HISTORY OF BLANDFORD 1931 – 1961
ANN THORNTON And CHERYL SCHNARE
March 30, 1983.
HISTORY OF BLANDFORD 1931 – 1961
ANN THORNTON And CHERYL SCHNARE
March 30, 1983.
This paper is primarily concerned with the history of Blandford during the years 1931 – 1961. The village of Blandford is situated on the southwestern side of the Aspotogan Peninsula in the county of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. It is bounded on the northwest by Deep Cove and on the northeast by Bayswater. Its houses are spread out for a distance of five and a half miles along the coast of Mahone Bay and are never more than a few hundred feet from the ocean. For convenience, the people in this area divided this stretch into Upper and Lower Blandford.
In order to look at those years in proper perspective one should have some knowledge of Blandford's beginnings. The first European settlers to come to Blandford were the Irish in 1750. Although Governor Francklin's census of 1767 records the actual settlement in detail, there is no further reference to these people 1 . In 1807 German settlers purchased land in Blandford, from the Cochran brothers, which had been divided into 'farm lots' 2 .
Early German settlers were George Zinck, John Meisner, Jacob Zinck, Casper Zinck, John Seaboyer, and Peter Publicover. Gradually the settlement became established. More families of German descent arrived. Bill Baker came from flat Island, George Young from Ironbound, Robert Schnare from Chester Commons, and so the list of families grew 3 . These surnames continue to prevail in the years 1931 – 1961, right up to the present day.
Statistics Canada began only in 1956 to subdivide their census reports. Prior to this time the statistics for Blandford were a part of Chester Municipal statistics. It was impossible to separate them since there was just one figure for the whole municipal population. In 1956 the population was three hundred and twenty and in 1961, three hundred thirty five 4 . An examination of school registers for the years 1931, 1941, 1951, and 1961, showed that the enrollment of children remained between sixty-five to seventy-five during this entire period 5 . This would indicate that Blandford's population remained stable throughout those years and this has been confirmed in conversations with local residents.
The people of Blandford were self-sufficient. Each family had a garden plot, which supplied vegetables for its' own use. Cabbage was grown to be made into sauerkraut, which was sold in Halifax or exchanged for winter supplies such as sugar, molasses, tea, flour, prunes and raisins 6 . Most families kept a pig, which was killed in the fall; the meat was smoked or salted. Piglets could be purchased from a man who went door to door 7 . Deer and moose were hunted during the autumn; this meat was mixed with pig fat and herbs, made into sausages, and pickled for winter use. Hens were kept; extra eggs were used for barter 8 .
Each family would have a cow for milk and the women made their own butter. In preparation for the winter, when the cow was usually pregnant and unable to give milk, the women placed salted butter in crocks to pickle. Pastureland was scarce so the young animals were turned loose onto the road or into the woods to graze, and bells were hung about their necks. Oxen were very important since horses were seldom used in this community. Local residents considered oxen better suited to working in this area than horses. At the end of their working lives oxen could be sold at beef prices, while horses were worthless 9 .
Every household owned a small fishing boat. In the 1930's an engine was used on most of these boats. These engines were called 'one lungers' by the local residents. Previously most of the men had owned schooners, but with the introduction of an engine were able to fish further off shore. When the transition was first made from sail to engine most men were afraid of this new innovation and continued to rely on sail 10 .
At the beginning of the 1930s boats with 'one lunger' engines were build in Blandford by Eli Publicover, or made to order from boat builders in Oakland and Mahone Bay. The engines were purchased from Lunenburg Foundry, Acadia Gas Engines in Bridgewater, or Hawbolt Industries in Chester. Boats at that time were fairly inexpensive compared to prices of today. Each boat would cost around four hundred dollars during the thirties. This money had to be paid to the builder before the boat could be taken away by the new owner. Some men cut their own lumber to be used for the boat and thus reduced the price, as the labour was quite cheap at this time. Engines would cost three hundred fifty dollars, which was paid as the fisherman could afford it. Mr. Hawbolt would often extend credit for up to three months 11 .
In 1942 fishermen made the change from 'one lunger' to 'Cape Island' boats which were larger. These boats could be built by Archie Stevens in Blandford, or any of the above mentioned builders. Most of the 'Cape' boats used a marine engine, which was purchased from the same companies as the 'one lungers'. After 1950 car engines replaced the marine engines in the 'Cape' boats 12 .
The fishing season began in April with lobster. Then last two weeks of May and the first two in June were when mackerel nets were set. Around the middle of June some fisherman set mackerel traps in berths, which had to be registered with the fisheries office. You could not use anyone else's berth unless the owner accompanied you to have the registration changed. These berths had to be registered every year, but there was no cost involved. Ground fishing began in the middle of June and continued until December. The ground fish caught in this area were: haddock, cod and pollock. From August until the middle of September herring were caught. Then in November and the beginning of December the men closed out the season with lobster 13 .
