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Sept 90 - Nova Scotians (family friends), in Dartmouth, N.S.

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posted by alias Best of Rob on Monday 11th of September 2006 06:30:40 PM

Wonderful people who put me up for a couple of weeks when I first arrived in Halifax just before classes got under way at Dalhousie, and which allowed me to find my bearings and a room in a boarding house. They were the closest thing to a family away from home for the 3 years I was in Halifax. - Although most of my trips away from the city taken on the odd weekend were to Prince Edward Island where my Dad hails from and where I have scads of cousins and much heritage, I saw a fair bit of Nova Scotia as well over the 3 years that I lived there. One thing to mention about N.S., or at least my impressions of it, is that parts of it seemed to have mysterious or almost mystical aspects. If it wasn't all in my imagination, it could have something to do with geography, the jagged coasts and peninsulas and the hills in the interior, much of it facing a vast, deep sea, which can achieve or result in a certain level of preservation of old and exotic traditions and lifeways, etc. over the decades and centuries, and which results in isolation as well, often a bad thing of course. As in so many countries where you get the sense that you walk right back in time when you leave the city to explore the countryside, Nova Scotia seemed to offer something like that now and then, at least on a North American spectrum. (So does southern, rural West Virginia for that matter, and parts of Eastern Kentucky, and how.) Could the Scottish heritage, with the Scots' inclination to entertain with legends and stories (and b.s.) have had something to do with it? Nova Scotia seemed to be too small and too well-visited to accommodate such isolation, or to preserve such old-fashioned or ancient places, traditions or aspects. But several come to mind.: - In another photo description I write about the Haligonian fascination with almost certainly baseless local rumours that colonial-era tunnels run under the city, and it's said that one extends under the (deep) harbour out to George's Island. But colonial Fort Charlotte (1798) on George's Island itself really was replete with them. My friend Dennis, a housemate, and I rowed over to it in kayaks (borrowed from the couple in this photo) and explored its vast subterranean tunnels (many submerged), its casemates, etc. for hours, and there was no one @ to tell us not to risk our necks, etc. It was a time capsule of a scope and on a scale and with an atmosphere that I couldn't hope to find in Ontario. - My friend Delphis, a classmate, grew up in or near Windsor, N.S. and took me out on a tour of the area in the winter. One place he took me to was a frozen 'fault lake' near his Dad's home that we took a walk on at dusk. (I'll scan and upload a photo.) It had a Feng shui aspect as he pointed to what looked to be the far end of the lake but which was where it connects to another very long, narrow lake he said, and which connects to another similar lake, and so forth and you could skate almost all the way to the Atlantic coast if you wanted to he said and not meet a soul. (Windsor's on the Bay of Fundy). - In 1991, well before the days of the recent hit 'Curse of Oak Island' TV show, I was hitching in the Mahone Bay area and met a shrink and his wife, Roger and Caroline Strauss, tourists from Vermont at 'the Ovens' (sea caves incl. Cannon cave where a boom sound-effect's made by the waves ). I persuaded them to give me a lift to Oak Island with a bare-bones account of the lore of the 'Money pit' dig there, and as to how I'd known about it since I was a kid, and with my old copy of D'Arcy O'Connor's 'The Money Pit' which I had with me. They were game, and so we walked across the causeway to the island (which I think had been chained off), but up the road we were caught trespassing by a man who told us that he'd been living on the island for @ 20 yr.s, and had been actively digging and searching for the treasure for as long. He was originally from the U.S., he said. He must've been the now-famous Dan Blankenship. He said "I'll have to kick you off" but then proceeded to talk to us non-stop for over an hour or so. He said that recent and ongoing excavations were promising, progress was being made, that the pit itself had become a soup or a mess over so many decades of digging and so excavation was proceeding from different directions but he couldn't give details, although he might've with all that he had to say. At one point I left (with his permission) to walk over and up to see what I thought might've been the money pit, but which I think is "the Sump", a shaft sunk parallel to the pit itself (so named in part after all the $ sunk into digging it over the centuries to no avail), with some old equipment at the edge, and which had