Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 62 > Page 71 - Cape Breton Voices from Away: Two Selections from Gary Burrill's new book: AWAY - Maritimers in Massachusetts, Ontario and Alberta

Page 71 - Cape Breton Voices from Away: Two Selections from Gary Burrill's new book: AWAY - Maritimers in Massachusetts, Ontario and Alberta

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1993/1/1 (227 reads)

Cape Breton Voices from AWAY Two Selections from Gary Burrill's new book: AWAY • Maritimers in Massacliusetts, Ontario and Alberta Christine l/lacKay Carmichael from Groves Point, Cape Breton County Her speech has not lost any of its rural Cape Breton in? flection, despite her forty-plus years in Massachusetts. In 1939 in Boston she met her future husband, D. J. Car? michael, formerly of St. Ann's, Cape Breton. Their family consists of two girls and a boy: Emily, Donald, and Ruth. I was bom in Groves Point, Cape Breton, in 1915, the oldest of four children. I'd always dreamed of going to Boston. I'd heard so many stories from my father and mother, who were here when they got married My father, Alexander MacKay from Baddeck, Cape Breton, and my mother, Annie MacPherson from Cardigan, Prince Edward Island, met in Boston where they both had come to work. My father had been a fireman in Wellesley Hills for fifteen years, but after they were married they went back to Cape Breton for a new life on the farm. One of the things I remember from the little one-room schoolhouse there was the stories told by visitors who had been invited by the teacher to tell about where they had been • the big city of Boston. I thought, "Now, maybe when I go to Boston, I'll be able to come home and do that too?" (Laughs.) I never did get to go back to that school room to tell my stories. Of course, maybe I wouldn't have, even if I'd had the chance. My cousins, too, would come home to visit from Boston wearing their pretty clothes and talking with their American accents. And ladies like Letha Gray and Anna Hemming would drive home to Cape Breton "in their own car"! Daydreaming, I used to think, "Oh, isn't that great. If I had a car...." To go to Boston and come home driving a car • that would have been the living end. In 1938, after my nurse's fraining, I headed to Provincetown, Mass., where my mother's twin sister lived. They were opening summer cottages. Since I didn't have a real passport and couldn't work outside Sie family, I spent the summer working at the cottages with my cousin, Mary Beers from Prince Edward Island. One of the guests that summer was a rich lady from Park Avenue, New York. She invited me to go to New York with her that fall. Well, I couldn't see doing that • after all, I had my old boyfriend down east! (Laughs.) So I went back to Cape Breton at the end of the season. Well... (with exaggerated slowness). Things began to look rather dreary. The social life was great, but there was no work. So I de? cided to get in touch with the lady from New York. Shortly after, she sent me a letter with papers from her lawyer so I could get my passport and go. I went in to New York on the bus. As the bus pulled into Times Square, it was evening, the sun was setting • and all the people, all the cars and all the lights • 'it was beautiful! When I got to 720 Park Avenue by taxi, the doorman opened the car door, and • oh, my goodness • I was ushered into this big building, into an elevator, and up to the twelfth floor. And, well (draws in her breath) • such a place! They were having a dinner party that night, and they had ex? tra help. A butler there looked like someone you'd see in tiie mo? vies. He was all dressed up, with white gloves, and he wouldn't look left or right. There was a Swedish waitress, a Japanese cook, and then there was "Scott," a coloured man. He was the house man, and he could fill in anywhere when the others had a day off. There was also a nurse, a private secretary, and a full-time chauffeur. I didn't know what I was supposed to do. I didn't do much at first. Then the lady decided to go to Arizona for the winter. She asked me if I would stay in New York and look af? ter her husband. I stayed all winter. All I had to do was to bring him his tray in the morning with breakfast, and after he left for work, I was to make his bed. Then I was tree until the next day. It was 1939, the year of the World's Fair in New York, and after my duties, I would go off to the World's Fair, Radio City, or the Empire State Building. I sure had a good time, but I don't think I appreciated it then because I was so lonesome. I would walk up Fifth Avenue and look at people's faces, and I'd never see anyone I knew. People from home would write to me and give me the ad? dress of a sister, a brother, or a friend, and in that way I did make some friends. One girl was from Sydney. She was a parlour maid for Perle Mesta, "the hostess with the mostest." (Perle Mesta was a celebrated socialite in the 1930s and 1940s. She was co-chair of President Truman's inaugural ball in 1949, and then was an Ameri? can envoy in Luxembourg from 1949 to 1953.) I stayed in New York until August. Some friends were going home to Cape Breton and I decided to go back witii tiiem. That fall, I came back to Boston. Boston was where I knew so many people • and relatives. My two uncles, Charlie MacKay and Murdoch MacKay, and their families were very, very nice to me. I was very happy in Boston. My social life centred around the United Presby? terian Church, where my uncles were elders and my cousin, Hazel, played the organ. I met my husband in church. The first time I saw him, he was ushering, and oh, I thought he was the best-looking man I ever saw! Coming from the farm, where most of the men were more or less tanned, this man looked so refined...well-dressed...immaculate! So I was quite thrilled when he asked me if he could give me a ride home.... I went down east again that summer, before he and I were married in September. My mother said one day that she sure would like to meet this man I planned to marry. D. J. told me he'd already had his vacation, but I wrote him anyway, inviting him to come down. He wrote right back and said he'd just been waiting for me to invite him. He asked his boss if he could have time off to get married. His boss told him he couldn't go because he'd already had his vacation. D. J. told him he was going anyway, and he arrived in Cape Breton in a few days. This was during the time when jobs were scarce, so I thought it was pretty romantic for him to give up his job to come. We were married on September 7,1940. My parents hosted a large reception for us at their home, and the one and only dance ever held at my parents' home was for that special occasion. Almost every summer we came back to Cape Breton with our chil? dren. And I did get to have a car, but it wasn't quite the thrill I'd ex? pected when I was a girl. Cars were more common by then. LeBlanc Siding Ltd Island Vinyl Siding Ltd. i' XfSP Authorized Dealer for iC'Jk YCJkN Aluminum & Vinyl Siding Aluminum Windows & Doors Shutters / Softfit / Fascia / Awnings Heavy Duty Vinyl Replacement Windows 109 Reservoir Road SYDNEY Professional Installation of Aluminum & Vinyl Siding in Cape Breton for over 18 years. FREE ESTIMATES, and any siding inquiries, Call Collect: BRUCE or SONNY MaoPHERSON 539-3665 & 539-4626
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