I’m going back many years to my grandparents Elias and Sarah Turple. Elias originated from around the Clam Bay area and he met Sarah Livingstone in the very early 1900s in Murray River, PEI. They married and began raising their family in Murray River but moved to Pictou Island in 1914. It was on Pictou Island where they began a new life with their children Gladys, Emma, Willard. Vincent and Lester.
Pictou Island was a thriving little island community during those earlier years. At that time, approximately 300 people made Pictou Island their home. Farming was excellent on the fertile island land and fish around its shores were in abundance. Five lobster canning factories provided employment to many and were in full operation around the shores of the island.
My grandfather Elias purchased 89 acres of Pictou Island woodland that I believe was previously owned by Chas McLean. This rectangular shaped property went from the north shore to the south shore and was about one and a half miles from the island’s west end. Elias purchased an eight-room two-storey abandoned house that was being constructed closer to the East End. With a great deal of help from other Pictou Islander’s, that house was moved on rollers with horse teams to a hill on his newly purchased property nearly three miles away.
My father was about five years old when he moved from Murray River and made Pictou Island his home. I can only begin to imagine what life would have been like on Pictou Island over 100 years ago.
I have my father’s wooden rocking chair that had once belonged to his mother. Many cold winter nights I would sit on my father’s knee on this rocking chair beside our wood burning kitchen stove and listen as my dad would tell me stories. He would tell me about when he fished with his father and how the years had changed the ways of fishing. I would be captivated as he told me about the fishing boats that grandfather Elias fished in. Those boats would be 20-26 feet long and powered by a small single cylinder gasoline engine. I remember thinking, how could anyone fish in something that small? There I was growing up in the 1950s when there were open wooden fishing boats 30-40 feet long and powered with a six or eight cylinder gasoline engine. I am amazed even today at how fishing boat designs have changed over the years since I was a kid. From a one-cylinder engine in a 20-foot open wooden boat to a 45-foot enclosed fiberglass cabin cruiser powered with a large diesel motor.
My father would tell me stories about when as a kid; he would walk along the shores of Pictou Island at low tides and find lobsters under big rocks. Farmers would do the same and load those lobsters onto wagons to use as fertilizer on their fields.
I recall a story that dad once told to me about a pig that his father’s twin brother Charlie Turple had. Charlie lived on a farm just across the road from our place. Charlie figured that his pig wasn’t bothering anybody and he let it roam loose on the island. After all, piggy would always come home when it got hungry. Now being kids, my father and his brother’s Lester and Willard decided to play a prank on their Uncle Charlie. One day they put a rope around the sow’s neck and tied it to a tree. Then they got a bucket of their father’s boat paint and painted the pig a bright green. I guess that Charlie got the message for the pig was always kept locked in the barn after that.
Then there was the story about the time when dad’s father Elias had sawed some lumber and was going to build a storage barn. Elias however went over to the mainland for a length of time and left the lumber stacked beside the barn. Now dad and his brother Lester being about 12 years old had to have something to do. They decided that they would try to build a boat. Heck, here was a large pile of lumber that wasn’t being used for anything. Well I guess all hell broke loose when Grandfather Elias returned some week’s later and discovered Noah’s ark sitting beside the barn. I can imagine that it would have been quit a boat built out of barn boards. That however was the forerunner of a skilled career in designing and building splendid wooden lobster boats for both men.
My father grew living from the sea. He met a beautiful young lady named Winifred Hemmings in 1938. She was one of seven children born to Edward and Mary Hemmings from Pictou. They married in Pictou on March 23rd 1940. My father then bought the farm on Pictou Island from his dad. Two years later, he and mom began raising their family of two girls and two boys on Pictou Island. Rita, Mrs. Scott Falconer resides in Elmfield, Rosemary, Mrs. Jim DeWolfe resides in Dartmouth, Vincent returned to Pictou Island and yours truly from Hardwood Hill, Pictou County.