Only lobster fishing required a license in the years between 1931 and 1961, the cost of this license was fifty cents to one dollar 14 . In the early 1930s lobster sold for fifty cents a pound. Mr. Arch Zinck remembers a time when lobster were so plentiful that the fisherman could not give them away. Most of the fish was sun dried on wooden racks known as 'flakes', surplus fish was sold. A 200 pound barrel of herring could bring two dollars and fifty cents during the 1930's, currently a twenty pound pail retails for twelve dollars 15 .
The winter months were spent repairing nets, traps and boats; and making lobster traps. Men also cut their fuel wood during these months for the wood stoves which were the only source of heat in the homes. Most of the wood in this area was softwood and although plentiful it burned too quickly to sustain a fire overnight and most families supplemented wood with coal for night burning. This coal was purchased by the ton from sheds next to the railway station in Chester, having been brought there from the mines in Cape Breton 16 .
Some men spent part of the winter in logging camps, which were located as close as Deep Cove or as far away as Parrsboro. Mrs. Selburn Schnare remembers accompanying her husband for two winter seasons to a logging camp at Deep Cove in the early 1940s. Oxen were used extensively in the woodcutting operations. They would haul logs to Deep Cove. Fishing boats took these logs to Chester to be sold. At that time, men received about five dollars per cord 17 .
Winters were hard, with windows frequently iced up on the inside. It was often impossible to see out of these windows for days. Older residents remember that the winters were more severe in years gone by, with a greater accumulation of snow than the present day. Mr. Arch Zinck remembers walking across the ice to Tancook Island twice, once as a child hauled on a sled and then walking with five friends in 1932. This would be a distance of two and a half miles. He recalled that on the journey out the ice was O.K. but on return the five boys had to jump from ice cake to ice cake. They were only home twenty minutes when the ice broke up and passage would have been impossible 18 . This was the last time anyone walked across the ice to Tancook.
Most homes only had one or two wood stoves, very little insulation, single glazed windows and were deathly cold. Of course, there was no indoor plumbing and trips had to be made to the 'little red outhouse' which was frequently situated a long way for the back door. In Blandford the outhouse was also called the 'back house' or 'Parliament building'. In the thirties toilet paper was seldom used; the Eaton's and Simpson's catalogues were used instead. Great care was taken to avoid using the coloured pages 19 . In many homes chamber pots and chamber pails cut down these visits, but pity the unfortunate child whose job it was to empty these frozen 'honey pots' on a bitter January morning!
Women then had none of the modern day conveniences that we take for granted. Clothes were washed in a large wash tub; the water was heated in large pails on the stove. The clothes were scrubbed on a washboard and rung by hand. Articles of clothing were course, heavy and bulky which made them very awkward to wash by hand. In the winter the clothing usually had to be dried in the house. May homes had strong cord lines for drying clothes strung across the kitchen above the wood stove.
New clothing was ordered mainly from the Simpson's or Eaton's catalogue. An order of twenty-five dollars was required before the company would pay the freight charges. Several families would place an order together to meet the twenty-five dollar requirement. Their parcel would come to the East River railway station where it would be picked up by a member of the community. Some clothes were sent or brought home by relatives living or working in the United States. Blandford appears to have had stronger ties with the United States than with central and western Canada. Any second hand clothing would be meticulously 're-made' into another garment, which was most needed 20 . During the 1930s this was a very common practice as money was not available for such luxuries.
Many families bought wool from Tancook at ten cents a pound. They washed it, carded it, and made it into wool comforters. The women made candles and soap, cut their families hair and were usually kept busy from morning until night 21 . During 1931 – 1961 women's work revolved around their homes and families, as it did in other small communities.
The nearest doctor practiced in Chester but he would make a house call, the cost of which was ten dollars or more. The nearest hospital was the Victoria General in Halifax. Babies were usually born at home or the home of a friend. During the late twenties and early thirties Mrs. Nettie Arenburg practiced midwifery in the village, she was from the Annapolis Valley but often visited two of her daughters who lived in Blandford. Mrs. Sadie Gates was also a midwife who would assist with the birth and stay with the family until the mother had recuperated 22 . Mrs. Marcus Publicover took pregnant ladies into her home and delivered the babies in her front room. The mother and child would remain there at a cost of one dollar a day until they were ready to go home. During her time as midwife Mrs. Publicover delivered approximately fifty babies with only one fatality 23 . The infant mortality rate was very low in Blandford.
The road in Blandford was a dirt track, sixteen feet wide, which turned into a sea of mud in spring. In 1931 there were four cars on Blandford: a Model T Ford, a Dodge, a Chevrolet and a Model A Ford. Their owners carried an axe and shovel in the car, as they would invariably get stuck in the mud, to cut trees to aid in the removal of their vehicles. The fact that animals were allowed to graze in the road further substantiates the fact that this road was little more than a cart track. Motorists had to make frequent stops to fend off livestock 24 .
In the mid-thirties Mr. Ira Covey acquired a franchise to operate a bus service. Trips were made to Chester three times a week and to Halifax every day. Not many people went to work in Halifax from Blandford, but Mr. Covey made frequent pickups along the route. Mr. Covey and his brother, Sydney, also operated a general store & service station. In the early fifties two other service stations began 25 : Earl Publicover's Garage, which is still in existence, and Donald Cornelius's Garage which burned down twice in a three year period and was not reconstructed after the second fire. Mr. Hale Covey started what was to become a thriving Auto Salvage operation in 1960 26 .
