My child­hood: The way it was

Tri-County Vanguard - - THEN AND NOW - Lau­rent d’En­tremont

To­day we live in a very fast world, con­trolled by money, big en­ter­prises, many rules and reg­u­la­tions and a hun­dred other things that did not ex­ist dur­ing my youth.

Plus a clock that goes faster than we can keep up with. It’s like the song “Stop the world and let me off.” The merry-go-round of life is on fast-for­ward.

The se­cure days when we left the keys in our cars overnight and never both­ered to lock our doors at night are long gone.

Turn­ing back the clock to my child­hood days of the late 1940s and 1950s, my early mem­o­ries are of a to­tally dif­fer­ent and re­laxed world. In an old fam­ily photo al­bum, dat­ing back to the Se­cond World War, there is a pic­ture of me, per­haps at three years of age, walk­ing my grand­fa­ther’s milk­ing cow to the wa­ter trough. This was my con­tri­bu­tion to the war ef­fort. My fa­ther had taken the pic­ture and at that age I had al­ready made up my mind to be a farmer like my grand­fa­ther.

In those days, the val­ues of the coastal vil­lage were not mea­sured in dol­lars and cents. At home we did not have elec­tric lights or run­ning wa­ter. My mother and grand­mother did the cook­ing on wood-burn­ing stoves and milk came straight from the cow.

Veg­eta­bles, eggs, poul­try and meat were prod­ucts of the fam­ily farm. The out­door “wash­room” was 50 feet from the house near the barn and on ev­ery Satur­day we took a bath in a gal­va­nized tub, whether we needed it or not.

My grand­fa­ther was a typ­i­cal farmer/fish­er­man of those days. He and his brother Charles had a lob­ster boat and dur­ing the sea­sons that’s what they did for their liv­ing. In the off-sea­son my grand­fa­ther worked on land while Charles, known as “Char­lie Muir,” was cap­tain of a sword­fish­ing ves­sel called the “Muir,” hence the name “Char­lie Muir.”

Sword­fish­ing was the oc­cu­pa­tion of many peo­ple dur­ing the sum­mer months. In late spring the sword­fish­ing crews and cap­tains would start equip­ping the old schooners to har­vest the mi­gra­tory fish. Ex­tend­ing on the bow of these schooners was the bowsprit and a me­tal “cage” for the striker to hold on. The striker had a long wooden pole with a brass dart, tied to a rope, known as a har­poon, to spear the sword­fish. That’s how it was done. Lob­ster fish­ing was kind of a se­condary fish­ery as the catches were very small and prices were low in those days.

Com­par­ing to­day with my ear­li­est mem­o­ries, though, has to do with start­ing school 70 years ago. Our beloved teacher was 27-year- old Edna d’Eon, who died in July 2016 at the age of 95.

The first grade was known as “Grade Zero” and we walked to school in all kinds of weather. There was no need for par­ents or guardians to wait at the road with school chil­dren for the school bus. The world was a lot safer back then. Ac­tu­ally, we played games on the un­paved main road as there was very lit­tle traf­fic.

On cold days we dressed as if we were about to ex­plore the North Pole. For heat­ing the school there was a big wood and coal-burn­ing stove. This was cen­trally lo­cated, with a stove pipe about 20 feet long to reach the chim­ney.

On wet days we hung our woollen cloth­ing and mit­tens near the stove for dry­ing. Soon the school­room would smell as if a flock of sheep had just in­vaded the place.

On real bad days we brought our lunch to school in an empty lard can, which acted as a lunch pail. We usu­ally ate peanut but­ter on home­made bread and mo­lasses cook­ies and drank a small jar of fresh cow’s milk at noon, which would hold us un­til sup­per­time.

Un­like the schools of to­day, snow could have piled 10 feet high and no one would have con­sid­ered clos­ing school for the day. The only time that school ever closed was when some south-easterly winds caused a down draft in the chim­ney and filled the room with smoke.

And guess how much teach­ers were paid? I found some of the old school records that showed teach­ers’ salaries. On the low end of the scale I found $330 for the year’s work and up to $425 for a “well ed­u­cated” (nor­mal col­lege) teacher. That salary scale re­mained un­til some­time in the 1940s.

An­nual salaries for most house­holds were no bet­ter. Yes, we were poor, at least money-wise, and yet with fam­ily life we had riches that can­not be begged, bor­rowed or stolen to­day.


Sword­fish­ing from back in the day.


Some paving un­der­way but back in the day kids played on un­paved roads as there was lit­tle traf­fic.


Lau­rent d’En­tremont back in his child­hood days.

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