More memories from bygone days …

Community Online First Pictou Island Memories

Malkie Patterson from Pictou Island and Honey Langille from Caribou were united in marriage on September 29th 1955. A number of Pictou Islanders went over to the mainland on Ernie Rankin’s ferryboat to attend the wedding. A party and dance was held on Pictou Island for them on October 4th at Howard MacLean’s home.

Malkie was one of many from the Charlie “Dan’s” Patterson family from Pictou Island. Malkie had four other brothers. They were Hector, Dougie, Punch and Neil (Pinky). Heckie married Miriam Wong from Pictou in 1956. Miriam taught school on Pictou Island from 1953 to 1955. I have been told that sparks ignited when these two individuals met and the rest is history. I don’t believe the other three boys ever married. It appears from mother’s diaries that Malkie, Heckie and Dougie were always assisting my father with something around our farm and boathouse. Their names come up quite often in mothers’ diaries.

On another note, net fishing for smelts was common for some fishermen during those years. My father and Arnold MacMillan often sailed over to PEI to set their smelt nets in some of the island’s small coves. A smelt net can be compared to a herring net only on a much smaller scale. It would take a lot of smelts to make 100 pounds and fishermen might have gotten 3 to 5 cents a pound for them.

Seals would easily go through and tear these nets in search of a free meal. Mother would often repair or rig those smelt nets up while Dad was away fishing. Dad would often sail and set his nets up beyond where the Pictou Causeway is today. This was before The Pictou Causeway, Kimberly Clark and Michelin came to Pictou County. The landscaping was untouched and trees grew everywhere along the shores.

There was and still is a small cove on the Granton side of the causeway. Smelts would gather in large schools around those shallow waters in this cove. My father would set his smelt nets at that spot on many nights while anchored in that inlet. This would have been a beautiful spot to be on a bright, moonlight night. The moon would have been gleaming on the still calm water, as smelts were hand picked from the nets. Seals would have been bobbing their heads out of the water while looking for a free meal. The shoreline and area would be covered with dense forest. It might have appeared that you were alone in paradise.

I don’t think that anyone would have ever made much money from fishing those small fish. It was merely another means of acquiring enough unemployment stamps to aid in feeding your family through the long winter months.

A snowstorm occurred on November 11, 1955 and the wind blew hard from the east.  The Pictou Island boats were tied between the two wharves at the west end. The large waves would smash against the wharf and the spray would wash over the top of the cement wharf and into the boats. The wharf was much lower during those times then it is today. The men stayed in their boats all night pumping water from them.

Another snowstorm accompanied by strong east winds on November 20 and again the men were at the wharf pumping water from their boats. I can remember one real bad storm when I, as a small boy, was at the wharf watching the men trying to save their boats. The waves and spray were so severe that no one dared venture near the boats. I recall at least one or two of the boats being filled with water and sinking while tied to the wharf. Back then there were no automatic bilge pumps. If you were unable to be in your boat and pump the water from it manually, then your boat sank.

There was a party attended by many at Billie MacMillan’s place in honor of Ethel’s 22nd birthday on December 9, 1955. It was also Billy and Annie Jane’s 45th wedding anniversary that same day. These are more memories from bygone days.



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