Getting Aimed in The Right Direction

How did you learn to grow up and deal with what life has dealt you? What made you what you are? What has made you a success in life? How? Why? Who? Was it You?

Growing up and getting aimed in the right direction is a process of process. Getting through that process is what makes us responsible adults, would you agree?

When we were growing up in New Waterford we spent almost every waking hour outside either playing or doing some activity to make money. With all of the activity we did it could be the reason we never really got fat.

Television was yet to be invented as well as the computer. All we had was the radio. We were allowed to stay up until 8pm on Saturday night to listen to the hockey games. We also used to listen to boxing from Madison square Gardens in New York. This came with a price tag. To do so we had to scrub and wax the kitchen floor. There was no free lunch for kids in those days.   

We played a game called “Lee-Hockers” or something like that. All I remember about it was it caused a lot of running around the neighborhood.  

Oyster sales was another one but again I can’t remember what it was about.

We played a lot of rugby but we never had a ball. We used a burlap potato bag. We would fold it up and roll it into an oblong mass, tie it up and that was the ball. We would play with that by the hour.

We had a basement in our house where we would play hockey when it was raining outside. We spent hours doing that. We used a sponge ball. We would literally wear them out.

We belonged to the Boy Scouts. The weekly meetings were held in an old building. That building was taken over by the KOC years later and is still in use today.

Our meeting began with a game of rugby with that same type of ball. We played in the hall. After some time we would practice tying knots and all the other things we would learn as scouts. Mike Fleming was one of the scout leaders.

A couple of times we would be taken out for a day with the leaders or our priest. We had a nice priest Fr. Charles MacDonald. He took us out to Lingan Bay and bought us a potato sack of lobsters. We had a pot and cooked them on a fire near the church. What a feed. This activity aided in getting aimed in the right direction.

Another time we traveled with him to Fortress Louisbourg where we made a stew on the beach. We all took something to put into the pot and it was really good. I called it “Fortress” but it was only a small building with some artifacts in it. Actually it was called a museum but was very small. Later on when the mines were closing all over the place the government decided to build what is now Fortress Louisbourg.   

We never had a new baseball. Once in awhile we would snag a baseball that was hit over the backstop at the local ball field and if they didn’t catch up with us we would take it home and play with that until the cover would be completely worn off. Then we would buy a roll of black electrical tape and tape it up and play with that until there was simply nothing left of it.

I remember one time when Mike was in high school. He made the football team and he got a football boot with knobs on it that were called cleats. He was so excited that he put them on and would run around the field near us. We would coax him to let us try them and we would do the same. Just run around and take corners trying not to slip and fall. The cleats would keep us from falling.

In the winter we spent countless hours skating and tobogganing at an area called the stumps. That was over at the top of Thompson Street where there are now houses and a seniors care center now. The trees were all cut down many years before and all that remained were the old stumps. There was a pond  up behind the graveyard where houses are today. The water from the pond flowed slowly down the stump area and coated the entire area with ice. As it was on a hill it made for great but a little tricky skating and tobogganing. We loved it and spent almost every evening and weekend there.

We would find a huge plank somewhere and with a sled on each end we could get seating for about 8 people on it and it was crucial to getting aimed in the right direction and go like hell down as far as Leo Boudreau’s house on Acadia street. That was A.J. Boudreau’s father.

In those years nobody ever received an allowance such as they have today. We would get gifts of hockey gear at Christmas such as a stick or skates. A birthday gift would mean a baseball glove or the like. Nothing really fancy.

Active boys such as ourselves were expected to get along without handouts.

One year, Isabel was given a bicycle for her birthday. She put it in the garage overnight and it was stolen. We searched the entire town for it but no luck. I still remember the serial number we were searching for. 5N2399.

Of course poor papa had to shell out for another one for her. We wanted one also of course. Papa told us he would pay for half of a new bike but we would need to find the money for the other half. The new one would cost $39.95    

We went at this quest to raise the $19.97 like devils possessed. We picked blueberries by the gallon and sold them around the neighborhood. When the berries were running out we would hitchhike to New Victoria where, up the hill behind the church grew fantastic berries. We would pick for hours and then hitch a ride home.

