THE LIGHTHOUSE: One of the Seven Wonders of My World

By Mary Ellen Reynolds

Transcribed from the original booklet by Peggy Feltmate

Historical Note from the transcriber:
Mary-Ellen MUNROE Reynolds was born in 1908 in Whitehead, the daughter of Almon Edson Munroe (1875-1924) and Francis "Fanny" Cora Feltmate (1882-1957). Mary-Ellen married Czerny Reynolds, son of Freeman Rhynold/Reynolds and Esther Henderson. Mary-Ellen and Czerny lived in Queensport and had several children. Their daughter Eileen wrote the short introduction below and their daughter Frances gave permission for Mary-Ellen's story to put on the Tor Bay Families website. Mary-Ellen's paternal grandparents were Rufus and Eleanor (Harrigan) Munroe, and her maternal grandparents were Samuel Isaiah and Elizabeth Naomi (George) Feltmate. After the death of Mary-Ellen's father, her mother Fanny and the family moved to Watertown, Mass, USA. Mary-Ellen says in her story that she stayed behind in Canada. Mary-Ellen's daughter Frances says that The Lighthouse was only the first part of Mary-Ellen's life - the second part was when she worked as a telephone operator and raised eight kids! Mary-Ellen's mother Fanny (Feltmate) Munroe died in May 1957 in Watertown. Mary-Ellen died in Dartmouth, and is buried in the Anglican cemetery in Queensport, Guysborough County, N.S.

Feb 28 1990

The following journal was written by Mary-Ellen Reynolds in January 1989 - the year she died. Here she tells the story of the joys and sorrows of her life as a girl on Whitehead Island in Nova Scotia. Although written for her brother and two sisters, who shared her experiences, this story has much more significant meaning for the rest of her family.

The story is told in Mary-Ellen's own words, is unedited, and as she would say, we've only "thrown in a few periods and commas."

This journal reveals a piece of Mary-Ellen we would like to share with you. We hope you will appreciate it as we do. We think she would be pleased and proud of this work as we are pleased and proud of her.

A note of thanks to Liz Rodrigues and Brad Brooks for their part in helping to complete these copies.

Yours truly,
Eileen Hodgson



When you are eight years old and come home from school at the end of June with a pass mark for the year's work, you are overjoyed, especially if you are all packed and ready to go a month's vacation on an island where your father is lightkeeper. Our home was on the mainland, where our grandmother came to keep house so that we could go to school. While we were on the island, which was only a couple of months of the year, we would always refer to our mainland home as "up home".

The island is about three miles from home, by water, and I was to spend the time with my brothers and sister and any company I chose to take with me. The island is about a mile and a half long, and about a half mile wide at the narrowest part. The lighthouse, the dwelling house, the oil house, and the fog-alarm station were at the eastern part of the island and where we would land was in sort of a sheltered cove at the other end of the island. There was a boat house, a slip where they would wind their boats up, and a wharf. They would secure the motor boat at something they called "the jone" and using a small boat, would row ashore.

They landed groceries on the wharf, and these would have to be wheeled by wheel barrow or hand-barrow across the island. I always thought the hand-barrow a wonderful invention, for two of them could do the job easier.
The lighthouse, erected in 1845 was five stories high including the "cellar". The light itself was run by kerosine and air, which had to be pumped by hand. The kerosine tank was separate, and both were turned on while lighting them (kerosine and air). Then this huge mantle was placed gently over the flame. Sometimes this mantle would last a week but more times it would just fall apart, and they used three or four before it would work. This mantle would give off such a bright light that you couldn't really look at it.

