Sturgeon, Freeman and Greta

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                            FREEMAN & GRETA (VICKERS) STURGEON
                                  By Margery MacRae

Christmas 1992 was the 65th Christmas Freeman and Greta (Vickers) Sturgeon of Blackville have spent together.

“It’s been a long and rocky road at times but we made it,” Greta said looking at her husband and smiling.

She tried to recall what their first Christmas together in 1927 had been like. Greta was 16 and Freeman just two years older when they set their wedding date for Dec. 14.

“We didn’t tell anyone. We just got on the Whooper (train) and went to Doaktown where we asked someone to direct us to the Anglican Church rectory, but they made a mistake and sent us to the Baptist minister instead. We didn’t know that until afterward. I remembered Freeman saying, ‘Well it cost us $1.50 to get up here, so we may as well get married!’” The newlyweds returned home to Barnettville on the Express to tell the parents they were married. “There was an awful lot of snow that winter and when we got off the train, which stopped at a siding nearby, we had to step from one horsetrack to another,” Freeman said.

The Vickers family had never had a Christmas tree before, but that year they went out, cut one down, brought it home and trimmed it with scraps of yarn. Anyone who lived through the ‘20s and ‘30s knew what hard times were,” the Sturgeons said.

Greta recalled how a local store owner, Jane Gerrish, gave them some decorations one year for their tree. “I still have those – I remember them well,” Greta said with a smile.

Freeman recalled how he worked hard in the woods for 86 cents a day. “I worked for J. A. Underhill (Miramichi Lumber Company) and I can remember working all winter in the woods one year and I had $19 when I came out at Christmas. “Five pounds of sugar cost 25 cents back then. It was kept in big bins in the store,” he said.

“We would go home for a week or so and then we’d go back until the logs were hauled, then we’d head home again for some time until we went back for the drive. We’d drive the logs to the boom. We used to call it the squaw; it was a big rock in the river.”

$31 a month

Freeman still keeps a receipt he received in 1927 which reads 30 days at $31 a month. He has this in a little frame.

The elderly gentleman went on to say how the woodsworkers could buy articles from the Wangan, a small type of store which carried necessities like socks and mittens. These would be charged to the individual and deducted from their pay at month’s end.

As for Christmas gifts, the couple said they always managed to get something for their children. “In the early years, each child would get one gift and we had to be careful that one child did not get something better than the other. They would hang their stockings and there would be something in them.” Freeman remembers one year when he caught five pairs of rabbits and walked down the river ice to sell them to Mark Hambrook, who owned a store in Renous. “I bought the ingredients for a fruit cake and a mug for each child. We had two at the time, but they were too young at the time to know much about Christmas,” he said.

“We never bought anything for ourselves,” Greta added. “We never even thought about it. Today kids get so much. I remember one Christmas in particular when I was about 10 or 12, I got one toy, a monkey on a string, and I was so happy with that. Of course our mother always knit socks and mittens which we needed.”

The couple says they attribute their long, happy marriage to a lot of give and take on part of them both. “You have to co-operate in order to get along, but 65 years ago we never considered anything else but that we would stay together,” Greta said.

Family of seven

Freeman and Greta raised a family of seven. They have 20 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.

Until just a couple of years ago, Freeman was a member of the United Church bowling league and has many trophies to prove it. “I played in the North Shore tournaments for quite a few years also,” he said. Something else he enjoyed doing until just recently was woodworking. “I did a lot of that, especially after I retired,” he said. For 22 years, Freeman was employed at the Royal Canadian Naval Ammunition Depot in Renous, retiring in 1973.

“My biggest problem is angina,” said Freeman. “But at 85 you’re bound to have something,” he adds with a smile. “I carry nitroglycerin with me all the time.” Freeman was 86 on Dec. 26.

Apart from influenza the elderly couple say their health is not too bad. “We’ve both had the flu,” said Greta, adding that she had been hospitalized twice in the past few weeks as a result of it.

Many of the Sturgeon family, especially those who live close by, visit their parents frequently, which brightens up their days and Dec. 18 was no exception. Because their parents were recovering from the flu, no big celebration was planned by the family to commemorate their 65th anniversary as we held for their 60th. “As many of us that could spent a day with them, but they just weren’t up to a party this year,” their daughter said.

Source: Miramichi Leader – January 13, 1993

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