Cluckers and Cacklers …. Raising Chickens in Pokiok

While most Pokiok children had pups or kittens as their first pets I spent my tiny-tyke years playing with baby chicks…….. the wee downy yellow balls of fluff that go “peep , peep” or “cheep,cheep”  in the night … all night as well as all day long as they pushed , bumped and huddled together under the light bulb in the small pen my Dad had built for them in our dining room. Our house was still far from being finished inside back in the late 1930s and early 1940s so my father simply laid a foot-high plank on edge crosswise in our future dining room so as to create an enclosure for 45 to 50 chicks. On the rough floorboards he laid some straw , wood chips  or hay , dangled a wire with a light bulb from the ceiling to within a foot off the floor to serve as a heater …… with a big tin plate full of meal and other smaller ones with water in the centre. Since the quasi totality of these chicks would eventually end up in our oven before the following Christmas….. becoming sentimentally attached  to any of these birds was rather futile …

Come spring Dad put together a chicken coop on a bedrock ledge atop the hill behind the house …….a makeshift lean-to at the beginning surrounded by chicken wire fencing strung out between upright cedar poles. In 1941  he built a full-blown henhouse  on the same spot which would stand there until 1950 when he discovered it was not on his land so down it came. At dusk the birds would all enter the henhouse single file through a small opening which my father would close off soon afterwards to keep them safe from hungry night-time prowlers such as weasels , raccoons , foxes and bobcats. Given our position high on the Pokiok cliffs , now and then we also had to contend with daytime visitors as well looking for a poultry lunch … ospreys and eagles. When the hens were outside in the pen during the day my Dad put his trust in a big , bad-tempered … bad-ass … Rhode Island Red rooster named Rudy to watch over the flock and scare off any uninvited intruders.. Dad loved Rudy and often referred to him as “The Strutter”.

Starting around mid July we would be having chicken twice a week. Any day I came home to find a huge pot of boiling water on the stove I knew there would be chicken for supper….. especially when I saw my father heading up the knoll to the henhouse hatchet in hand….. followed shortly afterwards by a great commotion … clucking and swishing of wings , etc . Unfortunately for the clucker my Dad always came out victorious ! Then came the “hot water” bath to facilitate the removal of feathers and down … the extraction of entrails … and finally into a pot on the stove. I remember well some Sundays during the war when friends from the North End … out for a walk … would waltz into our yard about 4 in the afternoon. Almost immediately Mom would give the “hi” sign to my Dad and he would head for the henhouse once again with his hatchet. You don’t turn folks away when they drop in like that… you invite them to supper , especially at that hour.

Apart from us there were not many other families raising chickens in Pokiok. Down at the end of River Street ( nowadays part of the filled in “Crick” and new Shamrock Park soccer field ) Eddy and Tessie Kiley kept a few around their old barn along with an aging old swayback horse. Out the road from us Charlie Gibbons and Charlie Copeland also had small coveys of “cacklers” but the gentleman with the most numerous flock , although fewer than we , was William Freer MacDonald ( wife’s name was Bertha ). Old Freer was my best friend ‘s  ( Tommy MacDonald’s ) grandfather so we spent a lot of time with him and his birds. The house and chicken coop would burn down in later years when I was away from Saint John but the firemen told me afterwards that they had a “bugger” of a time keeping the birds from going back into the henhouse which was on fire ….. so they finally blocked off the small doorway…… thus delaying the BBQ until a later date !

Come Spring one year when we were about 9 years old my father gave two pullets to Tommy … setting my buddy up in the chicken business. We got our hands on an old tea box and converted it into a coop and placed it up against the back of Tommy’s house …. closed it up nights with a big wooden cover held in place by a huge rock we rolled up against it to ensure the safety of the two precious tenants. One morning soon afterwards a tearful Tommy knocked on our door to tell me that his birds “had flown the coop ” so to speak. During the night a nocturnal visitor had succeeded in sliding the cover aside and helping the inmates escape … yeah , escape into his stomach ! This skillful manipulation of the makeshift door by sliding it out of place had “raccoon” written all over it . And the bells knelled to mark the end of Tommy’s career as a chicken farmer….. indeed , a sad day in Pokiok!

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Our Log Cabin in the Woods

My childhood buddy and dearest friend , Tommy McDonald , and I would roam the backwoods of Pokiok looking for the ideal spot to build a camp … or a “fort” as we often called it. We had both received hatchets for Christmas one year so we were well equipped to chop down or chop off a few alder saplings and spruce boughs and piece them together into a makeshift lean-to …. very much like the one in the above picture which I put up for my two boys and their friends in our backyard in Pokiok during the 1970s. The overnight shelters were most often erected within earshot of our homes .. just beyond the edge of the woods … as we were still of that age when the pitchblack darkness   and weird sounds of the forest sent shivers up and down our spines. Besides we had quick and easy access to old pieces of linoleum , tarpaulin or carpeting to make our dwelling more rainproof and “liveable”.

