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20 Questions with Shaun Majumder
The inspiring woman behind an organization bringing service dogs to people suffering from mental illness
There are so many similarities between these birds of a similar feather that we asked an expert to help us tell them apart.
How an ancient children's game of sticks and stones is now a fun annual tournament
On a quiet Sunday night last spring, in her ranch-style home in Bay Bulls, NL, Esther Vardy almost died. As she lay on the cold, marble bathroom floor, slipping in and out of reality, the 40-year-old mother of two thought she might soon take her last breath. In those abstract moments that didn't feel real, she believed she wanted to take her last breath. Esther was experiencing a psychosis - a symptom of a mental illness she has been living with for decades. She was losing sight of what was real and going to a dark place she might never return from when a big, furry pup brought her back. Esther was 23 years old when she was diagnosed with Bipolar II, a mental illness characterized by distinctly high (hypomanic) and low (depressive) states. She had just given birth to her second daughter. In the years following Estherâs diagnosis, she would experience depressive episodes that would cause her to become withdrawn, agitated and angry. Other times, she would be elated, energetic and seemingly high on life. âWhen youâre hypomanic youâre very optimistic, you have a lot of energy, you donât sleep, you have a lot of great ideas, you want to do everything - a lot of people say itâs a positive thing, but itâs not. You donât really have a conscience, you make very impulsive decisions and you donât think of consequences, and that can lead to a lot of negative things after the episode is finished. When Iâm hypomanic, the scariest part about that is that it always comes with a crash.âEsther says each âcrashâ brought her lower and caused fundamental changes in how her brain worked. Although Esther fought to stay in the middle of the two extremes, it was in the midst of a depressive state when the concept for Pawsology was born. The idea for the organization, which trains psychiatric service dogs and pairs them with people who need psychiatric support, came to Esther after a doctor recommended she get a service dog to help mitigate the symptoms that couldnât be controlled with medication. Esther describes the painful lead-up to what she identifies as the tipping point in her disorder. âUnable to function or think clearly, I was whisked away in my own mind, as if I never existed. The most I could hope for was numbness. This brought me to the first trip ever to the psych ward. The hospital meant a loss of control, a loss of autonomy, enforcement of drastic measures, and a forced admittance to myself and others that I was seriously unwell,â Esther says. âThat night at the Waterford [hospital], the absolute disconnect made it very real to me that suicide is the worst possible outcome of mental illness. If I allowed myself to live with mental illness as the benchmark for everything I did, it would eventually win.â Esther began to take a more holistic approach and she started to discover new ways to help her get through times when her disorder took control. She searched for a Canadian organization that could provide a psychiatric service dog, but her search came up empty. Most organizations offered service dogs for other, more visible illnesses, and the ones who would provide dogs for mental illness were mainly focused on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But she was determined. Esther started researching Canadian breeders who had provided service dogs. She connected with a dog trainer and started working on getting psychiatric service dogs to this province. Gabe was the first pup. Esther and her family travelled to Ontario to bring the German shepherd home in March. He was only a few weeks into his psychiatric service dog-training program when he was put to the test. Gabe and Esther were lying on the couch on a Sunday evening in May when Esther started slipping into a psychosis. She managed to get to the floor in her bathroom. Gabe followed.âI was cradling my knees and rocking back and forth talking to myself,â Esther says. âHe was licking me the entire time. My hand, my arm, up in my face and that was the only thing that was keeping me connected to reality.â Esther says the puppy lay on her lap, licking her uncontrollably and nudging her with his cold, wet nose. âFeeling that sensation stopped me from getting carried away with where my brain can go,â Esther says. Eventually she made her way to bed, where she fell asleep with Gabe next to her.Since that episode, Estherâs doctor has adjusted her medications and part of Gabeâs job is to remind her to take them. Every morning he sits by the medicine cabinet expectantly until Esther takes her prescriptions. Gabe accompanies her everywhere she goes, giving Esther and her family the security of knowing she is safe.âLiving with bipolar means I will never know what it means to be ânormal,ââ Esther says. âMy normal is nothing more than a moment in time where my brain is able to generate the right amount of chemicals to allow me to feel a sense of peace - a peace I can only assume others living without bipolar feel all the time. I live for those moments, but I always know it is just a matter of time before bipolar appears, and a cloud of darkness over takes my reality. Even my moments of peace are shadowed with a knowing it wonât last. It keeps me as a prisoner in a shitty world thatâs stuck on repeat. Having Gabe allows me to create a different world than the one I am used to existing in and allows me to experience a sort of normal and the kind of peace I never thought possible - a world where bipolar takes a back seat and I can just be, without fear. There are no words to describe the depth of love I have for Gabe. The bond is immeasurable, and without him, I wouldnât be here today.âEsther hopes the Pawsology dogs will help save more lives. âWhat I came to understand about service dogs is they go way beyond just being trained for specific tasks to mitigate a disability. The real service a psychiatric service dog provides is the gift of hope and a reason to live,â Esther says. âA dog makes it possible for the cloud of fear to be lifted; they remind us that the only place that matters to be is right now, this moment. They make it easy for us to connect. They make us feel needed and important. They show us no judgment; they ground us.âThe organization has accepted six recipients this year and Esther is working on raising money to get the service dogs partnered with their new owners. âWe have an amazing group of volunteers ready to work. We have recipients waiting for dogs. We have breeders lined up to provide dogs, and we have our training program in place,â says Esther. Each dog will cost $15,000 and Esther is looking for support from the corporate community. She hopes to have the dogs in the province before the end of the year. - By Amy StoodleyClick here to find out more about Pawsology.
