Issue: July 2019
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Next deadline: August 29

UNCLE WILBER

Written by
Published on January 2018

I remember Uncle Wilber as if it were yesterday.   

I believe his name was Wilber McLain or something similar.  He lived with his sister on the left hand side of the road just around the bend from the railway crossing going in the direction to Windsor.  His house was opposite Johnnie and Lottie Fletcher’s house.  Patsy Kerr lived with them, for some reason.  She was a pretty blond blue-eyed girl.  I wonder what she is like now?  But, back to Uncle Wilber.  He was a genial soul and always seemed to have children around him in his yard, chatting to them and telling stories or performing simple tricks, all of which would make us laugh and return for more.  On my first visit he was sawing some tree branches for kindling with his bucksaw, a name engraved forever on my memory.  I had just popped in to say “Hello”.  I and some others stood watching him as he sawed and chattered.  Suddenly, he turned to me and said, “you’re the new boy from the old country” and as I confirmed his assumption he, quick as a flash, asked, “do you know how to use a bucksaw?”.  With my puzzled and negative answer, he continued with, “well, now is a good time to learn.  I’ll show you first how to put the blade in.  The correct way round is most important.  Tighten the blade and now we saw back and forth gently”.  I was being very negative about the whole exercise.  I asked him, “why do I need to know all this?”.  “Well”, said Wilber, “you’ll never know when it will come in useful.”  “No, not me”, I replied.  But, I watched the art of sawing just the same.  Then, to please him, I had a try and he was very complimentary to me.  “You have learned something else today.”  His words of wisdom have stuck with me all my life.  My former employer was heard to say about me on one occasion, “that Ron Mizon is a very adaptable employee”.  I like to think that Uncle Wilber was listening.  

Another personality I remember well (his name escapes me).  He always had time for me.  He was the Uniacke Stationmaster at the DAR railway halt on the way from Halifax to Windsor.  He had a grown up son called Gordon.         

 When I think of him, he always spent his breaks from his job in Halifax chatting to Glen, the General Storekeeper, whilst eating, of all things, Fleishman’s Yeast cakes and drinking Coca Cola.   He must have got a kick from these things?  I couldn’t really say.  His Dad, the Stationmaster, took me fishing on Pentz’s Lake more than once.  He taught me how to “trawl” or “troll” (I’m not sure of the spelling).  I do remember that rowing the boat had to be done very gently so as not to frighten the trout away.  We were nearly always successful with our catch.  The Stationmaster also gave me the run of his station.  In the office I would listen to the code coming over the TICKER but I never really could decipher the messages.  It was in American Railway Code and not Morse Code.  One day, he allowed me to wave his flag to a train engineer to signal him to start off.  When I did this, he gave me a blast on his siren and rang his bell.  He really made my day.  Mind you, I was not alone.  The Stationmaster was by my side as I performed this special duty. 

Another personality was Eldon.  He lived in a little cottage near the mill by Uncle George’s house, for whom he worked, by looking after the horses, chickens and cows.  I remember the day he was in the stable seeing to the team when, without warning, one of them lashed out with his hind leg and caught poor Eldon in the stomach and knocked him flying.  He apparently was very badly bruised and was unable to work constructively for weeks and weeks.  Uncle George, I understand, paid him in full and there were always extras forthcoming.  In the meantime, another man was drafted in from his staff to keep things going.  I played a part by looking after the cows a little more.  Not by milking but I did have a go at cleaning them up with a shovel.  I took them more and more to the meadow to graze and bring them back.  The novelty for me was they must have forgiven me for switching them as when I learned to call them and they followed me right into the barn!

Uniacke Newsletter
2018-01-13
https://www.uniackenewsletter.ca/stories/ronald-mizon-in-nova-scotia-1940-1944-part-16