filled up with sea-water. (I'll scan and upload a photo). I returned to the group and Mr. Blankenship continued to talk away while I waited for him to kick us off. I assumed he'd been alone for some time what with his inclination to talk, and a bit lonely having devoted decades to this riddle which had consumed so many years of so many lives, and so much $$. (Famously, FDR had spent time digging on the island in his youth in 1909.) But he would say "we're doing this" or "that", so he had support. Roger Strauss was able to follow along (as a result of his training), nodding and affirming, and afterwards he summarized much of what was said for us, after Caroline said "We have endured!" - - Helen Creighton, the famous folklorist, had much to work with when she wrote 'Bluenose Ghosts' on the basis of tales told to her or which she'd 'collected' in the 30s, 40s and 50s, as so many Nova Scotians had such stories to tell and which most sincerely believed to be true. One chapter written very sympathetically concerns a young, beleaguered couple whom Ms. Creighton met with herself at their home, which was apparently plagued by a violent poltergeist at the time they were living there. - Mahone Bay is home to the flaming ghost ship "the Young Teazer" [sic], an American privateering schooner which exploded and burned in the Bay on June 27, 1813 in the course of the War of 1812. A fiery glow or a flaming ship is said to appear in the Bay every year on or @ the June 27 anniversary. - The world-famous American-registered brigantine 'Amazon', which would be renamed 'the Mary Celeste', was built and was first launched at Spencer's Island, N.S. on the shore of the Bay of Fundy on May 18, 1861. It was found at sea with all sail set and everything in order but abandoned east of the Azores on Dec. 4, 1872. The crew of the 'Dei Gratia' investigated and found "evidence indicat[ing an orderly departure from the ship by means of the missing lifeboat." (wikipedia). Conflicting evidence adduced at Salvage Court hearings in Gibraltar led the Attorney General there to infer (or speculate) that the abandonment had involved foul play or "human wrongdoing". The case has made the Mary Celeste the most famous derelict ship of all time and its abandonment one of the greatest mysteries in maritime history, with some help from Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" in 1884, a short story based on the mystery, and maybe a little from Bela Lugosi too in 1935.: - Another classmate of mine at Dalhousie who was a Haligonian told me about a house which was only a door or 2 down from an intersection that I'd often pass heading to and from school from my boarding house, which he seemed to sincerely believe was haunted, and at least a bit sinister. For there was a black windowpane in one room facing the street which he explained had turned black following its installation, and which had been installed to replace a pane of glass which had also turned mysteriously black, and which in turn had replaced an earlier black pane. I've just googled it for the first time after all these years and it's a celebrated fixture, the Greek revival Caldwell-Hill house (1840) on Robie near Jubilee.: "[It's] known as "The Haunted House" because of a window painted black and the many legends that surround it. One involves an old man who looked through the window one day and saw witches dancing on the veranda. The witches caught him watching them dance and turned the window black. Another story involves the occupant of the house who shot a young boy through the window. The window turned black in mourning. In fact the window was painted black to maintain classical symmetry of the Greek Revival style.",+Halifax,+NS+B3H+3... - St. Paul's Anglican is the oldest Protestant church in Canada, built in the Palladian style in 1749. It survived the largest pre-Hiroshima man-made explosion in history when on Dec. 6, 1917 the Belgian relief vessel Imo collided in the harbour with the French munitions ship Mont-Blanc, carrying over 400,000 lb.s of TNT on-board at that moment. The explosion leveled the north end of town, killing over 1,963 people and injuring @ 9,000 more. But a souvenir has been preserved - one window in St. Paul's broke neatly in the shape of the silhouette of a man's head and shoulders (quite George-Washington-esque). I asked a local Anglican priest at the church how it happened, "Was somebody standing near the window?" "No, it wasn't like a Bugs Bunny cartoon!" he said. (One version of events has a sailor's decapitated head flying through the window, but stories abound). - It was Helen Creighton who 'collected' 'Farewell to Nova Scotia' (aka 'The Nova Scotia Song'), something of an anthem today, as recently as 1933 (!) from one Ann Greenough in Petpeswick, N.S. (According to Wikipedia, it was adapted from a Scots folksong 'The Soldier's Adieu' written in 1791 by Robert Tannahill, but sounds nothing like it to me.) Shame