Winter of 1960 …

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It was a cold 10 degrees Fahrenheit day on January 8, 1960. On that day, a little bit of scattered ice could be seen in the Northumberland Strait for first time that year. A slight mist of rain and snow fell two days later and the Strait was then white with ice.

First snowstorm of the year occurred Jan. 26 but it quickly turned milder and rained. Turned cold at 14 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Jan. 30.

Long time resident Billie MacMillan Sr. suffered a slight stroke at his home on Feb. 10. Billy was the island road superintendant. He made sure that Pictou Island’s only dirt road was maintained. Margaret MacDonald, our island nurse, continually monitored his condition. Three days later, Nurse Margaret requested a helicopter be sent to transport Billie to the Pictou hospital. The chopper arrived within two hours and it landed on a hayfield beside Billie’s house. Billie along with his wife Annie Jane were immediately transported to the Pictou hospital. Billie and Annie Jane were the parents of Arnold, Charlie, John Angus, Lorne, Verna, Rita, Nina, Hilda and Ethel.

The weather again turned mild and by Feb. 20 any snow that was on the ground had melted. Snowstorm on Feb. 26 but it was still mild with the wind from the southeast and the snow didn’t last long.

Billy and Annie Jane returned home to the island via mail plane on March 1. It appears that they brought winter weather back with them. Worst snowstorm off that year happened on March 9. It was cold and the wind was blowing and drifting snow everywhere. The road was blocked with snowdrifts over six feet high. It was four days later before John Angus MacMillan was able to open the road.

The wind is continually blowing every day from the north and remaining very cold. It remained cold throughout most of March and snow flurries persisted almost every day. It turned milder with southerly winds on March 27. The Strait ice began to scatter quickly. Kelly MacCallum had been staying with Billie & Annie Jane MacMillan. Kelly had come to our place that morning. His sheep had returned home from the island’s north side the previous fall. One of my father’s sheep had been mixed in with Kelly’s flock. Kelly had looked after the sheep and informed my father that it could stay with his flock over the winter months.

The sheep had given birth during March and Kelly was returning the sheep and its lamb to my father that morning.

Harold Bennett made first boat trip through scattered ice from the beach and sailed right up to Magee’s wharf in Pictou on April 1. With him on that morning were my father, Duncan Rankin and Kelly MacCallum. Those men started their return trip to the island through heavy ice the next day but Bennett’s boat got stuck in the ice. They drifted east in the ice past Pictou Island quit far before they were able to get free. By this time it was late at night and solid ice was between them and the island. They’re only alternative was to return back to Pictou. Ice conditions didn’t permit their return until April 4.

The snow had all melted but there was still a lot of ice in the  Northumberland Strait on April 14. Arnold MacMillan sailed around and through scattered ice in his boat on that day while taking the schoolteacher Dave MacKay and his family over to Pictou for the Easter holidays. It blew hard on April 30 and lobster traps were being set. My father was able to put 200 traps out that day and finished the next. He hauled on May 2 and had 202 pounds. Price started the same as the previous year, 33 cents per pound canner, 35 cents per pound markets.

This was a provincial election year and The Honorable Harvey A. Veniot; Progressive Conservative candidate for Pictou West paid Pictou Islanders a visit on May 28. Pictou Island during those years was mainly settled with Tory blood. It seemed like it was always a treat to have Mr. Veniot visit with Pictou Islanders. I can still remember Harvey Veniot’s campaign slogan to this day. It went like this. (You’re wise to stay with Harvey A. Vote for him on Election Day). Among other things, Mr. Veniot was responsible for getting a new road built for island residents, a new school built, repairs to the island wharf and better telephone communications.

June 13 started out as a clear calm day but there was a haze in the air. The sky clouded over around noontime and it thundered and large chunks of hail fell. That was a kind of strange day for June.

First snowfall of 1960 occurred Dec. 8 and snow flurries continued into the 9th with the temperature at 5 degrees above Fahrenheit. My father, along with Arnold and Charlie MacMillan, moved Billie, Annie Jane, Lorne and Ethel MacMillan along with their furniture over to the mainland in their boats on December 10,1960. It was snowing and blowing hard on that day.

It remained cold with snow and blowing snow over the next few days. Drifting snow plugged the road and caused school to be cancelled on December 12.

My father and Scott Falconer started timbering Dad’s new boat BIG M. on Dec. 24 and finished the timbering on the 26th. Arnold MacMillan, Duncan Rankin, John Angus MacMillan, Bill Cole MacDonald, Logan MacDonald, Charlie MacMillan, Alvin MacLean, Campbell and Gordon MacCallum, Dougie Patterson, Bush & Frank MacDonald, Charlie Munro and Sterling and Martin MacCallum were up viewing the new boat over the next two days. That new boat was made 40 feet long and it was one of the biggest boats in this area at that time. Arnold MacMillan was up helping my father work on the boat one day and said to dad, what are you going to do with a boat this big? Now 40-plus years later, the Big M would be small compared to some of today’s fishing boats.

The Big M.