Jeanette Muriel Brown has experienced ‘some good times, some bad times’ during her 100 years

Jeanette Muriel Brown wishes she could turn back the clock.

Brown, who celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday, became a wife at 16 and a mother at 17.

“I couldn’t get back to school because I had to look after the children,” said Brown, who lives at Wynn Park Villa in Truro.

She was determined to get her high school diploma, however, and finally did at the age of 63.

“If I can do it at 63, (kids) should be able to do it at 18.”

Brown was born in Truro in 1909, three years before the Titanic sunk and five years before the First World War began.

She doesn’t remember much about Truro from her childhood since she moved to Cape Breton when she was about seven. She later lived in the United States for many years, married her first husband Charles Paris, had three children and managed a successful co-op store in Hartford, Conn.

“We went to the various stores and we sold the stuff to them as we bought it. We didn’t make a profit,” Brown explained. “That’s not what it was all about. It was about helping the people.”

Brown also moved back and forth between the U.S. and Truro during the Great Depression in the 1930s.

“The only thing I can remember from the Depression is that we all had to tighten our belts. You couldn’t spend what you didn’t have.”

During the Second World War, Brown worked in an ammunition factory in Montreal.

“I worked there for two years as an inspector,” she said. “I inspected the casings.”

Brown married her second husband, Lewis Brown, in 1958 (he died in 2002) and moved back to Truro for good about 30 years ago. Unfortunately, some of the same problems she witnessed in her younger years regarding people of her race was still evident.

“I was so surprised when I came back home and found that it had not changed as far as black people were concerned. I didn’t see them (being offered) jobs. I still don’t.”

Besides her three children (two of whom have died), Brown has nine grandchildren and said she can’t count how many great-grandchildren she has.

“But my great-great-grandchildren, I think I have 15 of them,” she said. “I’m happy I’m at this age and I can see some of my great-great-grandchildren.”

She reflected on reaching the century milestone.

“Let’s just say it’s been half-and-half,” said Brown, who was surrounded by friends and family at a birthday party at the fire hall in Truro. “Some good times, some bad times.”

Good genes is one of the keys to Brown’s longevity. Her mother died at 92 and her grandfather was in his 90s.

Brown cites hard work and common sense as two other important ingredients to leading a good life.

“I was taught to do what you have to do with what you’ve got.”

(This was published in the April 8, 2009 issue of the Truro Daily News.)


BIBLE HILL – Canada’s oldest bluegrass festival will be moving to the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition grounds in Bible Hill this summer.
The Nova Scotia Bluegrass and Oldtime Music Festival, held in East Stewiacke since 2005, will call the Agridome home July 24 to 26.
About 700 to 1,000 people usually attend the 37-year-old event but organizers are hoping for at least 1,500 spectators this year.
Charlie MacKenzie, chairman of the music festival and head event organizer, cited weather and changing demographics for the change in venue.
“The site wasn’t working for us so we had to look at something different,” he said. “The weather last year played havoc.”
Aside from the weather, the East Stewiacke venue was a beautiful spot, MacKenzie added.
“You had the river flowing next to you, that sort of thing. But if it rains, the crowd stays away.”
The Agridome will allow for an outdoor experience but bluegrass fans will be protected from the elements.
“Regardless of the weather, they’ll be under a nice translucent roof,” MacKenzie said. “We’re going to have artificial turf on the floor.”
The venues in the past have had weather protection for the crowd, usually a solid or tent roof. But rain and wind still dampened the festival events.
“Our demographics (aging fan base) are changing,” MacKenzie added with a chuckle. “And they don’t want to sit in the rain.”
Dan Fraser, the president of the Downeast Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Society, said they have wanted to move the festival for a number of years and Truro/Bible Hill seemed like a prime location.
“We have more camping sites with power and water in Truro,” Fraser said. “Other than that, I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of changes.”
Altering the festival’s venue will make for a better experience for everyone attending, Fraser explained.
“We feel it’ll be considerably bigger in Truro.”
Lloyd MacPhee, the owner of the East Stewiacke property where the festival was held for the past four years, said the event might be better off in its new location.
“We run our festivals different than they do. Some of the stuff they do – people don’t like the way they run the festival.”
Stewiacke mayor Dereck Rhoddy wasn’t aware of the event’s relocation until being notified by the Truro Daily News.
“I’m just a little bit disappointed,” said Rhoddy. “It’ll mean a loss to the economy in our area for that weekend. I’m really disappointed that they made that decision.
“We don’t really have a lot of attractions in Stewiacke. Opportunities like this are definitely a great impact.”
The exhibition grounds in Bible Hill will also host the annual Dutch Mason Blues Festival Aug. 7 to 9.
More information on the Bluegrass & Oldtime Music Festival can be found at

(This story was published in the April 1, 2009 issue of the Truro Daily News.)

