Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Historic Prince Edward Island

This map of Prince Edward Island came from the official 2009  Island Guide.

Prince Edward Island is often called the Cradle of Confederation or the Garden of the Gulf.  Another favourite name is "Spud Island," due to the Island's well-known potatoes.  We native Islanders are sometimes introduced by other Canadians as being a "Spud Islander."  I doubt that any Islander resents that, although they might retaliate, such as I used to do with a friend from Saskatchewan, where I lived for three years in the late 1960s. I called him a Prairie tumbleweed, constantly rolling.  We both got a kick out of our ongoing reciprocity.

Below: Prince Edward Island separated from the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by the Northumberland Strait. This picture also came from the official 2009 Island Guide.

Prince Edward Island is Canada's smallest province.  Despite its small size and mostly rural aspect, it is the most densely populated province of Canada compared to the vast areas of undeveloped and sparsely populated land of the other nine provinces.

Located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with its southern shore along the Northumberland Strait, its population is somewhere between 140,000 and 145,000.  It is the province in which I grew up into my early teens.

The Island became renowned through the writing of Lucy Maud Montgomery, whose book Anne of Green Gables, written in 1908, put Prince Edward Island on the map of the world.  Girls of a certain age loved that book, as did I, and it is still popular today--as are her follow-up books--in many countries, Japan being one of the notable ones. 

The large sign above shows a picture of "Anne," advertising the live musical performance of "Anne of Green Gables," which is showcased on stage throughout the summer in the heart of Charlottetown at the  Confederation Centre of the Arts. 
The Island also became known through a couple of well-known entertainers:  Don Messer and his Islanders and Stompin' Tom Connors as he was called, due to his pounding the floor with his left foot as he sang.  His first hit was "Bud the Spud."  His most famous song was "The Hockey Song," which was played at every Toronto Maple Leaf hockey home game.  He received The Order of Canada, one of the country's highest honours.

Don Messer began his musical career in the 1920s and had a radio show in Charlottetown in the 1950s.  "Don Messer's Jubilee" played on TV for many years from CBC Halifax.  Dad knew him well.  My sister, Carol, and I went to school with his daughters, Lorna and Dawn.

The following picture was on one of the official Island internet sites. Unless one is on the water in a boat, that view cannot be seen well and certainly not when one is on the bridge itself.

As mentioned in my previous blog, Childhood Haunts, Prince Edward Island joined Confederation only after being assured they would have year round access to the mainland.  At that time it meant using a car ferry.  For over a hundred years that is how most people got to the mainland: from Borden, Prince Edward Island to Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick.  Since 1941, a ferry service has been in operation from Wood Islands, PEI to Caribou, NS and return. No service is available there from December 20th to 1 May, due to ice. You can download the ferry schedule from the internet.  They advise to reserve ahead.

Before the bridge, only a car ferry from Borden to Cape Tormentine was in operation during the winter months, as the water of the Northumberland Strait froze over, requiring an ice-breaking ship to cut through the heavy ice.  (There is no longer a ferry operating there, summer or winter.) 

Heading over the bridge to P.E.I. in summer 2013.
In those earlier summers it could take three to four hours in long lineups before boarding the ship to cross the Strait from the mainland to the Island and return.  

After our family moved to Nova Scotia in 1948 we drove over every summer and waited in the hot sun for several hours. I remember it as being a 75-minute crossing from Caribou, N.S. to Wood Islands, P.E.I., and a 45-minute crossing from Cape Tormentine, N.B. to Borden, P.E.I.

The Confederaton Bridge opened to traffic on May 31, 1997 after years of construction, using crews of more than 5,000 local workers at a cost of one billion dollars.  It is the longest bridge in the world that crosses ice-covered water (in winter).  It is considered one of Canada's top engineering achievements of the last century.  It didn't come easy, though, as there was a lot of discord and debate within the province before the decision was made.  It was settled at the polls in a plebiscite. 

The red shore of the Island ahead  

Only 59.4 per cent of the Islanders voted yes, but it was enough.  Many had been afraid about how year-round access to the mainland would affect their way of life and livelihood.  I doubt anyone now would want to go back to the ferry service only.  One can still take a ferry in the warm months, however, from Caribou, N.B. (near Pictou) to Wood Islands, P.E.I. and from the Island back to the mainland. 