There were four huge mirrors directly behind this light, and when the light from the mantle hit the center of the mirror, it would send a flash over the black ocean for miles. With the four mirrors came four flashes, our signal to let the mariner know exactly where he was. There was a weight encased in a wooden shoe top held by a heavy chain. This weight had to be wound from the bottom to the top where the light was around a cylinder. By slowly descending, this turned the mirrors. This procedure was done in the evening and again at midnight. The backs of the mirrors were concealed by a dark paint.
The "whistle house" as we named it or fog-alarm station was erected later on a mountainous rock and a bridge from the light house was built. I don't know how long the bridge was, but I believe about thirty yards. That building had huge tanks in each corner, one for air, one for oil, and I am not sure about the others; maybe one for water. When foggy (and it usually was foggy) the fog horn blew at intervals of so many seconds. This, too, told the mariner where he was.
My father and the boys would have six hour watches when it was foggy. My father was on watch during one of our intense storms when the seas were so high. He waited a little too long in leaving and couldn't get the door open because the sea held it. When the sea went down, he pushed and the door opened. There was a lifeline, we called it, which ran from the house to the bridge. He followed it, crossed the bridge and ran for his life, and made it to the light house where the spray from the sea was hitting the windows. The next morning, there was nothing left; tanks were gone, motors, everything, but the rock was left standing. The bridge, however, was still there. They later built a breakwater behind the fog-alarm station.
When one of them was on watch, they had to stay right there. A few times a long belt that ran from one part of the motor to the other would break, cleaning everything in its path (windows, grease cups, which had to be filled at intervals). I remember there was a lot of them. Whoever was on watch would manoeuvre in and out, get the thing shut, and start the other motor without even missing a blast.

The leather from those belts were extremely tough and everyone in the village had a pair of shoes half-soled with it. My brothers had a "last" for doing this. Sometimes the shoe-tacks wouldn't turn and the tack would stick in their feet, but they always came back for more.

The island was almost surrounded by high rocks, except for a short space where the land and the sea were almost level on the south side of the light house. The sea washed lazily over these smaller rocks in a friendly fashion, whereas the big rocks had an unfriendly attitude towards the ocean. Sometimes the roaring of the sea would be so loud, we would have to go inside to talk.

And so this is the place where I was ready to go vacationing, and there on the nice flat rocks we made our play-house. We had a kitchen, bath room, chairs and all the facilities to set up house-keeping. We would scrub floors, wash broken pieces of dishes, and when we got tired of that, we would go swimming in these God-made swimming pools, which were plentiful on the island. We would spend hours seeing who could catch the most pin-fish that swam between the rocks. There were swings, tilting boards, which consisted of a wide board on a big boulder; the ball games which we knew nothing about, but had our own method of playing never having seen it played before.

Every year in July, this patch of morning glories would appear, and I have never seen anything so beautiful or smelled so nice. We would check every day until one day they would be there; you wouldn't pick them they were so frail. I think God planted them, just one day. Then they were gone.

There was a narrower stretch of land back of the boat house slip and what we called the back cove. And beyond that another high ground with trees and cranberries which grew in abundance, there was a flat rock where the devil is supposed to have walked; where he landed on his feet with his club foot and his good one. He made a couple of steps, then he laid down to rest. It is all there. Once my father said to my mother within ear shot of us, maybe thinking to dispel any fears we had of the devil, "you know, I think that marking in the rock was lightening". I prayed that it would be the devil, for I was more afraid of lightening than of the devil. And another thing, if he just rested, he could be in England by now, or better still, could have drowned on his way.

The island runs parallel to the land on the inner side, it is barren land, but the fishermen at that time had shacks built to house them during the lobster season. Between the island and this other land was what we called the channel where there were no breakers, just this huge swell. At times in a boat you would be high on a wave, then go down the side until you would swear you would be almost on the ocean floor.

A big boat called the "Lady Laurier" would bring supplies to the island and would land them at the narrowest spot I described earlier. They had built a board walk from the light house to this spot so the supplies had to be transported over the half mile board walk which was somewhat level, sometimes lying on the ground, other places probably six feet or more from, I believe where they landed, we called the "gully". Coal, paint, barrels of oil, and at one time, I remember a stove which had to be manually transported the half mile over the board walk to the kitchen, which must have taken a lot of pushing and maneuvering. All other things had to be moved to the oil house also. The walk was not all that wide so it must have been difficult.