However , as we got older we started widening our range of explortory endeavours … mainly out behind Tommy’s house as there was very little space behind our place because of the shear dropoff of some 800 feet to the river below. One morning we set off with our lunches stashed away in our packsacks and headed straight for the Blueberry Hills .. later referred to as the Burnt Hills after the big brush fire of 1948 ..  With Tommy sporting a heavy flare gun ( no flares , of course ) his Dad had brought home from the war  and myself armed with my faithful “beebee” air-rifle , we were ready to take on any imaginary enemy we might meet along the way. I cannot remember what prompted us to go beyond our usual range that day … but we did ! And were well rewarded for doing so !

Some 20 minutes later , once out of the hills and back into the spruce forest , we came upon a small clearing …. and there smack in the middle stood a log cabin … almost a deadringer to the one in the picture below except that ours had a window. We were a bit leery at first as we drew near .. even intrigued at finding such a treasure here in the woods … and seemingly abandoned to boot ! So we approached the cabin , pushed the door open and peered in. There was absolutely nothing inside but a few old rusty cans and empty shotgun shells cluttering up the damp ground. There was no wooden flooring. ” Our first big real estate dream had come true” , thought we … so back we headed to tell Tommy’s Dad , Ernie , and get his “blessing” to use these newly found “digs” as our headquarters , sleeping quarters , frontier outpost , etc . We didn’t want to tell him that it was “almost” on the ridge overlooking Boar’s Head Road and the Millidgeville Airport for he might have thought that a bit too far from home … so we kept that to ourselves.

Now Ernie was not in a very good mood when we got back as he had been digging up the backyard for over a month by then looking for water and all he found were droplets of his own sweat accumulating in the earth as he dug. And that morning before Tom and I had set off to the woods Kay’s ( Tom’s Mom ) nanny goat had butted Tommy sending my little friend ass-over-kettles into the thickets beside the house. Kay had bought the goat for milk during the war. Ernie was nearby when this happened  so ,. while uttering a few choice adjectives as to the goat’s geneological origins and its final destination , he grabbed the goat by the horns and was about to “heave” the poor beast into the woods when  Kay intervened and stopped him.


So with Ernie still smoldering from a frustrating day we decided to get Tommy’s mother along with her two sisters , Marie and Margey , to sweet-talk him into accompanying us back to our newly discovered haven in the woods. So off we went with Ernie muttering and uttering threats to all the mosquitoes , blackflies as well as their offspring that we met along the way . After about 40 minutes of “forced march” over hillock and dale with a guy who had just left the army , we finally reached our newfound nest. To our great surprise Ernie approved quite readily of the spot … adding that he might even use it as a hunting cache or blind during deer season. In the following three or four years we enhanced the looks of the place by covering the floor with lots of spruce boughs which we constantly renewed at no expense at all … even made a table and two benches from old lumber we found around the neighbourhood. All this back when life was not complicated …and then we grew out of this phase in our lives … unfortunately ! I went off to school in Ontario and Tom stayed on to stand guard atop McDonald Mountain …    

The log cabin pictured above was built by my dear friend , Yvan Breton , in the wilds of Québec’s Bellechasse County… and is a repliqua almost to the finest details of our cabin in the woods in Pokiok. Yvan and I were colleagues for over 30 years at Université Laval in Québec City and have spent manys a night discussing and settling world problems in our camp in the woods between 1975 and 2000 …. I’m still a kid at heart I guess and most likely always shall be !

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Large Harbour-Caught , Dressed Shad … 18¢ and 25¢ a Piece !

When I was a boy, Momma would send me down to the corner grocery store
with a dollar, and I’d come back with a peck o’ potatoes,
two loaves o’ bread, three pints o’ milk, a pound o’ cheese,
a  packet o’ tea, a hand o’ bananas and a dozen eggs.
Ya’ can’t do that nowadays.
Too damn many security cameras!!!

This wee joke opens the door to a subject I’ve been wanting to address for many moons already…….. the buying power of the dollar in “the good old days” ! Now the older I get , the more I find myself harking back to  “the good old days” ….. the 1930s and 1940s in my case …. and telling stories of how my parents scrimped by on very little and eked out a living on less  ……. “tirant le diable par la queue” or “dragging the devil by the tail”  as Quebecers put it. But we were by no means alone as all families in Pokiok squeezed by and made do with the meagre salary the breadwinner brought home every week. Socially and economically we were all on equal footing …. hard-working longshoremen , quarrymen , limeburners , soldiers , sailors , millmen , painters , carpenters , two lawmen , fishermen , labourers , etc ….. no bankers , oil barons or rocket scientists near or beyond The Crick in those days !

Rummaging through my Dad’s old documents and papers after his death I came upon a number of old income tax returns from the early 1940s. His return for 1942 , for example , shows that during the previous fiscal period he had earned $ 1999.45 ……. and divided by 52 weeks would situate my Dad’s weekly take home pay at roughly $38.00 ………and now I’ll get tto the “nitty-gritty” , la raison d’être or the reason why for this post.

