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So, have you heard of Marie Kondo? If not, maybe youâre buried under all the stuff in your house and canât find the TV or a clear spot to watch Netflix. Maybe her books are among the dozens youâve bought over the years and put on a shelf but never got around to reading.OK, enough teasing. For those who havenât been taken up by the household craze of 2019, Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant and author of several books on how to declutter your life, organize your stuff and keep only the things that bring you joy. In January, Netflix dropped a season of âTidying Up with Marie Kondo,â and everybody and their dogsitter are gutting closets, emptying shelves and repacking all their drawers. Meantime, with everyone ridding themselves of stuff they donât need, hopefully theyâll think of others in dire need, for whom new and previously loved things could bring them joy. Here are some places in Newfoundland and Labrador where you could rehome some of the things that no longer have a home with you. You can also scan Facebook and make some calls in your neighbourhood to see who you could help nearest you.EyeglassesAre you still hanging on to old prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses? Pack them up and deliver them to your local Lions chapter. They collect used eyeglasses, make any repairs, sterilize them and distribute them to needy folks in many countries. Also, check with your eye clinic - Vogue Optical and LasikMD are two local businesses that collect eyeglasses for the Lions program.FootwearGently used (or never worn!) shoes, boots and sneakers are welcome at secondhand stores as well as charitable organizations like The Gathering Place in St. Johnâs. Call other neighbourhood groups, such as Single Parent Association of NL or Association for New Canadians, who might be running a drive for particular items, including footwear.Formal WearLooking to rehome a prom dress, bridesmaid gown or cocktail dress? Or a suit, dress shoes or jewelry? Any of these would look good in a thrift shop, but they could also be used to help make high school graduations more affordable for families. Single Parent Association of NL runs a Prom Dreams campaign, and Holy Heart high school in St. Johnâs hosts a free prom dress drive. Alyssaâs Attic (on Facebook) is run by the Sunshine Squad, a goodwill group founded in memory of teenager Alyssa Davis, who was killed in a car crash in Conception Bay South, NL, in 2015. Alyssaâs Attic collects gently used grad dresses (and shoes and jewelry) to help ease the financial burden of prom on some families.Towels and BlanketsClean towels and blankets can be put to good use at animal shelters, helping to create a warm bed or post-bath comfort to cats and dogs (and other furry critters) who are in need of kindness. CellphonesThe CNIB operates a Phone It Forward program, where it matches your old smartphone with a new and grateful owner, for free. Smartphone access can be a matter of safety, independence and enablement to someone who is blind or partially sighted.ToolsYou can donate your old, usable tools (not broken or unsafe ones) to thrift stores or to more specialized centres, such as Habitat for Humanity Restore or the St. Johnâs Tool Library.BicyclesMemorial University accepts used bicycles for its Bikeshare ânâ Repair program. It rents out bikes and helmets to MUN students and members of the general public in St. Johnâs.ToysChildren often outgrow their toys before they wear them out; these toys still have joy to give. Single Parents Association of NL is one group that accepts toy donations (no plush toys) as well as books (except textbooks), housewares and small appliances. And in a special recent callout, The Fluvarium in St. Johnâs was looking for leftover Lego blocks for their childrenâs programming. They may have enough now, but you could call local daycares, doctorâs offices etc. where childrenâs toys are often provided for their little clients.
Rounding the bend on the Boulevard in St. Johnâs, NL, where the concrete sidewalk dramatic-ally weaves from the straight and narrow to accommodate the base of a very old tree, I stop on a Sunday morning to gaze out on the still waters of Quidi Vidi Lake. As I linger there, reflecting that in rural Ireland similar accommodations have been made to divert roads and pathways around special trees and even a fairy ring or two, I spot something remarkable. A gigantic leprechaun, replete with red beard, a fine felt hat, a splendid green suit - and running shoes! - sashays along the lower path. Nobody else even gives him a second look. Heâs as much at home here as he would be strolling down OâConnell Bridge in the heart of Dublin.That wildly Irish sight, likely a mascot heading to or from a charity run, is just one of numerous wonderful encounters Iâve had with unexpected Irishness in this province. To mark the upcoming St. Patrickâs Day celebration, here are seven of those subtle (and not so subtle) connections I have found between Ireland and Newfoundland and Labrador. St. Patrickâs DayLetâs begin with the obvious. St. Patrickâs Day is a big deal in St. Johnâs - a much bigger and longer celebration than exists in its homeland of Ireland. We can thank the former proprietors of the legendary Erinâs Pub on Water Street for that.In 1986, Ralph OâBrien, a native of Ireland, bought Erinâs Pub and his band, Sons of Erin, had its own home stage after 20 years of hectic touring. In a chat last year, he tells me that when he was growing up in Ireland, St. Patrickâs was a fine time but always only a single day. Thatâs how it was in Newfoundland and Labrador, too, until Ralph had a bright business idea.âWe had made some ownership changes and I was looking for a way to get a few extra folks in, make a little more money for the pub, but also to showcase all that great local musical talent we had by giving them a place to play,â Ralph says with a smile. âSo we were the first venue that extended St. Paddyâs Day to make it a full weekend, and then it was natural to take the Thursday night before and so on.âNow everybody here does it and St. Paddyâs has grown to a week-long celebration and, in the traditional music scene, we always joked it became much bigger in Newfoundland than even New Yearâs. You still donât see the duration of this kind of thing many places in the world, and not even back in Dublin.â Waterford CrystalSome links are surprisingly crystal clear. Waterford, Ireland is famous for its crystal, and some of the Waterford crystal patterns appear in traditional outport furniture. For instance, a common crosshatch pattern on furniture is rendered as hobnails.