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A new series of plays performed by talented local actors in an abandoned mine shaft captures some of the folklore, the legends and the ghosts of Bell Island
Some work, all play is the Newfoundland and Labrador way
These seniors combine socializing with social advocacy, having fun while supporting a good cause
Inside Newfoundland and Labrador's Film and TV Industry
James Haley makes furniture the old-fashioned way - one piece at a time, using mostly hand tools and held together with traditional joinery techniques instead of screws or dowels. His aesthetic leans toward unadorned and modern, but he doesnât concern himself with adhering to a specific style. He instead lets the principles of good design - attention to proportion, scale, function - guide the look of a piece. âI just want it to be simple, but really well made,â he says. Heâs talking about designing a piece free from excessive ornamentation that embraces the Shaker ethos of simplicity, paired with the workmanship exhibited by 19th-century furniture makers. Working primarily with hand tools is a deliberate choice for James, in part because his small shop has no room for large power tools, but mostly because he enjoys the process of creating with hand tools and the challenge of mastering those skills. Simple doesnât mean easy, though. Take, for instance, his walnut stools. Each stool has 20 pieces of wood, with mortise and tenon joints holding it all together. âThe way I build things, itâs [for] generations - itâs going to last forever,â says James. Each piece, although built for the ages, is designed to solve a problem experienced now. James can design and build a piece to suit the unique needs of the person commissioning it. James tells the story of a client who needed a chair to fit under an unconventionally proportioned desk. He met with the person, measured the space, then designed and built a piece that fit the dimensions and style required. âEvery piece of furniture Iâm doing is 100 per cent custom,â he says. After that initial consultation to determine what a person wants and needs from their new piece of furniture, James sketches his ideas before drawing the final design on graph paper to illustrate key points of the design ideas he has in his head. For James, the creation process is fluid. He views the initial drawing as a guideline and will make adjustments along the way to create the piece he initially envisioned in his mindâs eye.
Remember the Ford Pinto?The Pinto Runabout, first released in 1970, was Fordâs first hatchback, but not the first hatchback ever. That distinction goes to the CitroÃ«n Traction Avant Commerciale, released in 1938. In anattempt to appeal to a wide variety of car buyers, the Pinto was available in sedan and wagon versions, in addition to the hatchback. By the time the 1970s arrived, compact cars from Volkswagen, Toyota, Datsun and others were gaining market share. Ford wanted in on this action, and in 1967 or 1968 (accounts vary) got to work on designing their own compact car. It would weigh no more than 2,000 pounds, would cost $2,000 and would be ready in two years, decreed Ford head Lee Iacocca. At the time, cars normally took about four years to develop. The compact timeline led to outsize troubles for the compact car - mainly the nasty tendency for the gas tank to rupture when the car was rear-ended. Although this earned the Pinto a reputation for being a fiery deathbox, the car was later proven to be no more dangerous than other cars of its time. But it was too late. News stories horribly exaggerated the death toll of 27, placing it in the hundreds or thousands, helping cement the carâs dangerous reputation. The carâs reputation and safety record eventually caught up with Ford, who recalled 1971-77 model years in 1977, and discontinued the car in 1980. Today, there are still Pintos on the road and dedicated fan clubs of owners who still proudly drive the little â70s car with the wrongly earned dangerous reputation.
