Interview with Cecily Gallant
Interview with Cecily Gallant
Cecily Gallant lived in Rusticoville between the New Bridge and North Rustico in the early to mid 1900’s. She lived with her grandmother, mother, father, two brothers, and a sister growing up. The late 1800’s home had a good view of the North Shore. It was a two-storey home with a porch, pantry, kitchen, small living room and the upstairs was wide open. If she wanted to use the washroom she had to go to the backyard to the outhouse. The house was heated with a wood stove. There were all kinds of woods back then so the house was always warm during the day, but could very easily freeze overnight. Cutting and splitting wood was a very hard job that had to be done often.
Chores were a big part of life back then and everyone had to do their part. Some of the chores Cecily recalls are cutting wood, milking cows, gardening, baking bread, making jam, etc. These chores seem fairly simple but you have to consider that she was doing them at a very young age in the worst conditions.
Winters were cold with snow up to the rooftops. Winter storms usually started in October and ended in April, which are much longer than the winters we are used to now. Horse and sleigh were used in the winters to travel long distances.
There were not many cars at all in the community, as most families could not afford them. Cars could not travel on the roads in the winter because there were no ploughs. Therefore, the main mode of transportation was by horse; sleights in the winter and wagons in the summer. In a heavy snowfall the horses would trudge through the snowdrifts. If the drifts or snow banks were too much for the horses, the passengers would have to get out and shovel. Cecily described the horses as being very beautiful, big, strong horses with shiny harnesses. The sleighs and wagons would mostly have two bench seats and be able to carry up to eight passengers.
Coasting (sledding) was a very common activity children would do for fun. There was so much snow back then that the hills were much bigger. Skating was also a popular pastime in the winter. Most people would have to make their own skates because they could not afford to buy new ones. They would do this by buying a blade and using string to tie them to the bottom of their shoes. In the summer, outdoor activities such as going to the beach, having picnics, playing hopscotch and playing baseball were very popular.
Cecily’s family lived on a farm and that was their source for food and income. They had a cow, horse, chickens, laying hens, ducks, etc. They had a big garden with a wide variety of vegetables. Her family would work on the farm and sell as much of the veggies, milk, eggs, meat, etc. as possible to make money. Cecily recalls giving away a lot of food to the families who could not afford to pay. People would come to them and ask for food in hard times.
There was a local store not far away where everything was bought in bulk. Stores were quite different back then. You would simply tell the storekeeper what you wanted and he would have his assistant fill your bags for you. Needless to say, meals were much healthier back then as everything was grown on the farm and cooked at home.
Cecily attended school down by the Mill Brook in Rusticoville, which was not too far from home. The school had three classrooms, each with its own teacher. There were ten grades with the tenth year being “high school”.
When you got sick back then, you would be taken by horse and wagon (or sleigh, depending on the season) to Hunter River to see Dr. Stevenson who also delivered all of the babies in the area. If you were very sick you would have to travel to Charlottetown. This was more complicated as it would be very hard on the horses to make the round trip. So you would get to Hunter River by horse and take the train to Charlottetown. At one time Cecily’s father bought an old, green car. He did not have his license or know how to drive it, so she expects he approached others in the area to teach him how to drive.
If you were not sick making the trip to Charlottetown was a treat. This happened once, maybe twice a month. You might be going to go shopping at the big department stores like Eaton’s or Simpson’s. Cecily recalls $1.98 buying a dress or a nice outfit. Back then women were expected to wear a dress at all times. Everyone had a Sunday outfit for church. You were expected to dress up very nicely for church as the Priests were a lot of the time very strict. Cecily remembers that everything you did wrong was considered a sin back then.
Cecily and her family attended St. Augustine’s Church in Rustico. They traveled to church a few different ways. They would sometimes take the horse and wagon/sleigh, or there was a truck that picked up around twelve people each Sunday so you were lucky to get a ride on that. But mostly, if the weather was nice, they would walk along the shore or in the winter walk across the ice.
Church was a very social event where you would see your friends and family every week. Cecily’s family, like most, did not have a telephone. So to communicate you would have to plan ahead to arrange meetings, card games, or times to hang out with each other. Otherwise you would simply have to make the trip to see if your friends were home.
A very popular time for adults to meet was “Old Christmas” on January 6. Christmas was the children’s time to have fun and grown-ups enjoyed “Old Christmas”. These gatherings would have twenty-five to thirty people where there would be lots of food and drinks and they would play cards, gossip, sing and dance much like we do today.
Most of the people in the community were Acadians who are often described as folks who enjoy the simple things in life like friends and family. This is very accurate as Cecily enjoyed growing up in these times and says her aunts and uncles lived very close to the way she did growing up.