When is a crow not a crow?When it is a raven, among other things. While they might look very similar from a distance, there are many traits that separate these two members of the larger family of corvids.My father and grandfather first explained to me, when I was growing up and curious about the world around me, the two kinds of âcrowsâ we often saw in our corner of Newfoundland and Labrador: the small crows, usually seen around settlements and often annoying people by cawing loudly while begging for scraps outside the local Mary Brownâs; and the big crows seen in the country perched atop dead trees and issuing loud croaks that echoed through the forested areas where our log cabin once stood. As I got older and took a much keener interest in all things furred and feathered, I learned that these birds are, in fact, different species. The smaller of the two is the American crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos); its bigger cousin, the Northern raven (Corvus corax), is the famous muse of poet Edgar Allen Poe and a source of many First Nations stories, traditions and beliefs.Earlier this year, these birds made national headlines for their strange behaviours on opposite ends of Canada. Canuck the crow, a well-known (and beloved by most) inhabitant of Vancouver on the Pacific coast, attacked the local mail carrier and Canada Post refused to deliver mail to Canuckâs neighbourhood until it was deemed safe. Across the country on the East coast, a pair of ravens repeatedly attacked the exterior of a Harbour Breton, NL manâs home to the point where the owner considered calling in a priest to exorcise them after all other attempts to deter them failed.Both bird species are dark and devilish, commonly seen and famously smart, so it can be hard to distinguish between them on sight. Hereâs a side-by-side comparison of these fascinating birds. May you, like me, confuse them nevermore.All in the FamilyCrows and ravens belong to the family corvidae, which contains over 120 species - including jays, magpies, rooks, jackdaws, treepies, choughs and nutcrackers - many of which show unbelievable intellect.DescriptionCrow: The American crow is a large, long-legged perching bird with a thick neck; a heavy, straight bill; and a short tail that is rounded or squared at the end. Adults generally reach lengths of 40-50 cm and have a wingspan of one metre; males are usually larger than females. Crowsâ feathers are iridescent black all over, but may appear deep purple in bright sunlight. Sometimes older feathers appear brownish or scaly prior to molting. Rarely, some individuals show white wing patches.Raven: The most widely distributed corvid, the Northern raven, is a much larger bird, reaching lengths of up to 67 cm and a wingspan of 1.15-1.3 metres. Their relatively short and slightly curved bill is larger and heavier than a crowâs, their tail is wedge-shaped and, unlike the smooth contours of the crow, ravens have long, pale brownish-grey feathers on the neck and above the bill base that give them a shaggy appearance. Ravens are completely iridescent black, although extremely rare white ravens have been found in the wild.VoiceCrow: The most usual call of the crow is a loud âCaw!-Caw!-Caw!â but they can make a variety of other sounds including rattles, coos and clear notes. Raven: The distinctive voice of the raven is a deep, resonant âprruk-prruk-prruk.â Its vocabulary can be quite complex, including a high knocking âtoc-toc-toc,â a grating âkraa,â a low, guttural rattle and some almost musical notes. FlightCrow: Crows have a unique flight style; patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides. They are acrobatic at times, completing half-turns, partial slips, rolls and âwalkingâ in the air. Raven: Ravens can be distinguished in flight by their wedge-shaped tail, larger wing span and more stable soaring flight, involving much less flapping. Their feathers also make a sound like the rustling of silk. They are more graceful, agile and acrobatic than crows, often performing sudden rolls, loops, summersaults, dives, playing with objects by dropping and catching them in mid-air, and locking talons with each other. One raven has been observed flying upside down continuously for just under a kilometre.DietThe diet of these birds is very similar as they are both omnivorous and opportunistic. Their usual food is earthworms, insects, seeds, grains, nuts, berries, fruit, chicks and eggs robbed from other birdâs nests, fish, young turtles, crayfish, mussels, clams, frogs, squirrels, mice, undigested portions of animal feces, human food waste and smaller adult birds.Both species tend to scavenge on carrion and roadkill animals, though carrion makes up a very small part of their diet. Though their bills are large, they do not pack the punch required to break open carcasses. They depend on larger animals to break the tough skin or wait for the carcass to decompose and become soft. Both species will store surplus food and remember where it is for future use. Crow: Crows have adapted to take advantage of free food sources offered up by people, often raiding fruit and vegetable crops, pet dishes left outside, bird feeders, garbage cans and picnic and BBQ sites. Crows are crafty foragers, sometimes following adult birds to find their nests, and stealing food from other birds and mammals. Crows sometimes catch songbirds that have just arrived from long distance migration and are exhausted.Raven: Ravens are smart, making them dangerous predators that brazenly pick off eggs, nestlings and adult birds at nest sites. They often work in pairs to raid seabird colonies, which I have witnessed firsthand at the kittiwake nesting cliffs at Cape St. Maryâs Ecological Reserve, with one bird distracting the adults and the other swooping in to grab the egg or chick.Habitat and RangeCrow: Crows are very adaptable and are a common sight in a wide variety of natural and human created habitats. They thrive around people and often congregate in agricultural fields, parks, golf courses, cemeteries, highway turnarounds, feedlots, lawns, parking lots, athletic fields, roadsides, towns and city dumps. They tend to avoid dense woodlands, where they are more vulnerable to predators. Raven: Ravens generally prefer deciduous and evergreen forests, with large expanses of open land nearby, and coastal regions, which provide easy access to water and a varied food supply, when selecting feeding and nesting sites. They can also be found in deserts, beaches, islands, chaparral (shrub land), mountains, ice floes, sagebrush, tundra and grasslands. They generally do well around people, particularly in rural settlements, but also sometimes in cities.NestingCrow: Crows typically hide their nests on branches of evergreen