My parents and I left our longtime Pictou Island roots and moved to Central Caribou on September 2nd 1964. We were leaving behind a unique way of life and many adjustments lay ahead especially for a kid like me.
I often think about those nights on Pictou Island when our lighting at night was obtained from a couple of kerosene lanterns. Our drinking water and wash water was obtained from an outside hand pump attached to a dug well. Buckets of water would have to be carried indoors on a regular basis. I recall those many cold winter days when we had to shovel a path through several feet of snow to get to our little wooden outhouse. These are just a few customs that changed with our move to the mainland some 50-plus years ago. I was totally amazed to be moving into a house that had electricity and indoor plumbing.
One thing, however, that I was really going to miss leaving behind was the Pictou Island music. I was therefore very surprised to find out that we had moved right next door to another musical family in Caribou. Austin and Kay Baird with their young family of four girls, Ann, Connie, Susan and Jennie were our new next door neighbors. Austin and Kay Baird were very musically inclined especially with playing guitars. Shirley Munro Rankin had previously given me guitar lessons on Pictou Island so it was right up my alley to be living next door to a family that possessed so much musical talent.
It didn’t take very long before the Baird household became my second home. Kay was a wonderful lady who was very persistent in teaching me to play along with their country and western music.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, famous country music singers included such people as Hank Williams, Stonewall Jackson, Kitty Wells, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. An old country favored that Stonewall Jackson had made a number one hit was called Don’t be Angry. It was one of Austin’s favourite songs to sing and it soon became one of mine. Kay would sing a number of Kitty Wells hits that included one called Honky Tonk Angles. She also did a magnificent job with Loretta Lynn’s number one hit, Coal Miners Daughter. Their daughter’s Ann, Connie, Susan and Jennie during those years ranged in ages four to ten and would sing while their parents accompanied them with their guitars.
I think back to those many nights when a number of people would gather at the Baird home to play music. Aubrey and Pearl Moland from Pictou would regularly stop by and participate in the music making. Aubrey was very good with playing the guitar and I believe the fiddle. Allen and Gail Jankov from Caribou Island would also make it a priority to join in on those many musical evenings. Allen played a number of musical instruments including guitar, piano and also did a tremendous job with his mandolin. A young lady named Elizabeth Coulter from Tatamagouche was a frequent visitor to the Baird home. Elizabeth was a well know young singer who performed on television shows such as Country Hoe-Down and Don Messers Jubilee.
It was a big event 40-plus years ago for any talent to get together and perform at neighboring community halls or fire halls on Saturday nights. I remember those places being crammed with people who would come out to hear local talent at its best. The ladies auxiliary of those small communities would provide refreshments for all in the line of sandwiches and soft drinks. Austin, Kay and their daughters had been regularly entertaining at many of those functions prior to me moving to the mainland. Now I was encouraged and welcomed to be involved with them at those outings. We often toured locally and were known as The Baird Family Plus One. There was a gentleman by the name of Clifford Foote from Linacy. Mr. Foote was very active in promoting local talent and he would regularly organize concerts at the Linacy Community Fire Hall. Mr. Foote passed away in November of 2002 at 92 years of age. I clearly recall Cilfford Foote calling Kay Baird on the telephone and requesting their presence at a Saturday night concert. After a few hours of resheral, Austin, Kay, Ann. Connie, Susan, Jennie and myself would cram along with our three guitars into Austin’s car and off we would go.
Those delightful years have to quickly gone by. Aubrey Moland and Kay Baird have also since passed on. The walls of the old Baird home that had once contained beautiful music have been torn down.
Memories are treasures to hold.
Since I wrote this story many years ago, Aubrey’s wife Peal and Austin Baird have since passed.