11. Eva Ella Gray

David Morrison Blaikie
A Nova Scotia lumberman

11. Eva Ella Gray

was about to be married to Eva Ella Gray. We had been introduced in Truro by Mary Graham. Mary was a native of Burnside, and a
second cousin of our family. This introduction was very casual, I don’t believe it was love at first sight, and probably neither of us was too impressed.

But we met again later over town, and from then on we did date occasionally. Eva was from Londonderry Station and was working in Truro at this time, which was in September of 1940. The winter of 1941 was a rugged one, and I didn’t get to Truro often.

There were no snow ploughs on the road then, and the snow was deep. With only an occasional date, things didn’t change much until the winter of 1942. We met more often that winter, and by July of that year we knew we were going to be married.

Eva’s own parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Gray of East Mines, had died when Eva was very young. She was only seven at the time of her father’s death, and she was only 13 when her mother passed away. Mr. and Mrs.Ward Giddens of Londonderry Station became her foster parents, and although she was working away most of the time, this was her home from that time on.

Meeting at the Met

One little incident occurred on the night of our introduction, and my daughters have insisted that it be included. On reflection, if it hadn’t occurred, it’s highly unlikely we’d ever have crossed paths again. We met at the house where Mary Graham was working and shortly afterward Eva left to do some shopping.

I stayed and talked to Mary for a few minutes longer, then drove uptown and left my car at Blaikie’s garage. Later, I sauntered over town and turned up Inglis street, where I decided to go into the Metropolitan store. There, Eva and I happened to meet again as we were coming through the door. We stopped to talk, and I invited her to come and have an ice-cream. She agreed, and we got acquainted, then parted for the evening.

However, I had found out where she lived, and there were other Saturday nights coming. Soon after this I called for her again, and we went bowling. It was in this fashion that our acquaintance developed during the early days of our courtship. Now I sometimes tease her by telling our family that we met in the Metropolitan.

Hot plate supper

Many occasions followed but I will mention only one or two. One occurred on Sunday, January 4, 1942, when Eva invited me to have supper with her at her room in Truro. By this time we were a lot better acquainted. I sat back and watched her prepare a most delicious meal, which she did with only the aid of a hot plate.

We ate the meal together in the cozy atmosphere of her room. We had often eaten in restaurants, but a meal prepared and shared in such an atmosphere leaves a far deeper impression. Most of the restaurants have already faded from my memory. But the memories of this occasion are as clear now as they were on that night, over thirty years ago.

In later years Eva sometimes made derogatory remarks about our kitchen range. I used to remind her that anyone who could cook such a meal on a hot-plate should be absolute wizard on a good range. This line of reasoning did not impress her very much. After supper we went to church, then came back to her room for the rest of the evening. I left late with the feeling that one of the most delightful evenings of my life had just ended.

Eva’s family

The second incident happened on the 24th of May holiday of the same year. We planned to go to Eva’s home in Londonderry Station on the evening of the 23rd, stay overnight, and next day to go on a fishing trip which we had planned in the brooks on the Westchester Mountain road. I had met Eva’s Mother, but not her Father, who happened to be away sawing when I was there before. Like myself, he was a millman, and had been a sawyer most of his life.

This time both her mother and father were home, and I enjoyed swapping mill experiences with Mr. Giddens. He was a person you could talk to very easily, a man with a world of sawmill experience, and exceptional skill and judgement. From the beginning, it was a pleasure to discuss mill affairs with him, and it always remained that way.

In the morning, with an ample lunch, we set out for Westchester Mountain. The brook we were going to fish in was the upper section of the Portapique River. I’ve fished in brooks where better luck came my way. But we did get quite a few trout, though most of them were on the small side.

Country lunch

By noon we’d had enough of this brook – it wasn’t an easy brook to follow, running through woods, and beset by hills and gulches – so we drove to a more open part of the county and had our lunch. I don’t know just where we stopped, but it was some miles farther along that same road. And the lunch was good.

