Tobacco, rum and the antics that ensue …

Online First Pictou Island Memories

The year was 1953 and the Pictou Pea factory was in full operation. Many Pictou Islanders worked there seeking winter unemployment stamps. Harold Bennett was one of those Islanders.

Bennett (as he was known) had grown up in the Sunnybrae area. He remembers those years when he lived in the little village of Sunnybrae. He recalls Reid’s little store at the bottom of the hill and the William Burke family that many years ago were his neighbours. J.J Cooley’s had a lumbering operation at Sunnybrae, says Bennett. He hired me to work his yard horse for a dollar a day. Bennett says that he became adventurous one day around 1947 and sailed across to Pictou Island. There he met Howard and Jessie (Boom) McCallum’s daughter Beatrice and thereafter made several more trips to Pictou Island. Bennett and Beatrice were married in 1949 and the rest is history.

Bennett, now in his 80th year, brings to memory the fall of 1953. I had returned to the island from working at the pea factory, says Bennett, and was now preparing to cut our winter firewood.  My wife Beatrice and I with our two baby boys lived in my fishing shanty at the Pictou Island’s east end.  I think it was about that time when I decided to try and quit smoking. I was way back in the woods cutting firewood with my double bitted axe and had my pocket full of tobacco. I would chop a tree down and then sit and roll a smoke. Then I would limb the tree and sit again and light up another smoke. Next I would stack the log and then sit down and puff away again on another smoke. I looked around me and seen that I was there nearly half the day and had only a dozen tress cut. Well I took my pouch of tobacco and cigarette papers and threw them as far as I could into the bushes. Well, let me tell you, I cut more wood that afternoon then I had cut in any previous two days.

Bennett took me back to one day during that winter when he, along with Spike MacDonald, Tom Flynn Munro and Heckie Patterson, made a crossing in the Pictou Island iceboat. The return trip was a cold wintry day with lots of heavy pan ice in the Northumberland Strait. The four of us decided that a couple bottles of rum might be a good thing to take along to help keep us warm. The only problem being, states Bennett, was that Tom Flynn wanted to be real warm and had downed most of one bottle when we were only about half way across on the ice. By the time we realized what was happening, Tom didn’t know whether we were going or coming. We couldn’t make him understand that we were going to Pictou Island and not back to Caribou. Tom got in a real argumentative state and wanted to drown us all.

What could we do? Spike, Heckie and I decided to keep moving assuming that Tom would follow us from a distance. It was getting pretty late and we were about a mile from the island shore.  We stopped but we couldn’t see a sign of Tom anywhere so we ended up going back. We found Tom right where we had left him only now he was lying sound asleep on the ice. We placed him in the bottom of the iceboat and dragged him and the boat on the ice over to the island.

More great memories of years gone by.

Jimturple4@gmail.com