Life just wouldn't be the same
The mid-1970s on PEI were a time before Google and cellphones, when rural Islanders turned to the grapevine for news of local goings on, the kind of tidbits you wouldn't read in the newspaper but might hear from radio legend Loman MacAulay on CFCY.
Around that same time the back to the land folks began arriving on PEI. There was little fanfare for the newcomers but these so-called hippies who came from hither and yon created a curiosity. The kind of cautious reserve set aside for the wildest of notions such as every home having a computer and every pocket bulging with one of those portable telephones featured in high-tech science magazines.
A handful of these new folks took up residence in remote areas surrounding Murray River, a community where the shine had pretty much worn off the novelty of running water and electric lights and a meat peddler made the rounds every Saturday morning.
So why, in the minds, of some individuals, when most were celebrating the benefits of up-to-date amenities would these strangers want to set up housekeeping without electricity, indoor plumbing and oil fired furnaces?
That question raised at least four decades ago would continue to puzzle some Islanders despite the fact their focus drifted to countless other out of the ordinary events over the years.
Earlier this month some of those involved in the back to the land movement held a weekend long gathering, a celebration of a lifestyle chosen by strangers and openly placed under the microscopic view of the native Islanders around them.
In the early days some of the newcomers were drawn to MacLure's Dam in Murray River on calm summer evenings where they would take advantage of the fresh water pond for bathing, swimming or to just get a break from their often desolate surroundings.
It was an outing for the folks from away but an activity that intrigued some of the local old fellas whose cars inched their way around the property in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the goings-on. This amid chatter of these outsiders coming to Canada to dodge the US draft or specifically to grow some of that 'wacky weed' that was credited to making them foreign but friendly folk.
The rumours were primitive and the attitude especially went against the traditional welcoming Island way. Even when you considered some of the regular rubberneckers had never travelled out of the province, let alone driven any further west than Charlottetown it was ignorance at its finest.
But time passed and the locals discovered these imports were educated and ambitious people who had no intention of taking advantage of anyone. Their only fault, if you could call it that, was they were trying to make their mark in a non-traditional way. They were honest, hard workers who came to PEI to learn and hopefully cash in on some of the Island's reputed tranquility and simplicity.
Whether the locals realized it or not these new people would offer a free education in tolerance, team work, patience and respect.
Plenty was learned from the back to the landers as they naturally weaved their way into the history of this province. Our lives would certainly not be the same now if they hadn't come here way back then.
Heather Moore is editor of The Eastern Graphic. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org