The story of Alice McLean

A message from James Mclean

My greatest memories of my childhood were the times I would visit with my dear grandmother Mclean. Oh how I remember the day, driving down to Saint John with my younger sister Rita and my older sister Cathy. It was a sunny afternoon, Good Friday and I could feel the excitement in the air as we drove down to finally be able to see and visit with her in the hospital. I knew she was sick but I did not understand how bad she really was. When we arrived there my mother had met with us outside of her room and started to explain to us that we were losing her. My whole world seemed to stand still at that very moment and I did not know what to do or what to say. As I watched the look on my mother’s face and the tears that she had in her eyes I could tell that she had been crying for a long time. It felt to me that a great force had reached out and grabbed my heart right out of my chest. Mum had said that we could go in one at a time to say our finally good-byes. I am not sure who went first but I do remember when it was my turn. As I opened the door the room seemed dark and oh how her lovely face seemed to have a beautiful illumination, like an angle had reach out to take her under its wing. I bravely walked towards her bed and as I gently touched her hand I looked upon her for one last time. The tears in my eyes flowed steadily now and I gave her one last farewell, kissing her on the forehead and saying, “I love you Grammy”.

There was so much I wanted to ask her and how I wished I spent more time with her back then. After her death my mother came across a letter Alice had written to her granddaughters talking about her life and what it was like growing up around the town of Oxford and the river of Blacks River, Nova Scotia and later as she continue on in her life. As I read through her letter and started to picture in my mine what her family was like I too started looking back into my own childhood. I could see how my family would spend time together on summer trips to the lake, barbecues under a hot sun and waiting for the night to fall.

When we went to see my grandmother Alice, my younger sister Rita and I would sneak into an old barn out in back of her home (oh the fun we did have in that old barn even though mum did not want us in there) or the smell of my grandfather creamery stills lives in my memories today. I think that if my grandmother were alive today she still would be telling stories of the old days and how things are different from back then. I did take with me into my adulthood a value system that she used back then and I use these simple principles today. As I typed her story it brought to me a special feeling of not only a warm love that only a grandson and a grandmother can share but the wisdom she had held dear to her, I hold dear to me today. People who knew her felt a very special feeling of love towards her and she was well known in the community of Harvey, NB.
I give to you her story, written by Alice and retold by me, her grandson
James McLean.

Written sometime in 1985

Dear Granddaughters:

I am eighty years old now so I may not have many years ahead of me. I never knew my grandmother and I feel that I missed a lot. My grandmother Gordon died long before I was born and my grandmother Wood when I was a very young child. I do not remember her face but I do remember of her giving me a little blue plate. It must have been broken for I no longer have it.

I was born on February 4, 1905 at the home of my parents Gay and Emma Gordon; the 9th child in a family of 13. I was told that it was the “winter of the deep snow”—the fences were covered over and the roads were deep in drifts, but somehow the doctor was able to get out to the farm, over four miles from town — Oxford — our community was called “Black River,” so named for the river which flowed through the area and joined the river Philip at Oxford.

The river played a large part in my memories of home. In the spring of the year it flooded and covered the fields of the farm, a real roaring torrent, but in the summer, it was confined in its banks and was a shallow meandering stream with only a “few deep holes”. In the summer we were allowed to play in the river, but it was never deep enough to learn to swim where we played. We always set off armed with soap and towels so that we would come back “clean”.

My dad did mixed farming, there were fields of grain as well as hay, large vegetable gardens to feed the family all year and probably some for the market. There were cows and sheep and hens and geese, everything that goes with a farm (in those days) always plenty to eat and comforts of home, but not always “money”.

My older left school early and worked on the farm. It took many hands to support a family of that size. My mother was a teacher before she married (very young) and she was determined that her girls would all have an education and a training of some kind. We attended a small country school, about ¼ miles from our home. Many times our family was the only pupils. However, during my years in school the “Morse” family was going and occasionally for a year there would be another family. The Morse family were very poor and not very clean. We were not encouraged to bring them home with us or visit their home. Periodically, our mother had to go through out hair and get rid of “head lice” we had picked up in school. The teacher always boarded at our house during my years at school we always walked to and from school and came home at noon for our hot dinner. Not much time to tarry along the way. When I was 4 years old (41/2 really) I felt lonely when my sister 2 years older was already in school, so the teacher said I could go too, no rules or regulations in those days–one regularly started at 5 years anyway. I had already been learning a deal from Sister Martha–so I went very happily to school. I was soon promoted to next class, so I was able to finish my grade XI in 1920 at the age of 15.

