The following story is part of a volume of stories collected from the residents of the R.K. MacDonald Nursing Home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. For more information on this project, click here.
Connie was born on January 5, 1930; she just had her 82nd birthday. She grew up along the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia, in Larry’s River, with her sister and 2 brothers. She now lives in Guysborough with her sister Ivy. They both remember well the many evenings of visits and card play in their childhood home.
How big was your parent’s house?
It wasn’t a big, big house, but it was big enough for all of us….We had a bedroom upstairs…for the 2 boys…my 2 brothers.
You had separate bedrooms?
We had a bedroom upstairs, my sister Ivy and I, and a bedroom upstairs for the boys. Mom and Dad had their bedroom downstairs because mom was a crippled woman. She had a crippled knee. She didn’t like to go upstairs, she had stiff leg… she couldn’t bend…they had to operate. She could walk you know, to the store sometimes…she had to take her time.
At that time, what did you have for stores [in Larry’s River]?
There were three stores : Pellerines had one, the Murphy had one and the Co-op…there were 3 of them, in just a little place you know.
Would they [your parents] buy you candy?
…they (my parents) weren’t giving me candies, no. I have sugar diabetes… After I got a little older… I don’t remember exactly how old …it was a long time ago. It’s been a while that I’ve been like that. Well, it is a sickness that you get, and you don’t get rid of it. It’s not too bad now.
Down home I used to go to the doctor, not all the time you know.
How was the doctor? Was he good?
…Yes, he was good. So, I am still living…not forever though…not forever. But while I am well, I’ll keep it up…it’s not that easy, but you can do it if you want…
Was your father working on the farm?
No, we didn’t have a farm. He [my father] was working at the factory packing lobster and he was a fireman there. [A fireman kept the fires for cooking the lobster.] He was the one that was looking after the canned stuff. You know, they were canning stuff in the factory where he was working. He was doing all that and looking after the cans so that they were alright…so there was nothing wrong with the cans…they all had to be nice cans, you know, not bent and all that…He was there for a long time.
So, you were helping your Father?
No, he was doing all that by himself there… We could ruin stuff. He had the experience; he had been there quite a while.
So you never went to see him in the factory?
No, I used to go see him…but he wouldn’t allow us to stay…we had to go back, he was busy…
And your mother?
Oh, she would go and work…in the lobster factory there, she used to work there…
Did you go fishing?
No, Dad used to go fishing. They used to go fishing. They had a boat, you know, he and my brother, they used to go out fishing.
Did you go out with them?
No…because I was scared…Oh my God, I wouldn’t have gone! I didn’t like that…I was scared of the water…they used to go too far for me, and I wasn’t going…No, she [my sister] didn’t like to go…No, I stayed home, I used to work, I used to work in Murphy’s Store.
We started to talk about the storm…
…we had to stay in the house all the time when there was a big big storm…We had electricity but sometimes it was going off…it was not very good when it happened…it was cold, it was too cold…you couldn’t make a fire to heat the house…but after the power would come back, it used to heat the house nice…it was not very nice in the winter…I didn’t care for the winter.
I wasn’t one to go to dances, my sister was…she used to love to dance. She’d go, but me, no, I didn’t care to go. I never cared to dance.
Did you have a sister-in-law? Did your brothers marry?
No, no, the 2 of them didn’t marry…They used to work out…but they would come home…We used to pick berries, a lot of berries, blueberries, foxberries…we used to pick all that…that’s what we were making a living with. We used to go foxberrying and we used to sell that…You had to work hard…you were tired by the time the day was finished.
My father worked hard all the time. He was a hard-working man…He worked for everybody that was asking him to go…We didn’t have a car at that time…my father he never drove a car.
So what would you do if you had to go far?
We would hire someone. Like if we had to go to the doctor, well, we would have to hire someone.
How much would that cost?
It would all depend on where you were going to. Twenty dollars sometimes you would have to pay, maybe forty dollars…maybe thirty dollars if you had to go to the doctor. He was in Guysborough you know? The doctor was in Guyborough…it wasn’t too bad. If you had to go to the doctor, we had to pay.