TRURO – When former Truro resident Ian Cameron was five years old, he caught scarlet fever.
“I just remember being very sick,” recalled Cameron, who was the class valedictorian at Colchester County Academy in 1961.
His family’s home was quarantined. A sign was placed in the window and he was secluded from his siblings in an effort to stop the disease from spreading. The family wasn’t permitted to leave the house.
“I can’t remember how my father got groceries,” said Cameron, 65, who will be discussing the history of quarantines in Nova Scotia this evening at the Colchester Historical Society Museum.
Typhus, cholera and smallpox put a nasty dent in Nova Scotia’s medical history. The worst of these diseases were found in Halifax and Pictou. Truro was more fortunate.
“I think because of it not being a port, it just wasn’t at risk,” said Cameron.
Truro’s strongest link to quarantine history lies with Adams George Archibald, a father of Confederation based in Truro.
When he was 18, Archibald volunteered to be a medical assistant in a quarantine hospital in Halifax in 1832. His life of pubic service is honoured in Truro.
“Adams Street is named after him. Archibald Street is named after him. George Street is named after him,” Cameron said.
Cameron, who is now a professor of Family Medicine at Dalhousie University, is a Fellow of the Canadian College of Family Physicians and a Diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice.
In 2007, Cameron published Quarantine: What is Old is New. It focuses on the history of Truro,
Pictou, Halifax and Lawlor’s Island and the devastating diseases that were passed from port to port.
He also will comment on the fact that infectious diseases still make headlines, only now the names are SARS virus and bird flu rather than smallpox and cholera.
Elinor Maher, chairwoman of the program committee at the Colchester Historical Society, is looking forward to Cameron’s discussion, particularly considering his strong connections to the area. “His father was the principal of the high school and his mother was a delightful lady who was a well-known artist. They were very much a part of Truro,” said Maher.

(This story was published in the Truro Daily News on Thursday, March 26, 2009.)

The renaming of a king

March 5, 2009

Not that many college-age kids give a flying cod piece but this year marks the 500th anniversary of the coronation of English king Henry VIII.

I know. Exciting stuff. You can barely withstand your exhilaration, I can tell.


Illustration by Natasha Kudashkina

I happen to be a long-time fan of Henry Tudor and his various achievements. He’s best-known for being a turkey leg-eating, wife-beheading womanizer who was a strict Catholic one minute and an anti-papal bad boy the next.

But despite his bad reputation, some historians want King Harry to be bestowed with the title of “Henry The Great” (and not just because of his size). And what better time to give Henry the title than this?

But what’s so “great” about this guy anyway? He’s been dead for, like, a million years. Why is his story still relevant?

(Actually, he’s only been dead for about 460 years, but I digress.)

Henry had his faults, especially when he was older. But compared to his royal contemporaries, he was a chivalrous romantic, inspired by whimsical tales of King Arthur and his court.

He divorced his first wife, a Spanish princess, to marry someone he was in love with, something that no other English king had ever done. His second wife, Anne Boleyn, was executed on charges of adultery that were almost certainly false.

His third wife died in childbirth and his fourth wife, a German princess, agreed to a divorce and lived wealthy for the rest of her life. Henry’s fifth wife, a 16-year-old, was executed for adultery (but at least this time, the charges weren’t so fake).

His son, Edward VI, died of tuberculosis when he was a teenager. His daughter Mary burnt hundreds of Protestants and earned the title ” Bloody Mary”. However, his daughter by Boleyn, Elizabeth I, is known as one of the greatest monarchs in history.

One of Elizabeth’s greatest victories was the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It was her father who poured so much money into the impressive English navy.

Henry VIII was able to divorce his wives because he (and his councillors, many of whom helped Henry along his path to greatness) simply changed the law.

He was born a Catholic but rejected the Pope’s wishes, named himself Head of the Church of England, divorced Catherine of Aragon and married Anne Boleyn.

I don’t know about you, but risking purgatory so you can marry the woman you love is a bit romantic, isn’t it?

Henry continued searching for the perfect queen until a few years before his death, a wife who would deliver him a healthy son who would carry on the Tudor family tree. His final wife, Katherine Parr, acted as nurse and companion when Henry was bed-ridden and far too ill to conceive.

Henry VIII died in 1547. During his life, he was a patron of the arts and the first English monarch to authorize an English-language Bible. By separating England from the power of Rome, Henry instilled a sense of identity and pride in his people.

He may not have been the perfect ruler, it’s true. But any fan of English history can tell you there’s no such thing and no such person.

If Henry was anything, he was one of the more human of all the English monarchs. And definitely one of the most interesting.

And for that reason, he deserves to be called “Henry The Great.”

(Published in the March 5 2009 edition of The Surveyor. Also featured as a guest post on historical blog Tudor Stuff.)

A column I wrote for this week’s issue of The Surveyor (due out this Thursday!) was also featured as a guest post at Tudor Stuff, a lovely Tudor history blog. Click here to read King Henry… The Great?.

I recently said I had too much on my plate and shouldn’t accept any more offers to write for any more sites, especially ones that didn’t pay. But here I am again. I’ve agreed to contribute to a Halifax arts website (currently under construction- I’ll add the link later), music articles mostly, I guess. Which is good, because that’s what I want to write.

Also, I’ve been contacted by a new college site called Dorms 101 about writing pop culture articles. I’m pretty excited about this because they said they like my witty style of writing- it happens to be my favorite style to write in. So, that’s always good. With the school year coming to an end, I’ll have more time to write for these various publications now.

I think I’ll also start working on my big music website project this summer too. Maybe put the site together, get some interviews done, articles written, albums reviewed, links posted, etc. I’m a little a-feared of the idea of re-learning some HTML stuff but I’ll likely end up redesigning the site again after I’ve taken Interactive Multimedia, here at Holland College (after Journalism, that is). But I still want it to look nice before then. I’m just really excited about it!

Oh. Almost forgot. My clip-folio is on it’s way to being put together. Good for me!