Later we looked for another brook. But we never did get back to fishing that day, and after a fair amount of driving, we returned to Londonderry Station for supper.

Later in the evening, I drove Eva back into Truro, since she had to be back at work next day, then went home myself, as I too had to be at work the next morning.

From the viewpoint of a fishing trip, it didn’t amount to much. But I’d had a wonderful holiday. I’d met not only Eva’s Father, and other members of the family, and they were people whose interests were much the same as mine. That, and the trip by ourselves, our afternoon drive and the trip back to Truro together, made it a special experience.

Wedding in Londonderry

Mr. and Mrs. Giddens’ family consisted of three sons and two daughters. Hibbert, the eldest, was slightly older than me, and the next one, Arnold, slightly younger. Aubrey was next, about two years younger than Arnold, and there were two daughters, Irene and Beulah, who were the youngest members of the family. At the time, all except Beulah were married.

It was Eva’s wish to be married at home. Because we wanted it that way, and because Mrs. Giddens wasn’t in good health, only a few of our immediate families were at the wedding. The morning of October 10, 1942, was mild, and mostly cloudy during the forenoon. Around noon the sun came out, and we had a glorious October afternoon for our wedding day.

Members of the Giddens household who were present included Mr. and Mrs. Giddens and their niece, Jean Smith; Eva’s foster sister, Irene; Arnold and his wife, Marion; Eva’s aunt Vi Giddens, who lived next door, and Irene’s young son, Paul, who was only a few months old. On my side of the family was Glenn and his wife, Alice, and my mother. Our minister was Rev. J. K. MacInnes, who had been my own minister in Upper Stewiacke when I was a boy. His wife was also present.

Arch of maple leaves

This was the group of people who gathered in that living room for our wedding. We stood under an arch, which had been tastefully decorated with maple leaves, scarlet with the onset of Autumn. Marion, Arnold’s wife, played the Wedding March as Eva entered the living room, holding Mr. Giddens’ arm. Her sister, Irene, was Matron of Honor, and my brother, Glenn, was groomsman.

One amusing incident happened during the otherwise quiet ceremony. Jean Smith was holding little Paul, Irene’s son. In order to keep him quiet he was playing with a spoon someone had given him. The ceremony began, and had proceeded to the point where, in response to the usual interrogation Eva had just said “I do”, when in the quiet that followed, Paul dropped the spoon – bang, clatter – onto the hardwood floor. The disturbance wasn’t too serious, and the short, but to us, impressive ceremony was soon over. We were husband and wife.

At this point we went out on the lawn, where a few pictures were taken. When this was done we went back into the house, where a substantial lunch was served. Then, with the blessing and good wishes of all present, we were ready to leave. Some of the group had thoughtfully decorated our car – the old Dodge Coupe – with ribbons, and also wired a bunch of cans underneath, so our departure was accompanied by the rattle of these cans, which fortunately soon came off.

Autumn sunset

The shadows of evening were falling. We drove away together into the golden sunset, up through the Wentworth Valley, where the leaves, at the crest of their autumn glory, looked down on us from hills that towered high on either side of the road. Neither of us will ever forget that drive, over the little narrow country road, which since that day has been paved. The pavement facilitates travel, but its advent did nothing to enhance the picturesque beauty of one of the loveliest county roads in Nova Scotia.

Our honeymoon trip had to be a short one. Our wedding was on Saturday, and I had to be at work on the following Thursday. It was necessary for us to be home one Tuesday night, as we would have a good days work getting settled in what was to be our new home for fourteen months.

We had rented two rooms in the house directly across the road from the Co-op store. At that time this Co-op store was owned by Frank Cox, and it was in his home that we were to spend the next year or so. Before our wedding we had our rooms nearly ready for occupation, but the water still hadn’t been connected to the kitchen sink, and there were a few other details which needed attention.

