NEW GLASGOW – It wasn’t great distances, mobility or even time that kept three childhood friends apart. But when they finally did reconnect and meet in Stellarton, it was a reunion 71 years in the making.
June Peterson, Joan Bartlet, Violet Houlbrook, originally from Arch Street on New Glasgow’s west side, had the chance of a lifetime, getting together at the Holiday Inn Express to recall past times from more than seven decades ago.
According to Philip MacKenzie, a brother of Joan, the last time the trio was together was when they were between 10 and 12-years-old.
“It matters not who is the older,” said Philip. “Only that they came from the same neighbourhood and lived a lifestyle when you made due with what your parents could provide.”
MacKenzie, who recorded the visit for posterity, noted that the women’s recollection centred on happy times in those early years with nothing compared to the lifestyle children enjoy today.
All grew up just a stones throw from the Acadia Coal Chutes where seeing a loaded coal train making the run from the Allan Shaft twice daily was a common occurrence. The East River was a source of recreation where children learned to swim in summer and skate in the winter.
“As well, kids would love coasting down Becks Hill, likely on a piece of Eastern Bakeries flattened cardboard box,” said MacKenzie.
While the girls attended the old West Side School together, it was shortly after that they parted ways, each for their own reasons.
Violets’s father served overseas and upon returning to New Glasgow had to enter the Camp Hill Hospital for veterans. She was the first to bid farewell to Arch Street. Violet now lives in Shorts Lake near Brookfield and has four children.
MacKenzie’s sister Joan started working in the kitchen of the old Aberdeen Hospital with another Arch Street resident Helda Mitchell.
“She was known quite well for her excellent baking and cooking,” Philip recalled.
The Forharts family, who also lived on Arch Street, owned and operated the now-gone Moonlight Canteen and Majestic Lunch in Halifax. Joan decided switch jobs and left the Aberdeen and went to work in Halifax at the Majestic lunch.
As for June, she got married and worked at the Halifax Airport while her husband was employed at Shearwater Military Base.
“Most people would remember June’s brother Jack,” said MacKenzie. “He was Stellarton’s postmaster and a close fishing and hunting buddy of the late well informed sports expert and barber Harry Trainer.”
He recalled that June had experienced more than her fair share of hardship. He father was was a surface miner in the electrical trade. He worked at the Allan Shaft and later the mines in Thorburn where lost his leg in an accident.
“She lost her husband to cancer and had the tragic misfortune of losing two children, a daughter in her 50s and a son in his 40s.”
And yet, while chatting with her in his kitchen, Philip that she and the others wouldn’t choose another way of life.
“Back in those early days, a $20 bill would feed a family for the entire week. Even sometimes having enough to order a load of slab,” he recalled. “After all, that’s how all that baking and cooking was done in summer and winter.”
Although the women are living away from New Glasgow, not much time passes when they keep each other up to date on what’s going on.
“Sometimes, it’s just to say ‘hello’,” said Philip. “Other times it’s to reflect back to those early days on Arch Street.”
*Special thanks to Philip MacKenzie for this story
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