âThe inspiration for hobnail carving in Newfoundland can be traced to Southern Ireland where they were used to decorate cut glass in the Waterford and Cork glass-making areas,â explains Walter Peddle, a retired curator of history at the Newfoundland Museum who has studied and written extensively on Newfoundland vernacular furniture. âThere was at least one motif employed by outport furniture makers which was used elsewhere only in southeast Ireland to embellish furniture. Yet, it has long been used to decorate items of glassware, ceramic ware and other objects throughout the Western World. It is referred to in southeast Ireland as an âincised starâ and is a derivative of the Celtic compass star. It is suspected that the source of this motif for both outport and southern Irish furniture makers might be the Waterford Glassworks Factory. It is noteworthy that this factory is located in the city of Waterford in southeast Ireland and that about 85 per cent of all Irish who settled in Newfoundland came from within a 30-mile radius of that city. Its location, and the fact that the incised star finds its home there, gives reason to suspect that some of the motifs and strategies employed to decorate glassware at the Waterford Glassworks Factory were adopted by Irish furniture makers and were transmitted to Newfoundland.âSt. Brigidâs DayIn terms of Irish calendar customs that have made their way to Newfoundland and Labrador, St. Patrickâs Day is only one of many, and a relatively recent arrival at that. A much older religious day is St. Brigidâs Day (February 1), and although it is not commonly celebrated in Newfoundland and Labrador, there are places where it was well known. Rose Connors of Colliers recently told me about marking St. Brigidâs Day when she was a child.âWe used to go out on St. Brigidâs Day when I was a little girl with some of our relatives in Avondale. It was just the girls, and I remember we would take a little doll or even a dollâs head with us when visiting houses. There wasnât anything in particular we had to wear or to say, but weâd get a little gift or maybe just a bit of cake or candy. It wasnât very much, but people thought the visit would bring luck or protection from St. Brigid, I guess. We enjoyed it.âIn Ireland, the custom of visiting with a doll as an effigy of the saint was one of the elements of the tradition. Another was men and boys, called âbiddy boys,â wearing straw headdresses and costumes. The late Frances Laracy of Conception Harbour once told me that when she was a girl her older relatives would recall visits from the âstrawmenâ in the winter. While she never saw them personally and did not know the specific reason for them as it had died out by her day, she said they defi-nitely were not mummers or wren boys, but something different. I sometimes wonder if they were a local version of the biddy boys, a term Iâd heard but never realized had anything to do with St. Brigidâs Day.Fear of the FairiesIrish poet William Butler Yeats once wrote, âBeing Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.â The Irish and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians both enjoy happy times but really love a good scary story, so many tales of Irish fairies, ghosts, mermaids, miracles and monsters came across the ocean and took root here. Irish fairies, in particular, are very much celebrated in Newfoundland, with fairy gardens, fairy doors and well-worn advice to keep fairies at bay. Such things as tossing a glove into the centre of a fairy ring, carrying bread in your pockets, wearing an item of clothing inside out and never wearing red, and carrying a religious medal were said to protect against being taken.A special concept that has carried over from the Old World is the fairy ring, a naturally (mysteriously?) occurring circle of trees, shrubs or flowers. If one stumbles upon a fairy ring, they must be careful not to disturb it or offend the local fairies. Even today, the locations of fairy rings in Newfoundland and Labrador (as in parts of Ireland) are closely kept secrets, be it for reasons of superstition or simply to protect delicate areas from unwanted traffic and damage.The WrenThe Irish tradition of going around with the Wren, the King of All Birds, still makes an appearance on St. Stephenâs Day (December 26) in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Wren visitation is an ancient custom of âWren Boysâ going house to house with an effigy of a tiny bird and reciting a particular song/poem on December 26, in exchange for a few coins or a piece of Christmas cake. The Wren visitation still happens in places such as Colliers, Renews, and Riverhead in St. Maryâs Bay, to name a few. TiddlyYou may know diddly about Tiddly, but folks in the town of Carbonear could give you lessons in this ancient Irish game played with sticks and stones. In fact, Carbonear has hosted the annual Tiddly World Championships for more than a decade. Longtime volunteer organizer Judy Cameron says, âThe event is family-oriented, played for fun, and normally held during the annual Carbonear Days Weekend. Of course, the ability to argue and maybe lie a little is considered an asset in Tiddly. While the game had pretty much died out by the late 1960s or early 1970s, it had very deep roots in the town.â Based on localsâ stories, she estimates the game goes back at least 150 years in theCarbonear area.HurlingWhen in doubt, speak softly and carry a big stick, especially in the Irish game of hurling, which has a history in St. Johnâs dating back to 1788. An exhibition game held on September 26, 2009, in Bay Bulls with combined teams from Ireland and Newfoundland and Labrador may have been the first formal match hosted in this province in roughly 125 years.Hurling is an ancient Gaelic outdoor team sport played for at least 3,000 years. Teams of 15 players (hurlers) compete using ash sticks called hurleys and a ball called asliotar (pronounced slit-er). In hurling, a strong strike can drive the ball as fast as 150 km/h and as far as110 metres. It is thought to be the worldâs fastest field team sport in terms of game play.Ross Houlihan, a native of Waterford, Ireland, was one of the referees at the Bay Bulls game. He says, âHurling was played in Newfoundland up until around 1880, when the Catholic Church began to crack down on it. Games regularly ended in fights and bloodshed as rivalries turned nasty if a game was not going to oneâs hopes.â This particular match ended in all smiles and camaraderie as part of the Festival of the Sea.-by Dennis Flynn
