Arnold Ellis

Kindness: one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another.  If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand.  Do not wait for a thank you.  True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.
- author unknown 

When Howard Snow was a little boy . . . now I’ll stop before I’m half started and fix that.  Howard Snow was never a little anything, not baby, not boy, not man.  

Howard weighed twelve pounds, four ounces on the day he was born.  When his mother asked the doctor if that meant Howard would grow to be large, the doctor said “Oh no, Mrs. Snow, Howard will be a normal size by the time he’s two years old.” That may not be the biggest lie ever told, but Howard’s second birthday came and went and Howard was still big.  In those days people said “big for his age” and Howard was certainly that.

Howard was so much bigger and stronger than the other kids that Marjorie and George Snow spent a lot of time teaching him that he should never hit other children.  They may have overdone this a little, because when Howard started school, he was the one coming home crying, saying that kids were hitting him.  Marjorie and George thought things over.  Finally they told Howard that while he still wasn’t allowed to hit other kids, he could lift them into the ditch beside the road.  If the kids kept hitting him, he should just put them back into the ditch until they stopped.  This worked liked a charm.  Howard didn’t have to set too many kids in the ditch before they changed their minds about hitting him.

Long before Howard went to school, George Snow had made his children a sandbox in the backyard where Susan, Howard, Roddy and all the neighbourhood kids spent lots of time.  Pretty soon the sand in the sand box started to disappear.  Well it didn’t really disappear, but every kid who played there took home a shoe full, or a pocket full, or an ear full until pretty soon there wasn’t enough sand in the sandbox to make giant castles or really high hills.  

The kids talked about what should be done to fix the sand problem.  As usual, it was Larry Stephens who had the ideas.  Larry explained that sand was made by rubbing rocks together.  First thing next morning Howard got busy making sand.  He rubbed rocks together and he rubbed rocks together.  First he tried the very big rocks.  When that was a bit slow, he tried some medium sized rocks.  Finally, he thought the small rocks might make the best sand.  He was sure that Larry was perfectly right about how sand was made, but sand making was very, very slow. 

As he rubbed the rocks together, he began to think of easier ways to get sand.  Now out his front driveway and one half mile downhill was one of the nicest beaches on the shoreline of the Bay of Fundy, with some of the loveliest sand to be found anywhere in the world.  And Howard knew just how he would get it home.  

Howard owned a wonderful wooden wagon.  Howard loved that wagon.  He loved how he could carry big loads in it.  He loved how he could do real jobs with it like bringing home heavy cans of juice from the store for his mother.  There was only one time that Howard wasn’t one hundred per cent happy with his wagon and that was when his brother Roddy got a shiny new wagon.  Roddy’s wagon was very flashy and nice looking.  But after a while Howard noticed that Roddy’s wagon started to look a little scratched and not so shiny.  Pretty soon Howard was back to loving his wagon one hundred per cent.

Howard and his wagon

Yes, Howard knew that his wagon would be perfect for lugging sand for the sandbox.  Marjorie Snow agreed to let Howard take his wagon to the beach as long he came home “before the men came home for supper.”  Howard set off down the hill with his wagon, walking only on the side of the road facing “traffic” - really just some half-ton trucks going to or from the wharf - as his mother had taught him.

Down the hill went Howard and his wagon.  First he passed Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Lester Perry’s house.  Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Lester were not really his aunt and uncle, everybody just called them that because they were both such kind people.  They always had a Pantry cookie - those large, crispy, ginger cookies with the fancy edge - for kids who came to visit.  Even Trusty-the-dog stopped off to visit them and, whether he was with the children or travelling alone, Trusty curled up on the floor under Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Lester’s kitchen table and ate his Pantry cookie.  Aunt Bertha, Lester’s sister, lived in the back half of the house and Lester’s brother, George Perry, a carpenter, lived in the workshop behind.  George Perry’s home was truly a fascinating place - Howard recalls it was a little like looking inside a trailer or a compartment on a train.  As tiny as George Perry’s home was, it had everything he needed and it was all perfectly organized.

Then down the hill to the entrance to Charles Street, then Stan and Winnie Ellis’ house where Hubert and his sister Barbara grew up and, even after Barbara married Carl Williams and moved to the States, she still came home every summer.  George Snow tells the story of old Mrs. Sam Perry who lived on Charles Street and used to watch his brother Doug Snow and Hubert play baseball by the hour.  “My, my, my, what will ever become of those two boys?” she used to say.  Well, both Doug Snow and Hubert Ellis earned doctorates in mathematics and taught for many years, Doug at Acadia University and Hubert at Queen’s University.

Howard went past the Curry house - it was a summer home for people living in the States.

Then Howard pulled his wagon in front of Aunt Frances and Uncle Les Delaney’s new house where they and his cousin Charlotte would soon live.  For now Charlotte and her parents were living with Howard and Charlotte’s grandmother at the end of Charles Street.

