Avery Cress: Fish Tales and Beefsteak Tomatoes
By Angela McMullen
A collection of stories of the people of Bear River would not be complete without an Avery Cress profile.
Avery Bruce Cress of the Chute Road was a story-teller who loved every aspect of his humble life. His happy eyes were a reflection of his soul; kind and ever so gentle.
Avery was proud of the life he had created for himself. So much so, that his enthusiasm spilled over into many conversations through social opportunities and home visits.
He was well-known for the luscious gardens he shared so lovingly with those in his life and those in the community. Avery always had a stand at the end of his driveway from which he sold vegetables. If you were lucky to find him at home, you were in for a treat. Stories and facts swarmed in his head, tidbits he eagerly shared with anyone who cared to listen. Avery carefully explained different varieties of vegetables and best growing environments, and it seemed as though tomatoes were his favorite.
A visit with Avery was an exceptional social experience. You could get a lesson on bird behavior, and it was likely that you’d be invited to feed the birds at a feeder. You could be invited inside to listen to him play the harmonica or enjoy a lesson in CB communication.
Children enjoyed a short walk to the fish pond where Avery swept them away in storybook fashion with fish tales. A visit with Avery left you with the feeling that you could do anything; swim any ocean or climb any mountain.
His granddaughter Wendy Richard remembers him fondly and has submitted a school project she compiled on her grandfather as a young girl.
Remembrance Day a few years back also inspired an essay from Ms. Richard, which is posted as well.
A Piece of History
By Wendy Richard
A boy named Avery Cress was born in Deep Brook,AnnapolisCountyin a rented house to his parents Roderick and Elsie Cress in 1921.
His father died when he was two years old. His mother remarried when he was four. She married Frank Kaulback. She had another son and two daughters by her new husband. Then they moved to Victory, which is between Bear River andSouth Milford.
His step-father made him work hard and they didn’t have a lot of money. His chores were to feed farm animals such as chickens and pigs. He also had to milk the cows and cut and pile firewood.
His sisters’ chores were quite different. They picked berries in the summer. They did the housework and some of the cooking.
The schools were important to the community because of the things it did for the community. It taught children as well as held small meetings and bake sales.
The church was very important in the community because of the religious sense. The church was also used for weddings.
There was a truck that held supplies. On the truck was food like fruits, vegetables, candy, oil for lamps and other various articles. There were two stores, two churches and two schools.
Victory was a very rural community. Everybody had to work very hard. There wasn’t a lot of spare time for anyone.
Electricity hadn’t reached Victory while my grandfather lived there. To this day, electricity still does not run in Victory.
During the Depression years Victory did pretty good. The people there were farmers and wood cutters and were almost self-sufficient. The only thing they needed to buy was kerosene flour, molasses and butter. His step-father cut wood and would trade it for the supplies the truck would carry.
There were different ways to save supplies as well as money. At night, a family would blow out their lanterns and go to a neighbors house. They would alternate houses, thereby saving fuel and socializing at the same time.
Christmas during the Depression was pretty slim. There would only be one toy; a mouth organ or a jackknife, a coconut and some oranges, but no one went hungry and everyone stuck together and made it through.
Grampy quit school after grade ten. He thought he would be freer, but quickly found out this wasn’t so. He had to work for his step-grandfather. They cut pulp wood by hand, ten hours a day for one dollar or one dollar and fifty cents a day.
He says he regrets quitting school, but by the time he was eighteen, they had moved to Bear Riverand he decided to join the Army. There was a war on in a far away place and they paid good money, one dollar and sixty-five cents a day in the Army. This sounded more exciting than working for his step-father so away he went.
The family moved to Bear River when he was seventeen.Bear River had jobs and electricity. His first job was in the lumber mill and he made fifteen cents an hour. This was easier than working in the woods and Bear Riverwas almost a city compared to life in Victory.
