An old photo of Petit de Grat.

The book Acadian Lives consists of interviews with Cape Breton Acadians and was collected and edited by Ronald Kaplan with Rosie Aucoin Grace. The book was published in 2004. The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maria Goyetche of Petit de Grat.

“When I was born we had no church in Petit de Grat. We had seven miles to Arichat Church. We had to walk – there was no car…We had to get up at 8 o’clock to be in time for mass at 10 o’clock. When we went for communion, we didn’t have breakfast.

“I had a little pair of sneakers. When I was 9 and 10 years old – they were 50 [cents] a pair at that time. When the grass was wet with the dew, I didn’t want to wet my shoes. And I’d run three miles before I put on my shoes.

“I had to learn my catechism at home, and school. I had to learn everything – my mother had to teach us. [I made my first communion when] I was 10 years old and 6 months. It was a happy day for us. We had to walk all the ways from Petit de Grat to the convent in Arichat three times a week, May and June, before we made our first communion. And we had to know the catechism, we had to know it by heart.

“The old people, the fishermen at night, when they were not too tired, they always came to our place, and they had all kinds of stories of olden times, about ghost stories. That was the most pastime. They told so much; I’d be so frightened, I couldn’t listen to them. They would talk about seeing – they thought they had seen the devil. And it was all old tricks…

“The only story I remember: one of the fishermen from Rocky Bay. He said, when his first wife died he was so heartbroken that he was praying to see her – he wanted to see her – praying to God to see his wife. And he said, one night he was going somewhere with his horse and wagon – there were no cars at that time – and he saw a white bed across the road, where he was supposed to pass, with a woman laying on it. So he thought for sure that it was his prayers answered, that it was his wife in that white bed. But some were telling stories that were frightening, they were terrible.

“[I was] 20 years old [when I was married.] I met him when I was working for my sister, that was married to his brother. I had only been going with him for two months when we got married. Well, we were supposed to ask our mother and father, grandfather, and godfather. That was, in our time, that was the rule. … – I didn’t have to get married, I just got married for God’s sake, to bring up the family.

“That’s what Fr. Mombourquette told me, when I said I wanted to be a nun. And he said it was better to raise a family, there were more needed, than to be a nun… if I had been a nun, I had no responsibility. It would save me a lot of trouble. And raising a family is a big responsibility. A painful one. I had four sons in the army. Two were wounded. And oh what I went through. I know if I had been a nun, I would have been saved – it would saved me a lot of worry, a lot of pain.”