Once only once do I remember them landing supplies on the front part of the island. This was an exceptionally fine day and only small things, like lamp chimneys, wicks, and stuff they called "waste" used for cleaning grease spills, (it was just odds and ends of string, thread and pieces of cotton etc,) unlike the "gully" where they used a crane to land. My brother was taking these things from the "Laurier" and was passing them to my father from the small boat, on shore. As he did, one time he looked down and there, wedged between the rocks, was the full skeleton of a man. Every joint intact and, with all the pounding of the ocean, had not even lost a limb. Needless to say they reclaimed the bones (my father had made this nice box and put a lock on it, for the boys who were great duck hunters, would use up all his shells, and he, when he wanted one there wouldn't be any, so he gave them their share and locked some up for himself. They didn't know that he knew that they jimmied the lock for the extra shell and the little bit of each tobacco can that was in the box) so he cleaned the things out of the box to use for a coffin, lined it with something (maybe a sheet) and placed the remains in the box with an X which he said must go north or some such point of the compass. They dug a grave and buried "him" they knew it was a man, on a little hill on the island. In January that winter there had been an accident where this ship was towing a dredge up the harbour. The dredge broke clear and drifted on the breakers with nine men aboard. All were lost. It was a violent winter storm and my father watched through the snow squalls as the dredge went on the rocks and broke up. He couldn't see the men, but he said had he known that they were there, he would likely have been drowned himself that day for he would have tried to save them. After he reported the finding of the remains, he got letters from some of the families who were lost that day. One I remember well was from a Mrs Captain Hatfield asking if it had on a ring, and she described the ring that her husband was wearing. There was not ring; it wouldn't have stayed on his finger. He was somebody's family, no one will ever know whose. When my father came in from burying the remains, he said to my mother, "when the sea gives up its dead that's one man it won't have to give up."

Little did he know that in 1946 his son who helped dig the grave would meet the same fate. He was drowned while fishing out of South Boston on the "Medford". A troop ship, "Thomas H Barry" bound for France sliced into the "Medford" cutting the forward part and sending it to the bottom. Some of the ones in the aft-part of the boat survived. My brother and the captain were in the cabin when it hit. The captain ran aft and my brother ran forward and he went down with that piece of the boat. My brother had his own boat, but it was in dry dock being repaired. He was a personal friend of the captain so went as mate on the trip. My brother's body was never found. The "Medford" I understand was used during the war. Was it in mine-sweeping service? The aft part drifted on the spot where it was hit for several days. It seems the troop ship did not have its radar on that day, and the spot on Georges Banks where they were fishing was the only spot that was foggy, they were almost ready to return with their catch. (My brother was 43 years old).

One night, I should say morning for it was three o'clock, during the First World War, two men came on the island. They said they were torpedoed and wanted to know where they were. They spoke broken English and were very upset about some of the survivors which they must go soon to help. My father showed them on a map where they were, and they told him to go out at daylight and he would see a lot of wreckage around the island. My father said he knew right away that they were not torpedoed and right away he took them to be Germans. Mystery or no mystery, they had gotten on the island, tho' God knows how! My father sat till daylight hoping there might be wreckage and not just such an easy access to our shores. There was no gold bullion washed on the shore so the only solution was the theory that they were Germans who came to get their bearings. Once during their visit, one of them quickly put his hand in his pocket, my father said, as if to pull out a revolver. My father quickly shoved his hand in his pocket and shaped his fist like a revolver. He thought it distracted the German enough that at least he didn't shoot. I guess he kept looking over his shoulder until this was ended. I can see my uncle nodding his consent and winking one eye on how he so scared the hell out of the German by this clever trick.

Back to wreckage…every one in the village had the luxury of a feast on doughnuts when one morning, piled high, the sea had washed ashore cartons of pure lard in four pound boxes. Where it came from no one knew. There were no wrecks near the island, so it must have come in with the tide from God knows where. However, it must have been an effort to collect the stuff, wheel it a mile across the island, pile it in a boat and deliver it to everyone. I remember coming home from school and the house-keeper and my mother still making doughnuts. They had tried making doughnuts with seal fat and that was a disaster! No one would eat them. Of course there were other things to bake besides doughnuts for I guess that the only thing they used for frying, baking and anything else.

