Before settling on the island, Beatrice, the first born, arrived in 1921.
The first baby born to them while they lived on the island, was to die within hours of her birth.
Stella would become pregnant a short while later, and the next child was also a girl, Louise, born on the mainland, in 1923. She was blond, very pretty and a favourite of the neighbours. She looked a lot like George, but had Stella’s fair hair and complexion. Beatrice was delighted to have a little sister.
Next would come Dorothy, in 1924. She was, as the previous children, born off the island. She would refuse to walk until she was almost two years old, not because of any health problem, but just because she didn’t feel she had to as long as Stella and George and her older sisters carried her wherever she wanted to go. George came home one day with a baby pig in a box. He took it into the house to show it to her. When he placed the box on the floor across the room, she forgot her apparent vow to be carried everywhere, and she walked over to get another look at the piglet. This was the end of her “free ride.”
1925 was the year that the serious, hard-working Lydia was born, named after Stella’s sister. She would become the “big sister”, even to those who were older than her. She always loved to care for others. As she grew older, this would become more and more apparent. She developed a strong sense of family and would probably fight to protect those who are in that family. It seems she seldom got into any trouble of her own making, but often was caught up in the moment with the other, more adventurous members of the group.
Theresa Barbara, “Terry”, would follow the others in 1926. She was independent and had a knack for getting herself and, if at all possible, others, in hot water. She was dark haired like George.
She liked to go down the island and visit with Mr. Bernard and the indian women working with him on baskets.
She had the idea that Mr. Bernard knew some sort of Indian Magic. She once asked him if she could wear his moccasins so that she could absorb some of his power. She walked around in the moccasins as long as he allowed her to. She felt so sure that she now had the power over life and death, because she thought that witches had this power, and somehow, she was sure that Mr. Bernard was a “witch”. On her return home, she decided that it was time to test her newly acquired ability. She took her pet mouse, Lucy Ann, out of it’s cage and let her cat, Michaud, kill it (she didn’t have the stomach for that sort of thing herself). She then tried to resurrect the poor lifeless little thing. For hours she danced and sang around and around the dead mouse, chanting and hopping. Finally, bursting into tears, she realized that she was not a witch, after all. What a disappointment!
They came very close to losing Terry on one occasion. George was up on the deck of the lighthouse. He was painting the floor. He had made his way over to the other side, away from the doorway, when he heard the children running up the stairway, heading for the freshly painted floor. “Don’t come up”, he yelled out to them, but before he was finished saying the words, Terry came sliding out onto the wet floor, and slipped between the railings at the top of the deck. Her arms flew back, and her elbows caught on the railings on either side of her body, which was now hanging over the edge of the deck, with nothing but the warm summer breeze under her. George managed to run across the wet floor with great difficulty, and caught her just as her elbows slipped away from the railings. He sat in the wet paint holding her and thanking God that he was able to rescue her. They were all more careful around the lighthouse deck after that.
So, here is a household of five daughters, all just a year or so apart. The house must have been constantly filled with their chatter.
1927 was the year of Canada’s celebration of its Diamond Jubilee. The country then was hosting strawberry festivals, fowl suppers, three-legged races, and historical pageants. There were in view millions of Union Jacks and lithographed portraits of King George and Queen Mary. The Prince of Wales came for a visit, along with his brother Prince George. Charles Lindbergh flew “The Spirit of St. Louis” to Ottawa. There were special books and poems and stamps to commemorate the event. It was truly a time when it was good to be a Canadian.
A new baby is born, but he does not survive more than a few months. He is hydroencephalatic. The family is stricken by his death, although they had been told by the doctor that it would only be a short time before this would come to pass. To this day, Mother says she does not know what religious denomination Mr. Maxwell, the minister who lived on the island, was. However, George and Mr. Maxwell took the tiny coffin over to the mainland, and he was buried in the graveyard there, with the minister reading scripture.
Finally, a healthy son. Roland arrives in 1928. He is, as the others, born on the mainland, at his Aunt Eva’s house. All of the family is there as well. There is need to worry after losing the last baby, but all is well.
The girls are fascinated by their little brother. This is the first time that they have had a male sibling that survived and was able to interact with them. Roland is everyone’s baby and they treat him like he’s their own personal doll. They ride him around in the wagon that George has made for them. It’s a large wagon, with car wheels and tires taken from one of the cars that George has brought over to the island, by who knows what means, to use for boat parts. It’s big enough to hitch up to a horse. The weight of it is substantial.
Sometimes, the girls put Roland, who is the only one small enough to fit, inside a lobster trap in the wagon. On one such day, Lydia is playing at being the horse and is pulling him in the wagon, as he sits happily in the trap.
Terry is sitting on top of the trap. Everything is going fine, until Louise decides to jump on the back of the wagon. The two pulls that stick out the front of the wagon, the kind that go on either side of a horse, and are hooked into a harness, lift from the sudden weight and fling Lydia through the air. She lands, standing, in a bunch of little trees that George has cut into little spears in a attempt to dry up the land under them, leaving deep scratches in her legs.
