In the November 2014 issue of Downhome, Shannon Duff and Dennis Flynn speak to the fine folks behind some of Newfoundland and Labrador's longest running businesses. Here they share the stories of two more experienced retailers.
Got ’er Knocked at Nic Naks
Lorraine Welsh, proprietor of Nic Naks store in Green’s Harbour, Trinity Bay, says with a smile, “The building is approximately 100 years old and the original owner was a Mr. Harry Green. He was a general merchant and you could find everything you needed to run the fishery or a home here. Mr. Green went teaching for a year or so after he finished school, but decided he wanted to be in business for himself so he returned home and opened his store. It flourished and at one point he had over 200 people ‘on his books’ (an old-fashioned way of saying customers) and it would take him two full days just to deliver groceries around the area. He stayed open for around 60 years and my mother actually worked here for over 20 years helping in the shop.”
The next owner, Bill Green, operated a grocery store in this building for another 20 years after that. When he retired, the building was vacant for about a year when Lorraine entered a rent to own arrangement with him and she’s been in business for almost 18 years now. Her shop is filled with quite the assortment of goods, from beautiful replica dories, ships in glass bottles and knit goods to a large assortment of quilts that share shelf space with eclectic antiques (including vintage stereoscope viewers).
“I love it,” she says. “It is mostly seasonal, but I have been here since the ‘year of the tow out’ (a local expression for the 1997 move of the Hibernia Gravity Base Structure from the construction site at Bull Arm to the offshore oil fields) and the people are wonderful. I have a niche specializing in the high quality local craft industry and we see people from all over the world. I have had folks from Egypt, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and everywhere really. We have even had a few famous visitors including Shaun Majumder (of “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” and “Majumder Manor”) and he was really nice.” – Dennis Flynn
Generations of Grocers
Many of the smaller markets from our grandparents’ days are long gone, but there are a few that have held their own and weathered the storm in this ever-changing globalized, digital marketplace with its big box stores. One of those mainstays is the family-owned Coleman’s Group of Companies, owned today by Frank Coleman, a third-generation Coleman businessman. Coleman’s is now the largest, fully integrated, independent wholesale/retail food operation in Atlantic Canada. Its beginnings were much humbler.
Arthur James Coleman and his wife Maggie first opened for business in 1934 in a former school house in Corner Brook. It was a family operation in every sense. As soon as the Coleman children were old enough they were put to work in the store, as were subsequent Coleman descendants. “It was always a business where you had to work hard, specifically in the food business because it was so demanding every day,” Frank told Downhome in a past interview. “My brothers and cousins and I did a little bit of everything.”
Over the years, the Coleman’s enterprise has really branched out with 12 food stores, four furniture stores and two clothing stores operating from Port aux Basques to St. John’s. Frank says the company has a unique relationship with its customers and it’s one of the reasons they keep coming back. “It’s people that we work with and people that we serve that have a shared group of customs and expectations, and we treat them that way, and I think they feel that way when they come into our business. It’s a very unique place that we occupy in the minds of the consumer, and it’s a place that we work very hard to maintain.” With a fourth generation employed in the company, it’s likely Coleman’s will remain a hallmark of the food industry in this province. – Shannon Duff
When Tanya Northcott goes on vacation to Newfoundland and Labrador, so does her camera. Really, it’s an adventure for her camera, which doesn’t see much action back home in Ottawa, Ontario.
“My camera is not really used anywhere else but when I’m in Newfoundland,” Tanya admits. “When I’m in Ottawa it just sits on the shelf. I’m working on changing this, as there are many beautiful places in and around Ottawa, too, but it just doesn’t inspire me the way Newfoundland does.”
Tanya was born on the mainland and was introduced to Newfoundland and Labrador by her adoptive parents, who raised her there.
“I’m a descendant of Ojibway ancestry. My birth family once lived on the Wabigoon Lake Reserve, which is South of Dryden, Ontario. I was adopted by a wonderful Newfoundland couple who were living in Thunder Bay at the time, but after living there for a few years they decided to move back to Newfoundland and that’s where I grew up,” she explains. “I’m very happy to have grown up in Newfoundland; it’s a beautiful place with very friendly people.”
