THE PERKS OF WRITING A COLUMN, PLUS TRIVIA (July 28/00)

Meeting interesting people, discovering interesting facts, finding interesting things: The perks I enjoy preparing my column and articles for this newspaper.

Thanks to the column and articles I’ve interviewed some amazing, talented and versatile people: A near-centenarian with the body of an average 40-year-old (a former Kentville Mayor whose secret of staying in condition is daily walking); a guy with a vocation that once kept the armies of the ancient world on the move (farriery); and people with unusual hobbies, avocations and interests that give them a zest for living – genealogy, railway lore, sailing ships, the collecting of artifacts, for example.

Along the way, I’ve unearthed a number of unusual facts that trivia lovers would delight in. While researching recently, for example, I discovered that the origin of playing cards is obscure. No one knows for sure where they came from – China or Persia or Gypsies perhaps – but historians say playing cards as we know them are at least 700 years old. One popular kids’ game, Go Fish, originated 400 years ago and was once the exclusive domain of the adult world.

And speaking of card games, Nova Scotia has made a unique contribution in auction forty-five. For a long time, the game was peculiar to Nova Scotia and you couldn’t find mention of it books on games. One supposedly exhaustive book on card games that was published for the North American market, fails to mention this favourite game of generations of Nova Scotians.

The game had to come from somewhere, of course. Perhaps with the Planters or Loyalists; and perhaps with Irish colonists, which was the suggestion in the one book I’ve found that mentions auction forty-five.

The average life span is increasing, and increasing rapidly, which is something I learned when preparing an article on walking. People who have reached age 65, for example, will live an average of 80 years. Only a few decades ago the average life span was in the low 70s.

Big deal, I say. A couple of hundred years ago people lived to be 80 and more without all the medical and nutritional benefits and the knowledge we have available today.

An interesting account about longevity is found in Calnek’s Annapolis County history. Writing about one General Timothy Ruggles, who received a land grant in Wilmot, Calnek tells us that this gentleman lived to the age of 80, succumbing to a hernia rather than old age in 1795 when he went hill climbing.

Ruggles was centuries ahead of his time when it came to nutrition. “It may not be without use to remark,” Calnek wrote, “that for much the greater part of his life (Ruggles) ate no animal food (meat) and drank no spirituous or fermented liquors, small beer excepted, and that he enjoyed health to his advanced age.”

When I wrote about the collection of A. L. Hardy photographs on file at the Courthouse Museum in Kentville, I called it the largest private collection in existence. I should have said that the Museum has one of the largest private collections. I simply forgot the Kentville collector and historian, Louis Comeau, has a magnificent collection of Hardy landscapes and portraits, perhaps the largest of anyone, anywhere. Comeau’s collection numbers between 130 and 140 photographs (Louis hasn’t counted them lately) and he also has Hardy’s studio camera.

My apologies to Louis for the oversight. By the way, some of his historical artifacts are currently on display at the Courthouse Museum.

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