We cut trees from the woods behind the graveyard next to our home and made them into clothes props. At that time everyone hung out the washed clothes to dry on the clothesline. No one had clothes dryers. They were considered lucky to have a washer machine. A manual one with a wringer as well. Automatic washers were not invented for a long time after this time. We would sell the props for 50 cents.

Everyone needed kindling to get the fire started in either the furnace or the kitchen stove or fireplace. There were no oil furnaces or stoves in our coal mining town at that time. Everyone used coal. coal stoves in the kitchen. Coal fired furnaces in the basement.

We would never pass up the opportunity to gather small pieces of wood to sell as kindling. A few pickets from somebody’s fence, a branch from a dead tree or a board from a construction site would do.

Potatoes were sold by the 50 pound burlap bag at that time. We would find a bag somewhere and fill it with kindling and sell it in the area. We might get 25 cents for the bag full. With the 3 of us going at it we raised that bike money in less than 2 months. We kept the money in an old coffee can and hid it under the step of the garage.

I remember checking the money can one time after a rain. The coins were all rusted as the can was wet. We spent a long time cleaning the coins with steel wool to make them shiny again.

Finally we had our share and papa did his part and we had our shiny new CCM bicycle. We were so proud.

Raising money in that manner was common for us and it was getting aimed in the right direction. I remember when I was about 8 years old. I wanted to join the Boy Scout Cubs. They were like junior Boy Scouts. We needed to buy little uniforms. Cap, shirt and neckerchief. Again, I worked all summer to earn money for these items. I cut grass, sold newspapers with my paper route and cut kindling. I finally had enough money for my uniform.

When I was 10 years old I would go to papa’s store downtown on Plummer Ave. where I would clean the windows and walk to the post office to pick up the mail. I would empty the wastebasket into the furnace in the basement of Gorelik’s store which was next door to us. Louie Gorelik was the owner of the building and lived upstairs over the stores.

After those chores I would stand next to papa as he did his watch repairs. He was a master at it. He had the steadiest hands I ever saw. The store would close at 5 pm but he would work until about 6 or so. Then we would drive home.

At that time, 1945 the war was still going strong and a lot of the men in the town were overseas. The popular gift was a Ronson cigarette lighter. Papa sold hundreds of them. One problem with them was they had a spring that was subject to breaking quite often. They also needed to have wheels changed and new cotton batting installed. Papa did not have the time to do these menial repairs so I offered to do them. I bought a kit from him (yes I had to buy it) and I set up a little table at home where I would take the lighters apart and replace the worn or broken parts and get them working again. I would be paid for doing these repairs. I got half of the price papa would charge for the job. Not bad for a 10 year old kid.

By the time I was 12 I was taking old clocks apart and putting them together. I also was interested in taxidermy. Sent away for a little book on how to do it. I also bought a little kit on leather working and made a wallet. I was interested in doing anything and everything with my hands.

I bought a vice and some feathers and stuff for making fishing flies. Tom Leudy lived across from our house on George Street. I liked Tom as he was not only a nice man but he was tying flies as well. He would show me how to do things. I liked making more complicated flies for salmon fishing. I remember Derrick MacDonald who was the son of uncle Alex, was visiting with his wife Margaret and their little daughter Shauna, became very interested in my flies. He bought $10.00 worth of my salmon flies from me. I was amazed. All of these things helped in getting aimed in the right direction.

When I was growing up we had a set of encyclopedias in our home. I loved to take one of the books in hand and read all about the most fascinating things around us. I wanted to learn as much as I could. It didn’t seem to matter what subject. Just anything.

