Lyons, Olive

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                                                      Marks 90th Birthday
                                                       By Margery MacRae


Olive Lyons of Doaktown celebrated her 90th birthday recently, and of a family of 15, 11 are still living. Lyons has spent her entire life in the Doaktown area, having lived for the past 70 years in her home on Main Street in Doaktown.

“I was born on the homestead over-looking Big Hole Brook on the Miramichi,” she said in an interview at her home, pointing to a large framed picture of her childhood home which hangs in her living room. Lyons said the first memories are of when she started to school in 1910 at age six. “I was lucky because that year there was a new school opened and it was right on our property. It was a one-room school with eight grades, and it had two entries, one for the girls and the other for the boys. I remember I forgot to bring my slate cloth, and I started to go home, but the teacher wouldn’t let me,” she laughed.

Lyons recalls there were two students at each desk with about 30 or 40 students in the room. Of course, many were her own sisters and brothers, as they had the largest family in the area. “Many of them had to walk a very long way to get to school,” she said. Perhaps because they lived so close to the school, one of her brothers was chosen to go early every day and start the wood fire in the stove in the centre of the room. Lyons said she remembers many pie socials being held to raise money to help pay for the school.

Although the Betts family did not have to walk far to get to school, they did have to travel a great distance to attend church and Sunday school. “Sunday school was held at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, so that meant about a 5 mile walk both ways,” she said, adding that by the time they all got home again, it was supper time, and after eating, they all returned for church in the evening. “In the winter we would go by horse and sleigh, and I remember my oldest sister putting bells all around the horse and away we’d go.

“We lived on a farm, so there was lots of work to do, but on Sundays we just did the necessities, like milking the cows, because we never were allowed to do other chores on Sunday.” All the children in the Betts family were assigned various jobs which they were required to do through the week. “Mine was helping with the milking twice a day and doing the separating. Then I had to churn the butter and put it in pounds just like it came from the store.”

Olive continued her education in the little one-room school until she completed grade eight, but unlike some, she did not go to high school in the village. She had plenty to do helping her mother with all the younger children.

                                                     Father Opposed Marriage

When she was 17, Olive wanted to get married, but there was a problem. Her father didn’t like her boyfriend. “He tried to part us,” she recalled. One Sunday night when he got to church, he noticed I wasn’t there and Harold wasn’t there either. We were at home sitting on the porch, and I saw him coming up the road on his bike. He wasn’t long telling Harold to go and he went,” she laughed. However, the young couple managed to see each other just the same, and when she was 18, Olive got her ring. The night she was to get married, Olive told just her mother and one sister. She got all dressed up and off she went, still without telling her father. Every morning my father used to call roll to see if we were all there, and so the next morning he said ‘Where is Olive?’ My mother said ‘she got married last night.’ He eventually forgave us. We were married on Nov. 3 and lived that winter at Harold’s home until the next summer when we started our own home, and this is the one I’m still living in.”

About 100 people attended Olive Lyon’s birthday celebration, and many good wishes were received by the honoured lady at a reception held in the Baptist Church. A presentation of a plaque was made by Perley Arbeau on behalf of the N.B. Senior Citizens’ Association.

She attributes her long life to having lived a good Christian life.

                                          Lyons Wishes More People Would Stop by For a Visit

She is in quite good health and still does most of her own house-work, says Olive Lyons. She can’t knit or crochet anymore because of arthritis, and her vision is not so good either. “I never cared much about reading anyway, so it doesn’t bother me that way, and I don’t care much for TV either.” The one thing she would like is more people would drop in to visit with her. “I would really love that. I spend a lot of the summer sitting out on the veranda watching traffic and people go by. I wish they would come in.”

A member of the VON once suggested Lyons should be using a cane. “Well I got one and used it for two days, and I’ve never used it since. It just hangs there on the stair post now,” she laughed. “I can’t get where I’m going fast enough with that.”

                                                          Her Family

Olive Lyons has seven members of her family who still reside in the Doaktown area. Ethel Mersereau, Mabel Brown, Roland Betts, Sterling Betts, Lloyd Betts, Vivian Ross and Holland (Hutch) Betts. Harold Sr. resides in Zealand Station, Burt in Prince George, BC and Mary O’Donnell in Kingston, Ont.

Annie Morehouse, Vida Mitchell, Vera Brown and Dave Betts are deceased.


Source: Miramichi Leader – September 27, 1994

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