I have often heard great stories of people visiting my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador and falling in love with the laid-back lifestyle and the people. I now have a story to recount myself.
I am from Topsail, Conception Bay, and I am married to a lady who comes from Gander Bay in Central Newfoundland. We left Newfoundland in 1988, living for several years in Red Deer, Alberta, and then moving and settling in Ottawa, Ontario. We have lived in Ottawa since 1991.
Every year we love to go home to visit family and friends. In September 2012, we planned a visit to coincide with the opening of the recreational cod fishery, as it is one of the things I love to do when back home. My wife’s brother, Gary Coates, has a business in Summerford, NL, and is an avid outdoorsman - delving into fishing and hunting when the seasons are open. It was while cod fishing with Gary that I experienced an outstanding example of Newfoundland hospitality.
After a day on the water, Gary and I were cleaning our catch near where we had launched the boat. It wasn’t the ideal spot for the job, as we didn’t have a platform to clean and fillet the fish. A local fellow came by and spoke with Gary and told him that if we had intentions of going out again we were welcome to use his fishing stage not far from where we were. He gave Gary some directions and left.
The following day, we were fishing off Herring Neck and very quickly caught our limit of 10 cod. We headed back to shore to clean and fillet our catch. As we motored into the inlet, however, we couldn’t spot the stage we’d been told about. Gary spotted a couple of fellows on shore. They had a stage all set up and, as often happens in Newfoundland, it turned out that Gary had a connection to one of the men.
This fellow, Roland Smart, was the grandfather of the girl that Gary’s youngest son was dating. Gary asked him if he was aware of the stage they’d been told about. Roland responded, “No, not off hand, but my friend and I are just about to leave and go fishing ourselves. You are quite welcome to use my stage.” Gary thanked him, and after they left we proceeded to clean and fillet our fish.
A short time after they left, a lady appeared on the deck of the house overlooking the stage and asked if we would like to come in for a cup of tea before leaving. She turned out to be Roland’s wife, Julia. We thanked her and continued to clean our fish. As we were finishing up I said to Gary, “Are we going to take her up on the offer before leaving?” We both decided that maybe we would just leave. But before we knew it, there she was again, out on the deck, reminding us of the invitation. So, we said to each other, “Why not?” and took off our outer clothes and climbed up the walk to the house. We were no sooner in the door and she was asking how we liked our eggs. The next thing we knew, we were sitting down to eggs, Newfoundland steak (bologna) and homemade bread - to the tune of Newfoundland music playing in the background. She sat down with us and we had a wonderful chat.
Not five minutes ago we were strangers, and now she was feeding us and chatting with us as if we were old friends. I was absolutely taken aback by her hospitality and it just reconfirmed what I always knew about Newfoundlanders.
My wife and I were just recently home in August of this year to attend the wedding of Gary’s son and Roland and Julia’s granddaughter. I’d been informed some time ago that Julia had passed away, but it was so nice to run into Roland at the reception. I took the opportunity to remind Roland about that previous meeting Gary and I had with him at his stage and about what his wife did for us that morning. I told him that after returning home to Ottawa I had written an account of it and had intentions of sending it to Downhome to see if maybe you would be interested in including it in a future issue. However, procrastination got the best of me and it stayed stored on my computer.
I thought that it would be fitting to acknowledge Julia now, even though it has been several years since Gary and I met her. I still have a wonderful memory of that day and her invitation for a cup of tea. And what a wonderful cup of tea it was. Rest in peace, Julia Smart. You are a true example of good old Newfoundland hospitality. - Submitted by David Allen of Ottawa, ON