An Interview with Mr. & Mrs. William Barry
July 19, 1978
Mr. Barry, although he was born in Guilford township, has been a resident in Stanhope for most of his sixty-nine years. His wife Dell Barry was born here in Stanhope in 1909.
Both Bill and Dell completed their fourth grade schooling. School began in September and was finished in June, but unlike today, the system was based on 'books', not grades. The child began with a primer book, moved on to the first book, then the second book, the third book, and finally a fourth book. At this time, one could write an entrance exam, and upon the successful completion of this test, one could move on to higher forms of education. Bill recalls that only three students from his classes desired to take this step.
The school was two miles distant from Bill's home, but he said that there were a lot of children who had to walk much farther that that. When asked if he missed many school days due to unfavourable weather con¬ditions, he replied, "We waded through the snow and went to school in all kinds of weather." During the winter season all the children wore felt, knee-high boots and mackinaws to keep from freezing on the long and arduous walk to and from school.
Children, when absent, did not have to present any form of excuse to the teacher upon their return. In the early twentieth century, it was not uncommon for a child to miss school because his/her help was often required in the home or on the farm. It was compulsory for a child to complete his/her fourth book, but in some cases, the child finished school in a state of ignorance similar to that in which he began, all because it was necessary for him to work at home for many days throughout his school years.
Upon finishing school, Dell began her working life. She was employed at various lodges, earning one meagre dollar per day. She also clerked for the late Mac Prentice in his store, bringing home six dollars a day.
It was also during the depression that Highway 35 went under its first stages of construction. The men worked for six dollars a month and stayed at a camp posted on the property that now belongs to Mr. Norman Wallace. All the work was done by hand. "It wasn't anything like they do now." Bill remembers quite vividly how they passed through rocky areas. "There was one man holding the drill (Bill) and two other men hammering it; one would hit and then the other." Mr. Barry credits his good memory of this aspect of construction to the unforgettable pain of a misguided hammer.
One can derive from this that women were neither eager nor willing to participate in female emancipation movements. "They just couldn't do a man's job. Oh, no way they could do a man's job! There was no machinery, there wasn't a dozer ...there wasn't nothing like that. Everything was done with hands, horses and shovels." For now, the woman was quite content to stay in the home.
There were also many more restrictions placed on a child of the early twentieth century. Parents "were stricter, because they had to be." There was no electricity, no oil, and no pumps. All water had to carried from its source to the saucer, and all wood was chopped by hand. Bill recalls, "I just had so long to get home from school. If I fooled around too much, why then, they'd give me the deuce, 'cause I had to get all my chores done. In them times there was wood to get in, chores to do in the barn, and the same with the girls - there was housework to do."
As far as Sundays were concerned, Dell recollects that her "mother wouldn't bake anything on Sundays, or knit, or sew or anything. We'd have our dinner and go to church, and then when we got home from church, we could swing on the swing, or go for a walk, or something in that line. Maybe you would have somebody in for supper, or maybe you'd go some¬place for supper. Not too often, mind, you didn’t you do that."
For Saturday night entertainment, they would have house dances. In the 40's, children, ten and eleven years old, were allowed to stay out until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. These hours were restricted to Sat¬urday evenings only.
Bill worked in many trades as a young man. These included farming, road construction and carpentry, but most of all, he remembers his work as a lumberman.
He worked for one dollar a day, and "that was the going wages - it had to do. We worked ten hours, and in the camps we worked more than that. It was nothing to be up and eating our breakfast at four in the morning. We worked six days a week, ten hours a day, and when we was working in the camps, there was no set hours at all. You was out at three o'clock in the morning and you just had so many trips of logs to load, and get to the dump. It might be ten hours, or it might be fourteen. It didn't make any difference, you just had to make them trips. It didn't matter how long it took you." After a somewhat lengthy pause, he added, "Girls … you've never had it better than you do right now."
You don't know anything about the hard times. In old times, when I was a kid, you'd never think of seeing a chesterfield. There would be an old wooden rocker, and the woman of the house would make cushions for it. There was never such a thing as built-in cupboards."
Bill and Dell were married in 1928. Bread cost eight or nine cents a loaf, and a pair of boots was worth three days of hard work. "You didn't live as comfortable as you do now."
The depression hit Canada and Stanhope in 1929. "You didn't have a cent, and you couldn't get a job no place." They remember having to borrow a quarter from their parents, so they could buy a special brand of milk to feed their son - it was the only type of milk that the baby could have.
In spite of all these hard times, the Barry's have nothing but loving words for Stanhope and its residents. The people are the same now as they were then, and the proportion of good men and bad men has remained the same throughout the years. "You only notice the bad ones now because there's more of them."
Their closest neighbour was Charlie Barry, who lived a mile away. Bill approximates that there was one family per one hundred acres. "This is the place for help around here; the best neighbours that I know of. We've got a great place to live." (Stanhope Airport Road)
The children would go to a friend's house for an evening of camaraderie. Then, around ten o'clock, they would decide to have a dance. They would push back the table and the chairs, start up the music, and then dance until the wee hours of the morning.
Drugs were never a threat to the children or to their parents. Alcohol was easier for minors to secure because everyone made their own liquor. Women did not drink and would not associate with an intoxicated man.
Bill and Dell have come a long way together. No longer do they have to worry about finding money for "something to eat and wear, or try¬ing to think of getting enough things for the kids to wear." Poverty and depression have taken their toll, but happiness and comfort flourish.
Excerpted from “A Compiled History of Stanhope Township” a 1978 student project by Karen Wedmann, Kim Gorveatt and Godfrey Tyler.
Stanhope Museum Accession #998.17.01