During the winter the road had to be shovelled and made passable. Male citizens were selected by the Councilor and appointed by the Council in Chester to oversee the clearance of the road. These men had to ensure that the local men had to clear the highway after each storm. No one received any pay for this task. In the winter of 1939 – 1940 the snowplough first came to Blandford 27 . This was a direct result of the Second World War. Most of the men who were capable of shovelling had been recruited for the war effort.
In the early fifties a petition was signed by many Blandford residents requesting road improvements. Later when Robert Stanfield became premier this petition was reviewed and the road prepared for paving in 1958 28 . During this up grading the road was realigned to remove some of the tortuous bends and steep hills; and a portion of Aspotogan Mountain was removed to facilitate safe passage around Deep Cove.
Material for the up grading of the road came from a pit owned by Mr. William Young. Class 'A' and 'C' fill was put down; this material was the best type of shale in Nova Scotia, but due to its rough texture it tore the tires of the cars to pieces. The actual paving of the road was not carried out until 1968, by which time much of the up grading had to be repeated 29 .
Prior to 1950 one of the main purposes of the road was to facilitate the movement of the mail. The main mode of transportation during the thirties and most of the forties was by boat. Mail and newspapers for Blandford came by train to Hubbards or East River railway stations. Every four years tenders were called for the much sought after job of mail carrier, since this position provided a regular source of income at a time when a monthly pay cheque was unheard of. The contract, which encompassed the whole of the Aspotogan Peninsula, was awarded to the lowest tender; a realistic tender would be around twelve hundred dollars. The mail carrier was required to collect mail from Blandford Post Offices at seven in the morning, take it to the Post Office at Hubbards every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and to East River railway station Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The mail carrier used a horse and wagon to transport the mail in the winter and a car in summer. The mail carrier was usually the only man in the community to own a horse 30 .
In lower Blandford Mr. Heman Gates and Mr. Donald Cornelius were postmasters between 1931 and 1961. During this period, in addition to his duties as postmaster, Mr. Heman Gates operated a telephone switchboard in his home. In Upper Blandford there were three postmasters: Mr. Tom Zinck, Mr. Neil Zinck and Mr. Herbie Meisner consecutively. In 1950 Mac Eaton, Cyrus Eaton's son, circulated a petition in Blandford for the introduction of mailboxes. The petition was successful and Mr. Mac Eaton was awarded the contract for rural route delivery. Mailboxes were not mandatory, and some families continued to collect their mail from the post office. Mr. Mac Eaton was the last resident of Blandford to deliver the mail, subsequent contracts were given to people from outside the community 31 .
Because the mail carrier was the sole owner of a horse he was notified when a member of the community died and his horse would pull the funeral hearse. Mr. Victor Zinck acted as assistant undertaker, until his death in 1949, to Mr. William Zinck of Mahone Bay. The deceased was laid out at home, and a coffin could be purchased from Mr. Victor Zinck. More elaborate coffins could be purchased elsewhere. Tombstones could be selected from a catalogue produced by an Ontario firm or a company in Halifax which watched for the obituaries in the newspaper and would come to the home 32 .
Many families had private cemeteries. The oldest cemetery in Blandford is located on what is called 'Blandford Head'. Upper Blandford, too, has a very old cemetery; it is located adjacent to the property of Mr. Bruce Gates. Both of these cemeteries have become over grown, so that it is difficult to find gravestones, but a careful search still reveals interesting memorials on the hand hew stones. In 1942, during the ministry of Reverend Douglas Batten, the decision was made to purchase land for a 'general cemetery', to be the property of the church. The land was bought and cleared. It surrounds the old Publicover cemetery. Eventually, it was set off into lots, which were numbered and sold. A cemetery Committee was set up to look after its care 33 .
It was very rare to find anyone in Blandford who was not of the Protestant faith. These Protestants were mainly Anglican, with a Baptist minority. Blandford has strong Protestant roots because of its early settlers. Newcomers were absorbed into the two established faiths with great ease. Two churches serve this community: Saint Barnabas built in 1867, and the Baptist Church built in 1893.
Many of the Anglican ministers serving Blandford have been from England. Until 1948 part of the salary of the Anglican ministers was paid by a missionary society in England. These men were very earnest, sincere, well educated, and used to a refined way of life. Because of their position, along with these attributes, they had a great influence on the community in all aspects of life 34 .
Throughout the years, during leisure time, members of the community attended meetings held by the various church groups: St. Barnabas Ladies Guild; Anglican Young Peoples' Association, started in 1945; Church Choir; Girls' Guild; Men's Club; and Sunday School 35 .
Most of the entertainment in Blandford was provided by the Church. The Ladies Sewing Guild of Saint Barnabas held Ice Cream Socials at the parish hall. Children went to collect cream and eggs from the families who had cows and/or hens, their mothers went to the hall to prepare the mixture, crushed the ice, and turned the big ice cream maker by hand 36 . Occasionally a man or an older boy came to help with these chores. After everyone had eaten their fill a dance was held. This social event usually occurred each week, one week in Blandford the next in the neighboring community of Bayswater. Pie sales were held throughout the year. Girls in the community would bake a pie; the men would bid on the pie made by their favourite girl 37 . A dance would follow this auction. Other church dances and suppers would be held throughout the year. Proceeds from all these activities would go to the church.
