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Ruby M. Cusack

Memories of Christmas


Provincial Archives of New Brunswick   P1 - 20W --- Two young men mining for shale at Rosevale,
Albert County, New Brunswick, in 1925 - working at obtaining shale for a trial shipment of 25 tons.

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Finally Christmas Eve arrived and we gathered in Gram’s double parlour. The sliding doors were open. Each room held a small silver coloured stove with Eisenglass Windows. Gramp told us the Eisenglass came from a metal called mica.

Dad thought we needed some Christmas music and wound up the gramaphone and played Jingle Bells and I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas by Bing Crosby, and an Old Christmas Card by Wilf Carter.

I found some records that I liked and asked if I could play them. With a strong warning to not wind the machine too tight, I took over being the DJ. But we heard a noise and the music stopped. Dad headed for the tool box to try to find some tools to fix the broken spring. Mum sat down at the  piano and everyone sang along.

Next came the ritual of getting out the photo albums and the chocolate boxes of pictures and many enlargements, that made days of yesteryear come alive and really got the tongues wagging.

School pictures were a hot topic followed by trying to decide who were the men in the lumber camp pictures. One showed a young girl holding a cat so Cliff and I decided the Cook brought her cat to get rid of the mice in the cook-house.

Several books have been compiled on different areas of New Brunswick. For the folk who lived in the East End of Saint John, many hours of looking and discussing have been spent on Urban Renewal - Saint John - A City Transformed by Brenda Peters McDermott as well as
The Lost City- with photographs by Ian MacEachern

There too are pictures and details on building Covered Bridges -known as the kissing bridge. “A full day's work of 10 hours for a man and a pair of horses was worth $2.20. A man and his ox team charged $2.00. Wood came from the surrounding hills and the ox or horse teams hauled the logs to a nearby sawmill. The complete price of the bridge was $1050.00 and included leveling and grading the road approaches and hauling the stone for the abutments from a quarry a mile away.

Typical of early bridge costs were: 4000 feet of 2 inch oak floor planks -$100.00, 1800 feet of long string pieces - $314.00, Mud sills of heavy timbers - $20.00, Boards to cover the bridges - $52.00, and Carpenter work complete - $350.00.

When a new covered bridge was finished the engineer or builder would check it for sturdiness. The test was a simple one. The builder would drive a herd of cattle across to test the bridge's vibrations and strength.

In New Brunswick at the turn of the 20th century, there were over 4,000 covered bridges with a total length of 100 miles. Today there are about 60

I never did understand the adults talking about a picture being worth a thousand words but today I know about many a picture creating talk of thousands of words.

In years gone by, photo albums were usually a one copy black book but things have changed with the arrival of the internet and changes in technology. Websites allow hundreds of photos to be accessible - free of charge  Interested people form a group but never have a meeting and share their pictures - referred to as “posting” them.

2,271 of the half million historical images of New Brunswick taken between the 1840s and 2018 are indexed and very easy to locate on the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website.

One posting is of two young men mining for shale at Rosevale, Albert County, New Brunswick, in 1925. They were working at obtaining shale for a trial shipment of 25 tons.

Members of a group named, “New Brunswick Upon Days Faded” have posted “Male choir of the Fredericton fire department on stage at Fredericton Opera House, 1899.” “Rexton School - 1910” and many more.

From Old Pictures East Saint John, No one knew what to expect on Dec. 1, 1922, when New Brunswick switched to the right-hand rule of the road at the stroke of midnight.

Several Genealogical Facebook Groups are posting not only photos with information but are requesting and sharing genealogical information.

The McCord Museum has online 83,340 vintage prints and glass negatives, stereograms, composites and painted photographs of 19th century Canada. Daguerreotypes and other types of early photographic processes, family albums, vernacular photographs, documentary photographs, artist portfolios, cameras and photographic equipment from 1840 to the present day.

As the years slip by, Christmases of the past bring many memories and provide an excellent time to think of how our ancestors celebrated the occasion before electricity and automobiles arrived.

Also we compare the wonder of all the digital pictures we can store inside the camera or on a memory stick. When I was young a film held either twelve or twenty four prints with needing to buy the film and then paying to have it developed.

Our phones are able to capture photos without having a flash,

But also, I miss the glow of the kerosene lamp and the aroma from the barrel of apples that were kept in the spare bedroom.

Time changes our way of life but memories live for ever, especially if the event was captured in the eye of the camera.


Merry Christmas!



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