Shea, Jack

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                                         JACK SHEA
                             Bachelor, 76, Enjoys the Simple Life
                                       By Judy Cipin


“I’m not one bit lonely. The only time I was ever lonely was in Toronto or downtown Montreal.”

Jack Shea’s words may reflect some kind of hidden insight into the future of the country. His lifestyle portrays his answer. The 76-year-old Bushville native lives in a two-room cabin back in the woods off the old Ferry Road near the Centennial Bridge. He has lived there for 12 years, by himself, without electricity, running water or telephone. “I don’t believe in it,” he says. “I can’t see much sense in it. Every winter here, the power goes off at least once, and the people around are stuck with no power and no electricity or heat. I was never caught in a situation like that.

                                     Warm in the Morning

Furthermore, he adds when he goes to bed at night, he knows he’ll have heat and light in the morning with a fire. Mr. Shea gets his heat from a wood-burning stove. More than enough heat at that, he indicted. He has a hand pump right outside. He reads by the light of an oil lamp. Food supplies include canned goods – there is no refrigerator in the Shea Cabin. He has plenty of fresh vegetables. Mr. Shea tends a large garden. He grows “everything”, including watermelons, potatoes and onions. Since he doesn’t have a cooling device in which to store the vegetables, he ends up giving most of them away, he says.

The last 12 years have been spent in that same location. Before that Mr. Shea lived farther back in the woods, until the Douglastown fire of 1965.

                                    Worked in the Woods

“I’ve worked in the woods most of my life,” he says. From the lumber camps of New Brunswick, he went to Hamilton, Ontario, and boarded excursion trains to the west. During the twenties, he explains, “you could buy a ticket from her to Winnipeg for $22 and a half a cent a mile after that. He worked in Manitoba and Alberta during those years, he says. That was when he used to earn $35 or $40 a month, he added. Now, he points out, “The whole country has changed. I started out working 10-hour days for $1.50. Now the lads are getting $40 per shift.” It’s a change and not a good one, Mr. Shea prophesized, in the whole system. He says Canada will see a reversal in the system, one which will plunge the country back to the days of horse and buggy.

“Gas is the first thing that will be caught,” he predicts. He says he thinks it has been since the last war that things have “surged forward” and within the next ten years, “we’ll have to go back.” And that, he warned, is a lot harder. It is much easier, he said to go forward. But he really doesn’t have to worry about that change since he has never conformed to the times anyway. He is more than content and happy with his life, and has no intention of changing it.

                                         Never Married

He has always lived alone, he says, but never lonely. Once, he came close to getting married, but it just never materialized, he says .”No, I’ve been real lucky,” he chuckled. “I guess I was born to be a bachelor. I suppose I just travelled too fast for them – they couldn’t overtake me!” “I slept in the woods all my life. I never got lonely in the woods,” he said. But, then again, Mr. Shea said, he always has a lot of company, especially in the summer time. “I’m alone out here, with nothing to bother me. That’s the reason they come to see me.” That is an example, he said of the “awful rat race” the country is trying to leave behind.

In spite of living his life alone out in the woods, Mr. Shea emphasized he is not alone, nor is he a loner. “Everyone has been here except Queen Elizabeth. I’m not a loner at all,” he proclaims, “I can’t take a drink unless there are two!”

                                     Survived Epidemic

Asked if he has ever been very sick, Mr. Shea replied, not that he could remember. He said he had the flu once in 1918, but obviously managed to pull through okay. There was an epidemic in which hundreds of thousands died. “I don’t believe in doctors. I don’t see where they have done a hell of a lot. They haven’t even cured the common cold!”

Indeed, Mr. Shea is the image of a healthy man – slim, bright and active. “I walk four or five miles every day,” he said, “out to the store”, he also travels quite a bit he said. Fishing and company keep him busy in the summer.

In the winter, he said he likes to go snow-shoeing. Although he has tried the skidoo, he said he’ll pick the shoes every time. His explanation? “I don’t believe in them (snowmobiles). When I go back in the woods with snow-shoes, I know I’m gonna get out. If I’m on a skidoo, I mightn’t ever get out.”

Mr. Shea does not own a car or any other device of the so-called “modern-age.”

                                       First Plane Ride

He used to drive a car a lot, he said, and on his 75th birthday, he went for his first ride in an airplane. A friend, Earl Mullin of Newcastle, and his three-year-old grandson, Kirk, took him up in a small Cessna, Mr. Shea recalled.

He seems concerned about Canada and what is going to happen to it. He laments that, “It isn’t near as good a country. People don’t get acquainted as much as before. They don’t even get to know their neighbours.” He believes there is a possibility of a civil war in Canada. “I know what they should do,” he said. “They should call another election in Quebec. I would like to see Quebec remain as part of Canada.”

Mr. Shea is certainly aware of what is going on in the world. He reads a couple of newspapers every day, and he has a portable radio. He blames most of the world’s depression and wars on “greed.” He recounts the event of the first moon-walk, saying he thought “it was an awful waste of money. I don’t see where they’re going to go anywhere with it. People can’t live there.”

                                        Enjoys Reading

He likes to read fiction, books and magazines too, he said, especially National Geographic. He has a grade six education. Sometimes too, he gets to town to see the movies. He also said he got to Newcastle (another place he said he wouldn’t like to live, along with Toronto and Montreal) to see the Canada Days Parade.

He has two sisters living in the area, he said, so he sees them occasionally. He spends Christmas with them. He also has family in Boston, so he gets to travel around quite a bit, which he likes to do. He had a chance to go overseas last summer he said but he really didn’t have a desire to go.

“I could write a book on my life,” Mr. Shea declared. And he added: “I wouldn’t want to change anything at all.”


Source: North Shore Leader – July 13, 1977

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