It seems that every time I begin relating my early childhood and youth growing up in Pokiok … mentioning both the sweet memories as well as a few real sour ones … the outhouse especially in winter , no running water , long treks to and from school , the scarcity of money , etc  …. that some wiseacre pipes up with , ” Maybe so , but the dollar went further back then …. you got much more for a dollar in those days than you can nowadays !” ….. and to this I usually reply , ” Objectively speaking you’re probably right … however , back then there were fewer of  them ( dollars ) to go around!”

Since it is a frequent subject of conversation …… the value of money nowadays as compared to “back then” ,,, I have decided to let my readers make up their own minds. I went to our public library and consulted microfilm copies of the Evening Times Globe for May 2nd , 1942 … roughly 70 years ago and coinciding with the year my Dad earned an average of $38.00 a week. Below the you will find  a cross-section of  ads from many food stores of the era … Dominion Food Shops , Red & White Store , Barkers 5 Stores , MMA Stores , Garred’s Fruit Store ( my favourite place for an ice-cream soda ) , United Thrift Stores , Stephen’s Super-Market , etc .  In our own case my parents had a “running bill” with Gaults ( God bless Gerry Leonard ) in Indiantown , occasionally buying from Joyce’s on Main Street ( God bless Cecil and Molly ) , Art McGuire’s on Spar Cove Road ( God bless Art too !) .  So now you may grab your shopping cart and get your groceries for the week ! See how well you fare. However , please keep in mind your other monthly expenses such as heating and cooking year round  ( wood and coal ) , clothing , electricity , transportation , entertainment , upkeep and home maintenance as most families in my neighbourhood were still adding onto or trying to finish the interior of their homes. And to boot there were likewise a few miscellaneous but regular expenses such as …. like most parrochial-minded , church-going and God-fearing folks in the 1940s my Dad would always drop a $2.00 bill in the collection plate at Saint Peter’s every Sunday … thereby dropping his salary down to $36.00 weekly. Although it fell short of ten percent of his salary , my father believed in the principle of “tithes” and gave according to his means.

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I’m currently travelling in France, but with this cutting edge technology I’m still able to post to you a link to my photos … New ones will be added as I go along.

Cheerio! Longer update to follow 🙂

Photo albums

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More Tall Tales From The Crick

 Nobody alive today is more capable of recalling and telling the history of the Spar Cove Road – The Crick – The Snowflake Lime area of Pokiok any better ….. or with more enthusiasm and accuracy ….than my old buddy , Art McGuire.  Art is your classical storyteller of yore still walking among us today. Consequently , I think I’ll make use of his precious gift in this post by featuring a few of Art’s priceless e-mails to me in the last two months in which he recounts certain happenings from his youth.

Hi Gerry,

 Here is another oldie. From left to right Walter Bailey  …”Tatters” McGouey … Bill Williams … Guy Gregory who worked in the office of Furness and Gregory and lived in the front part of the Marley house on Spar Cove Road…. then Hazen ? …. forget his last name … he was an office worker too. A picture of the old gang taken probably around 1947-48 over near the Deacon Seat. And , of course , the one on the far right is my father , John McGuire, with Bill Williams’ dog, Brownie , sitting there in front of them. That dog was crazy……  just say to the dog, “sic, sic, ’em” … and the dog would grab onto anyone handy. One day the mailman was going by our house, and Brownie was on our lawn, so my father thought it would be a good joke to say to Brownie “sic, sic, ’em” and , honest to God, the dog grabbed the mailman by the seat of his baggy trousers.There was hell to pay for that one. When I see the old pictures it brings back a lot of old memories and the story is true …. a guy would be arrested today for some of the pranks we pulled and the same goes for shooting my 22 cooey gun.
Time to pack it in for tonight , Gerry
The old , old  Pokioker

Hi Gerry,
Well here I am again, I thought I would send a few pictures of the Lime Kiln sheds in the spring freshet. It is so hard to believe anybody in their right mind would build such a thing in such a place …. knowing full well that every spring they were going to be flooded out. They had to take the electric starters for the hydrator and motors to high ground or else they would be ruined. In one picture it shows Bob McGuire sailing into the shed that made the lime powder, [ hence snowflake lime ]……in another I am standing on the roof of #3 and #4 shed, that is my boat that is backed in ….

