Life in Tracadie, 1943-1950
Life in Tracadie, 1943 – 1950
In 1942 Sisters went to teach in Tracadie. Their first home was called the King House, after a former owner of the home. This was an inconvenient old house, situated about a mile from the school and the sisters did not have a car, so the next year other arrangements had to be made. Also two different teaching-sisters were sent to Tracadie, namely Sister Margaret Devereux and Sister Carmelita Soloman.
Two rooms in the parish house were made into a “Convent” to house the sisters. One room served as sleeping quarters and music room, and the other as kitchen, with a portion curtained off for a bathroom.
Even though the narrow beds were not the most comfortable, the sisters were glad to occupy them after their day’s work at school. Sr. Margaret Marie was Principal and taught grades 8,9, and 1o which meant preparing the grade 10 pupils for the entrance examinations which were held in Charlottetown in June. Sr. Carmelita taught grades 1 to 7 inclusive, and conducted music lessons after school.
At first they did not have a cook, but when two sisters (Mother Loyola Cullen and Sr. Teresa Walsh) came out to take up the duties of Sr. Margaret Marie who became ill while the Christmas concert was being prepared, Sr. Teresa, besides teaching mathematics, took over the housekeeping duties, and helped with the concert. Mother Loyola taught other subjects.
A nail in the door between the bedroom and the hall of the parish house served as a lock, and a newly-cut outside door provided entrance to the music room, as well as to the kitchen area. The small bathroom had a make-shift shower with walls of tin and it also provided storage space for groceries, washtub, and washboard. One had to have time, energy, and courage to use the shower. Removing the box of groceries, etc. took time and energy, and the fact that one could be in the midst of a shower, only to have the water-supply to go dry required courage to attempt a shower. When the water supply was adequate, the sound of a shower was like a heavy rain-storm on a metal roof!
The rooms were, by no means, sound-proof. So we could her the assistant priest (Fr. William Simpson) even when he was polishing his shoes in his bedroom above our quarters; also we always know when the priests were eating, by the rattling of the dishes.
One day our Irish Sister-housekeeper that year, remarked in a loud voice, “Poor auld Father MacPherson is getting doty!” We whispered, “Hush, Sister, he’ll hear you.” She replied, “Well why did they put us in such a God-forsaken place where you can’t open your mouth, and the tylet is behind the stove?” Actually, the bathroom was only about two steps from the stove.
We used to return to Mount St. Mary’s for the weekends and take our soiled sheets and other laundry with us. The novices called us “Dirty Tracadie”. And in fact, the “roaring fires” that Fr. MacPherson (the pastor) used to have in the furnace, made clouds of black smoke come up through the grate in our bedroom-music room, leaving our clothes dirty indeed! We returned to our teaching assignment on Sundays, equipped with clean clothes, cookies and other desserts. We cooked our own meals on the low range provided for us. Usually it was quite difficult to coax sufficient heat from this stove to cook out vegetables and meat. However, when Sister Teresa was housekeeper, she stuffed the flue with newspapers – for lack or something more suitable. This worked for a couple of days, but then the inevitable happened – a flue fire! Nothing daunted, Sister obtained some asbestos and henceforth the stove heated quite well.
These living quarters served as “convent” until a house was built in 1950, which was named Assumption Convent.
Sr. Carmelita Soloman
* The Island Narratives team would like thank Sr. Carmelita for her assistance and contributions to the project.