COPING WITH THE VIRUS AND WITH ISOLATION (January 18/22)

Valley Journal Advertiser

On January 2, along with 594 other Nova Scotians, I received the results of a test for Covid-19.

They were disheartening, and alarming, but at the same time, the message was encourasging, that this is something you can cope with. Not entirely bad, in other words. Apparently I’d been hit with that highly contagious Covid variant, dubbed worldwide as the Omicron virus; and if my symptoms didn’t worsen, self-isolating should put me back in the world of the living.

It wasn’t that easy. A senior and widowed just before Covid first shut everything down, I’d already struggled through two years of partial self-isolation and shutdowns. Tough as they were, like most Nova Scotians, I adapted to the new sets of social rules, seeing as few people as possible, wearing a mask, limiting my shopping, constantly sanitizing my hands.

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MEADOWVIEW – HISTORY OF A COUNTRY SCHOOL (January 11/22)

When the Free School Act was passed in 1865, schools in Nova Scotia became open to all children. As a result, hundreds of one-room schools opened in Hants and Kings Counties in the following decades.

Jumping forward to the early 1950s, when school districts were consolidated, many of those community one-roomers became obsolete. More than a hundred one-room schools were affected, for example, by Central Kings opening in Cambridge in 1952. Kings County had 112 school sections at the time and some, such as section number 78 in Aldershot, held two or more one-roomers.

Many of the one-room schools affected by consolidation became obsolete and were sold to private interests, were torn down or became functional as community halls. Typical of what happened to some of the single-room schools is the amazing fate of the Meadowview building in section 78. This section comprised Aldershot, Meadowview and the area that generally has been known as the Pine Woods.

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SENIORS MAKING MUSIC – THE VALLEY JAMS ARE BACK (January 5/22)

Valley Saltwire

Before Covid-19 clamped down on social events and gatherings, musical jams were big up and down the Valley. Most nights before Covid, in community halls, schoolhouses, clubrooms and Legions, you found seniors enjoying country music – and you were welcome to join in if you sang, played an instrument, or just liked to sit back and take it in.

Covid-19 firmly shut those jams down for a while, but the good news is that they’re back and the welcome mat is out. The focus again is on country music and as it was before Covid, everyone is welcome.

The format for the jams is simple: Wear a mask, show proof of vaccination, put your name on the list and wait your turn to perform. Most jams have sound systems, an MC who keeps everything in order and a few players that provide back up music.

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HANTS AND KINGS WERE SHIPBUILDING LEADERS (April 27/21)

Early in 1851, Joseph Howe boasted before the British Parliament that Nova Scotia owned more sailing vessels than all of the British North America colonies put together.

Howe was quoted in the Halifax newspaper, the Nova Scotian. According to Howe, the colonies owned 2536 vessels and Nova Scotians 2583.

The difference doesn’t seem to be that great isn’t until you consider that the colonies included Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, P.E.I., Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. With this comparison, you can see that in the era of wind-driven wooden vessels, Nova Scotia was a shipbuilding superpower.

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MASONS AND TRAINS – THE KENTVILLE CONNECTION (April 13/21)

The Masonic Lodge #58 of Kentville celebrated its 150th anniversary last year and a historically appropriate collaboration, one involving the old railway, took place.

First of all, the Lodge has some solid railway connections. The Lodge was organized in 1869, the year the Windsor & Annapolis Railway, while incomplete, was officially opened with a celebration in Kentville. But there’s more.

Behind the drive to complete the line was one Thomas Timmis Vernon Smith, later simply Vernon Smith, who is appropriately recognized as a railway pioneer. What is little known, however, is that Smith, the driving force behind the railway’s completion through the Annapolis Valley, was also a Master Mason.

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KENTVILLE’S STORY – HOW TO START A TOWN (March 30/21)

By the tone of a news report in an 1826 spring issue of the Acadian Recorder, people at a recent general meeting in the village, then known as Horton Corner, were in an unhappy mood.

