"If you kept no record of your past, how would you know that it wasn't a dream?
Note: You were born October 11, 1907"
Editor's comments: John Reid (Gaelic: Iaian Ruadh) was born between reserve and royalty
on his mother's side; and strictness and sobriety on his father's. Such a mix;
meant to produce John Reynolds Reid, and it did exactly that! A poet in seclusion,
a journalist to himself alone; yet a farm boy who traveled the world, and a banker
who really never left the farm. Whatever he gained came from his own struggle; yet
humble charity and sacrificial compassion was readily his to share.
His mother was a Flanders: Bessie Francis was her name. Heritage of New England
and settlers of New Hampshire. Maternal ancestors included: Flanders (arrived
in Boston 1634); Averill (arrived in Boston 1635); and Perkins ( arrived in Boston
1630). Stalwart Yankees, all of them.
Her paternal lineage: The Cunnabells traced back to the time of Emperor Caligula
of Rome and 43 AD.. Cunnabelinus, Lord of the Sun, King of Trinovantes. His realm:
north-east of London, England. History records and myth melds that richness of
birthright brought to Boston in 1674. The Cunnabells: printers and militia, proud, royal
and determined patriarchs of Bessie Francis.
And then, upheaval: Father and mother were wed, joined, and produced one girl child
in 1880, John's mother. Quickly the union turned dysfunctional: for dissension took
its toll - and the little girl was kidnapped and taken to Nova Scotia by this King
Cunnabell/maverick. That little girl there was reared by his half-sister, Maggie Reynolds.
Clandestine father, surrogate parents, displaced Yankee. Soap operas are made of
John R. Reid's father was a Scotsman. His name: John William Reid. Three generations
earlier those Reids' had immigrated from Scotland to the shore of Nova Scotia (1815).
Another forefather: McKeane ( Ulster-Scots who arrived in Boston 1717, Londonderry
N.H. 1718). William McKeane, a Planter, moved to Truro N.S. in 1760. His nephew Thomas
McKean, representing Delaware and Pennsylvania, later signed the Declaration of Independence
and the Articles of Confederation (1774-1783). Politics unfortunately, dictate geography and reputation, let alone the spelling of surnames.
D.W.B. Reid, the grandfather, was an enterprising contractor- businessman, who profited
and let no one forget it. He built most of the concrete/steel bridges in Nova Scotia
. It was he who commissioned J.W. Reid to care for and manage the 1000 acre farm
in Musquodoboit (as a wedding present?) in 1898.
It seems that J.W. spent more time procreating than managing! He married Bessie Francis
Cunnabell, and sired ten children - of which the author of this journal was the
third son. That placed him in a peculiar state, for he was also sandwiched between
seven daughters. A choice needle in a haystack.
John was reared under the influence of the Scottish Presbyterian Church in Elmsvale,
and a father who served as Elder for fifty years. Also, between the house and barn
was a "Sons of Temperance" Hall. Profound influence: never drink, smoke, swear,
take the Lord's name in vain, nor participate in any foolishness. The elder's forceful,
enduring lesson: "boys were made to work!' At the age of six, John's father told
him: "it's time to start milking the cows". By hand no less, and at first light!!
Here dawned his love/hate relationship with the farm and its animals - early experiences
that almost broke his back, surely strengthened his tenacity, and probably set
his mind to escaping.
Song of the Wind 1910
The wind swept down from the hills, unhindered and untamed, for the hills were pasture-land,
barren of trees, and there was nothing to check it. The house being in its path,
and there being no protective trees there, the wind vented its fury against it with a mournful cry of resentment. It now split into two winds, each racing around
an opposite corner of the house, and with the fury now partly diminished, each sang
its own sad mournful song, that increased and decreased in intensity with the force
of the wind.
As a child, I loved the sounds of the wind. Its mournful song was like a mother's
lullaby that sang me to sleep when I went to bed and gave me a feeling of deep contentment
when I was wakeful during the day.
I seldom hear even a faint whisper of the wind's mournful song anymore, for everywhere
there are the beautiful trees that tame its force and render it quiet and gentle.
Even when I visit my old home in Nova Scotia, nothing is the same: the surrounding
hills that were formerly pasture-land have long since grown into a forest, and shade
trees are now growing around the house. No longer can the wind sweep down from the
hills and vent its wrath on the old homestead.
I miss that mournful song of the wind; I feel that I have indeed lost a friend. (written
Consider This 1911
Have you ever tried to recall the earliest events of your childhood? If so, would
you be able to remember the following, or similar, events?
You are between three and four years old, and your mother still has you wearing dresses.
Dresses that, in all probability are hand-me-downs from your older sisters. You
begin to wonder why you are wering dresses, and you feel ashamed when you notice
that other boys your age, and even younger, are wearing knee length pants and shirts.
It was a happy day indeed when you graduated to boy's clothing.