              In the other pictures, we are down by the square in Indiantown and note the granite trough where the horses would stop and have a drink of water.The boats in the pictures, Pretty Baby and Party Doll, were built by me, They were quite fast in that age … around thirty five or more miles an hour.We sure had a lot of fun with them and they were well named.
              I would like to add to my comment on your last posting that Myles Hovey had a skiff boat too with a 3hp Fairbanks and Morse Make and Break engine in it. I bought it from him for seventy five dollars ….  some of the money that I got for renting out my row boat for three dollars a day. He also had a big power boat that he kept tied up at the abutment at the mouth of the Crick …. the name of the boat was the TRY ME …. he would take people out for a small fee, sail to Long Island, put you ashore to have a picnic, swim, the ladies chat,  kids play, then back to the Snowflake wharf. It was dark when we got home …  I know , because I was one of kids who was there, a nice boat trip, devilled ham sandwiches, sand between our toes.  and it just seems like yesterday…

The  old , old Pokioker …..Art.
A Story for Kid Pokiok.

             Many years ago Lou McGuire had salmon set-nets on the Saint John River and you had to fish them on the tide. He had one in Welch’s Cove and he was going there to fish his net. It was a very black night and  his boat went at a good fast clip ….. it was painted black, and unbeknownst to him, there was another black boat at anchor in the cove that belonged to John Sherwood. The name of the boat was the Sparrow. Well you guessed it …. Lou’s boat hit the Sparrow at a right angle on the port side.When Lou saw what had happened, he put his motor in reverse, and backed out off the Sparrow, leaving a gaping hole in the boat ….  five feet long and a couple of inches above the water line.
         When John went to get his boat ,the first thing he did, was pull up anchor, and head for the safety of Snug Harbour. I was a witness to his motoring into the Crick that morning  ….  he was sitting on the starboard side so as to keep the boat tilted and higher out of the water.
          Lou went to a boat builder , a certain Mr Ring, then to another fellow that could do the repairs, and he was shocked at the price they wanted to fix up the Sparrow.Lou asked me if I could help him fix the boat so I Went to Murray and Gregory’s, got some pine boards, and some oak boards, got our steam pipe.
          In a week or so the Sparrow was sailing the river again. It is funny now looking back at this boat, with this large hole in it,  putt-putting along with its one cylinder engine and John sitting on the extreme side, but it was not so funny back then.
         This is just one of the many moments of life back in the the days of my youth ….. a bed time story from the old, old Pokioker.  Art

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A Sorrowful Memory

If I had taken a picture from the same spot back in 1950….. with the same parameters in view  …. a very different much more pristine scenario would emerge……. no buildings , no telephone poles or wires , no hydro tower , nor paved road. In those days the whole area between the Copeland’s and the Ponds was a grassy field with a makeshift farm road running through it …. two parallel grooves with grass growing in between. This field was our softball diamond where we would often gather on summer evenings …. both kids and parents … to show off and “swat” our stuff ! I remember one evening in particular ……. my last game on this field.
It was mid-August 1950 , I was 14 years old and was making ready to head off to the Redemptorist Fathers’ minor seminary in Brockville , Ontario on the 1st of September. After supper one evening we all showed up at the field , two pick-up teams were formed ….. and the game got underway. One of the adult bystanders along the third base line had stepped forward and offered to umpire. His name  was Jack Stevens who along with his wife , Kathleen , and two young children were recent comers to Pokiok. My turn at bat came and I still remember many of the details of what happened that evening.
Larry McCoy was pitching while his brother , Bob , squatted behind me as catcher …. and Jack stood behind Bobby calling balls and strikes. I was a big boy for my age , already weighing in at 150 lbs at age 14 , a long -ball hitter and aiming at splashing one into the Upper Pond that evening … a kind of parting gift to my friends …. something to remember me by. Since it was a friendly game the pitchers were lobbing … not zooming … them in. We wanted everybody to hit the ball … hoping the batter would either fly out , strike out or be thrown out at first. This way all players got in on the action. So when Larry tossed me a soft pitch and with the “splash in the pond” in mind , I leaned into it with everything I had. Then I felt contact with the ball … then a second thump ……the tip of my bat had hit something else behind me on the follow through. At first I thought I had struck the catcher , Bobby McCoy … but when coming full 180 degrees I saw a wee girl lying there on the ground with blood gushing out of her mouth ! It was Jack Stevens’ baby daughter …. a wee toddler.  
Somehow the tiny tot had broken loose from her guardian in the small group of onlookers on the sidelines and scampered-bolted  towards her father who was umpiring the game … behind me and out of my vision. I recall Jack jerking off his t-shirt and wrapping it around the little girl’s head …… then scooping her up in his arms and running off toward Daws King’s home. From there they drove off in Daws’ car heading for the hospital.
I saw the little girl only once before leaving for college soon after the unfortunate incident. Her head was all bandaged up and quite swollen. Even though the parents , Jack and Kathleen , reassured me it was an accident  , I , however , nurtured an almost overwelming feeling of guilt as  I held myself physically responsible for possibly maiming this child for life. This feeling would haunt my teen years and I often discussed it with my spiritual advisor in college.
When I came home the following summer in 1951 I began working full time … shift-work to boot … at the Atlantic Sugar Refinery to help pay for my tuition fees and travelling. Even though I was only 15 years old Mr Hunt hired me anyways … and back then nobody objected about such matters. I was able bodied and needed the money. I remember meeting Jack Stevens once that summer who informed me that his daughter was fine and also that they were going to wait a few years before having her undergo corrective surgery for the left side of her face. In 1952 they moved away from Pokiok  … to Drury Cove it was rumoured. After that I lost sight of Jack and his family. Nevertheless , every time I drive out to the ponds to sit and reminisce a while , my mind drifts back to that evening in August of 1950 and I wonder how that wee tyke … nowadays a women in her early sixties … has fared over the years. They say that time heals all ills …… and in some cases may only numb or dull them …. but memories linger on.    
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Pokiok Beyond The Ponds: Part Three

