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Memories of the trip of a lifetime - and how you can join us next year!
Shakespeare by the Sea celebrates 25 years.
A reader remembers her first trip to her father's homeland.
One of this province's best-loved car shows marks 30 years this summer.
I'll never forget my first Downhome Cruise. In April this year, I joined about 200 other Newfoundlanders and Labradorians (and a few wannabes) onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas. If you follow Downhome on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, you saw some of the highlights. But to really appreciate it - well, you had to be there. Getting there was the first adventure. Mother Nature decided to play an April Foolâs trick and throw a multi-day wintry weather system at the east coast on the very weekend we were scheduled to fly to Florida. It was a mad scramble to rebook on earlier flights to get out ahead of the storm, only to have the bad weather meet us halfway and delay us an extra night mid-trip. Incredibly, despite leaving more than 24 hours earlier than we had planned, we wound up travelling for 36 hours and arriving in Orlando exactly when our original flight was supposed to get there. Mark Hiscock of Shanneyganock wrote a hilarious poem about our adventure. Below, watch him read it to us during our closing concert onboard the cruise ship. We thought we had the best travel story going into this vacation, but we were wrong. Chris Gallichon and his girlfriend Kristen Sanger, both living in Calgary, AB, were booked on this cruise with other family members. I met Kristen at our welcome party as we were sailing away from Port Canaveral. I was helping hand out our guestsâ nametags. She gave me her name, then said, with a hint of sadness, that her boyfriend Chris wouldnât be needing his nametag. He couldnât get away from work in time. But by midweek, she pulled off the greatest plan. Kristen got permission from Oasis of the Seas to have Chris board during our scheduled stop on the island of St. Maarten. He flew down from his worksite to Calgary airport, had a car drive to his home and wait while he threw his passport and a few items in a bag then drive him back to the airport to catch the first leg of his flight to St. Maarten. In St. Maarten, Kristen got a ride to the airport on an ATV where she met Chris. Together they paid a taxi driver extra to get them to the dock in time (apparently there was some sidewalk driving involved!), and I met him with his nametag at our private party in the Solarium Bar that night. Safe to say they were the happiest couple on board the ship that night. From the opening cocktail party to the âOde to Newfoundlandâ closing song, it was the most incredible week. Not only were there new friendships made, there was at least one surprise reunion. Two guests,Perpetua Hilldrop and Frank Jackman, live in different towns in Ontario and are longtime expats from Newfoundland and Labrador. Perpetua happened to see Frankâs nametag on the table when she was getting hers and said, âI know a Frank Jackman. Heâs from Bell Island.â So she sought him out and, sure enough, he was a cousin that she hadnât seen for decades! They had a lot of catching up to do. (Frank has his own story he likes to tell about his first encounter with me. Maybe Iâll share that another time.) Before I leave this story, I have to give a shout-out to Perpetua for her stellar Mae West performance in a skit she convinced Downhomeâs Todd Goodyear to perform with her on stage one afternoon. Perpetua, you are every bit as charming and entertaining as Mae West! Perpetuaâs granddaughter, Sophia Janszen Spitman, was Screeched-in on this trip, as was Mark Pittman of Naples, Florida. Mark Hiscock did a fine job as the Screech-in Master, and Downhomeâs Grant Young - whoâd shown himself all week to be a spirited feller on the dance floor - was called upon to lead the honorary Newfoundlanders in their first public jig. Downhome's Todd Goodyear and Grant Young join all the entertainers in song at Dazzles lounge. Shanneyganock performed under the stars at the Aqua Theatre. They're actually standing on a covered diving pool and there was a swell on - their sea legs served them well! L-R: Ian Chipman, Chris Andrews, Mark Hiscock. It was no trouble filling a dance floor wherever our entertainers played on the ship. In particular, I found myself spellbound sometimes watching Judy Stamp and Anthony Powell swirling about night after night. And the lovely Wanda Pike and Georgina Parsons couldnât resist a good tune. During Shanneyganockâs concert at the outdoor Aqua Theatre, they were twirling around on stage behind the band as good as any backup dancers. Other hidden talents emerged throughout the week, especially during our Open Mic session and Karaoke. And everyone was buzzing about young Conor Nemec, whoâd brought his accordion on this trip and joined his dad Tommy, his music teacher Aaron Collis (of Rum Ragged) and other musicians for several sets. Heâs only been at it for two years, but he plays and behaves like a pro.A special hello to Desmond Kenny Jr., undisputedly DâArcy Broderickâs biggest fan and the Downhome Cruise honorary assistant coordinator this year. He didnât miss an event, loved to work the room and made sure I was aware of any good photo or video opportunities (especially if DâArcy was involved). I hope you have great memories of the cruise, Desmond. Of course, whatâs a Downhome adventure without Corky Sly Conner? We smuggled him aboard and the shipâs crew gave him a place to hide and watch over all the goings on. Georgina Parsons was the first to get a photo of his position and show it to Todd Goodyear, so she won the US$100 prize. However, Les Holley deserves something (maybe a âHard Ticketâ trophy, eh Les?) for creating his own Find Corky game. It all started when he presented a photo of Corky in the Downhome magazine heâd brought onboard and declared heâd found the sly conner (âWell, he is technically on the ship,â he teased). He was told, no go, thatâs not the Corky youâre looking for. So challenged, Les continued all week to take photos of pretty much any fish image he saw onboard and in port (actually, itâs my fault because I suggested it in fun). When he got home, he sent me his favourites, including the photo to the left! Les Holley and his copy of Downhome Find Corky winner Georgina Parsons (centre), with Wanda Pike, accepts the US$100 prize from Downhome's Todd Goodyear. A huge thank you goes to Deborah OâConnell and Andrea Samson of LeGrowâs Travel. These lovely ladies took great care of all our guestsâ travel needs, going above and beyond sometimes to ensure that everyone had the best time on the Downhome Cruise. We couldnât have pulled this off without them. Finally, saving the best for last, hats off to Tommy Nemec; DâArcy Broderick; Mark Manning and Aaron Collis of Rum Ragged; and Ian Chipman, Mark Hiscock and Chris Andrews of Shanneyganock for entertaining us day and night. Often Oasis of the Seas passengers who werenât part of our group, and had no connection to Newfoundland and Labrador or heard our music before, would pause outside the doors of our live venues and look forlornly at the âPrivate Partyâ sign. Several times they commented to me that it was âby far the best live music anywhere on this ship.