by Joan Chaisson
Special to Wreckhouse Weekly
Classie Marshall can still remember the excitement she felt on her first day to school when she was six years old. She also started haymaking at this same age. The sixth child in a family of fourteen children, Classie was born on Oct. 19, 1932 in Cape Ray.
“I wanted to go with my parents and mom told me I had to carry something so I carried the rake,” recalls Classie.
These became her favourite outings and the family would walk several miles tending to the hay for the winter feed.
“I loved haymaking and I went every year until I left home.”
Cape Ray was a small but busy community. The railway still rolled through back then and had hired four men to maintain the tracks. Others still were fishers, but most raised cattle, grew their own vegetables or cut firewood. Marshall’s father worked on the train tracks at Gaff Topsail’s (Wreckhouse area) every summer.
Says Classie, “There were no toys. We played ball, spent time on the beach, snow sliding in the winter and we always had to help with the chores.”
Classie started working when she was fourteen. She went to Trinity for six months to help her sister, who was having a baby. Afterwards she went to Howley to help her aunt with her newborn. The following autumn, she moved to Margaree to work for her cousin who had a ‘milk leg’, a colloquialism for an infected leg, after her third child was born.
“I got the train at Middle Barachois and went to Port aux Basques. Then I got on a skiff to take me to Margaree. My cousin was in bed for two months and I had to look after her three children, as well as her and her husband. I was suppose to be a serving girl but I was more of a little nurse.”
She then looked after two more expectant mothers in Margaree – Mrs. Ingram and Mrs. Walters. After she was finished at Mrs. Ingram’s, Classie wanted to go home but since it was winter the community was pretty much cut off.
“The only way home would be by walking. They wouldn’t let me walk by myself so I had to wait and see if Reverend Martin walked down for his church service,” says Classie.
By the time he got down, she was already working for the Walters’ family.
Finally, at sixteen years old, she got a ride on the mail boat back to Port aux Basques to work as a servant girl. She can still picture herself sailing in to the cove where the Town Council is now located. With a twinkle in her eye, Classie tells the story of her true love.
“I met Albert on the veranda of Harry Tom’s Restaurant. In July of the next year I went to Halifax and worked in Simpson’s (Sears) to work in the cafeteria. Albert was in Toronto working as a welder. He came down to visit me and we got engaged. Then, when I was eighteen years old, I went to Toronto and we were married in 1952. I worked in the Royal York Hotel as a waitress and my first child was born in Toronto.”
The Marshall family moved back to town in 1954 and Classie began working at the restaurant in the railway station. In 1966 she was the first manager of Bob’s Chicken Coop where she worked for 26 years. During her tenure she taught the trade to her daughter, Bonnie, until she retired at 58 years of age.
Classie says that she felt Port aux Basques was a great place to raise her five children. Four of their children still live in Port aux Basques. You may see her anytime with one of them berry picking or walking the Grand Bay West beach, still enjoying the great outdoors.
“They were free to move around. I did not worry about them getting kidnapped”.
Now retired, Classie is just as busy volunteering as when she was working. She is a member of the Hospital Auxiliary, The Royal Canadian Legion, the Fifty Plus Club and the Anglican Church Women. She and her husband spent a lot of time in the woods fishing trout, hunting moose, berry picking and trapping rabbits in the winter.
“After we retired, Albert and I would walk 25 or 26 km to our camp at Stagg Hill. We would stay overnight and then walk back the same distance the next day. It got much better when we bought a trike and then a quad.”
Classie also keeps busy by knitting and sewing, including many homemade quilts.
She says the town has really progressed over the years, and feels very thankful for tall of the new amenities and the development of new streets and housing. However, she does have a request for the Town employees.
“As a senior, I would like to tell the Town Council to tell the plow operators to stop plowing snow in front of my car after I have it just shovelled.”
Classie also has a suggestion for the younger generation.
“Stay in school and get a good education. In this age of technology, you might need a degree to get a permit to catch a fish!”