Fond mem­o­ries

Project teaches stu­dents about times gone by

Cape Breton Post - - COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS - Yvonne Kennedy

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...

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