A look back at neighbourhood shops and the people inside them On Southside Road, just east of Blackhead Road, Alice Dyke ran a convenience store in the 1960s. The âEnjoy Pepsi: Dykeâs Confectionaryâ sign lit up the little St. Johnâs neighbourhood in the evenings.Across the road from Aliceâs store was the one that her mother, Jessie Baird, ran in the 1940s and â50s. Aliceâs father Jim worked at Gadenâs, just across the Waterford River from where they lived. He would put on a pair of long rubber boots every day and wade across the river as a shortcut to work.Bairdâs General Store sold a variety of items, from fresh food to canned products, dry goods and even rabbits when they were in season. It was back in the time before refrigeration, when blocks of ice kept food cold. Most products though, such as salt meat and apples, were kept in wooden barrels. There was acowbell over the door that rang whenever a customer entered the store. The same cowbell would later find its place in Aliceâs store.At Bairdâs General Store, customers could request cheese by the pound, sliced from a big wheel, then wrapped in paper and tied with string. Every night at closing time, wooden shutters were placed on the windows to protect against thieves and vandalism. The blackout shutters were also a requirement during the war. Eventually the store succumbed to the expansion of the Canadian National Railway, when the company purchased all the houses on that side of the road. Dykeâs Confectionary was a family affair. All five children (John, Bev, Bob, Wally and Jimmy) tended the store, depending on their school and after school schedules. As the only daughter, Bev attracted some of the lads from the area. Young fellas by the name of Corbett, Crocker, Ryan, Guest - even Reddy, all the way from Craigmillar Avenue - made a point to frequent the store.Aliceâs husband, Walter (Wally), worked at the Bennett Brewing Company. He also played the drums in various bands. One of his first groups was The Killarney Band; however, most of his music career was spent in The Johnny Francis Orchestra. They played for weddings, garden parties and service organizations such as the Knights of Columbus. They even entertained the Americans at the Fort Pepperrell Base. His band would often play on a Friday or Saturday night at Aliceâs motherâs store, where they would make room for the live music and a dance. Aliceâs store was more of a gathering place, or âhangoutâ as it was called then. Friday and Saturday nights were the busiest. It was the âgo toâ place where one would enjoy a Pepsi and a cigarette sneaked under the counter, while listening to the most popular songs on the radio. It even had a small round table with three chairs (the same table and chairs that had been in Aliceâs motherâs store), as well as a one-foot ledge along the wall where young folks would sit. Ten-ounce soft drinks, sold for 10 cents each, were kept in an electric cooler half full of cold water. Potato chips were five cents a bag and, from time to time, Scotties Potato Chips ran promotions where one could cut the star off the bag and collect these stars to redeem for gifts.Ice cream was seven and 10 cents a cone, vanilla being the most popular flavour. Raisin and apricot squares sold for six cents each, as well as crinkles. Cigarettes were 38 cents a package or loose at two cents each, three for five cents. Red Rose Tea was a big seller; one could collect tea cards from each package. The store also sold butter, beans, spaghetti, potted meat and corned beef, as well as Klick and Kam. Sheriff Jell-O was popular, and you could collect NHL hockey coins in each box. There were only six teams back in the day and everyone knew their team stats, player names and game schedules. Bologna and cheese were sold by the pound. And you could buy non-alcoholic Haig Ale, produced by the Bennett Brewing Company.On slow days, Alice would get her sons to take a wooden Pepsi case of assorted drinks, along with bars, apple flips and raisin squares, to the railway yard to sell to the workers. Timing was always key, and she knew when the men would take their morning and afternoon breaks. She would say, âDo not come back until everything is sold.âBack in the day, there were no plastic credit or debit cards, so everything was paid for in cash. However, there was a line of credit in the form of a scribbler and pencil. It was maintained by a customerâs family name, with an entry for each trans-action. The account was squared off on Fridays because thatâs when the head of the household (mostly men) were paid. One well-known patron was a gentleman named Cyril âDickieâ Turner, who spent every day and night at the store. He would help the deliverymen with their products and serve as a security guard. He called Alice âBig Al Dyke.