In our family the girls seemed to come in pairs, two years apart, so Martha and I were always “bosom pals,”—we slept together, we played together and we went to school together– and I suppose we “fought” together and ganged up on our brother Ross, two years older than Martha. We had no outside friends to depend on but always had enough playmates in our family. We could play our games together. I remember how we played “hop scotch” in our bare feet in the summer. The fine sandy soil being easy on our feet. I remember how we played “dolls” and cut out paper dolls. There was always a new doll for Christmas, and our paper dolls were cut out of catalogues or faction sheets, that mother would bring from the store when she went shopping. She would also bring a tiny box of wax crayons for each of us girls– I think they were 1 cent a box and they melted in your fingers. We were allowed to play in the big bedroom over the kitchen during cold weather, a stovepipe went up through it so we were cozy there. In the warm weather we had many play areas, and moved from one to the other. There was a “back” kitchen and a woodshed joined to the main house–and upstairs over that was a great place, under the slanting roof — we organized and re-organized it every spring and played “house.” When we tired of that we sometimes moved over to the “granary” where there was also an upstairs and it would take days of scrubbing and cleaning to get it to suit us– probably by then we had lost interest. We had our chores to do too, dish washing was a high priority for the girls, and with the large family there were lots of dishes to do– so each as she grew old enough had to her share. The boys did the barn chores and we all helped fill the wood box in the kitchen. I remember too on washing day taking turns with the ironing, using the flat irons heated on the kitchen range. Mother was fussy about us learning to iron well. Then when mother did the weekly churning for butter, both for the table and for market–we were called into service to turn the churn– there seemed to be never ending chores on the farm– the cows to bring in from the pasture in the summer; blueberries to pick– first wild strawberries and then blueberries. The blueberries were especially plentiful and became a very important part of our diet. I remember mother’s famous “blueberry turnover” that she baked in a huge bake pan– never a crumb left over!

I remember our Christmases in those early years how we prepared for months ahead, how mother would bring home sheets and sheets of brightly colored tissue paper and we would cut it up carefully into strips and using home made paste, make yards and yards of chains to decorate our tree and the house. Then during the last pre- Christmas days we would bring in fur twigs and make garlands across the ceiling in the dining room and hang gorgeous big red paper bell in the centre– the lovely smell!! Our tree came in only on Christmas Eve and we decorated it with out paper chains. We hung our stockings in a row in the kitchen and miraculously Santa Claus was able to fill so many.

I remember Sundays when I was very young. We were 4 miles or more from our church (Baptist) in Oxford and too large a family for everyone to go out to church– for a while we had a Sunday school in our schoolhouse but really have very faint recollections of it. What I do remember is sitting around the hot air register in the living room while an older sister read Bible stories to us called “Early steps for young Disciples.” Later I would take my turn in reading to the younger ones. We were rather strict Baptist and Dad & Mother would not allow us to play cards “with spots on them.” We could play “Rook” which were so much the same but was considered “harmless” — Sunday were for rest but we were allowed to play outside as we wished ant to read — and Dad often took us on long walks.

Saturday night was “bath” night and when we were still young enough or before we began to be too modest the wash tub was brought in beside the kitchen range — filled with warm water from the reservoir on the stove or from the tea kettle and one after another we had a good scrubbing– making sure that the neck and the ears were clean. Later as we grew older the tub was taken to a place for more privacy. We never had a bathroom of course in those days–we had water pumped into the kitchen sink from a well in the yard, and it was pumped by hand. No electricity ever in that farm house. Most of our beds had “straw ticks” instead of mattresses. Twice a year they were emptied and refilled with nice fresh straw– then they would be plump and high and it was fun getting used to them again– gradually the straw settle down and looked like a more normal bed.