The above photo shows the house which has been the centerpiece or focus of the two foregoing parts of this post “Pokiok Beyond The Ponds” …. however , this time seen from a different angle. I thank my friend , Art McGuire , …. of Pokiok fame …. for kindly lending me this treasure from the McGuire family heritage archives . I  notice a slight addition to the house which seems absent in the former picture …. …. a plank or mast fixed to the southwest side of the house and stretching vertically upwards from the porch roof. Maybe for a radio antenna ?
Back in my childhood days a “man of the cloth” … a minister from Massachussetts and his family … lived here during the summer months. His name was Sweetser I believe and he drove a very modern car of the day which we all admired … from afar ! I know nothing about the man except that he seemed to be on friendly terms with the Copelands and the McCoys. 
Between Robert Robertson and the Sweetsers I have no proof of occupation for this house to which I can stick a name. However , I do have an inkling … a theory so to speak …  as to whom it might have belonged during those years  …….  nevertheless ,  I will say this much though ! Local lore , hearsay and backyard chitchat among old Pokiokers always referred to this building as the mysterious Skeleton Club and the Saint John City Directory mentions its presence on Pokiok Road sporadically during the 1st quarter of the 20th century without ever giving any precise address. The three other clubs in Pokiok … the Cliff , Little Millionaires and Beefsteak Clubs … I can account for , so I am left with the old Robertson home as the obvious and most logical choice for the Skeleton Club headquarters. I recently discussed this with a most respected and reliable source of Pokiok “antiquity” … Oscar “Junior” Estey , who shares my “inkling” ! Junior also added that much of that property as well as the house  beyond the ponds had once belonged to a well-known North End family by the name of Holt.
At some moment in the near future I hope to do a post about the four clubs of Pokiok …
From age 11 to 15 I spent most of my summer holidays jumping or diving off the rocks next to Higgins Beach ( 1 ) or simply sitting there with my friends watching river traffic … pleasure boats of all sizes , powerboats or sailboats , fishermen tending to their set nets , folks in rowboats just moseying along with the currents or trying to find a favourable eddy , now and then a tug with a huge logboom in tow …….. and far out off shore an inquisitive sea dog popping up to catch his breath and take his bearings. I can even remember the last runs of the old D.J. Purdy , the last of the river boats. I was 12-13 years old at that moment. Higgins Beach was the “cool” place to be on a hot day and on any given day a group of some 10 to 15 kids from Upper Pokiok would gather there to “cool off” ! Only once to my recollection did we ever have a close call. The tide was running out fast and the down current was strong when someone noticed  little Eileen Estey being swept down river so I dove off the rocks and went after her. Doing the crawl I quickly overtook her and towed her back to the rocks a bit further downstream. That day we all vowed not to tell Doris , Eileen’s Mom …. fearing she would put the “kibosh” on Eileen’s as well as her sister , Helen’s , hopes of swimming with the gang at our favourite haunt. And I have kept my word to this day !!!
There were two rowboats and an inboard tied up at Glen Cove ( 2 ) back in the mid to late 1940s. One of the rowboats and the inboard belonged to a local man , Eldon Ferris , …. a first cousin to Pokiok’s own Ken Cross ….. who lived in a modest house on the hillock above the rocky beach …. roughly on the site where ( 3 ) appears on map … nowadays only the foundations of this house remain. Eldon was , I believe , a painter by profession and a part-time fisherman with a few set nets along the river. It was he who put the two majestic sturgeon and oodles of eels in the Lower Pond. In a previous entry for February 5th , 2011 entitled “Flashbacks !” I related the story of Fred “Badger” Monteith and his family. Fred had lived in this house before Eldon but I doubt he had the wherewith to own it outright. I also believe this to be the house or at least the site of a tragic death of  Mrs Robert “Nobby” Clark back in 1879.
The story was carried in the Daily Telegraph for November 17th , 1879.