trees. They lay three to nine pale bluish-green to olive-green eggs with brown or grey blotches. Raven: Ravens prefer to nest on cliffs, in trees and on structures such as power and telephone poles, billboards and bridges. They lay three to seven green, olive or blue eggs mottled with dark green, olive or purplish-brown. BehaviourCrow: Crows are very social birds, sometimes forming flocks in the thousands. In winter they form communal roosts that may contain up to 2 million birds, often in the same general area for well over 100 years. They may also be aggressive, chasing away much larger birds including owls and hawks. Raven: Ravens arenât as social as crows; however, young birds travel in flocks prior to forming a mated pair.Both species: Crowsâ and ravensâ brains are considered among the best developed of all birds. They display abilities in problem solving, as well as other cognitive processes such as imitation and insight; they are inquisitive, mischievous and fast learners.Crows and ravens are capable of using tools. They can use cups to carry water, use sticks to probe into holes to search for food, and break off pine cones and drop them defensively on tree climbers approaching their nests.They store excess food, often burying it or hiding it in trees, rain gutters or other areas and returning later to retrieve it during periods of scarcity. They often raid food caches of other animals, including other ravens and crows, and follow wolves and polar bears to scavenge on their kill; they often watch other birds bury their food, remember the location and return later to steal it. They have been observed calling larger predators to dead animals; once they open the carcass, the corvids can feed on the scraps. They are even drawn to the sound of gunshots to investigate for a presumed carcass.Their intelligence is apparent in their ability to communicate warnings, threats, taunts and cheers to other individuals by varying their calls. Their cries of warning are specific enough that other animals recognize them as signals of nearby predators or threats. Crows and ravens have a wide range of vocalizations - 15 to 30 categories have been recorded, most used for social interaction. They can mimic the sounds in their environment, including other animals and even human speech. When feeding in daytime, one or more birds will act as lookout and warn of approaching danger. They drop hard-shelled nuts and shellfish on rocks, or on roads and wait nearby for cars to run over them and crack the shells, so they can get the meat.Juveniles, especially ravens, are among the most playful of bird species, often observed sliding down snowbanks and teasing cats, dogs, otters and wolves. Juvenile birds are deeply curious about all new things, sometimes stealing shiny objects; one theory suggests they do this to impress other flock members. Crows and ravens often cause trouble for people. They have caused power outages by contaminating insulators on power lines, fouled satellite dishes, peeled material off buildings, pecked holes in airplane wings, stolen golf balls, raided crops, opened tents and raided cars left in parking lots. - By Todd HollettDid you know that people have been known to keep crows as pets? To read about one pet crow, Omar (pictured left), click here.
As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we tend to sometimes take for granted the beauty that surrounds us. With picturesque communities and coves at every turn; more berries, wildflowers and wildlife than you can shake a stick at (which you probably shouldn't do should you encounter one of our many moose!); and some of the best hiking, camping and wilderness experiences that youâll find anywhere, it truly is a nature-loverâs paradise. But thereâs no need to tell Shaun Majumder. He already knows.As one of the stars of CBCâs âThis Hour Has 22 Minutesâ (who also appears in the upcoming Hatching, Matching and Dispatching film this December), and a familiar face at comedy festivals around the world, the Burlington, NL native is perhaps best known for being foolish. From his hilarious impressions of fellow Canucks like David Suzuki and Ian Hanomansing, to his alter ego Raj Binder (the nervous and excessively sweaty Indian reporter), he has funny coming out of his pores. But today, he offers a rare peek at his serious side. Fire, Food & MusicA few minutes with Shaun is all it takes to realize that while you can take the boy out of Burlington, you canât take Burlington out of the boy. He simply exudes hometown pride and has spent the best part of the last decade working towards exalting the reputation and lure of this tiny Baie Verte Peninsula community (population approximately 300).It all started a few years back when Shaun, who was pursuing his acting career in Los Angeles, decided to buy his old school house in Burlington.âThat was what sort of started it, because I just wanted land in Burlington because I loved it, and I wanted to go back there and eventually build a house,â he says. Over time, Shaunâs plans morphed into something far bigger. He set out on an ambitious path to turn his beloved Burlington, a town with no restaurants or accommodations, into a world-class tourist destination. It began with plans to build a $2.7-million lodge - a process documented for TV and aired on the W Networkâs âMajumder Manor.â By the time season one had wrapped, Shaun and crew had built a big community greenhouse and decided to throw âa little harvest partyâ to celebrate. They invited local musicians and chefs (and set up prospector tents to house them), and people all over the peninsula. Thatâs how The Gathering was born. âWe were trying to test somethingâ¦we werenât even thinking at that time, âLetâs throw an annual festival,ââ Shaun says. Shaun had cast a proverbial pebble into the pond - like the ripples ever broadening, his vision grew. The next year, Shaun and co. decided to expand upon their harvest party by adding chef hikes featuring local foods like mussels and moose. âWe created the chef hikes based on the idea of, letâs do what people have been doing here for years - hiking through the woods, down into a beach, have a boil-up on the beach - but letâs elevate it. So letâs have the chefs prepare a gourmet feast over open flame, and letâs have musicians play out there while youâre enjoying your boil-up,â Shaun explains. Five years later, The Gathering has become a highly anticipated summer event. With the tagline âFire, Food and Music,â it strives to get folks back to nature, while celebrating the cuisine and culture of the province that Shaun loves so well. In addition to renown local chefs and some of the best music the province and country has to offer (this yearâs festival featured the likes of The Once and Bud Davidge