Memories of P.E.I.
The following is a small memories book written by Margaret Frances Blenkhorn Squier of her growing up in pre World War 1 Charlottetown. It was passed along to "The Island Register" by her son, Donald O. Squier of Lakehurst, N.J. It provides an interesting look at turn of the century P.E.I. through the eyes of a little girl.
Little Episodes of Childhood as I Remember Them.
Margaret Frances Blenkhorn Squier
b. April 22, 1902, Halifax, N.S.
d. August 18, 1998.
[Margaret passed away August 18, 1998, and will be buried by her husband in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, New Jersey. She was 96 years of age. Don tells us that she led a wonderful life, and touched every one she met in a special way. She had been very pleased to know her "Memories" were on the Register, and we must thank both her, and son, Don for sharing them with us.]
I was named for my grandmothers, Margaret Barnard Whear and Frances Howard Blenkhorn and in the early years of my life we resided in Halifax. My father died after only 6 years of marriage. We then moved to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to be with my mothers family.
Before renting a house we went to visit my Aunt Fanny, Mrs. George Strong, (my mother's sister) in Winona, Minnesota, U.S.A. At that time I was three and my sister Grace was one year old we remained there for several months. Aunt Fanny had four teen age daughters, Helen, Pansy Evelyn, Hazel, and Grace. They enjoyed giving us a good time. On Halloween they made a Halloween lantern, a pumpkin with a candle in it and placed it on the front gate post. I'll always remember that. When we left for home, Mama's brother, Uncle Ham (for Hammond) Whear met us at the rail station along with his son, Fred. This was in Minneapolis and I remember Fred and I playing hide and seek around the huge pillars. I learned to talk while visiting Aunt Fanny and this gave me a Yankee accent.
Back on P.E.I.
In Charlottetown, we moved into a house at 159 Weymouth Street near my Aunt Jessie Carlton and her three sons. Her husband, Fred, was lost at sea while on a business trip to buy furs for his store. Aunt Jessie lived in a house that my Grandfather Whear had built for his bride. The house is now registered in Ottawa in the book of National Archives. It is at 271 Kent Street, Charlottetown and has a plaque on the front of the house stating this.
We lived near a park where we played games and baseball. On nice days, Mama and some of the neighbours would take camp chairs and sit there under the trees. She would take her sewing along as she made all our clothes - dresses, petticoats, nightgowns and panties. They were fancy with tucks and embroidery.
At home, the dining room was large and we did our homework there. There was a cozy corner and there I would play with my dolls. Across the street was the Prince of Wales College and we went to school there in their Model School. There was a large window at home that looked out onto Kent Street and we'd watch the traffic that passed by. This home had electricity and an indoor bath while our first home did not have either.
Funerals were a part of life and military funerals always had a band playing mournful music. At children's funerals, we'd see a white hearse and horses with white covers and tassells on their ears. The pomp and ceremony was impressive and we were never depressed.
On market days the French fishermen would come early as they had no ice to keep their wares fresh. They would pass by at 5 A.M. and would be sold out by 7 A.M. Mama walked early to the market for a cod or haddock. They were delicious. We would have our dinner at noon hour.
Our dining room was like a family room, and there was a Franklyn stove in this room. We would undress there as the bedrooms were cold. The windows would frost and we would draw designs on them with thimbles. On the College campus there were Balm of Gilead trees and we would gather fluff from the trees to fill pillows and beds for our dolls.
We were members of the Methodist Church. The pews were rented and we sat in Grandfather's pew. My Uncle Jack Whear and his family used these pews also. Church would start at eleven and we attended every Sunday. On Sunday, we could hear the bells of the churches, St. Paul's Episcopal chimes, St. Dunstan's Roman Catholic, and St. James Presbyterian. We felt like dancing to church as they tolled. Sunday School started at two in the afternoon and after that we would walk to Victoria Park where the Government House is located. The park was well kept and was beautiful with white birches and overlooked the harbour. Sunday supper was usually with Aunt Jessie Carlton and the boys. After supper, Mama would play the piano and we'd all sing hymns except Aunt Jessie. She would hum along with us as she had had a stroke or paralysis when she was age 52. At 7 o'clock we would then return to church for evening services.
