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A look back at the best sea stories we've published in our 29-year history
A reader remembers Joey's royal snub.
Memorial University students get schooled in Irish language and culture.
Fond memories of growing up in Coal's Cove, Newfoundland
In the late 1920s, cars and radios began to appear in our town of Grand Bank, Newfoundland. Our family's first radio was equipped with earphones, and only one person at a time could listen to it. It was powered by a pack of large, round screw terminal batteries. Later, when main line electric power came along, we became the proud owners of a Philco cabinet radio with a loud speaker. It was on this radio that we kids first heard Big Ben and the voice of the King on Christmas Day. We also owned a 1928 (second-hand) Studebaker sedan. It was referred to by (envious?) non-owners as the âFrazer Hallâ on wheels because it allegedly resembled that ugly church meeting hall.While short-wave radio reception from the UK was good, standard AM broadcasts from Sydney, Nova Scotia, and Newark, New Jersey, were the only two East Coast stations we could be sure to be able to tune into - and this was in the early 1930s! Even VON St. Johnâs was unavailable to us at that time.Later on, we were privileged to tune into the St. Johnâs station, but we were quickly disappointed that the âBarrelmanâ show, sponsored by Gerald S. Doyle Cod-liver Oil and starring Joey Smallwood telling tall tales, was a large part of the main bill. Little else of much interest outside the environs of St. Johnâs was aired. For example, we had to tune into New Jersey to listen to things like the Joe Louis boxing matches, while we heard not much besides Joeyâs wisdom and the St. Johnâs weather on VON.This same Joey Smallwoodâs gift of gab and twisty oratory would eventually propel him to much greater heights and achievements, including the bringing of Britainâs oldest colony into the Canadian federation. Without him, the completion of the Canadian federation might not have been realized. Joey (modestly) referred to himself as âThe Only Living Father of Confederation.â Among Joeyâs most passionate beliefs was that only a Liberal government in Ottawa made any sense. At every opportunity he made clear how little he admired the PCs when they came to power, led by Diefenbaker. He left the impression with the people of the outports that, were he and his Liberals not to be re-elected at any time in the future, such Confederation benefits as Old Age Pensions and Child Allowances could be lost.On one occasion, in 1959, perhaps to ensure his omnipotent image was justified, Joey used his position to make sure he - and nobody from Ottawa - would be the first to greet the Queen when her aircraft landed at Torbay Airport on the first stop of her Canadian Royal Tour. I was there as captain of the C5 VIP aircraft and bore witness to this spectacle.The official printed program for her arrival aboard a BOAC Comet jet indicated that Prime Minister Diefenbaker would officially greet Her Majesty as she deplaned. However, the prime ministerâs aircraft from Ottawa was late, and his appearance was further delayed by the fact that his aircraft had been (craftily?) diverted to a remote, supposedly secure, parking spot on the airfield.While the prime minister was being rushed by limo from his aircraft to the terminal area where the Royal aircraft was already parked, Joey took matters into his own hands. Rather than wait, Joey stepped forward and indicated to all concerned that the Queen should now deplane. She did, and Joey officially welcomed her, first to Newfoundland - and then to Canada!And when he finally appeared to greet the Queen, the prime ministerâs famous jowls were visibly shaking as he realized Joey had upstaged him. Meanwhile, Joey was beaming from ear to ear as he presented the prime minister to Her Majesty! Prime Minister Diefenbaker did not act as happily as he tried to look. - Submitted by General Bill CarrBill Carr is a retired Lieutenant General of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