â Alice thought the world of Cyril and the Turner family.Annual customers, such as the Portuguese fishing fleet sailors, would visit the store and purchase numerous bottles of Orange Crush. Thomas Amusements workers also frequented the store when they brought the fair to town.Aliceâs Confectionary closed its doors in the early 1970s, as the children got older and the family wanted to spend more time at their cabin on the Witless Bay Line.It was a true neighbourhood store, a community within itself. Before supermarkets, malls, shopping centres and big box stores, the general store fulfilled a basic need of not only supplying food to various families, but also the social need to keep family and friends together.-by John Dyke
Ready, Set, Rex: Chatting with the cast of âHudson & RexâFrom the rugged cliffs of Newfoundlandâs shores to iconic St. Johnâs monuments to the backdrop of familiar buildings: Citytvâs latest show, âHudson & Rex,â will be instantly familiar with viewers in Newfoundland and Labrador. Well into its first season by now, this show started filming in St. Johnâs back in October and the first episode premiered on March 25. In between takes, Downhome was able to chat with the stars of the show about filming in the city.âHudson & Rexâ is the story of St. Johnâs police departmentâs major crimes Detective Charlie Hudson forming an unlikely partnership with Rex, a police dog, as they investigate homicides, kidnappings and violent crime happening in St. Johnâs. Theyâre joined in their crime solving by Dr. Sarah Truong (Mayko Nguyen), Superintendent Joseph Donovan (Kevin Hanchard) and tech expert Jesse Mills (Justin Kelly).âItâs very much like a team on the show, a team effort in terms of the crime solving. So we all have these individual roles,â explains Mayko.John Reardon, who plays the titular Detective Charlie Hudson, is originally from Halifax, Nova Scotia. And after filming in NL for a few months, John says, âI actually feel very at home here, it feels very familiar. I have a lot of friends back home who are from St. Johnâs. And ironically, Iâd never been to St. Johnâs before.âComing to NL to film âHudson & Rexâ was also Justin Kellyâs first time here. As an actor, âitâs sort of a luxury that we have is being able to travel through our job,â Justin says. Theyâve been in NL for months now, and âthere comes to a point where you start to feel less like a tourist and more just like a local. And itâs such a great town. I love it here.â Heâs taken a liking to Quidi Vidi and when his fiancÃ©e visited him, they drove out to Petty Harbour and ate at Chafeâs Landing (âthe fish and chips were to die forâ).On the other hand, Mayko Nguyen and Kevin Hanchard have both been to NL for work before. They both had roles on âRepublic of Doyleâ and Mayko was also here to film a part of the 2004 film Going the Distance.Kevin recalls using his free time to explore the city and fell in love with the sights. âAnd I went back home and told my wife and kids, âYou know, if we get a chance, we gotta get out there.ââ Now heâs back in St. Johnâs as a part of âHudson & Rexâ as Superintendent Joseph Donovan, a character he described as a man in charge who rules with an iron fist and still has a heart. âHe has a deft touch about him, but thereâs times when he really has to get people to knuckle down and is able to be a bit of a taskmaster and get things done. He believes in Rex,â Kevin explains.One of the biggest challenges for filming in NL has been the weather. The crew started work in October, so theyâve been working through a St. Johnâs winter. While they do plenty of interior shooting in the studio and at other (warmer) locations, they do have to venture outdoors. Mayko, who plays chief of forensics Dr. Sarah Truong, recalls an early morning filming at Rotary Park in the wind and cold. A girl beside her turned to Mayko and asked if her nose was running because she couldnât feel her own face.To deal with the weather conditions, steps have been taken. For instance, while walking indoors at the studio, John was sporting big rubber boots to deal with the snow and ensuing slush of an NL winter that inevitably gets dragged inside, and Mayko had to invest in a thick winter coat.City on ScreenâHudson & Rexâ takes place in St. Johnâs and viewers will be quick to notice familiar locations and landmarks, including the downtown National War Memorial and hiking trails around Signal Hill. âThereâs something very immediate and gratifying about being able to recognize these places that have history,â Mayko says.St. Johnâs isnât acting as a stand-in for any other town, John says. âAnd I think that is gonna give the show a lot of character because the city is very unique, and I think that flavour of the city, youâll see that in the show. I think youâll see it with the landscapes, youâll see the colourful houses downtown. And Iâd never realized how much of Newfoundland is just these gorgeous cliffs along the ocean.