We attended Model School up to the sixth grade, and then we went to Prince Street School up to the tenth grade. Our studies included French, Latin, Algebra, and Geometry. We had spelling matches on Fridays. I often stopped by after school to see Aunt Jessie. She liked me to buy some preserved ginger and when I offered to write a letter for her to her son, Edgar, who was in the trenches in France in 1917, this made her happy. I went to kindergarten in the Methodist Church, and I was told that this early training was what gave me high marks in school. I only remember playing in the sandbox! I tutored Buster Weeks, but I never knew his real name. His parents were friends of Mama's. I taught him five days a week. Our gym consisted of exercises by our desks, and with the windows open we did arm and knee exercises. We practised writing and I received a diploma from the Wightman School of Penmanship. Upon graduating from the tenth grade, I attended the Charlottetown Business College for two years.
One day, there was a heavy jolt, like thunder, and later we heard that a ship loaded with ammunition had blown up in Halifax, N.S. This was during World War One.
There was an epidemic of flu and doctors did not know how to treat it so we were kept home for a week. A friend who invited me to see the movie "The Birth of a Nation", died of the flu. Even public funerals were prohibited. Aspirin was discovered at this time.
When I graduated from college, I got a job in a gift shop as a cashier, secretary, and book keeper. William Wellner was the owner. A few months later, my future husband came to work here with the thought of becoming a partner. When he met me he fell in love and then decided to return to the U.S. where he owned a house. As a teen I enjoyed reading "Green Gables" and "Little Women".
Holidays were a celebration. One 24th of May, Queen Victoria's birthday, we took the train to Union to visit the Mallet's farm. While walking to the farm we saw wild roses in bloom. We got a warm welcome and Mrs. Mallet said she thought some folks would come from town and some people drove out by horse and buggy. Grace and I would wander out in the woods behind the house and found violets and irises growing. Mrs. Mallet served a delicious dinner but now I only remember the gooseberry tarts with thick cream on top. Mr. Mallet did not remain with us as he and his son, Archie were busy tilling the soil.
Canada had very close ties with Great Britain. We sang "God Save the King" at the beginning of every concert and public affair. In school assembly during World War One we learned the national anthems of all the Allies. There was news of the Royal family almost every day in the newspapers and magazines. King Edward VII reigned with Queen Alexandra after Queen Victoria died then King George the 5th ruled. He had two sons who became King, King Edward VIII, Prince of Wales, and King George VI, who married a commoner, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. They also had a daughter, Princess Mary. The Prince of Wales visited Charlottetown when he was eighteen. I remember the excitement of seeing him. He was shy, and we thought, handsome. A ball was given in his honour at Government House. The Prince chose to dance with Evelyn Crosskill. After that night Evelyn felt very special! She later married Archie Mallet, and as he was employed with the Bank of America, they moved to San Francisco, California. I enjoyed British history, and later King Edward VIII fell in love with Wallis Simpson and he renounced the throne in favour of his brother George who became George VI. George VI is the father of the present Queen Elizabeth and of Princess Margaret.
In the summer we would often go to Rocky Point for picnics. Our cousin, Emily Hughes, and her daughter, Enid, would go also. We would pack devilled ham sandwiches, the same Underwood ham that is still sold today in stores. To get to Rocky Point, we would take a large ferry and the ride lasted about 30 minutes. On the way, but near shore there was an Island with an Indian camp. The women made baskets and the men made furniture. They were part of the Mohawk(?) tribe. At Rocky Point some went in swimming. My sister, Grace was an expert swimmer, but I did not care for the very cold waters. When the chief of the Mohawks would come to town he'd wear his head-dress of coloured feathers and wear moccasins.
We bought fresh vegetables, butter, and eggs from Mr. Will Younker, who came to town every Friday. He sold to Aunt Jessie and three neighbours. When I was about ten years old, Mr. Younker invited me to visit in the country. He lived in Brackley which is about ten miles from the city. I loved the country, as it was so different from city life. From then on I would spend a week there in July up till the time I started to work. My sister went once but she got lonely and they had to take her home. I enjoyed the farm and would ride in a gig with Will to milk the cows twice a day and once Will let me take the reins. It was fun and exciting to command the horse with the reins. One time, their daughter, Louise, let me get the eggs from the nest and a hen jumped out from the nest and startled me. I dropped the basket of eggs breaking them all. I cried but Louise was kind and gracious and assured me it was alright. She made butter and rolled it on a paddle into quarter sized rolls. The butter was then placed in a basket covered with cheese cloth, lowered by a rope into the well where it was cool and would keep until market day. Another of my chores was to call the men for dinner from the fields using a horn that hung by the back door. In the yard was a lovely flower garden. I also would walk a short distance to pick up the mail. When the apples were ripe, I would eat at least three at a time. They had an organ and I would play hymns on it. I loved every minute of my visits.