My mother had made a garden on the portion of the land I described before, a short distance from where the land and the sea is almost level. This evening, while weeding the garden every time she put her head down she heard this screaming. She would stand and listen and wouldn't hear anything. It was foggy and my brother was on watch at the fog-alarm station. Then she thought it must be him caught in one of the motors or something. She ran home and sent my father to see what was wrong .My father ran to find out and found my brother lying down reading. He took him by the arm and outside (you couldn't hear for the noise inside) and found out he was alright, so he told my mother that she hadn't heard anything. My mother was so persistent that to please her he walked almost around the entire island. Finally he lit a lantern, it was by this time getting late, and they were just about to give up when out beyond the breakers they saw a dory with a man in it. Somehow my father warned him that he couldn't land but to follow the lantern. This he did until he reached where (and I could never picture what spot), he could get in the dory with him. However, he had to row around the northern part of the island which was quite a long way, and land in the cove where the wharf was. The man was a fisherman who had gotten astray from the mother boat, and he couldn't find his way back. Apparently they couldn't find him (at that time this is the way they fished). He had been lost for three days and was completely played out. The lunch he ate that night was scant, for he was sick to his stomach. He had eaten raw fish and my father assured him that he was sick because of that. It was about eleven o'clock when they got home and so with a pair of my father's long johns and a pair of his pants which was a couple sizes too big he went to bed. Through the night my father heard him moving around. He went to find out if he was alright, and the man said that he thought he was still in the dory and if he fell asleep he would die. He asked my father if he would mind sitting with him a little while, which he did. Every time he put his hand over the bed thinking he was still in the dory, my father would tell him that he was alright, he was on an island and he would take him in the morning on his first lap of his trip home. My father assured him that his stomach pains would go away once the raw fish settled. Finally he fell asleep and my father went to bed. The next morning it was a hassle to find whose pants or shoes fit him better. I guess he wasn't too fussy, he was so happy to be alive. As he left, he thanked my mother, and "just you wait" till he got home, the things he wouldn't send her for saving his life. And I remember my mother saying, "any man who rowed around the Atlantic Ocean as long as you did, saved their own life, our reward is that you are alive and if we played a small part in making it happen, well that's our reward." He was from Quebec and if my memory serves me correctly, was fishing off "Quero" if there is any such place or body of water. He was anxious to go, so my father took him to the village where he sent telegrams to his family and to wherever he was to report it to. It seems the metrological service sticks in my mind, they gave him money to get home. The strange thing about the whole thing is that my parents were never to hear from him again. They often wondered what happened to him, not that they wanted any credit for helping, but it kept them always wondering. They decided that the reason my mother heard him screaming was that he was directly in line with the level of the sea and land, and when he got in front of the big rocks, it curtained his voice. My father waited a long time for someone to come and claim the dory, but no one ever did.

One fine day in August, (and it was only August that we would be sure to have a day without fog, July would be foggy almost the whole month), my brothers decided to go and get a fish for dinner. They rowed off a piece beyond the island and were fishing, when I saw my father running for a hand-horn and frantically blowing it. Meantime the boys started frantically rowing for shore. A whale had "blew" right beside the boat, twice, they said when they came in, my father had seen only one. They said they were sure the whale was following them, they didn't know what it was up to, but they were taking no chances.

There were no clams on the island, but mussels grew in abundance. For some reason we never collected them like we did the clams up home, tho' I don't know why, none of the family liked them either. Lobsters were plentiful then, so any time we wanted them, they were easy to come by. There was only one fisheries officer, and he came only once a year so I suppose it was still an offence to do it, and I know that we didn't appreciate the lobster like we would today. During the season you would hear of some fisherman cutting off pots that were in his territory, now that meant a prison term. I liked digging clams up home and making a fire on the beach to cook them.

You know that when I got ready to go on a trip to the island my parents never said, "are you sure it isn't too rough?" or "better wait till next time". I got ready and just walked with them to the boat. My suitcase might be a piece of brown paper wrap or a nice cardboard box, and when I tired of the island I did the same thing, got ready and waited for the first boat. When I would leave the end of June to go on the island, everything would still be dull except for lilacs or alders. Nothing would have started to grow and when I came home the grass would be to my middle and ready to cut. We had a nice long beach which had gotten warm over the period of time that I was away, and instead of the play house on the island with its flat rocks, its tilting board, its swings etc, we had the beach for swimming, the mud pies, the clams, the row boat; there was no shortage of things to do. While on the island my father would challenge us to a spelling bee and I was sure that he would lose on purpose when I was so happy to stump him.