During my early years our grandfather Gordon came to live with us. He was stooped over and used a cane and he suffered from asthma a good deal. The front parlor was turned into a bedroom for him and we did not go in there without being invited. He had his own special rocking chair in a corner of the kitchen and could be of help rocking a cradle or interfering in a quarrel between the other little people who were always around. We respected his cane and kept it out of reach of it. Grandpa died at 82 years when I was 9 years old.

That was 1914 and the beginning of World War 1. It changed our lives as it did all Canadians. My brother Howard enlisted when he was old enough and was one of the many whom never returned. My cousin Rex Gordon, the same age as Howard, was also killed, three uncles saw service in France and one became a prisoner of war for 3 years. My mother became involved in Red Cross work and even in school we began to learn to knit and sew and raise money for Red Cross. I was a teenager when the war ended in 1918. I remember walking 4 miles to Oxford to celebrate and watch the burning of Kaiser (in effigy) rather barbarous wasn’t it?

The war brought a degree of prosperity I suppose for after that we had a car (a 490 Chev), I don’t remember what year it was, but we were able to get about easier after that. Town did not seem to be as far away as it did with the horse and buggy or the sleigh. Now we could drive out to church on Sunday evening and my spiritual life became more developed. My sister Martha and I were baptized in the Baptist Church the same evening and that was the high light in my life. I won’t say that I immediately became a good Christian but at lease I was on my way, as I am still on my way at 80.

In the meantime our family were scattering. I was still home on the farm, Stanley got married and settle on grandfather’s old farm, Howard was dead in war, Nell had been teaching in western Canada, Lyda also teaching and soon married. May taught school for one year and then joined Nell in Regina. We were all 13 at home for one brief spell just before Howard went overseas and Albert was an infant.

When I finished my grade X in the country school I was sent along with Martha to school in Oxford. By this time I was ahead of Martha due to her ill health. She never fully recovered from the “flu” in 1918, which struck our whole family. I was one of the tough ones and came through with no lasting effects, but Martha developed tuberculosis or “Consumption” as it was often called then. We had been living in the home of an older woman, having our room and kitchen privileges and bringing our food from home. Now I moved across the street and lived the rest of the year with Aunt Carrie and Uncle Alfred Gordon. I wrote my grade XI provincial paper and also a set of papers called M.P.Q. (Minimum Provincial Qualifications) which would enable me to teach with a third class license in Nova Scotia. Wonder of wonders I passed them all (not really high marks) so I was a qualified teacher at 15. That August I went teaching in a nearby district “Valley Road” between us and Spring Hill. A large school, grade 1 to 9, I wonder if I taught them anything?? I know I was scared at first, but I worked hard. I went back home on weekends. One day in November a friend, one who worked for my dad and was like one of the family came to me to say Martha had died. I knew of course that is was coming but it was a great blow. She was just 17 years old, a pretty girl, much more out-going than I and generally loved. It was hard for me to go back to teaching so the family persuaded me to give it up in mid-term about Feb. 1, I think. The remainder of that year I studied French and Latin under the tutorship of the teacher who was boarding at home. I was able to bring my marks up to a point that I could enroll at Acadia Seminary in Wolfville that fall in the senior class. That was a busy summer with getting me ready to go. My sister Lyda was living near by that year with her two small boys but she came and helped mother sew my clothes. Lyda was a beautiful seamstress and my things were really well made. We couldn’t afford “store” clothes. My older sister helped by sending materials to make up. I was really pampered. Dad took me and my trunk, etc. to Parrsboro and put me on the ferry that crossed to Wolfville and so I began my year at the seminary. I was shy and scared, but I put on a brave face and I settled in with a nice roommate. It was a happy year, I grew in knowledge and in many ways, maturity most of all. It was a beautiful and new experience for me, and after all these years I still feel grateful to the family for making it possible. I graduated from the seminary that spring of ’22. I wished with all my heart that I could have gone back for my degree, but I was thankful for what I had. I applied for a school again that summer and in the fall went to “Glenville” an adjoining district, again I had a good sized school with grades 1 10 VIII, but I was much more sure of myself. I boarded up a hill across a field from the school and during the winter I had to use my snowshoes a lot to get there.

