History in the making

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Carolyn Wallace

 Historical researchers, amateur genealogists, museum curators and the simply curious owe many debts to Stellarton’s Carolyn Wallace.

            Over the years she has organized written accounts, photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings and video discs preserving local history. She has also painstakingly loaded newspaper stories and social notes onto archival internet sites providing online access for countless people.

            “I hope I’ve helped a few people. I come by my interest honestly,” Carolyn Wallace laughs modestly.

            Wallace’s parents, Mildred and Aubrey Dorrington, had a deep interest in their community.

            “I never saw my father walk but that was about the only thing he didn’t do. He was interested in everything,” she said.

            Dorrington grew up on Hudson Street, in the same house his daughters were later raised in but his parents came from Guysborough County, lured by the possibility of a job in the Stellarton mines.

            “My father grew up playing sports, he loved baseball and he was strong and athletic. There is a photo of him as a young man walking on his hands along the top of a fence rail.”

            His life took a dramatic twist when he was a young enlisted man.

            “The family always thought it might have been triggered by sleeping outside on the damp ground but whatever the cause it started in his arm. It was diagnosed as polyarthritis and it progressed very quickly.”

            After long stints in Camp Hill and Aberdeen hospitals he came home to Hudson Street by ambulance and was bedridden until his death 35 years later.  

            “When he was coming home, all the miners got together and built a porch onto the house so his bed could be set up there, close to the street and close to everything going on in the house.”

            From that location Dorrington, with never-ending support from his wife, became one of Stellarton’s most active citizens.

            “The house was always full of company and he always had a project on the go. He had the idea and my mother would do whatever had to be done to make it work.”

            When he decided to write a history of the town his first move was to instruct Mildred to buy a typewriter and a book that taught typing.

            “My mother was a cheerful partner in everything he did and he kept her on the go, out taking and developing photos, making movies and collecting stories to bring home to him. There was quite a bit of baseball in Stellarton in those days and he had coached as a young man so my mother attended all the games. She’d come home and fill him in and lots of players would come to visit him.”

            Mildred was dispatched to report on all manner of events including royal visits, Pierre Trudeau’s campaign stop in Antigonish and concerts by Wilf Carter, Stompin’ Tom and The Irish Rovers.

            Visiting athletes, politicians, clergy and journalists were frequent visitors at the Dorrington home.

            “All religions were welcomed and it was nothing to come home and find Jacques Plante or Johnny MacKenzie or Peter Mahovolich in my father’s bedroom and my mother taking the photos,” said Carolyn.

            The Dorringtons, who had a long fight to get a disability pension, broke their normally frugal practices to buy a television on credit in 1952.

            “It was such a blessing for my father but I remember he was always inviting so many people in my sister and I could hardly get a spot to watch when the Ed Sullivan Show came on.”

            When Carolyn left home she joined the Royal Canadian Airforce, eventually married another member of the forces and raised three children.  She and her husband retired to his hometown in New Brunswick but when he passed away Carolyn decided to come back to Stellarton.

            “My father died long before that but my mother was here and so was my sister. It was a big decision but I’ve never regretted coming back,” she said, adding two of her three children eventually settled in Pictou County.

            When her mother passed away Carolyn, as executor of the estate, inherited much of what had been collected through the decades.

            “There were things, especially photos, my sister and I wanted but there were movies that could only be saved if I could get them onto DVDs so I had to find a way to do that. There were scrap books for every year that had to be gone through and I can’t tell you how many photographs to sort. A lot of material I’ve passed on to the Pictou County Roots Society and other things have gone to the Museum of Industry, the Military Museum and boxes upon boxes that went to the Pictou County Sports Hall of Fame,” she said.

            The job’s not done yet but Carolyn, who has seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, continues to work at it, savoring what her parents accomplished, sorting and updating as needed, and finding new homes for treasured parts of Pictou County’s past.

            

Organizations: Royal Canadian Airforce, Pictou County Roots Society, Museum of Industry Military Museum Pictou County Sports Hall

Geographic location: Stellarton, Hudson Street, Guysborough County Camp Hill Pictou County Antigonish New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Carolyn Wallace
    January 11, 2014 - 23:48

    Thanks Marie. Give me a call when you come home.

  • Marie Mackenzie Belland
    January 05, 2014 - 08:47

    What a wonderful article. It brings back so many happy memories of Hudson Street. I have pictures of me taken by Mildred. And she made a film of my wedding, which I cherish. Good luck with your project....I hope I will be able to see it sometime.

  • Norman
    January 03, 2014 - 17:29

    Nice Article. Good Work Carolyn