While I was on the island this yacht came and tied up in the cove. A father and son walked across to visit us, and what a nice time we had. They were the nicest people. They said they were staying one day and they stayed three and hated to leave. The boys learned more from the son in three days than they would have learned a year in school, and of course he learned what they had to teach. He taught them to do hand-springs, how to tie the different knots and many other things. They had him help start the light in the light-house, he slept on the yacht and before the boys were out of bed, he would be at the door to help put out the light (the yacht was about a mile from us so he had to get up early). We were all sorry to see them go. His father would come with him most of the time, and he and my father would have great conversations. The boys had a few letters from them after, but it ended there.

I think that it was around the end of World War One, my father had gone to the mainland for groceries, and my two brothers were at the other end of the island doing something with drying fish, I don't know how come but we were all in the house at the time, maybe for dinner or something anyway we heard the sound of planes. My mother, with this horrified look on her face, pointed to the cellar door and said "the cellar". We couldn't find my youngest sister in the shuffle. We had a large pantry and someone found her finally sitting in the corner playing. Someone grabbed her and we all took off to the cellar. First of all, the couch was in front of the cellar door and some one pulled that out in the middle of the floor. We all jammed in the door finally tumbling head over heels over the steps to the cellar below. We were all on our knees, arms over our heads, waiting for the "Germans" to drop their bombs for we were so sure they were German planes. By the time the planes were over our heads we had gone through the procedure of getting settled in the cellar; so there we waited. Strangely enough, no bomb. Well, they must be wondering which target, so we waited for them to return. And then, we heard foot steps in the kitchen. Still in this crouching position, we thought they had landed. What now? I couldn't believe it when we heard my brother yell, "where is every body?" My mother still believing them to be German planes yelled to our brothers, "Quickly, the cellar, come". My brother had known they were going to be flying planes from Sydney to Halifax. They were our planes and there were two of them. He had read it in the paper before and never dreaming they would fly directly over the island, didn't tell us. He had run across the island knowing we would be afraid…afraid! If we had all been outside, we would have died of fright! However, they did fly over again and while everyone went out to watch, I didn't altogether like the look of them flying over the ocean.

On this particular weekend my second oldest brother had an appointment with the dentist and my oldest brother and my father thought that they could manage alone. On Thursday evening an easterly storm came up with dense fog, rain and a gale of wind. My father took the first watch and my brother went to bed so he could get up at midnight and take the next watch. That's how it worked out every six hours, the change. At ten o'clock my father called my brother saying that he was very sick and that he (my brother) would have to take over. My father was throwing up and had to go bed, he hadn't done the fog-alarm and that had to be taken care of right away, with its filling of its grease cups and the checking to see if it was alright. Then the midnight work on the light, with its winding up of the weight, the air tank had to be pumped by hand, the oil tank to be checked, all this took awhile so from the sick bed to the fog-alarm to the light was just one steady round. That was Thursday night, the storm on Friday was even worse than the night before. In the daytime it was just the sick to look after (the light was turned off at daybreak), and the fog alarm. If and when we were in trouble on the island we had, at the highest peak, a flag-pole and would raise the flag half-mast (I can't remember if it was ever done). In this case, it would have been of no use with this weather and fog, no one would have seen it, even if my brother had the time to raise it. The storm raged night and day until Monday and my father was very sick and of course worrying because he couldn't help. The Sunday night before help arrived (the weather cleared Sunday night) my brother tired right down to the bone, exhausted from no sleep, having eaten but little, sat on the step and cried, for he said "if this weather doesn't soon clear they will find both of us dead." This empty oil can hounded him every night by hurling itself over the rocks, "use to scare the hell out of me", he said and the last Sunday night after hitting rock after rock it finally wended its way to the ocean. He said he thought if he opened his eyes the whole ocean would be on fire and he sat there and cried. On Monday the weather cleared enough to shut down the fog alarm. My father, still very sick, watched patiently for my brother. We had those strong binoculars you could only look with one eye but they were so good that we could see our boat as it turned a point on its way down. This my brother watched for and so my other brother arrived about three o'clock on Monday to the scene described above. Our house-keeper came. My older brother met them, describing what had happened and to go as quickly as he could for the doctor. Can you picture this scene? The doctor was fifteen miles from the village, the island was at least three miles by water, and the walk across the island. I don't remember if the doctor came to the village by car or horse and wagon but whatever, it was a long wait. My mother and my second oldest brother went right away to the island and my uncle waited for the doctor to take him to my father. The doctor (a personal friend of my father) arrived just as my father died. My uncle told me later that the doctor called his name and jumped right on his chest, hitting him hard. At home I was waiting patiently for news. I heard my uncle's boat with the doctor, and a little later I heard my brother's motor boat. I ran to meet him and when he shut the motor off, I head him crying so I knew my father had died. Coincidently my sister was born on the island just a few yards from where my father had died. She in the light house; he in the dwelling house. I shall never forget the scene of the arrival of the casket.