Thanks to these creative designers, high fashion is in style in Newfoundland and LabradorWhen it comes to clothes shopping, many of us head to the nearest mall. There, we wander store to store, browsing through the racks of similar styles imported from around the world. But we could instead get fitted out in an original designer piece, made right here. High-end fashion has recently popped up in Newfoundland and Labrador, enabling us to be just as fashionable as boutique shoppers in the big cities like Toronto and Montreal. Downhome chatted with three businesses making a scene in the fashion world, while at the same time supporting local businesses.NewbornlanderStanding on the waterâs edge in Quidi Vidi village is the Plantation, a space for artists to work and sell their crafts. Itâs also the home base for Newbornlander, a new business with a line of chic childrenâs clothing. You wonât find cartoon bears or overdone pastel colours here, and thatâs on purpose. These designs are simple and elegant. When Constanza Safatle was looking around for baby clothes, she didnât like what she saw. So she bought a sewing machine and fabric, watched a few video tutorials and started to make her own baby bibs. âThen I started to develop other kinds of products and then never stopped,â she says. And thatâs how Newbornlander got its start in 2017.Constanza is from Chile and came to Newfoundland and Labrador so her husband could attend the Marine Institute. She was expecting their first child at the time. As a lawyer, she couldnât work in her profession here, âbut I can develop my own business.âShe was joined by Kerri Ivany in 2018. They met while working on a community program, âand we ended up taking to each other,â Kerri recalls. âAnd after a few months we decided to become business partners. I was a textile artist at the time, just sort of looking for direction, and she was looking for a business partner to take her business to the next level.âNewbornlander makes bonnets, hats, booties and other items, as well as tents for newborns to two-year-olds. The fabric patterns are classy, with animal and floral prints. Constanzaâs husband is a fishing engineer, so she likes to use nautical themes in the fabric, which blends nicely with this province. âTheyâre stylinâ,â Kerri adds.Constanza explains that while babies are wearing Newbornlander, itâs being sold to the parents who actually dress their kids. Sheâs seen it with her own firstborn, now two years old and starting to point out what patterns heâs drawn to. âI think when you go to the babies and the newborns, you need to think of the mom,â she says.People can purchase items at Newbornlanderâs studio at the Quidi Vidi Village Plantation or order online through their Facebook page. A website is next on the wish list, Kerri says, which will make it easier to reach new clients, espec-ially as theyâre getting more orders from outside the province.Newbornlander helped Constanza set roots in the province when she first moved here. For the immediate future, she and her young family will be staying here, but she does miss being a lawyer. âOne of the things that attached me to Newfoundland is this, to have the opportunity to make a business. Now I have a partner like Kerri.â So even if she relocates back home, Newbornlander can continue with Kerri here and Constanza in Chile.Sooley DesignsWhen Megan Sooley of Sooley Designs sits down to create a new piece, she gets her inspiration from the fabric. When she sees a fabric in a store, she can envision what it will be after she gets her hands on it. âThe fabric, pretty much to me, builds the piece. It screams what it is to me. Iâve got this new piece of fabric and itâs kind of a furry, pink thing, I donât even know what to call it. And itâs a sweater. Itâs a big, comfy, cozy, over-the-top sweater,â she says.Meganâs designed everything from loungewear to wedding dresses. âI can make clothes for any size woman, any body really. And I get a lot of inspiration from my clients in that way. So if somebodyâs looking for a dress that is flowing, comfortable, but they want to show a little bit of skin but not too much - trying to work with all those elements.â Itâs a challenge she enjoys.With a professional artist for a mother, Megan had an artistic childhood. She got her first sewing machine at age nine. Using whatever materials she could get her hands on, she made purses out of old jeans and dresses from curtains.At the age of 20 she decided on the spur of the moment to travel to Montreal, hitching a ride with a friend who was headed to Toronto. âAnd I had no plans whatsoever, really to go,â she says. âI just had noticed this school. I hadnât applied or anything like that. And the next day he came and picked me up, and I had a suitcase and a sewing machine and I left.â Megan then applied to LaSalle College and graduated in 2010.After school, she lived in Europe for a while before returning to Newfoundland and Labrador to work as a technical designer. Her work led to a repetitive strain injury from sitting at a desk, and she lost her job. With no money, Megan moved back home. Borrowing $20, she bought enough fabric to make a sweater âbecause it was the only way I knew how to make any money,â she explains. She quickly sold it online, which brought in enough money to make two more sweaters, which also sold. Sooley Designs started from there, and has been so successful that in 2018, the Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs (NLOWE) presented Megan with the Young Entrepreneur Award.Currently, Megan employs three seamstresses and a saleswoman in her downtown St. Johnâs store, plus she recruited her mom as a seamstress and bookkeeper. At any given time, Megan can have 150-200 orders to fill, as well as people scheduled for fittings in the store. âI like to get to know my clients, each and every one. And I like to give them enough time with me.â So she typically only has two or three consultations a day for that reason.Most of Meganâs clients are locals, but she does get some people from out of town and some from out of province. Just the other day a woman come into the store whoâd lost her luggage and had a wedding party that night. Megan says it made her think, âIf she doesnât find something here, Iâm not doing it right.â The client ended up leaving with navy blue polka dot dress.Megan says she has no interest in going to the big fashion shows (think Paris, New York etc.), which costs a lot of money to attend. Instead, she uses her position to promote local talent, helping host fashion shows with the proceeds going to charity. Vogue photographers and models come here to do photo shoots, Megan says, âand Iâd much rather show my clients and my people what Iâm doing and let them experience it,â she says.In the last few years sheâs seen a lot of people coming back to Newfoundland and Labrador for the music, food and the fashion scene. âItâs all been coming up a bit more because people are coming home again, I feel. Because there is no better place, really. Weâre the luckiest people in the world, I think. And I love the weather hereâ¦ I love rain and fog and cold. So itâs like this place is made for me.âMelanie JacquelineMJ Couchâs designs are a whirlwind of colour, and she has a simple reason for it: âIt makes me happy,â she laughs. âYouâre dressing in bright colours, people are kind of drawn to thatâ¦ It really is just about being happy, and I just love bright colours, and I love working with bright prints. To me, it just makes it a little more unique.âA former preschool teacher, MJ founded Melanie Jacqueline in 2011. It seems to have been her calling. âIâm a creative soul. I thrive from being creative, for sure. My mind never slows, thereâs always ideas happening,â she says. For her, clothing is a way for people to express themselves. âThereâs a lot of colourful people in this province, and so I think Iâm helping those people.