David Morrison Blaikie
A Nova Scotia
14. Making rain gutter
The manufacture of eaves trough, or rain gutter, began in the 1940s and
became more important as the years passed. Very few mills around the
province made any gutter. A great many people used metal gutters, and
others used gutter imported from British Columbia.
Gutter was rather tricky stuff to make. The knives, bolted onto the
planer heads, had to make a very deep cut into the wood to create the
groove, or trough through which rain water runs in the gutter. Knives
have been known to break when subjected to this strain. The planer had
to be set up properly, and the long knives bridle-bolted to the planer
Some years earlier, Roy had felt that it would be wise to begin
manufacturing gutter. He had exceptional ability at this, or any other
type of mill work.
We'll bypass the details of setting up the planer, but it was
successful. It was fascinating to see a piece of rough sawn lumber 4
inches x 5 inches, go into one end of the planer, and come out the other
end as a piece of white, shiny gutter.
Pine to fir
For a number of years we kept only a little of it for sale locally. By
around 1946, we were selling it to Spencer Bros. & Turner, in Truro, and
to the Dartmouth Lumber Company, in Dartmouth. Pine was considered the
only native wood suitable for gutter, and that was what we always used.
Now, as volume of sales advanced, it was becoming difficult to get
enough pine of the right quality for the
manufacture of gutter.
There was plenty of pine in the country. Too much of it. Big overgrown
pine, crooked, knotty and rotten, came to the mill all too frequently.
For gutter, the pine had to be relatively free of large knots, with none
of them bark-encased. It had to be perfectly sound, and if the logs were
not reasonably straight, the lumber, as it dried, had a tendency to
I made the suggestion that we should begin using fir for gutter. We did
make a few hundred feet of it. But while it made rather nice-looking
gutter, Roy didn't like the idea. So we continued with what pine became
available. However, it was useless looking for more business when we had
insufficient materials to fill the orders we already had. But the fir
gutter was still destined to have its day, and that will be dealt with
at the time it occurs in this story.
Our second daughter was born on August 7, 1947. She weighed eight
pounds, four ounces, and we named her Karla Maureen. At this time David
was only eleven months old. Eva hadn't wanted to go to the hospital
Annex where the other births had taken place. She had picked up an
infection there at the time of David's birth. Dr. MacKenzie was her
doctor, and knowing her feeling about going back to the Annex, he
suggested that the birth take place right at home. And that was the way
Once again we had Mrs. MacCarthy come to help us. Her capability was
known to the doctor and I'm sure this knowledge was responsible for his
permitting the birth to be at home. The birth wasn't an easy one. Still
no real problems developed during what turned out to be 24 pretty
anxious hours. The doctor and Mrs. MacCarthy made an excellent medical
team, one in which we had confidence. And afterward, as days went by,
Eva was soon up and around again.
Eva and I had planned to take a short trip while Mrs. MacCarthy was
still with us. But she had another commitment to meet in only three
weeks. So we discussed the situation with the doctor. He would have
preferred to see Eva wait another couple of weeks, yet he felt we should
take the trip while Mrs. MacCarthy was with us, as it would be obviously
impossible to do so after she left.
A short trip
We did not plan to go far. But since we had seldom been farther away
than Truro and Londonderry, what we were now planning seemed like quite
a trip. The doctor instructed that there was to be no hard driving - not
over two hours at one time without making a stop for a cup of tea, or to
do a little shopping, anything to make a break.
We planned the trip for the last week-end in August. I had been sawing
in the mill right along, but made arrangements to get away, and Tom
Fulton agreed to look after our cow and the pigs. We started out on
Thursday evening, August 28. Our plan was to go down into the Annapolis
Valley. If Eva seemed to be tired, we could take a cabin and stay there
for a day.
Mrs. MacCarthy was very familiar with the drive to Windsor by way of
Noel Shore. She was a native of that area - Tenecape, I believe - and
was always singing its praises as one of the beauty spots of Nova
Scotia. She was right. Tenecape isn't outstanding, but the whole trip
from Maitland down through Selma, Noel, Walton and Cheverie is
Supper in Maitland
We drove only as far as Maitland that night, where we stopped at the
hotel. There we were pleasantly greeted by a very corpulent lady, who
must have weighed in the vicinity of 300 pounds. After making
arrangements for a room, we were invited to have a lunch, we accepted
this kind invitation, and an appetizing snack was soon set before us.
This lady was very sociable, and stayed to chat with us while we were
By the time we had finished our lunch, though it was not yet 10 o'clock,
we were ready for bed. I had been up at six o'clock, sawed all day, and
had done the evening chores before leaving home. Neither of us needed to
be rocked to sleep that night.
