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The Way We Were - Memories From Gooseberry Island & Glovertown
Please find a written submission (file attached) on behalf of my grandfather, Charles Howse.
I have photos to support the submission if needed. I'm also happy to make edits where necessary. It would mean so much for my grandfather to have his story printed in Downhome magazine. He's been talking about it for years.
Please reach out to my email with any questions about the submission.
Thanks so much,
The Way We Were - Memories From Gooseberry Island & Glovertown
By - Charles Howse
The Dirty Thirties were upon us and the world was in a deep depression. European countries were in turmoil and the looming powers of Adolf Hitler not only threatened the livelihood of our neighbours overseas, but that of North Americans as well. With the world's salvation on the brink of chaos, a small island off the coast of Newfoundland called Gooseberry Island, sat unoticed, battered not by the foils of of war, but by the harsh, unforgiving waters of the North Atlantic ocean. Although it seemed that this remote island served as a very minute part of the world, for me Gooseberry Island was the only world I knew.
Gooseberry Island - The Landscape and Geography
Located at the north side of Bonavista Bay, Gooseberry Island is surrounded by a chain of Islands including Braggs Island, Deer Island, Flat Island, and Green Pond Island, which lies north, about eight to ten miles from Gooseberry Island. On a clear day, you can see the outline of Cape Bonavista in the distance.
In theory, Gooseberry Island is actually two separate islands divided by a short span of water, often referred to as a tickle, which divides the land into an upper and lower section. In order to journey from one portion or the island to another, you had to cross by boat with ropes tied to either end. The ropes were used in winter when you had no choice but to haul the boat across heavy, thick pans of ice that encapsulated the island during the winter months.
Gooseberry Island hosts craggy, windblown landscapes, with no woods, mostly rock, grass and small shrubs. In years gone by, the island was a safe haven for schoooners and small fishing boats. My uncle, Martin Parsons owned a small schooner or "bully" as they called it in those days. My father, Alpheaus Howse owned a warf with stages and a store. Near the premise was our two story house and adjacent to that was the government warf.
Day to Day Life on the Island
Most ot the upper and lower portion of the Gooseberry Island was occupied by fisherman and their families. There were about 20-25 familes that called this rugged island home during the 1930s.
The winters were always long, ruthless and seemed to drag on forever. Gooseberry island was surrounded by pack ice from December to April and beyond. Wild ducks and turrs served as our main diet during those desolate winter months.
My father was a fisherman during the summer and a woodsman during the winter. In the Fall after the fishing season was over, he spent most of his time with my three oldest brothers, Mart, Doug and Lloyd cutting firewood along the coastlines of Rocky Bay and Lake Mans, Newfoundland. After the trees were cut down, the lumber had to be towed back to Gooseberry Island. The towing was done by a draft of wood which took a full day, and that was only if the weather cooperated. Earing an income as a logger in those days wasn't for the faint of heart. Not only was the work dirty, dangerous and labour intensive, it offered s meager wage for the gruling work.
Life on a small island during the great depression was difficult and the opportunities for education and employment were limited. With five sons and two daughters, my father was uncertain of what kind of future Gooseberry Island offered our family.
On October 10, 1936 my father decided to pull up the stakes and move our family to Glovertown. I was eight years old at the time and I remember it being a heartbreaking situation for all of us. We packed our belongings in my uncle Mart's schooner and left our life on Gooseberry island behind.
This was one of the saddest days of my life.
A New Life In Glovertown, Newfoundland
In the beginning, Glovertown for me was a strange, unfamilar place. I felt very much alone with no friends or relatives (other than my immediate family). I was devastated at the fact that I'd left behind all of my playmates on Gooseberry island. I remember feeling like my world had come to an abrupt end and I felt uneasy and uncertain about what was to come.
As a young boy of eight, I'd become accustomed to my simple and sheltered existance on Gooseberry Island. To me, Glovertown felt like a bustling town, filled with bustling activity, big buildings and large stores. I specifically remember Gray Stores in Angle Brook were we settled. I even recall the moment I saw my first car, it was a taxi owned by a local resident named Ken Diamond. I also recall a gentleman named Caleb Ackerman who owned a taxi and a hotel.