During the war, he went to many foreign countries;Germany,Belgium,Holland,Italy and Africa. He also learned to stand up for himself and matured very quickly. He also met a woman, Annie Stewart, whom h e would later marry.
While he was in Europe he sent twenty dollars a month home to his mother. When he got home he had over a thousand dollars. He had a wife and they used the money to build their house, where he still lives to this day. With his new attitude, his step-father treated him much better too.
While he was away, things changed in the community also. People were making four dollars a day, a wage unheard of five years before. When he came back on the train, it stopped at Cornwallis. He didn’t know where he was. There was nothing there when he left and now was a busy job generating place.
If given a chance to live at any time, grampy would have chosen to have been born in the twenties. Many parts of his childhood were rough, he doesn’t like to talk about it, but life was simpler then, and he fondly remembers the war years. He also said he’d do it again, and is glad he went.
The present is difficult. He says he wouldn’t want to be a teenager these days because of crime, drugs and world instability.
He says he wouldn’t want to be a young person bringing up small children.
His outlook for the future is not very optimistic. Fewer and fewer jobs, high tech war, pollution and many other problems make the future look bleak to him. Is he wrong or will we have what it takes to get us through like they did then?
A Remembrance Day Reflection
By Wendy Richard
When I think of my grandfather Avery, I reflect on his many gardens and his dedication to making them bigger and better, year after year, right up to his death; rows of potatoes, tomatoes, peas, beans and corn.
I remember the smell of his shirt, a concoction of sweat, dirt and citronella. To this day, when I close my eyes and see him, my eyes still water with the memories of these scents.
Avery didn’t always wear a shirt. To catch him wearing one around the house was a rare find.
People often stopped by to chat, get advice or to have a drink or a smoke.
He cared not the least about his appearance. I can still remember what he looked like wearing black socks and dress shoes.
His housekeeping was not up to snuff at the best of times. I remember as a kid staying over at his house on weekends. In August there were flannel sheets on the bed and dirt on them, which I thought nothing of and just brushed off. Looking back, I cannot say that he ever changed those sheets. At the time I thought to myself, “Don’t look. Don’t check for dirt.”
Morning time meant waking to grampy’s homemade pancakes, and as a younger child, cornflakes were on the breakfast menu.
Winter and summer both, it was likely three hundred degrees on his house, with the kitchen stove blazing hot and the one in the living room glowing red. The house was very small so likely one stove would have heated it. I can remember uniformed columns of wood piled to the ceiling in the kitchen, the living room, and in the porch. I am sure if there had been room in the bathroom and bedroom, he would have piled it there also.
On a kitchen clothesline hung dish rags, underwear and wool stocks, all stiffened by the intense heat.
Shelling peas with grampy was not a fun job. It took so long to get any amount in my pot, but he sat for hours in the scalding sun, sweat beading on his brow, anticipating them for supper.
I remember inches of dust on his shelves. Pictures hung crookedly on the walls, pictures which likely graced his home for over fifty years. Today I have the spice rack from his kitchen, an inheritance which I treasure. It’s circle spots of dust are still etched into the wood. I could not bear to wash them off.
Sometimes my grandfather was a man of few words, but when he took time to talk on his CB, he could talk for hours. Posted on the wall, near the little hand held device, was a sheet of paper where he had written call signs and code names. He was entertained by voices from beyond, some of whom lived just down the road. Others were from the States. I remember staring at that dusty black box with dials and switches, and also the times when he let me do the talking. “Over and out,” we’d say!
Fond memories of my grandfather include all of the times he taught me how to feed the birds, with stealth and patience. If I shelled the sunflower seeds and slowly moved close to the bird feeder, chickadees and pine siskins fed from my hand.
As a child, I so wanted to play the guitar like my grandfather so in imitation, I strummed the instrument and made up words to songs as I went along. The real excitement was when he grabbed another guitar and sang along with me.
For my sixteenth birthday, he gave me my grandmothers’ diamond ring.