When Eoin Mac Gearailt landed in Newfoundland last summer, he was ready to teach as Memorial University's latest Irish Scholar, but he wasn't sure what to expect from the province. While Newfoundlanders often boast of our connection to the Emerald Isle, Eoin (pictured above) didn't know much about this Canadian province prior to packing his bags. Internet searches showed pictures of icebergs, and he'd been warned about the cold. Fortunately, he arrived to sunny skies and 24-degree weather - but unfortunately, there were no icebergs in sight.He quickly found out that the name for Newfoundland in Irish - a version of Gaelic spoken in Ireland - is Talamh an Ãisc, or "Place of the Fish." "It's the only place outside of Ireland that has an official Irish place nameâ¦A lot of places are directly translated from English to Irish. This place has its own Irish name, so that's very interesting," Eoin says.Every year, the Ireland Canada University Foundation selects a number of Irish language speakers to teach at Canadian universities as Irish Scholars, which allows Canadian students to learn the Irish language from actual speakers and helps instructors cultivate their teaching skills. Part of Eoin's role as an Irish Scholar is to promote the unique language and culture of Ireland, something he does enthusiastically.During MUNâs fall semester, Eoin taught âIntroduction to Irish Culture,â and heâs currently teaching âIntroduction to Irish Writing and Cultural Connections.â These courses offer beginner language skills and an overview of Irish culture, which includes studying Irish writers, film and music. Eoin says in the past there was somewhat of a stigma associated with speaking Irish, but the language is being revived and people are now proud of it. Heâs taught a wide range of students at MUN, from recent high school graduates to retirees. He has an Irish speaker in class this semester, and others who have taken Irish courses in previous years and are looking to refresh their knowledge. And heâs met folks here whose Irish accents are so strong, âyouâd actually think they were from Ireland,â says Eoin.Itâs no secret that people from this province feel a close connection to Ireland, with many having Irish roots. And when Eoin asked his students why they wanted to take an Irish course, he got a wide range of answers. âThey want to find out more about their selves, connect more with language and things like that,â says Eoin. He recalls one girl in class whose grandmother spoke Irish and this student wanted to keep up that tradition. âAnd that was cool, for someone whoâs completely outside of Ireland to say they want to keep the language up - which is great,â he says.Other students enrolled because of their interest in Irish music. âThereâs a big connection between the Newfoundland music and Irish traditional music. Theyâre very similar and a lot of the chords and the reels that they play here are very similar to Irish ones,â says Eoin.His studentsâ desire to connect to their Irish heritage has made Eoin reexamine his own culture, and the many components - language, music etc. - that make Irish people Irish.When he applied to be an Irish Scholar, Eoin didnât have a say in where heâd end up. âI just saw this advertised in the paper: Teach Irish Abroad,â he says. âSo I love Irish language and everything, because itâs my first language. So I just applied for this and you could have been placed anywhere across Canadaâ¦So I just ended up being sent here.âHe considers himself very lucky to have been assigned to St. Johnâs. âI thought it was a small fishing town, like you know, something similar to what I was used to at homeâ¦Itâs a lot bigger than what I actually expected,â says Eoin, who hails from the fishing village of Ballydavid on Irelandâs west coast. He now lives in MUNâs student housing in the Battery, right in the heart of the city. âYou could either go walk up the back of Signal Hill and youâre in the countryside or walk downtown; you could be on George Street with 15 minutes walking downtown. So itâs actually great, I have the best of both worlds.âBallydavid, IrelandWhen asked if anything about his new home has surprised him, Eoin admits the people have been a surprise - a welcome one.âI wasnât sure what to expect when I came here. Youâre coming from a completely different place. I left on my own, I came here on my own, but what surprised me was how genuine people are. Like, if you were at home and they said âAh sure, come on over for dinner!ââ¦At a half-attempt at an invitation. But here, they genuinely want you to come over for dinner and theyâll actually pick you up. Iâve been brought to dinner a few times by a few different families,â says Eoin. âItâs amazing.â The Irish Scholar position can stretch to two years, and Eoin doesnât know yet if his term will be exten-ded, but he says heâd love to stay a bit longer. Heâs been touched by the kindness of strangers while making his home in St. Johnâs. âIrish people are very similar, but itâs just that I was just kind of taken aback that it happened so quickly and that I was welcomed in,â he says.But before Eoin leaves, thereâs one thing heâs determined to cross off his bucket list: âIâm really looking forward to seeing an iceberg. I havenât seen one yet, so thatâs my main goal.â - By Elizabeth WhittenAnyone interested in reaching out to Eoin or finding out more about events celebrating Irish culture going on in March, follow along on Twitter @TalamhanEisc.