There were several annual church sponsored events, which the community looked forward to. The Sunday School Picnic would be held in the summer in a very large field. The whole family attended. All sorts of games and races were held in the afternoon. Each family took a picnic basket and ate their supper in the field. The Church Picnic was always held in August, everyone had a new outfit for this event. Booths were built outside around the parish hall for games of chance; inside the hall was a tea and sale of articles made by the Saint Barnabas Ladies Sewing Guild. The supper and dance, which followed, were the social highlight of the year. Midway through the dance pie and coffee were served. This event was very well attended by residents and non-residents alike, frequently the hall was packed beyond capacity. Most members of the community contributed to the tea and supper. A sale of articles made by the guild held prior to Christmas proved to be a popular annual event. Ladies came from miles around to buy these well-made articles and excellent baked goods 38 .
In addition to church sponsored groups, members of the community might belong to the Orange Men's Lodge, now defunct, or the Odd Fellows Lodge. The Orange Men's Lodge was a Protestant association for men, which operated throughout the 1900's. In 1931 the Lady Eldon Lodge, the woman's order of this association began in Blandford. The Odd Fellows Lodge was an English, fraternal order to which both men and women could belong. It began in Blandford in the early 1900s and a hall was built in 1907-1908. This was a very strong order, which presently has many new members 39 .
Other entertainments included card parties, hooking parties, quilting parties. Families often went skating together on outdoor ponds on Sunday afternoon. In the 1950s an ice rink was constructed on the road leading to Bayswater. Some residents played ball in a field near Mr. Earl Publicover's home 40 . People listened to radio programs and were able to borrow books from Mr. Ellis Gates' extensive library. In the early fifties television was introduced to the community. Mr. Mark Cleveland, who owned and operated a general store, was an early owner. He had the television situated in his store and kindly allowed any resident to view favourite programs. Young children of the community sat packed tightly on a long bench, against the wall, every Saturday at six o'clock in the evening to watch 'Disney Land'.
Varying numbers of stores were operated in Blandford up to a maximum of six at one time. These stores were: F. T. Cornelius' Store, Mark Cleveland's Store, Gates' Store, Ira and Sydney Covey's Store, Lee Publicover's Shoe Repair Store and Lloyd Clark's Store 41 . The earliest of these stores was the F. T. Cornelius store 42 . The first three of these businesses were still in operation in 1961. In addition to these establishments, Arab Pack Peddlers went from door to door selling dry goods such as bedding and clothing. In the late twenties and early thirties Mr. Howard Johnston came with a horse team and peddled groceries to the residents 43 . Another traveling grocer, Mr. Thomas Countway, began a weekly circuit in the early 1940's 44 . Mr. Countway still sells groceries to certain parts of Blandford on a weekly basis.
By the early 1880s Blandford had two separate schools. The Lower Blandford School was located in what is now the Fire Hall. It was a one-room school until 1947 – 1948 when another room was added. Three thousand dollars was borrowed from the bank by the community for this addition. Before the bill was paid the government took over the cost of education 45 . Grades primary to six were in one room and grades seven to eleven in the other. In the mid-1930s grade eleven was no longer taught as there were too many grades for the teacher to handle. Some students were able to attend grade eleven in other Nova Scotia schools, by going to live or board with an acquaintance or relative, while many others took their grade eleven by correspondence course 46 .
Upper Blandford School was a one-room school with grades primary to eleven. Today this school building is a private summer residence. Miss Ethel Stevens (now Mrs. Roy Meisner) was a teacher at Upper Blandford school in the 1933 – 1934 year. Her salary for that year was four hundred dollars. There were no substitutes, if the teacher was ill school was closed. In the classroom there was very little equipment, anything new was bought out of the teachers' own money. This still applied when Mrs. Meisner returned to teach there in 1957 – 1958. Slates were used until 1957 when pencils and paper came into use. There was a two hundred-day school year, with school beginning in August and finishing in June 47 . The more timid children carried sticks to school to 'shoo' away grazing animals that frequently chased the children along the road 48 .
During the Depression people in Blandford were able to support themselves quite well due to the diversity of their skills. Although stores were well stocked with clothes and food, money was in short supply, so a barter system was used between residents 49 . Few people left the community at this time; homeowners and the elderly had little choice, they were virtually compelled to stay. The people of Blandford have always been conservative in their habits and this was of great benefit during the 'hungry thirties'.
The municipal government in Chester set up a committee to deal with the problems of the needy. Mr. Lee Zinck was appointed 'Overseer of the Poor' for Blandford. Families would apply to this committee for assistance and their needs would be assessed. Help was given in the form of flour, sugar and molasses but never money. Fortunately only one family in Blandford ever needed to apply for help. This system of relief was eventually taken over as a joint project between the federal, provincial and municipal governments; it remained in operation only during the Depression 50 .