âItâs not just about showing off our home province to the world and offering a glimpse inside Canadaâs most easterly province. Itâs a look at our diverse communities, something thatâs important to Kevin. It can also showcase a St. Johnâs people arenât aware of. âThere are communities of all stripes in this province, in this city. And weâre just gonna do our job âcause itâs important to show that because especially in this country, especially in this world, especially in this time,â Kevin says, âwe need to show these things on screen and reinforce those things, and get people out of that comfort zone and out of these places that are sort of really myopic in their views. Hopefully, we do a little bit of good.âTo read more about the Newfoundland and Labrador film and TV industry, check out this story- by Elizabeth Whitten
Up until the 19th century in Newfoundland and Labrador, medical professionals were few and far between, so caring for the ill was done at home by family members. On May 20, 1920, the Outport Nursing Committee was formed to get professionally trained nurses into rural areas. They raised money to help pay these nurses, with the government paying another portion. The nurses signed two-year contracts, and in that first year the Committee hired six nurses. In 1924, the group became The Newfoundland Outport Nursing and Industrial Association (NONIA) and began paying rural women to knit products that NONIA would then sell to raise money for nurses. Eventually, the government took over the responsibility of healthcare, though NONIA still exists as a non-profit organization and continues to employ NL knitters today, selling their wares in-store and online.
By now, spring should be well and truly here. Of course, Mother Nature doesnât always do what we think she should, but that doesnât stop us from looking forward to warmer weather and the end of snow. We wanted to know what folks were most looking forward to doing once the snow is gone, so we asked our friends on Facebook. The answers, it turns out, are the same things we here in the Downhome office are looking forward to - getting outside and enjoying nature in various ways. photo by MurphysâCabin time.â - Ethel HunterâJust outdoors doing anything.â - Rowena Nicholphoto by MurphysâGetting outside in my garden, going camping, fishing, kayaking and everything else I can without being half frozen or bundled up so I can hardly move.â - Tonia Grandy âGetting out around the yard and enjoying the fresh air.â - Cyril MorganâOpening up our trailer for a wonderful new camping season.â - Val StrattonâBBQing, packing the trailer to go camping, sitting on the patio soaking up the sun.â - Mary Miller-Whiffen
A new series of plays performed by talented local actors in an abandoned mine shaft captures some of the folklore, the legends and the ghosts of Bell Island.The February 2019 biting southwesterly wind sends ephemeral ivory peaks of foam dancing across Conception Bay. William (Billy) Parsons, a miner for 51 years, is unfazed by it all and gazes at me with an enigmatic smile beneath a substantial moustache. Below his hardhat with minerâs lamp, the pleasant glint in his eyes suggests that he has seen a lot harder than this and survived. Billy is a giant of a man. Literally he is huge, about 21 feet across.Billyâs image is one of several murals painted on properties around Bell Island - supersized reminders of the history of this place. âThis was Mural #1 and it is called, appropriately enough, âThe Miner.â It was originally done by artists John Littlejohn and Rick Murphy and unveiled back in November 1991â¦ It depicts Billy Parsons and is based on a great photograph from about 1954 by famous portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh, who visited Bell Island a number of times,â explains Henry Crane of Tourism Bell Island, as we stand beneath this mural on the east wall of the Wabana Complex.âYou know, it is funny how things come full circle. I grew up on Bell Island and went to school in this building training as a machinist, eventually went to university and [after a career away] came back and taught here in the same building. I love Bell Island and really enjoyed growing up here. It was a great place to live, raise a family, and was very prosperous, especially when the mines were working in full swing.