FIFTY YEARS AGO AND NOW Paper by Mrs. J. Cundal of Cameron - 1913


The regular monthly meeting of the Women’s Institute was held at the home of Mrs. Ed. Dunn, village, on Thursday, April 17th, when about thirty members were present. After all had joined heartily in singing the Maple Leaf and several had responded to the roll call, the regular business was taken up and three excellent papers were given on “Fifty years ago and To-day,” by Mrs. M. Perrin, Mrs. D. Smith and Mrs. J. Cundal.

Two good readings by Mrs. Eyres and Thelma Townsend and also a recitation by Miss A. Downer added very much to the success of the meeting. We were pleased to have with us our district president, Mrs. (Dr.) Gould, of Fenelon Falls, whose talk is always profitable and instructive. After closing the meeting in the usual manner refreshments were served by the hostess. The next meeting will be held at the home of Mrs. M. Perrin, May 15th. Following is the paper given by Mrs. Cundal:

Our grandfathers and grandmothers lived in the days of fifty years ago - we are living now. Some of our fathers and mothers lived in those days, too, and some few are living now, and some few of us lived fifty years ago, and we are living now. But how many are living now who did not live fifty years ago? Those who did not live then but who are living now can scarcely realize the changes that have taken place in this country during that fifty years. But, to those who lived then and are still living, what a change to them!

Fifty years ago more than three-fourths of this country was a forest abounding in game. Deer and wolves in abundance roamed through the woods, beavers dammed and lived in the streams, fish in the lakes and rivers, and the red men roamed at will among their native wilds. There were no restrictions upon hunters in those days, either in time or quantity of game and every stream and lake was a paradise to the fisherman whenever he felt like enjoying himself at his favourite pursuit. Every settler thus found a ready means of supplying his larder with abundant supplies of meat for himself and family.

Fire brick or stone or frame houses were to be seen in those days. A frame house then was a real luxury, not in the country alone, but even in the villages and towns. Still, although their homes were of rude construction, as compared with the homes of today in general, there was genuine hospitality, contentment and happiness found therein. Possibly in many cases their means were scant but their wants were few and their wants were nearly all met by their own labour. They grew their own wheat, in many cases, made their own flour and baked their own bread. They began rearing a few sheep, thus producing their own wool, which they carded, spun and wove largely in their own homes.

In fact, about the only luxuries of those times was a little tea and tobacco and these were only enjoyed by a comparative few of the most successful pioneers, water from the clear, rippling spring being the beverage of the great majority.

What about the luxuries of today? For me to try and enumerate them would be folly, for their name is legion. Fifty years ago what roads they had - miles and miles of corduroy, or hill, hollow and knoll, just as nature left it. Horses were a luxury in those days, too. And buggies and cutters things unknown. Those who now enjoy the good roads of to day and the snug easy-riding carriages and comfortable cutters realize but little of the hardship and toil of those who largely helped to bring those conditions about.

The old-fashioned logging bees had quite a little to do with the early social life of these first sturdy settlers of these farms of ours. During the winter time the settler got his fallow cut down, go it burnt in the spring and summer by inviting his nearest neighbours to assist him to get it logged up and burnt and ready for crop the following year. All were ready to give a helping hand and share in each other’s hospitality in return.

Now when their battles with the giants of the forest were waged by our forefathers of fifty years ago, the modern farmer runs his cultivator, his seeder and harrows all day long without almost any impediment in the shape of stump and stone, and by means of mower and binder, sulky rake and tedder, takes off his crop with remarkable speed and comparatively little effort compared with that of his ancestor of fifty years ago.

Again, contrast the school, the church, the Farmers’ and Womens’ Institutes of to day with the different agencies of a similar nature at work in those days. For worship the most of them met either in the schoolhouse or in the humble home of some settler. Someone a little more gifted than the rest or who, perchance, had got a little more education in the old land, or who had by chance been a child of rather more favoured birth, whose father had been a parson or an apothecary in the old home land, generally took the lead in religious matters, and was for quite a number of years as well the pedagogue of the district.

The barefooted urchins, clad in their flannel gowns or their full cloth breeches hiked thither to get their daily quota of learning from walking, games, arithmetic, tennis, grammar, and the old National readers adopted from the old land.

How different now? Children are driven to school in the winter and in the summer are asked to do no labour but their schoolwork and they are pampered and petted until they are almost fitted for the several duties, which as men and women society and country expect of them.

Many more details might be gone into by way of contrast with those of fifty years ago and of to day, but we think that enough has been given to show what a great advance has been made during those fifty years.

How much of labour, thought and effort and expense were used to bring about these changes. The elegant churches, the well equipped school houses, the stately homes, the lovely homesteads, the excellent roads and hundreds of other improvements as well - all attest the labour, the love, and the energy of those who have preceded us.

But what about the religious; the moral as well as the social status now as compared with that of fifty years ago? Do you think there is a deeper and a more fervid piety now than before? Do you think there is as much of the “Love thy neighbour as thyself” spirit as then existed? Is there the same regard for personal rights as there used to be? Are the pleasures sought for to day as simple and pure as then? Do you think there is as much backbiting, as much envy, selfishness or jealousy now as then? Are the Christian virtues as prominent in the dealings of every day life as they then were? Do people now rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn? Is there less or more caste in society now or not?

If in these social conditions we have not progressed in proportion with our country and our homes, of what use are our better churches, schools, educated ministers, cultured teachers and other institutions with their several appendages, to us as a people.

I leave these matters with yourselves, and no doubt after proper deliberation and contemplation, you will be able to arrive at conclusions satisfactory to yourselves.


Mary Cundal

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