The ocean flowed into the harbour a stone's throw from our home. Some days the sea was quite treacherous, with waves splashing about. We didn't dare venture towards the "point," the place where the big rock was. If we stood on that big rock, when the waves were coming inland, we'd be drowned for sure. On the coldest winter days, the waves pounded together the big pans of ice, making the harbour seem like one solid sheet. Only a few dared jump onto those ice pans, dashing from one to another, hoping never to fall into the icy water. I never heard about anyone drowning. Then there were the beautiful summer days when the sun shone so brightly and that same water glistened. We could see the sparkles on the water and weâd listen for the motorboats coming back from the fishing grounds. As the men brought back their catches we wondered how much fish they had, and if Mr. Kelly would fire up the stove on the beach to feed us kids some lobster. The gulls hovered wherever the fish was taken, hoping for a fish to fall - it was sure to be lifted to safety. That harbour was our haven, our home, and the little place it enveloped was called Coalâs Cove. Part of Long Harbour, the hillside was made up of rugged rocks and stunted-looking trees. They were evergreens, so they never lost their beautiful colour.Everyone in Coalâs Cove knew each other, maybe sometimes too well. We kept track of everyone coming and going, and it felt like the community was one big family. There was never a dull day, it seemed.The schoolhouse and church were built close to each other and we always participated in the choir and school concerts. How I loved to sing! My friend, Angela, and I would spend a whole afternoon singing in the hot sun. We would be in our swings soaring higher and higher towards the sky. What fun it was!The most precious memories from childhood are never forgotten: Picking berries and seeing who could get the most in the least amount of time; listening to our father tell us stories about the fairies and how they used to sneak into the woods and scare children.Weâd sing and be so happy on the days we could be with Dad, as he only got to come home on weekends. He had to go away during the week and work hard to provide for our family. Then, there would be the days weâd go trouting. Weâd take our bamboo poles with the lines and hooks attached, and walk towards the best pond. Sometimes weâd walk along the train track and listen for a train, hoping one would pass by so we could wave to the people onboard. Mom would pack us a picnic most times. Sheâd stay at home and cook a feast to be ready upon our return. I know we all liked to fish, but cleaning it was the most dreaded task. Mom always hated the smell of fish but, boy, could she cook!There were always dances on Friday nights at the big hall. People would come from all the nearby small towns and thereâd be a great time. I attended my first dance a week after my 14th birthday. Mom had gone to the city and bought my sister, Lila, and me the same type of blouse. We got ready and I nervously followed Lila, who was two years older than me. Boy, could she dance! And before I knew it, I was out on the dance floor with all of my friends having a blast.The Christmas concerts were the best. There was always someone on stage who could imitate someone else from a different town. They would do such a good job, youâd have to look around and hope that person wasnât at the concert. How embarrassing that would be!The joy in our house at Christmas time could not be compared to any other holiday. It was overwhelming. We looked in the Sears Wishbook for weeks before Christmas and made many wishes. We hoped Santa would bring each of us something special.Christmas mornings were stupendous. The living room floor was covered in cars, trucks, dolls, sleighs, apples, oranges and candies as we opened our gifts. Wonderfully cooked smells wafted from the kitchen to our noses. Family time at Christmas was the best we could ever wish for. We didnât ask for anything; whatever we got we enjoyed. The home-cooked meals prepared from the fixings from Dadâs garden and the ocean nearby provided us with our healthy meals. Christmases in Coalâs Cove are some of my happiest memories.Life certainly wasnât bad in a small town. Our parents loved us and tried their best to give us a balanced life, one filled with laughter, song, books, discipline and wellbeing. We didnât have as many choices as kids do today, but I will always treasure my fond memories of that small town nestled by the ocean. As did many young people from that place, I grew up and moved away, all the while never forgetting a special place called Coalâs Cove. - Submitted by Suzanne Norman Demaer
We Newfoundlanders and Labradorians express ourselves in such colourful language we have our very own dictionary. So it should come as no surprise that we have a wide variety of pet names for our loved ones. Downhome took a jaunt down to Jumping Bean Coffee in St. John's recently to ask folks, "What do you call your sweetheart?" Hear the responses in the video below.What do you call your significant other? Share your romantic pet names by leaving a comment - and keep it clean, me ducky!
