As stated in our national anthem, my father and his khaki-clad compatriots stood on guard for Canada in World War 1 and in World War 2. In WW1, the first major conflict for Canada, some 620,000 farm boys and girls and city kids answered the call to arms; and as happened again in WW2, many of them found a final resting place in foreign soil.
It is these soldiers, the men and women who answered the call, that we remember and salute on Remembrance Day. Many of these Canadians answered the call in both wars, and my father was one of them. In WW1 he suffered gunshot wounds early on while in the trenches. Later, as a volunteer with the Lord Strathcona Horse, he was wounded again when his mount was shot out from under him. However, he came home, apparently sound of limb and mind, and served his country again in WW2. As an overage soldier in WW2, he spent the wars in an Engineers Regiment at Camp Aldershot.
Since he came home after surviving trench warfare and the cavalry charges of WW1, my father can be considered one of the lucky ones. But was he? Gunshot wounds and bomb blast concussions kept him out of the field for short periods, but a mysterious malady finally put him down for the count and out of action. The Spanish flu, as it was eventually called, left him with a weak heart and he was on a blood thinner the remainder of his days.
Joining the Army in Kentville in 1916, Carl W. Coleman served in France with the Canadian Expeditionary Force until 1919. He was wounded twice, slight wounds that were minor compared to the mysterious malady that almost destroyed him. This is his story, how the Spanish Flu struck the Canadian trenches and was rampant in Nova Scotia when he returned home.
A thigh wound from shrapnel at Vimy didn’t stop him. Later, when he transferred to a Lord Strathcona cavalry unit, being thrown from his horse when a bomb exploded nearby didn’t slow him down either.
What finally put Carl W. Coleman, a Kings County solider of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, into a field hospital was a mysterious ailment sweeping through the trenches, laying low otherwise healthy soldiers. “I was told they almost lost me,” Coleman said years later when he talked about his experiences in WW1. “There was nothing they could do for me. They put me in a tent along with other sick soldiers and just waited to see if I was going to make it.”
No less an authority than a former head archivist notes that some of the people buried in Windsor’s old graveyard “are those prominent in the history of the province.”
So said W. C. Milner who in the 1920s (and perhaps earlier) was the head archivist for the Nova Scotia branch of the Public Archives of Canada. Milne paid this tribute to Windsor in an article called The Wonders of Windsor. This was one of about 70 historical essays Milne wrote and published as a paperback book after he retired to Wolfville in the late 1920s. The collection was first printed as a series in the Wolfville weekly paper, The Acadian.
That some of the most prominent historical figures in the province are buried there makes “Windsor distinguished amongst the towns in the Maritimes,” Milner said in his article. Also, “Windsor early became a social centre – partly as an overflow from Halifax and partly the inducements offered educationally by the location there of King’s College and Academy.”
“It’s a hazard and an eyesore,” a local businessman observed recently about the old Port Williams wharf.
Perhaps so, but the wharf also is historic and at one time it was the lifeblood of the local farming community. In the 1880s potatoes were being shipped out of the wharf to New Brunswick, Boston, and New York. There are records of even earlier shipments of potatoes to New Brunswick, but we don’t know how much earlier since the date when the wharf was first built isn’t known.
Over the decades the wharf was repaired and rebuilt several times. In 1930 the government replaced the old wharf with a 230-foot-long structure, and a 310-foot steamer berth. There came a time, however, when shipments of produce such as potatoes and apples declined due to loss of markets, and apparently the wharf was allowed to deteriorate.
One of my neighbors decided he wanted six post holes dug and I was offered the magnificent sum of 50 cents an hour to dig them. I say “magnificent” since I was 15 at the time and the $1.50 I earned went a long ways. With this money I took in an afternoon movie, bought a box of popcorn, a chocolate bar and a large Pepsi – and I still had change left over.
This was in the 1940s and a dollar went a lot farther in those days. I don’t know much about inflation but today’s dollar has less buying power than a 1940s dollar. This is blatantly obvious when, for example, you can compare restaurant fare prices in the 1940s to restaurant prices today.
I had the opportunity recently to do this, to see what meal prices were in 1940s restaurants, thanks to a friend who found a yellowed, partly deteriorated bill of fare dated 1941-42. This was for a restaurant on the Kings, Hants County border that also sold groceries. While the name of the restaurant was obliterated, the date and address on it were visible.