Could you remember an even earlier episode in your childhood? You are two and going
on three, and still a dedicated thumb sucker. Your mother sends away for a bitter
ointment that, when applied on the thumb, was guaranteed to break the habit. Only
it failed to work that way - until an older sister, seeing you still sucking on the thumb,
bitter ointment and all, exclaimed: "Do you want to die?" "Don't you know that
the ointment on your thumb is poison and may kill you? You had better keep that
thumb out of your mouth"
Her words were very convincing, and for the next few days whenever the thumb started
for your mouth, you remembered the warning, and the thumb stopped in mid-air, half
way there. Consequently, you were soon cured of your habit. But, after the cure,
you wondered how it happened tht you weren't poisoned during those times that you sucked
on your thumb before sister told you that the ointment was poisoned.
Now, can you research the deeper recesses of your mind? Actually, it will be the
earliest recollection that your memory retains. You are being carried in the arms
of a sister. She leaves the little house on the hill where you live and takes you
down through the hay field toward a dirt road. At the bottom of the field she stops and calls
your attention to a new house being built of the other side of the road. "That is
our new home that they are building. One of those two men up there building the chimney is our Papa. The house is almost finished"
Many times, over the years, in your mind's eye, youl have relived that scene, but
it seemed unreal, and you assumed that sometime in the past you had dreamed it -
until recently (Dec.1984) when you received a letter from your sister Isabelle Jennings.
Isabelle, who was born in 1900, lives in the past much of the time. In her letter,
she wrote: "John, our old home in Musquodoboit, N.S. ws built in the year 1908.
I carried you down throuh the field when they were building it" (note you were
born October 11, 1907)
I was about five years old when mother decided thAt I should start ging to school.
This was quite an event for me, for living in the country, I had little contact with
other children, outside of my brothers and sisters. So, when I got in school, I
started acting smart in order to be the center of attention. I accomplished this by chewing
paper and throwing spit-balls around the room. This got results much quicker than
I had bargained for, for the teacher sent me home and told me to stay there until
I knew how to behave myself.
It was a year later before mother decided tht I had matured enough so tht I could
go back to school. During that year of freedom I was lonesome for the first few
weeks as my older brothers and sisters were all in school, and my younger sister
Susan was too young to play with me.
Then I start3ed playing with a little girl that lived not too far up the road. Laura
(not her true name) was a couple of years older than I and, as far as I know, she
and her older brother never attended school during the four or five years that they
lived in that area.
The older brother proved to be light-fingered and, during their residence there,
he ran afoul of the law a couple of times. At one time, he swiped some dynamite
caps from my father's blacksmith shop. He dropped one cap on the floor and it rolled
into a crack, and while trying to retrieve it with a hatpin, he became much lighter-fingered,
for three of them were blown off.
I had a harmonica on which I had been playing for some time. When I attempted to
entertain Laura with it, she asked "Can you play a tune on it?" "What's a tune?"
She took the harmonica and played a few notes of "Turkey in the Straw". She then sang
the song as I found the notes and learned to play the tune.
A few days later we were playing house in the bushes by the roadside. She had a doll
and we built a little house out of some brush and made a bed for th doll. Suddenly
she turned to me and asked:"Do you know how to ----?" "No" I answered, "what's
She lay down, pulled up her dress and explained how it was done. Needless to say,
my efforts were fruitless. Actually, I wasn't very much interested in the process.
I was never able to play with Laura again, as she never came down to the roadside
to play, and when I called for her, her mother said "She can't go out to play"
Some years later, when I heard that Laura had become a prostitute, I realized that
she probably hd been sexually abused by her brother during childhood.
Nasty Words 1913
The dictionary defines the word as a dirty slovely woman, a slattern, a woman of loose
character. When or where I first heard it used has faded from mymemory, but for
some forgotten reason, I thought that it meant "slippery". It must have made quite
an impression on me however, for the incidence of my repeating it in front of my older
sister Mary is one of the earliest recollections of my childhod.
Mary and I were fording the Musquodoboit River. In all probability we were going to
pick blueberries in the pasture on the other side. I stepped on a slippery rock
and fell flat on my face in the ankle deep water. Scrambling to my feet, I vented
my anger on the rock: "You're a slut"
Sister Mary, who was five years older than I, turned to me in amazement: "Oh, you
swore! Shame on you. Don't you know that it is a sin to swear?" "Don't you ever
day that again"
A terrible feeling of remorse and apprehension came over me. I was a sinner, what
would God do to me? I worried about it all that day, for I feared that He might
punish me by taking my life while I slept. I awoke with the dawn of a new day -
happy to find tht I had been spared for better things, or worse.
It was several years later before I learned the true definition of "the word" Live
and learn - ad infinitum.
Until I was about seven years old, I had never even heard of, let alone seen, an ice
cream cone. Living on the farm, we did make ice cream once or twice each summer.
milk and cream were plentiful. Also, we had a hand cranked, six quart freezer which
when packed with ice and salt, required much cranking before the freezing process was
Each winter ice was cut and hauled from the river. The cakes of ice were packed in
sawdust in the icehouse, which by the way was only a lean-to attached to the side
of the barn. Freezing ice cream was the only use that we made of the ice however,
for we had no ice chest or refrigerator in which we could store food. Actually I also had
never seen or heard of an ice chest or refrigerator until I came to the United Sttes
We managed to keep food for short periods of time by storing it in the cellar, which
had a damp, cool, earthen floor. Meat had to be smoked or corned in order to be kept
for any length of time.
