Growing Up In Pool's Cove

By Sophie (Nurse) Herridge

Growing up in Pool’s Cove in the 1930s was like most small communities, plenty of chores to do, especially for families who kept animals and planted gardens.

As soon as the frost was gone, most families had to put manure on their grassland. The barn manure was used for the planting of vegetables but during the winter herring was caught for grassland. I helped Mom with the housework and my brothers, but I also helped my two older brothers and Dad to spread cut-up herring on the grassland.

One thing we had to do was never miss school unless we were sick. We still had things to do; Dad fed the animals and cleaned out their pens every morning with my brothers helping. My job every morning and evening was to milk the cow. We also had a goat, some sheep and hens and I was usually the one who had to get the goats home in the evening.

On one particular evening I was trying to take a short cut, climbing Pool’s Point after the goats and ran into a little problem. I was climbing up a groove in the cliff, thinking that she could get up to the ledge that the goats were on. However, the overhang proved too wide to get up over and I was forced to retreat, backwards, the way I had come, terrified with every step I took. I had to take the long way round to get them home that evening.

We also kept an ox which Dad used to haul wood home winter time. Wood had to be cut up most every day for the stove. The wood stove in the kitchen was our only heat, so lots of times when it was real cold winter nights we had a junk of wood warmed to take to bed with us. Sometimes smooth rocks were used. The heated object was wrapped in an old towel or maybe had a woolen sock pulled on over it, and then placed at the foot of the bed beneath the blankets.

No one had water (plumbing) in their house, it had to be brought in buckets and we were fortunate enough to live quite close to the Government well. This was a natural spring, around which the government had built a concrete wall. It was not overly deep but the water was pure. A few other private wells served a few families each and Seed Brook was another supply. The Government well, though, was the main water supply for the entire community.

Of course, winter time there was snow to shovel, sometimes before school. I don’t think the weather was bad enough to close school, and we had to walk to school. Anyone living not far from school came home for recess, especially when you could have break with molasses and cream like we did.

Spring is my favourite season but back then it meant a lot of work ahead. First we planted quite a lot of potatoes, then there were carrots, beets, turnip and cabbage. July the grass was usually long enough to cut. Dad and my older brothers cut it by hand with scythes. This grass had to be spread over the ground then after several hours turned over, using hay forks. Then in the evening all raked up in small bundles. After several days and fine weather, the grass (now hay) was dry enough to take to the barn. There had to be enough to last the animals all winter.

The vegetables had to be watched, as soon as they started to grow, so did the weeds and the weeds had to be pulled out. In the fall when those vegetables were ready to be harvested, we had fresh vegetables to eat. We usually stored them in a cellar.

One place we had to make hay was at Little Harbour. We had to row a dory; it took us more than an hour to get there. At high tide it was an island but at low tide you could walk across the isthmus. At low tide clay could be dug along this isthmus, between Little Harbour and the mainland. It was a very small island, with about half a dozen raspberry bushes and blueberry bushes, some tall trees. We had a small one-room shack on Little Harbour Island. When it was built there, Grandmother Nurse had a potato garden at Little Harbour. Sometimes family members stayed overnight in this shack while working in the gardens or fishing. You couldn’t pull the dory up on the beach, because it was all rocks, the dory had to be moored off.

When we came home in the evening we would bring a load of hay with us. One time in Little Harbour, Leslie was with us, he was a small boy, we heard him calling, ‘Doggy, doggy.’ He was running after a fox but he got away. I heard Sprague and Eddie calling out, ‘Look at Leslie, chasing a fox!’ Then, ‘Leslie, come back here!’

There were times when we did a dangerous thing but Eddie and Sprague thought it was fun. We would be waiting for the hay to have a little more sun. They would take turns climbing a big tree, then we would cut down the tree and they would fall with it. Mom or Dad wouldn’t be there then. When we were young Dad would be there but as we got older we took it on our own. Eddie would sit in the stern of the dory and use two oars. Me and Sprague used an oar each at the head. We did this several years, until we gave up the hay in Little Harbour.

