Buck and His Chickens

Back row: Larry Stephens, George Crocker, Kenny Gavel, Eileen Gower, Diane Hersey
Middle row: Unknown, Unknown, Carolyn Gavel, Charlotte Delaney, Geoff Hodgson
Front row: Howard Snow, Susan Snow - about 1952 

Children growing up in Port Maitland in the 1950's had a lot of freedom.  Parents might walk their children to school on the first day of grade Primary, but after that parents only went near the school for big trouble.  Nobody was driven to school, nor to any other activities.  As long as children were not saucy with adults, or didn’t break the neighbours’ windows playing baseball and they came home to eat when the noon whistle blew, kids could pretty much come and go as they liked.

One thing the kids liked to do was watch chickens being killed.  Now you have to understand that the animals of the 1950's had few, if any, rights.  If there was an S.P.C.A., it certainly didn’t concern itself with chickens.  It was a time when people looked after the needs of their household pets themselves.  If a family had enough cats, when the next litter came along, they simply popped the kittens into a burlap bag with some rocks and threw the bag off the end of the wharf.

Back to the chickens.  On Charles Street, in the house now numbered 21, there was a man called “Buck” (his real name was Lawrence Hersey) who had lived in that house all his life.  Buck worked as the manager of Frank E. Davis Fishery at the shore.  After a time Buck’s daughter Euda (Eudavilla Jean Barnes Hersey Stephens) moved back home with her children Linda and Larry.  Euda worked  for Mr. Guier packaging food to sell in Mr. Guier’s store, then Euda worked many years at the Royal Store in Yarmouth.

Now Buck had a building in his yard for his chickens.  This shouldn’t be confused with some of his other little buildings, like his woodshed or outhouse.  Buck’s outhouse was the same one where Roddy Snow came to grief one fine summer day.  Roddy had just strolled over to Buck’s yard when “bam”, he fell into the hole that Buck’s outhouse had recently covered.

Roddy’s mother, Marjorie Snow, was not a wasteful woman.  She had grown up in a large family in Montreal during the Depression and she knew the value of a dollar.  But when Roddy returned from Buck’s old outhouse hole, Marjorie didn’t hesitate.  She grabbed Roddy and whipped off every stitch of clothing he had on his body.  With the exception of Roddy himself, everything went in the barn stove, shoes included.

Larry Stephens - who was named for his grandfather Buck - was a natural leader among the children.  Larry had many, many ideas as to how the children should spend their time.  For example, it was Larry who thought of refurbishing the old wooden dory beside George Snow’s barn.  George even provided some old wood, nails and paint for the project.  As George remembers, the kids “sailed all over the world in that dory”.

Whether it was Larry who had the idea of the kids watching his grandfather Buck kill chickens, or whether one of the other kids thought of it, nobody can say.  But even now, some fifty to sixty years afterward, those grownup kids remember every other detail. 

On certain Saturday mornings when Buck got up and thought he might like chicken for his Sunday dinner, the word would go out among all the children: “Buck is going to kill a chicken.”  Before you knew it, every self-respecting kid in the neighbourhood was gathered in Buck’s yard. 

Now remember that no one cared too much what the kids were up to, and no one cared too much about the animals.

The kids formed a large circle around Buck.  And Buck, being somewhat of a performer, made quite a show of getting out his chopping block and his special double bladed axe.  With a great flourish, he brought that axe down hard over the chicken’s neck and off popped the chicken’s head.  Now the fun began for the children.  As that headless chicken flew crazily around the yard, the circle of children likewise moved.  Charlotte Delaney remembers, “You tried to get as close as you could to the chicken, but you stayed far enough away so that you didn’t get any chicken on you.”

And that is just one of the things the kids did growing up in Port Maitland in the 1950's.

Christmas 2010
by Howard and Madeleine with thanks to George Snow, Charlotte Delaney Covert, and Susan Snow Moores


  1. Just found this site! Thanks for the memories. Larry Stephens

  2. Living at 'the shore', we used to watch Kingsley Frost kill his chickens.
    Crystal Outhouse McDormand

  3. I tried earlier to post my thoughts. This was a wonderful trip down memory lane for me, and so well done. Made me laugh and cry, as I stopped at each house along the "TRIP". I certainly recall our gentle "big boy" as he was always so kind to all the kids who for some reason chose to tease him.
    Although I was Susan's playmate, Howard was usually around some place but never in our way. :) This has made Christmas a bit brighter for many of us today. Thanks again!! Merry Christmas to you, as well.
    Brenda Ellis Adams

  4. I can see from this that Larry was resourceful even at a young age and also where he got his sense of humor !
    Shirley Pitman Stephens