A lot of people were waiting to help. My eyes glued to where they would come in sight. I looked and there it was, the grey boat towing the dory, my father's casket, the flag half-mast. There were things to be done but I was no help, and when I saw a chance, I went to our barn, closed the door and sat on a box to wait for however long it took to get the things done that had to be done. At the house, two of the men came for me. I told them that I would be there a little later and they said, "no, you must come now." So I joined the family at the house.

There were nine of us in the family. After my father's death, my brothers took the job on the island for a couple of years. The island seemed a lonelier spot now and we welcomed any company that would visit.

My brother invited a friend of his, so while he was there he helped roll a barrel of oil wherever it was to go. This morning early they were to take a barrel over the "whistle-house", my brother's technique was to line up the barrel directly in front of the lighthouse and gently guide it to the bridge and then it could be pushed without much effort right in front of the house. However, this morning, this friend with a size twelve or thirteen shoe, gave a kick and it missed the bridge and went over a cliff about thirty feet below emptying itself in a puddle of salt water. My brother told him that they would have to go for another barrel, meantime he would put out the light. He was just turning off the light when this enormous blaze of fire was directly in front of him at the top of the lighthouse. His friend had lit pieces of "waste" and tossed it into the puddle and there almost directly under the bridge was the fire. Horrified my brother ran with water and his coat to beat out the fire for the bridge was an expensive part of the operation. By just an inch they saved it, with singed hair and scorched eyebrows. His friend was lucky to get off with just a reprimand.

My brother was ever fearful of an inspector coming to investigate what happened that morning, but no one ever mentioned it from the mainland. That meant no one had seen the fire because if they had they would have been ever ready and happy to report it. You know, that puddle was bone dry after the fire, and the rock remained black as long as we were on the island.

The responsibilities were getting heavier now for my brothers since my father's death while they carried on as light house keepers until he could be replaced.

I talked before of how the boys were great duck-hunters, and at that time we had not heard of frozen food. So the ducks they shot were picked (feathers picked off) and already to cook when they distributed them up (they gave them away) home. They said that there was always some one to "tie the painter" when they arrived. Later my mother found out that she could have frozen the ducks and kept them all winter. It was cold there and she didn't need an ice-box.

When my second oldest brother went to the States, he went to Revere Beach. They had a shooting gallery there and he won too many prizes, they wouldn't sell him any more shots. He just laughed, and walked away, I guess if it were today there would be an argument.

My brother came up home to get me to go and do some cleaning up on the island (our house-keeper had left and between my sisters and I, we were elected to do her job with the help of my mother). This day it was my turn. The day was very foggy and my brother wheeled the groceries across the island. Just as we were going into the house, the fog lifted and we saw this huge German ship on its side on the mainland about maybe eight miles from where we were. Needless to say my brother turned and left in a hurry, in aide of the ship. He took the captain (by boat) to the village to do what he had to do (like to the telegraph office, the telephone service was very primitive at the time, telegraph gave better service).

The ship in question was called the "Hans Jensen". [I was told the Hans Jensen went aground off Flying Point, between Whitehead and Port Felix harbours - pf] My brother took the captain back to the ship, and the captain wanted to pay him for what he had done. My brother said he got paid for doing things like this (he was lying). The captain said that when they hit the beach they had lost things overboard, so they threw over some things and told my brother to pick it up. They were not allowed to give anything either. I remember the small barrel of pickled pork butter and anything that wouldn't be damaged by the sea. They towed the ship off the rocks somehow and in the harbour and on a beach to repair it. They were the nicest men you ever wanted to meet and became friends to everyone while they were there. The cook wouldn't stay so a lot of the women volunteered to do their baking for them. My mother baked their bread, the other women baked what ever they wanted, the men on the ship said they could manage the main meals. It was hard to believe that a short time before this the Germans were our bitterest foe. I think or I should say I am sure they were sincere in their everyday company with us, or if they thought differently they sure didn't show it.