I could spend hours recording my memories of my grandfather, but on this Remembrance Day, I am inspired by Avery the Wartime hero. Above being a husband, a father, an uncle, a brother, a grandfather, a man of God, he was a Second World War Veteran
On this Remembrance Day I will remember him as a fearful young soldier who proudly fought for his Country, far away from his native home. He would not talk of wartime with me, his grand-daughter.
Had he not returned from War, he would not have married my grandmother, nor have moved to Bear River, nor built his little red house on Chute Road: the little red house which shared space with woodpiles and outbuildings, gardens and birdfeeders and a fire pit which he utilized for cooking kippers for lunch. Had he not returned from war, he would not have created the children whom are my family; my mother and aunts and uncles.
So on this Remembrance Day, and for many to follow, I give thanks for my grandfather for not only going to war, but for coming home.
I will end these writings with another little incident which took place in my childhood.
As my grandfather aged, we visited more frequently. During one particular visit, we all sat around the kitchen table, which was a story in itself, that table.( It was usually sticky with left over sauces and spices from a previous meal, and often had at least one dirty plate on it, which he may or may not have rinsed before eating from it) He asked me if I wanted some apple pie and ice cream, and of course, I excitedly said yes. Off to the fridge I went searching for my snack. No pie or ice cream there, so off to the freezer I went. No apple pie or ice cream there either. I returned to the kitchen to find my grandfather smiling from ear to ear.
He said, “Well we will have to get some. I don’t have any.” He teased me about that for many years.
The last memory I have of my grandfather dates back to the night he passed away. After never visiting me in my own home, he paid me a visit. I made him a tea, he held my three year old son. He then went to my moms.(his daughter)
I miss you grampy
I love you.
Avery Cress’s War:
Like many Canadian men, Avery Cress went off to fight in WWII. His contribution to the war effort was notably heroic.
“On the same night C company was engaged in more serious business. Number thirteen platoon was managing positions on the Senio dyke, sandwiched between German posts two hundred yards to the left and right. for the previous week fighting patrols had gone out each night under command of an officer to obtain prisoners for identification purposes. On this night, Cpl. Avery Cress led three men of his section to the left hand enemy position. Putting his men in in an unoccupied enemy trench to shelter them from mortaring and machine gunning directed at their passage, he himself killed a German sentry and jumped over the dyke into an empty dugout. no German emerged to answer his call to them to come out, so he went in firing his Thompson sub-machine gun, killing two Germans and taking two prisoners, whom he shepherded back over the dyke and handed to his men to take back to the platoon, while he himself stayed on the dyke to provide covering fire until the patrol was safely back at Platoon HQ. Cpl. Cress was awarded the Military Medal.
excerpted from Invicta by Robert Tooley (about the Carleton and York Regiment in WW2.)
And from the memoirs of Rodman Logan: (Col. Ret.)
“I was a Major in the Carleton and York Regiment, 13 Platoon “C” Coy, during the Italian campaign of 43-45. We were fighting outside Bagnacavallo when….Corporal Avery Cress earned , for his actions on the Senio, the Military Medal (Bronze, VM., N.D.R.)
During the crossing of Lamone, the Canadian regiment drove back nearly 13 enemy counterattacks, all extremely bloody, in order to install a firm bridgehead on the ridge still occupied by the Germans. …
The last of the Canadians mentioned, Corporal Cress, was able to infiltrate the occupied ridge called Senio, and made way for himself amidst submachine guns and hand grenades, protecting his section and taking two prisoners, something no other group was able to do”
And in Avery Cress’s words, from an April 2001 interview:
“Well, he comes to me and says he’d like me to see what I could do. I say, “With respect Sir, can I try this my way? Just give me three men and twelve pair of heavy wool socks. And we’ll go in quiet light, no packs, no armed to the teeth and making so much noise. Just bandoliers and utility belt and a weapon each. i had a Thompson on a sling over my shoulder.”