The swamp was next, then Bingay’s hill, called that because Mr. Bingay rented the hill for a couple of years to grow potatoes.  At the foot of Bingay’s Hill was the fire pond, dug by the Fire Department. 

Next was Dorothy and Charlie Ellis’ house where they lived with their children Arnold, Nancy, Brenda and, later, Bobby.  They were a nice family and George Snow tells this little story about Nancy who was a bit of a prankster.  When George was the local member of the legislative assembly and had just been appointed as Minister in charge of Housing, he was due to make a visit to one of the housing offices.  Housing matters were - as it might be delicately put -  in some disarray so the manager was especially anxious that the visit go well.  He had no idea that his employee, Nancy Ellis, and the Minister were both from Port Maitland.  Before George’s visit Nancy would tease her boss “When the Minister arrives, I’m going to call out ‘Hi George, how are you?’ ” “Don’t you dare!” said the manager.  Sure enough when George Snow arrived Nancy called out “Hi George, how are you?”  “Well just fine, Nancy,”  replied George and the two had a nice chat about Port Maitland matters.

Then there was Russell and Belle (“skinny as a kerchief”) Pitman’s house where they lived with their children Barbara, Junior, Joy, Gordon, and Dawn.  Then Mac and Ruby Thompson’s where they raised their sons Wayne, Dickie and Gerald.

In the gravel pit behind where the Fire Hall is now was the old ball field.  Behind the ball field was the meadow where kids and adults alike used to skate during the winter.  George Sollows was a wonderful skater and he always dammed the creek to make a skating rink on the meadow.  On winter evenings someone usually made a fire with wood or an old tire, so it was a great place to skate.  
Lillian and Kingsley Frost and their sons, Lyndall and Harry, lived in the house which is now just after the Fire Hall.  Kingsley was a boat builder and sometimes Howard liked to watch Kingsley working in his boat shop nearby.

Then there was Hollie and Edith Thompson’s home where their son Borden (Cap), his wife Amy and their children, Conroy and Patty, also lived.  Hollie Thompson sold gas at the shore and usually had a card game going in his shed at the wharf.  His sons, Borden and Mac Thompson, fished together. Borden’s dog, Bingo, was always around and was almost like Borden’s guard dog, growling ferociously if anyone got too close to him.  Bingo was smart, too, and would wait at home until somehow he knew that Borden and Mac’s boat was coming in for the day.  Bingo would then race to the end of the wharf to greet them.

Finally, Howard pulled his wagon across the road, passing by George Sollows’ store.  He came by Ivan Thomas’ fish plant, then two fish sheds, the first owned by Russell Pitman and the  second by Howard’s father.  Next was the tide gate.  Finally, across the road was the beach.

As soon as he landed on the beach Howard loaded his wagon.  He wanted his sand to stay put on the drive home, so he loaded that wagon with the wet sand that packs the best.  He piled the sand as high as he could, well over the top of the rails.  When he thought that he had every last grain of sand that would possibly fit in his wagon, he was ready to play.

As usual, there were lots of kids to play with.  They played in the sand, chased each other through the freezing waves and splashed in the warm pools of water left by the receding tide.  The hours slipped by.  

When the time came to take the sand home, it was all Howard could manage to get the wagon up over the bank.  He pulled with all his might to get the wagon headed uphill.  Inch by inch he pulled the wagon.  After half an hour he was still near the bottom of the hill.

Now any wagon owner will be able to tell you this: there is a world of difference between the work needed to haul an empty wagon downhill early on a summer’s afternoon to that necessary to lug that very same wagon, loaded over the top of the rails, uphill at the end of the day.  Wagon owners will also know that sand that is washed twice a day by the Bay of Fundy tides is heavy, very heavy indeed.

Not for a moment did Howard consider abandoning his sand.  Not for a moment did he think of leaving his wagon. 

Like an answer to an unspoken prayer, suddenly Arnold Ellis appeared.  Arnold was a big boy, perhaps eight or nine years older than Howard.  Arnold seemed to instantly understand Howard’s predicament.  In the kindest way possible, he asked Howard if he would like a hand.  Howard did not hesitate - yes, he would like help.

So one big boy and one big-for-his-age boy set off up the hill together.  One half mile of wagon pulling of heavy sand would not have been easy, even for a big boy, but Howard remembers how cheerfully Arnold pulled the wagon.  Arnold didn’t complain at all about helping Howard.  Most of all, he didn’t make Howard feel the least bit foolish for being unable to get his wagon home.

There were lots fewer buildings on the other side of the road.  First was Ivan Thomas’ fish freezer.  Then Donald and Alice Moses’ home.  

Bernard and Luella Smith and their children Glenna, Bennett and Kenneth lived in the next house.  Kenneth, who was Howard’s age, grew up to captain big ferry boats between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor and between Digby and Saint John. 