The Terra Nova River flowed near by my home in Angle Brook and a bridge spanned from one side of the river to the other. This bridge was built in the year 1936 (the same year my family moved from Gooseberry Island).
It was not long before I settled into my new life in Glovertown. I soon made friends and ajusted to my new surroundings. My first school days started in a one room school house at an Anglican School at Angle Brook. I can remember a Mr. H.M Batten, who taught school and also conducted church services in the same room.
Another Fresh Start in Corner Brook
With time, came change as it always does. My school years passed by and I grew older in years and experience. When I reached my mid twenties I eventually married and started a family of my own. In 1966, I was offered a job in Corner Brook. I was relunctant to leave behind the life I'd built in Glovertown, but like my father before me, I jumped at the opportunity to move somewhere that offered the best possible future for my family. And so, exactly 30 years after I left Gooseberry Island, I moved to Corner Brook with my wife and four children. I am content to say that made a happy life on the west coast of Newfoundland, but I will always fondly remember my days on Gooseberry Island "the land where I was born and the very first place that I called home.
My Bonfire Night Mishap
Bonfire Night is one of many British traditions that has crossed the oceans and established itself in British colonies such as Newfoundland. On this, the 412th anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, many of us are probably not aware of what, or why, we are celebrating. But I'm sure this neither dampens our spirit, nor diminishes our enthusiasm, when it's time to light up on November 5th. James 1st succeeded Queen Elizabeth 1st in England in 1603. Since his mother was Catholic, English Catholics thought they would receive less persecution and more tolerance of their religion. When this failed to materialize, 13 young men, led by Guy Fawkes, stored 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellar, just under the House of Lords, with the intention of killing the King, Prince of Wales and MPs. For some reason a warning letter reached the King and the plot was foiled. Those extremists (terrorists) received their reward; bonfires were lit to celebrate the safety of the King between the 4th and 5th of November, 1605. In 1956 I was teaching at a small school in Summerville, Bonavista Bay, where I, somewhat inadvertently, became involved in the ritual on the 351st anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot. I was staying with the Greenings, a very congenial family where laughter was certainly not rationed. An apt description would be William Thackeray's quote: "A good laugh is sunshine in the house"; there was certainly no room for emotional darkness. On November 5th, we had finished the evening meal and were gathered around the radio listening to Omar Blondahl (born of Icelandic parents in Saskatchewan), who had arrived in St. John's the previous year and was playing and singing Newfoundland folk songs. There was some kind of riddle contest where clues were given each night. One listener identified the correct answer as a hypodermic needle, to which I remarked "I can't stand those needles." The Greenings' son and daughter, about 12 or 13 years old, plus another classmate were about to head out to light their bonfire, for which they had made preparations earlier. Someone suggested I should go along with them. As we meandered through the woods in darkness, that not even a laugh could penetrate or dispel, I also found myself in the darkness of ignorance. This was totally unfamiliar territory; I had no idea where we were going and knew nothing about the topography or the terrain of the area. We soon reached the pyre and had the combustible materials set in motion. Savouring the gleeful moment, admiring the luminous, crackling fire, our peace and serenity, very soon, crossed the line to dismay and consternation. A few roasted potatoes from the fire were tossed around in frivolity and fun. When one came towards me, I reacted quickly to avoid it, and backed over an 8-10 foot precipice, landing on my back on the rocks below. I lay there motionless, in intense pain, half-dazed, semi-conscious. I could hear screams and female frenetic cries in the distance that increased in volume as they approached. The students, apparently, had gone out to a lodge meeting and sounded the alarm. To this day, I don't know who carried me out. I know it was painful and I don't recall them using a stretcher. I was placed on the back seat of a car owned by a teacher from another school, who was kind enough to transport me to the hospital in Bonavista. After enduring the pain of driving over an unpaved road fraught with ruts and potholes, the first thing to greet me, upon admission, was a hypodermic needle. Having spent four days there and another week recuperating at home, I was, once again, able to resume my teaching duties. A few years ago a doctor, having read my X rays, noticed scarred tissue in my lower back. I told him it was from a fall a long time ago. Most of us have our physical or emotional scars, but they need not define who we are. There's a fine line between tragedy and comedy, the former focuses on the moment, the latter on the larger scheme of things or the bigger picture. James Russel Lowell said, "Mishaps are like knives that either serve us or cut us as we grasp them by the blade or the handle." Phil Calloway said, "In the darkest of times, laughter revolutionizes our perspective." I can't let one dark moment cast a shadow on the entire year; my fond memories far outnumber any bad ones I may have. When a student comes up to your desk and says, "Mom says to come down for supper tomorrow night, and she wants to know what you would like to have?" Those kinds of moments and memories can serve to beam beacons of light in our darkest moments, for as Mahatma Gandhi said, "The simplest acts of kindness are by far more powerful than a thousand heads bowed in prayer." There's a wise saying: "If you play with fire you will get burned. " I don't know what the saying is about horseplay.
