Perhaps we wonder how families passed the time in an age when there was no telephones, no radios nor television In the summer it is doubtful if they had much time to feel bored. Things were at a more leisurely pace, travel was slow depending on the gait or speed of the horse, which took up more time in travel.
More time was spent at common tasks for much of the work was done by hand, no power tools, no tractors operating farm implements.
In these olden days neighbors shared more in their work and there was more social life in this way. If a neighbor was building a house or a barn, then there was a building "bee". The neighbors gathered and help raise the frame, and later helped in other stages of the building. Some of the ladies helped prepare the meals . Money was a scarce commodity, so the men would be rewarded with a social evening. The men went home after supper, did up their chores, cleaned up and came back, usually some one had a violin which they brought along and tuned ups soon toes were tapping to the old Scottish reels. Usually part of the evening was spent dancing, the old square dances were popular. Then a lunch was served and all went home feeling well rewarded for any help they had rendered.
Other occasions called for "bees" such as land clearing, which was one of the major tasks for the early settlers, cutting trees, clearing out stumps and getting new land ready for seed.
Many times they shared in getting fire wood, sawing by hand and splitting it into stove size pieces or to suit the fire place.
The ladies had their quilting bees and mat making, hooking into mat or floor covering all worn clothing. All their bare floors would be covered with warm mats. After an afternoon of quilting for their beds or hooking mats for their floors, the ladies would be served a lunch or supper.
The fall of the year called for social evenings. The beans would be picked and dried, and the neighbors would gather for an evening of bean shelling. Another evening when the apples were gathered in called for an apple peeling. The neighbors again gathered and peeled apples, then quartered or sliced them for drying for winter use. All these occasions called for a lunch, perhaps after a few games were played.
Or their might be an evening when molasses taffy was made, word was sent that there was to be a party and "candy pull" . The family all gathered. The young people gathered in the biggest room and played games, while the fathers and grandfathers sat around the kitchen stove smoking and telling stories Mothers and grandmothers were in the kitchen and pantry measuring out sugar and molasses for the candy making, and preparing lunch. The molasses mixture was put on the stove and stirred and carefully watched until it was ready to pour out onto platters for cooling The young folk were notified in time to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water and get ready for the candy pull. A couple of young people took a plate of candy to pu11. they worked it back and forth until it was a light amber color then pulled and twisted into a long rope and cut with the scissors. Now the candy was ready, what could not be eaten was taken home.
Then there was the occasional marriage, and all the preparations for that. When the newly weds arrived at their new home a serenade was arranged. after dark all arrived with horns, tin pails or pans or anything that made a noise, at a given signal all "let loose" and then a confusion of noise erupted. Eventually the bride and groom came to door and invited the merry makers in for a treat.
There was more personal communication, neighbors dropping in for an evening visit, a rainy day or a stormy day in winter often called for a neighborly visit.
Sickness and troubles were shared more. If a sick person, or an elderly person required nursing care, when the family grew weary then neighbors came in and took turns sitting up at nights caring for the sick person. Most sick folk had home care.
Social or study meetings started at a surprising early date. The first Bible Society was organized April 16, 1813 at Durham, the first in the county and the second in the Province, the first being at Truro. This was of course supported by our early fore fathers.
Then in 1817 the first Agriculture Society in Nova Scotia was formed at West River, now Durham, with the Rev. Duncan Ross as President. A branch society was later organized at Rogers Hill Centre.
The first Temperance Society in Nova Scotia and second in all of Canada was organized at West River, January 1828 by Rev. Duncan Ross. A branch society was later formed at Rogers Hill Centre and was active for many years. Indeed it was the practice in my young days to repeat the temperance pledge from a framed pledge on the wall in Sunday school every temperance Sunday.
A Lodge was held for many years and was called Harmony lodge. It was still active around 1892, when my father was active and interested in the activities of the Lodge.
There were social activities that took place in the Rural Schools that were lost with the advent of the Consolidated Schools. There was the Christmas Concert and tree, the occasional box social with lunches prepared by the girls and ladies to be sold to the men who bid on each lunch as a money raising project.
There was debating teams, spelling matches. There was singing classes for the adults in the winter months, when a singing teacher came every week and taught singing. Perhaps it would be Andrew McKay or it might be a Mr. McKinnon.
In later years there was a social evening under the auspices of the Sunday School held every month during the winter months. Sometimes there would be some money making projects, such as guessing contests or a fish pond or any such ideas that made a few dollars each night. At one time money was raised to purchase an organ, another time a reading library was started. The Sunday School picnic every summer was eagerly anticipated by the young folk especially.
During the War years the Red Cross Society was active in working and providing knitted socks, mittens, gloves and warm garments, as well sewing and making quilts These meetings provided a social evening.
Perhaps there were more social events years ago than at present when more time is spent at home with television, stereo telephone and the increasing interest in sports.
Then by 1827 newspapers were being printed nearer home. The Colon-Patriot was being edited by William Milne, and began publication December 7, 1827.
The Pictou Observer edited by J.K. McKenzie began publication May 1, .1831,and the Pictou Bee by J. Dawson May 27, 1835. The Mechanic and Farmer by Stiles and Fraser began publication in May 28 of the same year 1838. The Eastern Chronicle began publication 1843 and was a merger of the Mechanic Farmer and Presbyterian Banner. It was moved to New Glasgow in 1843. The Missionary Monthly was edited by E.M. McDonald 1850, so more reading was made available.
Then in later years modern advances brought in other forms of entertainment. The phonograph by Thomas Edison was a source of wonder with the horn mouth piece and cylinder records.
Pictou County Reminiscences
Stanley Graham, Scotsburn, Nova Scotia
Compiled by: John Broderick