(In a column published last August, the authorship of Eaton’s history was discussed briefly. This follow-up is based on material I’ve discovered since.)
In a letter published in the Berwick Register in 1903, J. Calder Gordon wrote that in a Boston library he had discovered a “valuable manuscript” that was a history of Kings County, Nova Scotia. “Considerable work has been done (on this manuscript) by the late William Pitt Breckin… He had intended publishing it with the aid promised him by the leading people of the county.”
Expanding on what Breckin had accomplished, Gordon noted that the history contained “details of the founding and founders families of the county.” Gordon then advised the public that he was “gathering additional material to complete this valuable work” and would like the co-operation of those “interested in this banner county of Nova Scotia.” The completion of Breckin’s history could only be done from Boston, Gordon said, “as all the colonial records of the founding of the county are here.”
Occasionally Larry Keddy looks back on the time in his life when he seriously considered becoming a professional drummer.
This was in 1950 and he was about to graduate from Acadia University with a Bachelor of Science degree. While there he had drummed with the University’s renowned dance band, the Acadia Gentlemen of Swing. “This was well into the swing and dance band era. Since high school, I’d been playing with bands and I was leaning towards taking it up full time.”
Instead, Keddy had second thoughts and opted to continue his education by studying towards an engineering degree at the University of New Brunswick; there he continued to drum with local dance bands until graduating in 1957. His degree in civil engineering took Keddy to the Ford Motor Company in Ontario and there he continued to drum in dance bands.
“In the Pine Woods and at other spots near Kentville, for many years there were… small, picturesque Micmac encampments,” Eaton writes condescendingly in the History of Kings County.
This quote is found in the section Eaton devoted to the town of Kentville – and it is absolutely incorrect in its inference. Going from boundary to boundary, Eaton reflects on Kentville’s history in this chapter, describing in detail buildings, churches, streets, stores, people and so on. He neglects mentioning that the area now occupied by the town, the swamps, wet areas, its springs, meadows, the Cornwallis River and its smelt brook, were for centuries a Mi’kmaq harvesting grounds.
Turn to the historical writing of Edmond Cogswell, however, and you’ll learn how vital that harvesting ground once was. Cogswell pressed home this point in a series of historical articles published in various Kings County newspapers in the 1880s and 1890s. I’ve quoted Cogswell here before, noting he found many Mi’kmaq and Acadian connections in Kentville. He speculates, for example, that the Acadians may have had a footbridge at the Kentville ford, and it was by a ford used for centuries by the Mi’kmaq. Below the ford, which is about where the Kentville bridge is today, Cogswell said that even in his time, evidence could be found indicating it was an ancient Mi’kmaq summer camp.
He earned some of Scout Canada’s highest awards and at one time was the oldest active Scout in Canada. To my surprise, I found him profiled in Wikipedia which notes he is “still known as the oldest Boy Scout in the Commonwealth of Nations.”
In a scouting career that spanned nearly 80 years, Wood influenced the lives of several generations of youths in the Kentville area. He is still well remembered today by countless youths, many of them now seniors, who served with him as scouts.
This was Walter Wood (1876-1981) who arrived in Kentville circa 1908 to sign on with the D.A.R. Walter spent his entire career working as a machinist with the railway. During those railway years and well after he retired, he was active in the scouting movement. When he was saluted in his 90th birthday in The Advertiser, the editor wrote that next to scouting founder Lord Baden-Powell, his name “was almost a byword in the Valley’s scouting movement.”
In the spring of 1629, one Richard Guthry marveled that the area around Port Royal abounded in wild game and fish. Oddly, as the unofficial chronicler of the Port Royal settlement, Guthry mentions two game birds that according to biologists, didn’t exist in Nova Scotia at the time – phesents (sic) and wild turkeys.
Now the records show that pheasants were introduced here in the 1900s and Nova Scotia’s climate has always been deemed too inhospitable for wild turkeys. Yet here we have a 17th century historian telling us these game birds were abundant.
It’s a surprise also that Guthry neglects to mention two major game animals found throughout the province in his time – caribou and moose. These game animals were a major food source for the Acadians, thanks to the Mi’kmaq who introduced French settlers to the wildlife harvest there for the taking. So also with the Planters. In accounts about the Planters after the Acadians were booted out, you’ll discover that moose and caribou also were important food sources for them, along with small game animals, waterfowl and fish.