I struck up a friendship with Mrs. McMillan who lived on the farm next to Mr. Younker. The friendship lasted many years till she died. She had two sons, Ernest, and Walter, as well as a baby girl named Sybil. One day Ernest informed me that he had a blue cow and this I had to see. The cow was a blue-grey. Was I disappointed!
One time I went for a week in August as there was to be a Sunday school picnic. I watched at the dining room window for the Younkers to pick me up and if they were past the time I expected them I would think that they had forgotten me. The picnic was fun and there was always a lot of food - chicken, potato salad, cakes, lemonade, and home made ice cream.
Our home was owned by a Mr. Matthew and his daughter, Mabel Nelson lived next door. She had two daughters, Marjorie and Gertrude. Gertrude, a four year old, has gone to Sunday school and caught a cold, took sick, and was cared for by her mother for a week, but instead of getting better she became sicker. Mrs. Nelson then called Mama for help as she had been up all night. Mama left us to get our breakfast and Gertrude died in her arms. Their doctor called the health officer and we were put in quarantine as Gertrude had died of diptheria. Mama said she was not afraid but we were kept out of school for a week. It was a sad time for the adults but we enjoyed the holiday.
My cousin, Louise Davis , lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan and sent us a subscription to "The Youth's Companion". Louise would write telling us that the Indians were whooping it up last night. This was about nineteen - eight or ten.
Captions on back:
George Montgomery May Collings (dead) Jack Lewis Daisy MacPherson Mrs. Baker Will Moore Maud Cooke Mrs. L. G. Whear Charlie Drew? (dead) Minnie Whear Mrs. Blenkhorn (widow) Art Saunders (dead) Annie Stentiford Mrs. Albert Mitchell (dead) Lou Whear Hettie Collings Married in Alberta (widow) Leslie Cook (dead) Alice Fraser Mrs. Reg. Sterns (widow) Will Brehaut Alice Angus Jack Collings Winnie Stumbles Married in Maine Lil MacGregor Mrs. Will Moore Gertrude Matthew Mrs. Dr. Houston Susan Barrett Mrs. James Paton (widow)
There was always an excuse for a picnic. One summer a relative of some friends of mine came for a visit and a picnic was planned for the north shore not far from "Dalvay", the large home of Mr. MacDonald who was the president of Imperial Oil. This home is now a hotel. To get to the north shore Aunt Jessie would rent a carriage from the stable and ask for a quiet horse. My sister, Grace and Moma would go with her. I was invited to sit with the honoured guest in the Barouche at the head of the line. A barouche is like a surrey drawn by two horses and has 3 rows of seats. Aunt Jessie's horse was so slow that they came last in line. I was seven at this time and it was an exciting day.
If we were good, Mama would treat us to ice cream sundaes at Mrs. Carters. Her store was on Queen Street. The tables were marble topped and the chairs had wire backs. There was a ceiling fan. As soon as we entered the store you could smell the vanilla. Banana splits and chocolate sundaes were our favourites.
There was another store we liked to visit. This was the store where Mrs. Snelgroves made her candy. She had molasses, cinnamon, and peppermint sticks and they were two cents each. I remember there was a bell on the door and as we entered to meet this little old lady the bell would ring announcing our presence.
Aunt Jessie Carlton lived in the old homestead where the Whear family had lived. This was the 271 Kent Street address. She had a stroke and the boys needed a housekeeper. They hired a girl from the country, who was a sister of Mrs. Heartz' maid. Her name was Georgina McTague. Gene and I became friends. Her Priest objected to her living in a house with three teen aged boys. Lloyd Carlton asked Mama if I could sleep over as a sort of chaperone. I slept in a bed in Aunt Jessie's room. I would sink down in the middle of the feather mattress and I enjoyed the experience. Gene told me of her life on the farm and invited me to visit her there, but Mama didn't want me to get so friendly with a servant girl. I did go to St. Patrick's Cathedral with her to attend the Stations of the Cross service on Good Friday. I was quite impressed. Gene was a good cook and she stayed until Aunt Jessie died at 57 years of age.
I was given piano lessons by Uncle Jack and I practised on Aunt Jessie's piano. A friend, Helen Hazard, an artist, asked Mama if I would pose for her and she also gave me lessons in painting in water-colour and charcoal. Her portrait of me was very good and she intended for me to have it but she died before I returned to Charlottetown.
The Boston Globe was delivered to the stores. Mama always bought it on Thursday. We looked forward to the funnies, "Happy Hooligan", "Maggie and Jiggs", and "The Katzenjammer Kids". We also went to the movies often for the Saturday matinee. They ran serials then, and while they were silent movies, a pianist would play appropriate music. I recall seeing "Perils of Pauline" and "What Will Happen to Mary". We'd all get so excited that we would sit on the edge of our seats. Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin and Harold Lloyd were our favourites.