“A horrible case of burning, the victim being Mrs. Robert CLARK occurred Friday night or Saturday morn. in a small house on the Pokiok road at a place called Glencove nearly three miles from Indiantown (St. John) Her remains were discovered by her daughter, Mrs. Charles HIGGINS. Coroner Rigby empannelled the following jury: T. Burlin VINCENT, C.M. BROWN, John GOUGH, Albert CUNARD, A. PIDGEON, Wint. ROBERTS, John McCANN. Constable Pidgeon obtained a coffin and conveyed the remains to the alms house shed. Mrs. Clark, about the time of her death was 47 years of age and was married to Robert Clark who is at present at sea. He was familiarly known to the police and others as Nobby CLARK. He had served several sentences in Penitentiary. Previous to her marriage to Clark, the deceased had been the wife of a man named HAMM who deserted her and went to the United States. It is said he is now in Portland, Maine. By the first marriage, Mrs. Clark had a son and daughter who are still living. The son’s name is Ledro HAMM and he was living with his mother and sister. The daughter is married to Charles Higgins, and is about 20 years of age”.

N.B. Please take note of the son-in-law’s name Higgins ……… especially with nearby Higgins Beach in mind ???        

I’ll bring this evening’s post to a close on a happier note. The other rowboat at Glen Cove belonged to Jack Stevens , a young plumber and recent comer to Pokiok , who lived out the end of Pokiok Road between Kate Whitenect and the Copelands. His wife’s name was Kathleen and they had two small children , one of them a toddler I recall. Jack always gave me the impression that I was a “big boy” … almost a young man … and even moreso when he gave me permission to use his rowboat whenever I wished. I must admit that this gave me “big points” with my buddy , Tommy MacDonald and the other guys. So off  we’d row whenever we felt the urge … picknick tucked snugly away in the bow … up out of the bilge. How happy we were to cross over to Mosquito Cove … Tommy bailing all the time …. and catch eddies from there up to Swift Point in Greenhead … then cut across to Snow’s Beach  and if the tide were running out …… catch a ride back downstream to Higgins Beach on a fast – moving current favourable to our inertia and overwhelming feeling of well-being……. simply drifting along , not a care in the world …. all this bliss before life got complicated !

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Pokiok Beyond The Ponds: Part Two

N.B. Once again I am deeply grateful to Vintage Photo & Frame Limited who have given me permission to use the above photo in my post. 
During an interview sometime before his death in 1895 , Thomas Cunard , a prominent citizen of Indiantown , related to a journalist from The Daily Telegraph the beginnings of this vibrant community as well as that of the immediately surrounding area.
“‘Indiantown consisted of half a dozen or a dozen houses and shops and these were approachable only by foot paths twisting among the rocks and thickets that abounded everywhere. Caleb MERRITT kept a liquor store on the site of the house on Bridge Street, formerly occupied by the late Robert CUNARD. Robert COMBLY lived near by and burned lime at a place called the Devil’s Hole on the Strait Shore. John WIGGINS kept a general store on the ground now occupied by Horncastle & Co.’s hardware store; John LEE run a cooper shop on the corner of Main and Bridge streets now occupied by C.B. PIDGEON. A man named GLASIER had a house on the site of D.D. Glasier & Sons office. William EAGLES tennanted a cooper shop at the corner of Bridge and Hammond streets, now owned by Robert WATSON. James REYNOLDS kept a tavern on the ground recently occupied by Warings foundry. James EAGLES lived near by and Shubal STEVENS not far away, was engaged in coopering and fishing.’ The only other residents of Indiantown at this time that Mr. Cunard remembered was Israel MERRITT and a Mr. HOYT. There was only one house at Lovitt’s Point, now known as Pleasant Point and only one at Robertson’s Point, now known as Pokiok and that was owned by Robert ROBERTSON who was engaged in burning lime. The only house between Indiantown and the corner of Main and Mill streets stood at Orange corner. There was no road between St. John and Indiantown. Communication was kept up by a foot path around Fort Howe. ”
Given the “folksy” character of my blog , I usually steer clear of historical documents as such …… in this case , however , I have decided to call upon its testimony to Pokiok’s past. From the above statement we learn that a certain Robert Robertson built a house at Robertson’s Point in Pokiok where he was engaged in quarrying limestone and lime-burning. Other contemporary newspaper articles of that period attest that Robertson’s main zone of exploitation was the limestone-rich shoreline of Greenhead which business he would eventually sell to his fellow Scot and future brother-in-law , Joseph Armstrong in the late 1830s or early 1840s. Subsequent to the sale of his enterprise Robertson went into the grocery and provisions trade in Indiantown.
  By now you have probably guessed where I’m going with all this …….. so I’ll come clean ! Based on historical evidence , local heresay and the sound logic we might impute to a shrewd businessman …. I contend that the house in the above photo is standing on the idyllic site where Robertson erected his home or is “essentially” the same house , although modified at regular intervals over the years …. site strategically and conveniently situated on a promontory overlooking the “apple of his eye” across the Narrows  ……. Greenhead !! Local tradition would seem to back this up as I still remember old Charlie Gibbons ( one of the local elders ) referring to the house as the “old club beyond the ponds” while telling my Dad that it was the oldest building in the area. I might add that , although born in Nova Scotia , Charlie appears in the 1891 census as being 11 years of age and living in Pokiok … which gives some weight to our contention. And to boot …. Cunard’s testimony puts Robertson’s house at Robertson’s Point. The house in the photo sits about 200 yards upriver from said point that bears his name!!! 
He also gave his name to a lake in Pokiok as well as a park/square in Indiantown ! Not too bad for a wee guy from Perthshire , Scotland. Quite a legacy ! 
The more deeply I plunge into the sea of childhood memories surrounding this precise “haunt” from my youth , the more I realize that I need both more time and page-space so as to do justice to my subject matter and not overtax my readers’ patience. So I shall bring this post to a close for now with a promise that Part Three will follow shortly. It’s already baking in the oven !           
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Pokiok Beyond The Ponds : Part One