From The Barrens To The Bronx
The seminal moment for this story was Saturday, October 15, 2016. An e-mail from my son, Juan, working in Northern Alberta, informed me that a co-worker had left on his desk a new, authentic, N Y Yankee toiletry bag, the same one that is issued to Yankee players. Juan had earlier indicated to him that I was a staunch Yankee fan; fortuitously for me, the co-worker's son is a padre with the N Y Yankees. I was so overwhelmed by the gesture that my initial reaction was "Often we feel like we don't have a friend in the world, then someone, we don't even know, befriends us." In my thank you note I included how I got interested in the Yankees, some of my favorite moments and memories, culminating in a visit to the old Yankee stadium during its close-out season in 2008.
Post World WarTwo
It was around 1947 our world began to change. We had just added electricity to our modest abode. My older brother who worked at a Cod Liver Oil factory in Bay de Verde purchased a radio. We couldn't wait to get home from the berry barrens of Old Perlican to enjoy this new novelty. There was a U.S. military base at Ft. Pepperrell, St. John's, about 164 Kms driving distance from Old Perlican, but less than half that for transmission distance, or as the crow flies to the North West. From station VOUS baseball games were broadcast quite frequently especially the Yankees. When I discovered the Armed Forces Network on a short wave band, the selection and reception was even better.
Yankees' Memorable Moments
During the late 1940's we saw the twilight of Joe DiMaggio, the Yankee Clipper's, career and the entry of Mickey Mantle on the scene in 1951. A Yankee- Brooklyn Dodger World Series was almost a given during the 50's when the Yankees appeared in six World Series. In 1956 Mantle won the triple crown and Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. I was teaching in a small school in Summerville, and heard most of the game, after school, at Tilley's "rambling house." Following this dramatic game, I recall the announcer, Mel Allen, say, after using up most of the adjectives, "words cannot describe what Don Larsen has accomplished here this afternoon" In 1961, two team mates hitting back to back, competed for the home run title. When Mantle and Maris hit back to back home runs on one, of many occasions, Mel Allen, the voice of the Yankees, said "Dial M for Murder, Maris and Mantle". Mantle who missed the last week of the schedule, wound up with 54 home runs; Maris broke Babe Ruth's record of 60 with his 61st home run on the last day of the season.
Media And Memorabilia
When I moved to Gambo in 1962, I purchased a red, Phillips, all transistor radio from Peter Paul Ltd. I've carried it to bed, outdoors, camping, as well as to the cabin. (Even a spider had become trapped inside the plastic casing). I tuned in regularly to WCBS and WFAN in New York, especially at night. With the advent of television, games were less frequent on short wave radio.
Quite often, the Yankees were on the televised MLB game of the week. One beautiful, sunny day in July, I was enjoying the Yankee game downstairs in my recreation room when the game was suddenly in a rain-delay. I shouted to my wife Dora to take the clothes in from the line because it was raining.