âHenry, now 67, spent years collecting the living history of his hometown. As a boy, his grandmother would tell him all about the local ghosts and fairies, and as an adult he continued to visit his elders to hear their stories about Bell Island. âI have been really fortunate that over maybe 30 years, whenever I had some time I would go and interview folks who were much older than myself and record themâ¦ People would tell me stories for hours on end and it was really something.âSome of these stories have made their way into a new summer theatrical series called âThe Ghosts of Bell Island.â The play once known as âThe Haunted Tourâ has been rebranded as âTheatre of the Mineâ and is performed in an old abandoned mine shaft that was originally the #4 Mine Collar. Other performances in this series include âThe Life of a Miner,â âWWII Comes to Bell Islandâ and âParty at Nanâs.âThese new plays draw upon some material (with permission) taken from a 1990s production called âPlace of First Light: The Bell Island Experience,â written by Robert Chafe, Sean Panting and Selina Asgar. It featured up-and-coming talent who have since found incredible success on stage on screen, including Bell Island-born Allan Hawco and St. Johnâs-native Petrina Bromley (on Broadway now in âCome From Awayâ). In a recent email chat with award-winning theatre director Danielle Irvine, she recalled fondly her work on that project. âI was the co-founder and it ran from 1997-1999 for three summers. I directed and produced. Wow, there were lots of special momentsâ¦ That show was actually listed as a Landmark Theatrical Event by the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres.â Henry also has fond memories of that 1990s production. âFunny story: my son played in a few of those early shows and it would not be unusual for Allan Hawco or Robert Chafe or many others who went on to great things, inside and outside the world of theatre, to show up at the house with him for a BBQ or whatnot.âAs it was then, the actors in todayâs plays are local youth just cutting their acting chops, âand since they are from here and grew up with the stories all around them, they do a great job on the new material and really bring the stories to life for the audience. The feedback every season is very positive and encouraging,â Henry says. ââThe Ghosts of Bell Islandâ has been performed for about four years now and each performance lasts about one hour and 30 minutes. Taking place in the mine really adds to the atmosphere.âWithout giving away too many secrets and surprises of the live shows, Henry drops a few hints about the stories audiences will be regaled with: bodies found in bogs, star-crossed lovers, departed miners condemned to never set foot beyond the sanctuary of the shaft for all eternity, the âwoman in white,â the devil of Quigleyâs Line, and even a shape-shifting fairy queen who might either help or harm travellers depending on her capricious mood. One of the most striking stories is the Ghost of Dobbinâs Garden, which has been reinterpreted as the âThe Bell Island Hagâ featured on televisionâs âCreepy Canadaâ and immortalized by Can-ada Post as a postage stamp and the Royal Canadian Mint as a commemorative coin. Henry says members of the Newfoundland and Labrador Paranormal Society have even visited the Island to investigate the various ghost stories.Henryâs passion is unmistakable when he talks of Bell Island, the stories, the plays and the people. When I ask him what drives him to promote the island this way, he gets a wistful look. Then he tells me of a very impressionable day from his youth.âMy father worked in the mines for 29 years and never got a pension or so much as a thank you when the mines closed down. Many men on the island were in that camp as the company largely walked away from it all,â he begins. âI was 14 when the mine where he worked closed for good. It was on a Saturday when he finished his last shift. I remember walking in, and my father was a big strong man at 6 foot 1 and almost 300 pounds. My mother was only4 foot 11 and maybe 100 pounds, and she was sitting on his lap and he was crying, something he never, ever did. He had Grade 3, a family of eight to look after, and wondered what he was going to do now. Like maybe 95 per cent of the men on the island at the time, this was hard, dangerous but well-paying work - and it was all they knew how to do.âMany folks left to chase the work on the mainland after the mines closed in 1966, and it was like a bomb went off and took half the population of the island within a year. Fortunately, Bell Island has wonderful soil and a microclimate that produced so many crops at one point it used to be known as the Breadbasket of the Avalon. So my father put the stiff upper lip on it and was a good hand at farming and raising animals, and we always managed to get by. We more or less stayed on and did whatever bit of work was needed. We never had much money, but we were never hungry,â he says.