The cart flips sideways and the trap pops out over the side and rolls down the hill into the water. Roland manages to turn himself around so that his head is out of the water.
Aunt Lydia, who is visiting with George and Stella at the time, sees the whole scene from the kitchen window, but finds it so hilarious, that she is laughing too hard to speak and tell Stella what’s going on. The girls panic. They don’t try to pull the trap out, but instead they race up the hill, screaming their lungs out, back to the house to get Stella. She can’t understand what they are saying, since they are yelling and crying at the same time. She decides to run out to see what the problem is.
She sees the trap with Roland in it and scoops him out. He is no worst for wear and tear, but he never again agrees to ride in the trap.
During these years when the five girls and the first surviving son are born, Canada was beginning to share in the “Great American Boom.”
People were moving off the farms and into the cities. There was also a great movement of people to the North. Thousands of men were going into the bush to harvest its pulpwood and its nickel, copper, silver, lead, zinc and gold. In 1928, nearly three million dollars worth of metals came out of the Canadian Shield. A lot of money at that time. Pulp and paper produced nearly twice as much. The farms were beginning to get mechanized. Hydroelectric power was starting to be widely used.
Most families could now afford at least a secondhand Model-A Ford, a Chevrolet, a Chandler or a Buick. In the cities, people were enjoying Lillian Gish and Norma Talmadge at the theatre. The per capita income was almost five hundred dollars.
Thousands of British immigrants were seeking to come to live in Canada. Their situation was different from the situation of Canadian citizens, however, in that they were unable to find work and were forced to travel to the West on harvest trains to work. There they would arrive, broke and confused, and they would be more or less auctioned off to the farmers as hands for their harvest. The whole of the immigration of the Brits to Canada was a dismal failure. Eight thousand five hundred men came to Canada under government assisted loans. Seven thousand returned home. Canadians were not too upset over this, since they mostly looked on the Brits as arrogant little Limeys bent on running the Colonies.
The rumrunning problem still prevailed between Canada and the United States. The Canadian ship, the “I’m Alone”, was sunk by U.S. patrol vessels’ cannon fire. Most rumrunning ships, however, travelled undisturbed between the two countries.
The whole procedure, although supposedly illegal, was carried out in a bizarre manner. Canadian authorities would grant the necessary papers for the transport of booze, which was legal as far as Canada was concerned. Then they would telephone the American officials, and let them know that the booze was on the way across the border. It was illegal to bring liquor into the States. They in turn sat and looked on, with a blind eye, while the rumrunning ship would enter American waters. One American official even requested that his opposite number in Canada not bother to call him on the telephone, but just send him a letter once a week to let him know how heavy the traffic was.
They never called the ship by its real name. There was an incredible number of ships called the “Daisy” and as many captains named “Bill Smith”.
Wheat prices were good, with Canada producing a tenth of the whole world supply of it. Canada’s total volume of exports in these few years rose by three quarters, the real national income by half, real wages by a fifth and the population by fifteen percent. The country was enjoying a time of unsophisticated, unaffected joy.
By the summer of 1929, the economy was beginning to show signs of deterioration. Many were beginning to feel the pinch, but it was only a warning of what was to come.
October 29, the bottom really fell out. Fortunes were lost, fortunes that mainly had been made on paper, but that had tied up the money of many men and companies. The dismal happenings of that day are known by most people as the beginning of the “Great Depression.”
On Heron Island, life proceeded normally. George was building a boat. He bought an old Ford, took out the seats, the steering wheel and its mechanism and the motor. He built a little cabin on the boat and equipped it with the seats and the steering wheel. The motor went in the middle of the boat, and had a cover to muffle the sound. It also had a sail and a rudder. He painted it grey with maroon trim. And when he was finished with this labour, he christened it the “Stella”.
Whether things are going badly or well in other parts of Canada, there was little effect felt on Heron Island.
The families had their excellent gardens, their small herds of meat animals, their own milk cows. The fishing was more than good. They made their own soap, and their own butter. They preserved, smoked and salted their own food to last through the winters.
Things like flour and other staples such as salt and sugar were bought in bulk on the mainland.
Many items were traded between neighbours. Perhaps a measure of butter for a slab of bacon, or a jar of preserves for a bar of soap.
George received a steady salary, since he was lighthouse keeper and post master, so the depression that the rest of the country so deeply felt was mainly just something that the family heard about, but did not experience firsthand.
Every Thursday, he took the boat to the mainland and picked up the mail for the islanders. He was anxiously awaited by his island neighbours, who congregated at the little house to pick up their mail. They depended on him to bring them news from the mainland as well. They wanted to know what the latest gossip was with their landbound neighbours and relatives in New Mills.