Now and Then: Fred and Carolyn Hunter

Fred and Carolyn, both Haweaters, have been connected to Manitoulin Island for many generations. A cherished heirloom, a binder filled with memorabilia sits on the table. “A lot of our family is in here. We have many ancestral records.” Both Fred and Carolyn spent their formative years on this Island, carrying on the family tradition of farming. Fred also worked for Ontario Hydro as a foreman, laying and maintaining the lines and in forestry, cutting and trimming trees until he retired in 1993.

Their relationship, with each other and with the land, has always been their focus. They became adept at dealing with the pain and the joy nature could bestow on them. Another compelling draw was square dancing, something they both loved and partook in for many years, sharing their skills with other like-minded friends and providing entertainment for local groups and seniors.

“My maternal grandmother, Martha Sloss Paisley and her husband Fred farmed the Long Bay area first and later bought a farm in Sandfield,” Fred begins. “Martha’s sister married a Lewis. The Lewis family has many members, so our extended family is huge. Over the years, my sister Shirley Bond has also accumulated a lot of information about the Paisley, Lewis and McCauley families.”

“Great grandfather on my dad’s side was Paul Hunter. He came from Scotland in the early 1800s and farmed in Tamsworth, Maydock, north of Kingston. He met Elizabeth Miller of English descent and they had nine children. Elizabeth died in 1922, long after her husband passed away in 1888. My paternal grandfather William Hunter, the fifth child of Paul and Elizabeth, married Rose Ann McCauley in 1895 at the Anishnabek Anglican church in Sheguiandah.”

All the grandchildren l to r- Katie, Mitchell, Jenna, Billie, Amy August 1993

“A year later, they bought the 200-acre Tekhummah farm that has been passed down to future generations and wasn’t sold until 2006. That’s 110 years! They had a family of 10 children and son James was my dad. He bought the farm from his dad, as William had before him. I purchased the farm from my dad, James, in 1972. My mother, Gladys, when she was young, worked in Watson’s store in Sandfield. She had one sister, Ethel (Monkhouse) and three bothers, Stan, Everett and Clarence. Stan lived in Spring Bay, Everett took over the Sandfield farm from dad and Clarence, a war veteran, worked at the Espanola Mill.”

William Frederick was born on June 5, 1940 to James and Gladys Hunter. He was named after two grandfathers, ‘William’ Hunter on his dad’s side and ‘Fred’ Paisley. Maternal grandmother was Martha Sloss. Fred would have two siblings, Shirley and Mary. They all lived on the ancestral farm.

“My first memory is walking to school, just up the road. It was only one room for all of us. We came home for lunch. The school was close enough so my mother could watch me all the way there and back again. I liked every subject, especially reading. We played games like ‘anti-I-over.’ The ball was thrown over the school, often with the girls on one side and the boys on the other. Someone would catch it and tag us with it. Occasionally the bell on top of the school would capture the ball and someone would have to dislodge it by hitting it with a stone or climbing up there.”

“We discovered we could occasionally move the school clock ahead one hour while the teacher had her midday nap. It took a few clock changes for teacher to realize our devious deed and we got home earlier than anticipated those days,” Fred confesses, smiling. “Of course, when I got home, I had to milk 10 cows by hand. Thankfully, dad milked the cows in the morning on school days. Chore time was from 4 to 6 pm, suppertime. I worked with dad a lot and he gave me a good lesson about life. He taught me to be respectful and treat people right.”

“I helped raise and show a calf for the 4-H Club and won third prize; but it is noteworthy that all contestants got a ribbon. In 1956, Rena Quackenbush and I won a trip to the Royal Winter Fair for judging a certain class of calves, hogs and sheep. Five of us went on the trip, the agricultural representative, his wife, son, Rena and I.”

High school was on Fred’s agenda for two years, but the curriculum was not exciting enough for him to stay. He prioritized his need to work on the farm with his dad. “Some siblings were still at home and dad was getting older, so it was a good time to make a career decision. I liked being with my family and my friends, so I was encouraged to stay on Manitoulin.”

“At 20, I got extra work with the Manitou Valley Ranch in Sandfield. I used to show cattle for them too, in various locations including the Toronto Exhibition in 1960. That year, we came back with several prizes for the fine cattle we had raised. The cows on our farm, as on most farms, were nurtured with hay and grain. We also milked the beef cows. Later, the black Angus herd was exchanged for the Charolais breed, which was a faster growing, bigger breed. On average, there was a 200-lb difference between cows in the two breeds.”

Fred met Carolyn White at a dance in Sandfield. They danced the evening away and seemed taken with each other. “It was a bit annoying,” Carolyn injects, “after all that time dancing together, he asked a blond girl to dance and then took her home. I found out later that she was his cousin, and I knew it was normal to share rides at that time.” Fred and Carolyn soon began to frequent other dances, including those at Spring Bay.

