I enjoy rekindling those years gone by when I had lived on Pictou Island. I often review my mother’s written diaries that she had always kept when living there. Sometimes certain events that she had written may revive old memories and trigger me to get my computer running.
I was surprised during the summer of 2003 to learn that Howard and Jessie MacCallum from Pictou Island also kept written daily documents. Harold Bennett had moved many years ago from the Sunny Brae area to Pictou Island. He had married Howard and Jessie’s daughter Beatrice. I was fortunate to have lived on Pictou Island during those years when they also resided and raised their family there. I visited with Harold and Beatrice and was thrilled when Bennett (as I’ve always called him) presented Howard and Jessie’s diaries to me.
We Pictou Islanders had always considered the island schoolhouse to be the center point of the island. Those of us on the west side of the school were known as West Enders while those on the opposite side were considered East Enders. Howard and Jessie were East Enders and their diaries contain east end information that mother sometimes had not recorded. The following is transcripts taken in part from the diaries of Howard (nicknamed Boom) and Jessie MacCallum’s 1957 diary.
It was typical November weather with lots of precipitation in the form of rain. It became colder on Nov. 17 with a few snow flurries in the air. Thunder and lightning storm on Nov. 21 and the rain continued right into December.
December 4, 1957 started off as a cool cloudy fall day. Ernie Rankin took a crew across to Pictou in his ferry boat early that morning and returned with many loaded 45 gallon drums of gasoline. Ernie, Red Frank MacDonald and Punch Patterson stayed aboard the ferry all night. My father Vincent Turple and Arnold MacMillan went to Caribou early the next morning in Arnold’s boat. Ernie followed in his ferry boat to transport my father’s new car back to Pictou Island. Melvin MacDonald, Charlie MacMillan, Angie Tug, Pinkie Patterson, Duncan Rankin, Bush MacDonald and a gentleman whom Beatrice called DR went along to help. Shown is my father’s new Metropolitan car that was taken to Pictou Island on that December day in 1957.
Howard MacCallum, Frank MacDonald, Hugh MacFarlane and Harold Bennett went east that same day and took the engine out of Howard’s boat. They assisted in turning the boat over for the winter. This was how the fishermen prepared their fishing boats for the winter months. Their lobster boats were much, much smaller and lighter then today’s fishing boats and could be easily moved about when taken out of the water. It appears as though a log that was holding Howard’s boat from turning completely over slipped from the stern of the boat and went down across Hughie‘s foot. From what I can make out, the bones in his foot were broken and his foot was in a cast for quite some time.
Boom had written and I do clearly recall that many islands raised their own winter’s meat. Young piglets would be taken to Pictou Island during the early springtime. Many islanders would raise one, sometimes two or even three of those young hogs and fattened them up over the summer and autumn days. It would usually be sometime during December when their hogs would be butchered. We never had any kind of refrigerating and would depend solely on Mother Nature to keep our meats frozen during the winter months. I remember my dad having a large wooden crate nailed high on the back of our house where our winter’s meats were kept frozen all winter long. I am reviewing where Duncan Rankin and Art Ferguson slaughtered their pigs on December 10th while Charlie and my father Vincent killed their pigs on December 14th. Duncan’s weighted in at 195 pounds and Art’s at 169. Charlie’s weighted 248 and Vincent’s at 186. The men went east the next day and butchered Lauchie’s Dan’s pig. It weighted 247 pounds and the last and biggest one recorded that week belonged to Lottie and Melvin MacDonald which weighted in at 326 pounds. I would have no idea what that hog would have eaten to put that much weight on over the summer months but that would be one big pig!
December came in wet with rain falling almost every day. That weather had the island’s only dirt road very muddy. John Angus MacMillan and Pinky Patterson had the dozer and grader west trying to smooth out the road. Bill Cole MacDonald and son-in-law Arnold MacMillan were able to get Bill’s truck east. They were taking the horseshoes up to Big Duncan’s so he could shoe the horse. We always knew that it was going to rain whenever John Angus and Pinky would be grading the road.
Bert MacLean made a trip over from the mainland to do repairs on his road machinery that he was leaving on the island for the winter. Young Scottie Falconer from Caribou Island came with him to assist with the maintenance.
The temperatures are not recorded but Jessie has written that scattered strait ice had come down on December 14th. Ernie’s ferryboat was hauled at the island wharf on that day. Arnold and Vincent again went to Pictou on that morning in Arnold’s boat named Rocket and these people came back with them. There was Melvin MacDonald, Bill Cole MacDonald, Charlie MacMillan, Ross MacDonald, Jack, Vernie, and Duncan Rankin, the Teacher Dave MacKay, Jessie MacCallum, Tom Flynn, Long John MacLean and Annie Jane MacMillan.
It became quite colder on December 24th with snow falling. Christmas Day 1957 was very cold at 8 below F or as we record it today minus 21 C. It was now white with ice right across to the mainland. We had our Christmas dance at the island hall that night. I assume that the music would have been provided by Charlie and Ida Munro, Vernie and Isabel Rankin with Dave Mackay and Alfie MacLean. Jessie had written that Art Ferguson’s dog was killed that same night. I have no idea what could have happen. Perhaps the poor animal was run over on the island’s main highway by a DUI.
We islanders were presented with a spectular sight early the next morning December 26th. The ships Samuel and Fergus were both stuck in the ice between Pictou and Pictou Island and we watched all day as the tides took them back and forth. It was almost dark before they became free and were able to make it back into Pictou.