Project teaches students about times gone by
Stories for this column came from many sources.
Last month, a neighbour of mine was telling me about an “intergenerational learning” project that her seniors group was planning with the students at Marion Bridge Elementary School.
Jean MacQueen and her friends at the Mira Seniors Centre were so enthusiastic about this project that it started me reminiscing about my childhood memories of growing up in another era.
People of my “vintage” can remember party lines, outhouses, wringer washers and black and white television. I have fond memories of the day the first television arrived on our street. It was a very big deal.
Then Vs Now was designed as a sharing of information between our senior population and our youngest citizens.
The seniors asked the Marion Bridge community to bring in items of interest from days gone by to show how life has changed over the years.
The artifacts focused on games, tools, recreation, school days and everyday household items. We saw an impressive array of antiques.
Driving out to Marion Bridge along the beautiful Mira River allowed my mind time to reflect on how different life is for our students today.
Upon entering the Seniors Centre, I considered it a good omen when I ran into Helen Pereniak, a former neighbour of mine from Dominion. Her grandfather and my grandfather came to Cape Breton from the “old country” to seek employment in the local coal mines. We had such a good time talking about growing up in a simpler time.
This conversation set the tone for a trip down memory lane.
The Mira Centre was hopping with activity.
Each display area was manned by both seniors and students. All the students had been briefed on the history and purpose of each item on their display area.
Just listening to these young students made me smile. I was impressed with how articulate the children were as they talked to their visitors.
They were so confident in their knowledge and many had family stories to add to the conversation.
Students were taking turns playing music on an antique record player. The old songs added to the atmosphere.
Some of the youngsters were kneading dough under the guidance of a lady who seemed wellacquainted with the art of bread making.
Schools were so different years ago. Every teacher had a classroom register that had to be perfectly and neatly balanced at the end of the school year. Today, attendance is entered into a computer on a daily basis. Old readers and books were on display along with wooden school desks.
Jack Coffey and his student helpers were manning an impressive collection of keys. One of particular interest was a massive key that was used to open the old swinging bridge in the community so that boats could pass through on the Mira River. Another key was used to change the time lock on a bank vault. A young girl showed me a fold-up key that was used to open hotel rooms. A lot different from the plastic cards used in hotels today.
A newspaper was on display from 1957. In the social section, a newsworthy event was when a household received visitors from Halifax for the weekend. One article told the story of a local resident who broke his arm in a traffic accident. The article even included the name of the doctor who set the arm. Simpler times!
The glass bottle display was shimmering in the sunshine. Many of the jars came from Earl MacPherson¹s personal collection. Many of these bottles brought me back to my childhood.
I conjured up “not-too-pleasant” memories of my mother making sure that we had a spoonful of Scott’s Emulsion every day. I guess it was similar to our children taking vitamin pills today.
The Krimco bottles reminded me of how special chocolate milk was when we were growing up.
Our childhood milkman, Willie Dan LeBlanc, passed away recently and when I heard of his passing, I recalled how excited we were when he delivered Krimco with our milk order. Now, even a milkman is a strange concept for youngsters today.
The display had an assortment of McKinley pop bottles. Many Cape
Bretoners can remember going to the pop factory on Brookside Street In Glacé Bay... especially for the Iron Brew pop.
Tables upon tables displayed such interesting artifacts.
Marion Bridge Elementary School is a small rural school with just 72 students.
Principal Ruth Clarke worked with the seniors group to organize this event. “Then Vs Now was an excellent opportunity for our students to interact and bond with the community members,” she said. “Many of the older people went to school in the community so they have a shared heritage.”
Then Vs Now was an event that required a great deal of co-ordination and preparation by the teachers, students and seniors.
The seniors planned the event to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada and they received funding to cover expenses.
I walked out of the seniors centre with a sense of nostalgia that made me happy just remembering the good old days.
My thanks go out to the students and seniors for such a memorable afternoon!
Jean MacQueen, president of the Mira Seniors Centre, and Jill Harcourt, both standing, are shown with Blake Cameron and Kevin Boyd, students of Marion Bridge Elementary School, sitting. They all worked together on the Then Vs Now intergenerational learning project which brought people of various ages together.