I never learned to skate or anything like that. We used to go on the hill when it was nice. The hills they were big and they were taking us way down on the ice…We used to do things like that…when we were younger, you know? We didn’t do it after we got older…We were sliding down the hill way past the road…we had a sleigh and we used to sit on it and go right down to the ice…after that, you had to turn back. There was a fence, they used to make a fence you know, and the snow would come and cover the fence. So that was alright for us, you know, then we could go on the hill and slide right over the fence!
We had friends but I didn’t have a boyfriend—just friends that used to come visit. Some people used to come visit, you know, at the house there. They used to come…They knew my mother, they knew my father and they used to come over to see them. We had company pretty near every day…Every night, you know, they used to come play cards…by the time we were twelve….we used to play…we even had 2 tables…they were playing cards. That’s what there was to do…there wasn’t much to do in the country like that…There used to be a bunch that would come every night to play cards. There would be some that would come from Charlos Cove to play cards with us. We’d play ’til 11 o’clock or something like that…after that we’d call it off ’cause Dad had to go to work the next day…but we used to play most of the time.
Did you have a dog or cat?
We had cats, but we never had dogs…we used to keep a cat…everyone used to look after it…you know, we used to give him something to eat, he’d eat that, and then he would go wherever he wanted to go. He was coming home at night…he used to go outside and after that he’d come in…come and stay the night…
Do you know how to knit?
I knew how to knit, yes…and I was making socks and everybody was after me to make socks. So, now I quit. I quit, and its been so long since I didn’t make a pair. I was gonna try when I get home. I bought myself some yarn. I’m gonna take it with me when I go to see if I can start back knitting the way I was…maybe I forgot…My mother used to knit…Mom used to knit sweaters…she was a good knitter. She knit all the time…She’d make sweaters for people…they used to come and see if she would make sweaters for them. It was hard, you know? She was busy, always making stuff for somebody else. They used to pay her.
I can’t do what I used to, you know? I guess if you had to do it, I suppose you’ld try…Right now I don’t have to cook. I don’t mind.
And you told me you were working in a hotel?
Yes, I worked there for 12 years…well, I used to send them [my parents] money…My brother used to come work as well…He used to help them a lot when he was working…We weren’t rich, you know, but they got along… We weren’t rich but we weren’t dead poor you know, we had something to eat every day…as long as you had something to eat… It was hard for them when they first started, Mom and Dad, it wasn’t the best you know…
Yeah. They used to get nice fish. Fish is good, I like fish. We weren’t cooking fish everyday though; sometimes we would have something else…They wouldn’t go out if it was too windy…They wouldn’t go out if it was not fit to go because it was rough when it was nasty.
Mom used to paint the house, she used to paint the inside…If she had paint, she would paint…Well, you had to do the work, you couldn’t get anybody else to do that. They were all working. There was nobody that you could hire…now they hire someone.
“ When that community [Larry’s River] history is finally put together, the cooperative movement will have a place of prominence. In the 1920s, the fishery offered only a very hard living, and the parish priest, Charles Forrest, a colleague of the famous Moses Coady, helped bring people together to establish the Tor Bay Canning Company, a co-op facility which continued operating into the late 1950s. Pointing from his kitchen window across the river, Blair says, You can still see parts of that old cannery near the wharf. They canned lobsters, and also blueberries, which grow well in this area. Another local resource is the foxberry, which doesn’t can well and isn’t very well known in much of the world, but is very tasty. Rather than canning them, people would keep them in water, where they’d last all winter. In the first half of the last century, school would close for a bit around the end of September and all the kids would go to pick foxberries by the barrel. These were shipped to market in Halifax, to be traded for molasses and other provisions that would see families through the winter.” (Coastal Communities News Magazine (Vol.8-2), On-line edition of ISSN No.: 1481-2487)
Interview by Hemlata (Sarita) Ghore, Fall 2011.