I built model airplanes. They came in a kit. There would be the plans in detail. The parts would be made out of balsa wood  which was very light and quite soft. The parts would be pre stamped in the wood and I would break out these pieces, trip them with a knife and fit them together. A small tube of glue would be included and the parts would be glued together. The chassis would be readied and then the wings would be glued on. Then the whole body would be covered with the light tissue paper, wheels put on and the propeller. It didn’t have a motor. Just a block of wood in its place.

I made quite a few of these planes. This was a long time before the kits were made of plastic.


For some reason I was drawn to uniforms. I never gave it a thought at the time but at age 8 I joined the Cubs, then the Boy Scouts. Later at 13 or 14 I joined the Air Cadets. I had to go to Central School grounds for that. Thais was going into foreign territory as Central was where the protestants attended. We were catholic and not allowed down there. My how times have changed.

The Air Cadets were fun. We were taught about electricity and how it worked. I cannot remember the guys name who taught us but he was very good. We wore a uniform and finally we did not need to buy it. It was provided free of charge.

One summer we traveled by train to Prince Edward Island where in the town of Summerside there was an air base. We stayed there in a barracks. It was great fun. We got to fly in an old plane called a Beechcraft. It held about 7 people including the pilot. We each took a turn steering the plane. There wasn’t much room to move about so when One of the cadets went to change places with the cadet who just had his time at the wheel he accidentally pushed the wheel and the plane took a sharp turn to the right.

I remember seeing a red light on the dashboard start to flash. I could see it said low fuel on the light. I thought we were going to crash. Fortunately the pilot knew all about it and was actually on his approach to landing the plane.

I had no interest in school and wanted out. I was in grade 10 but doing poorly. That summer I would be 16 years of age and begged papa to let me quit and work with him to learn the watch-making trade. He didn’t want to let me out of school at first but he finally relented.

I liked working at learning the trade. I started on clocks and then pocket watches and finally wrist watches. I also learned to solder jewelry and rings. We repaired eye glasses as well.

By the time I was 18 I was pretty confident in my trade. Not the greatest but not too bad. But I was in a rut. Papa was only 50 years old at the time. What was I going to do?  The business was too small for 2 people to earn a full living from it. The town was not growing. The Sydney area was growing and competition from Kmart and Woolco was heating up.

It was at that time that I decided to join the navy and see the world. This decision led me to getting aimed in the right direction.     

The Farm in Beaver Cove

How would you describe a magical place in the countryside where you spent your summers and everything was perfect. Could you call it your paradise on earth?

This photo was taken pre 1935. Back row L-R Sadie Lynch, Joe Ts. sister and his aunt Ann. Middle row L-R  his uncle John, Will Lynch and a Rev. Lynch possibly his brother. Front row Derrick MacDonald and the Lynch Family children. This is the front veranda of THE FARM

Beaver Cove was a magical place for us when we were children. During the 1940s dad and mom would announce we were going to “The Farm in Beaver Cove” and the excitement began. Mom would pile in the groceries and goodies and we would pile into the car and take off. At the turn off for Boisdale we would enter the gravel road and drive for almost an hour as the road was not the greatest.

The MacMillan family would have traveled to the store at Boisdale in a carriage similar to this during the period from 1860 to 1935.

Once we passed the village of Boisdale we began to watch for familiar terrain. We had a contest  to see who would see the farm first. Just past MacDonald’s brook all eyes would be focused. “I see it” would be heard and sure enough we would soon turn into the driveway, crest the first hill, cross the little bridge that crossed the small brook on the flats and get to the gate. Once opened, dad would gun the engine with our little voices helping, and up the driveway we would go. If it had rained recently a little skidding would take place but we would get there eventually.

This was the store in Boisdale where the MacMillans would travel to to shop for their necessities on their wagon. This photo must have been taken around 1920.

Spectacular Setting  

The house at the farm in Beaver Cove was situated on the hill about 700 yards from the highway, with a fantastic view of St. Andrews Channel of the Bras D’or Lakes. Four miles across the beautiful water lay the Island of Boulandrie. Down on the lower hill to the left was the home of Roddy Nicholson with his forge to the right of the house. Further to the west was the farm of Little Mick MacLean. To the east on our right was the home of Angus MacPhee. It was near the highway. Running from east to west just the other side of the highway was the CNR railway.