âWe also had to make a lot of our own entertainment, which is probably why things like music, and stories about who we are and where we are from are very important to people here. Bell Islanders are always resilient and these stories need to be saved and told. This âTheatre of the Mineâ is one more way of doing that, and we invite people to come experience it firsthand for themselves. I wrote these new plays based on the stories local people told me and held dear, so it seemed a sin for them to be lost.â- by Dennis Flynn
Some work, all play is the Newfoundland and Labrador wayIn Newfoundland and Labrador, a shed is at once a giant toolbox and a cozy shack. Here friends, family and neighbours come to get this doodad or that whatnot for their latest projects - especially when the local hardware store is closed (if there is one). Other times, people pop in to lend a hand with your latest project - mending a net, piecing together a lobster pot, framing a boat, crafting a model lighthouse. If itâs your shed, then youâre likely to crack a beer or two in return for the help. As work dovetails into play, the shed reaches its maximum potential, morphing from just a shed into a downhome shed party. This is a common experience for fourth-generation fisherman Lee Tremblett, a 42-year-old whose shed-to-house ratio is enviable. Any self-respecting Newfoundlander and Labradorian might make do with a standard one-to-one ratio, but Lee boasts three sheds to his one house in Bonavista. His primary shed is the affixed garage to his bungalow-style home. âMy shedâs bigger than my house, and this house isnât small,â Lee says, chuckling. This is the space where he sews mackerel nets, stretches out and mends gillnets, assembles lobster pots and takes many other preparatory steps required for his work as an inshore fisherman. On the weekends, though, this shed quickly segues from a working space to a socializing one. âIf I have a few people over, weâll be in the house at first or on the patio,â Lee says. âBut then, eventually, it always ends up being spilled over to the shed. Iâll have the stereo going and thereâs a little fridge there, so weâll have a few beers.âShed culture - itâs a thing here. And locals take it seriously. So seriously, in fact, several communities host festivals prominently featuring shed party events, including the evening shed crawl of the Feile Tilting Festival on Fogo Island, and the Summer Mummer Shed Crawl in Burlington. At least one local radio station hosts a weekly show named after the shed party, taking song requests from folks partying in their own sheds; and there are Facebook groups dedicated to the sub-culture. The Newfie Shed Party group has almost 23,000 members.This outbuilding obsession has even influenced Parliament Hill, where last yearâs second annual Newfoundland Shed Party made headlines when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reportedly outdid the actual Newfoundlanders in the room singing Great Big Seaâs âRant and Roar.âSheds are semi-outdoor spaces perfect for casual, laidback entertainment. Beyond having a drink, they are places to play cards, shoot darts and listen to a live local band, all while leaving your boots on and possibly firing up the barbecue. And party clean-up is a breeze. The place is often a mess to begin, so why even bother? The clutter is nothing to be ashamed about - itâs the hallmark of a true workspace: sawdust, nuts, bolts, whatever.Itâs also in the mess where the stories live. Items beg to be handled and questioned âWhatâs this?â On the shelves in Leeâs garage, for example, are the usual clamps, jiggers, reels, twine and tools, but there are also three sets of antlers (deer, moose and caribou), two model wooden boats (a schooner and sailboat), an old red kerosene lamp and metal tins (Premium Plus crackers and Robin Hood flour), a wooden cross marked âJesus Savesâ and a pair of Minke whale ribs.âThose bones come from a shed out in Robertâs Arm,â Lee says, telling me how he helped clean up a shed slated to be torn down, its contents taken to the local dump. âI couldnât see them disappear to a landfill.