Her first experience with photography was during a vacation to the southern United States and Mexico in the 1980s, when she was gifted an Olympus camera to record her experience. “During this trip I was really inspired by the beauty of the ocean and landscapes,” Tanya says.
These days, Tanya captures scenes using her Nikon D-90 with its AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm lens. She also uses a Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens and an AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm zoom lens. While her camera gear has changed over the years, what she trains it on has not. She is still is irresistibly drawn to the sea and landscapes.
“My favourite subject to shoot would be Newfoundland outports and landscapes simply because it’s so beautiful: the ocean, beaches, cliffs, wildlife, wharfs, boats and colourful houses…the only thing I need to do is to capture good composition and good lighting – the natural beauty of the land does the rest.”
She makes it sound simple, but to get the right composition sometimes means clamouring over cliffs or crawling beneath wharfs. And that great lighting? Well one could be waiting for hours or even days – sometimes even returning in a different season – for the best light. But it’s all worth it, as Tanya and every other photographer will tell you, when you get that perfect shot, that image that inspires you and others every time you see it.
Click here to view a slideshow of images taken by Tanya.
Adventure Canada, an expedition cruise line that’s been bringing passengers to Newfoundland and Labrador for two decades, has perfected many aspects of the cruise experience. One is the wake-up call.
No, it’s not a monotone voice on the other end of the phone gently nudging you from your cabin. At least on the morning this Downhome editor was aboard the Sea Adventurer, it’s the booming voice of the captain over the PA, announcing to passengers that the ship is sailing past a pod of orcas. I’ve never witnessed so many people (myself included) so eager to rise from slumber at 6 a.m. Sure enough, reaching the top deck I could just make out the black dorsal fins in the distance.
Downhome, as well as other media and tourism industry staff, was invited aboard the Sea Adventurer in late June for a special one-night sailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland to St. Pierre, France, in celebration of the company’s 20th year bringing cruise tourists to the province.
Others along for the ride include Newfoundland author Kevin Major, local storyteller Dave Paddon and a host of other famous faces from home. But this isn’t their first (and won’t be their last) Adventure Canada cruise. They are members of the company’s stellar resource team – typically locals with some area of expertise – who sail with cruise passengers to add that extra ounce of local knowledge and charm.
“For our guests it makes it very real. It’s not just the tour guide spiel,” Adventure Canada vice president Cedar Swan, a B.C. native now living in Ontario, tells me as we sail. “They’re actually getting the perspective of somebody that lives there, the pros and cons and the real-life situations, and I think that’s what people have come to know us for is for providing that type of insight.”
Food & fun
Throughout the journey I keep thinking that as we all filed onto the ship we must have looked like hungry souls, for they keep feeding us – and feeding us and feeding us. From hors d’oeuvres aplenty and a gigantic barbecue buffet on deck to a gourmet meal in the dining room, it’s a wonder the ship didn’t sink like a stone with all of us on it. (Still, I would have made off with the entire dessert buffet if I thought I could have done so without creating a scene.)
Canada’s literary queen, Margaret Atwood (another fixture on Adventure Canada’s resource team), is also on this trip. Shortly after we’re out to sea, the three wordsmiths – Paddon, Major and Atwood – go head to head in a game of “Nautical Bluff” in the ship’s lounge, which leaves everyone in stitches.
Late into the evening we’re treated to musical performances from talented members of the ship’s crew (which includes a saxophone-playing horse – seriously, I couldn’t make this up if I tried) as well as Juno-nominated Tom Barlow.
In the morning, as if on cue, humpbacks greet the ship upon our entrance into St. Pierre Harbour (perhaps the 6 a.m. orcas notified them of our impending arrival).
Canada, and especially our little corner of it, is indeed an adventure – one that’s best appreciated from the water. Next time I’m planning a cruise vacation, I might just consider sticking a little closer to home. – Ashley Colombe
Click here to view a slideshow of photos from the cruise.