To Moncton

So Moncton was as far as we got on our trip. On our wedding day we arranged for a cottage a few miles from Oxford, and there we spent our first night. That evening we drove into Oxford and had some supper, which we didn’t need, after the lunch we’d had following the wedding. Then we came back to our cottage, which was really a cheery place.

In that day, of course a wood stove was all that was provided, but a good fire had been prepared for us, and the cabin was warm and cozy.

We spent the next night in Amherst with my cousin, whose name was also Eva. She had been Eva Woodworth from Stewiacke, and was now Mrs. Harold Steel. The next night we spent with Mr. and Mrs. Lund, friends of Eva’s, who lived in Sackville. We arrived back home in Upper Stewiacke late on Tuesday afternoon.

Newlyweds’ serenede

That night, quite a number of people gathered at Glenn’s house to serenede us. They made a terrific racket, audible for miles. One of the famous noise-making devices of that time was to take a circular saw, carried on a piece of pipe which was thrust through the hole in the centre of the saw. One person at each end of the pipe kept this apparatus off the ground, while other people hit the saw repeatedly with heavy hammers.

The din caused by this was terrific, and when it was punctuated at frequent intervals by blasts from shot-guns, it was enough to raise the dead.

After allowing it to continue for many five minutes, we made our appearance at the door. The noise soon stopped. One by one the participants came to offer congratulations and were invited into the house for a treat. By ten o’clock all were gone, and we went down to our new home. We were proud to have a place of our own, even if it was only a rented one.

As anyone would gather from all that has been written here, we had little in the way of worldly goods to begin with. But we had each other, and we were happy together with a quiet happiness that has remained undimmed down through the years.

Kitchen range

It took us only a short time to get settled in our new home. Even in those days we had little in the way of furniture. By modern standards, nothing. Still, we got along very well. We had the two downstairs rooms in this house, the ones that still face toward the Co-operative store. One of these was our kitchen, and we did at least have a good, new McClary range in it. It was a wood-burner, all anyone had then.

This stove held out well, and we still have it, but with the acquisition of an electric range a few years ago, our poor old McClary’s stock has sadly deteriorated. I still like it, in spite of insinuations, more pointed as the days go by, which suggest its superannuation in the near future.

There was little in the way of other furniture to ornament our kitchen. We had an old table that had been left in the room when we moved in. It wasn’t much of a table, but we had some good meals off in the year that followed. Eva brought out the two chairs she’d had in her room in Truro, and Mr. and Mrs. Giddens gave us two more.

Cardboard cabinet

An old closet, built into one corner of our kitchen, did duty for a china cabinet. We only had about enough dishes to eat from, so the problem of a place to put them never became critical. Another closet, which I made myself, was used for a linen closet. A third closet, made of heavy plasterboard, we used to put clothing in.

This closet we bought at Eaton’s, and being made of cardboard, you wouldn’t think it would be very substantial. It wasn’t, but it lasted as long as we stayed there.

Our other room had to serve as a combined living room and bedroom. Eva had a fairly good chesterfield, which she had been using in Truro, and at night we opened this out for our bed. We had two rocking chairs, and another old chair that had been left there, plus Eva’s hope chest, and that just about constituted that room’s furnishings.

In addition, an old organ had been left in the room. The condition of its interior was such that you couldn’t play on it; it wasn’t ornamental. But it was held in tender regard by the family simply because it had been one of their cherished possessions for more years than they themselves could recall.

Tuneless and useless

As far as we were concerned, it was in the way, and we wanted to get rid of it. But have you ever tried to get rid of a family heirloom? People hang on tighter than a pup to a root.

The uselessness of such items seems to add a charm to past associations. I did once venture to suggest that disposing of the organ would create a decided improvement in our living room. But the expression of shocked concern with which this recommendation was received discouraged me, and this tuneless and unattractive instrument remained there until we moved out.