George Chipman, the High Sheriff of Kings County, chaired the meeting. On the agenda, the establishment of a central schoolhouse in the village, was dealt with swiftly by the assembly. We learn from the Acadian Reporter that a large room would be “appropriated (for) the introduction of the Madras system (one teacher and older students teaching the younger ones) and the accommodation of a Sunday School of nearly 70 scholars. It is also contemplated to establish… a public library.”

With the schools and library satisfactorily dealt with, Sheriff Chipman brought up what likely was the actual purpose of the general meeting. “Being at one extremity of the township,” Chipman said in effect, “and having no distinguished name (other than the absurd epithet of Horton Corner) it is suggested that in honor of the memory of the late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, the village should be called ‘Kentville’.”

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KENTVILLE’S STORY – HOW TO START A TOWN (March 30/21)

By the tone of a news report in an 1826 spring issue of the Acadian Recorder, people at a recent general meeting in the village, then known as Horton Corner, were in an unhappy mood.

George Chipman, the High Sheriff of Kings County, chaired the meeting. On the agenda, the establishment of a central schoolhouse in the village, was dealt with swiftly by the assembly. We learn from the Acadian Reporter that a large room would be “appropriated (for) the introduction of the Madras system (one teacher and older students teaching the younger ones) and the accommodation of a Sunday School of nearly 70 scholars. It is also contemplated to establish… a public library.”

With the schools and library satisfactorily dealt with, Sheriff Chipman brought up what likely was the actual purpose of the general meeting. “Being at one extremity of the township,” Chipman said in effect, “and having no distinguished name (other than the absurd epithet of Horton Corner) it is suggested that in honor of the memory of the late Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, the village should be called ‘Kentville’.”

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SPLENDOUR, GAIETY – THE MARTOCK HOUSE STORY (March 16/21)

“On the crest of a hill, about three miles south of Windsor, there stands the remains of a mansion… not so long ago the scene of many glamorous occasions when it was the home of Col. E. K. S. Butler.”

This quote comes from a report on colonial architecture in the Maritimes by the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, published in 1933. The mansion, noted by the Institute to be “weather-scarred and shabby” at the time, is known today by most people as the Martock House (named, says the report, for the village in Somersetshire, England, where the Butler family home used to be).

In effect, the Institutes report is a detailed examination of Martock House and its structure. But besides doing exactly that (even the masonry and shingles are described) commentary on the early history of the site supports local folklore that it has Acadian connections.

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WHAT GRANDMA AND GRANDPA BELIEVED – OLD TIME REMEDIES (March 2/21)

It wasn’t all that long ago that insect bites were thought to be best treated with raw onions or mud.

So claims a “sportsman’s encyclopedia” that was published 110 years ago as a guide for “anyone venturing into the woods or into the backyard.” The advice about using mud to cope with insect bites, suggested more than a century ago, seems quaint today; but not that long ago folks believed that in an emergency (no pharmacy nearby) one could get relief from insect bites by daubing them with mud.

The encyclopedia also claims that an effective treatment for a sore throat is bacon or pork, “tied on (the throat) with a dry stocking,” and treating inflamed eyes with raw meat (“bind on and leave overnight”).

I don’t recall hearing about odd treatments like this when I was growing up, but some hints in the encyclopedia for treating minor ailments seem familiar – blowing tobacco smoke in an ear when it’s aching, for example, is one treatment I saw being used.

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MARKLAND – A RARE NOVA SCOTIA HISTORY (February 16/21)

“It is hard to say how long the book has been in my family, but a reasonable guess would be ten decades,” Larry Keddy said. “I inherited the book from my mother 51 years ago.

“My grandmother’s name is in the book, and I think my mother inherited it from her, sometime around 1932. The book was published in 1903, making it over a century old.”

Keddy is referring to one of several published histories of Nova Scotia, a book that has been around for almost 120 years. The title of the history is “Markland or Nova Scotia”. The title for the book comes from a belief that Norse explorers discovered Nova Scotia around 1000 AD and named it Markland or forest land. It’s questionable that the Norsemen landed here, however, but this name for the province has been perpetuated in literary and historical circles.

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