My Yankee memorabilia, especially hats, keeps growing. Juan's friend, now living in New Zealand, visited New York and sent me two hats. On returning to work after Christmas, 2016, Juan found a new post- season hat on his desk. Just recently another one of Juan's friends dropped off at my door a new Jeter #2 hat. Like Kris Kristofferson said in his song âï¿½ï¿½What did I ever do to deserve all the kindness you've shown?
Trip To New York
Under Manager Joe Torre, and led by Captain Jeter, and the core four, the Yanks, starting in 1996, appeared in 5 straight postseasons, winning 4 World Series. Some of the euphoria still lingered as we planned our trip to "The House That Ruth Built" in its final year. My brother Max, also a Yankee fan, made arrangements to make our dream trip to New York on the last weekend in August, 2008. Our oldest brother, a Merchant Marine World War 2 Veteran, living in Montreal was not well, so we did a side trip. After spending two days on his front deck telling stories and reminiscing, we said our final good-byes, and headed out to catch our flight to New York.
Arriving at Newark, New Jersey, on Thursday, August 28, our shuttle took us through the busy Lincoln Tunnel on our sixteen- mile journey to Manhattan. We checked in at Hotel Deauville on 29th and Park Avenue for three nights. The next day, August 29, we took the City Bus Tour, which included a spectacular view of the City from the 86th story of The Empire State Building. It's interesting to note that Newfoundland iron workers were among the 3400 emigrants, which in 1931, completed this immense project in 410 days, twelve days ahead of schedule. Another attraction was the 5 mile, 25 minute Staten Island Ferry ride which provided a majestic view of New York Harbor. From the deck of the ferry we had a perfect view of The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, while the skyscrapers and bridges of Lower Manhattan made for spectacular viewing.
The long- anticipated day was here; we were about to see the Yankees at the Mecca of baseball, Yankee Stadium. On Saturday, August 30, after a late breakfast at Guy and Gillard's on Park Avenue, we boldly set out to get the subway to the Bronx; 28th to Grand Central, from there to 161st street. Subways were crowded, but people were friendly and helpful. Brother Max, who could strike up a conversation with a scarecrow, spoke to several stating the reason for our visit and where we were from. Passing through security, we had ample time to meander around and moved up close to see the batting practice warmups. As we got to our seats, the sunshine was resplendent, the atmosphere simply amazing, the stadium fans so animated and energized. I couldn't help but think how special this moment was, with all the aura and mystique associated with this hallowed place, It was all so surreal. It's a long way from picking berries on the barrens of Old Perlican to sell for thirty-five cents per gallon, or listening to a game, with spasmodic static occurrences, on my red radio.
With the exodus of approximately 56,000 fans from the Stadium, and the late Bob Shepherd's voice still sounding in our ears, we managed to stay together and intact. One consolation, amidst all the frenzy, we need only follow the crowd heading to the subway. After a short wait in queue, we were on the crowded subway back to the hotel.
Next morning, after getting a copy of the N Y Post, and bantering with a Met fan at the hotel desk, we awaited our shuttle to the airport. We took comfort in the fact we had a direct flight to St. John's. On route, I happened to mention Yogi Berra, legendary Yankee catcher and manager, who was probably better known for his humorous malaprops or yogi-isms. One of my favorite ones was when his wife said to him, "Yogi, you were born and raised in St. Louis, you spent all those years in New York with the Yankees, you retired in New Jersey, where would you like to be buried?" Yogi replied, "I don't know, surprise me."
Claim to Fame
My mom...Louise Lane(Bradley) went to St. John's when she was 16 years old to look for work (1936-37)....she did in service for Thomas Ricketts..She used to tell stories about Mr and Mrs Rickettts...all stories were about how nice they were to her and treated her with respect even though she was their cook/maid etc....she also spoke of their two children and their dog Spot. She really liked working with them.