Then Edison and Elinor (Hollie and Edith Thompson’s daughter) Outhouse and their five  children - Burton, Carol, Iris, Crystal and David.  Edison was a cook on the big Coast Guard lightship which warned boats of the dangerous Lurcher Shoals, about 13 miles off Yarmouth.  Edison worked on the lightship for a month and then he came back home for a month.  

Back across the swamp.  The swamp was teeming with frogs but they were silent that afternoon, unlike the springtime when the pink-winks, the small frogs, seemed in constant cry. 
Olive and Ashton Thomas lived in the next house - their children, Frances, Shirley (Lew) and Blanche had grown up and moved away.  

Just across from Howard’s lived Ira and Laura Smith, Arnold’s grandparents.  Their children were Dorothy, Bernard, Leland (Bussy) and Edna, but those kids, too, had grown up and moved to their own homes.  Arnold’s aunt and uncles were certainly no strangers to hard work.  His Aunt Edna made such fine molasses cookies and brown bread that she had to start her own bakery to satisfy all the people who wanted her cooking.  His Uncle Bussy was just getting ready to build his own house on the shore hill.  And Arnold’s Uncle Bernard, well he fished for lobsters from Port Maitland for more than 70 winters, which has got to be some kind of record. 

Howard worried about what would happen when they came to his house.  Perhaps he wouldn’t be able to keep the wagon from rolling back down the hill once Arnold had finished pulling.  Howard needn’t have given that problem a moment’s thought.  Without being asked, Arnold Ellis pulled the wagon full of sand well into Howard’s driveway, almost to the sandbox. 

And then, as quickly as Arnold had appeared at the bottom of the hill, he left Howard’s yard and was gone.

Although Howard wasn’t very old and hadn’t even started school yet, he knew he had received a beautiful gift from Arnold Ellis on that fine summer’s day so long ago.

We received help with this story from many people.  George Snow was especially helpful with his knowledge of all things Port Maitland.  Susan Snow Moores and Charlotte Delaney Covert also remembered many details of Port Maitland people.  Megan Snow and Julian Smith assisted with the editing.  Chris Snow did the computer work.  Thank you all.

Howard and Madeleine
Christmas 2013


  1. I think I posted to a wrong site, but in any case, this 2013 trip down memory lane was a wonderful piece and made my Christmas special today. Thanks so much, Howard and company!

    Brenda Ellis Adams

  2. Thanks, once again for this wonderful flashback. I think if Howard had worked as hard rubbing those rocks together as he did on getting the wagon full of sand home, he would have filled the sand box and then some. These were wonderful times and that neighbourhood was an almost magical place to grow up in.
    Thanks to all who had a hand in this, God bless you all.
    I can hardly wait for next year and see what story will brighten the Christmas season then.
    Larry Stephens

  3. Thank you so much for this years story. Larry has told me so many times of growing up in Port Maitland and stories about many of the people who lived there. This is the first time I have heard this one and I think it is a wonderful memory for you to have and share with the rest of us. Merry Christmas to you both. Shirley Stephens

  4. Thanks fo was as for this. It was as previous stated it is like a walk down memory lane. I read this to Yvette this morning from my Blackberry and yes had a job to keep a dry eye. So well written one could see Howard walked to the shore. So many fond memories of Port Maitland and the folks mentioned in the the article.
    Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.
    Harry & Yvette Frost

  5. I sure enjoyed reading this 'memory' story about people I know (knew). I especially remember the Snow family as I looked after Susan, Howard & Rodney sooooo many years ago. My imagination carried me back to the 1950's!!! "Aunt Myrtle was one of my babysitters!! Loved her to pieces, and yes her cookies were always available!! It was interesting to read that the Smith and Ellis families are related.............Thanks for sharing these memories of Port Maitland (if only we could turn back time - guess you just did!!) Those were the GREAT years. Doris (Crosby) Mercer, Ontario

  6. Thanks for sharing information that I didn't know about old friends and reviving good memories of people from my past.

  7. Even though I didn't grow up in Port Maitland, I did spend a lot of time there. My grandparents, Maggie & Bill Smith lived in on Charles St and I guess I'm related to a few of those mentioned in the article. I fondly remember several summers spent exploring the nooks and crannys at the shore, fishing off the boats and getting into mischief. I have many pleasant memories of the Snow's hospitality. I still have the first postage stamp given to me by Marjorie to begin my collection. Thanks for the story. Wonderful memories of a time long ago. Murray P Lewis

  8. Thank you Howard and all the members of the Snow family for sharing this delightful story. Always enjoy hearing stories about the history of this community. We love Port Maitland! Cheers, Patti Durkee

  9. I put 'Port Maitland' in my search engine and was delighted to arrive at this site of wonderful stories -- adventures that took place before my family lived in Port Maitland. We lived in the village in the late 1970's, into 1980. It was a special time for my family as I remember the wonderful people of the community, our precious little house and our large backyard with a playhouse that seemed to provide endless hours of fun for our girls and those who visited. We enjoyed the beach, etc. ... just a great place to call 'home.' Cheers, Helena