of Simani fame, along with Nova Scotia father-and-son duo Bill and Joel Plaskett), the event includes comedy shows, shed crawls, a âJiggâs Dinner Supperâ and more.Giving BackThe Gathering, and the greenhouse, is just part of âOME (a nod to the local accent), a non-profit social enterprise that aims to create a sustainable micro economy through tourism in the Burlington-Smithâs Harbour-Middle Arm area. Other pieces include the âOme Fry chip van and âOme Sweet âOme accommodations, which include Newfoundland-made glamping tents, a guest pod (like a cabin) and, eventually, the lodge.Shaun's foundation takes camping up a notch with these luxuriously furnished, Newfoundland-made tents.All profits and revenue generated from the enterprise are reinvested back into the community. Shaun is also using âOME to encourage locals to tap into their entrepreneurial spirit. One youth, for instance, has been using his quad to ferry guestsâ luggage to and from The Gathering grounds (usually making close to a couple thousand dollars over the weekend). âIn rural Newfoundland, back in the day, we were built on entrepreneurs,â Shaun says. âWhat we need to do is also try to inspire and encourage people to think in terms of not waiting around to get a job, but to create [their] own business and be totally in control.âThis summer, Shaun took several of The Gatheringâs featured acts on the road, with stops in St. Johnâs, Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor and Corner Brook. He hopes to take it to more out-of-the-way places in the future, to help open peopleâs eyes to the possibilities that exist in rural Newfoundland. âAll it is, is you need a place to stay and a place to eat and something to do. Burlington has not had any of that. We started from zero. There was no wharf, there were no hiking trails, there are no hiking trails still. Thereâs no infrastructure...thereâs nothing there - but thereâs everything there,â he says. âIf I were to put it down on paper and look at the trees we have, the topography we have, the coves we have, the exploratory ability of kayaking and snowmobiling and the remote camping opportunities that we have in Burlington - Green Bay, really...itâs an untapped place that nobody has ever really looked at as a tourism opportunity.â For Shaun, âome is definitely where the heart is - and he hopes others might follow his lead, and their hearts, as well. âThe idea is if this works in Burlington, Middle Arm and Smithâs Harbour, we want to replicate that and possibly take it to other communities all over the island and say, look, hereâs the model,â he says. âYou can have so much where you are. You just need to rethink where you are and what you are.â - By Linda BrowneLearn more about The Gathering and âOME at thegatheringburlington.com & omesweetome.com. Below, watch Shaun take our 20 questions challenge. Warning: this video contains some colourful language.
The July evening sun has long crept past the yardarm-like shadows cast by impenetrable cliff faces of Carbonear Island guarding the mouth of this historic town. Sometimes referred to as the âGibraltar of Newfoundland,â it is said famous French commander Pierre Le Moyne DâIberville, who had raided most of the English settlements in Conception and Trinity bays, did not have his way with Carbonear. Ahead of the French armyâs arrival in 1697, locals had taken refuge on the partially fortified island, and while the abandoned town was burned, Carbonear Island was successfully defended from capture. It was the only place in Newfoundland not to fall to DâIberville during that brutal Avalon Peninsula campaign.In Carbonear, it seems they still donât go down without a fight. Every year since 2008, locals and visitors descend upon a local field to battle each other in the World Cup of Tiddly.On this summer day, I nervously step up to battle-seasoned warriors on their home turf as they gather in a tight circle, awaiting my opening volley. They close ranks, ready to capture the projectile or return fire as only their strategic minds, hardened by years of battle-training since childhood, can deem best. Hefting the custom-made weapon code-named âthe long stick,â I move into firing position and, with far more luck than skill, send the small torpedo of the aptly named âshort stickâ flying over heads and outstretched arms in the machinations of the âhook off.â Likewise, the second prescribed manoeuvre, the âbat off,â meets with relative success. Then comes the dreaded third volley of the tiddly itself, involving angular contact of the long stick with the short stick against a brick on the ground, resulting in a midair acrobatic twist of the short stick for a split-second interval, during which the long stick must be pulled back, swung forward and make targeted contact to send that short stick soaring past the defenders in order to score points.I will not embarrass myself by admitting the number of attempts it took to finally get a legitimate tiddly right, but one good-natured observer commented, âWe were going to ask you to be on our team until we saw you try a tiddly.âHe continued, helpfully, âYou swing like youâre chopping up wood with Paul Bunyanâs axe, going straight down all out. That is not going to work. The short stick will either go dead [not bounce up] or might flick back at you. Instead, try coming back in at a low angle a lot more gentle and you will get the spin and the lift needed to pop the short stick in the air. It should turn around there long enough to bat it easily. It is a little difficult to get the hang of the tiddly first, but is way more about approach and angle than power and pounding.âWorld Cup of TiddlyIt is believed that this ancient game was brought to Newfoundland and Labrador from England or Ireland around the 1850s. In Carbonear, locals have been able to trace stories of tiddly games back 150 years in the Irishtown area. âIt is not to be confused with Tiddlywinks, which is something entirely different,â explains World Cup of Tiddly organizer Judy Cameron. âIt was a bit of a joke to call it the World Cup, but we found the game has been played around the world under different names. In Germany it was known as Kippel-Kappel; in South Yemen it was known as Al-Gahbatah; and in the Philippines it had several names, such as Shatong and Shato. Variations included using a hole in the ground instead of raised rocks or bricks. In Newfoundland, it went under the names of Tiddly or Piddly, or even Ducks, depending on where you lived.