Can't find just the right way to say "I Love You" this Valentine's Day? Stop twackin' around at the card shop, and send the perfect Valentine on us. Here are two perfect ways to say "I Love You" on Valentine's Day in Newfoundland and Labrador. Just click the images below for free, printable Valentines and - signed, sealed, delivered - they're yours!
The coastlines of Newfoundland and Labrador are littered with the wrecks of sunken vessels. All their victims were mourned in their day, but few have garnered long-lasting, international attention the way that the loss of the American naval vessels USS Truxtun and USS Pollux have. Lost on the same stormy night off Newfoundlandâs Burin Peninsula at the height of the Second World War, the shipwrecks claimed the lives of 203 sailors and have been called one of the worst naval disasters in US history. This month marks 75 years since the tragedy, which, even after all this time, is far from forgotten by the people of Lawn and St. Lawrence - and many others south of the border.Against All OddsEscorted by the destroyers USS Truxtun and USS Wilkes, the supply ship USS Pollux was bound from Maine to the US military base in Argentia, Newfoundland, loaded with cargo for the war effort. A few days into the trip, on February 18, 1942, the convoy found itself in the midst of a blinding winter storm off the coast of Newfoundland. The Truxtun ran aground at Chamber Cove just after 4 a.m.; minutes later and less than two miles to the west, the Pollux followed suit at Little Lawn Point. (The Wilkes also ran aground, but freed itself and eventually made it to its destination.) USS TruxtunUSS PolluxUSS WilkesItâs what happened next that makes the story of the Truxtun and Pollux not just one of tragedy, but one of humanity. When news of the wrecks reached the locals, brave men from St. Lawrence and Lawn ventured to Chamber Cove and Little Lawn Point and risked their own lives to save 186 American sailors - often by hauling them with ropes, or by carrying the weary men on their own backs, over steep cliffs. The survivors were transported to St. Lawrence, where residents took them into their homes and nursed them back from the brink of death.The late Frederic C. Brehm of Wisconsin was one of those surviving sailors. His son and namesake, Fred Brehm, is still astounded by that story, which his father relayed to him as a teenager.âIn high school I was writing a term paper and looking for a subject, and I think my mom suggested that I interview my dad about the Pollux incident,â says Fred over the phone from his home in New Jersey. âI was in aweâ¦It was kind of unbelievable that something like that had happened to my dad.âFrederic C. Brehm was one of 140 survivors of the USS Pollux shipwreck. (Courtesy Fred Brehm)He says over the years his father, who passed away in 2009, travelled all over the US attending reunions of survivors. One place he never went, however, was Newfoundland.âHe did regret never having gone back, but he never did do that. I think part of it was that he may have been - I donât know if scared is the right word - but that place did not hold good memories,â says Fred. âSo I always wondered if it was because of that that he didnât go, rather than just forgetting.âLast summer, Fred finally made the journey that his father regretted never having taken. He and his wife and a couple of friends loaded up an RV and travelled to Newfoundland for a two-week trip that took in LâAnse aux Meadows, Terra Nova National Park, Gros Morne National Park - and Lawn and St. Lawrence.During a reception at the Royal Canadian Legion in Lawn, held in their honour, Fred met the wife and daughter of one of the rescuers. âIt was really touching, they all came out to meet us,â says Fred. âIt seemed like everybody in the town is related in some way to the rescuers. I basically said âThank youâ a lot.âDuring the trip, Fred donated a heirloom beloved by his father to the Lawn Heritage Museum. The dramatic painting of the Pollux, created by a fellow survivor, depicts the ship half submerged in icy waters. On the painting, artist J. Crump wrote the eerie words, âWe Were There.