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March 10, 1949

Romantic Notes Of The Gay Nineties

By Leora Webster Cross

When I returned home from the Normal School the last of March my sister Margaret and her husband, Emerson Graves, were living nearby on the old Webster homestead, with my bachelor Uncle Bob. Emerson had retired from his sea-faring life and taken over our mill property. It was a great comfort to mother to have them living in the neighborhood, and the Community, too, cordially welcomed such highly qualified citizens.

Margaret, besides having natural endowments, had been blest with distinct advantages – a year of finishing school at Acadia Seminary, followed by two years of teaching experiences, and after her marriage, the broadening effect of travel and life in a foreign country. She became one of the mainstays of the church at Cambridge, serving in different capacities, though her chief talent was that of a scribe. The Women’s Missionary Society, at a recent meeting on the occasion of her birthday, gave recognition of her years of loyal and devoted service in a very tangible way. Of late years, the Women’s Institute has also received her hearty support.

Arrangements had been made with the trustees of the East Black Rock school for me to take on the duties of teacher there, immediately. Emerson had a nice driving horse and undertook to take me over. The frost was coming out of the ground and when we reached the foot of the mountain, we almost got mired. The horse took lame and I am afraid, never fully recovered; but we finally reached our destination and after a somewhat lengthy search for a boarding place, I found refuge with a venerable old lady who was living alone with her granddaughter. I got "a warm reception", for the flue caught fire the first night. But after that everything was fine. The Mountain air was very bracing and I enjoyed my school very much.

When our revered Inspector of Schools, Mr. Colin W. Roscoe came around, he gave me great encouragement and proved a good, helpful friend to me throughout my whole career of teaching, begun in this little school on the North Mountain and ending some eleven years later, with a few interruptions, at Acadia Seminary in Wolfville.

Last winter, my husband and I spent ten weeks with Loring Charlton and his wife at St. Petersburgh, Florida. Mrs. Charlton was the former Alice Hayes, and was one of the pupils of this, my first, school.

I was fortunate in getting the school at Brooklyn Corner for the following term, as it was so near home. Perhaps I owe this good fortune partly to the reputation of my sister Genevieve, who had taught there previously with marked success.

This school represents some of the finest families in the Valley. Among them were the Chutes, the Dows, the Boyles, Newcombes and Marchants. It has been interesting to watch the progress of these pupils throughout the years.

I had predicted a professional career for Harold Marchant, with his background and "grey matter", but after graduation at Dalhousie College Harold decided on the life of a farmer. (Incidentally, Harold’s charming sister, Ethylberta, became the wife of my cousin Fred Webster and their demise, when comparatively young, was sincerely mourned by the community.)

In the light of developments of later years, I now believe Harold set a good example for our young people. Agriculture is our basic industry and is therefore worthy of the best we can offer. Like any useful vocation, it pays off, too, in satisfactory living, when one has the attitude of a high purpose.

Many of Harold’s contemporaries were being lured away by the promise of lucrative positions in the country to the South of us. This is particularly revealed in the history of our own village of Cambridge. Take the case of my Uncle George’s family – three sons and three daughters have contributed their fine talents to the upbuilding of that nation. Only one son, George, remained but with the help of his industrious wife, he has shown what can be done, even under great difficulties, in the field of Agriculture. Moreover, I believe George has done more to perpetuate the Webster name, than any other one of Grandfather Abraham’s descendants. During World War II, he had an honored place in the armed forces, along with his two eldest sons, in defending the cause of Freedom.

It is encouraging to note the stress being laid on the importance of Agriculture in these days. I enjoy the "Farm Forums" conducted over the air by C.B.A. A recent broadcast of an interview with an agricultural representative, in which he explained a proposed plan to give adequate financial security to the farmer, was particularly good on the "citizen’s forum."

At Brooklyn Corner, I made some effort toward adding the art of telegraphy to my other accomplishments. The Newcomb boys, Rufus and Bert, who lived across the street from the schoolhouse had a telegraph line connected with Harold Marchant’s house and invited me to practice on their telegraph instrument. Some years before, when John Neily was Station Agent in Cambridge, he had some difficulty in keeping some of us youngsters from trying out the telegraph instrument there. My curiosity had not abated, but I soon gave it up as being out of my line. Rufus and Bert kept on until they became experts. Bert went to the U.S.A. and held down a very responsible and lucrative position. And Rufus was our "Chief Despatcher" at Cambridge Station for years. His widow, the former Jean Durno, still lives in their house at Cambridge Corner.

At the beginning of the term, I purchased a bicycle on the installment plan from the late J. R. Webster of Kentville. J. R. married Unie Caldwell, our Cambridge "star" and was in the jewelry business, but sold bicycles as a side line. The bicycle was new in the middle '‘nineties and a veritable "magic carpet" wheeling me out on all kinds of exciting adventure, but most important of all, taking me home for the week-end. Home, which though ever so humble, has n comparison for a place in which to relax and store up energy for another exhausting week in the schoolroom. Only those who have had experience, know just how exhausting a miscellaneous school of nine or ten grades can be.

Home was a place where I could slumber on in the morning until my conscience awoke me to Mother’s pleading call to "please take the cows to pasture." This was no hardship for me as I loved to saunter through the woods away from the fret and worry of monotonous household duties. Meandering along behind "contented
cows, wending their way to their feeding ground, one seemed to imbibe something of that contentment. I never was intended for a "Martha". There always seemed to be too much unnecessary drudgery about house-keeping.

Mother was one who believed that "Cleanliness is next to Godliness", and Father tried to make things as easy as he could for her. Our well was deep, and though the water was excellent for drinking purposes, it was too hard for washing. We didn’t have "Soap Operas" then to tell us how to overcome that handicap. (Anyway mother made her own soap and always had the "whitest wash"). So, father built a large cistern of cement under our porch floor to collect rainwater, and installed a hand pump to lighten her labor.

One heirloom I treasure is the ice refrigerator which father built with his own hands. (The other is mother’s marble-top table). I had to get this refrigerator repaired a while ago and discovered the reason it was so heavy. It was all lined around with charcoal. I presume this was because of the purifying property of charcoal, but it seems, also to have a retarding effect on the melting of the ice.

The Cambridge Glee Club had now passed into the annals of history, and was succeeded by a new "order of good cheer", viz., the Division or Sons of Temperance. This organization was becoming very popular throughout the Valley, having the advantage of being a "Fraternal" order. It had a two-fold object. Besides serving to combat the evils of intemperance, which was beginning to rear its ugly head, it afforded an opportunity to train the young leadership and responsibility. To gain admittance to this august assembly, one needed to know the secret password. There was no chance of "crashing the gate", because it was securely guarded by an outside as well s an inside sentinel. There were other offices invested with dignity and a certain ritual for each meeting. Then after routine business, there were various forms of entertainment. Members included all ages.

I remember Joseph Sawler as one of the older members for his comic songs. (I believe some of his descendants now living in Cambridge, reflect a credit on one who took an interest in the welfare of his community.) Sometimes we had a contest to decide which side provided the beer entertainment in a given time.

There were debates on pertinent topics. The subject of one was "Resolved Country life is better than City life." The team for the affirmative side was quite elated when they scored for the country.

A favorite way of raising funds was by means of a Pie social. Many will recall interesting memories in this connection.

All in all, I think the Division was a worthy successor to the Cambridge Glee Club for its cultural value to the community.