The above photo is posted here with permission from Vintage Photo and Frame Limited to whom I am deeply grateful.
Every time I look at this picture a warm and fuzzy feeling of nostalgia wells up inside me. Off in the distance Grand Bay …. the basin into which the mighty Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers flow …. stretches out widely in all directions with the ever-vigilant boar ( Boar’s Head ) diligently guarding the entrance to the Narrows between Pokiok and Greenhead.. To the left on Greenhead we see jutting out Swift Point which , much like Miller’s ( Robertson’s ) Point a bit farther downstream , proves itself to be  a  stubborn obstacle to negotiate and round in a rowboat … especially when the tide is running out. And there , almost directly across the narrows from the building in the above photo sits the old Armstrong limekiln. This kiln is still standing today and looks as though it could be up and running again with a little “elbow grease” and tender , loving care….. food for thought to lovers of local lore and heritage.   These were my childhood haunts … my stomping grounds of yore.
At this time of year just before the freshet , my dear friend , Tommy MacDonald and I would set out early in the morning with our lunches tucked  safely away in an old army pack-sack his Dad had brought home from the war. Out between the Twin Ponds we’d go to Snow’s Beach where we’d always stop to see what high tides , eddies and currents had deposited there during the long winter months. At the far end of this rocky beach the crumbled ruins of a small limekiln reminded  us that lime-burning had once been more widely practiced by the generation before us than by our own ….. since we knew only the Snowflake Lime at the Crick. In spite of the fact that there were no log-booms being towed down to the mill in Winter we usually found a few stranded logs to set free and watch them sail away …. or even some dead wildlife. In fact it was on Snow’s Beach that I saw my first sea dog (seal) up close. The poor animal lie inert at water’s edge  , a huge gaping hole in its lower jaw …. the “fine needlepoint” of some heartless sharpshooter ……. honing his senseless skill at the expense of a defenseless beast , simply because he could !
Since a very high rock wall …. nicknamed the Devil’s Back by Pokiokers …. with a sheer drop into the river separated us from our next destination … The Farms ….. Tommy and I would scramble up the mountain behind Snow’s rickety old summer house ….. often referred to by my Dad as the chicken coop …. across the plateau on the top and then roughly 15 minutes later descend into a wide field near the shoreline ……The beach here was not very wide but the tiny rocks were so flat and mixed with just enough sand to make it easy on the feet for swimmers. And swimmers there were in my early youth. Every Sunday you would find between ten and fifteen families from all over Pokiok gathered  there after a long , rugged trek through the woods ….. blankets spread out , a few beer and softdrinks in the water to keep cool , lunch baskets brimming over with goodies …. devilled ham sandwiches galore as Art McGuire reminded me recently …. , the fragrant scent of campfires for boiling water and roasting wieners , kids splashing merrily in the shallow water , etc . My Dad told me that a certain McCoskery family once had a small farm near here and hence the name .. The Farms.
    This is a photo of yours truly at The Farms in 1940 with the Greenhead lighthouse and the old Tapley house … referred by locals as Tapley’s Tank , a  well formed from water seeping from the rocks where boaters often stopped to fill their containers. It was reputed to be the purest and coldest water “in the world”! …. so they say !!! The magical Farms of my youth has undergone a dramatic facelift since those days … alas ! … and nowadays harbours the water purification plant at the end of Woodward Avenue.
The next place of interest on our way to Boar’s Head was a break in the rocky shoreline with a mini beach …. just a few metres downstream from Cedar Point …. site of the Lewis Rivers sawmill back in the mid to late 1800s. The mill burned in 1879. Nowadays this opening in the rocks is public property situated at the end of Rivershore Drive and serves as a boat launching ramp with easy access to the river.      
More than often … and especially when we were running out of time or tired  … Tommy and I would break out the lunch right here on the rocks where I took this picture two days ago … with Grand Bay stretching out before us and Boar’s Head looming big just behind Cedar Point … with the cedars growing out of the crevices , cracks and crannies along the cragged shoreline , somewhat like the “green hair” on a chia-pet ! 
I am adding this old map from the 1875 Historical Atlas of Saint John City & County showing the northwestern overview of the City of Portland ( Family for readers perusal and enjoyment. It shows the approximate locations of the limekiln at Snow’s Beach as well as the Lewis sawmill near Cedar Point. Unfortunately the natural beauty of this whole sector has fallen victim to the ravages of the Almighty Buck …… most of it bulldozed away or blasted to smithereens by shameless , tasteless , money-grubbing developers.   
N.B. With a view to converting my “longwindedness” into something more positive and enjoyable to my readers …. I  have decided to divide this entry into two parts , the second of which will appear in my next post ” Pokiok Beyond The Twin Ponds: Part Two ” where I shall “ramble on ” in much detail about the building in the top photo as well as the area immediately adjacent to it. As a general rule most Saint Johners have never seen the Pokiok shoreline between Boar’s Head and Robertson’s ( Miller’s ) Point  ….. so I shall add a few pictures here that I shot last Summer from Greenhead showing much of this rugged , untouched , unknown , primeval shoreline. Disastrously for us Pokiokers of yore , another true ”  Prime Evil ”  … the “Awesome Almighty Buck” ….  is already huffing and puffing at our door just a kilometer upstream.

