The first day of 1961 saw snow on the ground. A lot of snow had fallen the month of December 1960 and snow flurries prevailed Jan. 1st, 2nd and 3rd. A snowstorm accompanied with strong winds occurred Jan. 4th and 5th and the Pictou Island road was plugged solid with snow.
The Northumberland Strait ice also came down on Jan 5th. The plane came with the mail on Jan. 13th and that was first time in 16 days. Another snowstorm occurred on Jan. 20th and 21st.
John Angus couldn’t do anything with the amount of snow on the road. His dozer is just too small, so he opened up a trail through the fields. It turned really cold the next day at 10 degrees below zero and remained constant until Feb. 5th. It turned a little milder on Feb. 6th.
My father, brother Vincent and Scott Falconer were in the woods cutting firewood and Scott accidentally cut his foot with an axe. My father took him to Margaret Jacks; (our Pictou Island Florence Nightingale) and she applied stitches to his foot.
Another snowstorm Feb 11th and the temperature is remaining below zero. Arnold MacMillan had a dentist appointment and he went over to Pictou in the plane on Feb. 13th. He returned Feb. 15th and my father went up to Howard MacLean’s landing field which was about one and a half miles on his tractor to pick him up. I am reading in mothers’ diary where Scott was continuing to have a streak of bad luck with his foot. It appears that he put his foot through a stair step on Feb. 17th, which no doubt caused more pain.
Snowflurries persisted throughout the rest off the month. Snowstorm again March 7th and 8th and yet another on March 20th. It remained cold with blowing snow until the end of the month. Snow was packed everywhere and we kids were coasting over telephone lines and fence posts.
Many islanders were on hand to help my father take his new boat, BIG M, that he built over the winter months from his boathouse on April 3rd. It was blowing hard from the east on April 14th. The heavy strait ice was moving with the high winds and strong spring tides.
The ice driven by strong winds severely twisted and damaged the east wooden wharf. John Angus hauled my father’s new boat to the shore on April 20th with his dozer but there was still no open water showing.
The weather was getting a little milder and the island fishermen were preparing their boats for May 1st lobster season. Another snowstorm on April 30th and the strait was still solid with ice. The wind blew hard from the west on May 3rd and the strait ice was scattering.
My father and Cecil Rankin made first boat trip to the mainland with both their boats on May 4th. With them were Duncan Rankin, Theadore MacLean, Kenny Glover, Harold Bennett, Punch Patterson, Scott Falconer and Vincent Turple Jr. There was a lot off ice in the strait and these men had to continually push icecakes away from the front of the boats as they slowly made their way through it.
The strait was still full of ice two days later on May 6th. My father and Cecil sailed their boats back from Pictou on that day but they had to sail far from beyond the east end of Pictou Island for fear of getting stuck in the ice.
The Northumberland Strait was still full of ice on May 7th but Leonard Turple took Billie, Annie Jane, Lorne and Ethel MacMillan back to the island from the mainland. They had spent the winter in Pictou.
Vernie Rankin and family along with Vernie’s parents, Jack and Mary Rankin, moved back to the island for the summer on May 8th. They also had spent the winter in Pictou. Lobster season finally started May 15th but there was still some scattered ice in the strait. My father put 72 traps out that day and 50 the next. He was the only one from the island to set any traps on those first days. Dad hauled those traps on May 17th and caught two buckets of lobster.Other fishermen began to put their lobster traps out on May 17th.
A little scattered ice staying around the north side of Pictou Island so dad didn’t put any more traps out. His first full haul on Monday, May 22nd had him catch 262 pounds. Lobster sold that year for 35 and 38 cents per pound. Dad hauled again two days later on Wednesday and had 286 pounds. There was more ice coming down from the west and it was off River John on that day. The ice was closer to Pictou Island on Thursday and many fishermen took their traps ashore rather then chance loosing them. My father, on the other hand, left his out.
The wind blew hard from the sou’west over the next few days and the ice went by the north side off Pictou Island. Dad fished the south side and his gear was untouched by the ice. Fishermen reset their lobster traps on Monday, May 29th. Dad’s lobster catches averaged around 400 pounds per day over the next week. On Monday, June 5th, Dad landed 936 pounds. That amount of fish averaged $350 in 1961. At today’s price of $5 a pound, that would amount to $4,680. That would be some day’s pay!
Sunday, June 18th was a hot, sunny, late spring day. Clifford and Sheila Worden with son Dale and Sheila’s father James Turple came over to the island and had a lobster supper with us that day. Lobster season finished Saturday, July 8th. An annual celebration took place at the wharf area in Cape John on Wednesday, July 19th. This festivity as I remember included lobster dinners, dory races, lobster boat races, ball games, etc. Those were wonderful times. My father placed first in the 40 foot and over class with his new boat The Big M powered by the 427 Mercury.