For the first two nights of our week in Nova Scotia, we stayed in Bridgewater. It’s a real town, neither overtouristed nor collegestudented, of about 8,000 people. The waterside has industrial-strength ships, and the homes have well tended fronts. I couldn’t resist the colour combination of this house, with matching muskoka chairs, found in the neighbourhood of our hotel:
After a complimentary buffet-style breakfast, I wandered down the street towards Woodland Garden Park, which boasts a large pond, some thickly wooded hillsides, and a chance at spotting Belted Kingfishers. If you squint, you’ll see one in the middle of the second photo below.
The birding was great. I would have stayed longer, but my 90 minutes were up. It was time to meet E.g. and head for the Wile Carding Mill Museum.
Dean Wile’s carding mill, built in 1860, prospered because of his high standards of business ethics. Knowing they would get a better return on their goods, farmers from many miles around passed other carding mills on their way to bringing their fleeces here to be carded. The mill ran until the death of Dean’s grandson in 1968. It’s silent now, except for the voices of visitors and their enthusiastic guides… but with a few adjustments of cogs, Wile’s Carding Mill could run again on its 7-horsepower wooden water wheel.
All right, that was my romantic voice. Our guide, Florence, didn’t stint on her explanation of how hard the employees, all teenaged women, worked here. Twelve-hour days with no breaks (although there was an indoor privy for their convenience). The new hiree’s job of mixing the wool with rancid oil (lanolin, which gums up the machinery, had first to be removed). The chances of fire. The five-minute wait for the water wheel to stop if, heaven forbid, someone got caught in the carding machine. Those drums may look carpeted, but the carpeting is of steel wires.
And yet, the mill never burned. The record of accident-free days was excellent. Young women were able to set aside some money prior to marriage. All in all, Florence’s account of the Wile Carding Mill was a positive one. If you’re interested in 19th-Century history, wool processing, labour conditions, alternative energy, or antique machinery, I highly recommend this half-hour visit. E.g. and I both feel it was one of the gems of our week in Nova Scotia.
(Flat Tony, on the other hand, afraid of becoming Perforated Tony, stayed in the car.)