In the 1930s the United States paid the Canadian government a fee which allowed them to fish in Canadian waters, this money was distributed in fishing communities and was referred to as 'bounty'. In Blandford, each man in the community was given eleven dollars – or from fifteen to seventeen dollars if he owned a boat. This money was received in March and for some members of the community was their only source of regular income 51 .
The village of Chester was a very busy place in the summer, with many Americans resident there. A few women from Blandford travelled to Chester where the wealthy summer residents employed them. Other women, including Mrs. Stevens, Mrs. Seaboyer, and Mrs. Meisner, made carpets on looms. They carded and dyed the wool themselves and the completed carpets were often bought by the American visitors 52 .
A guest house, called "Out-O'-The-Way-Inn", which catered to these tourists, was kept by Mr. and Mrs. Chauncey Publicover. It was begun in the 1930's mainly to accommodate commercial travellers. This Inn had seven bedrooms and a full bathroom, a rarity in the community at that time. The bathroom was installed at a cost of two hundred thirty dollars. A hand pump was utilized to fill the cistern, which flushed the toilet. Full board for one day cost one dollar and fifty cents 53 .
Cyrus Eaton, a millionaire industrialist, who was originally from Pugwash, Nova Scotia, but lived in Ohio, bought a large piece of land in Blandford between 1931 – 1933. The estate covered woodland, run-down farms, and a number of lakes. Mr. Eaton turned this estate into a sanctuary for Canadian Geese. The Canadian Geese still remain here all winter and can often be seen walking down the road or swimming just off shore.
Mr. Eaton spent a long time improving and developing his land in Blandford. A tennis court was built, trees were planted, access roads constructed and a large house built. Local people were hired to work on the estate, their oxen and carts tilled the soil and hauled lumber. This provided a source of income for the local inhabitants. Although Mr. Eaton did not escape the Depression entirely, his finances remained quite stable and his pay cheques may have been a little delayed, but they never 'bounced' 54 .
Mr. Eaton entertained extensively during the summer when he resided in Blandford. Many of his guests were celebrities; one such guest was Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space. Mr. Eaton always remained an 'outsider', through his own choice, and never made contributions to community organizations. At his death in 1979, his estate in Blandford was purchased by a group of businessmen from Germany.
The people of Blandford supported both the Liberal and Conservative parties. Entire families tended to support the same political party. Their children, when they came of voting age, were also expected to support that same party. In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s the majority of Blandford residents voted for the Liberal party both federally and provincially. In 1956, Robert Stanfield's Conservative Government gained power in Nova Scotia. Finally, after all these years, the Blandford conservatives had reason to be elated 55 .
Politics often played an important role in securing certain positions in the community: mail carriers, post masters and road construction labourers. In the latter part of the 1930s the government introduced Old Age Security. An amount of money was allowed for each person over the age of seventy, but a 'means test' was included in the act. This test was much criticized at the time, as some individuals passed the test and received a cheque only because of their political affiliation 56 .
In addition being Overseer of the Poor, Mr. Lee Zinck was also the assessment officer for Blandford. The municipal government in Chester operated on a very small budget. The assessment on property was ten percent of the value, which could be received, if the property was auctioned. For example, a home assessed at two thousand five hundred dollars (there would be very few rated so highly in Blandford at that time) tax would be levied on two hundred and fifty dollars. The tax rate in the 1930s was approximately eight percent, therefore the home owner would pay twenty dollars in taxes 57 .
Although the era of Prohibition in the United States had brought wealth to many coastal communities in Nova Scotia, Blandford played a minor role with only small quantities of liquor being traded in the area. Occasionally fishermen would return from an offshore trip with two or three kegs of rum, which they had bought from 'rum runners' encountered at sea. A keg of rum cost about five dollars on the high seas and could be brought home and be 'bootlegged' in bottles for about a dollar each 58 . The men would hide their illicit alcohol in woodpiles or down wells as sporadic searches were carried out in the area by police. Often when the men went to retrieve their alcohol it would have vanished, stolen by sharp-eyed members of the community 59 .
Not all illicit alcohol came into Blandford by boat. Mr. Lee Zinck recounted a tale from the thirties in which he and five friends travelled to Hubbards on the eve of an election and purchased, at a cost of thirty dollars, a five-gallon keg of rum. They brought the keg home and poured the rum into the wash tub and added three gallons of water. The whole night was spent bottling the mixture and by the time the job was completed they were quite intoxicated from the fumes of the potent brew 60 . Despite the fact that rum running was illegal it was considered a part of life in the community at that time.
With the beginning of the Second World War in 1939 prosperity came slowly and gradually to Blandford. Fish prices increased and surplus garden products could be readily sold. Cash was being used more and the barter system began to decline.
Everyone between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five received conscription papers to go to basic training. A number of men from Blandford joined the forces before the conscription, while others were in the Merchant Navy previous to 1939 61 . Quite a few Blandford residents saw action overseas, but only two were killed: Lambert Fleet and Arron Cleveland 62 . Men who remained at home usually joined the Home Guard 63 .
