‘It looked to me like the dwelling a very important person would live in’
Something happened to me 83 years ago that I can remember as if it were yesterday. I was nine years old at the time. I wanted to take a stroll to the Victoria Park. I wanted to see the water splashing over the falls and tumbling over the deep gorge below. I also wanted to see if the wishing well was really magical.
I was walking along Palmer Street, the street that borders the park baseball diamond. This is the field where most of the baseball was played in Truro in those days. I watched many a ball game when Truro’s best players took to the field, and showed their expertise. I recall the boys from the west end of Truro had a wonderful team. I remember boys like Bob Mentis, Palmer Jordan and Palmer’s brother, I don’t remember his name or most of the other names - but they were good! I felt in my young heart they could probably out play any ball team in the world.
Suddenly I was awakened out of my daydreams by a noise that sounded like wheels crushing on gravel. I looked up and saw a sight that has followed me to this very day. It was two gigantic, magnificent horses pulling a huge wagon. Perched precariously on this wagon was a house, a beautiful big house. It looked to me like the dwelling a very important person would live in, maybe a king or a queen or a prime minister. I thought I’d follow it and see where they were going to put this magnificent dwelling. However, I decided against it because maybe it was going miles away.
Later, I found out the reason this house was being moved. Before that, all I knew about this building was this: That if you walked up the road that was called Priest’s’ Hill you would come to an impressive house that was called Priest’s House. Later, I found the proper name for the dwelling was the glebe house. It was the residence of the priest who was the Catholic preacher in Truro at that time. The Catholic church was on the corner of Prince and Walker streets at that time. Across from the Royal Bank today.
Later, because of a fire, a new Catholic church was erected on Prince Street and a nearby building became the new glebe house.
Now, let’s return to the original glebe house. This is a writeup from the Truro Daily News, dated March 12,1930:
“Old glebe house is on new site; crossed Lepers Brook on special bridge. The old glebe house located on a bluff at the entrance to Victoria Park has been moved, in its entirety, to a new location on Brunswick Street by H. Johnson who plans to convert and remodel it into an up-to-date dwelling place. The house was taken down the steep hill facing the park and across Lepers brook. As it was impossible to transport the big building across the bridge, it was necessary to construct a special bridge before the crossing could be made.”
Probably the old glebe house on 105 Brunswick St. changed hands a few times, but in 1939 it was purchased by a First World War veteran by the name of Fred Audas. He was a Canadian hero, In fact, all Canadians in the First World War were heroes to me. Why? Because they endured a hell some of we Second World War veterans never had to face. Can you imagine being exposed to that silent killer - gas? It would creep up on you. You would never hear it and at times never see it. The next second you’d be grasping your throat and choking to death. Then there were those trenches. Those muddy, icy, cold trenches. And to top it all off, there was the rats. Because the soldiers had no place to fling their garbage, they just discarded it over the top of their trench. Soon, there were thousands of ravenous, dirty rats travelling through the trenches.
Yes, we Second World War soldiers had many hardships but I think the First World War veterans had to endure much, much more.
Audas spent two different occasions in army hospital. Once when he was exposed to a small amount of gas and another time when an artillery shell exploded close to him. Some fragments from this explosion perforated his legs. The inhalation of this deadly gas gave Audas lung problems the rest of his life.
Audas was proud to serve some of his active service in one of the units all Canadians were proud of---the Nova Scotia unit, the 85th Battalion. This unit played an important part in securing the highest part, The Pimple, in the battle of Vimy Ridge.
He was a man of patriotism and determination. He served in the Canadian Army malitia for five years, and he served in the army during the war for four years. He received his discharge from the Canadian Army July 13, 1919, a credit to our armed forces.
Audas returned home to re-start a civilian life. He became a self-employed painter, and specialized in sign painting. It was called gold leaf painting. He would paint the names of businessmen and their trade on the glass of office doors.
One day in 1939, Audas came across the old glebe house on Brunswick Street. It was love at first sight. He just had to have this unique and unusual house. So, he bought it immediately.
Audas was very fortunate to meet,and eventually marry a beautiful girl by the name of Muriel Cunningham. Muriel’s home was in Goldenville, in Guysborough. They were both musical and both played in bands. In this way they often met at different dances or functions. Audas played the clarinet and Muriel played both the piano and organ.
This ideal couple were blessed with three wonderful children while they lived in the glebe house. Their children were Anne, Charles (Bud) and Richard (Dick).
Audas was a dedicated legion member and often got together with his friends and old army buddies at legion building which was close by. He also became famous for being a member of the Truro Band for 52 years.
So, history brought together a very important union. It joined Audas, a First World War hero, with an unforgettable religious structure -the glebe house.
Herb Peppard is a longtime Truro resident. His column appears regularly in the Truro Daily News.