The Confederation Trail is a trail system which is island-wide in Prince Edward Island, Canada. It is a great place to walk or bicycle on what was the original railway bed. In winter, it is used for snowmobiling. The other three seasons, my husband, Rick and I love walking this trail, especially when we have the granddog, Georgie, with us.
Some problems with my legs have kept me from the trail this year but we ventured out for a short walk. It was a cool day in early November and many of the trees had lost their foliage. The sun's rays shone through on occasion, illuminating the leaves that still clung to a few stately yellow giants.
As we walked along, Georgie enjoyed her time off lead when we were the only ones there. After a few minutes, a man appeared ahead of us, coming our way, making it necessary to put Georgie back on lead.
Dogs are a great way to make friends...or enemies. So many people love dogs and ask about them, the name, the breed, the behaviour or the age. This was the case that day. Georgie broke the ice when she stole the man's gloves. Before long Harold Richards told us his name and we asked to take his picture.
Harold grew up in Little Sands, in eastern PEI although now he and his wife live in Summerside. His father was a lobster fisherman but the family was self sufficient. His father grew vegetables, raised some cows, pigs, hens. They had apple trees as well and picked strawberries and blueberries. Harold had two brothers and three sisters. The children all had chores and this time of year, helped their father cut wood for the next winter.
At the age of fifteen, Harold left home for Toronto after working with his father for two months. His father gave him a $100.00 bill for the two months work. Harold thought he was rich. Many islanders went to work in Ontario in those days and Harold had a number of cousins living there. He rented his own place for $9.00 a week. It had a table and a hot plate but he could not afford much else.
At a store nearby, if he bought a pound of bacon, he received a dozen eggs free. However, Harold didn't have a frying pan so he used an empty sardine can as his frying pan. He worked at Laura Secord, making $1.25 an hour, then $2.15 an hour at his next job. Over time he improved his salary but life on the island called him back home.
In PEI, Harold worked construction, even working on the Confederation Bridge, linking the island to mainland Canada. He worked as a lobster fisherman as well as a scallop fisherman for twenty years. Harold retired four years ago at the age of sixty-six. Every day possible he walks the trail, enjoying nature, meeting people.
We met a friend that day and so did Georgie, in spite of her bad behaviour. We enjoyed speaking with Harold and later discussed what he told us.
Island Families, like many in rural Canada, were self sufficient, without a social safety net such as Employment Insurance which we have today. Families produced their own food and worked from dawn to dusk to survive. There is a proud history in this province and those stories must be told
Can you imagine a fifteen year old today leaving home, renting a place in Toronto and supporting himself? The courage, ingenuity, and determination Harold exhibited were incredible. Harold did it because that was what people did at that time.
Harold was a young man with the spirit of adventure and the curiosity of youth. He started with a sardine can as a frying pan. Necessity made him creative. Leave it to youth to adapt as required though some would not have been as successful as Harold. Well done, sir!
Georgie eyeing Harold's gloves again
You never know what interesting people you will meet on the Confederation Trail especially when you bring the dog.
Thank you to Harold for allowing me to post part of his story.