âGrowing up in Deer Lake, MJ was in junior high when she started sewing with her mom. Originally using store-bought patterns, she remembers the first thing she made was a green crepe mini skirt. Now sheâs making a name for herself with her own designs, attracting clients all over Canada and the US, and the list is growing. A highlight so far was MJâs invitation to fashion week in London and New York City last year. âIt was pretty wild, it was definitely a great experience,â she says. Since then sheâs continued to focus on growing her business in St. Johnâs.Currently, MJ has a studio on Bates Hill where she sells her clothing and meets with clients by appointment. Shoppers can also find her pieces nearby at Johnny Ruth on Water Street, and sheâs in the process of developing an e-commerce website in hopes of reaching new clients and giving them an easier way to shop.A lot has changed since starting Melanie Jacqueline, but some things have remained the same. MJ is the only person sewing and has a sales assistant who works at the shop.âI would love to expand, itâs just a work in progress. Weâve been working for the last year on some new ideas and plans, so we shall see,â she hints. âBut itâs very important to me that my hand tag is always âMade in Newfoundlandâ and is true to that. Itâs very important for me to keep this local.âAlways looking to innovate with other locals, for MJâs recent collection she teamed with artist Sara Dillon of SJ Artworks to create a series of fabric prints. âIt was custom Melanie Jacqueline fabric, not to be found anywhere else. And it was very true to me and my personality and some of my story. So that was really exciting,â MJ says.MJ was one of the first designers to do high-end fashion in the province, and she has watched the fashion scene expand in last few years. âItâs definitely growing,â she says. âThereâs more opportunity, I think, for people to shop locally, which is a great thing. I think the people here have always been pretty fashionable, you know. I think just being in Newfoundland makes it a little tougher to find unique things or quality things that are actually handmade here.âNot too long ago, people would leave the province to go shopping for higher-end items or local designers wanted to get out, but MJ has her feet firmly planted here. âI donât want to go. I love it here. I mean, in the wintertime I might say differently,â she laughs. âItâs a good place to be creative.â-by Elizabeth Whitten
Inside VOWR, Newfoundland and Labrador's oldest radio stationSettle into a cozy chair, tune the radio to AM 800 and expect to hear almost any type of music coming from the speaker. It could be the trumpets of a military band, a Bruce Springsteen single, or the familiar traditional Newfoundland sounds of Bud Davidge or The Wonderful Grand Band. Or you could get a talk show, a church service or community announcements. Itâs the variety of programming that defines VOWR.For almost 95 years, VOWR has been broadcasting from its studio adjoining Wesley United Church on Patrick Street in St. Johnâs. âWeâre kinda like a time machine in that way, weâre kind of stuck back here. But itâs cool âcause thereâs so much good music from back then,â explains Kenney Purchase, broadcaster and host at the station.Kenny Purchase, broadcaster, and Doreen Whalen, station manager, help keep VOWR on the air 24/7.VOWR is the provinceâs oldest radio station, founded while Newfoundland and Labrador was a country (it is included in a special section of the 1949 Terms of Union with Canada). Originally called 8WMC, it first went on air in July 1924, and was founded by Reverend Joseph Gilbert Joyce as a way to reach parishioners who couldnât make it to church. Using cutting edge technology of the time, people could use their telephones to call in and listen to the broadcast. It was the first church-run radio station in North America.âIt wasnât even a radio station, it was a small booth, which is now the cleanerâs closet down in the basement of Wesley Church,â says station manager Doreen Whalen. It grew from that tiny space into one of the rooms in the church. âI think Reverend Joyce was a great visionary in his time,â she says. âI marvel at the man because as a minister who had absolutely no training, to envision that was just an incredible thing.âDecades of DedicationA team of approximately 70 volunteers keeps VOWR on the air 24/7, and thereâs a whole host of jobs that need to be done. Some work with their library of music, or tidy the place up. Not everyone wants to host a show, and if they do thereâs an audition process. No one is paid and people commit the time theyâre able, so while some are here once every two weeks, others are at the station almost every single day. It also poses some challenges, Doreen says. A lot of their volunteers are retired and want to head down South in the winter, and sometimes a volunteer will call in at the last minute because they canât show up to their shift. But they make it work. Their listeners make it worth the effort.âHere at the station, literally every 10 minutes somebodyâs calling and you really hear so many beautiful things from people,â Kenney says. âEvery day Iâm here I receive a phone call saying âCanât believe you guys are still on the air, youâve been around since I was a child,â all this stuff. People are anticipating the program and paying attention.âDoreen has a folder filled with letters theyâve gotten from fans, with messages like, ââYouâre with me 24/7,â âYou help me make it through the night,ââ she recites. Sometimes these letters come with donations, cheques valued up to $100. VOWR runs completely on donations to cover their costs, which is about $100,000 a year.In fact, up until the past year VOWR was also operating with donated equipment. While it all worked, there were some problems. âIt was routine a tape machine would go; it would just stop working. Or the record players were scratchy, or strange problems with the broadcasting. Thankfully, thatâs been eliminated with the new equipment,â Kenney explains.Two avid listeners had bequeathed them enough funds to pay for the $60,000 upgrade. âWhen youâre doing everything live and analogue, thereâs so much that can go wrong. You kind of get a feel for it. And you figure out what to do when all these little problems happen.âThe station also gets donations of a musical variety. The VOWR library is stocked with more than 300,000 selections, and âthatâs only a portion of what weâve got,â Doreen says. On the floor below the station there are even more records and CDs. They received some 46,000 albums from CBC over the years, and local artists will drop off their CDs to the station, hoping to get some airtime. Thanks to all those donors, VOWR has a wide variety of music to choose from, in all sorts of formats. During a walk through the station, you can find cassette tapes, CDs, 45s and 78s. The station doesnât purchase any of the music they play.While the broadcast is enjoyed by radio listeners in Newfoundland and Labrador, its reach goes far beyond the province. Its signal is beamed around the globe through the VOWR website. âWe hear from people all over the world; theyâre not just Newfoundlanders. A lot of them are expats, thereâs no doubt about that. But we heard from people, just a couple of weeks ago, people from Finland and Norway,â Doreen says. Many of those listeners have no connection to the province but find the station on their own.Almost 100 years after Reverend Joyce made his first broadcast, the mission of VOWR has largely remained the same. âOutreach to the lonely, sick, the shut-in, the people who are working all night,â Doreen says.