Harris, Clarence

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                                 CLARENCE HARRIS
                        Looking back Harris remembers 90 years
                                 By Brenda Weaver


DOAKTOWN – Clarence Harris, formerly of Doaktown, finds it hard to sit still although he turned 90 last month. Harris, who has always been busy, was in Doaktown last week visiting his son.

A few years ago when he was past the retirement age of 65, he went to visit his son in McKenzie, B.C., got a job at local mill and worked for five years. The manager at the mill hid Harris’s age. Harris was into his 70s before he took a cold and missed his first day of work in five years. “If a man can’t do a day’s work he might as well go home,” Harris told his boss. It was then he returned to Doaktown.

This wasn’t his first visit to British Columbia for Harris. He went west when he was a young bachelor to work on the harvest.

When he was 75, Harris installed an elevator in his house “just for something to do.” It went from the basement to the upstairs.

                               Born in Doaktown

Born in Doaktown, he was the son of William and Kate Harris. He has an older sister, Della, who died last year in Las Vegas at 91. A younger brother resides at the Boiestown Nursing home and a younger sister lives at York Manor in Fredericton.

Harris married Alma Ballard also of Doaktown and together they raised three boys. He has nine grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

Harris was well known in Doaktown where he was always seen going for walks. “He didn’t walk beside the road, either, he walked on it,” his son said. “Dad always said he wouldn’t get off the road, part of it belonged to him the same as everyone else.”

“He is in extremely good health,” said Cathy Paradis. “The doctor said he had the pulse of a 20-year-old.” Paradis and her husband, Claude, have shared Paradise Lodge with Harris for the past four years. There are also eight other senior men living in the home near Stanley.

                                    50 Cents a day

Harris worked in the woods most of his life and remembers working on the Bamford log drives. “We got paid 50 cents a day, you were real lucky if you ever got $1 a day. We would wade cold water up to the knee. I remember me and Bill McKeil wading water and breaking ice as we went,” he said. “When we got up on shore, he (McKeil) took his boots and socks off and rolled his feet up in his hat to keep warm.”

Harris also recalls working at a woods camp for $20 a month. “We had macaroni one night for supper someone asked ‘how do they make that stuff?’ One lad said. ‘they don’t make it they grow it’. Well the first guy said, ‘no they don’t’ and the other lad said, ‘yes they do cause I hoed it in B.C.’,” Harris said laughing.

                                    Dug well by hand

In the 1950s Harris spent a year digging a 70-foot well by hand. “I done it in my spare time. I started one fall and finished it the next spring. A couple of guys offered to dig it for me but I didn’t have any money.” Harris said he rigged up a drill on a springpole and used a chain to raise and lower the drill. “It (drill) had to be taken up twice a week and sharpened. In the winter I would drag it to the blacksmith to have it sharpened.” In summer, Harris would load the drill in the carrier of his bicycle and peddle it to the shop. The blacksmith shop was located in Doaktown at a time when one had to travel to Doaktown by going down Swim’s Hill.

While digging the well, Harris hit black granite and one day he only dug an inch. “Others asked me to dig wells for them. I told them you can have all the rigging, but I’ll never dig again,” he said.

Harris said he notices several differences today. “Everyone got money. All the houses are painted and fixed up so nice. We never painted our houses years ago.”

He has fond memories of another man from Doaktown, Bert Parker. “He was a big, raw-boned man and strong. He could carry a 100 pound bag of flour on his shoulder, just like that. He used to roll his tobacco in newspaper. You always knew Bert was ahead of you, cause you could smell the paper burning,” Harris said.

He laughed when he remembered some of funny things Parker said. When commenting on an unattractive hat, Parker said, ‘he’s got a hat on his head a hen wouldn’t lay in.’ When there wasn’t anything to eat and no money available, Parker could see no alternative but to ‘sell the woodpile.’

“The last time I saw him (Parker) he had feed bags tied to his feet with haywire. He told me that he got gangrene and couldn’t wear shoes.”

Harris now spends his days reading his Bible and he still takes his walks, now with the aid of a cane.


Source: Miramichi Leader Weekend – February 1, 1991

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