My brother and I were on the island the day we knew they were ready to leave. We watched with our powerful "spy glass" them coming down the harbour. We went across the bridge to the "whistle house" and when they were abreast, they (I don't remember who saluted first my brother or the captain of the Hans Jensen) I think it was three blasts from each, then one from each, and then they were gone. It gave you an odd feeling as much as to say "we can be friends". They hated to leave and thanked us for making them so welcome but they were anxious to go home.

When we came back across the bridge that day I said to my brother, what happens now? He said, "I think I will write and tell them I don't want this job; it is a job for an older man and it's no place for us, I will talk to our mother about it." The teaching we got from the boy on the yacht those days came in handy the day we got word that we could go home. We did hand-springs, cartwheels, hugged each other, and danced on the rocks. At last we would not have to toss a coin to determine who would have to go to do whatever had to be done.

I said before that there were nine of us and after my father's death the responsibilities fell on my oldest brother. I should say now that it fell on my second oldest brother as well.

However, leaving the island was a far-cry from the day I came home from school all excited about going on vacation. The things we enjoyed so much did not appeal to us any more and we were glad for a change. The island with its roaring breakers, wild ocean and its everlasting fog, including violent storms that would keep us there, were only to be enjoyed in your youth. I remember once when we were entirely surround by the sea while we were perched on the high rock where the buildings were, I often wondered how a house could stand so perfectly on a rock and not slide off, the under structure must have been well nailed down.

Shortly after we left the island my family moved to the States (leaving me behind). The two oldest boys went fishing and my oldest sister went to work, the younger one went to school. It was just before the recession and work was hard to find, but my brothers were able to go fishing and while the price was very low they were always able to sell the fish so they were better off than a lot of people and so they did well.

Automation has taken over the island now but not even that through the passing of time will quell the noise of the breakers, the surf, or the giant waves that start way out and surges ahead like an angry bull charging a huge matador, and the bull, head down when it almost reaches its target froths, foams, and ploughs raging mad into it sending the froth and foam thirty feet in the air. The matador stands its ground and the angry sea goes back to start all over again. Is the rock the tormenter, and is the sea the tormented. Which will endure through the centuries ahead? Who knows? One more thing, I hope my "morning glories" come in bloom one day of the year.

Maybe I should introduce some of the people in my trip down memory lane.
First the Island is White Head Island.

My father, *Almon Munroe, who died on the island June 16, 1924 and in a flashback in a Halifax paper it said, "Twenty five years ago today, Almon Munroe died on White Head Island." The family was pleased that they picked this item for their flashback.

My mother *Fanny who insisted that she heard screaming and helped save the fisherman's life. She did just that for he would never have gotten on the island without help that night.

My brother *Lee who was with my father when he was sick and who later drowned when the troop ship rammed and cut the fishing vessel "Medford" in two.

My brother *Malc who while passing supplies from the large boat to the land from a smaller boat found the skeleton of a man wedged in the rock.

My sister *Beulah who participated in everything we did from the tilting board partner to later the mixing of the bread. She too was glad when we left the island.

My sister Cora whose main claim to fame is that she was born on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. She says it's her island.

Three more brothers, *Edison, *Clare, and Roger and one more sister Edie all did their act in entertaining and being entertained. We were a close family, perhaps because we grew up so close together, not that we were hemmed in, but that we didn't go far from home. When a catalogue would arrive any new games like parcheesi, snakes and ladders or any other, we would try. We always had a new supply of new records for our gramophone and dancing in our own way was accepted. Each one had their own act to perform. We were never bored that I can remember. A little later, people started moving away including my own family, mostly to the States. Times changed, I think. Families sort of became strangers when they only visited each other once in a while.

*Denotes the ones who have died.

* Mary-Ellen Reynolds

Return to Misc Tidbits index


If you've arrived here from an outside link, and don't see a navigation bar to the left, and you wish to further visit the Families of TorBay Area Website, please click the logo


Free Web Hosting