âThis painting of the sinking Pollux now hangs in the Lawn Heritage Museum. (Courtesy Fred Brehm)Betty Drake (left) and Margaret Tarrant Isaacs (middle) accepted the artwork from Fred Brehm last summer. (Courtesy Fred Brehm)âYou get the chills, kind of, when you look at it,â says Betty Drake, a Lawn resident committed to preserving the memory of the disasters. The image holds even greater meaning for Betty, since sheâs one of relatively few people who has visited Little Lawn Point, where the Pollux went down. She says her first visit was an overwhelmingly emotional experience. âWhen we got on that cliff, it was like we could feel them. Looking down into the water, it was like we could feel their spirits there. Itâs impossible to imagineâ¦And then itâs impossible to imagine hauling 140 men up over those cliffs, and then carrying them to a copse of wood and trying to keep them warm and keep them safe,â says Betty.Itâs a moving experience she wants others to have as well. So, in 2013, Betty formed the Little Lawn Memorial Trail of Heroes Committee, a group dedicated to forging a trail to Little Lawn Point. A hiking trail to Chamber Cove, where the Truxtun ran aground, already exists and Betty feels a trail to Little Lawn Point would help complete the story. A portion of the trail is complete, but there is still much work to be done to make the rugged terrain suitable for public use, says Betty. The committee is currently raising funds, appealing to the public and to government for financial assistance to see the project through.Chamber Cove, where the Truxtun ran aground (Nancy Molloy photo)Meantime, the group has created a Room of Remembrance, dedicated to the Pollux, in the basement of the Lawn Heritage Museum. Fredâs fatherâs painting now hangs there, along with priceless artifacts and photographs that tell the story of the disaster to locals and tourists alike. Among the items on display are actual pieces of the Pollux (which, Betty says, can still be spotted wedged into the cliffs at low tide), two naval uniforms once belonging to Pollux survivors, and photos of many of the American sailors and their rescuers.A Tie That BindsBetty says that in addition to visitors from all parts of this province, the Room of Remembrance has had its fair share of American tourists, like the Brehms, who come to gain a greater appreciation for a disaster that touched their own family. Fred and his wife plan to return to Newfoundland this month, to participate in the events taking place in St. Lawrence and Lawn in honour of the 75th anniversary of the disaster. âEvery year we have an ecumenical service and a wreath laying, but this year itâs going to be a week-long eventâ¦plus weâll be having extra things going on throughout the year,â says Laurella Stacey of theSt. Lawrence Historical Advisory Committee.From February 13-19, a variety of events are set to take place in St. Lawrence, including a production of the play âColorblind,â based on the disaster; a craft exhibition; and live music (see below for a schedule of events). In Lawn, a prayer service will take place at the church, and a wreath laying will be held at the Legion at a time to be announced. On February 18, 75 years to the day from the date of the disaster, the St. Lawrence Historical Advisory Committee will hold an ecumenical service and wreath laying at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in St. Lawrence.Following the service, a new memorial will be unveiled at Chamber Cove. Laurella says the design for the memorial was thoughtfully chosen.âWhen you look at it from a distance, it looks like an anchor,â she explains. What it actually depicts is a cross and the wings of a bald eagle, the US national emblem - which also holds special meaning locally. âItâs been said that theyâve seen a bald eagle out there sometimes, hovering over the site, almost like heâs protecting the area,â says Laurella. âHe sort of goes from one side to the other, hovering over the place where the Truxtun went down.âItâs all heartening for Fred. While his father, and most likely all the other sailors who survived the shipwrecks, has passed on, the efforts to preserve the memory of the disaster offer hope that the tragedy will not be forgotten.âI think itâs really wonderful. I didnât know that the shipwrecks really meant so much to the local people,â says Fred. âIt really says that they have some feeling of history or ownership of this thing, that itâs not just some random thing that happened in the past.â - By Ashley MillerClick here to read the late Frederic C. Brehmâs fascinating first-hand account of surviving the USS Pollux shipwreck. See below for special events taking place in St. Lawrence to commemmorate the shipwrecks.75th Anniversary Schedule of EventsFebruary 13 Slideshow presentation, featuring photos related to the disaster, shown to students of St. Lawrence AcademyFebruary 16Live music by local talent at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish Hall, St. LawrenceFebruary 17Members of the St. Lawrence Historical Advisory Committee perform the play âColorblindâ for the general public at St. Lawrence Academy February 18Ecumenical service and wreath laying at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, St. Lawrence; monument unveiling at Chamber Cove followed by a social gathering at St. Lawrence AcademyFebruary 19Craft exhibition at the St. Lawrence Recreation Centre - try your hand at knitting, rug hooking, etc. during hands-on demonstrations by local crafters