âThere are so many people who want a human voice to hear in the evening or want that feeling of closenessâ¦ making people feel good and welcome,â Kenney adds.Rev. Joyce died in 1959, long before the internet, and now the church service is on YouTube. âSo itâs crazy how far weâve gone,â he says.âCrazy in how far weâve gone in terms of technology, but how close we are to Reverend Joyceâs major intent when he started the station,â Doreen agrees. âHe started it as an outreach and it remains as an outreach. Itâs an outreach to the community, whether theyâre local here or whether theyâre listening on the internet or watching a church service on YouTube. Thatâs what we do.â-by Elizabeth Whitten
I was looking at my hockey card collection when the idea popped into my mind. We didnât buy our hockey cards in the shops back when I was a boy on Twillingate island. Instead someone, usually another boy, would order a small inventory from the Very Best Bubble Gum Company on the mainland, and sell the product out of their house and at school.I could be wrong, but I think Fred Pelley was the local bubble gum entrepreneur at the time. Later, I sold the stuff myself. It was an easy sell.For two or three cents you could buy a package containing a slab of bubble gum and four hockey cards. I was interested in collecting the cards of the Toronto Maple Leafs, my favourite team. I stopped browsing when I got to goalie Ed Chadwickâs card and stared at it for a moment (this was a few years before I ever heard of Johnny Bower). Thatâs when I got my idea to make a pair of goalie pads just like the ones he wore.I found an old brin (burlap) bag and cut out two pieces. I then folded them in a way to create two smaller bags about the size of the goalie pads I wanted to make. Mom got out her big darning needle and helped me sew up the sides. Then I went down in the basement where Dad was usually planing wood for something or other and collected enough shavings to stuff the bags full. We sewed the top shut, and there they were: my brand-new goalie pads!I cut four short pieces of fishing twine and tied the pads to my legs, one tie just below the knee and another just above the ankle. Then I studied myself, and a strange feeling came over me as I allowed my imagination to slowly transform me into Ed Chadwick. The feeling was something like I had felt at Christmas, when I went over to visit my friend, Ralph Boyd. Ralph had received a set of toy guns for Christmas and they were simply amazing. Getting a toy cap gun for a gift wasnât unusual. But Ralph had received a set of two - along with the belt and holsters. The gun belt even contained some plastic bullets. I asked Ralph if I could try them on.âSure, Bruce. No problem.âI belted on the guns and tied the holsters to my thighs with the two pieces of rawhide attached. I pulled out the imitation-pearl handled, silver pistols, twirled them on my fingers and re-holstered them. I did this a few times and then that feeling came over me. I felt righteous, powerful and fearless! I didnât see two wool vamps on my feet when I looked down; instead I imagined shiny cowboy boots. In that moment in my mind I had transformed into the Two-Gun Kid!Now, about a month later, I fancied myself to be Ed Chadwick. On Saturday afternoon there was a game of shinny planned down on Churchillâs Pond, so I walked down there with my skates, hockey stick and new goalie pads.Even though it was a bright day, it was freezing cold. It seemed like the pond was frozen right to the bottom, and the ice had a granite-like surface.Around 16-20 guys had showed up for the game, and as usual we picked sides. In pond hockey or shinny, it didnât matter how many players you had - everybody played. I was the only one who wanted to play goal. The other team had a player who stayed back and guarded their goal.Equipment-wise, I was as well off as anyone. I think one or two guys wore their older sisterâs white skates because they had none of their own. Some fellers had homemade sticks, or a broken one with only a few inches left of the blade. Nobody had hockey gloves or shin pads, so there was a âno rising the puckâ rule. My boots served as my goal posts.A strong northeast wind was blowing down the pond in my face, and it wasnât long before I was getting cold and less enthusiastic. Like a balloon losing air through a pinhole leak, Ed Chadwick was slowly leaving my system. I had extra wool socks on my feet, which was really working against me. My feet were jammed into my skates so tightly that perhaps the blood wasnât circulating well, so my feet started to get numb and painful at the same time.I watched as a pack of players pushed and shoved each other near centre ice. For a while it seemed like nobody had possession of the puck for any longer than a second or two. Suddenly, Lloyd âPeeweeâ Clarke squirted out of the pack and had a breakaway on me. He was a couple of years older than most of us and was therefore a bit stronger. At about15 feet out, he let go a powerful wrist shot.My reaction was to stick out my left leg turned slightly at an angle, to deflect the puck wide. It worked, but instead of it deflecting off my skate blade, it deflected off my ankle. Pain came shooting up from my numb foot and - âPoof!â - all of Ed Chadwick was immediately gone! Now I was just a near frozen kid on frozen water with the winter wind whipping through my clothing. But I endured it like the man I wasnât, and finished the game in immense pain.After it was over, I took off my skates and squeezed my numb feet into my frozen, snow-filled boots and limped home. When I entered the kitchen, Mom put a chair near the kitchen range and pulled down the oven door. Toward the end of the day Dad would always put a few splits (kindling) in the oven so they would be nice and dry when he had to light the fire the next morning. I shoved my feet in the oven on top of those splits and waited for them to warm up. As they did, the pain intensified to a whole new level.Before I went to bed that night, I told Dad that he could use my brin-bag goalie pads to start the fire the next morning. I was finished as a goalie.Ed Chadwick could bloody well be Ed Chadwick, as far as I was concerned. Being the Two-Gun Kid was much more appealing!-by Bruce Roberts