The fields below were still free of bushes but were starting to show the results of about 15 years of neglect. Our grand uncle John and grand aunt Anne had passed away in the 1930’s and the FARM had been in name only since then.

The orchard in front of the house had huge apple trees that produced wonderful eating and baking fruit. A water well lay just below the orchard.

Not much remains of the old barn now. The round thing shown here in the rubble is the cover of the container that was used to insert into the dry well to keep the food cool during the summer.

A few yards to the west of the house stood the barn. Opposite the barn on the upper side of the driveway nestled amid the huge poplar trees was the biffy or outdoor toilet. Up a few yards behind the house were a few very large poplar trees and behind those stood an old barn that was in it’s dying days. To the east of the house there was a dry well.

The Farmhouse

Lying in the center of all of this stood the farm house. It was painted white with blue trim. At the back door was a slab of sandstone for a step. On the right stood a rain barrel that gathered the run off from the roof.

Entering the house you were in the kitchen. It was painted gloss white with red trim. A large stove (not the one pictured here but similar)  dominated the kitchen and there were cabinets everywhere. A large table with chairs was near the wall. The stove had a warming oven above it. It was round and had two doors, one on either side to allow access for baking breads and cakes. There were kerosene lamps sitting on small shelves here and there around the house.

The Living Room Was Warm and Friendly

Enter the large living room at the farm in Beaver Cove and the first thing you saw was a beautiful old gramophone cabinet complete with a well worn “Pop Goes The Weasel” record sitting on the turntable. No electricity here, just turn the crank on the side and you create magic. Do you want to hear it faster? Turn the crank more. To the right of the machine was a little box holding a well worn softball and packs of playing cards. We played with that ball so often that the stuffing came out of it in a cloud of dust. Eventually the cover fell to pieces. 

A big table and some easy chairs sat in the centre of the room but on the far side of the room lay a stunning couch. It was unique. The couch itself was upholstered with black horsehide. Rising from the left were a frame of cow horns and they diminished at the right end. It was a striking antique. Where this piece of furniture came from is unknown at this time. It was old in the 1940 era.

In the center of the room to the left was a stairway to the upstairs bedrooms. Under the stairs was an alcove with a battery operated radio sitting on a shelf.

The boards of the steps to the upstairs creaked as a person headed upstairs. The floors were made of wide boards. So were the walls and ceilings. There was almost no space between the boards. That was amazing. The boards must have been extremely well dried before the craftsman cut and planed them by hand and fitted them together. If not they would have dried in place and shrunken.


Another door on the front of the room led into a small room that exited both to the front veranda seen here in the photo on the left. The other door led back to the kitchen.

The Upstairs Layout

Upstairs there were 3 bedrooms.  Actually at the head of the stairs was an open room with two beds. To the right on the front was a closed bedroom. On the west end was another bedroom but this room was not as well finished as the rest of the rooms. Each room had a chamber pot similar to the one in the photo here.  These were needed if a person needed to use the bathroom overnight.

Outside the back door at the rear of the house there was a huge field. Hanging in the trees near the house was a swing that received a lot of use.

The dry well at the farm was stone lined and reached a depth of about 25 feet. Suspended from a rope was a large galvanized bucket with a cover. This was the refrigerator of old. Butter, milk, meat and extra baked goods were placed here where the temperature was a constant +8 C

Scattered here and there in the field were rock piles. The stones were picked from the field over the years prior to planting. A couple of these piles were used as dumps for household cans and bottles. Once we were shown how to safely fire a gun we would set up these cans and bottles for target practice.

The Carriage House

This building was near the main house. It had a pair of doors to the south for ease of entry for the carriage wagon access. On the side facing the house there was a door which led to the root cellar where the winter supply of meat, fish and vegetables were stored.