to any (anglophone) folksinger anywhere who'll take requests at a concert and can't sing that song. - As to traditional lifeways, they don't get more traditional in N.S. than fishing. On a Via train en route to Toronto from Halifax I had a good discussion with an Acadian fisher-woman from Arichat (on 'Isle Madame', just off the SE coast of Cape Breton,-61.0910726,30101m/data=!... ). I probably brought up the topic of strange and exotic creatures of the deep myself, but she obliged with tales and descriptions of the following. Here's what I recall.: 1. She spoke of the well-named 'rat-fish' which "really does" look just like a rat. (It's in the tapering shape of the head.: ) 2. The 'baby-faced skate' not only has something like the face of a baby on its under-side , but will mewl like one when hauled in with the net and "will break mens' hearts". Her crew-mates would say "I can't bear to hear it, just throw it back". 3. She and her crew would haul 'Arctic Surf clams', which are too tough for the North American market but the Japanese buy them. One of the crew said "Hey, let's have some of those surf clams tonight! We'll boil 'em up, and we'll put a rock in the pot, and when the rock's soft we'll know the clams are done." (They're actually a staple in many sushi restaurants, where I've had them umpteen times since. ) 4. The 'pecker clam' is a perfectly good, edible clam she said, but they can't sell them as they look "too much like a pecker". She said her crew-mates on the boat would leave a bowl of them for her on her bed if they thought she seemed a bit lonely. (It sounds like the phallic 'Atlantic Geoduck' [from the Nisqually ‘Gweduc’ which means to ‘dig deep’], but the internet says those are only found from North Carolina to Florida). - At one boarding house where I'd lived, I had a neighbour from Cape Sable Island off the south shore (said to be the inspiration for the island 'Rockbound' in the eponymous novel, worth a read for the fun dialogue), and what an accent she had. Cape Sable Islanders could have the most distinct and strange anglophone accent in the province outside Cape Breton. (One expression she'd use was "It's haird toimes in the Maritoimes".) "Speech along the South Shore of N.S. is largely non-rhotic, similar to the speech of the New Englanders who largely settled in this area. These phonetic patterns are quite distinct ... even from those heard in Halifax." - As to the downside of relative isolation, one place I was told about (but never visited) that comes to mind is 'Meat Cove', a community at the NW tip of Cape Breton. I was told that a film crew had tried to shoot a film of some type up there, but that locals came out and threw rocks at the film crew! !! And in the late 80s there was the national scandal of the Goler clan of 'South Mountain' (which is in amongst the hills south of and above the Annapolis valley near Wolfville), of which so many members of an extended, inbred family were arrested for incest and child sexual abuse, etc. ("During [their initial] interrogation by police, several of the adults openly admitted to, and even boasted about" it. [wikipedia] One member of the family was famously quoted as saying "Insects??" when asked about incest. One of their defense counsel said that I.Q. testing revealed they were "borderline retarded as a class or a group.") The people of South Mountain and the surrounding area descend primarily from U.E. Loyalists who arrived 200 yr.s earlier, but who'd been isolated for almost as long from those much more prosperous Loyalist-descendants whose forebears settled in the fertile valley to the west.,-65.1... The trials and the media coverage "brought to greater attention the inadequate living conditions of many poorer Kings Co. residents, not only on North Mountain and South Mountain where some 4,000 poor lived, but in the rich farmlands around Kentville where tar paper shacks blighted the landscape. These communities had been shunned by society forcing them to look inwards for support. Authorities had largely ignored them for a century or more, despite documents dating to the 1860s that showed the prevalence of intra-family relationships through high rates of birth defects and intellectual disabilities ..." (Wikipedia) Remarkably this remote, very isolated and inbred part of N.S. is only @ 80 km.s from Halifax as the crow flies. I had no idea I was so close to it, less than 20 km.s, when my friend Dennis and I drove out to New Ross one weekend as I'd been reading some nonsense that New Ross was a Knights Templar settlement in M. Bradley's 'Holy Grail across the Atlantic' (which I write a bit about in the 1st few paragraphs to this here.:[email protected]/9570573637 ) - - The lady seated at the left in this photo was my Mom's friend Ellie (RIP). They'd studied and trained together at the Royal Vic Hospital school of nursing in Montreal in the '50s in a group of student nurses who remained so close they