There’s an interesting symmetry to Gerry Farrell’s life. In his first career, as x-ray technician, he spent his days studying images and looking at the human body in a different way than most of us do. His work inspired a new hobby, photography, which allowed him to capture images of other areas of life, often with a new perspective. And not surprisingly, he preferred to shoot in black and white.
Gerry’s photography passion continued as he transitioned from black and white to colour, and, fairly recently, from film to digital equipment. He also changed careers, graduating from Memorial University with a degree in medicine in 1974. After placements in Grand Bank, N.L. (not far from his hometown of Marystown) and Pictou, N.S., he’s currently a palliative care physician in New Glasgow, N.S.
As a photographer, Gerry says, “I am early morning person and like to take advantage of the ‘golden hour’ of sunlight, either at sunrise or sunset.” The tools he relies on to capture the best images include his Canon 5D Mark 3. “I use a variety of lenses, but my most frequently used is a Canon 24-105 f4 series. I enjoy wide angle shots and use a 17-40 lens for same,” he says.
Something more significant than good equipment that Gerry credits for his quality of photography was a special experience he had a few years ago.
“About five years ago, I spent a week with world-renowned photographer Freeman Patterson, and his inspiration made me a much improved photographer,” he says.
Gerry most enjoys shooting landscapes and, particularly, water features.
“Waterfalls have been an enduring subject for me, and I have visited many of the ones in Nova Scotia, and just returned from a photography adventure in Iceland, where there are waterfalls around every bend,” he says.
He and his wife (also a Newfoundlander, from Brig Bay on the Northern Peninsula) return to the island on a regular basis, where Gerry finds inspiration along the seashore. One of his favourite images was taken during one of those trips home.
“One image of sea urchin shells on the rocks along with seaweed at the Arches on the Northern Peninsula was made in the pouring rain two years ago. I wanted to make an image as a wedding gift for a friend. It included two shells and I titled it ‘Nestled,’” says Gerry.
“I always enjoy going to Newfoundland and Labrador, and walking along the seashore and photographing things I find there. Also, the fog in the early morning light creates a wonderful mood and makes one appreciate all the beauty around us.”
Click here to view a slideshow of photos taken by Gerry.
The submitter believes one of the gentlemen in this photograph may be his great-grandfather, William Murphy - a sailor by trade - who likely lived on Waterford Bridge Road in St. John's. It was taken sometime between 1879 and 1910 by S.H. Parsons of 310 Water Street.
Submitted by Maurice Charette of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Do you recognize either of the men in this old photo? If you do, leave us a comment (at right) and share what you know!
As the 2010 Celebrations for the 400th anniversary of John Guy's
establishment of the first English colony in Canada draw nearer, volunteers in Cupids are working hard to clean up the area - but it's no surface clean. Ocean Quest, the Town of Cupids and Ocean Net teamed up to host a very unique cleanup both above and below the surface of the harbour.
Despite the cool temperatures and the threat of rain on clean up day in May, organizers say it was an excellent event. Ocean Quest 2008 Diver of the Year, 15-year-old Matt Billard of St. John's says via e-mail,
"The Cupids Cleanup was a huge success. I appreciate everyone coming out today. For those of you who dove I appreciate it and so does the town of Cupids. For those who cleaned the shore the town also appreciates it. We got about five bags of garbage out of the ocean plus large pipes, signs and window frames. We also got about 15 bags of garbage from shore so today we made a big difference. Unfortunately not everyone could come today, but hopefully in the future we can choose a better time and date more convenient for everyone. Thanks again and looking forward to doing this again."
Nancy Jones, Jane Diamond, Justin Deering, and Bob O'Brien joined in the effort.
Justin Deering of Ocean Net who busily gathered debris on the beach confirms the support and teamwork among the partner groups and the Town of Cupids for this very worthwhile cause, "We had a great turnout with about a dozen or more volunteers on the land cleanup and at least five divers in the water from Ocean Quest."
