The Path to Maturity is a Tough One

How did you reach maturity? Was it because of your teachers or you worked your heart out. To what do you credit your success? Was it due to hard work or luck?

Mike and Cindy. How easily their names roll off the tongue. Our eldest brother, Mike has had us in awe since we were born and his path to maturity has been a tough one.

Mike came into the world on July 22, 1933 in a Sydney hospital. His Mom and Dad moved him and his sister Isabel to New Waterford just after his 2nd birthday.

Mike was a good student and worked hard at his studies. From and early age he too was enthralled with the piano. He loved to sit and listen to his Mom play and would try to learn. And learn he did. Over the years his skills with the piano have provided everyone with many hours of enjoyment.

Mike on the left back row was smaller that the rest but really fast. This was a ball team in Boisdale, NS

Mike contracted rheumatic fever at a young age and spent quite a few months recuperating. Fortunately he recovered. By the time he was in his teens he played baseball and football. He was one of the best softball players on the Boisdale team where he played during the summer.

Mike graduated from high school and tried to find work. He loaded gravel onto trucks with his best friend Sonny Chiasson whose father had a construction business. It was hard work as you can imagine. They would drive to a beach, park the truck and load the box using hand shovels.

There was an elderly gent who lived near our home. His name was Medrick Poirier. He was the grave digger for our graveyard next door to our home. Mike would be paid $5.00 each time they dug a grave. Those graves had to be 6 feet deep and the digging was not easy. Hard clay and rock. More of this later but it all contributes to the path to maturity is a lot of work.

Mike tried to find steady work at the steel plant in Sydney. He would take his lunch box and hitch a ride to Sydney early in the morning. Most times he would wait with a whole group of other men in the general yard hoping to be chosen for one job or another. When he would be called, more often than not it would be to work underneath the huge furnaces where the temperature was unbearable. The men could only work for 15 or 20 minutes at a time.

Other times Mike would find a shift unloading iron ore from she ships that sailed from Labrador. He would come home entirely covered in red iron ore dust.

After doing this for many months Mike was dejected. One morning he arrived home after traveling to Sydney, waiting in the yard for hours and sent home without any work, again, he threw his lunch can into the corner, washed up, changed his clothes and walked down to the glebe house at Our Lady Of Mount Carmel church. He went into see the pastor, Monsignor MacLellan who was the retired ex president of St. F. X. University. He asked him to see if he could help get him into the University. Although it was very late (classes had started a month before) MacLellan did so and very shortly Mike was on his way. Oddly while Monsignor MacLellan was the person who attended the funeral of our grandfather Rod MacMillan after he died in Sydney.   

Mike dove into his studies and earned his BA and BED degrees. He didn’t have any money so while attending summer school in Halifax at Dalhousie he would slip into the dorm at night and sleep on a mattress that Russell MacNeil arranged for him. Mike waited on tables to earn a few dollars while in Antigonish. When a person would die back home in New Waterford Mr. Poirier would come to our home and ask for Mike. Mom would say he would be home tomorrow to dig the grave. She would call Antigonish and get in touch with Mike who would drop everything and hitchhike home, dig the grave and hitch hike back to University all for $5.00. The path to maturity is a tough road to follow.Nobody in his right mind would do that today for any amount of money. But this was Mike, and he never forgot those long hours waiting in the cold and dirt and heat of the steel plant. He was 100% determined to get his education.

Mike had met Helen McInnis from Sydney Mines. They were married in the summer of 1958 in Sydney Mines and headed west to his first teaching job in Brooks Alberta. D’arcy was born there and soon they returned to Nova Scotia where Mike took a position with the Dartmouth school board. Doug, Diana and Danina soon arrived. After a few years Mike earned his masters degree from St. Mary’s University in Halifax. He soon was invited to teach at St. Mary’s and he did so. It was at the prompting of a priest there, that saw him leave that position and head to the University of Alberta to study for his PHD. While he taught, he studied and worked extremely hard to earn his degree. He needed to carry out a survey for his thesis “Teaching Methods in Nova Scotia”. He prepared his survey, sent them out via mail and knew that he needed plenty of feedback. Boldly he decided to act to make certain he would gather enough surveys for the thesis. He got into his old vehicle and drove to Nova Scotia and drove all around the province stopping at each school to personally gather his surveys. Somehow the old car made it back to Alberta where Mike wrote his thesis and graduated with his PHD.

Arriving back in Halifax Mike soon earned his position as the Dean of Education as St. Mary’s.

The stresses and strains of his work and being a husband and father were too much for the marriage to sustain and after 25 years Mike and Helen officially divorced.

Mike lived in his cottage and some time passed by when Mike and Cindy  ( back row) became a couple. Cindy worked as a secretary at St. Mary’s and is a real sweetheart who has a smile that would brighten any room she entered. She was born in Yarmouth, NS and came from a family of 3 girls and 3 boys. Mike and Cindy were married in 1997 in Dartmouth, NS

In July 2013 mike turned 80 years of age and as you will agree with me he looks fantastic. He has weathered the path to maturity very well indeed.  

As he reminisced recently, his greatest memories of his lifetime were those fantastic summers he spent at the old farm of his grandfather at Beaver Cove. Fun was the word. It was a world without electricity, telephones, internet and television. Out of bed early in the morning. Pulling up the food bucket from its resting place at the end of a rope suspended some 30 feet in the dry well to obtain the eggs and milk for the family breakfast was a unique experience. Drawing washing water from the rain barrel near the back door. Climbing the old apple trees near the front veranda for a tasty delight. Rolling down the hills in a huge barrel. Watching Roddy Nicholson perform his magic in his forge and sneaking a look at this friendly gentleman as he dozed and enjoyed an after lunch snooze amid the sweet smelling wood shavings that acted as a makeshift bed on the forge floor.

Once in a while Roddy would take out his old fiddle and play a tune from his distant past.

One of the enjoyable activities we boys would do would be to go fishing for trout in MacDonald’s brook where we could quite easily catch a gad of fish for the dinner.

Next to Roddy’s farm was his brother in law and sister Little Mick Mac Lean and their family. Once in a while we would visit them and enjoy a feed of milk and tea biscuits as Mrs. MacLean was a fantastic cook. It was very strange for us to hear them speak to each other in Gaelic.

When the water was calm in the lake we would take out the old boat they owned and do some cod fishing. The lake was full of these fish at those times and we would come home with a huge catch for Mom to cook up.

Isabel, Mike and Terry enjoying each others company.

The old house we called the farm was in wonderful condition. South of the house was a field where we would play ball. There were rock piles here and there. Outside the back door of the house was a swing tied to the huge poplar tree. Next to the house was a carriage house and below that was the root cellar. Up stairs was a huge loom that must have been there for generations.

Next door to the barn was the outdoor toilet. A 2 hole one at that. There was always a bag of lime available for keeping things a sanitary as possible. You might say that this was also the path to maturity.    

Family means everything to Mike and Cindy. A few years ago D’arcy and Doug operated DARMAC FISH. Mike would get out of bed very early in the morning, hop into the car and head out to the fishing shacks along the coast to buy fish and lobsters, drive back to Dartmouth and deliver the goods to the boys. Only then would he take off fast for work at St. Mary’s for 8.30 or so.

Mike is the epitome brother, father, husband and friend.