PS. The house that appears in the last two pictures is the same house … although somewhat modified and seen from another angle…… as in the top photo. I took these photos from the site of Baker’s Mill  in Randolph on Greenhead  …. which was the subject of a previous post.

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Pokiok’s Hub : Snug Harbour ( Spar Cove) and McGuire’s Corner

There was no downtown nor “main drag” in Pokiok in early days.  However, there was a hub or place where folks converged on an almost daily basis and that was the spot where Pokiok Road , Spar Cove Road and Bridge Street met. The above picture shows the “magnetic centre” of that hub …. Art McGuire’s store and the bridge over the Crick. The first building on the left housed the McGuire family … father John McGuire , wife Hazel and sons , Lou and Art. Their civic address was 1 Pokiok Road. Their nextdoor neighbour , Fred “Popeye” Crosby , was the first house on the north side of Spar Cove Road …… Kiley’s convenience store and residence stood just behind the Crosby home and out of sight ….. the Williams family lived in the house in the background to the left. On the opposite side at the corner of Spar Cove Road and Bridge Street stood Art McGuire’s grocery store , the foodstuffs mecca of Pokiok as well as THE place to meet friends and hang out a while or simply the spot we passed by every weekday on our way to school , Sundays on our way to church or to catch a streetcar in nearby Indiantown if heading uptown.
My good friend , Art McGuire , was born in this area of Pokiok and knows it better than anyone living today. He loves the “old sod” and it shows ! …. and I am deeply indebted to him for sharing with me his great knowledge of “things” Pokiok as well as many of the photos used to  illustrate and embellish our posts. A few weeks ago Art sent me the following comments concerning the above picture … with special attention to the Crick itself and the boats.   
  Hi Gerry , 
This is a picture that I long forgot. The rowboat in the extreme left is mine …. it was made for me when I was just 13 yrs old. Mom had it built for me …. the cost with the oars was 29 dollars. I believe the next boat was Roy Meade’s … the boat with the little cabin was Stan Curren’s …. he took all his family every Sunday to the beach …. he really took a load. The boat with the wide gunnels was either Oscar Estey Jr’s  or Eddie Gilbert’s. Eddie coined the name Snug Harbour. He went on to become one of Saint John’s finest, a policeman. The fishing net that you see hanging there would be a shad drift net. Nobody made any money on shad, but late in the shad season quite often we would get salmon in them. The salmon would break a shad net if hit straight on, but they would be caught by their teeth  and the end of their gills. If you look up to the bridge …. Bonny Marley would sail under with his ten horsepower Johnson …  going at quite a clip ! I have a video of him doing just that. It is so hard to believe what once was ….. I must write the names of all the people who had boats in that time and place. It would be a dozen or more. Had a wonderful time in my boyhood down by the old Crick and the Snow Flake Lime and did not realize it then.   Take care.
The old Pokioker , Art.

Art McGuire’s grocery store during the 1930s

Above are John and Hazel McGuire standing in front of their home at 1 Pokiok Road 
 Above …… photo taken outside McGuire’s store … Bridge Street side … in mid 1950s of Helen Estey and her uncle , John McGuire.
The most revered place in Pokiok … the Deacon Seat ! Local elders were often found here discussing  matters of the utmost importance. I’ll let Art have the final word ….. from the comment he made on this picture when he sent it to me last week. The Deacon Seat “sat” across the road from the Snowflake Lime Office … snug up against the old garage ….. near the gas pump ! 
“Hi Gerry.
 This is a picture of the famous Decon Seat with  Dick Williams , John McGuire, and Doc Day. This is where all the world problems were solved, and I think the odd drop of the grape was consumed. I remember taking this picture …. seems like only yesterday ! I will get my thinking cap on and try to name all the people that sat in that hallowed spot…………….Regards……Art “
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