In the morning a delicious breakfast was served to us - juice, bacon and
eggs, coffee, toast and jam. The lady who looked after us was kindness
itself, and by the time we got ready to leave, it was nearly 9:30 a.m.
The bill for all this hospitality was very small. The total for the
evening lunch, the room for the night, and the breakfast we had just
eaten, was only $3.00!
On to Windsor
Saying good-bye to our gracious hostess, we started out for Windsor. In
Walton we took a wrong road, through a desolate section known as the
Walton woods. For a long distance there were no houses, and we didn't
know where we were. But just as we were beginning to get a little
worried, we came out in Scotch Village. We had missed what would have
been the prettiest part of the drive. But we weren't going to drive back
through the Walton woods again, so on making inquiries we got our
bearings and headed for Windsor.
We arrived there just at dinner time, and in spite of the hearty
breakfast, we were ready to eat again. I was always endowed with a
healthy appetite. It goes with working in a sawmill. Anyway, calories
meant nothing to me, for I was never one to put on weight.
We found a parking place, and were directed to a restaurant. On the way
there we saw an elderly lady cross the street and enter the door of the
restaurant. She was very tall, at least six feet, and from that distance
her features seemed to have a sombre and forbidding aspect. Just as we
went to the door, I said to Eva "I hope we don't fall foul of that old
bird when we go in there."
The tall lady
Inside, the hostess asked apologetically if we'd mind sharing a booth,
as the place was filled to capacity. We agreed, and were shown into the
same booth were the tall and sombre lady was already seated, preparing
to place her order.
It's never wise to judge too hastily from first appearance. We all
introduced ourselves, and she was a good talker and really a jolly
person. Her name was Ina Custance. At such times you always fish around
to see whether you know any mutual acquaintances. We discovered that she
had been well acquainted with Arnold Wood at one time. She mentioned a
little story that Arnold was connected with, and which happened a long
This was before she herself was married. On this particular day she and
her sister were home, and they happened to look out the window and saw
Arnold coming. Now Arnold, just to be a little odd, would take a drink
of almost anything that came to hand. And even if it was unpalatable, or
on the hot side, it didn't seem to bother him.
A 'hot' drink
One of them picked up this bottle containing an inch or so of anodyne
liniment. Into this they shook a liberal dosage of cayenne pepper, and
then set the bottle in a conspicuous spot. Arnold came in. In a minute
he spied the bottle. Off came the cover, and he took a sniff of it. Then
he put the bottle to his mouth, and in two or three rapid gulps he drank
According to her account of the story, Arnold didn't stay long, and she
didn't see him again for some time. When they did eventually meet, he
said, "My God, Ina, what did you put in that anodyne liniment? It damn
near burnt out my guts!"
That afternoon we stopped at various points along the way and by the
time we got to Annapolis Royal, we were ready for supper. At the table
next to ours in the restaurant, was a family from Panama - a man, his
wife, and his Mother-in-law. The couple were not too young, around
middle-age, while the Mother-in-law must have been over 70. Their faces
were so tanned by sun. They were people you
like to meet on a trip - gay, lighthearted people, full of laughter and
They lived in the Canal zone, and had been born in that area. Panama,
they said, was a hot spot in July and August. But with August nearly
over, and they were about to leave Canada for home. In fact they were on
their way to Yarmouth where they would take a boat to Bar Harbour,
Maine, the first part of their journey.
The chicken roost
The weather was cool that night. After supper, we drove on toward Digby,
in search of an overnight cabin. About five miles outside, we stopped at
the Hedley Hotel and Cabins. We were both getting weary, and we engaged
a cabin without going to look at it first. This was a mistake.
I don't know what their hotel was like; it might have been refreshing
and luxurious beyond words. But the cabins were neither. We were
disappointed from our first look inside. But we were too tired to go on,
and decided that this would have to do. It was getting cold, and a
little fire would have felt good. There was a stove, but owing to the
decrepit condition of the stove-pipe, we didn't feel much inclined
to put a fire on and risk going to sleep, for fear of burning the place
There was a rather heavy odour about the place, noticeable from the time
we entered. And as we got settled it intensified. It smelled like
chickens, or more specifically like the residue under a chickens' roost.
It got so bad I wanted to get up and leave, even though we had the place
paid for. But Eva was too tired, so we stayed. Amid the stench we were
restless, and slept only fitfully.