Since Ocean Net was founded in 1997, more than 30,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have cleaned more than 1,500 beach, shoreline, and underwater areas across the province.
See the June 2009 issue of Downhome to find out how June Hiscock, the "Queen of Clean" and Ocean Net are making a huge difference in another Newfoundland community.
This is a retelling of my great-aunt Dinah Ford’s personal account of the 1929 Tsunami that struck the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland.
She was born Dinah Bonnell on November 3, 1912, in the small outport of Taylor’s Bay on the Burin Peninsula. In 1929, the community had 17 houses. Fishing stages and a community wharf lined the rocky beach. There was a one-room school and a small chapel. The area was connected to the outside world by coastal ferries and the rare wireless radios on a few of the vessels that arrived regularly. A single strand of telegraph wire ran north over the boggy barrens to St. John’s. Some communities were getting a local phone, but there was no long-distance service. Taylor’s Bay was an isolated community.
Dinah was the youngest daughter of 10 children born to Cyrus and Mary Ellen (nee Hodge) Bonnell. In 1929, Dinah was a teenager just shy of 17 years and was sharing the house with her parents, her younger brother John, and her older brother Bertram and his family. Bertram and his wife Elizabeth had eight-year-old Bessie and two little boys – John, 3, and Clayton, 7 months. Dinah often spent her summers in Lamaline where her sisters Martha and Gertie lived. They appreciated Dinah’s help in managing their busy households. These summers gave Dinah the opportunity to visit a larger outport, where a greater diversity of families and the accompanying social outlets appealed to the teenage girl.
November 18 had been a sunny day with a crisp autumn chill in the sea air. Dinah had just returned from a pleasant day in Lamaline, visiting her sister and dawdling away some time in the local shop. The exciting news in Taylor’s Bay was that Dinah’s uncle had just had a telephone installed in the post office (which was in his home). To Dinah’s great astonishment, a cousin arrived from across the road to tell her to run for the phone. It was around 5 p.m. and the November darkness had settled in. As Dinah approached the phone for the first time and heard her cousin Fred’s voice across the wires, the first tremor hit. Dishes rattled, the walls trembled and the floor of the house/post office shook.
Dinah never got to hear any of Fred’s conversation, as her uncle took charge and rallied all the children to his side. Panicked conjecture began, with everyone talking at once. Someone suggested perhaps it was an airplane. Dinah, as well as most of the residents, had never seen an airplane and all this discussion did was raise anxiety. Some said it was the end of the world! A second tremor struck at 5:35 p.m. By then all residents, even the animals, sensed something major was wrong.
“Run! Run for your lives!”
Dinah stayed with her cousins while the men rallied around indoors and outdoors, looking out to sea, checking boats and speculating on the cause of the tremors. Suddenly there was a terrible roaring noise and a huge white foamy wall almost a quarter-mile wide came bearing down on the community. Dinah’s uncle charged in yelling, “Run! Run for your lives!”
Sheep, cows and horses joined the women, men and children climbing and leaping fences, seeking sanctuary on higher ground.
Meanwhile, at Dinah’s house, her mother, Mary Ellen, was in distress. Being rather crippled with arthritis, she urged her 15-year-old son, John, to go on without her, leaving her to her own fate. A battery of huge waves swept her away like a ragdoll, her body entwined among drifting wharf supports. Incredibly, as the waves receded, she was able to cling to the wooden wharf supports and was found at dawn – cold, shivering and covered in sea kelp.
In the same house, Dinah’s brother and sister-in-law, Bertram and Elizabeth, struggled to save their three children. Elizabeth screamed for her oldest, Bessie, to follow teenaged John, while Bertram snatched his two sleeping young sons from their beds and quickly rolled them in a quilt. As he charged across the yard, the sea surrounded him and he lost his balance. His two treasures were swept away. In the days that followed, the sea gave up the lifeless body of seven-month-old Clayton, but three-year-old John was never found.