âThe game had pretty much died out by the late 1960s or early â70s, she notes. But perhaps because there are so many locals with fond memories of the game, it wasnât too difficult to find enthusiasm to revive the sport in recent years.Judy says she always loved playing Tiddly as a child growing up in Carbonear. âOf course in the early days of the game, when we were growing up, there was no such thing as a Tiddly tournament and everyone just played outside at Tiddly until the lights came on and your mother yelled out it was time to come home,â she says.So when they began organizing the World Cup event, they had to create some new standards for fair play. âWe had to formalize the rules, the field boundaries and scoring for the Tiddly tournament itself very early on because every garden where the game was played had their own rules. Also, we love to say the ability to argue is an asset in Tiddly, so even though it is all in good fun and there are no actual prizes other than bragging rights of being the World Champions of Tiddly for the year, we wanted to keep the games from going on too long over discussions about creative interpretations of the score or debates if a point was in or out,â she explains.âAnother thing we noticed was that folks would want to make and bring their own Tiddly sticks, and while the length was correct (one foot for the short stick and three feet for the long stick) the type of wood used and the diameter and the weight of the sticks could vary a fair bit and might give some team a bit of an advantage. In the old days we used mop handles, but they donât make them near as strong as they used to, so a few of the men from the Irishtown Team took it upon themselves to volunteer and go in the country and cut all local wood [usually spruce or fir], skin the sticks out, and shape them down to pretty much uniform dimensions. They do an excellent job each year so we can provide all the sticks at all the games.âWorld Cup of Tiddly organizer Judy Cameron first played the game as a child growing up in Carbonear.The 10th annual World Cup of Tiddly was held this past August during Carbonear Days Weekend. Vying for the title were various menâs and ladiesâ teams bearing names that reflect local place names and personalities: London Road Bogtrotters, Harbour Rock Hillbillies, Irishtown Champs, Battery Rockers, Across the Doors, The Flings, Grannyâs Humps, Crockerâs Cove Crackies and Aunt Juliaâs Brew. The signal device used to end games was the old foghorn from Earle Freighting Services, a famous local family company.I returned a month later to the scene of my first tiddly attempt, to get some photos of the real action. Between photos, I shared wonderful banter and tiddly tales with players Gerard Griffin, Cyril Griffin, Harold Earle, Bill Dominie and Andrew Howell, among others. Tiddly, I found, is that kind of game. It is as much (or maybe even more) about the camaraderie as it is about scoring points. There is a certain amount of athleticism and great hand-eye coordination among the really good players, but they all have an ample supply of good humour and the ability to take in stride whatever comes their way.The day brought to mind a saying, attributed to a number of sources but this variation was purportedly uttered by George Bernard Shaw: âWe donât stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.âIn that case, Carbonear and the game of Tiddly may actually have a swing at keeping players forever young. - By Dennis Flynn
"Main Street was alive, it was vibrant, because it had all of these lovely cars and lots of people and the sweet little Cozy Chat and the smell of the french fries - and it just bustled, it was vibrant." These are the words of Yvonne Courtney (pictured below), a retired teacher who was born and raised in Grand Falls in the 1950s and 1960s (before the amalgamation that created Grand Falls-Windsor). For her, that was the heyday of the community. In her memory, Main Street, Windsor, was an exciting place full of wonderful tastes, textures, sights and sounds. One notable aspect of life back then was the Newfoundland railway train that ran through the town.âClose to the train time, the place would fill up. People would come in and get a soda or get a cup of tea or whatever you are going to order, waiting for the train. The cars would start bustling on Main Street. The place would get thick with cars and you would hear the train. The train would have the most distinctive sound and smell. You would smell the smoke of it as it entered. It just permeated everything.â As a teenager looking for the latest fashions, Yvonne and her friends would head to Riffâs department store. Riffâs ladies department buyer Austin Clarke was the source of fashion information for the girls of Grand Falls and Windsor, Yvonne recalls. âThe ladies department was always tight. The racks were sometimes circular, and then sometimes rectangular. Always silver, lovely chrome-looking racks, but they were so tight with clothes it was hard to pull them apart to just move the stuff to see the fashions. But they were really smart because they would have mannequins around the areas so [if] you saw something you likeâ¦Austin knew where it was and what size it was going to be in etc. Ladies, too. I found Austin really, reallyâ¦I wouldnât call it helpful, I would say knowledgeable because he could look at you and say, âOh, Iâve got just the thing for you. I know exactly what would look great on you.â And he was usually right. He knew what was going to be absolutely chic on you.â Courtesy of Grand Falls-Windsor Heritage Society In the 1960s, Cohenâs revamped its department store, including ladiesâ fashion. âCohenâs had elegance right off the magazine covers,â Yvonne recalls. âThey had changed the shop completely.â While it still stocked dry goods and âmenâs stuffâ downstairs, Yvonne says, the upstairs was a fashionistaâs dream.âWell, when you walked up those steps on the left hand side and entered the world of Cohenâs fashion, you were just blown away. Everything was gorgeous. There were velvet coats or fur coats, fur-lined coats; there were hats like you had never seen before; there were shoes that were really todayâs shoes with a clutch purse to match; and the clothing was just gloriously beautiful, and there was carpet on the floor and the dressing rooms were snazzier. Everything about Cohenâs was just snazzy. Cohenâs really had a fashion sense that was a cut above. Cohenâs had a way of presenting it that was in a league of its own.â - Interview conducted and transcribed by the Collective Memories ProjectFor more Windsor memories, click here to listen to the full interview with Yvonne Courtney. About Collective MemoriesThe Collective Memories Project is an initiative of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador to record the stories and memories of our province. If you have a memory of old-time Newfoundland and Labrador to share, contact Dale Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-739-1892 ext 2 or visit www.collectivememories.ca.
