A look at the past with Muriel-Jane Anderson

We sat down with Muriel-Jane Anderson at the Beau Séjour to talk about her life when she was young. We asked her about her family, school, work, holidays and going to church. She was glad to tell us her stories.

“When I was young everything was a lot different than what it is now. We had fairly big families. Unfortunately, since we didn’t have a very good medical system, some didn’t always make it. The truth is we were forced, by the priest, which we called the devil, to have children.

For the ones who had the chance to go to school, we’d start at the age of four or five. We only went for a couple of years until we had to start working. The school was heated with a wood stove. Every week it was up to a different family to bring the wood. We learned the basics; how to read and how to write. Some of us were more interested than others.

If you were one of the lucky ones, you’d start working around the age of 14. If not, you would have already started a long time ago. The girls stayed home to take care of the kids and the dogs or to do housework. With such big families we had no other choice but to help our parents. The boys on the other hand would work on boats, cut wood, bring in barrels of water. The most we got paid was 0.25$ a day but we were satisfied. With all that working we still had some free time. We played outdoors a whole lot, from sliding on pieces of card board in front of the house, to climbing up the trees to jumping into snow banks, there was never a dull moment.

Fishermen in Blanc-Sablon. Credit: Poissonnerie Blanc-Sablon

Christmas was basically the one holiday we celebrated. The tree would go up on the 24th of December, not a day earlier. We received apples, oranges and molasses candies in our stockings. We would have a traditional meal of partridges or rabbit, always a wild meat.

Church was mandatory and very strict. We had to go almost everyday and sometimes twice in the summer time. The Priest, like I said earlier, was like the devil. He made the decisions and we had to obey him.

Everyone’s ways were different than they are now. Our parents weren’t very strict. I guess we weren’t conscious of all the dangers and we weren’t as informed as the kids are today.

One summer my friend and I even ran away from home. We told our parents we would be back by the fall. We took off on a boat at only 13 years old, it used to come in every month. We didn’t exactly know where we would end up but we didn’t have anything to lose. So when no one was looking we hopped on with barely anything to eat. The few days we were on there felt like weeks. When we got off, we found this little canvas tent on the beach. A man saw us in there and found it kind of weird. We talked to him and luckily he was very nice. He offered us a job and a place to stay. We worked very hard, cleaning, washing clothes, cutting wood.. “I was tough” we were basically treated like royalty! We got lucky that summer. We made it back in time for school. Those were good times. We had fun while it lasted. I loved it and would do it all over again…”

By: Avery Gallichon and Amélie Beaudoin, Secondary 2, English Class, École Mgr Scheffer

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