“My maternal grandparents were Wilfred and Olive (Aelick) McCulligh,” Carolyn offers. “Paternal grandparents were Darius and Mary (Brown) White. My parents, Helen McCulligh and Cliff White farmed in the Green Bay area all their lives.” Carolyn was born on July 25, 1946. There were 17 kids in her family: Donny, Jean, Betty, Terry, Donna, Maryanne, Pete, Tom, Freda, Linda, Gary, Bev, Susan, Christina, Henry Allen, Barbara and Carolyn. “We were all raised on the farm and we got along happily with each other, with our friends and with our extended family.”

“A poignant first memory was Laddie, our dog, saving Susan, my three-year-old sister. Mother was hanging the laundry outside and I noticed Laddie kept running from the house to the barn. He seemed to be signalling, so I followed him to the barn. Susan had climbed into the water trough and was in distress. I wasn’t a lot older, but I was able to pull her out and she was alright. After that event, Susan became more special to me. Both Laddie and I had saved her.”

“Another milestone in life was the burning of our barn. I believe it was hay time and my older sister Jean was babysitting. The children, including me, age seven, were in our beds. When we realized that there was a fire nearby, we hid under our beds where we felt safe. Jean was working hard to convince us to leave the house, just in case. She finally succeeded. The barn burned down, but luckily, the house was spared and nobody was hurt.”

“At the Green Bay School, Mrs. Keatley helped me a lot. She taught Grades 1 to 8 in the one-room schoolhouse. She was a mentor to me, despite having 32 to 34 kids at any one time. At recess, spelling bees, tag and baseball were popular. Occasionally another school would visit, and we would challenge them to a baseball playoff. My cohort of four kids started together in Grade 1 but was reduced to two when we graduated from Grade 8. Both Ron Wood and I wrote the compulsory entrance exam for high school that year.”

“After Grade 8, I stayed home to help with the chores. Summers were spent at Manitou Haven, in Rockville, owned by the friendly Chisholm family. I cleaned cabins and served food to the tourists. I met a lot of nice people. I was 18 when Fred and I married on September 5, 1964 in the Green Bay United Church. We both shared a love for dancing which has followed us through our lives. We had over 200 people at the reception in the Mindemoya Community Hall.” After being impressed with Niagara Falls during their honeymoon, the newlyweds rented a farm in Tehkummah and started their life together.

They had two children, Jamie and Ann. “Watching them grow was another chapter in our years on the farm. We taught them about farm life and watched them bloom. Lots of stories accumulated there. One is the pig story. “It was tricky doing anything with this old sow. We loaded her into the truck. Putting a bucket over her head to overcome her defiance, we encouraged her to walk backwards up the plank. As we were driving slowly through Manitowaning, I noticed in my rear-view mirror that our sow was running along the road beside me. She had gotten her nose under the boards at the back of the truck and jumped out. When she stopped to scratch in the roadside grass, I got a rope on her leg. I walked her back to Harold O’Brien’s place. He had a load of gravel at the end of his driveway which served as a ramp to get her back on the truck.”

Jean holding Carolyn, Donna, Betty, Mary Ann in front

Turkeys were raised for many years on the farm. “After the kids left, we had to stop; we couldn’t totally process 200 turkeys by hand anymore. We had to get 10 of them ready to eat each day (at this time of the year), to keep up with the Christmas demand for folks who came to the farm for them.”

Fred got on the Tehkummah council for a stint. He was tasked with the fence viewer role. It was a system of arbitration that helped council decide where a legal fence could be placed. There was no other government body available for this task and it seems that there were many areas of contention on Manitoulin. “We had a specific road that we used to get to some of these land parcels with no distinct boundaries, but ultimately that property was sold, and we no longer had access to these contested areas.” Fred left council when he got the construction job with Ontario Hydro, laying lines, in 1974. “I was a part-time foreman for them. Whenever I was laid off for two to eight weeks due to a work slowdown, I would go back to the forestry division.”

In 1985 both Jamie and Ann were married, Ann to Greg Pyette in July and James to Kelley Tann in October. It was a busy year for the Hunter family. Ann works for the Rainbow District School Board. Jamie and Kelley have Mitchell and Jenna. Jamie works for Ontario Hydro in forestry and Ann and Greg operate their market garden business Pike lake Farm, assisted by their daughter Katie and her family.

“In 1987 we joined the modern square-dancing club in Tehkummah and were part of the Starlight Dancers. Earlier square dancing, before the 1950s, had used only fiddle music. The modern version had a range of music. In February 1990, we joined the Little Current Hawberry Hoedowners dancing group.” Three years later, the dancing teacher in Little Current left and Fred decided to take this role on.

