Page 73 - With Archie Neil Chisholm or Margaree Forks
ISSUE : Issue 42
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1986/6/1
principalship of a school down at St. An? drews, rural St. Andrews. And this gave me a terrific boost in my own ego, as it were, to think that I was going to be principal, even if it's only a two-room school. But there were three rooms in this one. So I became principal there. And in spite of the fact that I was drink? ing- -not so much then, but drinking some, and all of that--I wanted to work up and try to--but the salaries were awfully bad. I taught 5 years, and I still couldn't ac? cumulate enough money to go to Teachers College. Finally my sister helped me, and I went to Teachers College. I don't know how--some sort of an innate sense of pride--I didn't want to be depen? dent on anybody else, just making an ex? istence, not a living. I was learning all the time, and reading, and learning a lot of poetry, and doing a lot of work, you know, whatever I could to help somebody else out, as far as--if there was a person having difficulty in school or anything like that. But I think the turning point came about 1950. 1950 was when I began to get my life together. 1950 I stopped drink? ing. And about three months after I stopped drinking, I bought my first old car. I was as proud of that as if it had been a Cadillac. An old '35 Plymouth--15 years old when I bought it--I bought it from a fellow from Nyanza. And it had a rumble seat, and I was the big guy then, driving my own car. Then I started to, oh, in 1952, I started to go with the girl to whom I'm married now. I was 4 years sober before.I ever would risk asking anybody to marry me. I wanted to know. I was 47 when I got married. I would never put anybody else in misery. I was intelligent enough for that. I knew that I was an alcoholic. And I wasn't going to make anybody else suffer with that. And in 1954 we were married. And always the idea was that I could, that I was going to try to do better. Then in '56, two years after I got married, the Conservative Party came after me to run an election. They couldn't get another soul to run Tory. And I ran against J. Clyde Nunn. His majority was 1750. And I took it down to 725. I didn't have a cent of money hardly--just enough gas to get around-- they'd give me enough gas to move from one meeting to another. Then I ran the second election, and I took them down to 56--56 of a majority. That was the only differ? ence. And then they wanted me to run a third time, and I wouldn't. Thank God I didn't. Dr. Jim MacLean came in then, and he ran, I had the door open for him and he went right in with a big majority. I started then getting better schools. And I was trying to make a reputation for my? self as a teacher. It was the only thing I could do. Just working as hard as I could. And I started doing a lot of emceeing at concerts. This was exposing me to more and more people all the time. Then I got the idea that I was going to go back to col? lege. And my wife used to have a job in Halifax, where she used to go--political pie--where she used to go once a month. It gave us a little extra money. And she worked all the time. I'd be teaching school all week. I'd go up on Saturday to Antigonish (for classes • at St.F.X., then) come back to Margaree and play Saturday night. And then all during the summer, when I would be up in Antigonish, I'd get home. I'd see myself playing, in the win? tertime, when I didn't have the money to put gas in the car hardly. I would go and play at a dance and I'd get 10 bucks. And then play till 2 o'clock in the morning,* and come home, and leave at 5 for Antigon? ish, And that was Saturday after Saturday. Because there was a dance at East Margaree every Friday night, and I played for it, see. I'd play, and then leave about 5 o'clock, in the stormiest weather. I was driving my own car all the time. And final? ly I got my degrees. Then through some exposure, they came af? ter me from Sydney to see if I would do a radio program ("Archie Neil's Cape Breton," CBI). And that gave me a little more expo? sure. Then my friend Allan J. (MacEachen), who was Liberal cabinet minister at the time, knew I was Conservative and all of that--but he appointed me to this Canadian Consultative Commission for Multicultural- ism. And it just worked out like that. Gradually I was getting a little bit more exposure, and getting little paying jobs. Then I spent 10 summers at Acadia Univer? sity, In the old days when they wrote pro? vincial examinations, I was on the correct? ing board, the marking board, for English. We had to correct papers from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Rothesay's Boys School in New Brunswick-- it was the only one from New Brunswick. We had to correct that. And you'd be given one question, each paper, and it got so monotonous. But the money was good. In those days, now, you'd get $25 a day, it was big, big money. And your board free. I'd come home every Friday night--leave An? napolis Valley at 5 o'clock and get down (73)
Cape Breton's Magazine