Down to Yarmouth
Morning found us not too well refreshed, but relieved to know that now
we would escape from the hen house. There was frost that morning, so I
got up and put on a roaring fire to warm the place for Eva. We were
leaving anyway, and I couldn't have cared less if it did burn the place
down. About 7:30 a.m. we departed this odorous and uncomfortable hovel,
and drove to a restaurant in Digby.
And just as we were getting out of our car we met the party from Panama
coming out of the restaurant. The man asked, "Is weather like this a
habit around here at this time of year". I told him it was a little
early for it, but still it wasn't unusual. "I guess it's time we were
heading South," he replied, climbing into their car.
After breakfast, we started for Yarmouth. Just outside Digby we picked
up a young chap, also on his way to Yarmouth. He was familiar with all
the area, and pointed out interesting features along the way. We stopped
and went inside a huge Roman Catholic church - the St. Bernard Church -
near Belliveau Cove. Work was still being done inside it, but it was in
use. He told us it was one of the largest Roman Catholic churches east
of Montreal. We didn't doubt his word. Where they'd get enough people to
fill it, or money enough to pay for it in that area, is hard to
Our guest was Malcolm Lovitt. He drove with us all the way to Yarmouth,
learning en route he was a denturist. During succeeding years we
exchanged cards with him. Years later, he was involved in a Nova Scotia
squabble between dentists and denturists.
The scenery between Digby and Yarmouth stands in contrast with that of
the Annapolis Valley. The floor of the valley was lined with apple
orchards, and at the time of our trip the fruit was ripe on the trees.
Fields of grain were turning from green to gold. In other areas large
fields of potatoes would soon be ready for harvest. The valley was well
known for what could be plainly seen - a prosperous fruit and farming
Between Annapolis Royal to Digby there was a change. The country became
much rougher, but there were still plenty of pretty spots along the way
- notably Bear River, for anyone who will take time to drive four miles
off the main highway into this charming little village.
Beyond Digby, there was more change. Good farm land becomes scarcer, and
conversely rocks become much more plentiful. I noticed a cow lying down
on a large flat rock in one of the fields. You might have questioned her
taste, had you not taken a good look over the field. Among all the
rocks, we couldn't see a patch of grass big enough for a cow to lie down
The buildings in the various villages - which have improved since that
date - were run down and desolate. But the view out to sea, looking down
the Bay of Fundy, was rewarding. The air was clear that morning, and as
far as you could see, blue waves sparkled in the sunlight.
Yarmouth to Shelburne
The country we were travelling through was new to us. I had been down
the valley as far as Annapolis Royal some years before, but from there
down to Yarmouth, and all the way up the South Shore of Nova Scotia to
Halifax was country that neither of us had seen before. We spent some
time looking around Yarmouth, and at noon we had dinner at Wagner's
restaurant. Then we set out for Shelburne - 77 miles away -- which was
plenty for the easy trip were taking.
Teams of oxen were common on the South Shore. Near Pubnico two different
parties had their ox-teams out, exercising them on the pavement. An
exhibition was to be held during the next week, and the teams were
decked out in all the festive finery you could imagine. We stopped to
take pictures, which delighted the owners of the teams.
Around three o'clock we arrived in Shelburne. It is a small town, rather
an attractive spot. We had a cup of tea, and then did a little shopping.
An hour later, we were on the road again, travelling towards Liverpool,
55 miles beyond.
At Liverpool, we drove around the town for a few minutes. It is somewhat
larger than Shelburne, but still only a small town with a population of
probably not much over 3,000. We had supper there, and made up our minds
to go a little farther before stopping for the night. In Italy Cross,
about ten miles below Bridgewater, we saw some nice looking cabins.
This time we asked to see the interior before engaging one for the
night. It was really inviting. The evening was chilly, and there was a
nice little wood stove, in which we soon had a fire going. Along the way
we had picked up half a dozen ears of corn, for a snack. The proprietor
of the cabins furnished us with a dish to cook the corn in.
We had tea with us, and bought a loaf of bread and some cookies. All the
dishes we needed were supplied to us. We enjoyed that lunch in the cozy
little cabin, the complete opposite of the fetid house of the previous
The next morning we woke to find the skies dull and grey, threatening
rain. We packed our few belongings and started for Bridgwater. By the
time we got there and had looked up a restaurant, the rain had begun.
And after we had eaten, we started for home. It was raining hard by this
time, and there was no temptation to linger along the way. And we were
wondering how all was going at home.
We arrived in the afternoon to find that all had gone well during our
absence. Our trip had been a very ordinary one, but it seemed wonderful
to us, for we had never had one like it. So much depends on the point of