“I took a one-week course in Cookstown and we had to call a dance. Six of us were training so we took turns calling and dancing. There were 12 squares of dancers and they all had to dance in harmony, or we were in trouble. It went quite well. We got off the beat once while I was calling and had to restart, but otherwise all went well.”

“We continued with the Hawberry Hoedowners and I taught for 20 years until 2017. During that time, we attended five jamborees, including one notable one in 1996 with over 400 dancers from all parts of Canada. The square-dancing was a real social time for us. We made good friends and had lots of fun from September to May each year. We drove from Tehkummah originally, until we moved to Little Current in 2016. We also taught the folks at Community Living how to square dance. They loved to watch us doing our patterns and they enjoyed participating too. Our group was well-received at bluegrass events. Revenues were donated to the hospital, medical centers and LTC.”

Fred and Carolyn attended another square dance convention for three days. “I had the honour of calling for a group of wheelchair dancers. They were quite good, having danced before and they came from all parts of Canada,” Fred declares. “There were four basic moves that they performed. Sometimes the music ran out before they were finished doing their pattern. It takes a little longer when you are in a wheelchair, but we all had fun.” In Massey, they were square-dancing with tractors. That was quite the entertainment.”

“I took a retirement package when Hydro began to downsize their labour pool in 1993. We continued to farm until 2006, when we sold the property. We kept the house for another 12 years until 2018. We had already moved into this apartment in Little Current, two years earlier.”

“Volunteerism? We worked with the seniors in Tehkummah for about six years. We cleaned the hall and got the place ready for special events.” Fred was president of the Tehkummah Triangle Seniors’ Club. Most important event? Fred adds, “meeting each other at that dance and a lot of dances since then! Having our children, watching them grow and have their own families, has been rewarding too.”

Other volunteerism included the information booth on the ferry for 10 years. “We were kept busy, getting information to passengers. Carolyn and I also offered our services to the information booth in Little Current. We spent time with the museum in South Baymouth and the Michael’s Bay Historical Society as directors. That work is ongoing. There are five graveyards in Michael’s Bay, and we are trying to preserve them for posterity.”

“Collections? No. There was no time for that.” “Favourite holiday? While working in forestry in New Liskeard, we rented a cottage for two months and the kids followed me around at work.” “Favourite television shows? ‘I Love Lucy,’ the ‘Grand Ole Opry’ and ‘Vet Stories’.” “Favourite sports? Baseball and a bit of hockey.” “Awards, trophies? For square dancing and 4-H.” Carolyn adds, “Fred was Senior of the Year in the 1990s when he was president of the Triangle Club.”

“What are we most proud of? Our family, our friends, homes, and all we have accomplished over the years. We now have our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. It’s rewarding to see them emerging and making their own lives.” “What would we still like to do? Take the train to the West Coast to see more of Canada. We really don’t feel compelled to go to distant shores in other countries.” “What are we most afraid of? One of us dying and not being together anymore. We hope our health will stay good for the foreseeable future.”

“Is there anything we would change if we could go back in time? No, we both would do the same, not change anything,” they agreed, except perhaps, increasing our farming operation at the time. However, “we had two tractors, one for each of us, and we really enjoyed the field work. Today that same work is easier with better, advanced machinery and the bales are bigger. Getting the hay baled and stored was a much more time-consuming and harder task back then.”

Is there someone who has particularly inspired you? “My dad gave me some important advice. He was an honourable man,” Fred shares. “My mom was also helpful, and Carolyn’s parents helped us too.” “Our legacy for the future? Our memories, displayed in these big binders, and the stories that we can share with friends and family. We also have family plots set aside.” “Recipe for happiness? Just keep talking if there is disagreement and make up before going to bed.”

“Advice for our youth? Enjoy life and when you have your own families, take the time to be with your children and always be respectful of others.”

“Family traditions? We like to participate in community events, like the Canada Day Parade on July 1. In one South Baymouth parade in the 1980s, we were both wearing red hats in the photo. A family tradition years ago at Easter was eating as many fried eggs as we could,” Carolyn continues.

She recalls that “George Skippen would take yearly family photos of the big White family at the farm on Christmas morning. When we were growing up, Christmas presents were always opened Christmas Eve, so the kids could get up the next morning and play with their gifts. Now, we all get together in July for Christmas instead of December,” Carolyn adds, “every third week of July is a family reunion for all the brothers and sisters. It’s officially Christmas in July. That is quite a sizeable bunch of good people. The last few years we have had this celebration at my sister Freda’s home, at Ten Mile Point.”

“Today, here, we share the work, the cooking and the cleaning. Fred is good at baking bread from scratch,” Carolyn adds. “We love the Island. It is the best place to be. We have lots of fresh air, water and good neighbours. It has been an exceptional place to raise a family. People are friendly, they will wave to you and talk to you. We never feel isolated here in our special place.”