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Learner story archives

December 17, 2007

photo of Jane
Jane, ready to learn at the Spring Garden Road Library

Jane is a student at the Spring Garden Road Library Adult Learning Program, where she works with her tutor Paul Dawson every week.

My Cape Breton Home

by Jane Burchell

I was born in a small village called Sugarloaf on the island of Cape Breton, in the year 1940. There were about 20 families living there. In my family there were eight children, six girls and two boys. I was the second born. We were one of the smaller families and we were not very well off. Everyone lived quite close together, which made it easy if someone was in need.

In the spring and summer months the men fished and cut fire wood. The fish that were caught would go to the fish plant in Dingwall to be sold. In winter months their job was logging. They hauled the logs out of the woods by horse and sleigh. Then they were taken to the mill to be sawed and sold.

The General Store was a grocery store and post office combined. The people would gather there in the evening to wait for the mailman to come in from Sydney. I happened to be one of those. I'd go for groceries after school and wait for the mail to come in after nine o'clock. I didn't feel so good about the whole idea. I was only twelve years old. I was very tired and my self-esteem was very low. After the mail came in it had to be sorted so that was more waiting. I had to walk home in the dark. I was in no shape to do school work.

A ship called the S.S. Aspy came from Sydney carrying supplies. The people would travel on it back and forth to Sydney. There was no bus so they traveled on the old Aspy.

So here we are with no electricity in the village until the year 1955. There was no drinking water except from a neighbor's well and a brook for laundry. There were only a couple of cars on the road. Horse and wagon was the main transportation.

The school was made up of one room, with grades primary to twelve the teacher found it difficult to cope.

Winters were horrible with banks of snow from November until May. One storm met the other! I've had lots of fun in the snow but it was nice to see the winter break up.

In summer there was a beach a mile long so we could swim in the ocean and play in the sand.

My father was called to a better paying job at a gypsum plant in Milford. He went and stayed a year and then decided to move the family to Milford. We were unhappy moving from Sugarloaf but we will never forget our Cape Breton Home.

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