It's a warm, overcast morning near the end of July in Bay de Verde, a small fishing community on the northern tip of Newfoundland's Avalon Peninsula. At the cemetery near the town's entrance, a small group watches in silence as a priest sprinkles holy water onto the rectangular urn, draped in a black cloth, before him. Plumes of sea spray from a group of whales frolicking nearby rise into the air. Even they seem to be paying tribute. For now, a simple white cross marks the final resting place of a humble hero - Mary Dohey. The people bow their heads and pray. They have fulfilled their promise. They have brought Mary home. Afterward, friends share stories, smiles, and a few tears, as they sit and reminisce at the recreation centre in the neighbouring village of Red Head Cove, where Mary spent her formative years.For Mary, the road to Red Head Cove was a rocky one. But itâs those early challenges that helped form the strong woman she would become - the woman who would go on to save over a hundred lives, thousands of feet in the air, thanks to her sheer grit and nerves of steel. High-Flying Dreams The youngest of 14 children, Mary Imelda Dohey was born in the Cape Shore community of St. Brideâs on September 22, 1933. Times were tough and most families spent their waking hours doing what was necessary in order to survive. When Mary was just three years old, her mother died and her father made the heartbreaking decision to place his two youngest children, Mary and her brother Jack, in foster care. The next six years for Mary were filled with hardship. Her foster mother would beat her and make her scrub floors and perform other household duties. The shy little girl went to school unwashed, barefoot and hungry, and had to pick berries and steal vegetables from local gardens to get enough to eat. âThe foster mother was not very good to her, and she used to say âYouâll be found in the gutter,ââ says Nora OâRourke, Maryâs niece (and Jackâs daughter). âIt wasnât exactly a good situation that she went into.â Eventually, Mary was brought to Belvedere Orphanage in St. Johnâs where, at the age of 10, she was adopted by Michael (Mick) and Catherine (Kate) Rice of Red Head Cove. The couple had had seven children, but all but one had died. They cared for and loved Mary as their very own - and she loved them right back. They lived happily in a part of the community known locally as Round Cove. (Today, nothing but a few rock walls remain and the ocean chases the horizon beyond a lush, overgrown meadow filled with raspberries, wild roses and blue irises - an idyllic place for a child to grow up.) Wildflowers bloom at Round Cove (part of Red Head Cove) where Mary spent her formative years. (Linda Browne photo)After high school, Mary left Red Head Cove to teach for a year, to earn enough money for nursing school.âShe knew she wanted to be a nurse. From the time she was very young, thatâs what she wanted to do,â says Nora, who, with bright eyes and a kind smile, bears a striking resemblance to her aunt. She describes a woman of unwavering faith who was modest, genuine, independent and compassionate to a fault. While Mary successfully trained to become a psychiatric nurse, she also wanted to see the world and in her early 20s, she became an air stewardess with Trans-Canada Air Lines (now Air Canada). The requirements were tough - but so was she. âShe applied and she said she never ever thought sheâd be accepted. Lo and behold, they said yes, theywanted to do an interview. She had to go to Montreal for that. And the rest is history,â Nora says. Through her work, Mary visited places she had only dreamed of as a child. At one point, she took a leave of absence from the airline and spent almost six months in Kathmandu to nurse, and train nurses, with the Dr. Tom Dooley Foundation. âThe conditions were pretty rough in Nepal. But she absolutely loved it,â Nora says. âShe was very busy. When she wasnât in the air, she was in a hospital somewhere.â Terror Aboard Flight 812On November 12, 1971, during a routine flight from Calgary to Toronto (what would come to be known as âthe doomsday flightâ), Maryâs dream job turned into a nightmare. âI remember the night that all this went down. I was only 12. Dad got a callâ¦I remember sitting at the top of the stairs and I knew there was something big going on. I came down and he was in a tizzy,â Nora recalls. A hijacker, clad in a long trench coat and gloves, a black balaclava covering his face, had taken her aunt and 127 others hostage on a DC-8 jet mid-flight. The hijacker demanded $1.5 million and that the plane be diverted to Great Falls, Montana. The man called Mary over and held a sawed-off shotgun to her head. At one point he forced her to hold, in one raised hand, the detonating wires attached to two bundles of dynamite.Nora, in the retelling, lifts her left hand in front of her to demonstrate, holding an imaginary wire between her thumb and forefinger, and another between her ring finger and pinkie. But for her aunt, those wires were all too real. Mary held her hand in that position for four hours. âShe said she was afraid to put her hand down, afraid that the wires would touch. It was a 60-stick dynamite bomb that he had,â Nora says. Not long after, Nora continues, the hijacker accidentally fired his shotgun just past Maryâs ear.âI said, âWhat did you do?!ââ she recalls asking her aunt incredulously. Mary said to the hijacker, âOh, dear, you didnât mean to do that.â To which he replied, âNo, I didnât.ââShe spoke to him very calmly,â Nora says.Mary, noticing the man was nervous and shaking, trusted in her training in psychiatric nursing to soothe him. She introduced herself to the man (who told her his name was Dennis, which turned out to be an alias) and asked if she could hold his hand, continuing to speak to him in comforting tones. The plane touched down in Montana, where a suitcase was delivered (containing only $50,000), and prepared to take off again. Through her conversation with the man, Mary learned that he had a soft spot for children, so she pretended that she had heard some aboard, crying.âShe said, âI didnât know if there was one kid or 20 kids on the plane,ââ Nora recalls Mary telling her. âBut she said to him, âDennis, do you hear the children?...Theyâre scared, theyâre hungry.ââThat was all the convincing âDennisâ needed to let the passengers go. He told Mary that she could leave, too, but she refused for the sake of the lives of the remaining crew. The plane took off again and some time later, when the hijacker laid down his gun to open a window to parachute out of the plane, the crew jumped him, bringing the terrifying eight-hour ordeal to an end - with no lives lost. A Humble Homecoming On December 1, 1975, Mary became the first living person to receive the Cross of Valour, the highest of Can-adaâs three Bravery Decorations, which ârecognizes acts of the most conspicuous courage in circumstances of extreme peril.