â Andrea Samson (left) and Deborah O'Connell (second from right) of LeGrow's Travel with our Oasis of the Seas event coordinators, Claudia (second from left) and Alexandria. We were honoured to have private performances by such talented musicians and singers, and genuinely fine people. It was a privilege to have spent the week with all of you. And weâre doing it again next year! Please join us for the âtimeâ of your life on board Royal Caribbeanâs Oasis of the Seas, February 18-24, 2018. Visit DownhomeCruise.com for more information, as well as more photos and videos from our 2017 trip. - By Janice Stuckless, Downhome Editor-in-Chief A group shot of all our cruise organizers and entertainers, plus a couple of extra honorary ones. (l-r): Deborah O'Connell and Andrea Samson of LeGrow's Travel; Aaron Collis and Mark Manning of Rum Ragged; Chris Andrews of Shanneyganock; honorary assistant cruise coordinator Desmond Kenny Jr.; D'Arcy Broderick; Conor and Tommy Nemec; Janice Stuckless, Downhome; Ian Chipman and Mark Hiscock , Shanneyganock; Grant Young and Todd Goodyear, Downhome.
It was 1958. I was 12 years old and, as the saying goes, I remember that summer as if it were yesterday.We lived in Harbour Grace for two months. The weather was hot and sunny, the ocean was like nothing Iâd ever experienced before - and I met the boys from Carbonear.We boarded a Trans-Canada Airlines North Star at Malton Airport (now Pearson International) to fly to St. Johnâs. By âweâ I mean the Ross family - my grandmother, Renie; my mother, Peggy; my brother, Jim; my sisters Marene and Michele; and our dog, Laddie. My momâs sister, Mary and my cousin, Deb Archibald were already there. My father, Bill, only had two weeks off in the summer so he joined us later. The purpose of the trip was to show us where our Newfoundland family - including my father and his parents - had been born and raised. Mom and me on the plane to St. John'sThere were no Rosses left in Harbour Grace in â58, but we knew our Archibald cousins well. Aunt Annie and Uncle Herm, Uncle Harry, Uncle Howie and Aunt Rose often visited us in Port Credit, Ontario, where we lived. They were the ones who met us at the airport and drove us around the bay. We stayed at Uncle Harryâs house on Brazil Lane, right behind Pikeâs Hotel. My brotherâs best friend, Eddie, lived up the lane and his mother baked bread for us every day. Florence, a teenager from Spaniardâs Bay, was hired for the summer to help my mother and grandmother. That way they had time to join the active social scene in Harbour Grace. There were suppers with our extended family, bridge games at night and special trips to the Brigus Tea Room. My cousin Charles Coe, my brother Jim, our dog Laddie, and me on the front steps of Uncle Harry's house on Brazil LaneBut I remember the outdoor activities best. We swam in the icy water at Northern Bay Sands and then ran squealing into the warm water at the base of a small waterfall. Salmon Cove Sands was another favourite spot for taking a dip in the ocean, but I missed the freshwater pool to warm me up. We swam and had picnics at Lady Lake and Rocky Pond, and I loved the warm, shallow water at the Gullies. When my dad arrived it was all about the fishing - trout from Rocky Pond and cod jigging with a local fisherman. It was the hottest and sunniest summer anyone in Harbour Grace could remember.Swimming at Rocky PondMy best friend that summer was my cousin, Diane Archibald. She lived with her parents, Lloyd and Grace, and her brother, Greg, on Harvey Street. Through her I met Joan Parsons and Glenda Godden - and that was when the summer of â58 took on a whole new meaning. They were 14 years old and interested in boys, the boys from Carbonear to be exact. That summer, Guy Fred Earl, Dave Soper, Ron Howell, Kevin Gear, Bill Cameron and sometimes Max Parsons entered my life. I donât remember the first time we met. They just seemed to flow into our after-dinner routine. Sometimes we walked around town, sometimes we sat on the wharf and talked, and sometimes we went to Aunt Sadeâs movie theatre to sit at small tables in the lobby and drink Cokes. An outdoor supper at Bannerman house (Aunt Annie and Uncle Herm's house). Joan, Diane and I are in front. The adults are at another table.To Joan, Diane and Glenda these activities seemed quite natural, but to me this was a whole new world. These boys were nothing like the 12- and 13-year-olds I knew back home. These boys talked more, joked more, laughed louder and smoked. They never had enough money for a whole pack of cigarettes, so they bought a few at a time from Mary Madigan, who ran the snack bar at the theatre. When they were around, I felt older myself.Some memories from that summer seem to flow around me in a comfortable haze; others are so sharp itâs as if Iâm still there. I remember the party Joan had just before my 13th birthday. It was hot in the front parlour, so the windows were open.People sat on the sills and the boys dropped out onto the lawn to have a cigarette before climbing back inside. Then someone handed me a comic book and said, âThis could happen tonight.â I didnât see the speaker because I was looking down at the illustration of a boy and girl locked in a kiss. The comic was one of the forbidden romance ones that weâd been secretly reading all summer.Although I donât know who handed it to me, I do know how confused I felt. Who wanted to kiss me? How should I react? When was this going to happen? The rest of the evening was a blur until I stood at the bottom of the steps at Uncle Harryâs house. Kevin Gear looked down at me and smiled. âWell, good night,â he said. Since heâd offered to walk me home, I assumed he was the one who wanted to kiss me. I threw my arms around his neck and mashed my face against his. I presume our lips touched, but Iâm not sure. Without another glance, I ran up the steps and into the house. I remember feeling shocked by my actions, but satisfied that the kiss had been accomplished.Over the years, Iâve wondered on occasion if Kevin knew about the comic or the âThis could happen tonightâ comment. Or maybe we were just innocent players in someone elseâs plot. Thereâs only one thing I know for sure about that kiss. It was part of an amazing first summer in Newfoundland. - Submitted by Heather StempHeather Stemp is the author of Amelia and Me, about her auntâs meeting with Amelia Earhart in Harbour Grace, NL, in 1932. She recently finished her second book, Taking Flight.
While the curtain may not rise until July, preparations for Shakespeare by the Sea are already well underway. Speaking to Downhome in April about the St. Johnâs area theatre festival dedicated to the works of William Shakespeare, artistic director Ian Campbell explains spring is one of the most hectic times of the year for organizers. Thatâs the time for casting calls, recruiting volunteers and hosting auditions. Every year it takes a team of about 50 people to pull off the festival, and Ian says thereâs plenty of work to do all year round as well.Ian says the festivalâs organizers are especially excited for the upcoming season, since this year marks the 25th anniversary of Shakespeare by the Sea.It all started in 1993, when a group of Memorial University drama students came together to perform Shakespeareâs The Tempest against the cliffs of Logy Bay. While the festival has avoided repeat performances over the years, to mark this milestone season - themed âFrom Home Port to Uncharted Watersâ - itâs going back to its roots.âThe Tempest is the very first play the festival did 25 years agoâ¦So thatâs âHome Port,ââ Ian explains. âAnd weâve paired it up with one of the remaining Shakespeare plays that the festival has yet to do, and thatâs Timon of Athens."When Ian joined the organization four years ago, he remembers being told that since its inception, the festival has had âa raw, rugged elemental history to it.â Itâs a major part of the festivalâs charm, with organizers taking advantage of the provinceâs dramatic landscape.âItâs a daunting place to think about staging a Shakespearian production. You have just a massive ocean in the background; you have these rugged cliffs,â he says. âDoing Shakespeare in these really, you know, almost extreme locations, places that you wouldnât think to attempt Shakespeare anywhere else - that has been a part of the companyâs history from day one. And to this day that is what we do. Shakespeare by the Sea does exclusively site-specific theatre.âLogy Bay remained the festivalâs primary location for the first few seasons. Itâs since expanded to other outdoor locations, as well as historic sites like the Newman Wine Vaults. You just wonât find them putting off a show in a conventional theatre. âNot only is it outdoors - itâs outdoors in these really challenging, but dramatic, landscapes that really challenge our actors and our audiences,â says Ian, adding itâs those challenges that make their productions so rewarding. Because the Newfoundland setting is so important to the festival, Shakespeare by the Sea also produces locally based plays. This year, audiences can take in Soldierâs Heart - about a son wanting his father to talk about the First World War - as well as Kelly Russellâs Tunes & Tales from Pigeon Inlet. These productions âreally round out what weâre doing,â Ian says.Since 2013, a small crew has performed Shake It Up at the St. Johnâs Farmersâ Market on Saturdays in the summer. During the production, six actors armed with Styrofoam swords give children a positive first-time Shakespeare experience, rather than hearing it dryly read in a classroom. In one hour, the actors cover four different plays, spoken in plain English with a bit of Shakespearian verse sprinkled in. Ian calls it their most important production of the season because it helps build up the next generation of theatre-goers and performers.Four Centuries of ShakespeareWhile many people can remember reading Shakespeareâs plays in high school, seeing them come to life is a completely different experience. For Ian, thatâs how those works are meant to be experienced.Shakespeare covered everything from political intrigue, to ill-fated love and knee-slapping comedy. âI think Shakespeare has a universal appeal to it. Shakespeare writes about things that all people grapple with,â Ian says.âAnywhere in the world, all stages of life, throughout all points of history, he writes about themes of love and loss and belonging and what makes a meaningful life.âLast year was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeareâs death and his work continues to endure. âItâs a rare occasion that an author writes about 40 plays and that all of them are still regularly, actively performed today - an unbroken performance history of 400 years,â says Ian. âAnd so, thereâs something very special about the stories and the language; and, again, taking that and marrying it with a rugged Newfoundland landscape, I think was an appealing thing.âShakespeare by the Sea not only stages high-quality shows, it also has what Ian calls a âmandate for serving the community,â with its volunteers gaining valuable mentorship and guidance from professionals within the theatre community.Twenty-five years on, the festivalâs list of alumni stretches over 800 names, including Petrina Bromley (now enjoying her Broadway debut in the Tony Award-nominated play Come From Away) and âRepublic of Doyleâ actors Allan Hawco, Krystin Pellerin and Steve OâConnell, among other famous names. âMany alumniâ¦have gone on to Broadway, they have gone on to the stages of the Stratford Festival,â says Ian. Each season the festival sees a mix of returning alumni and new faces. All of these people have been the key to keeping the festival alive for a quarter of a century. âThe faces have changed, but the tradition gets passed down,â says Ian. And for 25 years, theyâve stayed true to the festivalâs original vision: producing the drama of Shakespeare in the most of dramatic of settings - our own backyard. - By Elizabeth Whitten
Sitting in the deceptively beautiful interior of the Prince of Wales Loyal Orange Lodge in Cupids, Newfoundland, on a cold April night, the warmth of summer seems a long ways off. Five men have assembled in this historic building to share with me, and with each other, their favourite memories of Bay Wheels. Having endured for three decades, the car show (held each June in the Bay Arena in nearby Bay Roberts) is one of the longest running and most popular events of its kind in the province. As they pass around posters and paper snapshots pulled with care from file folders, their faces light up with recognition of special memories, machines and moments.âWe made it a âWheelsâ show. If whatever you were driving had wheels and you liked it, you could apply to enter it,â says Harold Akerman, one of the organizers. âThat meant over the years folks could bring an antique car or a vintage truck, but it could also be a motorcycle or specialty vehicle or even a brand new 2016 or 2017 vehicle.âAmong Haroldâs favourite âwheelsâ to have rolled into the Bay Arena is the very Landrover in which former premier Joey Smallwood drove across Newfoundland during the 1960s, upon the completion of the Trans Canada Highway across the island portion of the province.The first-ever Bay Wheels show featured around 34 vehicles, recalls organizer Ross Dawe. Nowadays, up to 3,500 auto enthusiasts attend to admire approximately 50 sweet rides displayed at the Bay Arena.âThere are lots of great cars out in the parking lots as well that, while not officially part of the show, are really worth having a look at. Folks enjoy bringing their own special cars and vehicles when they come out to Bay Wheels and that adds to it all as well,â says Ross. âWeâve pretty much seen it all over the years in terms of unusual or unique cars. A couple that jump to mind are the excellent collection of cars from Mr. Vernon Smith of Swift Current, who usually brings down a different vehicle each year.â (Click here for a story about Vernonâs Antique Toy Shop.)Importantly, Bay Wheels isnât just about cars. Over the years, raising funds for charity has been one of the eventâs main goals.Organizer Wendell Dawe estimates that after this yearâs show, Bay Wheels will have donated close to $100,000 to various organizations - everything from Ronald McDonald House to the VOCM Cares Foundation, Newfoundland and Labrador Cerebral Palsy Association and the Cupids Legacy Centre, to name just a few from a very long list of worthy recipients.Turning 30This yearâs Bay Wheels takes place June 3-4, and since this is the 30th anniversary of the show, organizer Lloyd Kane hints they may have a few small surprises in store, in addition to all the regular events, attractions, door prizes and giveaways to children that visitors enjoy. For anyone who might recall attending the very first Bay Wheels in 1987, a few vehicles from the eventâs debut will be making return appearances. They include Roy Daweâs 1954 Ford Crestliner Victoria, Ross Daweâs 1950 Chrysler Royal and Harold Akermanâs 1930 Ford Model A.At least one other aspect of the earliest show will be familiar: the registration price. Incredibly, the cost to enter a vehicle in the show, $10, has remained unchanged for 30 years. Admission has increased, but only slightly - from $2 to $5.âWe decided from day one to make this show as affordable and accessible to as many people who love vehicles as possible. That, plus the great support from participants, volunteers, sponsors, organizers and the general public who love the event and keep coming back year after year has made Bay Wheels the success it has been for the past 30 years. It is a tremendous team effort all the way around,â says Harold.On Saturday night, says Wendell, event sponsors and participants will get together as usual at the Lodge for a barbecue and auction, with these proceeds going to charity as well.âIt is something people look forward to as much as the show, and we get people who sign up year after year from all over the province,â says Wendell.As I am about to leave, Ross shares with me one last great car story. âMy car once belonged to a Mr. Cyril Flynn of Avondale, who operated a general store up there. The car is a 1950 Chrysler Royalâ¦when I had it finally all restored I called him up out of the blue and took him for a ride in it, which he really enjoyed. That was all fine and I pretty much forgot all about it,â says Ross. âA nice time later I was checking on the car one night in the garage that used to be attached to the house, and I noticed the brake lights were on for no reason. I pumped the brakes and started her up and shut her down and tried a few things, but they would not go off. So rather than leave them on I disconnected them for the night and went to bed. Next day, I hooked them up and they worked fine. Couldnât find any reason for it. I only learned later that Mr. Flynn had passed away that night. Now I canât say what happened, but I sometimes wonder if his spirit made one last stop to get a ride in his car, and left the brakes on.â - Story and photos by Dennis FlynnFor more details on Bay Wheels visit Thebayarena.com/bay_wheels_2017.
Thereâs a new, yet old, flavour being produced right here.Photo courtesy Janet HarronThe first time Janet Harron heard of beer vinegar, she was living in Dublin, Ireland. Her husband was working at a brewery and had taken to experimenting with the condiment. After they moved back to Newfoundland, she never forgot about it. Now, Janet is the creator of Wild Mother Provisions, the sole beer vinegar producer in the province.If youâve never heard of beer vinegar in your life, it wouldnât surprise Janet. But it actually has an old history, stretching back 500 years. âBeer is a very, very old beverage. In some cases people think it might pre-date wine. So they wouldnât have access to wine vinegar as much in the Middle Ages,â says Janet. âWine would have been reserved for the kings and queens and the upper crust. But the majority of the population would regularly drink beer.â People eventually figured out how to use the abundant supply of beer to make vinegar.Janet first started selling her Newfoundland Beer Vinegar last year at the St. Johnâs Farmersâ Market (where sheâs also sold baked goods for six years) and it can now be found in several stores, including the Rocket Bakery and Heritage Shops across the province. She describes it as a âgourmet version of a malt vinegar.âBeer vinegarâs taste is âa bit beer-y, but itâs got all that acidic tang that any vinegar would have. It doesnât have that thickness of a balsamic vinegar, itâs not sweet like that. But thereâs a lot of different uses for it in terms of cooking,â she says, adding it has a different flavour profile from wine vinegar or white vinegar.It can be used in everything from salad dressings (Janetâs personal favourite), to reductions, marinades and even in coleslaw. Basically, it can be used like regular vinegar, and Janet says sheâs always asking customers what they use it for to get inspiration.Photo courtesy Janet HarronBrewing a BatchJanetâs husband, Liam McKenna, is the brewmaster at YellowBelly Brewery, so heâs been a big help with the science behind beer vinegar. The beer she uses is actually excess beer from YellowBellyâs packaging process, so itâs a way to recycle food waste that would otherwise get thrown out.But at the heart of making beer vinegar is a âwild mother,â which comes from the air, explains Janet. âThereâs wild yeast in the air. And itâs a similar process to a true sour dough starterâ¦ Liam started the wild mother for the beer vinegar in the brewhouse at YellowBelly because the brewhouse has a lot of really interesting aerobic bacteria in the air, you know, itâs got yeast, itâs got malt,â says Janet. âSo if you leave out stout exposed to oxygen, the aerobic bacteria transforms that alcohol into acetic acid. So it becomes the âmotherâ and then the mother is added to the beer and that helps make it a little bit more flavourful than it would be if it was just beer exposed to air and over time becomes vinegar. Because once you expose it to oxygen, that helps turn it into vinegar.â It normally takes between two and three weeks to make a batch of Newfoundland Beer Vinegar. In addition to recycling food waste, Janet says she is looking for other ways to reduce her carbon footprint by seeking out a cache of bottles that are already in the province.Besides taking an environmentally minded business approach, Janet also describes her business as a feminist enterprise.âIâve always identified myself as a feminist and I think being a feminist food company is about living those values as your business,â she says. For her, that means buying locally and working with other female-owned businesses. The name of her company, Wild Mother Provisions, is also a part of that ethos. âItâs about mothers and food as well. Mothers have been the ones that sustained us with food,â says Janet.As Memorial Universityâs communications advisor, Janet is used to promoting others and says it's exciting to be promoting something of her own.When it comes to the future of Wild Mother Provisions, Janet is moving carefully, though she has big dreams for down the road."Iâd like to have a couple of outlets in Toronto," says Janet. "Iâm really excited by the project.â-Elizabeth Whitten
It's a clear, crisp Sunday evening in downtown St. Johnâs and the February snow blankets the ground in a sparkling sea of white. At the bottom of Victoria Street, at the historic LSPU Hall, children in winter coats and mittens walk in through the doors, some toting along bodhrans almost as big as them. The sounds of accordion, guitar and fiddle float on the air. It may be freezing outside, but in here the kitchen party-like atmosphere has cast a warm glow. Some may have the impression that folk and traditional music is fading into the background. But thanks to the annual Young Folk at the Hall program, organized by Fergus OâByrne of Ryanâs Fancy fame, a new generation of traditionalists is playing loud and proud. Like Father, Like SonYou might say that Fergus OâByrne is a born entertainer. He studied piano as a child growing up in Dublin, Ireland and fondly recalls gatherings with family and friends where anyone who could sing a song or play a tune would take turns entertaining. âYou came in and everybody would sit in a circle and people would do a party piece...so I would play 'FÃ¼r Elise,' for example, and my mother and father would sing a duet, and then maybe a cousin might tell a story or an uncle might sing another song,â he says.When he was 14 years old, his father brought home a mandolin, and then a guitar. A couple of years later, in the late â60s when the folk revolution was in full swing, Fergus gravitated towards singing. When he was 19, he came to Canada and set out searching for an office job, but it wasnât long before he âtumbled head over heels into the music scene.ââI quit my day job and became a full-time musician. And so thatâs what Iâve been at now these last 48 years,â he says.In 1971, Fergus moved to Newfoundland with his Ryanâs Fancy bandmates (Denis Ryan and the late Dermot OâReilly). While the young men planned to make music to put themselves through university, their spirited live performances and television series made them bonafide legends, inspiring a younger generation of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to rediscover and embrace their traditional roots. Some might say that Fergusâ son, Fergus Brown-OâByrne, 31, is following in his fatherâs footsteps. But the younger Fergus is dancing to the beat of his own bodhran. While he was constantly exposed to traditional music through his parents, âthe actual learning and playing of it is really his own take on the whole thing,â says his father, who, as a touring musician, was on the road frequently when his son was growing up. Fergus OâByrne (right) with his son, Fergus Brown-OâByrne. (Gerard McGrath photo) An accomplished musician in his own right and a member of the band The Freels, the younger Fergus has made a name for himself on the provinceâs traditional music scene. Like his father, he learned to play piano as a child, eventually mastering the accordion, fiddle and concertina, and a number of other instruments, along the way. While some may think of it as their âgrandparentsâ music,â there was never a point, he says, when he considered trad music to be âuncool.â These days, heâs sharing his love of the jigs and reels with his own music students. âI always really enjoyed it. Itâs a really fun style of music to play,â he says. âThereâs always a new level you can kind of push it thatâs mechanically really challenging. So I always found that engaging.â Music & Friends When his son was a teenager, the elder Fergus began thinking of ways of bringing together young people who, like his son, had a passion and penchant for playing traditional tunes. âMy wife Irene used to take him down to the sessions (at the pubs), to have him exposed to the music. So I figured there must be kids out there who also play, but are not coming down to the sessions. So then we sort of dreamt up the idea of Young Folk at the Hall,â he says. Sixteen years later, Young Folk at the Hall (YFATH), produced in collaboration with the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society, is still going strong. The idea is simple, but its legacy is profound. The program (which is volunteer run and free for participants) brings together youth aged 7-18 for two, two-and-a-half hour workshops led by mentors - many of whom, like Fergus Brown-OâByrne, participated in the program in previous years. âBecause the programâs been going on long enough now, some of the people Iâve mentored are now mentors. So itâs kind of the third wave of people going through the program,â he says. The youth are put into groups and are encouraged to tap into their creativity as they come up with their own band names and practise tunes from a traditional repertoire. âThe whole idea is to really give as much ownership to them as possibleâ¦they bring the repertoire to the table; they, with the mentor, arrange it; and they come up with the name and how theyâre going to present it,â says Fergus Sr. The workshops (which give youth the chance to share with, and learn from, each other and bond over a love of traditional music) culminate in a live concert at the LSPU Hall with all the bells and whistles of a professional stage show. In the below video, Conor's Angels (consisting of Kiera Hynes, Jenna Maloney, Conor Nemec, Grace Abbott and Paige Pike), perform "Is You 'Appy" during this year's show.âThe stage hands are there, theyâre setting up the mics and the lights, so the children come out and as far as theyâre concerned, theyâre in Carnegie Hall. We treat them as professionals and we respect them for that,â says Fergus Sr. âA lot of these kids havenât worked together before. Theyâve just been thrown together. Theyâre very tentative when they meet, like all people are. But within half an hour, through the mentorship and the love of the music, they tend to just really fall into it. And then by the time theyâre ready to go to stage, theyâre just all bubbly and excited.â For the elder Fergus, YFATH is also a way to pass on some of the knowledge and kindness that was shared with him and his bandmates in their earlier years. âWhen I came to the province first, I had the great fortune to meet Rufus Guinchard, Ãmile Benoit, Pius Power, Mack Masters, Minnie White - all those people who were tradition-bearers in their own communities. And they generously gave to us their time and their music and were patient with us to sit down and chat,â he says. âThatâs what music is all about reallyâ¦the idea of passing it along.â Beyond the Overpass YFATH has grown so popular (this yearâs event in St. Johnâs saw its highest registration yet at 52 participants and included two concerts and a traditional dance troupe) that several years ago, Fergus started taking it outside the city to places like Stephenville, Marystown, central Newfoundland and Conception Bay South. This May, heâs bringing it to the Songs, Stages and Seafood Festival in Bay Roberts for the second time. The workshops will take place on May 20 and 27, followed by a concert at St. John the Evangelist Church Hall at Coleyâs Point on May 28 at 7 p.m. âItâs quite extraordinary really. When I started it 16 years ago, I had no idea that it was going to end up as it has,â he says. The program has made a lasting impression on many of the youth. Some of the previous YFATH participants have kept up with performing, such as Fergus Brown-OâByrne and Danny Mills of The Freels; Rosemary Lawton of the Pints; and Aaron Collis of The Dardanelles and Rum Ragged. âSo thatâs a good sign that as younger people start playing together at an early age, then it keeps it going,â says the younger Fergus. âAnd even if they havenât stayed full-time with the music,â adds his father, âitâs given them a bigger appreciation of traditional music, and not only traditional music, but their own culture.â Judging from the talent and enthusiasm on display at this yearâs concert in St. Johnâs, itâs clear that the future of the provinceâs traditional music scene is in good hands. Some of the accordionistsâ feet may barely sweep the floor, but from their tiny wooden chairs, they command attention, their audience hanging on every note. Fortunately, it looks like YFATH is here to stay, if Fergus OâByrne has anything to say about it. He hopes it will continue âforever and ever,â he laughs. âThe Folks Arts Society...are very, very pleased with what itâs doing and their mandate is to promote and preserve traditional folk music and story and song,â he adds.âAnd thatâs what Young Folk really is doing. Itâs giving those kids the passion." - By Linda BrowneFor more information on YFATH in Bay Roberts, visit www.bayroberts.com/sss/ or email email@example.com.
In the days long before big box stores and online shopping, the opening of the Avalon Mall was an exciting time for shoppers in the provinceâs capital city and the surrounding area. When the Mall first opened, on April 24, 1967, it was a shadow of its current self; at one-storey tall, it housed just 35 stores. Just about everybody hailing from the Avalon Peninsula (and in many cases, much farther afield) has memories of âthe Mall.â And as planning is underway to mark the shopping centreâs 50th anniversary, marketing manager Donna Vincent is one person who is harking back to the past.As thoughts drift down memory lane, Donna says she and her co-workers find themselves remembering long-gone stores like Birks and Ayres, once mainstays in the Mall. And while browsing through photos of the Avalon Mallâs past, she came across some surprises. âSome of the photos were amazing. I was actually flipping throughâ¦and found a photo when Mr. Dressup was in the shopping centre,â she says, adding she also came across aged Polaroids showing crowds of people gathered at the Mall to catch a glimpse of visiting soap opera stars.âThereâs some really interesting, different people that have come through the shopping centre over the course of 50 years,â Donna says.Inside the Avalon Mall in 1969 (City of St. John's Archives)Employees RememberJoyce Crewe was among the first employees of the Avalon Mall. At age 22, she began working as a secretary for the shopping centre before its construction was even complete. Fifty years later, she can still remember the opening day, which was a big attraction at the time. âIt was the most gorgeous, beautiful day, I can remember that. But in saying that nowâ¦I was spending all my time in the office with the phones,â says Joyce.As a secretary Joyce fulfilled many roles, including making announcements, picking up cheques from renters - even ordering exotic-sounding cheeses (to her outport ear) for Sobeys. For that latter duty, she wasnât paid in cash - but she wasnât about to complain.âI would order the cheese for them and they would give me two porterhouse steaks for it,â reminisces Joyce. âSo [with] my husband going to university, it was a real treat for us.âJoyce worked at the Mall for about three years, before she and her husband moved to Port aux Basques. But whenever they travelled to St. Johnâs over the years, theyâd be sure to drop by the Mall. Theyâre now living back in St. Johnâs and although the Mall has undergone so many, many changes since she worked there, for Joyce walking those halls is still a trip down memory lane. âI enjoyed that place so much,â says Joyce. âAnd when I go back to it now, it just feels like going back in time, really.âPeople line up to see the latest films on the silver screen at the Avalon Mall's old movie theatre. (Avalon Mall photo)Remember when the Avalon Mall's food court was called "Intermission"? (Avalon Mall photo)Anna Kearney GuignÃ© was a teenager when the Mall opened its doors, and, like Joyce, she recalls those early years well. That year her father, Gerard Kearney, opened Kearneyâs Watch Repair - one of a handful of stores that has stood the test of time.âThat was a big deal, to have the Mall built,â recalls Anna, adding it shifted shoppersâ focus away from the downtown area. âThe whole notion of indoor shopping was quite unusual for the time.âHer fatherâs store, which Anna now owns, started out as a little storefront with a pull-down gate. She says her father used to drop by the long-gone Strand Lounge, a performance space for musicians, where he would grab a beer after work, before hopping on a bus and heading home.Gerard Kearney was the original owner of Kearney's Watch Repair, a business that has stood the test of time at the Avalon Mall.While the business hasnât always occupied the same spot, itâs been in the Mall since the very beginning.âItâs amazing weâve been there that many years,â she says. In the early years, Anna recalls there were many more local stores at the Mall instead of the big chains seen today.âThatâs why I laugh at us: Fifty years later and weâre still there,â she says, adding she serves customers who still remember being served by her father years ago.Mall MakeoversThe Avalon Mall building has undergone numerous facelifts to keep up with the times - notably a major upgrade in 1977 that saw the addition of a second storey (making room for 75 new stores), and another in 1987, when the second half of the upper level was built. In time escalators and elevators were installed to help modernize the building and make it more accessible. Today there are around 140 stores.The Mall has always been used to host events, like this fashion show from decades ago. (Avalon Mall photo)The Strand was the place to enjoy drinks, live music and dancing. (Avalon Mall photo)While talking with some older hands at the Mall, Donna got an inside scoop on some quirks arising out of the buildingâs evolution. âThey were talking about how thereâs a hallway [from the old Sobeyâs entrance] where you can actually see the exterior of the building. So thatâs where the shopping centre ended, I guess, and now itâs sort of a services quarter. But it never got changed over from the exterior brick-look of the building. So if you walk down that corridor [off-limits to the public] you can still see the exterior brick,â says Donna. âI think there might even be sort of one stairway in a service area right now, it doesnât really lead to anything,â she laughs. âItâs sort of a stairway to nowhere.âTo mark the Mallâs golden milestone, Donna says events and activities will kick off this month and continue for the remainder of the year, âincluding contests for customers to share their memories with us and maybe share some old photos of the shopping centre with us as well,â she says. Specific events will be posted on www.shopavalonmall.com as plans are firmed up.âWeâll be giving back to the community for their support over the last 50 years. So itâs a pretty exciting time,â she says. - By Elizabeth WhittenIn honour of the Avalon Mallâs golden anniversary this year, we reached out to Downhome Facebook friends, and our own staff, for favourite mall memories. Here is a sample of the responses we received:Accidental ShoplifterâI remember my aunt telling us the story of when she took my mom to the Mall for the first time. Mom was going from store to store picking up school clothing for us eight kids. The security guard was chasing her while my aunt was watching and laughing so much she couldnât speak. Finally the security guard caught up with Mom and told her she had to pay for her purchases. Mom said, âMy son, Iâm not close to finishing my shopping yet.â Lol. She didnât realize she had to pay in each store. She was so mad at my aunt when she saw her doubled over laughing.â - Wanda Murphy, via FacebookWho Ya Gonna Call?âI remember the old Empire Theatre where, in 1984, I went to see the movie Ghostbusters with my older teenage friends. The movie was rated 14+ and I was only 13. My friends, who were ahead of me in the line, bought their tickets and went inside. When I got to the window, the lady asked me how old I was and, being too honest, I told her. I remember standing at the ticket window, cheeks flushed and on the verge of tears as the lady looked at me and said, âIâm sorry, honey. I canât sell you a ticket.â All was lost until my friend came back out and convinced a random stranger to buy my ticket for me because I was too shy (and too upset) to ask. And so, with that, all was right with the world again.â - Heather Lane, Downhome Inventory Control ClerkEscalator ExcitementâI lived in Placentia and my first memory of the âHUGE store,â the Mall, was when we were visiting my aunt and cousins one day in the early â70s. My aunt took us all to see the Mall. It was my first time riding an escalator and when we got on it, I was so exited that I was shivering uncontrollablyâ¦Also, there was a bus that ran weekly from Placentia to the Mall and back every Saturday. We paid $5 return trip from Placentia. In the mid-â70s, my friend, Edith Murphy Careen, and I travelled that bus a few times to go shopping in the Mall. We had such a good time all day long until 5 p.m. came around and we caught the bus back home.â - Karyn Nash Collins, via FacebookSlumber PartyâIn the late â70s, when I was a young teenager, I dropped into the Avalon Mall after basketball practice when a sudden winter storm blew in. Many businesses in the city closed immediately, including the Mall. About 20 shoppers, myself included, wound up spending the whole night there. I remember late at night snacks were handed out and some of the stores re-opened to give us stranded folks something to do while we waited out the weather. Me? I wiled away the time dribbling my basketball around the corridors. Does anyone out there remember getting stuck at the Mall that night?â - Robert Saunders, Downhome Senior Account ManagerIdentity CrisisâThe Strand! The first place that made me feel old - when the bouncer didnât know what an NLC ID was and wouldnât let me in. I was like, 25 or something. The coat check lady came to my rescue as she was older than me! I watched the Blue Jays win the World Series upstairs in Sherlockâs, and wore out the dance floor whenever Biscuit played. And I think itâs the first place I ever had a White Russian (definitely not my last). LOL. - Janice Stuckless, Downhome Editor-in-ChiefA Good GambleâI spent every Thursday night at The Strand in my late teens/early twenties. I donât gamble as a rule, but I had a few coins left over after buying a drink and put them in the video lotto and won $200. Yippee! When you are a poor student that is like winning the Lotto 649!â - Tina Bromley, Downhome Chief Financial OfficerWoolco BargainsâI remember as a child saving my money to go to $1.44 Days at Woolco. Great memories.â - CyrilandDorcas Dooley, via FacebookStrandedâWent to the Strand all the time. On my Nineteenth birthday, I didnât have my ID and they wouldnât let me in. My boyfriend, who was actually not quite 19, was allowed in. Got a good laugh out of that.â - Dodie Crawford, via Facebook
In a world where a message can be delivered to just about anywhere on the planet in a matter of seconds, there is something endearing about the idea of a message in a bottle. Given the unforgiving nature of the churning ocean and the vast stretches of rugged, inaccessible coastlines, the chances of stumbling across one can seem like one in a million. But one man from Bryantâs Cove, a community in Conception Bay North, Newfoundland, is helping to up those odds.Craig Drover, 47, spends his summers crab fishing off the Grand Banks, as captain of the FV Arctic Eagle. He cast his first message into the frigid Atlantic Ocean just over 11 years ago.âIt was out of boredom, mostly,â he laughs. âWe start at five in the morning, with all the crab pots. Then, itâs five in the evening and youâve got another 12 hours of doing nothing.â When a response came the following year, Craig was shocked. So, he decided to try his luck again. And again. And again. As he threw off more bottles, the responses kept coming.Craig Drover with one of his message-filled bottlesTo date, 65 of Craigâs bottles have been found: 16 in France, 15 in Ireland, 10 in Scotland, eight in Spain, eight in England, two in Portugal and one in Wales. A stray made its way as far north as the Faroe Islands, while four bottles found themselves down south, with one landing in Florida and three in the Bahamas.âThatâs a weird route, that one,â says Craig. Nautical scientist Tom Walsh says those last four bottles would have likely travelled on the North Atlantic Drift (a current that flows across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe), floated down the coast of Spain and got caught in the Canary Current before coming back across on the North Equatorial Current. âThey would have had to make a trip across the Atlantic and back; thatâs the only way I could see them getting down there,â he says.Each response that Craig receives is photocopied, framed and labelled with the flag of the country in which it was found. He displays them on his garage wall, along with newspaper clippings and photos sent to him by some lucky recipients, posing with their foraged treasure on an array of diverse coastlines. All are smiling ear to ear.These are just a sample of the many bottles Craig has had returned to him from all over the world.It is obvious from Craigâs memorabilia collection, which occupies a considerable amount of wall space in his large garage, that what started as a hobby has grown into something much larger. While reading the response letters that line the walls, itâs impossible to ignore the excitement of the finder. Their elation nearly jumps off of the paper.Craig and his wife, Kelly Ryall-Drover, who responds to the majority of emails and letters, have developed personal relationships with many of the recipients, keeping in contact with them and sending gifts.âSouvenirs, Christmas gifts, that kind of thing,â says Kelly. âOne couple just had a baby, so we sent over a little baby suit.âThis element of a special, personal connection is evident through many of the letters sent between Craig and the finders. Despite the fact that he includes his email address in the note, some prefer to send a unique response that they feel is a little more appropriate, considering how they received their letter. Thatâs exactly what Mike Ingerman, 38, (pictured left) did after he found a bottle while visiting a beach in Wales.âHe gave me his email address, but I thought, you know what? Iâll post it on Facebook and just see what happens,â explains Mike from his home in Liverpool, via Skype.âWithin about three hours, it got over to Canada and within about five hours, people were saying on the message that they knew who it was.âMike and Craig made contact within 24 hours, and after three days, the Facebook post had been shared over 7,000 times.âThereâs just this kind of boyish excitement to the whole thing. I was like a kid when I found it. You canât explain it. Itâs just really good.â Cameron Ross, 28, shares that sentiment, but opted to reply via handwritten letter. Ross is originally from New Zealand and now resides in Ireland, where he was walking on a beach with some friends and their kids in the Connemara region of county Galway one day when one of his friends happened upon a bottle stuck in some rocks.âAt first, I thought it was just this elaborate hoax that my mate Eric planned out, because his kid was always obsessed with pirates, but it was actually true! I was buzzinâ for days. I think I was more excited about it than the kids,â Cameron says in a telephone interview.âThereâs definitely this old school romanticism, this pirate-like thing about finding a message in a bottle, and I felt that, in the style that his message arrived to us, it wasnât quite fitting for me to send him a text or look him up on Facebook. It kind of takes the mystique out of it because the response is instant.âA barnacle-encrusted whiskey bottle, containing one of Craig's messages, washed up in France.So, what is it that drives the romanticism of this radically analog way of communication, especially in a society full of digital over-communication?Cliff Buffington, who runs the website www.messageinabottlehunter.com and has a page boasting over 35,000 followers on Facebook, thinks there are a number of reasons. âI think we are fascinated by messages in bottles because they stand for so much,â says Cliff, who spends his free time hunting bottles and tracking down owners. âThey stand for science, they stand for love, they stand for friendship, they stand for curiosity and they stand for history.âFor those interested in finding their own bottles, it might be best to start carrying good luck charms because it seems like pure chance has everything to do with it, and some are luckier than others. One woman found two of Craigâs bottles on separate occasions on a beach in France, about a mile away from each other. Another man found two in the span of three months on a small island off the coast of Scotland.âIt must be luck,â says Craig. âNeedle in a haystack, some say, but weâre talking about two needles in the Atlantic Ocean.â - By Stacey Seward