long weary days in the old schoolhouse. How dismal and dull it would be.
The schoolhouse was painted a dark grey inside, and the windows were so
high you could not see out of them.
I often wonder how so many people that attended that school only to make
their way in the world turned out to be very brilliant and got themselves
high positions. Your education depended on what resistance you had to
the strap, blackboard, pointer, rulers, etc. If you were scared of those
weapons you had to learn. If you defied the teachers, you would be beaten
into such a stupor you couldn't learn, such as myself.
We would be up to all kinds of tricks. I remember once that the girls
were playing a game with a ball they called "Leo". The girls
would line up, so many on either side of the schoolhouse; one would holler
"Leo" and throw the ball over the roof. Whichever one of the
other sides would catch it would have her turn to throw it back over and
holler "Leo". There were loose bricks in the schoolyard from
a repair job on the chimney and one-day while they were playing the game,
I picked up a half brick, shouted "Leo" and through it over
the roof. The screech that come back would chill you blood, it hit this
girl right on the bridge of the nose. She had stopped some of the force
with her hands but it was a dirty trick who ever did it.
We had a schoolteacher one-year from a small country place that had never
seen coal burned for heat. We always burned soft coal in the old pot
and boy what fires. You would have to hold your hand over your eyes and
reach in with a long poker to open the stove door, and throw in a scuttle
of coal; the heat would be terrific.
Once in a while if we wanted a half-day off from school, we would throw
a couple big pieces of slate rock in the stove, and after that would make
about two good bangs, the teacher would close school for the day. A good
thing the men and women of the village did not know what we were doing.
When the boys of the village would get to the age of 12 or 13 years they
would leave school in March or April to go lobster fishing with their
fathers for the spring season. They would stay away from school September
and October to work in the factory packing blue berries.
Even with all the broken school terms most of the boys and girls got grade
nine and some ten and eleven.
It was a big chore for any person to teach school then. There were usually
70 or 75 pupils ranging from grade 1 to grade eleven.
If you could see all the bread and molasses, and the big old fashioned
molasses cookies, and the cinnamon rolls in one pile that were eaten in
that school at lunch times, I'm sure it would be larger than the school
house. Most of the kids living nearer the school like my family would
go home to lunch. In the summer we would try to make it home without putting
our feet on the ground that would be by climbing a tree then jumping from
tree to tree. It was sure rough on the
cloths and our hands would be black from the balsam, but it sure gave
us a good appetite. In the fall when the fishing was good, how nice the
smell of the food would be when you opened the kitchen door. Mom would
have the dinners all on the plates as soon as you were in the door; you
would look at your plate, and see how much was on it. Quite often it would
be turnip hash and fried pork that was my favorite. I could always tell
at a glance, knowing my capacity so well, whether that plateful would
be enough or if I would have the second helping. Of course there would
usually be a fair sized piece of bread pudding for topping off with. I
remember one day my twin brother was having quite a rough time with his
bread pudding trying to cut it with a spoon. Three times, while he as
pressing with his spoon the saucer slipped out from under it and he would
have to crawl under the table among all the feet and get it.
My twin brother and I sat at the back of the table. There were nine in
all around it. Mom sat at one end and Pa at the other end. We'd dare not
disturb them to get in so in an automatic fashion, we would close the
door with one hand, take your cap off and throw it on the lounge with
the other, by this time you would be in a crouched position for the dive
under the table and up on the other side. No matter what the meal was,
there was never anything left on the plates.
Our family was brought up to a very straight and narrow path of religion
with no exceptions to the golden rules. Everybody went to church. Everybody
sang as hard as they could and prayed as hard as they could and lived
as good as they
could on Sundays. We would get real fine ministers in the parish, but
they would never stay very long. In the lean years, the minister got very
little in the collection plate. If there happened to be a dollar or a
fifty-cent piece in the plate, the minister would always ask whom the
stranger was that Sunday. I remember one minister we had a Mr. Dudley
from England, a very devoted man and a beautiful singer. I think this
would be around 1920 to 1924. He was a very tolerant person, and would
never want to cause any displeasure.
The parish covered a large section of the country, about 50 miles and
five churches. He was the first minister to have a car, a 1919 Ford. I
remember one day an uncle of mine was carrying a piece of lumber on his
shoulder and accidentally poked it through the window of the car. He sure
felt embarrassed over the incident, and went to tell Mr. Dudley. Mr. Dudley
realizing his feelings, told him, "that's quite alright, that's just
what I wanted. Now I will be able to see the road better, when it's wet
You know Pa was a very good living man, and an ardent churchgoer, and
always paid well to the church too. The younger ministers that came our
way used to like talking with him and of course Pa enjoyed that very much.
I've heard him several times say to Mom, "Have you got a dollar or
two, I don't believe that young feller has a cent." It would make
the fellow so happy.
Of course Pa liked liquor too, and sure drank his share. One time when
I was quite small Pa made a big brew. Dear knows what kind of a concoction
was. He put
the keg under the back porch to set. The fourteen days suspense and worry
of waiting was too much, more than he could stand. On the eighth day,
which was Sunday, Mom and all us kids went to Sunday school. When we returned,
there was a little stream coming from under the porch. Pa was out cold
on the kitchen floor, with a pitcher in his hand. The last trip to the
keg he didn't get the tap turned off; as far as I know that's the only
brew he ever made.