When my mother told me stories about her childhood, it sounded enchanted. She grew up with servants: housemaids, hired hands, gardeners and seamstresses. Her father owned a cement factory and a lumber mill, four working dairy farms, the largest parcel of undeveloped land in the city, numerous rental properties and a summer home on Lake Champlain.The housemaids helped my grandmother clean the house, prepare and cook the meals, wash and iron the familyâs clothes, and can food for the winter. Mellie Best was my motherâs favourite housemaid. She was kind and gentle to my mother. It was only Mellie, with her warm, sweet disposition, who my grandmother considered worthy enough to be alone with my mother. Mellie was from St. Johnâs, Newfoundland, and she arrived as a live-in housekeeper when my mother was in the fourth grade. Mellie had dreams of graduating from nursing school and returning to the Grenfell Mission, Labrador to care for the sick, but first she needed her high school diploma. My mother and Mellie both had dark brown hair, round faces and friendly dispositions. They even had the same first name - Elizabeth - so to prevent any confusion she kept her Newfoundland name. Mellieâs room was on the third floor. It had a small cast iron stove and a small sink. A large window overlooked all the houses her employer owned. My mother looked forward to visiting Mellie in her room in the evenings. She would gaze in wonderment at all her night school books and how neatly she wrote her lessons. Other evenings, my mother brought her dark green catechism to Mellieâs room to recite her prayers. Mellie, who was Protestant, would listen intently, intrigued by the familyâs Catholic religion. My motherâs family had a four-bedroom waterfront camp on Lake Champlain. When there, Mellie would take my motherâs hand and theyâd go looking for wildflowers. Mellie walked slowly, remembering when she was young and pudgy like my mother. One day, Mellie got permission to take my mother on a hike to Lookout Point, a large hill big enough to be an adventure but not so large as to exhaust a nine-year-old. After Mellie graduated from high school in 1925, she went into nursesâ training at the hospital across the street. Though she didnât work for them anymore, Mellie spent her days off with my motherâs people. On those days my grandmother had the new housemaid prepare special dinners: fresh lobster, roast beef, whatever she knew Mellie would like.True to her plan, Mellie graduated nursing and worked in Labrador. She eventually converted to Catholicism and joined a religious order of nursing nuns on Long Island, New York. Many years later, whenever my mother stayed with my oldest sister in Centerport, New York, she would visit Mellie at the convent. The first time my mother visited, Mellie didnât recognize her because my mother had grown into a tall, thin, stately lady. So she said, âIf I called you Mellie, would you know who I am?â Mellie rushed to her, threw her arms around my mother and started to cry. When my mother told me about those visits, I realized how much Mellie meant to her. Later, whenever my mother and I wanted a happy story, Iâd say to her, âTell me about Mellie.âThe last time my mother saw Mellie she was very sick, unable to get out of bed. Her hair was combed and she had on a little rouge, which she never wore when she was young, to give her face colour. The next time my mother was on Long Island, she learned that Mellie had died. My sister offered to find where she was buried and take my mother there, but my mother said, âNo. Itâs too sad.â On my motherâs bureau next to her bed is the hand-woven, off-white dresser scarf with long tassels made by the Eskimos that Mellie gave her. When I was caring for my mother, she had me wash it by hand in Ivory Flakes. It was delicate and she wanted to take good care of Mellieâs gift.I often wondered why someone from Newfoundland would enter a convent on Long Island. My mother said she was told Mellie had a brother who lived in Florida. Other than that she didnât know anything about Mellieâs family. She thought Mellieâs background must have been above average because she always conducted herself in such a lady-like fashion. - Submitted by Martha R. Lang, Ph.D.
