Step Back in Time and Discover the Every Day Life

Diane Lynn McGyverIt’s been a while since my Mom hauled water from the well and dumped it in the ringer washer. It’s been longer since she lit the oil lamp to give light to her hands as they stitched a patch on a worn out knee. When I ask her about life in the 1930’s and 40’s, she is quick to point out that they worked hard for the few things they had. Then she’ll tell how she was up each morning at five to feed the horses, so they’d be ready for her father and the men at the mill when they began work.

Although my Mom’s mind is sharp at 79, she sometimes does not remember the fine details unless prompted to do so. For example, she often said her parents made sure the fire was out in the stove before they went to bed. This was to prevent the house from burning down during the night, a tragedy that often cost lives in those days. Without another source of heat, winters on the coast of Newfoundland when she was young must have been bone-chilling.

In those days, without indoor plumbing, the late night visit to the washroom was often done in the chamber pot. This, I was told by Mom, was kept under the bed during the night and cleaned in the morning. Little facts like this make me thankful for the invention of flushing toilets even though I’ve taken advantage of outhouses many times.Diane Lynn McGyver

Last year while visiting an historic home, I saw the familiar chamber pot. Seeing it next to the bed that warm summer day made me think about the cold winter nights my mother spent in Newfoundland. Then I wondered, ‘what happened in winter? Wouldn’t the contents freeze over night?’

Anxious to learn what Mom did on those frozen mornings, I called as soon as I arrived home.

Mom’s answer was more simple than I had expected. Her mother had risen from sleep at five and lit a roaring fire lit in the stove. A grated hole in the upstairs floor allowed the heat to fill the home. By the time chores and breakfast were done, the contents of the chamber pot were thawed and poured into the outhouse.

Over the years, visits to museums and historical places have initiated many conversations about life in the past. Each time I learn something new, and I’m often fascinated by the innovative ways home-owners solved their problems.

Adding these types of interesting facts to my family tree provides readers with a clearer picture on the everyday lives of our ancestors.

Several locations around Atlantic Canada can provide insight to how life was like decades ago. They include:

Nova Scotia

The Lawrence House Museum : Located at  8660 Highway 215, RR#1, Maitland. The museum is open until October 15th.

Memory Lane Heritage Village . Located at Lake Charlotte, Halifax County. The village is open until September 15th. Learn about living in Nova Scotia in the 1940’s.

Ross Farm Museum : Located at 4568 Route 12, RR#2, New Ross. The farm is open year round. Learn about the lives of those who settled the area from 100 to 150 years ago.

Diane Lynn McGyver

New Brunswick

The Central New Brunswick Woodmen’s Museum : Located at 6342 Route 8 Highway, Boisetown, the 15-acre complex is open until October 14th. Learn about the lives of those who first settled New Brunswick.


The Corner Brook Museum & Archives : Located at 2 West Street, Corner Brook, the museum is open until August 31 and upon request after that. Learn more about the way life was in the past.

Diane Lynn McGyver

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Diane Lynn McGyver - Shadows in the StoneNow Available at Kindle, Chapters Indigo (Kobo), Barnes & Noble (Nook) and Smashwords.

Reviews for Shadows in the Stone can be found at Goodreads.

Learn more about the book and read the first scene on my McGyver Blog .

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