In April, the Prince Edward Island Hospital had a tag sale and I always sold a lot. The St. James Presbyterian Church invited us to be guests at their Tea party. This was a compliment to be asked to such a grown up affair. We had chicken sandwiches after a mild tea.
The Chautauqua programs came to town every summer and they would pitch a large tent and give educational lectures and operatic recitals. I was invited to go with some of Mama's friends. I remember that Channing Pollack gave a lecture that was very impressive. When the Stock Company came to town they performed for a week in the Opera House. One day we happened to see the actresses leaving by the back door. They still had their make up on and we were so excited to see them. They seemed different to ordinary people.
My Cousin, Silas Hodgson lived in a big house on the edge of town and had cherry trees. The cherries were picked and made into preserves for the winter. Their daughter, Jennie was married and her reception was in their home. I went to the reception and opened the door for their guests. It was all very exciting at this happy time! I remember the bride's dress was a pale blue satin with a flounce of beaded net with hand painted roses around the hem. Jennie, a blonde, was very pretty in the dress. One guest wore a suit with a train and I accidentally stepped on it. Was I embarrassed!
The Governor, Frank Heartz, was married to a cousin of ours and one time I was invited to a ball at Government House. Mama made an ecru lace dress with a pink sash for me to wear. I was shy, but happy and surprised to be invited. Ruth Heartz, the governor's daughter, was my sister's age, but she was not invited to attend as she was too young. The Governor, who was appointed in Ottawa, always attracted attention when he drove to town. He had a pair of attractive horses and his two Collie dogs would come following them.
[At age 21 Margaret's sister, Grace was also invited to a Government House Dance. Margaret was now 23, married, and living in New Jersey.]
Birthday parties were always fun, we played "Pin the Tail on the Donkey", "Musical Chairs", and "Post Office".
The Exhibition was held at the end of August and it was a week of excitement. There were exhibits of crafts, quilts, hooked rugs, and baked goods with prizes given out. Farm animals were also exhibited. The baby pigs were so cute. There was a side show on the way to the show buildings but we were not allowed to stop. They had horse races in the afternoons. One day there was an aeroplane on the field in from of the grandstand. I recall it took off for a short distance, flying to the other end of the field. We saw everything.
At Halloween, Mama made molasses taffy and we would bob for apples in a tub of water. Christmas was like a dream come true. Mr. Younker would bring us a spruce tree as a gift. The tree was set up in the living room, trimmed with paper chains, sparklers and candles. For presents, we got hair ribbons, handkerchiefs, books, dolls, and a season ticket to the arena rink for ice skating. There was a band in the rink on Saturdays. Christmas dinner was usually with Uncle Jack or at Aunt Jessie's. One year, my sister, Grace, was not feeling well so we left Uncle Jack's early. Grace was given a ride on the new sled we got and the next day we found out she had measles. I got them a week later. Another time Uncle Jack rented a sleigh and took us down Prince Street to the Hillsborough Harbour where we watched horses racing on ice. We'd sit in the sleigh wrapped in buffalo robes to keep us warm while we watched.
There was a lot going on at Christmas time with all the preparations. Fruit cakes were made as well as candy and cookies. The candy was made with barley sugars, figs, and malaga raisons. There were also candy canes.
On Shrove Tuesday, during Lent, we would have pancakes for dinner. Mama would put a ring, button, and a nickel in the batter and they would be cooked in. Tradition had it that the person who got the ring would be the first to marry, the button meant an old maid, and the nickel meant that riches would come to that person.
Mama had a nice singing voice and would sing to us from the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. I'll always remember her singing "Poor Little Buttercup". Another past time was making fudge and scrapbooks about movie stars.
I recall we were playing in the yard when we saw our first automobile. We all ran to see it when we heard its motor. Soon there was a law passed to prevent cars from driving in the country and not to drive on Market days as they frightened the horses. The roads were closed till May as they did not dry out and become hard before this after the snow melted. Later the roads were macadamised with asphalt and a car ferry began taking tourists to the Island.
I met Bert, my future Husband, at the store where I worked. Bert knew Belle Westaway Wellner through Dr. McCue. The doctor cared for Bert's father in Roxbury, MA., and had recommended Prince Edward Island to Bert and his mother. Dr. McCue was married to Mary Westaway, a nurse, and when Bert first came to the Island he and his mother stayed with the Westaways until they moved into a hotel in Montague. Belle Westaway went to Prince of Wales College and roomed at a house next to Billy Wellner's on Prince Street, Charlottetown. Bill fell in love with her and they got married. Billy owned the gift shop. When Bert's mother died his guardian suggested he go to Charlottetown for a year and work with Billy in the shop. If he liked it, his guardian would then invest in the business.