Around the inside walls of the carriage house were workbenches and there was shelving fixed here and there on the walls. This area was used to fix things that needed it and there were parts of lamps, various spray cans for insect control and some tools for doing repairs.

A stairway led to an upstairs where there was a large hand operated loom. In its day it would have been used to create cloth for people to wear. The loom was framed heavily and possibly was created from a pattern or kit because it was too large to get it up to the room in one piece.

Arriving at the Farm in Beaver Cove

Once the house was open and the supplies were brought inside we would be required to go to the well for water for the stove water bin. Drinking water would be brought in from the rain barrel. This water was great for hair washing and drinking it was a treat for the taste buds. Perishables would be lowered down into the dry well.

Now we boys headed out to explore. First we played ball in the field. Isabel would sometimes out hit us and of course not to be outdone the game would go on forever until the boys won.

We would soon head for the shore of the lake. Once there we would swim for hours in the salt water. The lake was unpolluted and perfect for swimming.

Roddy Nicholson Forge

Roddy was a bachelor and had a forge on the next property where we loved to go and visit him. He was a very kind and generous man and a good blacksmith and carpenter. He always had time for us kids. One thing he loved to do was, once he would see or hear us coming for a visit, heat up a piece of steel red hot and spit on his anvil. As soon as we got to his door, which was always open, he would place the hot steel on the drop of spit and hit it with the heavy hammer. It would let out a terrific bang and give us a big scare. He would laugh his head off. This photo is from the book To The Hill of Boisdale by Fr.A J MacMillan 

Things I Also Remember  

Adam Boyd was a traveling salesman who sold Fleischman’s Yeast for a wholesale company in Sydney. The company also sold candy. Every weekend he and Hilda would arrive at the farm in Beaver Cove with their little dog Laddie, a Boston Bull Terrier. Adam would place a box of Caravan candy bars under the front veranda through a small hole. It was strange that the box would be empty every weekend. Of course he knew who was eating them and would replace the box with a new one. Those bars were really tasty. We also had plenty of candies around the house all courtesy of Adam.

As I mentioned earlier, this was the era before electricity was available. Lighting was by way of kerosene lanterns. Every evening before dark the lamps would be readied. We trimmed the wicks and cleaned the shades. The lamp for outside was heavier and strongly made and had a handle. These were needed if it was dark and someone had to use the biffy.

The apple trees in front of the house were great for climbing and the apples were amazing.

Electrical storms were beautiful, especially at night when the entire sky would erupt and the rain would pour down in heavy sheets. I loved to watch the storms as long as they were around.

I loved to walk the wagon trail that ran out to the rear of the property. Deer, rabbits and squirrels were everywhere and could be seen during every walk.

We loved to fish trout at MacDonald’s brook. After doing so many times we got to know exactly where small trout would be hiding.

The Front Veranda

It wasn’t huge, but the veranda was a magical place at the farm where the family spent many hours just hanging out on warm evenings. No radio or television or computers and certainly no IPODS. The view of the countryside and that glorious lake was all we needed. On weekends Adam and Hilda and Hec and Winnie MacMillan would arrive and they would tell jokes and stories while we kids listened attentively. The sun would go down to the west and the lanterns would be lit. A Cribbage game would be ongoing. Adam would try to get the battery radio going, usually without success. The veranda was the stage if you will. It was a wonderful era. Simple. Uncluttered.

Mike’s Special Memories

Mike reminded me of the great times we had by rolling down the hill in front of the house in a large rain barrel. The ground wasn’t exactly smooth and that when we hit the fence at the bottom we ended up in a wet swampy area. We did so many times until the barrel was a total wreck.

Further to this Dad offered our services to Angus MacPhee who lived on the farm to the east next door to us. Angus needed help bringing in the hay. Mike and I worked all afternoon in the heat and he kindly gave us each a nice cool glass of buttermilk as a “treat”. YUK. Angus was a disgruntled so and so who was not a nice person at all.