â Next door, Lee has a fishing store, once belonging to his grandfather. Itâs filled to the brim with four generations of fishing supplies, furniture and tools. Over the years, the space has evolved from a saltbox house to a horse-barn (an old horseshoe is still visible under thick layers of white paint) to its present-day fishing store. The second floor of the shed was partially levelled, creating a loft. Some might have called it a twine loft, only thereâs no room for mending nets there now with the gear thatâs jammed in from floorboard to ceiling rafter. More recently, Lee purchased a third shed, across the road from his house, where he stores his ATV and snowmobile. âThe original shed, that was my grandfatherâs and thatâs just a store now,â Lee says, laying out how he uses each of his three sheds. âAnd then the one Iâm working out of now [the garage], thatâs the main one. Then, the new one now is a lot cleaner - itâs just I havenât got generations of junk in there yet.âFrom Shed to Store to StageStore is another word for shed - as in a place to store your belongings or gear. Stage is another popular term, reserved for a shed on a wharf, where fish was traditionally offloaded and processed.In the community of Bay Bulls on the Avalon Peninsula, Iâm standing near the location of one such fishermanâs stage. Here we have the old fishing premises of fifth-generation fisherman turned boat-builder Eugene (Gene) Maloney. The 87-year-old took an early retirement from the fishery when the government put a moratorium on northern cod on July 2, 1992. His fishing premises now houses Captain Wayneâs Marine Excursions, his sonâs whale and bird watching tour boat company.âI had flakes over there, had one, two, three flakes,â Gene says, pointing in the general vicinity from one of his sheds, next to his house, south and up over the hill above the harbour. âAnd boy, we had wire flakes everywhere because we had fish on them over and over. Weâd come in with a load of fish, and then the kids would cut out the tongues and tend the tables.â The excitement of those days is palpable in Geneâs words, but the struggles are equally present. As we talk about the days following the cod moratorium, Gene pauses, holds his breath and presses his eyelids for a slow blink, as if to let his heart break another time. Those were the days when his livelihood was yanked out from under him. All your pride, all your life, everything youâve ever known until one day youâre asked to stay off the water, he says. For Gene, his shed became all the more important as the site of his next career - boat-building. Like Lee, Gene boasts three sheds. Two are side-by-side on top of the hill, while the other is at the base of the hill, beside the driveway. His house is nestled partway up the hill on the land in between. Iâm inside one of the sheds on top of the hill and the smell of sawdust overwhelms. There are piles of the stuff - thelatest lot from Geneâs 72nd boat. Over 60 years, Gene has built every kind of wooden boat there is: dories, rowboats, speedboats, skiffs and longliners. The tools of Geneâs trade are everywhere: saws, levels, rulers, among various bits and pieces hanging on the walls and the windowsills and anywhere thereâs space. In the rafters is wood, some new from the hardware store, some scrap that will be put to good use eventually. Nothing goes to waste here - and thatâs another part of shed culture. Everything - even the oldest, out-of-date looking things - can have a renewed purpose if stored in a Newfoundland and Labrador shed. If itâs not immediately obvious what the purpose of a found object is, then chances are you simply havenât had it long enough to figure it out. Meanwhile, over in the far side of Geneâs shed is a woodstove with a metal wall behind it, serving as something of a running diary board. There, he has scrawled in black marker what looks to be hundreds of dates, weather and otherwise noteworthy special events. Some of the entries read: âSTORM BIG SEA DEC 21 RAIN WIND 100K,â âXMAS DAY 2010 RAIN 10CM,â âFIRST BOAT IN 2012 JAN 29.âThereâs a collection of news clippings, too. One features stages and fishing boats of fishermen in the area before wind lifted the structures into the harbour and ice crushed the rest in a particularly bad storm on February 3, 1987. The place certainly has character and as if to prove it, outside we find Joe the seagull. âIâve had a seagull for 28 years,â Gene says. Joe is just the latest one, having showed up a couple of years ago. âAll last winter, he was there on the roof of the shed, and I was working away, and I fed him every morning. I fed him this morning - gave him some scraps and whatever I had. Heâll stay now until coming on dark. Heâll be there tomorrow morning at dawn.âThereâs a deep joy in these sheds, where the idea of âall work and no playâ is flipped on its head - around here, itâs some work and all play. So, call up your family and friends, and get to a shed nearest you. The real Newfoundland and Labrador awaits.- by Jennifer Thornhill Verma