Next door to Cyrus and Mary Ellen Bonnell lived their son, 35-year-old Robert, with his wife Bridget Susannah (nee Hillier) and their four children. When the water surged up the beach and over the road, carrying debris from the smashed wharf and shattered dories, Robert and his son Gilbert, 7, were able to reach the safety of higher ground. Bridget, meanwhile, pushed Cyrus, 2, and Amelia Alice, 3, under the chimney pipe in the kitchen, where they were later found alive but terrified. Bridget then ran upstairs to get sleeping one-year-old Mary Gertrude. Precious time was lost, and Bridget and baby Mary drowned. Mary was never recovered, but Bridget’s body was later found among debris on the beach.
That night Dinah, still in the rose-coloured dress she had worn to Lamaline that lovely afternoon, huddled in the cold with other survivors. After several hours, they all descended cautiously to the schoolhouse, which appeared safe and intact. Immediately, the potbellied stove was stoked with whatever dry wood could be found, and the despondent group spent a sleepless night huddled around the fire.
Rescue and Recovery
As the misty dawn brought its dim light, the reality of the catastrophe became clearer. Survivors began searching for missing loved ones amidst the remains of their shattered community. The beach was littered in debris from the community wharf, fishing stages and dories. Drowned animals lay strewn on the rocky shore.
Since telegraph wires had been washed away all along the Burin Peninsula, news of the disaster didn’t reach St. John’s for three days. Residents did what they could to help themselves and each other until outside help arrived. Word finally got out via wireless message from coastal steamer SS Portia. A relief boat, SS Meigle, then arrived from St. John’s equipped with physicians, nurses, medical supplies, food and building supplies.
Only five of the original 17 houses remained when the SS Meigle arrived. The relief team compiled injury and initial loss reports, which were included in its report to Prime Minister Squires. A government committee was appointed on November 25 in St. John’s to deal with the conditions that arose as a result of what became known as “The South Coast Disaster.”
Families did what was necessary as they struggled to rebuild. Dinah was sent off with her brother John to live with relatives in Lamaline. Their mother, Mary Ellen, was sent to stay with her sister in a nearby community while she recovered.
Robert Bonnell had to make arrangements for his motherless children. Cyrus, the youngest surviving child, was taken in and raised by his Grandfather Cyrus. (Young Cyrus later died at 19.) His sister Amelia Alice went to live with her Aunt Mary Hillier. But Aunt Mary died shortly after and Amelia Alice returned to Taylor’s Bay to live with her maternal grandparents, Ruben and Mary Hillier. The little girl always had a headache. She died five years later at age eight, likely due to trauma and injuries suffered during the tsunami. According to local folklore, when Amelia Alice died, sand spewed out of her nose. Their older brother Gilbert was sent to Point au Gaul and then on to Lamaline North to be with family. Gilbert grew up an unhappy boy, not being content in either of his foster homes.
Bertram and Elizabeth moved to Fortune with their remaining daughter, Bessie.
Relief assistance was provided by the Newfoundland government based on property loss. With Dinah and John safe in Lamaline, and his wife Mary Ellen recovering with her sister, Cyrus was able to form a plan for reuniting his family. His claim to rebuild his house was $1,000, but he was only granted $500 from the government. His brother William had a house in Lamaline East that was empty and offered it to Cyrus for a temporary time. Dinah was happily reunited with her mother and father there.
Cyrus was able to salvage some clapboard from the remains of his Taylor’s Bay house and, along with relief money, began building a temporary house in Lamaline. Dinah slept in a tiny room the size of a cupboard. That small house eventually became the barn.
The next few years were hard for Dinah as the family strived to recover from the turmoil brought on by the events of November 18, 1929. Church and family were her strength at this time in her life. Lamaline was Dinah’s home until, at the age of 18, she headed to St. John’s to earn a living and begin a new life. Taylor’s Bay, with its tragic memories, was left behind.
At the time of writing, Dinah Ford is 98 years old and living in a nursing home in Waterloo, Ontario.