Probably around 1947 Dad and his friend Dave Bagnall decided that they wanted a place of their own and approached Roddy Nicholson and asked to buy the land at the shore. From that request grew the summer cottage appropriately named “Shadyvale“. From then on we went to Shadyvale instead of the farm in Beaver cove.  

Electroplating Silver. The How and Why of The Process

Why Electroplate

By electroplating silver, it is possible to eliminate the tarnishing problem created when chemists add other metals to pure silver to increase the durability of the sterling silver item. In order for the item to be protected from tarnish, the chemist will carry out a procedure called electroplating. Here is how it is carried out.

Why not simply put the silver item to use without electroplating the silver in the first place if the other metals create the problem? Silver that has been refined to 99.99% will retain the warm, silvery luster and will not tarnish. The problem is that it is one of the softest of the precious metals and will easily wear. To eliminate the problem, some hardening metals must be added during the smelting process.


Tarnish is caused by a thin layer of corrosion that can occur over copper, silver, brass, magnesium and aluminum as well as many other metals due to a chemical reaction. Silver needs hydrogen sulfide to create tarnish.

Frequently, electroplating sterling silver with a thin layer of rhodium is done to allow a piece of jewelry to remain tarnish free.


Before the plating can begin, the part to be plated must be thoroughly cleaned.

The part to be plated is called the cathode of the circuit. The second part of the circuit is the anode which consists of a pure piece of rhodium. The anode and cathode are placed into the electrolyte into which some metal salts have been added. A  battery power supply is set up and the anode is connected to the positive side of the battery and the cathode is attached to the negative side. Both leads are immersed into the electrolyte. Once the power is flowing, the rhodium will begin to flow across to the silver. In a short time, the task is complete.

Pricy Metal

Rhodium is one of the platinum family of metals and gives a bright and shiny surface to the plated object. It is one of the hardest metals known to man. It is also the highest priced metals. Eighty percent of the world’s production is used to make automobile catalytic heaters. It is highly non-corrosive. In some cases, it is applied to white gold jewelry to make the metal even brighter.

Diamond Cutters – Do They Really Cut Them?

When we discuss diamonds, we often hear about diamond cutters, but do they really cut diamonds and if so, how is it done?

In grading diamonds,  there are four categories that must be considered before the value of the diamond is determined — cut, clarity, carat and color.

So to answer the question — Do diamond cutters really cut them?

Diamond crystals are octahedron-shaped. The great pyramids of Egypt are in the shape of polyhedrons with four faces and six edges. Imagine a pyramid with another pyramid bottom up underneath and you will have an octahedron. The raw, loose diamonds arrive at the diamond-cutting factory as octahedrons and must be cut in two in the middle before they can be shaped and polished into polyhedrons — the shape we see today in diamond gemstones.

The hardest mineral

Diamond is the hardest element and only another diamond will cut it. At the factory, the craftsman will examine the octahedron, determine the exact middle between the two soon-to-be polyhedrons and draw a fine line where the two meet. To cut the stone, a round, thin metal blade impregnated with diamond dust and spinning at a high rate of speed is used. The diamond is held on both ends with a special holder and lightly comes into contact with the blade. As the blade turns, the diamond dust will slowly wear a groove in the stone and after time passes, the octahedron will be halved thus creating two pyramid-shaped polyhedrons. This cutting process will take approximately 24 hours for a one-carat diamond. So now we have the answer — diamond cutters really do cut diamonds!

In the next step, the pyramid-shaped rough diamonds will go through the process of shaping and polishing where approximately 50% of their volume will be lost. This will be a long process as the 57 facets will be ground into specific dimensions and polished to perfection.

It takes many calculations

It took a mathematician to figure out the precise angles and numbers to create the perfect combination of facets and angles to bring out the pure beauty of the modern-day diamond. Prior to this, as much as possible of the stone was retained without consideration for the brilliance contained within. His calculations guide the diamond cutters today as they ply their exacting trade.