Wartime Halifax was a 'boom' city. There was a great demand for stevedores on the waterfront to load and unload the numerous ships. Some men went from Blandford. Mr. Lee Zinck recalls being issued with a card which was necessary in order to get your name on the work list. Every morning the men on this list would report for work. Their names would be put on a huge board in alphabetical order, if their name was called they would have work for that day. Although Mr. Zinck was near the end of the list, he was called frequently 64 . This was an indication of the amount of traffic passing through the Halifax port at this time.
The Ladies Auxiliary, Red Cross and the Lodges all contributed to the war effort by knitting socks and making up parcels to be sent overseas 65 . Blandford did have blackouts during the war 66 , and there were German submarines patrolling off shore, but there were never any incidents 67 .
In 1942, a Canadian fighter plane crashed in the vicinity of Aspotogan. There is a memorial to the pilot in the old Catholic Church in Hubbards. Many residents went to the site of the crash and took bullets used by the sixteen machine guns that were on board, which were scattered around 68 .
In the same year a French submarine, under German command, attacked a convoy of ships outside Halifax Harbour, a supply ship went aground at Sambro. Many local people went to the ship to salvage the goods that were floating everywhere, as this was a time of rationing. Granville Gates and his son Russell aged eleven, made many trips to the vessel, while some of the men in the community only went once or twice. This was illegal, detectives made random searches, and a few token fines of fifty dollars were handed out. Some members of the community, who worked the boat for a considerable length of time made in excess of twenty five thousand dollars profit from the sale of the salvaged goods 69 .
Supplies taken from this boat were 'C' rations, individually packed meals, and 'K' rations which were gallon containers of sugar, dried milk and egg powder, peaches and other food stuff. The people of Blandford had never eaten some of these foods and often fed the milk and egg powder to their livestock. This foodstuff was of excellent quality. The boat also carried a large supply of cigarettes, which were a valuable commodity 70 . This event was a highlight of the war years and remembered clearly my many members of the community.
Prosperity continued with the Lend Lease Act with Russia, which began in 1946. Under this agreement the Federal Government purchased salt herring from local fishermen and gave it to Russia. The fishermen received twelve dollars a barrel from the government, which was an increase of seven dollars on the pre-war price 71 .
Due to the prosperity caused by the war, electricity came to Blandford in 1946. Up to this date light had been provided by kerosene lamps, which were smelly and dirty, but cheap. The quality of this light was very poor. The lines for electricity were installed by the Power Company. Mr. Paul Publicover, Mr. Lawrence Schnare, both from Blandford, and Mr. Maurice Dauphinee, from Hubbards, were responsible for installing most of the wiring in the homes. This wiring would cost the homeowner about one hundred twenty-five dollars 72 .
At this time oil furnaces were installed in many homes. Furnace oil was cheap, usually less than nineteen cents a gallon. Septic tanks and indoor plumbing were further innovations of this time 73 .
Up until 1948 Blandford was an open and rocky section of coastline seldom visited by tourists and inhabited by persons who made their living largely from fishing supplemented by going 'in town' to work. This changed in 1948 when Karl Karlsen arrived from Norway to establish a seal processing plant to be known as The Karl Karlsen and Co. Ltd. 74 .
Mr. Karlsen had previously been associated with Christensen Canadian Enterprises, in the town of Lunenburg. In 1947 Mr. Karlsen bought a piece of property at New Harbour on the southeast edge of Blandford. In the beginning his seal processing plant was just a building with a canvas roof. The road stopped at the government wharf, but the plant was on the other side of the harbour opposite the wharf, so everything had to be taken to the plant by boat. Water for the plant came in barrels, by boat, from Deep Cove 75 .
Boats would go out sealing at the end of February or the beginning of March, and stayed out untill they could load their vessel, return to Blandford, unload, and then go back to the 'Grounds' for a second load. At this time there was no quota on seals 76 .
The main seal area was in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and off the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts. Between 1949 and 1960 boats involved in the sealing industry all went to these areas. Many friendships were made and maintained over the years. Sometimes the boats were iced in for several weeks and dynamite was used to free them. No men from Blandford ever lost their lives through sealing, though three sealing vessels, "The Beater, "The Truels" and "The Minna" sank. Because of the concentration of vessels in the area all crewmembers from these ships were picked up, from the ice, immediately 77 .
Because men of experience were needed, one fifth of the crews were Norwegian. At daybreak five 'gunners' would leave the boat; their job was to kill as many seals as possible. At nine o'clock the 'skinners' followed. Some of the older Blue Coat seals were immense, weighing as much as a ton; therefore the skinners carried spike handles to stab these seals in case the bullet had not killed the seal 78 .
The seals were skinned on the ice and the pelts were dragged or winched back to the ship on long steel lines. The pelts of the pups weighed about ninety pounds, while the pelt of an old seal could weigh in excess of three hundred pounds. This was hard, dangerous work and involved great physical strength and alertness. While a skinner, Mr. Laurie Publicover fell up to his shoulders in a deceptive, slush hole. He was pulled out by a crewmember who luckily happened to be close by. Normally the skinners worked alone. After being pulled out he ran for the vessel; by the time he got there his clothing was stiff and he had to be lifted on board. His frozen clothes were removed in the galley, he dressed again and returned to the ice. Mr. Publicover did not even catch a cold 79 ! They were indeed a hardy breed of men.