The summer came again and Nell & her husband Bill Ralston were home for a vacation. They had moved to Pinewood, Ontario where Bill was an operator at the C.N.R. Station, Nell was teaching in the town school there and she persuaded me to go back with them to a nearby country school that was without a teacher. Salaries were much better than in Nova Scotia. That was a large school in a rather poor district, with several nationalities. I boarded with a French family, who were kind but not in the way of home comforts. My room was bare and uncomfortable, and I had little privacy. I walked about 2 miles to school and I carried my lunch, how happy I was on the weekends when Bill would come and pick me for over Sunday. Well the year went by and in July Bill was transferred to Hodgsen Manitoba where he was to be station master for the next years. I had to make a decision, should I go back home to NS or should I go along with them to Manitoba and try to find a school there. I went to Manitoba but alas, they would not accept my NS certificates. Nell and Bill always came to my rescue. After much consultation it was decided that I go back to school for another year and then to Normal school in Winnipeg. Prospects were still so much better in Western Canada then the East. Consequently that fall I went to Winnipeg and boarded at St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic boarding school for girls. Another new experience, we dressed in black uniforms, with white colors, black stockings. Our dress uniforms were made the same, young and old. Rules were very strict, we never left the grounds alone, and we were taken for a walk with a “sister” leading and walked in two’s very sedately along the sidewalks—that was our chief outing, unless a relative came to visit and took you out. We slept in the dormitory, each little cubicle with a curtain to pull for privacy; one soon became accustomed to it. We had an allotted time to prepare for bed and then lights out, followed by prayer all together. Protestant girls were not required to join the prayer but should do your own. Everything was regulated all day, bells rang to get up, to go to chapel, to breakfast, to classes etc. we studied in the study hall at night and went to chapel again before bedtime, there was not a great deal of “free” time. Beside the boarders there were a great many “day” pupils, and a good number of “Protestant” girls among them. One of my long time friends “Evelyn Bolton” was one of those “day” pupils, and I still cherish her friendship. I studied hard that year and in the spring graduated with “honors” second in the class. I have always had fond memories of my months at S.M.A. Actually our graduation exercises did not take place until the following September because our marks had to come from the Department of Education and it was mid summer before we knew we had passed. By that time I was enrolled in “Normal School,” later called “teacher’s College’ also in Winnipeg, and boarding at the Smiths’ on Horne Street just off Portage Avenue. I had a nice room off by myself on the 3rd floor at the Smiths’, a good place to study. Lily took other boarders too, so Merle Mann, who became a good friend, and who was a cousin to Evelyn Bolton lived there, as well as two Scotchmen who were bankers. They had a home built radio, and occasionally we were invited to their room to listen in. By the way the first radio I heard was while at S.M.A. when our English teacher had what they called a “crystal” set with ears phones and it was a privilege as a senior to be asked down to the classroom at night to hear a program. Normal school was also experience; I was in the senior class working for a first class license. I think we had excellent teachers. I made many more new friends and I enjoy living in Winnipeg. There was a Baptist Church near by and I went regularly, and even joined the youth group, I never really got to feel at home there. In the meantime my vacations were being spent with Nell and Bill up at Hodgsen which was at the end of the line on C.N.R. running north from Winnipeg. We were not far from Lake Winnipeg but in those day’s horrible roads. I used to travel up to Hodgsen for Christmas, Easter and summer holidays on the train which was a mixed train for freight and passengers. It took all day!

I remember at Easter I was on the train wearing my new spring coat and hat etc and when we got to the last town before Hadgson (I forgot its name) the track was washed out with the spring flooding, so I finished the trip on a land car used by the section men with the conductor, the train agent and another passenger. I remember that it was cold! I made one life long friend in Hadgson too, Toots (Marie) Bird, who’s father was a doctor to the Indian reservation just a few miles from Hadgson. I spend many happy days with Toots and the family at the “Halfway” as they called it. I have never lost touch with her since, and she visited on one occasion in Harvey.