In early September 2013 my sister Paula and I drove to the Island for three to four days to close the cottages for the winter.  We had taken food with us so we didn't have a lot of meal preparationAlong with some wine and our laptops to keep in touch with everyone, we had a wonderful time.  The weather was warm and sunny with perfect late summer, almost fall-like days.

On one of our days we visited Fort Amherst.  In our youth, we called it the "French fort" as indeed that is what it was originally.  

As children, we always walked there from the cottage, perhaps about a 20-minute walk.  It was just a large grassy area overlooking Charlottetown harbour.  It included a hill with a moat surrounding it.  (You can see the small rise of that hill in the picture above.)  It was also the grazing area for a farmer's cattle, so we had to watch where we walked!  

On the left, the entry area of the park.  It is an open area with no charge. 


The Mi'kmaq have remained in this area for thousands of years.  I remember visiting them with my grandmother.  Many live here still. 

A view from Fort Amherst of Charlottetown across the harbour. 

Paula and I drove from Fort Amherst to visit the Blockhouse, which is in the same general vicinity.  I don't believe it is still used as a light house, but I could be wrong.  There was no sign of life.  In the picture at left, a bit of the harbour and Ch'town can be seen.

Back at the cottage it was time to have dinner.  We had brought most of it with us but there were still a few things in the fridge-freezer.  First things first:  a glass of wine on the deck.  Paula waiting while I took the picture. 

 Then, a delicous meal of chicken and fresh vegetables.

The next day we walked down to the beach, just a minute below the cottages.  First: Some views from the cottage

 On the beach

The red sandy shore; tide is out.

Charlottetown in the distance

Below left: You get a glimpse of one of the two lighthouses that send out their lights at night.  The second one is some distance behind it.  Below right:  Testing the salt water:  cool!  In mid summer it is lovely.

Several times during the summer ships pass by.  Here are two:  the first, a cruise ship and the other, a steamship belonging to Canada Steamship Lines (don't know if they actually were using steam, though.


Paula's granddaughter, Rie, planted an herb garden by the cottage

When in Charlottetown, have the ice cream that Reader's Digest awarded the title of being the best in Canada!
Time was going.  After a wonderful couple or so days, the following day we returned to Nova Scotia.

 Arriving back on the New Brunswick side
The sign below warning drivers to watch for moose crossing the road.  This road has several of those signs.

Much of the foregoing information about the Island history was from Prince Edward Island's websites. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Childhood Haunts in Prince Edward Island

The cold days of winter are upon us so what better way to warm up than by remembering the lovely days of summer and two special trips to Prince Edward Island.  I have had a miserable cold so warm sunny days, even if in retrospect, help detract from this time of year and the "cold" season.

As I have many pictures, I shall write two about that lovely province as I visited the Island in both 2013 and 2014.  

The Confederation Building

My four sisters and I were born in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island's historic capital.  That is where the first meeting took place in 1864, leading to Confederation in 1867.  Until then, Canada had been part of Great Britain's colonial empire.  With Confederation, we became a country in our own right.  Prince Edward Island, however, did not join Confederation until 1873, six years after the first four:  Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario.  The Island wanted to be assured that they would have a continuous link to the mainland throughout the year.  That right was granted and thus they became part of the Dominion of Canada.

From left:  Anne, Janet, Carol outside the cottage door

In summer 2014, in mid August, my sister Carol and I drove to the Island.  It is about five hours from our house in Nova Scotia to the family cottages outside Charlottetown.  My sister Anne and Stephen drove over as well.  They had been visiting (from Ontario) in Nova Scotia.  This would not only be a family get-together but a nostalgic time with many memories from our earlier years.  In September 2013, my sister Paula and I had spent three days there closing down the cottages.  Both trips were eventful and filled with "days" past.  

 Paula in 2013.  We were having spaghetti that we brought with us.
On this occasion in 2014, as we three--Carol, Anne and I--hadn't been there together for several years, it was a special time.  Paula and Laurie had already been over earlier in the summer and would be again in September.  Their son, Ken, his wife Christine and their three daughters, though, would be at the cottages to greet us.

Carol and I arrived shortly after Anne and Stephen.  Our nephew Ken and Christine had supper in the making.  What a treat it was when we all gathered on their deck for fresh mussels before the meal, which followed a bit later.


