I recently viewed an areal picture of Pictou Island dated 1954 and was stunned at the amount of visible cleared land comparing to today. The picture brought back memories of beautiful fields of grain, wheat or hay grown for all island farms. Those many fertile fields are now covered with trees, brush or weeds.
All fields on the south side of the road were mostly cleared. There were cleared fields beginning at the west wharf and going almost all the way to the island’s north shore of property then belonging to Billie and wife Annie Jane MacMillan. Adjacent to the MacMillan farm was Ernie and Janet Rankin’s farm with similar cleared lands.
I am told a story by Judy Rankin Turple who was a granddaughter to the MacMillans. She says that lights from Prince Edward Island could be clearly seen at night from her grandparent’s upstairs bedroom window. Lands belonging to Campbell MacCallum and going east almost a kilometer to Jack Rankin’s were cleared fields almost extended to the northern shore.
This again has me reflecting back to those days in the 1950s and 1960s when I was a young boy living there. There were approximately 175 people residing year round on that tiny island during those years. In 1958 there were approximately 45 students going to the little one-room school including myself being in Grade 1 at the time. That little schoolhouse was situated approximately mid-point on Pictou Island and we kids walked to and from every day. There were always fun events for us islanders even way back 50-plus years ago.
I remember the fun that we island kids would have at such events like Young Peoples, Explorers and Sunday Bible School. I recall those regular Friday night card games that were held in the last school that was built in 1959. That one-room schoolhouse would be crowded with islanders vying for first, second and third prizes at the weekly card games.
That is were my 87-years young mother who even today is a keen card player started her card playing career. She usually won first prize then as she continues to do today at local community card games.
Then there were the regular old time dances that were held at the island’s community hall. The beautiful music as I remember was always provided by such Pictou Islanders as Vernie & wife Isabel Rankin, Charlie and wife Ida Munro, Alfie MacLean, Edward Rankin, and Melvin MacDonald. That music from guitars, banjos, fiddles and piano would rock the walls of the old hall. Not only did Pictou Islanders attend this fun event but also crowds from the mainland and even Prince Edward Islanders would frequent.