Well Normal school ended. I passed all my papers and began to apply for a school. When August came I found myself down south in Manitoba at “Snowflake” near the border of North Dakota, USA. It was on a branch line of the CPR and the train came down there just three days a week. It was a grain growing area and had a number of elevators, a busy little town, with a hotel, three stores, two churches, garage, curling club, board sidewalks, some nice homes, etc. The school had three rooms and I taught grades IV, V and VI. I was there for two years. At the end of the first year I took a trip back home. I had been gone for so long; nearly four years. My younger brother and sister had grown up in that time. I stayed home all summer and I met Elwood. Ken was working in the Oxford Creamery that summer and he brought Elwood out to the farm. That was the beginning of our courtship! We had sort of an understanding at that time but I had to go back to my job. The next year I again came home for vacation and we became engaged. Most of our courtship was by letter because I still went back west. I borrowed money from Nell and Bill and I wanted to pay it off before I got married.

In the fall of ‘28 I went back on the train that they called the “Harvey Excursion”, to save money. It was pretty rugged travelling. My cousin Florence MacKenzie was along or I would never have tried it. We made out ok and I arrived at Fairlight Sask. in time to take my school there. Nell and Bill had moved again in the meantime and I had followed on so that I could spend my last year of teaching near them. This time I had a little “prairie” school, back to grade eight again, walking along the prairie trail and carrying my lunch once more. One of my jobs as a teacher was to count “Gopher Tails” which the children brought in. Gophers were in abundance and there was a “bounty” paid on them by the government, so I counted! It was while teaching there that I became accustomed to driving over winter roads in those little “houses” on runners, which charcoal foot warmers at my feet. The place where I boarded was cold; water would freeze in my room over night. I had to have tons of blankets to keep warm. One nice thing my landlady always sent a dish of steaming hot to my door in the morning. It helped thaw me out! I spend all my weekends in town with Nell and Bill as usual and Nell and I sewed for my “trousseau”, and quilted a quilt for me. Their “Gay” was a dear little girl by then and very fond of me, her Aunt “Ass”. It was always so nice to go “home” to a warm cosy room at their place although those “station” accommodations were not very spacious. That year I went on to Regina at Christmas and spent a few days with May & Harold and their little family. I think it was just Gordon & Vivian then. That year at Fairlight I made my highest salary, $ 100 a year!

I came home to Nova Scotia at the end of June, that part of my life was over and a new phase was to begin.

Elwood and I were married on July 24, 1929 in Black River at the old homestead. We exchanged our vows beneath an archway decorated with ferns and flowers and Estelle & Muriel were my attendants. Edgar stood up with Elwood. It was pretty well a family gathering. I had been gone too long to have many old friends available, but it was a lovely summer’s day and all went well. Elwood and I left for a trip to P.E.I. for a few days of honey mooning, and we returned we got busy settling into our new quarters on Main Street. We rented the lower floor and Gram & Grampa Mclean lived upstairs that year, as they had to move from the house in South Oxford about the same time. Elwood went back to being very busy at the Oxford Creamery, which he had been managing for a few years.