This Family travelled halfway around the world - twice - to find each other Growing up at the oceanâs edge in Port Rexton, Trinity Bay, NL, Rodger Randell had no idea that across that vast expanse existed a brother heâd never met ï¿½" a brother it would take nearly a lifetime to find. Sitting at the kitchen table recently with his wife, Joyce, at their home in Paradise, Rodger pulls a worn letter from its envelope. For 27 years, it was the only tangible link to a brother (and a branch of his family) he hoped, one day, to meet. Last summer that day finally arrived, and recalling the incredible story of how it came to be still brings happy tears to Rodgerâs eyes.âEven now, itâs still unreal at times,â says Rodger, glancing down at the piece of paper that started it all. Joanne Randell of Aberdeen, Scotland wrote the letter in 1991, seeking information about her paternal grand-father, a Newfoundlander named Joseph Randell who lived in Scotland during the 1940s. The man she described sounded a lot like Rodgerâs father (Joseph), a member of the Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit (NOFU) who served in Scotland during the Second World War. It was the biggest piece of the puzzle, however, that didnât seem to fit: Rodgerâs dad hadnât fathered any children during his time overseas. Or had he?âMy father being dead at that time for 14 or 15 years, we werenât sure how to actually bring it up to my mother,â says Rodger. Eventually, he did. To this day, Rodger and Joyce remain stunned by his momâs matter-of-fact response. âIn her words, âOh yes, I knew. There was a little boy. He was two when your father came home,ââ recalls Joyce. Despite their curios-ity, they thought it best not to press Rodgerâs mother (whoâs since passed away) for more details. A Journey to NL Meanwhile, across the pond, Joanne was about to take a leap of faith. Soon after mailing her letter, the then 20-year-old embarked on a vacation to Newfoundland and Labrador.âWe had no other family on my dadâs side living anywhere near us. Nobody could answer any questions, and I just thought, âWell I wonder if [Joseph] didgo back to Newfoundland and have more family,ââ says Joanne, now 47, over the phone from Aberdeen. While here, she mined the local archives but uncovered no leads on her grandfather. She returned home having found nothing, assuming Joseph had died leaving no other descendants.âI didnât think the trip was a waste of time because I enjoyed the trip. I enjoyed what I saw, the countryside, while we were there,â says Joanne. âBut I do remember feeling disappointed that nothing had come to fruition.â She didnât know it then, but her letter was already making waves. Having processed his motherâs shocking admission, Rodger decided to reach out to Joanne, a niece heâd never met. But it was too late. âBy the time we tried to get back to Joanne, she had left that address. She had gotten married, changed her name,â says Rodger. Over the years, he and Joyce scoured the internet for signs of Joanne or her dad ï¿½" Rodgerâs half-brother (also named Joseph Randell, after their father). Several years ago the couple started dreaming of a trip to Scotland with a couple of their closest friends. They hoped having boots on the ground might aid their search. However, when one of their travel companions became ill (and, sadly, passed away), they put the trip on indefinite hold.In bittersweet fashion, last August, Rodger and Joyce (with their son, daughter-in-law and their late friendâs widow) finally embarked on that journey. It wound up being so much more than they could have imagined. A Journey to Scotland Like most tourists to Scotland, they were enamoured with the scenery and the old, granite architecture. But the experience was all the more special to Rodger, given his dadâs service in the NOFU ï¿½" and knowing that, somewhere nearby, he had family. They had no great expectations of actually finding relatives until, shortly after arriving in Aberdeen, their 27-year mystery appeared solved within minutes. Though Rodger and Joyce had combed Facebook countless times over the years, their son, Nick, decided to give it a go. âWhat he knew that I didnât is that he could look by geographic area,â says Joyce.Scanning the profiles, posts and friends of nearby Randells, the name Joanne Ferguson caught Nickâs eye. Her siblings were Randells, and digging deeper turned up photos of her father - Joe - who bore a striking resemblance to men in Rodgerâs family. Giddy, Joyce fired off a message to Joanne, and the family went about their holiday hoping for a reply. However, as their time in Scotland drew to a close, they accepted theyâd have to move on without having made the connection. As the family gathered in a local pub for their last meal in Scotland - just two hours before their scheduled departure - Joanne replied!âAll hell broke loose in that little pub,â says Joyce. Within minutes, she was talking to Joanne over the phone and arranging to meet at the hotel where theyâd been staying. While Rodger and his family ran back to the hotel, Joanne shared the incredible news with her father.âHe was shocked, completely shocked,â says Joanne. âAnd the thing with my dad is, because heâs had a number of strokes, it takes him a long time to process information, an awful lot longer than it would for myself or anyone else.â Nevertheless, 75-year-old Joe was game to meet his âlittle brotherâ for the very first time.A lump forms in Joanneâs throat as she recalls pushing her father in his wheelchair into the hotel lobby. âMy Uncle Rodgerâ¦he just walked straight towards my dad and went on his knees and gave him the biggest hug,â she says. âWe were all crying; we all just were so full of emotion.âAn ocean apart their whole lives, the two men quickly learned they have more in common than most siblings raised under the same roof. Rodger and Joe were both career accountants. They share a lifelong love of sports. Their favourite dessert? Apple crisp. But the most striking tie that binds them is also the most touching: both Rodger and Joe grew up as only children. They are each otherâs only sibling.âIt is something that, growing up as an only child, you miss. And as you get older you miss the fact that there are no nieces or nephews,â says Rodger. (In addition to Joanne, Joe has two other daughters and a son.)That meeting was painfully short - after 90 minutes, Rodger and his family had to leave for their trip home. So three months later, Rodger and Joyce returned to Aberdeen. â[Joe] was very much looking forward to Rodger and Joyce coming back when they came over in November, and he was happy to spend every day with themâ¦ And in my mind that makes me think that he is very happy about it all, even though heâs not really able to say it,â says Joanne, explaining heâs had difficulty communicating since his strokes.The two sides of the family have swapped stories about the past, including what theyâre sure was a true love story between Joseph Sr. and Joeâs late mother, Emily. Joanne believes the pair met in Aberdeen while Joseph Sr. stayed at a boarding house run by Emily and her mother. Owing to her role in the family business, Joanne wonders if Emily was reluctant to follow her sweetheart back to his homeland. Whatever the reason for their parting, the family believes it was amicable. Five years following his return from Scotland, Joseph Sr. married Rodgerâs mom.âIâm sure he thought about his son in Scotland because he wasnât the type that would forget that,â says Rodger, adding his father was a good family man.If his father were alive today, Rodger imagines heâd be pleased to see that his two sons had finally found their way to each other. And while it might have taken nearly a lifetime, good things come to those who wait.âWe feel as close to that branch of our family as we do to any family members,â says Joyce.âIâm happy we didnât stop looking,â concludes a tearful Rodger. âI think it was meant to be.â - by Ashley Miller
