Monday, July 2, 2012

The Grease Pole

One of my favourite July 1st, Canada Day, traditions is going to the wharf, in Lockeport, N.S., to watch the local boys and sometimes girls, attempt the grease pole. I don't know of anywhere else that has a grease pole and I don't know where the idea came from but I do know that it's exciting to watch for sure. You may never have seen a grease pole so I will attempt to explain it. A grease pole is a long tree which has been peeled of all its bark and branches and has lard smeared on it. After the lard is applied money is stuck to the pole. The object is to slide out on the pole, which is suspended over the water, and pick off the money as you go. It may sound easy but its not. Everyone who attempts it will eventually plunge into the cold water and some are lucky enough to grab some money off the pole on the way.

The grease pole is only one of the traditions of the July 1st celebrations in Lockeport. I can remember the excitement of watching my father and his brother, Herbie rowing in the dory races. My Dad, who worked in an office for the Federal Government, hadn't had much time to practice rowing but he asked his younger brother to enter the race with him. Herbie had never rowed a double dory before so the night before they practiced rowing around the back harbour. At one point they reached 33 strokes per minute.

On the day of the race Dad told Herbie not to worry if it seemed like the other boats were pulling ahead of them but to let him set the pace and when he said so to really lay on to the oars. Herbie was 17 and my Dad was 30. The race was  from the break water to the wharf and they were rowing against the future international dory rowing champions Carrol McAdams and Walter Nickerson.  I can remember hearing the cat calls from the men on the wharf. They were saying that Dad was only a pencil pusher and couldn't win and what was he doing in a dory race, and things like that. Their comments only made me cheer for Dad and Uncle Herbie even more! Oh, we cheered! I was so proud of my Dad when his dory beat the champs' by a half of a dory length. They had won! The first place prize was ten dollars but it wasn't the money that meant anything. It was the fact that they had won.

It just isn't July 1st without a strawberry shortcake from the ladies at the Anglican Church. We stand in line to buy them as soon as the doors open and then sit on the grass to eat them. No one eats regular meals on July 1st. The firemen always have their barbeque set up offering the public sausages and hot dogs and sometimes the Lions have french fries too.

It seems like everyone who has ever called Lockeport 'home' comes home for the July 1st celebrations. At the end of the day our family all gathers on my Aunt Weasie and Uncle Jimmy's lawn and watch the fireworks which are second to none. We're usually sunburnt and eaten up with mosquito bites by then but it is still a wonderful feeling to know that you've spent July 1st in Lockeport.

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