The following article first appeared in The Echo of Cantley Volume 27 no 6, December 2015. This article is made available for the enjoyment of others with the express permission of the Echo of Cantley.
A Farm Diary of Decembers in Cantley
What was a simple thoughtful present of a 5-year diary from Eirene to her husband Trevellyn McClelland on Christmas day 1950, has become a treasured item to the McClelland family. Trevellyn received two more such diaries at five year intervals on Christmas days, providing fifteen years of entries.
Cantley in the early 1950s was a small rural community where most men worked locally on the farms, forests, or the Blackburn mica mine. A few drove to the city for work. Electricity arrived in Cantley in 1948, but hydro lines did not extend to many homes until the mid to late 1950s. Not all families had the money to pay for the initial connection.
Many children walked to the one room country schools and a few even went to school by horse and sleigh in the winter months. Church and school were very important in the community, and a highlight of the school year was the annual Christmas concert.
Families did most of their shopping at the three general stores. Many Christmas gifts were ordered through the Eaton's catalogue and arrived at the Cantley post office operated by Jimmy Barrett, located in what is now the Hupé House.
Trevellyn's entries open the window to a Cantley farm family's daily lives, jotting down the weather, the price of livestock, who came to dinner, who died, what work was done and the activities of their children, Hubert, Grace and Bob. Following are selected entries from Decembers, with explanatory notes in brackets.
Dec. 1, 1954: Cold, snow flurries, went down to Stephen Burkes for logs with wagon and tractor, Jack Chenier went, finished pump house today. (Stephen Burke farmed on St Elizabeth Road. He never owned a car and until his death in 1960 drove a horse and buggy).
Dec. 3, 1955: Cleaned stove pipes Hubert and I did chores (Only newer houses had oil furnaces. Most were heated by wood or oil stoves and cleaning stove pipes was an important job).
Dec. 5, 1955: Brought home one load of wood, I had 10 cords cut last week @$4.50 per cord (Wood was brought home with horses and a sleigh, 4 ft x 8 ft cords).
Dec. 7, 1954: Hubert home from school early, stove not working, Eddie Chamberlain and I fixed stove in afternoon (The one room school was heated with an oil stove. One of the older pupils was paid to arrive early every morning to start the stove) .
Dec. 13, 1957: In town today, Hubert and I went looking at TV's bought one at Freimans (Canada's first TV stations were established in 1952.).
Dec. 14, 1954: Butchered calf and pig for Sam McClelland, then plucked chickens for town (Home freezers were rare. Most residents stored their meat at O.B. McClelland's general store in lockers they rented in his cold storage).
Dec. 20, 1952: Archie Barton died today at noon.
Dec. 20, 1958: Cut Christmas trees, did chores, very cold, lots of snow (Selling Christmas trees in town was source of extra income.)
Dec. 20, 1956: Went to town with chickens poor sales .30cts /lb. People wanted turkeys.
Dec. 21, 1956: Went to school concert, Grace in bed all day to save voice for concert.
Dec. 21, 1960: Took sow to Canada Packers (Canada Packers operated a large abattoir on Montcalm Street in Hull.)
Dec. 22, 1954: Bob 3 years old today, took him to Ottawa to see Santa Claus. He was asleep when we got home so did not have his birthday cake til next day.
Dec. 23, 1954: School stopped for Christmas today. Children came home with lots of candy. Snowed all day.
Dec. 24, 1952: Day before Christmas lots of work to do, children to bed early, Wesley (hired man) staying for Christmas, up til 11:45pm getting things done.
Dec. 24, 1960: cut wood, did chores, set up tree at church, we all went to church at 8pm.
Dec. 25, 1956: lovely day, lots of lovely gifts, children up at 5:15am to see gifts.
Dec. 25, 1959: Up at 8am, did chores, dinner at 1pm, Santa was very good to everyone, Bob went to bed early, he got a goalie stick.
Dec. 27, 1954: Went to Lamoureux Farm today, got a pair of sleighs.
Dec. 30, 1957: Went to sale barn in evening in Leitrim, sold 7 pigs for $68.00.
Dec. 31, 1954: Worked at school til 6pm, to see New Year in sat up til 12:30am played games.
Christmas 2015: Maybe it is time to once again give a journal as a gift to someone you love, a gift that becomes more priceless as the years go by.
Sue and Bob McClelland live on, operate, and enjoy Christmas on the original 1840s family farm in Cantley.