â At the recreation centre in Red Head Cove, the medal has been put on display for the afternoon, flanked by pictures of significant moments from Maryâs life, including meeting then prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II. An unassuming woman by nature, Mary never displayed the award at home. This photo of Mary meeting then prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Queen Elizabeth II, in 1977, was on display at a recent gathering of her family and friends.âShe didnât want any recognitionâ¦ she very much wanted to just blend into the background,â Nora says. Mary, who never married or had children, continued travelling the world long after her retirement from the airline in 1991. Every year, to celebrate Maryâs birthday, Nora says, they would go on a big trip, to places like Australia and Machu Picchu in Peru. They spent Maryâs 82nd birthday on the Great Wall of China. On June 12, at the age of 83, Mary died in Mississauga, where she had lived for the past 50 years. Mary had made it clear to Nora, and to her childhood friend Rose Quinlan (her nextdoor neighbour in Red Head Cove), where she wanted to be laid to rest - the place where she knew true happiness as a child. âShe said, âNow Rose, I know youâre going to take me home and bury me,ââ Rose recalls. (The coincidence of Maryâs interment taking place less than two weeks before Red Head Coveâs very first Come Home Year celebrations is not lost on her.) The two had remained the best of friends over the years, exchanging birthday and Christmas cards. âWe were like sisters. We talked about everything on the phone,â she adds. Maryâs Cross of Valour will be eventually donated to The Rooms in St. Johnâs, where Nora hopes more people will learn about her auntâs incredible story. âEven though she never initiated the conversation [about the hijacking]â¦she was very proud of what she did and very proud, not only of what she did with the hijacking, she was very proud of what she did with her life. To have come from such humble beginnings and have such a rough start in life, with losing my grandmother and to be told in the initial years of when she was in foster care that she would never amount to anythingâ¦she said many, many times during her life thatâs what propelled her on,â Nora says. âI think the thing that she really would want people to know is that it doesnât matter where you came from, it doesnât matter how rough your start wasâ¦youâre in control of yourself and youâre in control of your life. If you want to work hard, you can make anything of your life. Thatâs what she wanted to do, she wanted to make something of herself.âAnd so she did. - By Linda BrowneClick here to watch Mary Dohey tell her story in her own words in a TV segment from the late 1980s.
Ahhh... the old mill whistle. Blowing several times a day from Bowaterâs Pulp and Paper Mill in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, it sent men to work, children to school and much more. The old, familiar sound was as annoying as it was beautiful.Back in the 1950s in Corner Brook, all schools - Catholic and public - kept the same hours, largely thanks to the mill whistle and the important role it played in the lives of the townsfolk. The whistle was like an alarm clock that could be heard from miles away. It told folks when to wake up, when to leave for work or school, when it was dinnertime, suppertime, and when it was time to call it a day. Everyone in the town was accustomed to the mill whistle.To the best of my recollection, the whistle blew eight times a day back in the â50s. I remember three short whistle blows at 7:45 a.m. to alert the men that they had 15 minutes to get to work. At 8:00 there blew one long blast, signifying the start of the workday - while also serving as a one-hour warning for children starting school by 9:00. It blew again at 12 noon, when men and children headed home to their dinner (often called âlunchâ nowadays), prepared by their wives and mothers. Another blast at 12:45 ushered everyone back to work or school - where they were greeted by the 1:00 blast. The 5:00 whistle signalled that the workday was over. I remember watching all the men leaving the mill, heading home in all different directions. Sometimes, additional blasts were heard throughout the day for various reasons. Back then the town had a volunteer fire brigade, and it was the whistle that alerted them to a fire. The number of times the whistle blew indicated whether fire had broken out in the mill itself or elsewhere in town. The whistle also sounded if someone got lost in the woods.Every Remembrance Day, November 11, at exactly 11:00 a.m., the whistle blew for 15 seconds, fell silent for 1 1/2 minutes, then blew for another 15 seconds to mark two minutes of silence in honour of the war dead. And every year at midnight on December 31, the whistle blew to mark the beginning of a new year. I often wondered who blew the mill whistle. As a child I imagined there was a man pulling on a rope, like a bell ringer. Was it a special job for a special person? How did he know how many blasts to blow? How did he find out if someone was lost in the woods? And who got the message to the whistle blower? I did find out that it was steam that made the whistle sound, but someone had to put a voice to the whistle. And certainly, the whistle did have a voice. It spoke to the people, alerting them to catastrophes and events and bringing order to their daily routine.And so it stands to reason that over the years, when former townsfolk headed home to Corner Brook for visits, one of the most endearing sounds was the mill whistle. Theyâd hear that same old, familiar voice speaking to them again. âHi, remember me? Welcome home, friend.âI listened for the sound the last time I went âhome,â but I didnât hear the familiar voice welcoming me. It has been silenced; times have changed. The familiar blast of the mill whistle has been posted for posterity on YouTube, however, and it is forever etched in my memory. - Submitted by Bernice McCall, Ottawa, ON