The late Frederic C. Brehm of Wisconsin was one of the sailors who survived the sinking of the USS Pollux, part of a convoy of American naval vessels that ran aground during a storm off the coast of the Burin Pensinula at the height of the Second World War, on February 18, 1942. The following first-hand account was adapted from Frederic's personal essays about the incident, provided to Downhome by his family. Frederic passed away in 2009.When the Pollux hit the rocks, it lodged itself between a ledge of rock under a cliff and an outcrop of rock under the water and not too far from the ledge. She came to rest directly under the superstructure, with the ledge and the outcrop acting as a fulcrum on which the Pollux yawed and teetered. To the port of the ship were the ledge and a small cove. A heavy offshore gale raised huge waves, which pounded the ship. With the forward momentum of the incoming waves impeded by the shipâs hull, strong currents were formed at bow and stern in the waterâs race to shore. The incoming water filled the cove. Again, impeded by the hull in the wavesâ outward flow, a very strong undertow was formed directly under the superstructure.Watertight integrity is almost completely absent in a C-2 cargo ship hull. In such a precarious position the ship was in eminent danger of losing its perch and sinking like a rock. It was pitch-dark when the ship hit the rock. With those wave and weather conditions, it was highly unlikely that any of us could reach the shore. All of us stood on deck trying to figure out a way to get to shore. Two officers tried to get a line to the ledge by attempting to paddle a small life raft. It was hopeless. Water was flowing like a millrace and the fuel oil leaking from the ruptured bunkers floated on top of the water, making headway impossible.This precarious condition remained âstatus quoâ during the morning hours. The waves kept pounding the forward part of the ship until it broke off just forward of the superstructure and sank. The horrible groaning and screeching of torn metal plates will always remain in my memory as the ship went through her agonizing throes of death.USS PolluxAfter the ship lost the heavy weight of her forward holds, she again started to lurch off the fulcrum on which she was perched.At this time, the captain believed it would be only a matter of minutes before the ship would slide off and sink. He then told the crew that if anyone wanted to try to reach the shore, they had his permission to abandon ship. About 90 of us went over the side. When I hit the water and the floating fuel oil, I realized I made a horrible mistake.When the Captain saw most of the men caught in the fuel oil (which had the consistency of Vaseline in that frigid water); and men were disappearing by being sucked under by the undertow of the ebbing waves, he gave the order rescinding Abandon Ship.I am unable to explain how I reached the ledge through the floating fuel oil and the wild currents. Someone âUpstairsâ must have pulled me to relative safety.I tried to clamber up, but kept slipping back into the water. The heavy weight of my oil-soaked clothing and the slippery rocks made it impossible without help.I donât know how my good friend and liberty buddy, Al Dupuy, got to shore, but he found me and pulled me out of the water. Al had a foghorn voice, which the Captain recognized. He called to Al and told us to come to a point of the ledge nearest the ship and catch a line, which would be thrown to us. Dupuy caught the messenger, which was bent to a larger line. We wrapped the line around a rock, and secured the line as best we could.The Captain then asked Dupuy what he needed. Dupuy, in his foghorn voice, hollered âWhiskey!â They threw us another messenger to which was attached a pint of âOld Crow.â For the first time and last time in my life, I took a big swig of the liquor and spit it out. I had to wash out the fuel oil in my mouth.The crew then started to leave the ship by bosân chair. In true naval tradition, the Captain was the last to leave the ship. Before leaving, he rifled the lockers in officers quarters and sent down as much heavy clothing as he could find for those men on shore who needed it. After the Captain got ashore, he stated that we were in no better shape then we were on the ship, considering the cliff staring us in the face. He then detailed a search party to try and scale the cliff and seek help.Some time toward late afternoon a line was thrown to us from the top of the cliff. The search party had found a group of men working a mine. Those wonderful Newfoundlanders worked all through the night lifting us one-by-one up the cliff. It was pitch dark when I was pulled up. Half blinded by the fuel oil in my eyes, I tried to find my way to the campfire that had been prepared for us. I lost my way through the snow and rocks, and almost fell off the cliff before I reached the campfire.We all stood around the campfire, which was more smoke