It was at the annual Halifax County Exhibition, held at Middle Musquodoboit, Nova
Scotia, that I first became acquainted with the ice cream cone. it was a hot day
and I was very thirsty, when I spied a booth over which was displayed a sign: "Ice
Cream Cones, 5 cents"
Fortunately, I still had the necessary coin in my pocket, so I placed it on the counter
and requested "Ice cream please." The attendant handed me a cone with a generous
amount of ice cream piled on it. I looked at it in disbeief and thought: "What
a stupid way to serve ice cream". However, it was cool and refreshing and, after eating
off the top, I licked what I could reach with my tongue from the inside. Then I held
the cone in my hand until the remainder melted, that I drank it.
I threw the cone away, thinking that it was made from some form of cardboard or paper,
and therefore inedible: Moral: live and learn.
Most things that we hear and learn during our school days become knowledge that we
store in our minds for future use. But it can be other than knowledge that we store,
it can be a humorous incident that is recalled even years later.
For instance, whenever I hear or see the word "icicles" I recall an incident that
involved two of my schoolmates: Stan S., who was about three years older than me,
and Ellie F., who was a couple of years younger.
It was in the one-room schoolhouse in Nova Scotia. Teacher was giving a spelling
quiz to Stan's class. Several words had been correctly spelled when she said: "Stanley
Stan stood up beside his seat, repeated the word "icicles" then spelled it: "I see,
I see Ellie's ass"
Several stifled giggles were heard in the room. Techer flushed slightly, but then
she, perhaps wisely, accepted the spelling as correct.
Ellie glared at Stan and her face also flushed, but she too chose to ignore the pun.
School Days 1916
Memories of my school days in the one-room schollhouse where I spent the first ten
years of school are mostly pleasant. Any unpleasantness was brought on by my own
folly or impulsiveness.
Elva and I both grew up in country schoolhouses in Nova Scotia. She in the village
of Wittenburg and me in Elmsvale, Musquodoboit.
We were nine years old when we first met. She and her twin sister, Erma, had come
up to spend a few days with their sister, Luella Higgins, who was a neighbor of ours.
I had never seen twins before and it was quite an event. They were dressed alike,
very cute and as identical as two peas in a pod. I vividly recall what happened on that
first encounter. My brother Dan and I, with the twins, were in the woodshed. Dan
and I "skinned the rabbit" and we dared the girls to try it. They took the dare,
and I still retain a mental picture of their white panties as they flipped over in "skinning
the rabbit" I doubt that I left the lasting impression on them that they did on
I believe tht Elva's memories of her school days are all pleasant, for she was always
the model student. School teachers, in those days, had little time to devote to
any one student due to the fact that they taught thirty or more students ranging
from the first grade through the eleventh. Consequently, few of the students progressed
beyond the seventh or eighth grade, unless they were able to get makeup help at home.
Lacking this, they soon got discouraged and dropped out of school. If teachers'
workload had been lighter, she would have been able to help them to advance to higher grades.
I think that I always enjoyed going to school, for when I had to stay home for several
days in the spring to help with the planting, and in the fall for the harvest, I
was happy when the ordeal was over and I could get back to school.
During school hours, I was always in a hurry to complete my assigned work as quickly
as possible so that I could be free to listen to the other classes read and recite
their assignments. I now feel that this interest made my studies easier for me, for
when I advanced to a higher grade, I was already familiar with much of the work.
The Christmas season was an exciting ttime for the whole school. For at this time
we spent several weeks rehearsing for the Christmas pageant which was presented
just before the Christmas holidays. Those were the years before radio and television.
Entertainament, except for that of our own making, was practically non-existant. The
nearest theatre was in Truro, a distnce of about forty miles, and the principal mode
of transportation was by horse and carriage. For this reason, the pageant was a big
event for all in the village. Everybody attended, even the families that had no childrn.
It consisted of a variety show, christmas carols, duets, solos, recitations, comedy
One particular pageant I recall. I was about eight. Teacher handed me a little skit
and told to rehearse it with Jane, a girl in my class. In the skit, I was to ask
Jane to guess what I had in my pocket. She was to name several things such as:
marbles, jacknife, a toy, a handkerchief, candy etc.. When she gave up I was to say: "No,
it's a halo"
However, a fellow student and I thought the skit too tame and we cooked up a scheme
to make it more interesting. I did not tell Jane about the change.
The fateful night arrived, and so did our turn for the skit. The curtain rose with
Jane and I standing on center stage. She went through the routine of guessing what
I had in my pocket. When she finally gave up, I pulled a avery dead mouse out of
my pocket and holding it by the tail, shoved it up in front her face. She screamed and ran
off stage as the curtain dropped. Our skit brought down the house.
I expected a blast from teacher when wer returned to school after the holidays. But
for some reason or other, she never mentioned it.