poor. Everyone was poor but it was still very embarrassing and so very hard. The Depression lasted 10 years. It really lasted longer than that. It was called the Hungry Thirties. We never went hungry. Because Dickie's people had the horses, he would go away and work all day for probably $1.00. He would give his mother one half of what he made for food for the horses every week. One dollar would buy a lot of food for a family at that time.
People would get more work in the summer than in the winter. They would try to buy enough flour when they were working to carry then through the winter. They knew that flour would help them feed them during the times when there was less work. They would pick blueberries and sell them. I remember one man who picked blueberries all one summer and sold them. The money he got paid for his wedding.
There used to be boats drift into the shore. These boats were no longer any good as a boat. Dickie and some of the other men would take the old boats apart and use the wood for firewood. They would sell the brass that was sometimes on the boats. We would get some great treats when Dickie sold the brass.
To get a doctor during the Depression, you needed money. It cost $5.00 to have a doctor come to your house. People ran up many bills with their doctors. Of course your own doctor wouldn't let you die. One time when Junior was having convulsions, I had to get the doctor to come. I had $5.00. I had a choice whether to pay the doctor or buy flour to feed the children. I asked the doctor if I could pay him when Dickie got paid. He said "Yes". I hated to do that. I was never one to ask for any kind of charity. I sent him the money when Dickie got paid.
When World War II started, I knew young men who enlisted just to get a suit of clothes. They had no clothes. They were so excited to get new clothes and underwear. Yes, those young men, lots of them from here in Chatham, enlisted, went away and were killed for a suit of clothes. They left and never came back.
Dickie got a job one time back at the old Air Base. He was a fireman and he liked the job. He made $3.75 per day and I thought that was a lot of money. We had a long barn beside the house. One winter we had three pigs. I remember boiling water on the stove so that the man who killed the pig would have the water to clean the pig. We had chickens too. I had a chicken house down in the field in the front of the house. I would send for the chickens in March. We had a wood stove in one side of the house that was not part of the main house where we lived. I would build a square wooden platform around the stove and set the chicken boxes on it, then I would get up in the night and keep the stove burning. I would put their food and water in the boxes. I lost very few. In the summer, I would move them to the chicken house. A few of them grew to weigh 15 pounds. I used to sell a few of them around Christmas for 25 cents per pound. We always had a big garden.
The men had a hard time during those days. They would work hard all day in the woods for little pay. Dickie was paid $20.00 a month for working in the woods. I remember Willie B. and Joe K. working one year for $18.00 a month. There was no one to give you anything. No money, you did without. Relatives had no money and there was no where to turn. It wasn't like it is today. People need something like money, oil, food, there are places that they can go to get the help.
I used to worry a lot about things. There was always something to worry about - always something missing or sickness. I used to worry about getting sick myself. I was always so run down and weak. I was afraid I would get Tuberculosis. Someone had died in our house from TB. It was Mr. R.'s sister. That was before the R.ís had moved out of the house. Back then if you got TB, you would die. I remember one time I had myself convinced that I had TB. I kept it to myself for quite awhile and then one day I decided to tell Dickie. I thought I might go crazy if I didn't tell someone about my fears. I was really on my nerves. I asked him if that evening he would come to the Doctor with me to find out. After supper, we walked up to Dr. A.J.L.'s office . It was cold and very icy. The doctor was in his office and opened the door to let us in. He was usually in because his office was part of his house and his family lived there. I told him that I had been so worried and that I thought that I had TB. He asked me if I had a cough and I said "No" and he asked me if I had a chest cold and I said "No". Then he took his stethoscope and he checked my chest, the back and the front. I breathed in and out and in and out and in and out again. He knew how nervous I was about having TB. He said to me, "Mrs. B., I don't think that you have TB but maybe you should have an x-ray". He told me to go to the hospital and asked for Sister MacKenzie. "You tell her that I sent you to have an x-ray."
The next day, Betty babysat the other children and Dickie went off to work. I got dressed and walked up to the hospital. I didn't tell anyone where I was going, especially the children. When I got there, I asked for Sister MacKenzie. They told me that I couldn't see her because she had some big board meeting. The doctor must not have realized that the meeting was going on when he told me to go to the hospital for the x-rays. Of course maybe he didn't think that I would go there first thing the next morning either. Well, the next day and it was another cold and windy day, I walked back to the hospital. Once again, I asked for Sister Mackenzie. This time she came and I told what I was doing there. She took me into a room and I got ready to have the x-ray. She took pictures of the front and the back of my chest. When she came out of the little cubby hole that she was in to take the pictures, I asked her if I had TB. She told me she couldn't tell about the results and that the health doctor would be in to read them. "Well," I said to her, "Someone told me that you could read those x-rays as well as anybody". Doctor A.J.L. had told me that; but I didn't want to tell her that it was the Doctor that had told me that she could read the x-rays. A slow smile came to her face and she said "Well, Mrs. B., if there is something wrong with you, I don't think it is very much. You should take a tonic and drink lots of milk." I never drank milk. Over the next few days, Dickie went to the Doctorís office to see if there were any results.