We lived in Oxford until May 31, 1934. During that time we had moved twice, when the places we were in were sold. First move took us up on James Street and then later to the house we bought. On May 3, 1930 our dear little daughter Patricia Margaret was born. We were still on Main Street then and she was born at home, with a dear little private nurse with me, later she was to marry Tommy MacDermand the Minister at the Baptist Church at that time. By the time Bill arrived in Aug. 1931 we were in our own house on _______ Street and Bill was born in Springhill Hospital. That was an old house so we worked hard at getting it into shape, painting, papering, putting in a furnace and a bathroom, fixed up the lawn, making a garden, they were busy years. We had such nice neighbors too, we were very happy there. However the Creamery business showed no signs of expanding and the Brookfield Creamery in Truro was crowding us. Elwood & his father saw a chance of doing better in New Brunswick at Harvey Station, which became known for its Jersey herds. Consequently we sold the business in Oxford to Brookfield Creamery, sold our house and came to Harvey. That summer the Harvey Creamery was built and ready for business. Our house in Oxford financed one pasteurize evaporator for the new creamery. It sounded very sad to me at the time. We rented a house in Harvey (sight unseen). Gram & Grampa Mclean got the house next to the building what is now called B&L apartments. It was a confortable house with a furnace and a bathroom. Ours was the one on the hill, Henselpacker Road, now owned by Lloyd Wood. Another cold house! It was just a shell of a house, with a barn attached at the end of the kitchen. When winter came we froze “literally”. The teakettle would freeze on the kitchen stove overnight when the fire went out (we were burning wood in the kitchen). Our space heater in the living room had coal and we eventually set up a third stove in the front room. Anyway by the first February we about gave up and I took the children and went back to Oxford to the farm for a month and Elwood moved in with his parents. By the time we came back home the weather was not so cold and we were able to manage the rest of the winter. I remember sometimes my feet would be so cold I would put Elwoods heavy wool socks on and stick my feet in his shoes to clump around the kitchen. I would put some sticks of hardwood in the oven and have them hot to roll up in a cloth to warm the children’s beds. It was lovely there in the summer though and we could look down over the lake. Pat was 4 and Bill nearing 3 when we came to Harvey and they soon adjusted to the change. Again we had kind; loving neighbors and we soon made friends. The creamery began to flourish and we soon could “eat” better again. At first I helped make up the “cream sheets” as they were called, figuring out each patron’s account according to the % of butterfat. As time went on it became too time consuming and I was glad when the firm could afford a full time office girl. That was Arleen Swan. By the winter of ’35 & ’36 Lloyd Wood bought our house and we had to move. I think it was early march, another old house across the track this time by Davis Store, and (one house between). We fixed it up as well as we could but right away decided to start building our own house. There was no basement under that house either and the spring that we lived there, there was always a pool of water under it. However that was an early spring. I remember the leaves budding out in March, and the Saint John River rose to great heights and took out the railroad bridge.

Well, we built our house that summer and we moved into it about Dec. 1. It was all wired for electricity but not yet connected up, the power lines were just coming to Harvey. We were still using oil lamps. We must have been pumping our water with a gasoline pump because we were using the bathroom. We had a wood furnace and kitchen stove and at last we were warm and cosy. Pat had already started to school that fall, in the one room school just up the hill from us. That summer of 1937 Harvey was celebrated its “Centennial” of its settlement and that was a “gala” event with everyone helping in some way.

I am going to go back here a few years to the time we were living in Oxford. When we were first married I was still a member of the Baptist Church and Elwood was a member and very active in the United Church. He sang in the choir too. At first we went back and forth between the two churches but eventually after we had the two children we felt that we must make a decision and that decision was in favour of the United Church. So I had my membership transferred and we had the children baptised. Our good friend and Minister Arthur Facher performed the rites. Now we seemed to be more of a family. After that I became more active in the work of the church and when we came to Harvey that first year we got Pat & Bill into Sunday school. I hope that those early years of training stood them well in their later years so that they never entirely disregard their church and eventually become more dedicated. Elwood still sang in the choir. I joined the St. James sewing circle and from then on was a member for as long as it existed, which was up until the St. James Church was sold to the Baptists in 1983(?). it had been our church for so long that I had many regrets. Pat had been married there, Gram & Grampa Mclean had been buried from there and eventually Elwood too. But I am getting ahead of my story!

As I have already said, we built our house in 1936, and Elwood’s parents built beside us the next year. As you see we were never far away from them but they were the best of “in laws” and I loved them. They never interfered in my life and were always there to help.

The creamery business continued to grow and expand, more trucks were needed and the road and more employees. Elwood was up at the break of dawn and often came home near midnight, during the summer when there was so much cream to handle. He seemed to be at home just long enough to eat his meals.

We had a Model T Ford car by that time, I can’t remember when we traded in the old one, and began to drive, getting a driver’s license was very easy then, Elwood taught me all I knew and then told them a Swan’s garage that I was ready for my permit and they issued it without me ever having a test. I remember the first time I took the car out on my own for a longer drive. I had the children along and we went out to Maguadavis and back, made the circle, and when I came back Elwood pointed out that I had made the trip all in low gear! From then on I always had my driver’s license but I did not drive much. I always content to let someone else drive. The first time I went by myself back to Nova Scotia, I took the children, both in school by then and went down for two weeks or more with mother and dad on the farm. I was quite nervous starting out, with all sorts of instructions from Elwood and I took the route from Cole Island to Salisbury, which was then unpaved and little traffic. I could stop more often and we had a picnic lunch with us. Pat and Bill had always been prone to “car sickness” so I had to be prepared for that. However, that day they were so busy telling me what to do that they neither one got sick! When I arrived in Oxford I immediately phoned back to let Elwood know I had arrived.

