“It is not intended to be a scholarly work,” E. Marie Bickerton says of her book, Old Timers: Canning and Habitant.
Scholarly or not, this is a collection of historical information about Canning and the community of Habitant that would have been lost but for Bickerton compiling and publishing her book. Bickerton modestly adds that her book is “for information that can be added to at A later time.” Information, she tells us in an afterword, obtained from interviews, old newspapers, record books and by telephone.
In other words, some of what Bickerton included in her history was collected by talking with people. And what a chore this must have been, collecting oral history! I have no idea how long Bickerton worked on the book but from reading often intimate details about Canning, I would guess at least a couple of years. I as told Bickerton spent a lot of time talking with older residents of Canning and Habitant; in my opinion, preserving their recollection is what makes her work valuable.
When I decided to devote a column to Bickerton’s history I tried to find out something about her life. Contacting people with the same surname, a call to the Canning museum and telephone calls to a few Canning and Habitant residents went nowhere. Many people remember Bickerton but biographical information is scarce. I learned she was an artist and the Bickerton store that was once in Canning belonged to her family and that’s it. I’m hoping this column was prompt people to call and tell me all about a historian who should be recognized for her work.
As for her book, as well as describing the village’s older homes, it contains some delightful historical trivia about Canning. Three noontime whistles once blew in Canning, for example; in the shipyard, the axe factory and a mill. This alone illustrates that the village was once an important and thriving commercial centre – “the largest and mot prosperous village in Kings County,” Bickerton writes. How prosperous the village once was is also illustrated by the disastrous fire of 1866, Bickerton writing that it destroyed 40 buildings, of which 26 were stores.
Published in 1980, Bickerton’s work is out of print. The book is available at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library.