than heat. The next morning the men from St. Lawrence arrived with every conveyance they could find to carry us to town.Because I had jumped in the water and I was one of the few who made it to shore, I was given a ride rather than walk. I was assigned to a sled, pulled by two dogs who were accompanied by two men. On each corner of the sled was a stick rising about two feet above the body of the sled. A rope was tied around the top of each stick to form a rectangle.We started off fine until we reached some little hills and valleys. Coming down the first hill, I realized I had a real problem! My trousers were saturated with fuel oil, which acted as a lubricant and I slid forward on the sled until the back of my neck hit the rope. Then the weight of my body from my buttocks to my neck was suspended on the rope. Every little bounce and jerk of the plummeting sled was telegraphed to my neck. The dogs needed the momentum of the downward slide to pull the sled to the top of the next hill. There the men had to stop and lift me to a sitting position. Within seconds of the next downhill slide, this misery started over again.I was a sad looking sailor! I was covered with fuel oil, shivering with cold and exhaustion. My feet were frostbitten. My eyes were almost swollen shut and stung like mad from the fuel oil and the smoking campfire. My neck felt like it had been chewed on.Despite all this misery, this ride was the best and most appreciated taxi ride I ever took!The Newfoundlanders who guided the dog sled led me into a home alongside the road; a lady whom I judge was in her 40s helped me take off my greasy outer clothing, and gave me a large mug of tea, which at that time tasted like âNectar from the Gods.â Her name was Julia Skinner. Over the years I have deeply regretted that I never wrote her to express my deep appreciation for her help and tenderness.My eyes gave me excruciating pain from the effects of the fuel oil and smoke from that campfire. She sat me down on a bench, lay my head on her shoulder and gently swabbed my eyes with a boric acid solution. It did wonders to my eyes. By the time we reached Argentia the pain had largely disappeared.Then she gave me a pair of thick, heavy, woollen fishermanâs trousers and a heavy woollen sweater to wear. A veritable giant must have once worn those trousers! At that time I had a 30â waist, and I had to fasten a fly on a suspender button, leaving one fly flapping in the breeze. I had given my shoes to some sailor who had none at the campfire because I also wore a pair of overshoes - those with a series of buckles to hold them on. The overshoes were adequate enough to keep my feet from freezing.This fancy outfit certainly was not what the well-dressed sailor would wear! They were the âUniform of the Dayâ for me. The Naval Air Station in Argentia was low on uniforms - its replenishments went down on the Pollux.We were then taken to an old WWI destroyer to carry us to Argentia. I was assigned to a lower bunk in the Guinea Pullman - a long, narrow sleeping compartment traditionally assigned to the engineering crew.Above me was a machinist mate. I knew him on the Pollux but whose name has been forgotten. Apparently he had fuel oil in his lungs. He was rasping and gasping for every breath. It was so loud that despite my exhaustion I was unable to sleep. About an hour later, his rasping ceased. It is an ugly feeling listening to a man draw his last breath.When we arrived in Argentia my first act was to take a shower. The soap suds on my body were an ugly tan as the soap cleansed my pores.After a deep sleep, I was walking along the corridor where I met the Supply Officer. âMy God Brehm,â he said, âI thought you were dead!â That shower had finally cleaned my face of fuel oil so I could be recognized.I do not remember how long we stayed in Argentia, but an old Navy Reefer took us back to Boston. Immediately after leaving port, the ship held an âAbandon Shipâ drill. I was assigned to #2 motor boat, 7th trip over. The idea was that the boat would go well away from the ship and dump its passengers in the water - then return for the next load - a not very auspicious start of a voyage, especially through the Gulf of St Lawrence, which in those days was known as âTorpedo Junction.âWe arrived at the Boston Navy Yard at night. It is an old Navy truism that, no matter how often and how loud you pass the word, there is always someone who doesnât get the word. Apparently the arrival of us survivors was unexpected because we were assigned to an unused sleeping compartment without mattresses, blankets, or pillows. Try sleeping on bare springs! Not very restful!The next morning we were taken to the Fargo Building (the Receiving Station in South Boston) where I finally was issued a full seabag of clothing.I probably should have saved that wool sweater and the huge pair of fishermanâs trousers as a memento of the âUniform of the Dayâ while I was in Argentia. - By Frederic C. Brehm