Around that same time, Mrs. B., Dickieís mother took a bad turn. I changed my clothes and went to their house to see her and see if I could do anything for her. When the Doctor came out of her bedroom, I asked him if he had time to look at my x-rays. He said "There is nothing wrong with your x-ray but you are going to have twins". That was just a joke that he made. I have never worried about getting TB since that time. Funny because I never got TB but I had two boys that got it.
Grandfather's mother (Dickie's grandmother) died with TB. I think his father may have died from TB. too. Dickieís grandfather, Richard, and his siblings were left orphans. They came from Pokemouche, New Brunswick There were three boys, James (Jim), Richard (Dick) and Matthew (Mac) and two girls, in that family. One of the girls died when she was young and the other one, Hannah, married and went to the United States. When Dickie was born, Hannah was his godmother and she gave him the name Richard and only Richard because that is what she wanted him to be called every day after his grandfather who had died. She used to come to visit. She seemed like such a lady. She was a tall woman with white hair.
The depression went on more than 10 years......Jack and Bob started to work when they were only about 13 or 14 years old at the Box Mill. They had been going to school but then Jack started to work. That's the way it was then, young boys often went to work to help. One day Jack took sick with an abscess under his arm. When he went to the Doctor, the Doctor said he would have to stay away from work until it was better. Bob went to the Mill to see if he could replace Jack while he was out sick. The foreman asked Bob if he wanted to work. Bob said "yes" but that he had come to work in his brother's place. The foreman said he would hire him into his own job and that Jack could have his job when he was better. Those boys wanted to work and they were good workers. It was a great help. Every payday, they would put one-half of what they earned on the table for me. They would cut the wood for the heat and cooking stove; they would carry the water. They were very good boys.
We got water in this house the year that Judy was born. The men had to dig up from St. Andrew's Street in the Lane to the house by hand. World War II had started and we couldn't get pipe to bring the water in from the main pipe. The whole summer the lane was dug up waiting for the pipe. Finally in the fall, the town got the pipe and it was hooked up. When the water was finally running into the house, I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to waste it. Dickie got an old sink from someone and they hooked up the sink to an old condemned well that was in our yard. The waste water went into the old well.
We used oil lamps for many years in the house. You would worry back then when you were pregnant that the baby would be born in the night and there would only be the lamps for light. Bob, Mary and Tom were all born at night. All of my children were born at home except for numbers 15 and 16. They were born in the hospital. My sister-in-law and I used to help each other. Neither of us had our own people around here so we helped each other. Helen had an old aunt that lived here but no one else of her immediate family. Mrs. B., my mother-in-law, was a good woman. She was very good to Helen, my sister-in-law, and I. She didn't want to be around when the babies were being born because it made her nervous but she would come over after. She would make pies and bread and cook for the children.
I had the insurance in those days and a nurse would come when I had the children. Her name was Miss MacD. She was very nice. She would come and help mothers and the baby for eight days after the birth. We weren't allowed out of bed for ten days after the birth. You would be so weak. When the last two were born, I decided to go to the hospital. Dr. A.J.L. was still making home visits and he told me that he would come to the house, if I wanted. I felt I was getting old and should go to the hospital so I did. The year Brent was born (April, 1953), is the year that Dr. A.J.L. took a stroke. He took his stroke in August. He worked all his life until he took sick. He lived for about five years after he had the stroke.
I remember one time Dickie went to the Exhibition. He really wasn't one to go there but there was a crowd from the Liquor store going. They would often go and play the races. He had a few drinks and he played a game that required throwing rings. He won a doll. It was a beautiful doll with dark curly hair. I remember it was pouring rain. He got a drive home with a man and he had put the doll under his coat so it wouldn't get wet. He lost the doll's shoe somewhere but it didn't get wet. He gave it to Linda because she was the baby girl.
Another time Dickie said we would go to the Exhibition and take the little ones. He didn't like for the children to go to there. It was all right for the older ones but he never wanted to take or let the youngest one go. Anyway we got the littlest ones ready and we got a taxi to take us. Mary was 18 years old but she wasn't working and didn't have any money so she came with us. After we were there for awhile, Dickie decided that it was time to take the children home. He told Mary and me to stay and he would get a taxi and take the others home. I had some money and he gave Mary some money. We went to Bingo and I won $50.00. We went to another Bingo that night and Mary won a camera.