Digging in!

On the deck of Paula and Laurie's cottage where Ken, Christine and girls spent much of the summer.
We were on the Island for only three days but we managed to do a lot. We had a visit with family we hadn't seen for a few years and some we hadn't yet met.  As well, we visited some of our old haunts in Charlottetown and some of our childhood haunts near our cottages across the harbour from the city.  I must add that we also partied a lot!  The three nights we were there meant eating together each evening as a family and sitting around until fairly late over some wine or beer. 

The red rocky shores and dirt roads are typical Island scenes.  The green grass and trees and the red sandy coves are a delight for the eyes and for the camera.

The road below leads up to our cottages and it hasn't changed since I was a child.
A little cooking came into our visit, of course, and we all participated in that endeavour.  I had actually taken spaghetti sauce from Nova Scotia with me (as last year), some Hans had made and left in the freezer for me. Stephen had loved it so much he wanted me to take the leftovers with me!  In fact, I took other leftovers as well and everything went.

The following pictures show all of us enjoying our meals together, some of them in the older family cottage and others at Paula and Laurie's, where Ken, Christine and children were staying.

Sitting on the deck of the old family cottage with Paula and Laurie's just behind (in red).  The harbour can be seen in the distance in the picture below it.  It is just a one minute walk from the cottages.

 Below, still on the deck of the old cottage with a different view


 The group enjoying a casual dinner

Inside the old family cottage where Carol, I, Anne and Stephen stayed.

Stephen and Anne 

A view of the main room in the old cottage

 Below, Anne and Carol
Our beds in the small, enclosed front porch.  Carol at left reading and I ensconced with a good book on the right.  All of us love books and reading.


 The house where we lived as children.

On my trip to the Island both summers a visit to Charlottetown was, of course, high on the list of things to do and places to see.  Carol and I spent most of our first full day there.  We stopped by our old house, drove past our old school and walked along the downtown streets.  

On one such walk it seemed interminable as we couldn't find the car!  We had forgotten which street we had parked it on.  Charlottetown in summer is busy!  I remember as a child sitting on the curb in front of the house and counting the cars as they drove by.  Even in the early to mid 1940s there were a lot of cars and visitors to the Island in mid summer.  Still are.  The population quadruples or more. 

A few of the pubs and eating places in Charlottetown, some of which are on Sydney Street not far from the Confederation Building.




We wandered into a couple of stores on Bayberry Lane, also not far from the Confederation Building.  Some Prince Edward Island souvenirs and clothing can be found here.

We also visited the cemetery, a beautiful and peaceful spot, not far from the centre of the city.  At one time it was on the outskirts, but the city has grown out to it.  My little sister Judith's gravestone is in the forefront.  Never to be forgotten, she was just three and a half when she died in 1946.  I remember her well.  Our parents and grandparents are beside her.

In 2013 Paula and I visited one of our favourite destinations:  secondhand book stores.  Below is the Island's oldest heritage bookseller:


A couple of B and B's in the heart of the city:


Music adds to the scene

Tending the city flowers

Our last full day on the Island (our second day there) we visited cousins we had not seen for some time.  In 2013 Paula and I visited Jean but Carol hadn't seen her for several years.  We are first cousins and she and Jean had always been close.  This was the perfect ending to our trip to the Island.  

At the back, Carol, I and Beth with Jean in the forefront 
This was a special time for us all, especially so as I would meet Jean's daughter, Beth, and Beth's husband, Dion.   Although we hadn't met officially, Beth and I had met on-line.  We felt we knew each other as we had been keeping in touch via email when she wrote to me after reading my blog.  She and Dion live in California where Beth works for a culinary academy.  She told me she sometimes puts my blog up on the screen for her students to see.
Dion, of course, is on the right and the left below.

A little later another first cousin, Barbara, arrived.  We hadn't known she would be coming by and we also didn't know that it was her birthday.  In all the excitement I totally forgot to get her picture.  Dion and Beth had graciously arranged a platter of squares and cookies for us all as we sat outside on the terrace and talked and talked.  This was certainly a highlight of our visit to Prince Edward Island, where we were born and grew up before moving to Nova Scotia when I was 13.  It was a wonderful ending to our short time in our native province.  We hope to have a longer visit on the Island next time and to see more of our relatives as well.