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.
Viola was born in Halifax in 1927. She grew up with her grandparents in Lower L’Ardoise, Nova Scotia. She enjoys knitting, sewing and embroidery and is always up for an opportunity to take in some music and dancing.
Viola Sampson was born in Halifax and grew up in L’Ardoise, NS. She was an only child who was brought up by her grandparents, Sabine and William Sampson. They raised their own chickens. Viola would look after them and also help her grandmother knit their own scarves, hats and mittens.
Viola went to a one-room schoolhouse, which only had 40-45 children in the school. In her school, she was taught both English and French. Back then, there were only allowed to be female teachers. Viola really liked school because she would get a chance to spend time with kids her own age. After school, she spent most days helping her grandmother with chores around the house such as splitting wood, gardening and hand-washing clothes because they didn’t have washers or dryers.
Washing the clothes would take up to 3-4 hours. They would start by warm – not hot – water in the washtub, and then they would add the clothes to the rinse before they would wash them. They would wash the clothes using the washboard and then empty the water and put clean water to rinse the soap off. This was a long process! When the washing was all done, Viola and her grandmother would put the clothes through the hand-ringer and hang them out to dry. While she waited for the clothes to dry, she played with her 3 friends, Freida, Alice and Tricia. They would take walks together, play hide-and-seek, and they really loved playing Jack the Knife. This game was really simple. All you did was find different ways to make the jackknife stick in the ground to get points. When the clothes were dry, Viola would go home and help her grandmother take the clothes off the line and bring them in the house to be ironed, folded and put away.
Viola loved Christmastime, and she loved to make her own decorations. Viola would make Christmas chains and hang them in the living room and kitchen. She would knit her own stocking and hang it over the stove. She would help her grandmother make Christmas dinner. Each year, from the chickens they raised, they would take the hen that laid the fewest eggs to be killed for Christmas dinner. To go with the chicken, they would have potatoes, carrots, turnip and gravy. For dessert, they would have molasses cake with raisins in it. After eating dinner and opening presents, they would go visit her aunts and uncles. Viola loved to play with her cousins. They would go sledding down the hills. When she and her grandparents were done visiting, they would go to midnight mass. When they arrived back home, they would eat meat pie and she would go to bed.
When Viola was 13, she started her first job working in a lady’s home helping her clean and cook because the lady was pregnant with twins and couldn’t do it by herself. Viola got paid $13.00 a month. On the weekends, she would go home to visit her grandparents. She only stayed for about a month, and she had to leave because the lady was getting ready to deliver and it would just be too much for a 13 year old to endure.
Viola’s second job was when she was 18. She worked in the Keith’s brewery. Her job was to take the bottles off the belt and put them into boxes. She made $15.00 a week. She worked there for 6 months then went back home to help her grandparents because they were getting old.
When Viola was 19, she met the love of her life. His name was Jules. He was her neighbour’s brother, and when she saw him it was love at first sight. Jules had just been discharged from the army. He was 13 years older than her, but she loved him all the same. After being together for about a year, they got married in a church. It wasn’t because she was pregnant either; they just wanted to spend the rest of their lives together.
They ended up having 3 boys named Freman, Cyril and Victor. She stayed married for 48 years. She loved Jules very much. It was her fairy tale.
Story collected by Sheena Clyke, 2011. All photos by Kathryn Collicot.