Itâs 1984, and the Royal St. Johnâs Regatta is underway. Coxswain Cyril Boland, the father of seven sons, is about to fulfill a dream of his, as six of those boys sit before him. His grandson, 12-year-old Mark Hiscock, leans over to speak to the coxswain as the Holiday Inn sponsored boat pushes away from the wharf. âPop, Iâm going to write a song about this,â he says. If you do, replies his grandfather, Iâll give you my medal. Thatâs how Mark came to write âGrandfatherâs Dream (The Rowing Bolands),â a song he added to the track list when compiling his new solo album titled The Old Fishing Schooner. Also on this CD is another song with close ties to Markâs grandfather. Before he was a coxswain and before he lived in Quidi Vidi, Cyril Boland lived in Calvert, where in 1934, a schooner wrecked during a storm, losing all hands. The tragic tale, told in song as âThe Schooner Gertie,â was passed down through the years and Cyril knew it well. âHe sang it at all the house parties back in the day,â recalls Mark.Mark revisited these two songs and many other favourites in Players Choice Studio, the recording studio of Shanneyganock bassist Ian Chipman, where he laid down tracks for his latest solo CD in between their Shanney commitments. Listen for special guests Mark has been performing and recording since he was eight years old, when he started playing on a local cable TV show on what was then Atlantic Cable. By the time he was 18 or 19 he was playing in pubs, and for the past 25 years heâs been part of Shanneyganock, playing thousands of shows and recording several albums. So heâs quite familiar with recording studios. But his parents? Not so much. Although both his mom and dad often sang at house parties and are skilled musicians - Markâs father taught him how to play accordion - neither had ever laid down tracks in a recording studio. And they didnât really have much interest in going into the studio, says Mark, but he wanted them on his album. So Mark and Ian brought a multitrack portable recorder and previously recorded tracks to Markâs parentsâ house. He had previously given them the recording to practice to, and Markâs dad, just like the pros, nailed it on the first take. âA lot people donât get the chance to record their parents,â says Mark. âItâs too late when they pass on, and I was thinking this was a great opportunity to record an album and get them on this album and get them recorded.âListen to the accordion on âThe Maritime Farewellâ and youâll hear just how well it all turned out - thatâs Markâs dad. Grandmother Boland was fond of singing âThe Leaves Mustnât Fall,â so he got his mother to sing that one on the album. âThey did a great job,â says Mark. âI was very proud.âThereâs a strong family connection on the album, and the songs are mostly ones Mark recalls from house parties at his place, but itâs not all family and friends. A special celeb-rity also makes an appearance. Growing up, Harry Hibbs was one of Markâs musical heroes. His motherâs family met him and saw him play in Ontario at The Caribou, but Mark had never met the famous accordion player, who died in 1989. A few months before his untimely death, Hibbs went into the studio with his band and recorded some songs that had never been released to the public. Russell Bowers, who looks after all the new compilation albums, found the recording and passed it along to Mark.âRussell called me and said âI hear youâre putting out a solo album,â and I said âYeah, getting working on it the next couple of months,ââ Mark recounts. âHe said, âI got a track that would be a good duet with Harry Hibbs.ââThe final version of âSong of Ireland (duet with Harry Hibbs)â has many of the original musiciansplaying on it, plus the accordion and harmony vocals of Mark, vocals from Renee Batten, and Patrick Moran on fiddle. âI can get goosebumps today talking about it,â says Mark. âIn the studio, with the headphones on, and Harry Hibbs singing into my headphones, and Iâm singing harmonies with him, itâs likeâ¦â he trails off, motioning to the goosebumps on his arm.After 1989, Mark didnât think playing with Harry Hibbs would ever be possible. âBut it finally came to be,â says Mark, âand I got a message the other day from one of his family members, saying how much they enjoyed it and it brought tears to their eyes to hear it. When you get a message like that, it sinks in a bit deeper.â Living the dream Harry Hibbs wasnât his only musical hero, and in recent years Mark has had opportunities to play with some of the other musicians he looked up to as a kid, guys like Bud Davidge and Bugs Greene and others. âSome people dream of singing with Sting, or whoever in the rock world. But a Newfoundland kid growing up, listening to Newfoundland music, the majority [of music] that I listened to as a kid, itâs always in the back of your mind as a kid - Iâd love to sing a song with this guy sometime.âSinging songs with people, and for people, is what itâs all about, and Mark plans to play some shows in support of the album, in addition to his weekly solo appearance at The Newfoundland Embassy in St. Johnâs. Heâs been playing in front of audiences for all but the first seven years of his life, and still gets a kick out of playing for a crowd, especially the bigger shows Shanneyganock plays, like George Street Festival or their annual Christmas show. And this April heâll head south with the band for the third year in a row, to headline the Downhome Music and Friends Cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas.When Mark and Chris Andrews are on stage together, itâs Shanneyganock, and the songs tend to be upbeat. But for his solo album, The Old Fishing Schooner, Mark chose mostly slower songs, with pedal steel slide guitar playing by Doug Randell that gives it a Newfoundland country feel. But no matter the label, or who heâs on stage with, playing songs for an audience is still a thrill for Mark.âWhen you get up on stage and get a round of applause, thereâs a bit of an adrenalin rush that goes through you. It feels really goodâ¦ And you know that youâve done a great job, you know that the audience loved the show. Itâs a great feeling to know you can bring some enjoyment and positivity to a room.â
