Winter weather on Pictou Island 1954

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Wednesday, March 2, 1954 was a nice fine 47 degrees Fahrenheit winter day. There was very little scattered ice in the strait and there was no snow on the ground.

My father arose early that morning and went down to the beach on his tractor. The beach was an area where many Pictou Island fishermen kept their boats during the winter months. The winter had been very mild and my father had already prepared his boat for the water. He along with other island men launched his boat 30 foot long (SLO-MO-SHUN) and sailed over to Pictou. Winter food supplies for most islanders would have been becoming exhausted about this time of year and no doubt many Pictou Islanders were getting pretty thirsty. Pictou harbor was clear of ice and my father sailed right up to McGee’s wharf.

My mother stayed behind that day and did a washing in her wringer washing machine. A tiny gasoline engine powered this washing machine. Mother would have to take the wet soapy washed clothes out of the washer and manually pass them through a wringer roller system. She would then rinse the clothes by hand in a tub of clear water and put them back through the wringer. Those wringer rollers would squeeze the water out of the wet material. She then would hang them on the outside clothes line. That was the only means of getting cloths dry during those years.

I can remember times when our clothes would be frozen solid when hung on the line but Mother always managed to get them dry. Mum had written in her diary that I had been outside playing on this day. Since there was no snow, I guess I was playing in the mud. I assume that the ground must have been very soft. The few vehicles that were on the island could not travel the only main dirt road at this time for fear of getting stuck in the mud. The mail plane arrived that same day and dropped the incoming mail. It could not land because the landing field behind Howard MacCullum’s house was so soft. It had been 23 days since the plane made its last attempt to contact the island.

My father arrived home from Pictou just before dark that same day and Punch Patterson, Margaret MacDonald (our island nurse), Elmer and Gorman Glover, Spike MacDonald, Bill Cole MacDonald, and Roy MacCallum came back with him. John Angus MacMillan was at the beach with his small dozer and hauled the boat back onto the shore. These people with their supplies were picked up and driven to their homes by either tractor and trailer or horse & wagon.

It turned much colder two days later on March 5. My sister Rita was the first one up and out to the barn that morning. She discovered another baby lamb was born during the night. That made 13 new lambs born so far that spring. That afternoon my father along with Rita, Rosemary and Vincent travelled on the woods road to the north side of the island with his tractor to gather a load of loose rock for his lobster traps. There was very little snow in the woods and just enough frost had entered the ground the previous two nights to keep the small pony tractor from sinking into the soft ground.

The plane arrived and landed the next day with the mail. This was the first time for outgoing island mail in 26 days. A few trucks were once again able to travel on the road. There was no ice visible in the Northumberland Strait between the island and the mainland. Mother had gone east for a walk and she called into visit with the Campbell’s, Duncan and Janie MacCallum and Lois and Alvin MacLean. Father had a 1951 Buick and he and I went up to the school on this day and picked up Rita, Rosemary and Vincent. We then picked up Mother at Alvin’s and returned home. Today when we go for a drive, we drive for miles. Back then we went for a drive and probably drove two miles, one mile up and one-mile back.

It was a terribly stormy day on March 12. The temperature was reading minus 4 and it was blowing a gale and snowing hard. Again Rita was the first one to rise that morning. She lit the fire in the kitchen stove and warmed the house up before preparing breakfast for the rest of us. It was real nice having a big sister although I personally can’t remember that day. I was only three years old. Arnold and Charlie MacMillan, Heckie Patterson and Duncan Rankin were at our place on that day. They were assisting my father in the boathouse with the sawing of sills for new lobster traps. Mother was working on quilts and Lena MacDonald and Lorane MacMillan had walked to our place and was helping her that afternoon. A lot of snow had fallen the previous night and on that day. John Angus was busy plowing the snow off the road. Arnold, Loraine and Duncan stayed for supper and after supper we made some homemade ice cream. One could never buy something that tasted so good in our modern day grocery stores.

How the times have changed.