We built our cottage (or camp) on Oromocto Lake soon after that. Earl had three little cottages there that he rented in the summer so our’s was the first privately owned. And so much of the time we were there alone with the whole cove as our playground. We stayed mostly on weekends, but sometimes the children and I would stay a week at a time, but never lived there for the whole summer. We had a good boat and a motor and Elwood loved to go across to the “Jaws” to fish pickerel. We all loved the water! Bill spent many hours building rafts and falling off them. Once he went down head first and broke his nose on the lake bottom! Once on a fishing trip across the lake he got hooked through the lip with a lure and came home with it dangling all the way and had to get to the doctor. As time went on the lake was not so popular unless we took friends along with us, which we did very often. We never lacked for a place to go swimming in those days. The Harvey Lake shore was good and clean and before we ever had a cottage we spent so many summer afternoons there, with our friends the Cougles and others!

The war years came again in ’39 and many changes for everyone; we all became involved in one way or another. Elwood was even busier at his work when it was harder to hire help. I became involved in the Red Cross, and in the following many years I think I held every office except that of treasurer, and learned to knit sweaters for the armed forces and to sew the many garments that were sent overseas, our hands were always busy. We were always cutting or sewing or packing, and going to meetings and having drives to collect money. There were farewell parties for the young men before they were sent overseas and later when the war was over parties to welcome them home. The war in Europe ended in May 1945. Pat was 15 years old and going to school in McAdam, boarding that first year with the Cougles. Bill was still in little school. Elwood bought the Island on Magaguadavic Lake that summer and we named it “Wildwood Island”. That was a new venture for us! We had first visited the Island on a weekend in 1937 with a group of Harvey friends and when Elwood saw it for sale, he could not resist it. We owned it for 20 years. It brought pleasure and problems both. But on the whole we spend many happy summers there. By the summer of 1949 we had built two more small cottages and had hired a couple to run it as a tourist outfit. That did not turn out to be profitable so after two years we had to make a change and in 1952 we began to spend our summers there running it ourselves and continued to do so until the end of 1966 when Elwood was no longer able to handle it. We sold it in the spring of 1967.

In the meantime Elwood had sold off the creamery business to a group of local farmers. It had got to be a stain on him and we feared that his health was failing. That was 19? I think. We still had considerable money in the mortgage for a few years. But Elwood loved new ventures so he bought out a piece of land down the road and began to go into the greenhouse business, looking ahead to when Bill might be interested in it. Pat finished high school 1947 and went off to Acadia University to study home economics for 4 years. Bill took his high school work in the New High School in Harvey and after graduation 1949 went up to Niagara Parks apprenticed gardener, at the school run by Niagara Parks Commission, no family at home now. My mother had died in 1940 (I think) in June. I had spent a month or more with her before her death, taking my turn along with others of my sisters. I was with her when she died. We had got a young woman to keep house for us here in Harvey while I was away to look after the children and Elwood. She had been working at the creamery so just moved over here in the meantime. The last few years my mother & dad had left the farm and moved into a small house on the outskirts of Oxford and that is where she died. Dad lived on there and later Nell came back home to live with him and take care of him. By that time she was a window. Pat finished at Acadia and went on to Montreal General Hospital for her internship, and then took a position as Head Dietician at Fredericton Hospital. Bill finished his course at Niagara and came back to the greenhouse business.

How very busy those years were and looking back, and they went so fast! Elwoods father had died and Edgar and his family had moved into Gram’s house to live with her. Then Gram had a stroke and spent 7 years in bed, a real heavy load for Marge. She died in 1955 (?).

Pat & Bob Reid were married in September 1954, here in Harvey and then she was gone, with only short visits home after! By the next July we were grandparents for the first time. I took time away from the “Island” to go to New Glasgow Nova Scotia to welcome “Janet Noreen”. It is great to be a grandmother!