were described by my Dad as "like the war vets". Ellie owned an old house in the Wentworth valley where I stayed one long weekend, built over 150 or so yr.s ago in serendipitous style with interesting little nooks, small rooms and narrow, twisty staircases all in a counter-intuitve layout. A B & B I stayed in my one weekend spent in Lunenburg was unpredictable that way too. There was nothing standard about them. I like to think there should be a lot of houses like that in N.S. - I spent at least a few days in the spring of '91 in and @ Annapolis Royal, home to colonial Fort Anne and the oldest buildings in Canada outside Quebec. I took in the reconstructed French 'Habitation' nearby. The original wooden quadrangle built by Champlain and co. in 1605 is claimed to be the 1st European settlement north of Florida (but it's not; there's evidence that the 16th cent. settlement of Brest on the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, in Quebec today near the border with Labrador, visited by Cartier, was the 1st on the continent) and was famously home to 'the Order of Good cheer', the first social club for European colonists in North America (north of Mexico). It's immersive, interactive (as at Louisbourg), and impressive. And I visited the site of the ambushes and battles /b/ local Acadian French and Brits based in New England at Bloody Creek (1711 & 1757) en route near Bridgetown. Annapolis Royal includes the site of the famous Port Royal, the Acadian French fort built in 1629 on the most fought-over piece of ground in Canada (it was attacked 13 x and changed hands 7 x - !) although only over the course of 105 yr.s. from the early 17th to the early 18th cent.s. In 1917 it became Canada's first 'National historic site.' I toured Fort Anne, the most recent British incarnation with its iconic 'Field Officers' Quarters' (1797). From my old 1974 Reader's Digest/CAA 'Explore Canada' guide (to paraphrase): "The fort's tortured history echoes in every swing of its powder magazine door [1708]; one hinge is French, the other English." New Englanders couldn't abide these French in the Bay of Fundy, so close, and they would set out and take the place, repeatedly, and the British crown would promptly trade it back to the French for some island of sugar plantations in the Caribbean or other consideration, and repeatedly too (one of many sources of disaffection which led to the American revolution). But the place is so quaint and pretty today, it's strange to think someone might have worn a stern facial expression or ever said anything rude there at any time (let alone fought a battle). - As a tourist, I toured Louisbourg near Sydney fairly well twice, a real must-see, which I write about in the next photo. - I took in the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck in Cape Breton fairly well too over a full day in '92 (I have yet to tour the Bell homestead in Brantford, ON).; - I hitched all @ the Cabot Trail to see the fall colours one fall weekend in 1990 (see my photo).; - A weekend was spent in Lunenburg where I toured the famous St. John's Anglican church (1753, the 2nd oldest Protestant church bldg. in Canada after St. Paul's in Halifax), the famous harbour on the old $100.00 bill, etc. I didn't know it then, but St. Paul's was built from the disassembled King's chapel in Boston. "The King's Chapel congregation [in Boston] was founded ... in 1686 as the 1st Anglican Church in colonial New England during the reign of King James II. [Congregationalism was the official denomination of Massachusetts at that time.] The original King's Chapel was a wooden church built in 1688. ... In 1749, construction began on the current stone structure, which was ... completed in 1754 [and which] was built around the wooden church. When the stone church was complete, the wooden church was disassembled and removed through the windows of the new church. The wood was then shipped to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, where it was used to construct St. John's Anglican." ! (Wikipedia). The old town of Lunenburg's a Unesco site.; - Peggy's cove (meh. My folks said they didn't get why the place is so popular either.).; - I did some touring with my mom when she visited in the spring of '93 to places where she and my dad had lived and worked in the 60s before I came along, incl. Kennetcook, East Gore, Cole Harbour (a suburb of Dartmouth today), and took in the Lawrencetown beach, and we visited with a series of old-timers she knew. She stayed here at the home of her friend Ellie that time.; - I was taken to and ate at a many-Michelin-starred restaurant in Shelburne in a former old home overlooking the sea by the Strausses who looked me up on their next visit to N.S. in '92 (they spoke @ their daughter the whole time, who was my age; the inference was flattering), but which was as close as I ever made it to Yarmouth or Cape Sable Island.; - I saw the old blockhouse (1750! the oldest in N.A.) at Fort Edward near Windsor, and Uniacke house at Mt. Uniacke, both with Delphis but both were closed for the winter (and so I missed the late-18th-cent. soldiers' graffiti in the blockhouse), and we saw a frozen pond just below the former home of Thos. Chandler Haliburton in Windsor. Haliburton referred in one passage in his writings to local boys playing hurley on 'Long Pond' in that town, purportedly the 1st record of the game which would become ice hockey. (Competing claims are made for that honour on behalf of Halifax-Dartmouth, Montreal and Kingston.) But I didn't get to tour the Haliburton house which is a miss. Haliburton, author of 'The Clockmaker', a wildly popular account of the fictional Yankee clock-peddler Sam Slick of Slickville, is the most widely quoted North American. ("He drinks like a fish"; "the early bird gets the worm"; "it's raining cats and dogs"; "you can't get blood from a stone"; "as quick as a wink"; "barking up the wrong tree"; "won't take no for an answer"; "facts are [truth is] stranger than fiction"; "upper crust"; "looking for a needle in a haystack"; "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"; "stick-in-the-mud"; "seeing is believing"; "[the place] is going to the dogs"; "conniption fit"; "6 of 1, 1/2 a dozen of the other"; "never look a gift horse in the mouth"; "mad as a hatter"; etc., etc.) He's said to have been 'the father of American humour' and was a big influence on Mark Twain for one. - And I wouldn't tour Amherst, nor the Joggins coastal fossil site (the world's most complete fossil record from the 'Age of Coal', 300,000,000 BP) on the Bay of Fundy and the museum there, nor Grand Pre with its reconstructions and geography pertaining to the Acadian deportation and its museum, nor Truro's tidal bore (to be seen at @ 3 a.m. following a walk through a field from 'the Tidal Bore Inn') until I took my Mom back for a tour in 2016. Photos to come. - I toured McNab's Island with its ruins, incl. Fort Ives and Fort McNab; York Redoubt (where I had a memorable experience which involves a long story); the famous Halifax Citadel several times, and other sites in and around town, but I won't list any more Haligonian sites and sights here. (One can see a fair bit in 3 yr.s). - Another miss was the impressive, volcanic geology with 'the balancing rock' at Brier Island at the end of Digby neck. - I'm surprised that I've only learned this now, having lived in Halifax for 3 yr.s, but the oldest lighthouse in North America (1758!) and the oldest operating in the Americas is located in its harbour, the Sambro Island light. So that was a miss. It was only destaffed in 1988, and of course it's haunted now. - I had a fascination with Sable island when I was out east, with its wild horses. @ 42 km.s long and 1 1/2 wide, it's really a long sandbar which I've heard is stabilized with shipwrecks (!), known as the graveyard of the North Atlantic. It's also the main breeding ground for Atlantic Canada's grey seals. It's in N.S., but it's controlled by the Feds. In fact, it's a federal power under s. 91 of the Constitution, along with fisheries, trade and navigation, etc. It was strictly off limits in the early 90s, to protect the horses, but it was recently designated a national park and now tours have begun. The horses probably descend from a batch purchased by Boston merchants in the 1760s from Acadians who had just been deported, and which were shipped to Sable Island as 'surplus'. So they're Acadian horses! - I've seen a fair bit of New Brunswick too, visiting with relatives in Moncton, Fredericton, and Quispamsis, while hitching back and forth across the province. I visited Moncton (where I had an uncle and his family, and where my mom lived for 7 yr.s in her tweens and teens and attended high school) and various sites with my folks so many times on summer trips as a kid and as a tween, as a teen by thumb in '86, several times en route to and from Halifax while I was living there in the early 90s, again with Dad and Mom individually in 2 trips in 2016, and again twice with Mom in 2018, the 2nd time to her brother's funeral. (For those 3 trips in 2016 and '18 I took her out to see her brother and friends and for a little traveling @ at my expense.) Photos to come. - Once hitching home through N.B. I took the much more remote but direct 'Old Renous road' route (pron. Renooz), Hwy 108, and at the outset near its eastern end, heading west, I was picked up by 3 very ample, well-fed local women, a mother, her daughter and their friend. I sat in the back with either the daughter or her friend who said: "They tell us not to pick up hitch-hikers, but you can't rape the willing!! Ha Ha. Nope, you can't rape the willin'! ... And then she says to me, 'but you can't rape the willin'!' Ha!, and I says to her, No siree, how true! Ha ha!" (I was thinking "But I'm not willing.")

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