We all have one but if you were asked to describe yours, how would you do so? I tried to do it but it took me 2400 words and I’m not finished. What about you!
We all knew Joe T. or for us who knew him as our dad we got to know a very special person. Allow me to tell you about my father the great role model of our family.
First as a Father
He was caring, generous, funny, teacher, fisherman, mechanic, and first and foremost a true gentleman.
He was a person who would help in any way possible, both financially and materially. Early in his life he and his kin had to replace the income his dad had been making by getting out and finding work after his dad had been hurt and could not work again. His dad had a little shop on George St. Sydney. I seem to have heard that he was a tinker. If that was true then he would repair pots and pans and other things found around the home. I also heard he may have tried shoe making although I think that trade was beyond his knowledge as he had been a carpenter working in a factory when he was hurt.
Dad knew the value of the dollar. Fifty cents was a lot of money in 1912. The family were living on very little money. Dad told me of an event when he found a 50 cent piece on the floor in the living room because the sun shone on it. Nobody knew where it came from but they were able to buy food for supper with it.
Mike on the left, Teresa and dad circa 1912.
As he progressed in years he was always there with a few dollars as he would leave after a visit.
He loved to fish and he was a good fisherman with the patience of Job. He enjoyed the boat he had at Shady Vale in Beaver Cove.
He and I were nearly drowned one year. The lake was frozen over all winter. In the spring we wanted to fish for some cod. The ice was soft but seemed to be firm enough. We took his auger and a couple of lines and went up to a place near Big Beach. We parked near the lake and went out on the ice. About a mile out we cut a hole in the ice. The ice turned out to be only about 4 inches thick. I pulled a chunk of the ice from the edge of the hole and happened to stand on it. It crushed easily. Suddenly we knew we were in trouble. We decided to get out of there and literally crept our way back to shore. If we had have gone through the ice we would have both been drowned. The next morning the entire lake was clear of ice.
Our home on Baker Street New Waterford where we lived for a few years and moved from here to George St. in 1940.
Ray and I called him 25. He loved it and laughed every time we said it as he recalled the time when he hired Martin MacKinnon and Alec Peter MacDonald of Beaver Cove to do some alterations to the house in Beaver Cove. One would be upstairs and the other down on the main floor. They were trying to measure something and one was saying it was 25 inches and the other was sure it should be 24 ½. With their heavy Scottish twang and their arguing about which was right we were able to hear it all and found It extremely funny.
One afternoon He took Ray and I out to his favorite spot on the Mira river to do some trout fishing. It was early in the spring and as the sun went down and the evening darkened Ray and I were getting cold. The frogs began to sing and as the night was quiet it was eerie. Dad was sure that he was going to catch some trout and it was well past 9 o’clock when he decided to give it up. As he was on his way back to the car I heard Ray call out in a loud voice “did you catch any fish 25”. For some reason we all nearly died laughing and until the day he died he would always laugh when the episode was mentioned. Our father the great role model treated my siblings by bringing us together as a family.
Dad loved a good feed of fish, especially eels. Once he came home with a potato sack full of the squirmy fish. He emptied them into a wash tub in the back room of the house. He set up a board with a sharp nail sticking up and proceeded to skin them. It was revolting to watch but after Mom cooked them we found them to be delicious. I remember when we would sit to a feed and took up the habit of laying out the bones end to end to see who could eat the most.
Later in his years he got together with a good friend and they would spear the eels through the ice at River Ryan.
He was the best watchmaker I ever knew. While learning my trade with him he would come to my rescue every time when I ran into trouble with a watch.
One way I learned was by watching. Our store closed around 5 pm. He always worked until 6. I took the opportunity to stand near him at the bench and watch as he worked. His dexterity was beautiful to watch. The size of the watch didn’t matter. The tiniest were just other challenges to meet.
A Sharp Businessman
He was also a good businessman and well trusted by his suppliers. When he arrived in new Waterford he had nothing but his tools. A company owner from Toronto by the name of Harry Fogler sent dad a box of rings, watches and diamond rings to get him started.
50th wedding anniversary of Joe and Margaret 1979
Dad got busy and set up a nice window display and put the rest of the goods in the showcase inside the store. One week later a thief smashed the window and stole everything but one signet ring. Dad was devastated. He had no money and now lost the jewelry that was not paid for either.
He called Harry to tell him the bad news. Harry said, not to worry, and sent a duplicate order immediately. This was the beginning of a life long bond between the two.
Harry became a multi-millionaire with a very successful business. His traveling salesmen covered the country from end to end. One covered the Maritimes, traveling by train from town to town. The minute he would arrive in Sydney (the nearest city) Harry would get on a plane in Toronto and fly down to Cape Breton to meet up with dad and his good friend Stuart Layton, a Glace Bay jeweler, for a get together. He would visit for a day and one night and go back to Toronto. They did this for all the years in business. He saw our family and my father as the great role model that possibly he may not have had in his family.
Dad had his problem with the drink. It bothered him all of his life. He would have long absences when he would not touch a drop but on occasions such as a visit from Harry, one drink would set him off. Is was a strange addiction as rarely would his drinking last more than a day. Oddly, his whole persona changed with only one drink. He became belligerent and argumentative and was not a nice person under the influence. By the next morning he would rise early and go to mass. He would feel sorry for his deed and all would eventually be right until the next time.