Cuts and scratches were also very dangerous as seal fat is poisonous and would seep into any open would, causing a painful and potentially deadly infection known as 'seal hand'. To prevent infection, treatment had to be administered 'immediately' aboard the vessel 80 .
These sealers could have been employed in some industry in the city which didn't involve much risk, but they were mariners, and this was one of the few ways of earning a living from the sea while still remaining a resident of Blandford. Contrary to current beliefs, these men were not unnecessarily cruel. On many trips they tamed and made pets of seals, which they brought back to Blandford and released, into the ocean at New Harbour.
Crew Members worked on a share system, based on the quality of fat plus a set price per pelt (two dollars for a white pelt and fifty cents for an old seal), of forty percent for the crew and sixty percent for the ship. Nine hundred dollars was the maximum to be made from one trip. From 1959 onwards the price of pelts increased and the shares increased accordingly. If you had a trade, you were paid a wage as well as a share. Each crewmember paid for his food during the trip, out of his share. Occasionally men would return from a fruitless trip owing money to the boat and receive no share at all. This was rare 81 .
Mr. Laurie Publicover recalls returning from one trip owing the company fifty dollars. Mr. Karlsen was reluctant to collect this, so Mr. Publicover suggested that he receive a bonus of one hundred dollars which would enable him to clear his debt, balance the company's books and give Mr. Publicover a little something to take home 82 . This company was not just interested in quick profit, money was put back into the company for expansion and improvement, humane interest was shown in employees, and money was donated for community causes. This is still Mr. Karlsen's policy today.
Back at the plant, the thick layer of fat was steamed off the pelt and shipped to Ontario where it was made into margarine. The steam from this process created a terrible odour. Protective clothing was provided, by as Mr. Arch Zinck recalls, it was not worn since it was too cumbersome. Consequently, the men's skin would be stained brown from the steam 83 .
The pelts were salted and stacked in large sawdust filled drums, which rotated and cleaned them. Next they were graded for quality and the previous procedure was repeated. Finally, they were rotated in drums of diesel oil, which cleaned and 'fluffed' the pelts. After this they were ready to be shipped in large barrels to Newfoundland, England and Europe. Some furrier companies sent buyers directly to the plant to select their pelts. One such company was W. H. Ewing and Son, Saint John's, Newfoundland 84 .
On a good day the plant could process two thousand pelts, the building was capable of holding four thousand pelts at a time. The plant employees worked a twelve-hour day, earning fifty cents an hour in the year the plant first opened. The plant operated nearly year round but the men on the boats finished once the ice broke up. The plant itself employed thirty-five men during the peak season, and fifteen to twenty in the off season. At the beginning Mr. Karlsen had three boats with ten to twelve crewmembers from Blandford on each boat 85 . Mr. Karlsen was a major source of employment for Blandford residents, and was an important factor in enabling Blandford to remain self-sufficient.
Despite government intervention with quotas and harassment by the Green Peace Organization, from Western Canada, this plant is still in operation. During the 1983 season only one sealing vessel has left New Harbour 86 . It is important to mention here that the plant's whaling operation, which began in the early seventies, has also been crushed by government intervention.
In summer the sealing vessels were frequently chartered out for government purposes. In 1955 one such vessel, 'the Theron" was used to transport Sir Edmund Hillary's expedition to the Antarctic. Crew members included: Mr. Noble Meisner, Mr. Joe Viddal, and Mr. Cecil Zinck all from Blandford. All crewmembers received silver plaques and stamps to commemorate this event.
Another industry in our community is the fish plant, which began in 1950. Previously, Mr. Granville Gates collected fish from some local men and took them to Lunenburg to sell. The fish plant was originally begun by a Mr. Shatford from Yarmouth. He was encouraged in this venture by Vitar Foods of New York. Five fish sheds stood on the site now occupied by the fish plant; Mr. Shatford leased all these sheds for five years. After the first year Mr. Gates took over the lease. When the lease expired he bought as many of the buildings as possible, some men continued to own and use their fish sheds which had previously been leased 87 .
During the summer of 1950, one hundred inshore fishing boats sold their catch to this plant. In the winter five long liners also made use of the plant. This plant provided employment for about forty residents during the summer season 88 . This is still a viable operation and has expanded throughout the years.
Due to Blandford's exposed position it has experienced severe storms that its' residents recall vividly. In August 1937 a sudden wind and hail storm destroyed a large portion of timber land, tore cabbages right off the stump, blew out windows, tore off roof tiles 89 and clothes hung out to dry were never seen again. Mr. Victor Zinck who had calves tethered by the roadside had to collect them from several nearby fields where they had been blown during the storm 90 .
The next major storm which residents recalled occurred during the 1940s. Mr. Arch Zinck and his wife, who had a home along the shore, recalled going to see an over turned ship, which had washed up in their back pasture during this storm. They looked over the vessel at their convenience, suddenly a huge wave surged upon them and they were caught in water up to their waists. This water brought with it logs, barrels and boulders; fortunately they escaped unharmed 91 .
