Hyland, John W.

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                                     JOHN W. HYLAND
                              Prepares to celebrate centenary
                                     By Joanne Cadogan


John William Hyland is upholding a family tradition - living a long life. His father, William, lived to be 94; his mother, Eliza (Hallihan), into her 90s; and his older sister, Mabel, to 104.

So it surprises no one that John is alert, surprisingly healthy and quite looking forward to his 100th birthday party set for the Knights of Columbus Hall in Newcastle at 2 p.m. Saturday.

John Hyland was born in Sillikers on Sept. 23, 1896. He was the fourth of five children. He had two older sisters, Mabel and Eliza, one older brother Richard, and one younger sister, Katie. He is the last living member of that family.

Until Hyland moved into the Miramichi Senior Citizen's Home at age 90, he lived at the family homestead in Sillikers.

The homestead changed a lot over John Hyland's 90 years in it. When he was born, there was no electricity, no telephone, no radio, and no television. These conveniences were added gradually over the years. As a youngster, Hyland recalls playing with his brother and sisters by lamplight, reading and visiting with friends.

His youth was far from empty without the technological entertainments which would later come along to fill it. "I went to school in Sillikers. I started pretty young and I sat with my sister Mabel," he said. "There were 25 in the school, all in the same classroom. We had a number of teachers over the years. I can't remember them all. Mrs. Parks was one teacher. Miss Swanson was another. My teachers were all women. There were no men." John Hyland said he enjoyed school, but he left at age 17 before he was fully educated. "I left too soon maybe, but I thought it would be good to get a job and help out a little."

It seems Hyland never considered any career other than working in the woods. "There were a lot of different jobs in the woods - sawing logs, swamping, and a lot of stuff." He preferred swamping - stripping the branches from the felled tree so it could be hauled away by horse - to any of the other tasks he might be assigned. "It was easier than sawing logs," he said.

The work took Hyland away from home, forcing him to spend the winters - starting in October and ending in March - in camps in the woods. "I got used to it. I didn't mind it," he said. Since home had few conveniences in those early days, there wasn't much to miss living deep in the woods. The work started early, before dawn, and didn't end until dark. The woodsmen spent the few recreational hours preceding their 9 p.m. bedtime playing cards, or playing the violin and step dancing. John Hyland didn't play an instrument and he wasn't much of a step dancer, so he spent his evenings playing cards. "We played auction 45s; that was a good game," he said with a smile. "We played just for fun. We didn't gamble." That's just as well. John Hyland earned $23 a month in those early days. "Now people earn that much in less than an hour," he said.

One of John Hyland's earliest and most vivid childhood memories is of seeing his first automobile. He didn't know it then, but cars and driving were to become an abiding passion. "Ninety-two years ago I saw my first car. A Mr. Hutchison from Chatham was driving. I think it was a Ford car. An old lady, Mrs. Payne, saw it and she said she saw a horseless wagon going up the road." Hyland has a picture of that car taped to a wall over his bed at the Miramichi Senior Citizen's Home. “The car is in a museum in the Fredericton area,” he said.

            John Hyland bought his first car - a 1923 Star - at age 27.  

"I went and got my driver's license. I could drive a car before I got the license. I learned from a fellow who had a car. He just gave me the wheel and told me to step on the gas. I had no trouble learning." Hyland still remembers what he paid for his first drivers' license - $1. "I bought the car in Chatham and the first thing I did was take it to Newcastle and drive it around town. Then I drove it home. "My family never had a car, and it was just mother and father home then. Neither of them was too fussy about it. They didn't want me to buy it. They thought times were too hard to buy cars then."

Nevertheless, Hyland was proud of his purchase and took it everywhere that summer and fall. I could use it to go visit friends. I drove the car a lot going to work. It was a long way and the car made the trip faster. Sometimes I'd take some of the other men to work, too.

"There were a lot of Stars out then. It had a closed in top and it was dark in color. I could get about 30 miles out of a tank and that got me everywhere I was going. I could fill her up and she was all right. I didn't have to travel with gas."

From that time on Hyland went pretty much everywhere he had to go by car - except in winter. "In 1925 we had to put our cars away for the winter because they didn't plow the roads," he said.

Hyland never travelled far afield. "I think the farthest I got was the state of Maine. I went there a couple of times to visit friends." He used his succession of vehicles mainly to drive around the Miramichi. "I drove until I was 93 years old. The doctor never stopped me. I stopped myself.

I sold my last car - a McLaughlin Buick.  I just thought it was time." 


Source: Miramichi Leader – September 17, 1996

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