Dr. William Montevecchi leads us in an exploration of Funk Island Ecological Reserveby Elizabeth WhittenLocated 60 kilometres east of Fogo Island, this granite rock rises out of the Atlantic Ocean. Itâs home to a range of seabirds, including gannets, Atlantic puffins, razorbills, thick-billed murres and black-legged kittiwakes. The bird not found here is perhaps the most tragically famous former inhabitant: the great auk. Funk Island was one of the speciesâ last known homes on earth, and where they were hunted to extinction in the mid-1800s.Today, itâs an ecological reserve thatâs basically been quarantined from the rest of the world. Only researchers are allowed to access it. Among them is Dr. William Montevecchi, a professor of psychology, biology and ocean sciences at Memorial University of Newfoundland. âSo itâs essentially a flat rock,â Dr. Montevecchi describes. âItâs less than a kilometre long and less than a half a kilometre wide. And itâs essentially covered in birds.âOnce a summer, Dr. Montevecchi packs his bags and heads out to Musgrave Harbour for the five-hour boat trip. Heâs usually accompanied by a grad student or fellow researcher who studies sea birds or marine biology. âBut usually the maximum number is three people,â he says.A lot of the research they do now is tracking the animals to find out how and where they find food, if the birds are getting enough to raise their young, as well as the impacts of climate change. They also try to get a general idea of the health of the population.Sometimes the venture will be for just one day in June, to put tracking devices on some of the birds, either taped to their backs or wrapped around a leg. Then he might return a month later. Other times the trips can last one to two weeks, timed to coincide with the murre chicks getting ready to go to sea. âItâs a time when we can get a lot of information about how well the birds are doing, or not doing well,â he says.Funk Island is no kind of vacation paradise. Thereâs basically nothing accommodating about it. A bare rock in the North Atlantic, there is no food or shelter, so visiting scientists bring all the necessary items to survive: plenty of water and their own food, which consist of lots of beans and chili, Dr. Montevecchi says, plus frozen foods, oatmeal and cabbage. âCabbages are great,â he says. âYou make a really good salad with cabbages, which is really nice to have.âShelter is provided by a Labrador trapperâs tent, which fits three people and can withstand the wind and storms. He also makes sure to pack a first-aid kit, a small generator and batteries. The most important thing is the satellite phone, which can be used in emergencies and to call the fishermen who pick them up. Even before they land on Funk Island, they assign a day when the researchers need to be picked up, but that day can change. Once, they were done all their research in the eight allotted days, but due to the weather, they had to stay for another eight days.âAnd youâre always, always at the mercy of the weather because the hardest thing can be getting on and off the island,â Dr. Montevecchi says. âIâd have to call and say, âYou canât come.â Thatâs the most dangerous part. Itâs like when youâre in an airplane, when youâre in the air youâre fine. The risky parts are taking off and landing. And thatâs the same with this island. Weâd be fine on the island; we might be cold, we might be wet. You have to worry about hypothermia, but otherwise, the real risk part is getting on and off. So sometimes the conditions are just impossible.âThere are also challenges from the birds. During one trip, Dr. Monte-vecchi was bitten by an angry gannet, which apparently isnât uncommon in his line of work. âYeah, I have a lot of war wounds and scars. Itâs just part of the thing,â he says, adding he bears no ill will to the bird because âIâm a predator.âIn fact, he knows a researcher that used to let the birds bite him after theyâd successfully tagged the creature, just to give the bird a feeling of victory. âWe do take a lot of hits, yeah, you do. But theyâre deserved, I think. Weâre really interfering with them,â he muses.Funk Island TVDr. Montevecchi shares his precious access to Funk Island with the public through the YouTube channel and educational website called Funk Island: A Marvelous, Terrible Place. The idea to create a YouTube series came about a few years ago, andhe credits photographer Nigel Markham with getting it off the ground. He tagged along with Dr. Montevecchi on a trip to Funk Island a few years back and took a lot offilm footage.Initially, they envisioned a TV show inspired by David Suzukiâs âThe Nature of Things,â but Markham thought putting it on the Internet would make it available to anyone who was interested. âThatâs what we tried to do, is make it, in that sense, accessibleâ¦ to people but also to school groups,â says Dr. Monte-vecchi, who also plans to use it in his university courses.While Markham is behind the camera, Dr. Montevecchi is in front of it. âIâm the scientist who works there,â he explains of the showâs set-up. âI give a little tour of the island.â With the viewers and accessibility top of mind, they went out of their way to avoid using too much scientific jargon. Dr. Montevecchi also took along an honour student, Seth Bennett, to appear in the video series. A small grant from Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Co-Op (NIFCO) helped them pull it all together.The series has nine episodes and there are no plans to make more, but there are future plans for the website, Dr. Montevecchi says. It will con-tinue to grow and be expanded upon, with additional information about the birds, ongoing research and effects of climate change. The History of Funk IslandIn many ways, Funk Island is inaccessible, and thatâs not just due to its distance from the main island of Newfoundland. Itâs been a government-protected environment since 1983, reserved for study. Its location in the Labrador Current means thereâs plenty of fish, which makesit the ideal spot for birds to congregate away from human activityand threats.There was a time long ago when humans frequented this island because of the vast colonies of birds nesting there. While it was never easy to get there (especially before the invention of the engine), people still made the journey in droves. Itâs what led to the demise of the great auk population here. The great auk were highly valued for their meat, feathers, oil, fat and eggs. Unfortunately, the breed was flightless and relatively docile around humans, so they were easy prey.French explorer Jacques Cartier once wrote, âIn less than half an hour we filled two boats full of them, as if they had been stones, so that besides them which we did not eat fresh, every ship did powder and salt five or six barrels full of them.âFunk Island also held a lot of importance to the Beothuk, who used to make canoe trips out to the island in order to get eggs from the great auk. âAnd yes, they did that, but this is a brutal trip, or it can be. And for them Iâm sure it was an adventure, to be pushed to the limit of your capabilitiesâ¦ But I think it was much more than really just a place to go get eggs,â Dr. Montevecchi says. Itâs clear to him that Funk Island was a very dear place to the Beothuk.Indeed, Shanawdithit had told her captors that for the Beothuk, there was a close association between the afterlife and birds, and they believed the afterlife was a âhappy island over the horizon.ââAnd all I can tell you,â Dr. Montevecchi says, âis thatâs exactly what Funk Island is.â