When the hay was all in, it was time for berry picking. That would be blueberries, then partridgeberries. Along with all this, we had to dry caplin and codfish for the winter, so there wasn’t much time for being idle.

During school months, we had lessons to learn at night and our only light was the kerosene lamp.

Even with all our chores, we found time to enjoy ourselves sometimes. We never missed church morning and evening every Sunday, and we took part in the church socials, especially the picnics.

We knew nothing about radio, television or telephones until we were in our teens. Whenever the boys had spare time they would take their bamboo poles, sometimes an alder and take off for Sandy Pond, fishing for trout and get in some swimming too. Other times it was on the government wharf, catching anything that would take their hook.

The girls would get together and play doll-house. We had an abandoned hen house in our back garden, so 3 or 4 of my friends came to my place. It was painted with ochre on the outside. We found some clay, mixed it with water and painted the inside. We wouldn’t always agree so one of us would be picking up our things and go look for someone else for 2 or 3 days. One girl turned an unused pig sty into a play house but it wasn’t high enough to stand up in.

There were some special times like Valentine’s Day. After supper a group of boys and girls would meet together with paper Valentines, handmade, coloured with crayons and hang them on doors of friends, knock, and then run.

We had fun on Bonfire Night too. We would cut and gather trees and branches for weeks so that on the special night there would be fires around in different places. There was usually adult supervision. We didn’t celebrate Halloween.

Christmas - we all looked forward to this time of year. It meant two weeks off from school and the Christmas concert. We had a two-room school and every child was included in the concert. The doors separating the two rooms could be taken down and that made for a large room, which at this time was fun, anyone that could walk was there. It was usually held on Christmas Eve night, so that after the concert there was a large tree filled with gifts for every child. As the names were called they would go to the stage and get their gift. Everyone was now anxious to get home because the children had to be in bed before the parents decorated the family tree. Some people didn’t have much to put on their tree. Maybe a few apples, oranges, bars and candy, nothing else. We were lucky enough to have a set of decorations, our tree was full, Dad had gotten them at Lunenberg when he was on a fishing schooner. They lasted us all through the years, of course quite a few got broken. We didn’t have a lot of presents to open Christmas morning, each child usually got one thing, maybe mittens, socks, cap, something that they needed, along with an apple, orange and candy. Sometimes there might be a small toy.

Christmas morning was quite busy, then there was dinner, turkey wasn’t heard tell of, it could have been mutton, pork or some other domestic animal someone had killed. There was always plenty of vegetables and we always had a large molasses pudding and sauce for after, we all looked forward to that.

After Christmas Day we couldn’t wait to start mummering. Every night several of us would get together and we would always manage to come up with something to disguise ourselves. The best part when we were young was getting cake or cookies in some homes. No children took part in mummering Old Christmas Night (Jan 6), a large group of adults took over and visited homes with an accordion player so everyone enjoyed it.

I guess we sometimes got into mischief. At least I did one time. Mom and Dad left us with Grandmother Nurse one night, they were going to Aunt Maggie’s. I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. I wanted to cut Eddie’s hair and he was willing or foolish enough to let me. I started on the back of his neck and after 2 or 3 small snips I cut a little piece from his neck. He let out a yell. We were upstairs but Grandmother wasn’t long coming up, so she had Eddie in her arms when Mom and Dad came home. There wasn’t much to it, only a little mark. I know I didn’t get punished, just a talking to.

Each year just meant the same chores to do over again. We were getting older and soon in our teens. During summer holidays after supper several of us girls would walk the road from one end of Pool’s Cove to the other, just back and forth until it was time to go home. Others were doing the same thing and so were the young fellows.

When we got to 15 or 16, after the holidays were over, the weather was getting colder, somewhere along the way, during our walk, and we would all meet together. Someone had an idea it was time for a dance. Of course we were all for it, but several lodge members had to be asked for permission, then we had to get someone to play. That was usually a problem so sometimes we weren’t successful. Anyway, during the fall and winter there were soup suppers, bean suppers, jiggs’ dinner and a number of others so we were sure of a dance then.

We kept ourselves busy and entertained until we finished school and left home.

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