The winter of 1958 …

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The fall season of 1957 was very mild and there was no snow on the ground for Christmas Day. Enough snow fell on January 3, 1958 to turn the ground white but it melted over the next few days. It remained mild with still no ice in the Northumberland Strait.

Bert MacLean from Pictou made a boat trip to Pictou Island on Jan. 22. There was still no snow on the ground that day and the weather continued to be mild. The mail plane made first trip to Pictou Island in over a week on Feb 1. Bush, Melvin and Flossie MacDonald, Ernie Rankin, Cassie MacCullum and Dave MacKay went over to the mainland in the plane. Enough snow fell February 11 to make the ground white, however there was still no ice in the Northumberland Strait.

First snowstorm of 1958 occurred on Feb.13 and lasted into the next morning. Strong Norwest winds blew and the Strait ice finally came down on that day. Duncan Rankin was to our place working with Dad in the boathouse on Sunday, February 16. Since the Strait ice had just come down three days before, my father and Duncan suggested we walk out to the north side of the island and see what the ice conditions were like on that side. Mother has written in her diary that Duncan, Dad, my sister Rita and myself made the one-mile hike through the woods on that day. I’m speculating that my big sister had pulled me along on my sled.

Pictou Island resident Big Duncan McCullum suffered a stroke on February 27.  Big Duncan was a brother to Laughie Dan and Hector. Hector operated Heck’s taxi service in Pictou. A helicopter could have been requested to transport Big Duncan to the hospital on the mainland. Big Duncan, however, would not leave the island. He passed away eight days later on March 7.

The weather had again turned mild by March 11 and the snow had quickly melted. My father, brother Vincent and Cecil Rankin were hauling lobster traps to the wharf. It was still a mild day on March 14. Big Duncan was being buried in the island’s Pioneer Cemetery. The island’s only dirt road was very muddy so my mother and Dad went up to the funeral on Dad’s tractor.

Blowing hard and snow falling the next day. There would be no plane that day either making it the 16th day since the mail plane had last flown to the island. The two-seater plane finally arrived with passengers and mail on March 17. Archie MacDonald, Punch Patterson, Roy and Jessie MacCullum, Kenny MacDonald and Ann MacKay with son Billie returned from the mainland that day. Russell MacEwan, Anderson MacLean, Beatrice Bennett, Bush MacDonald, and George Rankin went over to the mainland via the plane. Dougie Patterson went back to Summerside PEI with the pilot Alton Woodside on that day. Numerous trips were required when transporting passengers.

My mother, Verna Rankin, Loraine MacMillan, Janet Rankin and Lena MacDonald together with many other island ladies went to a quilting party at Margaret Jack MacDonald’s place on that night. Margaret and husband Jack were the island’s West End lighthouse keepers.

It was a fine sunny mild day on March 19. There was still, however, a lot of ice between the mainland and Pictou Island. Arnold MacMillan and my father were at the wharf scraping their boats for painting. The mild weather was giving them a rush to again get their boats back into the water. That day was also Arnold’s 35th birthday.

There was no ice between Pictou and the south side of Pictou Island on March 27 but Pictou Harbor was still full. Four days later on March 31, Dad and Arnold made first boat trip that spring from Pictou Island to Pictou in Dad’s boat Slo-Mo-Shun. They were able to sail right into Pictou Harbor and docked at MacGee’s wharf. Arnold’s brother-in-law Cameron MacDonald lived in Pictou. Cameron’s wife Clara had given birth to a baby girl that day. She named her new daughter Blasé. I can visualize my father and Arnold extending their congratulations to Cameron when they arrived in Pictou.

Our schoolteacher on Pictou Island in 1958 was Dave MacKay. The MacKays were renting a bungalow from Archie MacDonald. Dave’s wife Ann had a birthday party on May 12 for their daughter Diane. I recall the many times that I would go to their place after school and play with David, Bobbie and Diane. Diane went on in later years to marry Barry MacIntosh from Stellarton.

Island residents Spike MacDonald and Thelma MacLean were married in Pictou on July 31 . They came home to Pictou Island on Ernie Rankin’s ferryboat after their wedding. Many islanders were at the wharf to greet the newly married couple. A wedding dance was held at the island hall that night with Ida & Charlie Munro, Vernie and Isabel Rankin and Alfie Maclean providing the music. A wedding feast was also served at Duncan and Janie MacCallum’s house.


Dave MacKay and family.