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Covered Bridges and Box Socials

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When we were teenagers, we’d hang out at the covered bridge in Wakeham. We would sit on the side of the bridge and talk and share chocolate bars. There were always several couples hanging out and sharing jokes or cuddling under the covered bridge. At the end of the night, we’d walk home together. We’d go to the bridge two, maybe three times a week.

Sometimes a car would try to get through the bridge, but here would be so many bikes lined up that it would take them a long time to get through. They would literally have to creep by us to pass. Other times we would sit on the grass beside the bridge and have a bonfire and sing songs. If someone had a mouth organ then we would have a little bit of music, which we all liked a lot. We just talked and laughed and had a good time. That was what our courting days were like under that covered bridge.

We also loved to go to dances. We used to have what we called ‘box socials.’ We had a box social about two or three times a year in the hall in Wakeham. The girls would make lunch and put it in a box and take it to the dance. We would make a sandwich to put in the box, as well as a cookie or two and sometimes an apple. The boys didn’t know what girl had made what box and they would buy a box and then had to share it with the girl who had made it. You just had to take a chance. The girls made the boxes and the boys did the buying. The first time Carl and I [Ella]went to a box social, he took a chance and got my box lunch, and we have been sharing meals ever since.

We knew from the very first time we met, that was it, we both knew. I was a Protestant and he was a Catholic and we got married in Montreal, after going to two different churches to find one willing to marry us. We ended up getting married in the United Church and have been married for 65 years. Oh, we’ve had our ups and downs, but we forget about them and remember only the good times. And it all started with a box social.

*Carl Gillis, born in Gaspé in 1917, is a retired World War II veteran of the 64th Battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery. He owned a pastry shop and a service station in Gaspé. Ella was born in Gaspé in 1922 and worked as a caregiver, as well as a housekeeper. The couple reside in Gaspé and have recently celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary.