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videos, stories, poems and more.
Some things to look forward to in the year ahead.
Tony the Tailor’s widow, now 87, still keeps the family in stitches.
Tips to help you safely enjoy your trip down South.
Ron Young muses on our colourful language.
The language of Newfoundland and Labrador is very colourful. We regularly use alliteration, onomatopoeias, metaphors, similes, puns and hyperboles - not that most of us realize it. Many of us have never heard of these communication devices and couldnât define them if asked, but we use them in sentences every day. Especially hyperboles. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians love to hyperbolize.A hyperbole is a gross exaggeration, not meant to be taken literally. Sounds familiar now, doesnât it? Instead of saying âThe road is very winding,â we might say, âThe road was so winding that there was times when I seen me own tail lights!â We donât just speak words, we paint pictures.One time when my friend, Cyril Cooper, and I were youngsters playing on the beach in Twillingate, his father Frank yelled out a hyperbolic warning. âCyril, if you donât come up from the beach this minute, Iâm going to crack the skin on thy skull and haul thy carcass up through!â Effective, no doubt.Frank was prolific in the use of hyperbole. He once threatened his son, Herb: âIâll hit you so hard over your head that youâll have to turn down your socks to see out over!âMy grandfather, Jonas Cooper, was also a master of hyperbole. Being a big believer in the power of Mecca Ointment, he one-time proclaimed: âThat Mecca Ointment is able to heal over a catâs ass overnight!âOne fellow, in describing how far a distance his gun could shoot, said that he once fired a shot into the air and long after he had put the gun away and gone on to something else, he heard a thump on his roof. When he went up on the roof, he found an angel with a broken wing.What about other communication devices? See if any of these sound familiar:âHow would you like your heart clapboarded with your ribs?â (A metaphor to better express âIf you donât stop that Iâm going to strike you.â)âYouâre as busy as a bayman with two wood stoves.â (A simile, comparing you to something to express that youâre so busy you canât keep up with it all.)Something rather unique to Newfoundland and Labrador figures of speech is the way we describe things in opposite terms. If something is really good, we say, âThatâs bad, me son!â Or if itâs chilly outside: âNar bit cold out, dâday.â Or, when weâre expecting a fine time out: âI knows itâs not gonna be a wicked time here dânight.â (That one is almost a double opposite, because âwickedâ actually means excellent, and this seems to say itâs not going to be an excellent - and not wicked - time.) We donât even notice weâre doing it, but it must be some challenging for come-from-aways to follow our conversations.Two other communication devices that add a fair amount of colour to Newfoundland and Labrador conversations are cuss words and rhymes. We use these devices to make a point and, especially with cuss words, really drive it home. More often, though, alliteration is used to emphasize oaths. âBy the lard, liftinâ, lamp lightinâ, reevinâ, roarinâ, mortified Moses!â Rhymes are sometimes created to remember something, as in folklore forecasting: âMackerel skies and mareâs tails; make the sailor furl his sails.â Or âBright Northern Lights above the hill; a fine day, then a storm foretell.âAs youâve probably noticed in Downhome, there are a lot of poets in our readership. Rhyming is a creative way to describe an emotion, an event or a scene. In this issue alone, we have a poem written by a past poet laureate in the 1920s, and one written much more recently by a Grade 9 student.I hope youâve found this brief foray into Newfoundland and Labrador language interesting. And maybe youâll get a chuckleout of this rhyme I wrote decades ago for a bit of fun: English Was the Hardest The trouble what I had in schoolLearning grammer and the spelling roolWas the falt of Mister KingWho never learned me anythingAnd to no degreeThe falt of sheWho sat studiously across from meAnd unknowingly let me seeA lot of leg above the knee. âIf you canât be a great person, be a good one.â - Ron Young
This is the time of year when many of us ânorthernersâ plan our annual pilgrimage to somewhere sunny and warm, to bask on the beach and wade in the water. Winter has its charms, and for many of us that includes a much anticipated vacation down South.To make the trip less stressful and perhaps even more enjoyable, Downhome asked travellers on staff and our friends at LeGrowâs Travel for tips theyâve picked up along the way - either from their research or through hard-earned lessons by experience.Before You GoMake sure you have adequate travel insurance, and that it covers all of your activities (for instance, if you will be doing something âhigh-riskâ, like skydiving, you will need to make sure your insurance covers the activity). Make a copy of your passport for your own records. Either take a picture of it and keep it secured on cloud storage, or make a copy and leave it with a trusted friend or family member back home. That way if your passport is lost or stolen, youâll have information to bring to the local embassy and start the replacement process.Make sure you have enough of your prescriptions filled to cover you if your trip gets delayed by several days. Many people take donations to their destination, especially if itâs in a poorer country - clothes, school supplies and small toys are some ideas. When You PackRoll your clothes. It saves space and reduces wrinkling.Save space by tucking socks and underwear into any extra shoes youâre packing.Put a sheet of paper with your name and home address clearly printed on it on top of your clothes inside your checked luggage. If the airline loses your suitcase and your luggage tag comes off, staff will know where to send your luggage when (if) itâs found.Put all your liquids (including lip gloss, creams etc.) that you need in your carry on in one resealable baggie and keep it in an outside pouch so itâs easy to retrieve and show when going through security (saves digging time).Carry any medication in your carry-on so that if your luggage is lost, even temporarily, you will not miss a dose.Make sure you pack sun protection - hat, sunglasses and high SPF sunscreen.Consider packing over-the-counter medications for aches, nausea, infections, cold and flu etc. that you are familiar with taking and that you may not be able to find where you are going. A small first-aid kit with a few bandages and antiseptic solution or wipes can also come in handy.Ladies, pack your swimsuit and your one âfancyâ outfit in your carry-on. Most casual clothes can easily be replaced if luggage gets lost, but not having your most flattering dress or swimsuit could impact a good time. Leave your sealskin purse, boots, jewelry etc. at home if you are travelling to or through the United States or any country where those products are banned.While on VacationBe prepared to encounter armed guards at resorts, airports and seaports at many destinations these days. They are there for your safety. Always drink bottled water. Donât consume drinks with ice, or mixed drinks made with water. Some areas have less-than-clean water, and it can make you sick. Avoid eating pre-cut fruit. This has been handled more than whole fruit, and can be contaminated by unclean hands, cutting boards or utensils. Make sure all activities or tours are booked through your resort or a travel agent. There are scammers around that target tourists for robbery or other crimes by taking them away from their resort. Do not wander into areas you do not know. Stay on the resort or within the city limits, unless you have booked an excursion with a reputable company.Be careful what you purchase as souvenirs. Some items may not be allowed through customs. If you purchase any organic products, such as food or coffee, make sure it is sealed, and it is not advisable to purchase anything made of bamboo. These products can sometimes contain creepy crawlies that are not native to Canada, and they risk introducing new species that could become invasive.
Tony the Tailorâs widow, now 87, still keeps the family in stitches.By Karen Silver My grandfather, Tony Silver - better known as Tony the Tailor, had been interviewed for almost every local publication before his 2010 death, including a CBC âLand and Seaâ episode in 2006. My nan was never shy of the attention, yet she was always telling my grandfatherâs story and never her own.My grandmotherâs life is more than a story- itâs a series of new beginnings and fresh starts, trials and tribulations, and more good times than bad. It is one womanâs account of making the best with what you are given and making a life worth living. She recently sat down to talk to me about it.Life in St. Josephâs Mercedes Lake was the eldest girl and the second child born to Jack and Elizabeth Lake. She was born on October 31, 1932. Her name is pronounced Mer-SEED-ease or Mer-SEED-is, not the same way one would pronounce the brand of car. They lived in St. Josephâs, a remote rural community close to Placentia that was only accessible by boat from Rushoon. It was eventually resettled in the late 1960s, and the residents floated their houses across the harbour to their new home. Nanâs father was a fisherman who was gone pretty well all summer long, just coming home long enough to dump his catch and go on again. His schooner was called the Mercedes J, which he named after Nan and himself. Her family owned sheep, a vegetable garden and a pony named Molly. Being the oldest girl, she had many responsibilities, including shearing the sheep, spinning the wool, and knitting socks and sweaters for her father and brother for going out on the boat. She also helped with the hay and tending the gardens, watched the younger kids, and when her father returned home with the fish she helped prepare the catch.When there was a death in the community, my great-grandmother, Elizabeth, would make up the bodies for the funeral service. Back then in the 1940s, there was no embalming procedure, so they still practised the true wake. Someone would watch the body 24 hours a day - just in case theyactually did wake up. Nan and her sisters were often recruited to watch the body overnight in their parlour. Mercedes and Tony Jr. (right) and two boys who lived in the neighbourhood, 1956.A Whole New WorldâWhy did you leave St. Josephâs?â I asked her. âPoverty,â Nan replied, nonchalantly. âThere was nothing there for me. I wanted to find something of my own.âConfederation was this big shagging deal - sure, Dad thought Joey [Smallwood] was God. I didnât notice the difference first or last because St. Josephâs was all I ever knew.âIn 1949, at the age of 17, my grandmother packed up and left St. Josephâs for St. Johnâs. Confederation was the last thing on her mind when she left home. She wanted to get out and see what the rest of the world - or island at least - had to offer her. She began working at the Fever Hospital on Forest Road, making beds and doing laundry, and making many friends along the way. My dad told me that until they moved out to the Goulds, heâd always thought it was my grandfather who had all kinds of friends from over the years. He quickly realized that Nan was the one who knew everyone, from working at the hospital and going to dances. She was a real social butterfly, introducing my grandfather to everyone he knew. In 1953, Mercedes met Tony Silver, son of a Portuguese stowaway, at a dance when they were both 21. He obviously saw something special in her because Tony was engaged to another woman when they first met. When I asked her how she started seeing him, she winked at the portrait of my grandfather hanging on the wall. She didnât elaborate and I didnât press her on it.My grandparents married in January 1954. My dad, Tony Jr., was born in February 1955. Ten more children - Donna (Clarke), Bobby (Flynn), Jackie (Higdon), Theresa (Antle), Rose (Mullet), Micki, Shawn, Mike, Pat and Tom - followed over the next 16 years. Tonyâs Tailor Shop opened in 1964. Nan worked there until around 1995, taking care of all the time-consuming hand-sewing tasks. My grandparents also owned another business that opened around the same time as the tailor shop - a restaurant in the Goulds called The Silverdale Drive-in, where Nan ran the entire show. In 1968, my grandfather got sick. He had to fly to Toronto, where he and another woman were the first Newfoundlanders to receive open-heart surgery. Both Tonyâs Tailor Shop and The Silverdale Drive-in closed while my grandfather recovered and Nan took care of everything else. Tonyâs Tailor Shop reopened in 1970, but the restaurant never did. Home is Where You Hang Your HooksMy grandmotherâs preferred pastimes range from expected and traditional hobbies, like sewing, knitting and baking, to a whole other end of a spectrum: watching stock-car races, going to car shows, watching âCopsâ on TV, hunting, fishing and a taking a boat out around the harbour. She and my grandfather had always had a cabin. Before Pop passed, he and Nan had their hunting cabin in Millertown and their everyday cabin just 30 minutes outside town on Witless Bay Line (which I am proud to call my own nowadays). Their idea of relaxing was hunting moose, caribou, grouse and rabbits, which Nan adored. But her favourite way to spend the day was fishing. Whether she stood at the edge of the pond, flicked her line off the wharf or took the boat out for a run, she absolutely loved fishing. Millie (last name unknown, friend of the family), Tony and Mercedes. Whoâs Sylvia?My friend Vicki came to visit my grandmother with me one day, and Nanâs phone rang.âHi, Sylvia,â we heard the voice say fromthe other end.âThatâs my cousin, Alyshia,â I informed Vicki.âYour cousin calls your Nan by her first name?â Vicki asked in astonishment.âNo, she calls her âSylvia.â Her name is Mercedes,â I corrected her.At three years old, my cousin Alyshia Silver joined our family when her mom married my uncle, Tom. Alyshia used to have a hard time saying âMrs. Silver,â so instead she started calling Nan âSylvia.â She really thought it was her name for a long time. My grandmother has always had a special relationship with all of her 11 children, 22 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Sheâs never missed a concert, graduation or birthday. She really knows each of us, and she never forgets to remind us how much she loves us all.Nine years ago, Nan started a brand new chapter again, as we all said goodbye to her husband, Tony the Tailor. She sold their home of 16 years, and moved into the apartment that my parents, Tony Jr. and Sheila Silver, had built in their basement for her. Even though my parents live upstairs, this is the first time in her life that Nan has ever lived alone.As I guided her walker around the tight corner of her bedroom after weâd finished our chat and a cup of tea, she stopped and held herself up sturdily with her walker so she could confidently perform a short Irish step dance at the end of her hallway. It was a move taught to her by my uncle Shawn, an Irish dance instructor, many years ago.âI still got it,â she said, nodding at me before making her way back to the living room.Sheâs definitely still got it. She has a charm and charisma like no other, with a dry and unintentional humour that has us rolling on the floor in knots without ever trying. Even though she may have married into the name, she is the silver lining of our family, and she can still manage to keep us all in stitches to this very day. Karen Silver is a childrenâs author from St. Johnâs. She hosts writing workshops for local youth through Write On NL in partnership with For the Love of Learning.
Some things to look forward to in the year ahead. Year of the RatIf you follow Chinese astrology, the Year of the (Metal) Rat begins on January 24, 2020. As the rat is the first in the 12 animal signs of the Chinese zodiac, this will be a year of new beginnings. Buying a house, starting a business and other new ventures are positively viewed in this coming year of prosperity and strength - as long as you carefully plan for it. This is the year to go for your dreams. Classic Winter AheadThe Weather Network is calling for aâclassic Canadian winterâ in 2020, with the exception of eastern Newfoundlandand Labrador and western British Columbia having higher than normal coastal temperatures in January and February. More central parts of the country will experience periods of extreme cold in the deepest days of winter, while weâre all getting average amounts of snowfall. AccuWeather predicts that the biggest snowfalls and storms in Atlantic Canada will appear from late January into March. âCome From Awayâ China EditionAfter excelling in Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia, the award-winning Broadway musical âCome From Awayâ is lighting up a new marquee in Shanghai, China, in May. It's the first stop on a broader China tour, and the first time the musical is performed in a non-English-speaking country. The musical will be presented in its original (Newfoundland) English, so it will be interesting to see how the material translates for Chinese audiences. 75th Anniversary The world will mark 75 years since the Second World War ended in Europe with Germanyâs surrender. V-E (Victoria in Europe) Day is commemorated on May 8. No doubt the world will also pause and reflect somberly on how Japan surrendered in August, after two atomic bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. It helped end WWII, but at what price? The ethics and politics of those bombings are still being debated. Folk Fest Coming SoonerThe long-running Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival is being held in a different month this year. Traditionally held the weekend after the Royal St. Johnâs Regatta and George Street Festival, organizers have chosen an earlier date in 2020. The Folk Fest has grown so large that it canât afford to compete with other big St. Johnâs events for volunteers and other supports (including security fencing). So this year, mark your JULY calendars for the 44th annual NL Folk Festival, happening July 10-12 in Bannerman Park. Sound Symposium ReturnsThe 20th biennial Sound Symposium plays St. Johnâs July 11-18, attracting musicians from around the world. The musical event that brought us the Harbour Symphony (a special piece of music ringing out from shipâs horns in St. Johnâs harbour), will be focused this year on âdrumming, percussion and rhythm,â according to the eventâs website. Visit SoundSymposium.com for more details as they become available. Root for Roxon at the ParalympicsThe 2020 Paralympic Games take place in Tokyo, Japan, August 25 to September 6. Expect to see Katarina Roxon of Kippens, a Paralympic gold medal-winning swimmer at the Rio Games, to be in the pool for Canada. At the World Para Swimming Championships in London, UK, in September 2019 - an Olympics qualifying meet - she earned silver and bronze medals and set a new record time in the 100 m breaststroke (breaking her own record previously set in Rio in 2016 that earned her the gold medal).Depending on when Canada competes, you might have to PVR a lot of the events - and do some mind-bending math. Newfoundland and Labrador, for instance, is 12 hours 30 minutes behind the time in Japan. So morning and afternoon events in Tokyo are happening the night before in NL!Softball and other GamesThis province will host three national baseball championships this season. Carbonear is hosting the U19 Menâs Canadian Fast Pitch Softball Championships August 11-16. St. Johnâs will play host to the Canadian Menâs and Masterâs softball championships September 2-6.Meanwhile, Bay Roberts will host the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games, August 15-22. Athletes from all over the province will compete in 11 sports: artistic swimming, athletics, ball hockey, baseball, cycling, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and triathlon. Cheer on our Special OlympiansWatch for our hometown athletes as Team Newfoundland and Labrador competes at the 2020 Special Olympics Winter Games in Thunder Bay, ON, February 25-29. Team NL is competing in seven sports: speed skating, figure skating, floor hockey, snowshoe racing, cross-country skiing, bowling and curling. Other Athletes to WatchSeveral rising sports stars from Newfoundland and Labrador made news in 2019 and are ones to watch in 2020.Alex Newhook and his sister Abby Newhook of St. Johnâs are blazing a pro hockey path. Alex, captain of BCHL Victoria Grizzlies and league MVP in the 2018-19 season, was a first round draft pick by the NHL Colorado Avalanche last June. This season heâs playing in the NCAA league for Boston College.Abby is not even finished high school yet, and she already has a full scholarship to play for Boston College womenâs hockey in 2021. She reportedly has her eye on Olympic hockey in her future.Golfer Blair Bursey of Gander went pro in 2018 and has been swinging his way through mini tours hoping to qualify for the majors. Among his scheduled competitions in 2020 is a PGA Qualifying School in Phuket, Thailand March 3-6.Michelle Liu was just 12 years old when she competed in her first LPGA Tour, so why not these eight-year-old twins from Portugal Cove-St. Philips? Freya and Mila Snook made sports news last year when they qualified for the IMG Academy Junior World Championships in San Diego, CA, in July. Mila also qualified to compete in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships in North Carolina the following month. Come Home YearsAny Newfoundland and Labrador expatriates who havenât been home in a while, this could be your year to visit. Several communities are celebrating Come Home Years in 2020, putting off extra special celebrations to lure as many people home as possible. Those we know of so far include Port aux Basques, Harbour Grace, Twillingate, Bauline, Peterview and Grand Bank. Before you make your summer plans, check with the folks back home. Mission to MarsIn a continuing effort to determine whether humans can live on Mars someday (and whether any life form ever did), NASA plans to launch its Mars 2020 rover on July 17, with a touchdown on Mars expected in February 2021. This rover will be equipped with a new core drill and a helicopter drone. New Long Term CareAccording to the 2019 infrastructure plan of The Way Forward, the NL governmentâs budgetary blueprint, a new long-term care home will open in Corner Brook this year. Construction on the 120-bed facility is due to finish in the spring. Bye-bye BagsA province-wide ban on single use plastic bags is due to come into effect mid-year. While some businesses and even communities in NL have already banned plastic shopping bags, the only other province to enact such a ban so far is Prince Edward Island. Pretty in Pink-ishThe trend-setting paint colour of 2020, according to Benjamin Moore Paints, is First Light 2102-70. The pale hue is reminiscent of the pale pink that sometimes spreads across the eastern sky at dawn. Bold is in FashionStyle watchers predict this yearâs ladiesâ fashion to feature a lot of stripes, polka-dots, highlighted waistlines and leather. Puffy sleeves are also in, as are neon colours.Whatâs Next for the US?The United States presidential election takes place November 3. At press time for this issue, President Donald Trump is the focus of impeachment hearings. While heâs stated his intention to run for office again this fall, itâs really too early to predict what might be going on south of the border by then.
A visiting family couldn't resist the lure of the Alexander Murray Hiking Trail, 2,200 steps notwithstanding.By Jamie Schmidt, Calgary, AB The Rock, Newfoundlandâs apt yet endearing nickname, is like a giant neon sign flickering towards mainland Canada beckoning geologists to come. After my uncle and aunt moved back to her home province some years ago, it was only a matter of time before I packed up my own family (wife and I are both geologists) and went for a visit.We arrived at their postcard-worthy, seaside home in the quaint hamlet of Coffee Cove at the tail end of a three-week camping adventure through the Maritimes. After warm greetings and long overdue catching up, we set about planning our three days around Green Bay.One can visit a new place, but you donât truly experience it until you explore it. For us, that included an afternoon hike on the Alexander Murray Trail, a trek highly recommended by my uncle but not without warning. Stairs, he said. Lots and lots of stairs.I was hesitant. My body has proven more lemon than show model over the years, and with two kids in tow, aged 11 and eight, our tolerance for difficult hikes is limited. Still, the lure of splendid vistas tugged. A quick web search sealed the deal; Alexander Murray was a geologist.A Scot born in 1810, Alexander Murray worked as a geologist on both sides of the Atlantic before settling in Newfoundland in 1864, having been named the Geological Survey of Newfoundlandâs first director. Among Murrayâs notable accomplishments is the first geological map of the island. Fittingly, the geological club at Memorial University in St. Johnâs, NL is named after him.Spending an afternoon discovering a trail honouring The Rockâs first rock hound was a proposal I couldnât resist, stairs notwithstanding. We packed our gear and drove west to Kingâs Point, a lovely town at the terminus of the southwest arm of Green Bay known for its humpback whale pavilion and pottery shop.It was a beautiful midweek afternoon when we reached the parking lot at the trailhead of Alexander Murray Trail. The place was nearly deserted save for a couple vehicles presumably belonging to fellow hikers. The trail office was closed and not a soul could be found in the picnic shelter or bathrooms. Perhaps these stairs were scarier than I realized.Undaunted, we familiarized ourselves with the trail thanks to an information sign affixed to the railing out front of the wooden office building, grabbed our pack and camera, signed the guest book and headed out onto the trail. Corner Brook Falls The Alexander Murray Trail is shaped like a lasso. With a total length of eight kilometres, the spoke of the lasso runs 1.35 kilometres from trailhead to Moose Barrens. From there, the remainder of the trail forms the 6.08-kilometre loop peaking at Haypook Summit some 350 metres above sea level. Only the short branch trail to Corner Brook Falls deviates from this otherwise perfect lasso analogy. Oh, and there are stairs - 2,200 of them - which is why Moose Barrens has a rest platform.The sheltered, undulating path through mixed forest before opening up to the scraggy, bog-like Moose Barrens isnât especially arduous. It alone makes for a nice, relatively short walk with Grouse Brook a handsome companion at one point. Rather, it is the loop where the rest platform becomes essential; first as a staging point to decide which direction you will take around the loop and second, as a place to collapse and confirm your continued presence in this corporeal realm upon return from the summit.We made it to Moose Barrens with little trouble, gazed at the faint image of the flagpole on Haypook Summit, found a hidden geocache, refuelled with hiking community favourite, the granola bar, and huddled up to determine which direction we would go. It was clear that encircling the entire loop was not in the cards. And with waterfalls in either direction, we were torn. Ultimately, we agreed that the trek to Corner Brook Falls was shortest and thus our preferred destination.As fate would have it, this choice camewith the most stairs, including a prolonged, steep set down into the gorge in which resides Corner Brook Falls. The descent to the falls was intimidating. My quads wailed in disbelief as we headed downward after so much upward. At the bottom, a platform with picnic table and bench offered a gorgeous view of a modest waterfall cascading off ancient, grey and red rock into a clear pool of water. It was beautifully stark, and we scampered off the platform to get as close to the falls as possible and just live the moment along with the dragonflies. The view from Haypook SummitHaving rejuvenated our souls, we ambled back up the stairs to the main trail where another decision awaited. Having come that far, and despite weary muscles, it seemed foolish not to continue onwards to Haypook Summit for what promised to be a spectacular panorama.The remaining ascent required, yup, more stair-climbing, but as we progressed along the tundra-like ridge approaching the summit, the views grew broader, inspiring us onwards.Finally making it to the top, we gratefully rested on another wooden platform beneath a Canadian flag flapping in the wind that cooled our strained bodies. The view was incredible, particularly to the north where aged mountains, rounded and weathered, indiscriminately covered in vegetation, embraced the icy, blue Atlantic Ocean.Of course, we had to get back. Another decision confronted us; continue onward and experience the entirety of Alexander Murray Trail or double back the way we came. The latter was shorterand the path we quickly agreed upon; stairs notwithstanding, once again. Sadly, or maybe ideally, this decision left Roswellâs Falls and Gull Brook Falls unseen and reason to come again.Exhausted, a bit frazzled, but rewarded nonetheless, we returned to Coffee Cove where I shared our adventure with my uncle while recuperating on his back deck with a well-deserved fermented beverage. When I asked how he had survived the hike, he chuckled. Heâd never done it. Too many stairs.
What stories of resettlement taught me about belongingBy Sheri Strickland DoyleFresh sawdust was still blowing across the floor of their new bungalow when Ruth Priddle and her children stepped off a schooner in Milltown, Bay dâEspoir on June 16, 1969. It was just after noon. With a bit of money from the government resettlement program, the family left the now-abandoned fishing settlement of Pushthrough in Hermitage Bay to start a new life in a new town. Mrs. Priddleâs husband and son had already left Pushthrough in the spring to start building the new home in Milltown. Day by day, the bungalow took shape across the dirt road from the saltbox home my father grew up in with his 12 siblings. The new house was painted dory buff - a common yellow paint used for fishing boats. In the small, dory buff house Mrs. Priddle, my godmother, raised her own children and formed a bond with my grandparents, her neighbours, Amelia and Stan Strickland. My bond with Mrs. Priddle also grew over the years. I made it a point to visit my godmother on many summer trips to the South Coast, whether I was living in Labrador, New Brunswick, Toronto or Alberta. Visits with Mrs. Priddle are still a fascinating story time, topped off with hot cups of Tetley and trays of peanut butter balls. At 92, she has left the bungalow and now lives independently at the local seniors complex. When I bought her bungalow as a summer home for my family a few years back, our conversations quickly drifted to the homeâs past and stories of resettlement.Pushthrough of the pastYoung Eastern Canadians like me know a bit about relocating. Leaving it all behind and moving west for work and new opportunity has been a way of life for a lot of us.The opportunity to own the Priddle home is like owning a piece of history. Every Newfoundland home tells a story, and if the wooden walls of an island bungalow or saltbox could talk, they would tell stories of heartbreak, resettlement and family. Music and friends. Saltwater joys. The walls of this house were held together by handcut wooden beams brought by boat to Milltown from the original Priddle home on the rocky shores of Pushthrough, about a 30-kilometre boat ride away. In the 1960s, the only way to get to Pushthrough was by boat. There were no roads, no modern electricity networks and no flush toilets or running water. Water for drinking, boiling and washing was hauled from a nearby well in buckets and carried more than a kilometre home. Groceries, mail, tools, clothing and other supplies were delivered by coastal boat a couple of times a month, if the weather allowed for safe passage. A doctor came to Pushthrough monthly on a boat from the nearby community of Hermitage. Everything was done by hand. Mrs. Priddle would scrub clothes and diapers on washboards, and pots of soup and porridge were stirred on top of the woodstove - the only source of household heat. Homes were lit by kerosene lamps at night. Household linens were sewn and embroidered into intricate designs from flour sacks. In the winter, socks, mittens and petticoats were sewn and knitted by the fire. Pushthrough in 1960. Conrad Hiscock Photo. Mrs. Priddle would tuck heated bricks into her childrenâs beds in the absence of sufficient woodstove heat. The summers were spent growing vegetables and catching fish in preparation for the harsh winters. It all sounds like the makings of a Victorian novel, but this was home life in 1960s outport Newfoundland. Resettling to Milltown brought the promise of running water and more modern amenities. The Newfoundland governmentâs resettlement programs in the 1950s to 1970s saw thousands of Newfoundlanders relocated from their family homes to more populated and easier-to-access areas, sold on the intention of better services for the population. Some people from Pushthrough relocated to Bay dâEspoir, an attractive area for work with recent hydroelectric projects and forestry jobs. Others relocated to Hermitage, St. Albans, Gaultois, Burgeo and other nearby communities.While the promise of running water, roads, electricity and life-saving medical services was an obvious advantage to resettling to a new area, the rich traditions, relationships and homes of these close-knit communities soon vanished at the hands of resettlement. Luckily, my visits with Mrs. Priddle were proof that the memories and oral traditions of these places were very much alive through storytelling. Questions about black-and-white photos of forgotten places turned into conversations about musical nights, fishing trips, community soup suppers and holiday traditions. Memories that are shared can last forever.My godmotherâs only regret living in Pushthrough was the lack of medical services. She lost two children on the settlement. One baby died of SIDS at Christmastime at three months of age; another passed at seven months old from measles, along with several other children in Pushthrough before treatment could arrive on a coastal boat. Coming to Milltown, the Priddles left behind the graves of their lost children. They also said goodbye to neighbours, friends and the home they knew. The last Pushthrough family was resettled 50 years ago. The community now sits alone on its rocky home, the cemetery a remaining marker of a community long gone. The move to MilltownWith hard work, the single-level house in Milltown would grow into a new, welcoming Newfoundland home. The family got to work sowing their gardens, and the hill behind the new house became an impressive potato garden with onion, carrot and beet seedlings. The rich soil in Milltown was a welcome addition to the blossoming property, a contrast to the rocky soil in Pushthrough. Water was soon piped into the home from the local Strickland Mill. Hens were heard clucking in the yard and fresh eggs kept coming into the kitchen. The family soon enjoyed their first meal in the home - a fresh chicken cooked in their new wood oven. The children ate their first ice cream cones thanks to stores now within walking distance. The crawl space under the home served as a root cellar to store potatoes and goods over the winter months, cozied up next to the occasional batch of fresh home-brewed beer. Generations later, the home is a place to make new memories. The flooring and curtains are new, and while the walls are painted a fresh coat of smoky blue, they are still held together by the thick, resettled wood from Pushthrough. Although we have moved many times, it feels like a second home to me, my husband and daughter. The author, Sheri Doyle, with her daughter Maeve and Mrs. Priddle As we work to clear brush in parts of the old garden, the berries, crab apples and fresh plums are ripe for the picking to make preserves or snack on. While they may not be stored in a cellar anymore, Iâm sure they taste as sweet as they always have. Visits to the house are all about exploring. Like Mrs. Priddleâs children, my baby Maeve also enjoyed her first ice cream cone in Bay dâEspoir, this time at the local Leeâs Convenience. Maeve was also excited to see a hen pecking around a neighbouring garden, down the same dirt road our families have walked on for generations. Whether we are boiling a cup of tea for neighbours or hosting a BBQ for the Stricklands in August, the door is always open. The home will continue to be a place of love and belonging, as it was years ago when the Priddle family resettled here. They say home is where the heart is. Mrs. Priddle and her little house taught me that your home is what you make it.
With a new short film, a director partner and a feature film in their sights, Gordon Pinsent has no plans to call âCut!âon his career By Janice Stuckless We should all be so lucky to find someone to love us the way Gordon Pinsent loves theatre. Itâs a âtill death do us partâ kind of love affair that has been celebrated on stage, on screen and behind the scenes since he was a teenager in the 1940s. At 89, he is still writing, acting and collaborating with other creators. In fact, he wrote and starred in a short film that had its Atlantic Canada debut at this yearâs St. Johnâs International Womenâs Film Festival in October. Titled Night Shoot, it costars veteran Canadian actress Sheila McCarthy and was produced and directed by Penny Eizenga. Gordon plays aging actor Branch, whose sense of play and dedication to his past characters reopens the heart of an embittered wardrobe mistress (played by Sheila). Itâs a delightful short film with two stellar actors who spark up the screen. Branch is one of many characters in many stories that Gordon has written over the years, and Night Shoot is the second short film heâs worked on with Penny. In 2016, they debuted Martinâs Hagge, in which Gordon created a personification of depression, perhaps leaning on the âold hagâ - what Newfoundlanders and Labradorians call sleep paralysis - for inspiration. Recalling how their partnership began, Gordon recalls, âShe showed up while we were doing an excerpt from a series that might have been a series but never turned out to be one.â Penny expressed an interest in helping Gordon get some of his writings on film. âSo there she was, producer-director coming onboard, and it made a lot of sense. I didnât have to leave the house anymore,â he wisecracks. âShe came up once a week and sheâd indicate things that Iâve written that she thought would make interesting sidebars to my business, to what I do. Sure enough, we got a few made! And I was delighted!âHe adds, âI get to sit there happily and be able to say Iâm still working, rather than having been thrown out with the dust - or the groceries from yesterday - you know, that kind of thing.â He laughs and you know, even without being able to see his face, that his eyes are twinkling with merriment.Penny says, âIâve read a lot of what heâs done, from a feature film to a poem, but the stories that appeal to me to do as a short film were ones that fit in with themes that Iâm interested in, which is about faulted characters trying to find their voice, and I think Night Shoot fit that category. His [Gordonâs] character ends up winning over the heart of this jaded wardrobe mistress, who has basically shut herself off from the world from grief and pain, and I love that. I love that his sense of play, the characterâs sense of play, pulled her out of herself.âGordon admits that there is some of him in Branch, and some of Branch in him. âIâve often gone by the batches of things that I have in my closet and Iâve said to myself, âWill they ever see the lighto of day?ââ And like Branch, heâs curious about the lives of people or characters heâs only briefly experienced. âSo basically, [Branch] was finishing the stories in life of people that would never get a chance and had no real finish from the standpoint of a lifeâs work kind of thing. And I think [Branch] was thinking of the way that would be in anybodyâs life. You could look out the window and see people going by you would never meet in your life, and thereâs a wonderful opportunity to study that as a way of living.âThis causes Penny to jump in with her own observation. âGordon is a very curious person. Thatâs one of the things Iâve noticed about him, that he observes life, and thatâs how heâs created so many interesting, intriguing, quirky characters. He remembers these things in little moments of observation, or connection to some obscure person he met somewhere in some bus station,â she says.âHe has been such a great mentor and has helped me see greater expansion of character and looking deeper into character. Because that, to me, is one of his fortes, is noticing people and the little intricacies in someoneâs character and what makes them intriguing. With Martinâs Hagge, one of the things that intrigued me, because I care a great deal about mental health, is how Gordon created this physical being for someoneâs anxiety. Iâd never seen anything onscreen about that before and, in fact, we are working on trying to get that made as a digital series, focusing on the hagge and anxiety.âGordon is quick to point out how Penny has benefited his life and ongoing career. âIf Iâm not going to complete most of the stuff that Iâve got piled up in the corner in the way of production, Penny would be perfect for that, to be able to polish up my ideas by just allowing me to ramble on. Thatâs it. Iâve been a rambler and thatâs fine, and she laughs. Sheâs laughing now,â he says, and right on cue, Penny can be heard laughing in the background. âI can stand to have another person say, âI like your work,â you know,â he laughs. âShe did say that, and I had to go back and read it myself and I said, âHe ainât bad! Iâm going to get dressed again and go out of the house and see if I can continue this career until they drag me off. I donât have to give it up.ââIt reminded me again, as I continued to work with her, that it ainât too late. Itâs not too late for me... I just feel as though Iâve got a long way to go, and at least the feeling is there. Whether or not I do is something else again, and how I treat it.âWhen Penny came to St. Johnâs for the film festival and the screening of Night Shoot, she had another collaboration with Gordon on her mind. Theyâve been working on her first feature film, developed from another of Gordonâs stories. While in Newfoundland and Labrador, she was planning to scout possible filming locations.âYes, it is a piece that, to me, needs to be shot in Newfoundland. I think some of the austerity, and the beauty in the austerity, of the landscape is really important to the story about a woman who is escaping a violent relationship and hiding herself away in small-cove Newfoundland. No matter how hard she tries, she is discovered by this aging artist who, himself, is hiding himself away from his own loss of his wife and his grief. Itâs a really beautiful story of friendship and almost father-daughter relationship that develops. And I havenât seen anything onscreen like it in awhile. Iâm really excited about it,â Penny says.The movie is called A Far Cry , but thatâs not the title Gordon had wanted for it. âThe original title for it was far better than the script that I had written. It was called Violins Regardless. Iâve always loved that title. Nobody knew what it was about and thatâs fine with me,â Gordon says. âI finally had to give it up because Penny got a funny look on her face when I said it the first time: âWhere could we sell one ticket to that?â Ah, well, there you have it, so we changed it. I used the title in something years ago, when I directed for the CBC. It was the title of something that had to do with a battered wife and it was called âA Far Cry From Home.ââWhen asked if he would be playing the aging artist in A Far Cry, Gordon mocked offense. âAm I playing the aging-?â he bursts out laughing. âYou sound like every producer in Toronto: âWould you be young enough to play the aging character?ââAgeism in the entertainment industry is something both Gordon and Penny push back against. âItâs like thereâs no interesting stories to tell about somebody once they hit a certain age,â Penny says, "and sometimes [they] just play the doting grandpa or the grandmother who has nothing to say, just there on screen. I just feel like we need to pay closer attention to peopleâs stories and they shouldnât just disappear, and, in fact, their life is full of vibrancy and history that we should be capitalizing on.âSo maybe Gordon will be cast as the young womanâs ex? âThatâs an idea!â Gordon agrees, then laughs. âDonât say that too loud because Iâll be doing it!âGordon hopes that they can raise the capital and bring the movie production to Newfoundland and Labrador. âItâd be good for all of us,â he says. âI do manage to get home and play things now and then.â His tone is softer and wistful as he adds, âI still love it back there. Itâs fabulous, just fabulous. No better people, I swear.âHe may have been living away from home for most of his life, but heâs still a Grand Falls-Windsor boy who loves to have a good yarn. He says just the other day he ran into someone on the street who commented on his age, how they couldnât believe Gordon was 89 years old. âI said, âHow old are you?â And we had a great discussion about age and so on,â Gordon says.What about retirement? Will he ever retire from working? âRetirement? No - not that Iâm not getting tired, you know,â he quips. âI can sit and at least discuss with myself what I have left undone, and if I can still come up with a couple of good plans, why not? A good many people think it has very little to do with age, it has to do with, first of all, energy - thatâs very important. And if I can find that, then I guess Iâm going to stay in the same place until Iâm satisfied with what Iâve done.âHe says, âLife is still interesting. But itâs curious the emotions that take over when, in fact, it looks as though you are leaning towards giving it all up. I certainly have never wanted to use that as a truth. I didnât want to say, âWell, thatâs it for me.â I wanted to be dragged off stage, thatâs what I wantedâ¦âI asked myself âWhy not? Why canât I just keep going?ââClick here to view the trailer for Night Shoot.
The Story of Old Christmas DayBy Chad Bennett A calendar would seem like an unlikely source of change, yet it itself has changed many times. Each iteration weaving echoes of the past into the present, influencing our lives in subtle and unanticipated ways.Molly Henderson busied herself with closing up shop. Her little bakery had stood near Market House hill for decades, the warm smell of molasses a landmark unto itself. It was Wednesday, September 2, 1752. Henry OâReilly was waiting out front of her shop with his pony and cart. He had happened by quite a few times lately. âA ride home perhaps?â asked Henry, tipping his cap.âAlright, so long as you behave yourself,â smiled Molly. As she took his arm in hers, Henry sat two feet taller. âWeâre too old for this foolishness, arenât we Henry?â asked Molly with a nudge.âMight be, might be,â Henry replied, a twinkle in his eye. âAlthough, today is September 2 and tomorrow will be September 14. Time appears to be a little more fluid right now.â Molly held his arm a little tighter. She would awake the next morning 11 days later, through no fault of her own. What happened? A law was passed in the United Kingdom, always a cringe worthy event. The Julian calendar had been in use from the start of Newfoundlandâs written history. Julius Caesar created the calendar, Augustus refined it, and John Cabot used it when he arrived in 1497. But from 1752, the Gregorian calendar, which was devised principally by German mathematician Christopher Clavius and approved for use by Pope Gregory XIII, takes us to the present. In Newfoundland, the 1752 law would change the month and day of New Yearâs Day, make 11 days disappear, and shift the day that Christmas would fall on. And thus, Old Christmas Day was born.The law was dubbed the Chesterfieldâs Act after Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield. It had two parts. First, it altered the calendar of England, the British Dominions and colonies, such that the new legal year began on January 1 rather than March 25 as it had always been. (Incidentally, this is why our taxes are due in April and not January.) The second part of the Act would mean that Great Britain, its Dominions and colonies would adopt the Gregorian calendar. The reason for the change was twofold. Firstly, the Julian calendar, in use since 46 BC, calculated that Earthâs orbit around the Sun took 365 and a quarter days. An extra day was added every fourth year, a leap year, to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. However, the Earthâs course around the Sun is 11-and-a-half minutes slower than calculated. Such a small error, and yet over time even small things begin to matter. Every 1,000 years, the Julian calendar would go off track by eight days. By the time England, and by extension Newfoundland, stopped using the Julian calendar it had been in constant use for 1,797 years, so it was already at odds with the seasons. The second reason for switching calendars was far more down to Earth: convenience. Other nations had already made the swap and it was becoming a hassle. In the words of an MP of the day, â[the continued use of the Julian calendar is] attended with diverse inconveniences, not only as it differs from the usage of neighbouring nations, but also from the legal method of computation in Scotland, and from the common usage throughout the whole Kingdom, and thereby frequent mistakes are occasioned in the dates of deeds and other writings, and disputes arise therefrom.âIn fact, for a time it was possible to send a document from England to Western Europe and have it arrive before it was sent! The majority of Western Europe and all of its overseas territories had made the switch in 1582. Most of Eastern Europe, among others, wouldnât change until well into the 20th century. Why the United Kingdom chose this moment in 1752 is open to speculation. Perhaps the French, who had already made the switch, looked far too pleased with themselves - thatâs worked in other arenas.But where does Old Christmas Day enter into the cultural traditions of Newfoundland? To better understand that little gem we need to clothe ourselves in the year of 1752. At that time, although our numbers could swell to well over 100,000 during the summer, Molly and Henry were two of only around 10,000 livyers in our colony at the centre-edge of the Western World. In order for the Gregorian calendar to re-sync with the seasons, they had to shift by 11 days. In order to adapt to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian, our lives needed to shift those same 11 days. We in Newfoundland went to sleep on Wednesday September the 2, 1752, and awoke on Thursday, September 14! No, we didnât just sleep in for a very, very long time, although some years we might wish we could; we made the switch to the Gregorian calendar all in one go. After some initial angst over wages and rents and so on, which was eventually quelled by some creative accounting, life returned to normal - that is, until Christmas drew near. Molly and Henry were strolling the streets of Water and Duckworth back when they were still called Lower and Upper path and began to worry that because the year was 11 days short, Christmas would be celebrated on the wrong day. Christmas, in their view, needed to be 365 days from the last one, otherwise it wouldnât be right.âDonât you dare take down those decorations until January 6, Henry OâReilly,â Molly said crisply, pointing her finger.âI wouldnât dream of it, Molly Henderson,â he assured her.âWell in that case, Henry OâReilly,â said Molly, rounding on him before giving a wry smile, âthere just might be hope for you yet.ââReally? In that case, perhaps I should find my way to the front of your shop again this evening.ââPerhaps you should, if you know whatâs good for you.â And with that, Molly spun on her heels and entered her shop.The solution was Old Christmas Day on January 6. This would allow everyone to embrace the future, celebrate on December 25, and yet still honour the past on January 6 with high carnival. To this day, many in Newfoundland and Labrador insist on leaving lights, decorations and tree up until the evening of January 6.Maybe this year when youâre gathered around an old pot belly stove, or digital equivalent, give a thought to traditions past and raise a glass of syrup or maybe even a lassie bun to the 11 days that never were. Happy Holidays and have a very Merry Old Christmas Day. (And if anyone would like to celebrate Old New Yearâs Eve, count me in, there is always room for one more holiday!)