Blandford had no fire department during this entire period. The residents were very fortunate to have had only one house fire, in which there was no loss of life 92 . In the 1950s one commercial establishment, Donald Cornelius's Garage, burned to the ground twice in a three-year period.
In the early 1930s the slash, piled from Slaunwhite's Mill at Deep Cove, caught fire. The mill burned and the fire spread from Deep Cove, across the Bayswater Road, and on to Herring cove. Residents tried to stop this fire but could do little as they were only equipped with shovels. Again, no life was lost. This fire extended the full length of Blandford and could have erased the entire community 93 .
Another threat to the community occurred in 1942 when a forest fire began in the area of Shoal Cove Lake. Men from the community worked with shovels to halt the fire and formed a bucket brigade. Mr. Russell Gates remembered that one night the people of Blandford slept with their clothes on in case sparks jumped to a new location and homes would have to be evacuated. This did not happen and the fire burnt itself out after a period of a week 94 .
As a result of its' geographical location Blandford was a fairly insular community until the late 1950's when the road to East River was constructed. Much of this isolation was self-imposed by a people who initially had no choice, but once the community gained independence and self-sufficiency they were reluctant to lose these virtues. The men took pride in the fact that they could support their families without government assistance. This generation did not feel that the government 'owed' them a living. Almost everyone in the village followed the same pattern of daily life and there was no segregation by wealth, class, or ethnic status.
Many of the community residents are direct descendants of the original German settlers and throughout the years have become inter-related. Blandford became a closely-knit community because of this family network. The family was a very important social structure and played a large part in enabling the people to remain independent. In time of trouble there was always a large support system for any community member. People usually moved to the community because they had friends or relatives living there. Newer members of the community were also integrated into this supportive system.
This lifestyle did not appeal to everyone and Blandford has had its' share of people 'going down the road'. Frequently those who have left the community to gain education or special skills have returned to Blandford and the comfort of their families.
Blandford has always been an attractive, well cared for community. The pride of members can be seen in the appearance of their properties. One such resident, Mr. Fred Zinck, expressed his love and pride of the community in verse:
Blandford is fishing village
Situated by the sea
Where the waters dance for joy
And the winds are strong and free.
The coast is rough and rocky
With inlets here and there
Where many a boat finds shelter
Through out the whole long year.
The homes are nestled near the sea
Behind the forest stands
Where the Maple spreads her glory
The emblem of our land.
The first settlers were Irishmen
Who did not prosper here
And about the time the Germans came
They had nearly all disappeared.
The Germans they came from rose Bay
And tilled the soil again
And the present people are the descendants
Of those hardy men.
Today shows the improvements
That time and work have done.
The people are of good morals
And are classed as number one. 95
Telephone Conversation, Joe Countway, Robinson's Corner, N.S., March 19,1983.
Telephone Conversation, Hale Covey, Blandford, N.S., March 17, 1983.
Telephone Conversation, Graham Gates, Blandford, N.S., March 20, 1983
Telephone Conversation, Greta Gates, Blandford, N.S., March 20, 24, 1983.
Personal Conversation, Russell Gates, Blandford, N.S., March 8, 1983.
Telephone conversation, Jim Langley, Bayswater, N.S., March 17, 1983.
Personal Interview, Elva and Noble Meisner, Blandford, N.S., March 19, 1983.
Personal Interview and Telephone Conversations, Ethel Meisner, Blandford, N.S., March 4, 19, 24, 1983.
Telephone Conversation, Earle Publicover, Blandford, N.S., March 17, 1983.
Personal Interview and Telephone Conversations, Laurie and Ver Publicover, Blandford, N.S., March 16, 18, 19, 26, 1983.
Telephone Conversations, Lena Publicover, Fox Point, N.S., March 22, 23, 1983.
Telephone Conversation, Paul Publicover, Blandford, N.S., March 22, 1983.
Telephone Conversation, Phyllis Publicover, Blandford, N.S., March 22, 1983.
Personal Interview, Gladys Schnare, Blandford, N.S., March 8, 1983.
Telephone Conversation, Statistics Canada, Halifax, N.S., March 21, 1983.
Personal Interview, Johannes and Pauline Viddal, Blandford, N.S., March 15, 1983.
Personal Interview, Archibald and Betty Zinck, Blandford, N.S., March 7, 1983.
Personal Interview and Telephone Conversations, Hazel and Lee Zinck, Blandford, N.S., March 9, 18, 19, 26, 1983.
St. Barnabas, Blandford One Hundred Year 1867 – 1967, published under the auspices of St. Barnabas Church, Parish of Blandford, to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the church, 1967.
Stevens, Ethel, and Upper Blandford School Children, History of Upper Blandford, 1934.
Boutilier, Red, "Nova Scotia Whaling Station", National Fisherman, February, a971, p.20-A.
Crown Lands, Lunenburg County Portfolio, Plan No. 23.
DesBrisay, M. B., History of the County of Lunenburg, Halifax, 1870.
Registry of Deeds, Bk. 6, p.193, No.410.
Go home "Lion"