Joe with his sister Teresa, Margaret and his sister Pauline
To know Joe T. was to know a great friend and mentor. He loved to get together with his family. His sister Pauline and husband Alex MacDonald were frequent visitors to our home. He took great pleasure in visiting his sister Sadie and Will Lynch at their home in Sydney.
Dave Bagnall was a lifelong friend who, after being nearly electrocuted when he touched live wires while working as a lineman for eastern Light and Power in Sydney and lying near death in hospital, kept asking for Joe to come to him. Dave was severely disfigured from that accident and returned to work for many years at a desk job.
Dave and Joe built cottages on the land given to them by Roddy Nicholson at the shore of his property in Beaver Cove. They remained good friends, as did Dave’s wife Emily and daughter Joan.
Joe T was born with the greatest laugh ever. He enjoyed life and friendship. Anyone who ever played a game of cribbage with him were treated to his enjoyable personality. He loved to win and in doing so showed his pleasure with his laugh. You might hear that laugh by listening to the video recording posted here on the left, where he can be heard with that infectious laugh in the background.
Joe was a practicing catholic all of his life. He supported the church financially. He took great joy in having all of the boys serving on the altar.
He would never miss Sunday mass here at Mount Carmel church if at all possible. In our home dinner at noon on Sunday was a ritual we would never miss as Mom would always put on a big, great tasting spread.
Joe had a few cars over his lifetime. His favorite was a little red Durant such as the one shown here on the left.
The Apple Tree By The gate
It must have been just before Marg and Joe were married. Probably 1928 or so. Joe was driving his little Durant up to Beaver Cove to visit with his uncle John and aunt Ann. That was in the house where Hilda and Adam Boyd spent their summers later on.
The road going up to their house was a simple farm road. It tended to get very muddy at times. On the way up the car bogged down and became stuck in the mud. It was tight where the gate was located. Dad had taken a bag of apples with him from town as a treat for the folks. He ate two apples while trying to clear the car from the mud and threw the cores to the side of the road.
A few years later an apple tree grew there and he told me that they tasted exactly like the apples he was eating years before. Anyone who tasted apples from that tree by the gate will certainly attest to that.
When Margaret entered the hospital in Sydney for the birth of Isabel, little did she know that Joe T would be coming in the next day to be treated for pneumonia in both lungs. Antibiotics were not available then as today. He had a terrible time with it and before he was well again he had lost a lot of weight. He did beat it but not long after the photo of he and Isabel was taken his hair turned pure white.
Dad was generous to a fault. My father the great role model knew what it was to be short of money. Apart from financially supporting his church he gave freely to his family whenever anyone required help. His cash strapped early years during the depression of the 1930 1939 era instilled within him a deep knowledge of what it was like to be a few dollars short. He did not wait for someone to ask for aid, rather it was his nature to ask if he could help, or, more often than not, he would slip a $20.00 bill into your hand or pocket.
A Wonderful Teacher
It is not easy to teach children, especially about the value of the dollar. Dad knew exactly what to do when the day came for us boys to get a bicycle. We thought it would be a piece of cake to get him to buy us one since he bought Isabel a new CCM bicycle just recently. (Unfortunately was was stolen the first day she had it). For a long time afterward we searched for that bike. I still remember the serial number 5N2399.
We asked him if he would buy us one and he said he would pay for half but we had to pay the other half. That was a smart offer since he knew that we would treat the bike with our best security if we were part owners.
Mike, ray and I got busy. We picked blueberries by the gallon and sold them for .25 cents per quart. We cut clothes props and sold them to the neighbors. We cut kindling and sold them by the potato bag full. Sometimes we would remove every second picket from somebody’s fence, chop them into kindling and sell the to the ex-owner.
Before clothes dryers were invented and available to purchase, freshly laundered clothes would be hung out on a clothesline to dry in the wind. Since they were wet and heavy, the line would need a clothes prop to keep the clothes from dragging on the ground below.
Kindling was small, dry pieces of wood what were used to start a fire in the stove. Almost everyone relied on kitchen stoves and heating furnaces that burned coal. These required new fires to be kindled daily.
Slowly our bike contribution grew. Penny by penny, nickels, dimes and quarters went into the bank can. We hid the can under the step into the garage in our backyard. Once it rained and the coins were rusted when we checked and we had to clean each one with steel wool.
Finally the day arrived. We had our half of the $39.75 cost of the bike and, true to his word, dad came up with his half and we had our new wheels. Not only did we have our brand new CCM bike but, more importantly we had learned a valuable lesson.
A Loving Husband
Joe and Marg were in love for more than 60 years. Even though Marg passed away in 1984 in their 54th years of marriage, dad’s love for her carried on for the next 6 years before he joined her in the afterlife.
Dad had had enough of this life without his partner. He suffered through a couple of small strokes, blaming his bruises on a swinging door. His mind was still sharp when he finally experienced a fatal stroke in the middle of the night, laid back and passed away on July 25th 1990 at the age of 85. As I remember him and the lessons I have learned from him I can’t think of him as my father the great role model.