The hot summer sun is beating down on me where I stand dressed in white and wearing a veil, a bonnet and elbow-length gloves and holding an ornate metal object as tiny tendrils of smoke waft like incense across the scene.Trust me. It is definitely not what you think.Althoughâ¦I did say "I do" to a proposal of sorts. After learning I was interested in backyard beekeeping, Gerard Smith invited me out to his place, G&M Family Farm in Freshwater (Placentia), NL, for a tour and to lend him a hand. He has around 4.5 million bees on his property - 80 hives with about 60,000 bees in each. His company offers all the supplies, equipment and some instruction on how to start your own honeybee operation.So here I am, fully fitted out in beekeepersâ protective gear, helping Gerard do a controlled split of a colony to a new location. I also get to mark a queen bee with an internationally recognized identification symbol so her age can be determined at a glance and she can be easily spotted in the hive (for 2017, the symbol is a single yellow dot on the thorax). I learn how to correctly handle the bee-laden frames during hive inspection and operate the small stainless-steel smoker when needed (Gerard suggests burning local grass or plants, which are natural and non-toxic, in the smoker to protect the bees).Iâm surprised to learn that the type of flowers where the bees travel significantly influences the flavour of their honey, and I get to taste samples so fresh and delicious during the day that I have to stop at the shop on the way out to buy several jars to bring home.Bell Island BeekeepingWhat led me to that amazing experience in Freshwater was actually a chance encounter on Bell Island last spring, where I met Rod Bickford (pictured below). He gave me a tour of his farm and talked enthusiastically about his relatively new beekeeping hobby.âWhen I first established the nucleus colony last summer , there were likely about 5,000 or so bees in there. That quickly grew and by September there were likely three times that many. This year the hive has expanded even more and there are maybe 30-50 thousand bees in residence,â Rod says, adding, âI can only estimate, of course, based upon the number of bees that I observe per frame in the hive.âA nucleus colony is essentially a small honeybee colony created from a larger one. The nucleus of a colony, of course, is the queen bee. For anyone starting their first honeybee operation, one nucleus colony in Newfoundland and Labrador cost about $285 in 2016.As far as Rod knows, heâs the only beekeeper on Bell Island. Registering with the government for setup was relatively easy, he says. âIt was just a form that is sent in to the provincial fruit crop development officer and provincial apiarist at the Department of Fisheries and Land Resources every year. You need to let them know where exactly the apiary is, how many hives are there and what the purpose [commercial, hobby etc.] is.âHis family has deep roots in the area going back generations, and his love of the land is evident. âLance Cove is a great spot for the bees. The abundance of wild flowers, trees, shrubs and other food sources is amazing. I have had neighbours ask what type of flowers they should plant to help the bees and some have even held off trying to get rid of dandelion as the bees love it!â he says. âThere is a bit of a micro climate in Lance Cove and a sheltered southerly exposure that creates the perfect environment all year long.â Rodâs bees donât need to travel very far since there are lots of nearby forage opportunities, and generally bees keep to a three-kilometre range.In the fall of 2016, Rod says, âThere was maybe 30-40 pounds of honey in the hive. Of course, none of it was harvested as it was needed to get the new hive through the winter. Now that the hive is well established and healthy, I do expect to take maybe 25 or so pounds off this year, depending on the final production levels. I wonât really know until late summer.â He adds, with a smile, âI may take less honey than that, but it all depends on the bees. I want to ensure I leave sufficient supplies to get them through our long winter and if that leaves me with less, then so âbeeâ it.âThat response is a good reflection of Rodâs easy-going demeanour, something he partially credits for not being stung so far by any of his thousands of bees. Beekeeping doesnât stress him out; in fact, it does the opposite. âAs someone who spent the better part of a 30-year professional military career being trained in the art of war and effectively âmanaging violence,â keeping bees has become like therapy for me,â Rod explains. âSame reason I loved keeping and fostering Newfoundland ponies and spending time in my garden and greenhouse. Iâve been up close and personal far too many times with the evil side of humanity and witnessed the destruction society can wreak upon itself and the environment. Maybe, in a small way, keeping a few bees is my way of apologizing to Mother Nature and healing a few wounds, both literally and figuratively. âHe adds with a grin, âItâs also about providing a positive example and demonstrating that new people, ideas and experiences, when meshed with such a historical location, can actually enrich a place; they donât have to be feared.âNL's Queen BeeBackyard beekeeping has really taken off in the last four years, says Catherine Dempsey. president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association (NLBKA), who jokingly calls herself the âQueen Bee.â âMost of the members start out interested in having a couple of hives and getting some honey for themselves, but there are presently six apiaries that are larger scale and commercial,â she says.Newfoundland bees are a special species that need to be protected from outside influences. âThe island of Newfoundland is one of the few places in the world that has no Varroa destructor mite, tracheal mite, small hive beetle or wax moths. These pests are hugely destructive to hives and bees, and can also carry and pass on other diseases that affect honeybee health.â Currently, local beekeepers donât have to test for these pests, or medicate their hives. âHowever, this status could be irreversibly ruined if someone snuck bees or used equipment into the province. The Department of Fisheries and Land Resources, and Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association are very concerned about this happening and are working to prevent it.âCatherine also notes that one of the greatest challenges to beekeeping in Newfoundland and Labrador is the weather. Our late springs, and wind, rain, drizzle and fog all mean that our bees have to produce enough honey and grow their hive populations to a size that can survive the long winter in about 12 weeks rather than the 18 weeks other provinces have. Beginners can expect to lose some hives over their first couple of winters. Location of the hive could be a factor. Sheltered, away from the ocean, and in Central and Western Newfoundland where the climate is warmer, is the beesâ best bet. - By Dennis FlynnInterested in backyard beekeeping? Follow these links for more information and resources.Newfoundland and Labrador Beekeeping Association - provides information about beekeeping in NL.Forestry & Agrifoods - learn about important local regulations.G&M Family Farm - supplies a full range of beekeeping equipment, supplies, nucleus colonies, bee products, training courses, tours, etc.Maine Beekeepers - find information on marking a queen bee and the meaning of the code colours.