Growing up in Truro in the 1930s included practical jokes and ice cream binges
By Herb Peppard
What was it like to be a teenager in Truro in the mid-1930s? Well, I can’t tell you how others felt but I’ll tell you my feelings of the town I lived in.
From left: Doug King, 18, Freeman Wallace, 19 and Herb Peppard, 17, were best of friends while growing up in Truro in 1937.
Mr. J. H. Slackford was the town mayor, and it seemed he held that position for many years. His home was on Lyman Street, about a block from where I lived on Alice Street.
Jack Fraser was the dapper and efficient police chief of our peaceful town. We also had a policeman who was a mountain of a man. We kids looked up to him with fear and admiration. His name was Ira Boss, and as far as we young people were concerned he WAS the boss.
To be a teenager is a wonderful time in one’s life. As far as I was concerned I was in the pink of health, could run for miles and could eat anything at any time. I loved fishing and camping.
I also had a humorous side. I’d enjoy playing tricks on people. Not harmful tricks but something that would give us all a good laugh.
However, in spite of all these wonderful things I experienced as a teenager I did have one glaring flaw. It prevented me from really enjoying my young life. This terrible flaw was shyness. I was very shy of girls. I was nervous just speaking to girls.
Why did I have this unusal handicap? Later in my life I figured it out. I had three older sisters. I felt these sisters would tease me for having a girlfriend and tease me about all the faults this poor girlfriend would have.
Now just a minute, I’m getting ahead of myself. I did have a girlfriend once. She was a beautiful girl. Her name was Eleanor Campbell, and she lived on Arthur Street. My heart would flutter with amazement and disbelief whenever I saw her.
I went with this girl for an entire year but the sad part of this courtship was she never knew it. I worshipped her from afar but I couldn’t get up nerve enough to even speak to her. Shyness ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Another thing I remember from my teenage years is the clubhouse. The clubhouse was Suther Wallace’s pride and joy. It was not an elegant place. It was just an old room he’d salvaged out of the corner of an old barn in their backyard.
It was there we would gather in the evenings to laugh and sing and just be teenagers. Suther was my buddy Freeman’s brother and they lived on Laurie Street, about a block from my house on Alice Street.
There was one member of the club my buddies and I didn’t much care for. His name was Bob, he was four years older than we were and he never let us forget that. The age difference seemed to verify that he had seen more of life then we had, and that he was smarter and more worldly wise.
So, me and my buddies, Freeman and Doug King, decided to play a trick on Bob. It was a mischievous trick but it was not life threatening. I could see by the evil glint in my friends’ eyes that they were in full agreement with this unbelievable plan.
I must tell you that Bob was a heavy smoker. As a matter of fact he kept a pipe and a glass jar full of tobacco in the clubhouse all the time.
Now here was our devilish scheme. When Bob wasn’t around we went out on the road of Laurie Street. We scooped up some dry horse manure (there was plenty of that stuff around in those days) and mixed the manure in with some of the tobacco in Bob’s jar. We then waited for the result.
Bob came in and filled his pipe with the mixture we had made up. Then he settled back to relax and enjoy his smoke.
But our devious plan backfired on us. Bob never batted an eye. He enjoyed the new concoction. He lounged there in comfort with a contented smile on his face.
Our plan had gone completely wrong and we had to endure the obnoxious odour coming from Bob’s pipe. If we had scurried out of the clubhouse we felt that Bob might get suspicious that something was amiss. We never pulled that trick on Bob again. Even after this experience he still smoked his tobacco. However, we never again added anything to the concoction.
Freeman, Doug and I had a weekly rutual that we always honoured when weather permitted. Because of our ages and good health we were always ready to gorge ourselves.
Every Sunday (because that was the only day we didn’t work) we’d hurry down to the Brookfield Creamery.
Of course, it being Sunday, the creamery was closed. However, there were always two men working in the back shop. We got to know them well and we struck up a business deal with them. We’d come every Sunday and buy a gallon of ice cream from them.
Next we had to decide what we’d pay for a gallon of this succulent food. They demanded one dollar and 15 cents. This was a time when our wages were 15 cents an hour for hard labour. We said we’d never pay over one dollar for a gallon of ice cream.
After a lot of angry dickering we came to an agreement. They agreed to give us a gallon of any flavour of ice cream for 99 cents.
Doug said to us afterwards “Those guys will keep all that money themselves. Their bosses will never see it!”
But that didn’t worry us.
So every Sunday we went to the side door of the Brookfield Creamery. We’d pick up the prize we’d bargained for and then look for a secluded spot to enjoy our treasure. We would gather under a bridge, behind a school house or in a grove of trees or bushes. Any place we could have privacy and really enjoy our ice cream.
After we had eaten all the container of ice cream we would lay back and discuss world events.
We’d make fun of a man in Germany who was always strutting around and giving a strange salute. This man also stressed in his talks that the German people were a “Super Race.”
Of course, we laughed and made fun of this comical individual. Little did we know that this man would change our entire lives and change the entire world.
And so, as we relaxed and ate ice cream, the troubles of the world faded away as we enjoyed our luxurious repast.
Later, when the Second World War broke out, Doug and Freeman joined the famous North Nova Scotia Highlanders. They both saw action at Juno Beach during D-Day in 1944, during which 340 Canadians were killed.
I joined the First Special Service Force and most of our action was in the mountains of Italy.
The three of us survived the war. However, I can imagine that my buddies, like myself, would have had flashbacks. Thoughts of the wonderful days of peace time. Thoughts of the glorious time we had as teenagers, including when we gathered in Victoria Park, and consumed a delicious gallon of Brookfield ice cream.
Herb Peppard lives in Truro. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News.