The following article was written by Dorothy (DeMille) Steeves (1917-2017), mother of Idella Lazar (a regular contributor to Connecting Albert County). She raised four children (the first two born within a year--Idella and her sister are the same age for ten days each year!), and worked alongside her husband doing farm chores, milking, haying and cleaning out the barn even when she was in her 80s. Idella writes, “You've heard the song that they don't make them like that anymore? Well, that was my mom!”
Mother could make over clothes that were given to us, and “did without” herself so she could give to her family. She was a good knitter too. I often held the yarn and said “I wish I could knit as fast as you can.”
We had no electric power. In the house, we used paraffin oil lamps for light. In the barn, we had a lantern. I was the tomboy and liked to go to the barn and hold the lantern for my Dad while he did the chores.
We kept two or three hen turkeys and a gobbler. At night about dusk, we would watch the turkeys fly to roost up on the pig-pen roof and then go in the house. Mother would be cooking pancakes for supper with what we called the “little lamp”, sitting near the stove. The buckwheat was raised on our farm and ground in a mill at Elgin.
The water ran to our house by gravity from a spring of good, soft, cold water that came out of the ground at a higher elevation than the house. It was piped and ran down to the house and barn. The pipe, which was 700-800 feet long I would judge, was underground even under the road and the bridge. To keep it from freezing in the winter, the pipe was enclosed in a box of buckwheat hulls under the bridge.
If you didn’t have a system like we had, you carried water in pails from a spring or a hand-dug well. Cattle were let out of the barn once a day so they could go to the brook or river for water. Sometimes ice would have to be broken before they could get a drink.
We lived near the Kennebecasis River and had to cross the river to get to our house from what we called the “main road.” The river would freeze over in winter. Sometimes in the spring, the river would flood due to ice jams. Once the flooding damaged our bridge; it tipped the bridge but didn’t take it out. Dad would take each of us by the hand and help us across the bridge when we went to school. It was scary to have the rushing water closer to the bridge than we were used to. As well, we were shut off from everyone who wouldn’t walk across the tipped bridge.
We used to tap about a dozen maple trees, carry the sap to the house and boil it down into syrup on the kitchen range. Our nearest telephone was three miles away. Our doctor drove a horse to make house calls!
When the river froze over, it became the skating area for those who had skates. The young people came and made a fire on the ice and skated in the evening.
We also had candy parties. Each person would take a pound or two of brown sugar to a neighbour’s house and we would coast or play games such as “pot of soup,” then someone made candy or fudge. Sometimes we would have a sing-song. If it was too far, Dad let us take a horse and sleigh. We used buffalo robes over our knees to keep us warm. Women had fur muffs – they were the “in thing.”