Winter of 1956 …

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Unlike the previous two winters, 1956 was much more severe.

Winter set in early with about three inches of snow falling on November 11th 1955. On Monday Nov. 14, my mother and father sailed to Pictou and bought our winter’s supply of groceries. This consisted in part of hundred-pound bags of flour and sugar, canned goods, baking products, toiletry etc. These products would last until spring when the strait ice would be gone. The total cost for winter supplies was approximately $350. I can remember our upstairs pantry shelves being stuffed with a large variety of goods.

My father built a lobster boat for Duncan Rankin that year and I believe Duncan called her The Hilda Mae.  Another snowstorm occurred on November 20 with strong northeast winds blowing. All that night many Pictou Islanders were at the wharf pumping water out off their boats.  Their boats would be straddled between the wooden and concrete wharves with their bowline tied to one wharf and the stern line tied to the other. The huge waves would break over the old wharves and wash into the boats that were docked there. No automatic pumps back then.

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Another big snowstorm occurred on December 10 and it lasted into the next day. The island road was blocked with snow and the men were at the wharf hauling Ernie Rankin’s ferryboat up onto the shore for the winter. It remained cold and another snowstorm occurred on December 16th and 17th. There was no shortage of snow on the ground for Christmas 1955. Bill Harris died January 1st.

It remained cold – 12 degrees below zero Fahrenheit and Bill Harris was buried on January 3, 1956. Verna Rankin, George Rankin and Ronnie MacDonald went over to Pictou in the mail plane this same day.

On January 5 it turned milder and started to rain. The rain continued for 11 days until Monday, January 16 and mostly all the snow and ice disappeared. The road was in a terrible mess with mud everywhere. It was so soft and muddy that only tractors dare to be on it.

My father was to be admitted in the hospital on the mainland for an operation on January  20. On January 16, he and Bush MacDonald sailed Bush’s boat right up to Magee’s wharf in Pictou and Verna Rankin came back to the island with Bush on that day. One of our cows became sick on February 1st and since Dad was in the hospital, other Pictou Islanders cared for it. Arnold and Charlie MacMillan, Andy Ward, Duncan Rankin, Dougie Patterson and John Angus MacMillan would continually come to our place and do the barn work and care for the sick animal. They also assisted Rita, RoseMary and little Vincent with the shoveling of snow around the yard and in our long driveway.

Another big snowstorm on February 4, 5 and 6. No school since the road was again completely blocked with snow. Because there was so much snow, John Angus had difficulty keeping a road open through the fields.

Dad got out off the hospital January 31st and came home via mail plane on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Snow flurries on and off just about every day, then on February 28th another snowstorm hit. Snow was drifted everywhere. There was not a fence post to be seen and we kids were hauling our sleds over top of the telephone lines between our place and Duncan Rankin’s.

It was very cold with snow flurries over the next two weeks of March. Then on March 17th and March 20th we were again hit with more snowstorms. There was just no place else for the snow to go.

On April 1st Easter Sunday, Duncan Rankin, John Angus, Arnold and Charlie MacMillan took Duncan’s engine for his new boat up to my father’s boathouse.

It started to turn milder on April 2 and heavy rains fell the next few days. It was cold with some scattered ice on April 8. Harold Bennett sailed in his boat to Pictou and Cameron MacDonald came back with him on that day.

Thunder and lightening storm April 16 saw the strait ice is scattering quickly. There was a snowstorm on April 21 but it turned to rain the next day. Lobster fishing started April 30,  1956. We had another snowstorm on May 8 and the men were at the wharf shoveling the snow from their boats.

jimturple@eastlink.ca

 

 

 

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Jim Turple
Jim Turple is a retired councillor for the Municipality of Pictou County who has ties to Pictou Island. His column, Pictou Island Memories, appeared in The Advocate for many years and is now living on through social media via our website.