The Westaway Farm in Lower Montague with Wightman's Point Lighthouse in Background
Bert and his parents moved to Boston, Mass. so his father could be treated by a specialist. He had been injured in South Orange when a train lurched and he was thrown to the platform striking his head. Bert was 12 at the time. They were not pleased with this specialist and had Dr. McCue care for him along with his wife who was a nurse. They were Prince Edward Island natives and after Bert's father died they were persuaded to visit Montague and Mrs. McCue's parents, the Westaways on their farm in Montague [Lower Montague at Wightman's Point - Ed.]. They loved it so much they went every summer. One year Uncle Charles and Aunt Minnie went there also. They loved it too, especially for the trout fishing. Bert at that time was living in South Orange with his mother in various boarding homes. Bert went to Columbia High. Bert's mother had a goitre operation and was in the hospital in Maplewood which was at the corner of Parker Ave. and Prospect Street. She recovered, and six months later went to Brooklyn to spend Christmas with the cousins. She caught a cold, and it developed into pneumonia and she died. It was then decided that Bert, at age 16, would go to George School, a Quaker school in Newtown, PA. From there, he went to Cornell and also Rutgers. He had taken animal husbandry and agriculture classes at these colleges.
When we started dating, Bert brought a mandolin to the house. The only tune I remember now was from "Tales of Hoffman". This was a love song entitled "Kiss me Again" from Barcarole. Bert would have Sunday supper at our house at our house every week. One day, he announced he had decided to buy a car and wrote to his guardian, Uncle Charles for advice and money. Uncle Charles was Charles O'Brien, a friend of his father's and was very close to the family. Bert bought a Dodge roadster and with it we would go to the country to visit our friends there. By November of 1920 we were engaged. Bert owned a house in Maplewood, NJ. and he decided there were more opportunities in the United States than in Canada. We were married in 1921 in the early morning as we had to take the car ferry to the mainland. We then drove to Moncton, NB., and there discovered we had no lock on the bedroom door at the hotel. We drove from there to St. John, NB., and from there took a steamer to Boston, Mass. We visited an old friend of Bert's parents for a week in Roxbury, Mass. Boston was not like Charlottetown as there were many people. Washington Street in Boston was closes to auto traffic at noon, so pedestrians could use the street. We then continued out trip by stopping at New Rochelle, New York, to visit my cousin, Pam Hickerson and the next day drove to Maplewood, where we got a royal welcome. Aunt Rose Vandeever and her daughter, Dot, had a roast beef dinner for us. Aunt Lou Vandeever lived in Bert's house at One Oakland Road, Maplewood. This is a two family house. Her husband, Uncle Warrie, and her mother, grandma O'Brien were so loving and made me very welcome. Mr. and Mrs. Norris were the other tenants and they moved as we wanted to live there. They moved to Scotland Arms, an apartment building that had just been built in South Orange, a neighbouring town.
Bert's cousins, Mary Wardell, Maria Wintringham, and cousin Will resided in a city house at 168 Hicks Street, Brooklyn, NY. I was made at home and well welcomed into the family. My memories are the happiest of them. They helped start up our home by giving us furniture and money.
After we settled in our home, Bert got a job with a chemical company, Heller and Mertz but had to give up this work as the fumes caused health problems. He then went to work in New York City with Graham-Chisholm Co., who were printers and engravers. He retired from this company 40 years later. Our first son was born September 12, 1922. I was 20 at the time. We had our tragedies and our good times. It was a very happy marriage and we lived together for 70 years.
The Family of John Whear
John Whear came out of Cornwall, England, when he was a young man. He apprenticed in a carpenter shop owned by the Barnard Brothers. They built St. Paul's Cathedral (Episcopal), and many bridges throughout Prince Edward Island.
John married Margaret Barnard and built the home at 271 Kent Street in the year 1850. They had eight children, Uncle Jack, Aunt Jessie Carlton, Aunt Fannie Strong, Uncle Hammond who moved to Minneapolis when he was a young man, Uncle Louis, Minnie Amelia (Mama) born 1875, Katie and Fred (the latter two died young).
All the family are buried in Sherwood Cemetery, Charlottetown, P.E.I. in the Whear plot.
M.B.S., November, 1992.