Back in the 1930s Canada had one of the most efficient ice breakers in the world – the C.G.S. MONTCALM. It was used to break up ice in the St. Lawrence River. Steel and coal were shipped from Sydney and Louisbourg. In the winter Sydney Harbour would freeze so solid that no icebreaker could break the ice so all shipping was directed to Louisbourg Harbour, which was open all year around.
When the C.G.S. MONTCALM sailed into Louisbourg Harbour it was a very exciting moment for the townspeople went to the docks to greet her. She was the most powerful, magnificent icebreaker in the world at the time.
The MONTCALM’s crew were mostly all French from Quebec. The Captain was English and his Chief Engineer was a six-foot, curly red-haired Scotsman from Scotland.
All the crew would attend social events in the town. The Catholic Parish was about two miles from the town. They would put on card games of 45s and make a social evening with the ladies of the church supplyi…


Mother went to Glace Bay on the train shopping and bought me a new pair of summer sandals, leather smooth outside, rough inside, a T- strap with a buckle, had little punched out patterns on the front. I was so proud of those sandals as we had to wear laced-up high leather shoes that my father half-soled for so much there wasn’t much left of the shoes for the soles to hang on to.
A beautiful summer day everyone of the kids going to the beach, Mother instructed me under no conditions was I to get those sandals wet, as the leather would shrink and get hard and I wouldn’t be able to wear them. She stressed that from the time I put them on and walked around feeling I had the best pair of shoes in the world.


When I was eight years old I found a young seagull on the beach not far from our house. It couldn’t have been hatched for very long, but it had legs, and could it run. It took me about half an hour to catch it. There were no adult birds around after petting it for a while no mother came to get it. I took it home. A big argument started. Mom said, “You are not keeping that gull in the house.” After a few sad stories, Mom said, “Keep it in a cardboard box overnight and let it go tomorrow.”
It was such a soft, fluffy little creature it didn’t take long for the gull to latch on to me. I was always petting it and feeding it. The next day another fuss was made about keeping the gull for a pet. I was allowed to keep it in the barn. I would take it outdoors and it would follow me everywhere. If I sat down it would get quite close and sit down, too. It looked as if I was going to be able to keep it. I wanted to give it a name so I called her “Biddy.”
My father warned me that they grow very rap…

Deer Meat and Hungry People

By Celia Shaw LeDrew

Deer season in Cape Breton Island during the Depression was one of the big events of the year. Everyone would be talking about it.
Weeks before the season opened I used to beg my father to take me with him as I loved to see the trees, birds, squirrels, partridges, pheasants- I was fascinated by everything that moved in the woods. My father always refused.
When I was 16 my father bought me a single shot, Colt 22 rifle. My father trained me with the gun to shoot the seabirds that came in the harbour quite close to our house and barn which were built on a breakwater. He taught me with old light bulbs we would get from the Marine Repair shop next door. They would bob up and down in the water with the waves, so he felt this was the best way to teach me. He said I should be able to shoot a few ducks when he was at work and our Labrador dog would fetch them in from the sea.
I had to shoot with a direct hit on three out of five bulbs. At first it wasn’t easy but after thr…

Hockey Game

My father, Charlie worked for a ship chandler that supplied the pilot boat to put the pilots aboard any ship entering the harbour to the docks.  He also put all the stores on the ship for the ship.
            My father met a lot of Merchant Marine ships carrying coal to American and Canadian ports and became friends of the captain of the local tug boat which had to dock the larger merchant ships.  The captain and the engineer loved to listen to the hockey games on Saturday radio (a battery radio). They always wanted to play cards (45’s) in silence while the game was on.

Our First Xmas Tree

by Celia LeDrew

Christmas Eve 1929 the temperature was 7 below and the sky was cold and clear and there was lots of snow. It had snowed for three days and the snow crunched under your feet when you walked. My father had come home from work early that afternoon and talked to mama on the back porch before he came in to get a gun to go hunting or tomorrow’s Xmas dinner.

Papa always kept his guns strapped high on the wall so us kids couldn’t reach them. We watched as he took down a shot gun and he started out the door. He said to Mama as he left, “If I can’t get any partridge, I know I can get us a few rabbits”.

Mama was in the kitchen making dinner - she could make a meal out of almost nothing. She told us to go to the dining room window and watch for Papa to come home and hope he shot some Xmas dinner. My brother and I looked in to the sunset, the tops of the spruce trees silhouetted against the bright red sky looked just like a Christmas card. There was a little hill on the road and we…

Mother's Blue Ribbon Cow

I was lucky to live in a resourceful family during the depression. We lived by the sea and my father was lucky to have his job, but he had to accept $50 a month, a third of his former salary. He was also an able hunter and fisherman. We had a small fishing boat to catch our own fish, so we had food on the table. We always had a barrel of salt cod or mackerel and we had a small barn where we raised two pigs for meat and a cow for milk, cream, butter and cottage cheese. We were always reminded of how lucky we were to have all this.
We had a beautiful Jersey cow named Blossy and it was my job to take her to the pasture every morning before school. I would lead her on a rope to the pasture which we rented for $3.00 a year.
Blossy was a kind, gentle cow, with the most beautiful eyes. It was always a pleasure to look after her. She never gave us any problems. At 5 o’clock, I would go back to the pasture and bring her home for the evening milking – keep her in the barn till mornin…

Red Tape and Torpedo Nets

Celia LeDrew nee Shaw

During World War II shortly after VE day the Canadian Navy dumped tons of torpedo netting into Louisbourg Harbor. Torpedo netting was made of hawser steel wire and each link about twenty inches in diameter, which made a mesh buoyed at the waters surface and dropped to the bottom of the harbour to prevent torpedoes from entering past the torpedoes gate. The loaded merchant steamers were remaining at anchor to wait for convoys and orders.

WE lived in old frame house handed down from our grandmother on Commercial Street right by the government Wharf. The lot was 50 feet deep and right on the harbour with 180 feet of shore. Below our house was a beautiful sandy beach where we learned to swim and played in the sand that beach was our pride and joy our whole lives depended on that beach the beach processed every thing that children loved it was heart breaking to see the Royal Canadian Navy dump all this wire mesh on the beach I knew the first gale we would get the …
Mother digging clams.(coal pier in bg)

The Home On the Hill

The Home on the Hill
By Charlie Shaw

We live at the house by the side of the hill,
A home away from home.
A better place you couldn't find
No matter where you roam.