It did not seem long until Bill and Evelyn were married too, just after Christmas in 1956 and then we were helping them to get settled in the house on greenhouse property, and before long we were welcoming Catherine Alice to our family! Since then we have added others, first John by adoption to Pat’s family while they were living in Newfoundland. Then Robert came along to Bill and Evelyn. Later three others by adoption Jimmie, Rita and tom, all very dear to me.

Now to go back again to the year we the Wildwood property at Magaguadavic, that winter Elwood and I along with the Cougles took our “long talked of” trip to the Caribbean, Elwoods health was failing and it appeared that we should do it soon if at all. We left three couples. It was a Norwegian vessel but the Captain and crew could all speak English. We were in high spirits when we left. However as we moved South we ran into a terrific storm off Cape Hatteras, and at its height Elwood was thrown from his chair and sustained a broken hip. What to do?

There was no doctor on board and the captain decided it would be best to go on to Barbados, just as short as turning back into an American port. It took 2 more days and poor Elwood was in bad shape by then. The Captain looked after us well and had a doctor at the dock when we arrived there early in the morning. In a very short time we were in an ambulance on our way to a hospital some distance away. It was a beautiful hospital run by a Catholic order of Sisters from the States. The surgeon who took care of Elwood was from Ontario. We settle in and I was allowed to “live in” at the hospital. Our friends went on their way to finish the cruise. Elwood’s hip was fixed up and we stayed 2 more weeks in a guess house before we flew back home. Elwood’s health continued to deteriorate after that, and he had several setbacks. We went to Winnipeg in the summer of 1969 but Elwood did not really enjoy it and did not remember it afterwards. It was a very strenuous trip for us, really.

Then in December 1969 Elwood fell downstairs and broke his wrist that was really the beginning of the end. He spent some time in hospital and then at home, back and forth. We took him to Saint John and he was in Neurosurgery for a time, then to East Saint John to get him on his feet again and eventually back home in May. He died on December 6 1971, after being a bed patient for over a year. Poor dear, he did not know us in that last year!

Life goes on. I was very tired that winter after Elwood’s death. Nell came towards spring and spent a month or more with me, and I gradually got things organized and back to normal. Now I had to get used to living alone and doing things alone. I was fortunate to have my home here in Harvey with so many friends and good neighbours and I could drive my car and be independent.

Since then I live one day at a time and try not to worry about the future. I have two more trips to Winnipeg over the years and Nell and I went to Barbados again in 1974. I enjoyed travelling as long as I was not alone but find no pleasure in setting off by myself. For several years I always planned on spending Christmas in Middletown with Pat’s family. I could go to Saint John and take the ferry to Digby and be met there. We had done it a few times before Elwood’s death and I continued to do it later. Christmas 1982 was the last of such visits. Before spring Pat was having health problems and by June 1982 it was certain it was cancer. I could hardly bear to face it! We planned to meet in Oxford and then I was going on down to Middletown for a while, but the day after I got to Oxford I had a heart attack and landed in Amherst Hospital. I was fortunate it was not too heavy and I made a good recovery. Four sisters and one brother were around to visit me, and Pat came up for a few days to Oxford. Pat was becoming more and more crippled but she continued to work until November 1. I went down towards the end of November and stayed with them until her death on April 9. I had got used to being without Elwood, but I did not think I could ever get used to losing my dear daughter. I prayed to God over and over that some how I might take her place and her cancer and let her live. It was not to be, and I believe that God gave me the strength to carry me and Pat’s family through it all.

In the meantime Pat’s daughter had married, why do I not write things down as they happened??  Janet graduated from Mount A. and the same summer married Allan Gaskin, so now I had a grandson-in-law. That was a happy event and the family gathered in Middletown for it. Janet & Allan settled in Halifax and later in Dartmouth and in the course of time I had my first great grandchild in September 1982 (in that family) and later another in 1984. In the meantime Cathy had married Harry Cleveland, and Jason was my first great grandchild.

Health problems have beset me off and on and I spent my 80th birthday in Saint John Hospital taking radiation. I have made a good recovery again and I feel that God has truly been good to me and blessed me in so many ways. I have had my share of happiness and of sorrow. I have had the love of a large family and a wide circle of friends, and still can enjoy living.

Alice McLean

Alice and Elwood McLean in 1957 in front of their home in the village.


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