Grand Bank Spy
Back in 1938, I was a teenager in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. My father, Harold Patten, his brother Charles and cousin Cecil Patten operated a boat named Cinderella, which they used to ferry passengers around Fortune Bay and St. Pierre. One stormy night in early spring there came a knock on our door. A man wanted to go to St. Pierre that night. My father told him that it wasn't fit for a seal to be out and asked could he wait until morning. The man said he had to go that night and money was no object. My father took him to see my uncle and cousin, and they decided to go. I was to stay home. After a very rough crossing, they arrived in St. Pierre. When they were tying up, the passenger started climbing up to the wharf, saying "So long, suckers!" My uncle managed to grab him by the ankle and haul him down on the deck, where he was administered "Newfoundland justice." They took the fare from his wallet and his pocket watch, then threw him upon the wharf and immediately left for Grand Bank. Later we heard he was a spy. My father, before he passed away, gave the watch to my wife and she treats it as one of her proudest possessions.
Growing Up in Newfoundland
In the summer, from age four or five years old until I reached age eleven or twelve, once school was over in June my father would bring me to the train station and I would board the train outbound for Clarenville. I had my name and destination written on a paper note that was pinned to my summer jacket lapel and my dad would speak to the conductor and ask him to look out for me and see that I was met by my uncle Raymond in Clarenville. My uncle Raymond would then motor down Smith's Sound to Thoroughfare where I would be met by my Nana and Baba Brown. Uncle Raymond would then head for his home in Trey Town on Ireland's Eye, an island across the sound from Thoroughfare. I would spend my summers with Nana and Baba with one week in between at my uncle Raymond and aunt Amelia's house until mid August when my Dad, Mom and my siblings would arrive for their annual visit. I remember sitting with my Nana Brown on her balcony and when she heard the "putt, putt" of my uncle Raymond's Acadia engine somewhere up the sound, I would see my Nana's face light up and thirty years of age and worry disappear from her face as she awaited the arrival of uncle Raymond's boat containing mom and dad and my brother and sisters. My Nana would then take me by the hand and we would walk down the path to the wharf where schooners would offload their cargo of supplies for the General Store and pick up the salted cod fish that had been delivered there by the local fishermen. Soon after our arrival on the wharf we could see uncle Raymond's boat, a ways up the shore, and we both eagerly awaited, Nana more so than I, its' arrival as she lived for the moment that she could hug her adopted son Arthur and her other grandchildren. Nana never officially adopted my father but she and Baba raised him from a very young age and both Nana and Baba cared for, loved and cherished him as if he were their own begotten son. My dad in turn thought the same of my Nana and Baba, called them mom and dad and in their latter years brought them both to our house in St. John's for the winter months. He tended to their comfort and well being with the same zealousness and sincere love that he displayed, all of his life, towards my siblings and I. This, despite protestations from my mother who resented my dad's devotion to and love for his mom and dad, my Nana and Baba. The time for my return to St. John's came quicker each year as I aged but I knew, and lived for, the next June when I would again return to spend my summer with my Nana and Baba and do again the things I loved to do. One of the things that I loved to do was go sailing in my Baba's rodney every day. Rain or shine I went sailing in Baba's rodney all around Thoroughfare, adventures I reminisce about to this day. One morning, much the same as I did every morning, when the salt from the Atlantic Ocean lay so heavy in the air that it seemed to stick to my tongue, I was sculling my Baba Brown's rodney from its' mooring place across the cove to Burnt Island. The sun was shining brightly, the wind was blowing gently from the west and my spirit's were higher than, as in my young mind, I imagined Mount Everest was. I had nothing in particular on my mind at this time but, seeing as it was early August, I wanted to check and see if the black berries, that grew rampantly on Burnt Island, were ripe enough to pick so my Nana Brown could make a black berry pudding for me. Black berry pudding was my favorite until blue berries ripened, then blue berry pudding became my favorite. That was my way of thinking when I was a seven year old boy. Not a care nor a worry in the world, thinking I owned the whole world and no one would or could ever do me harm and every body loved me simply because I was me, the first born son of Arthur Edward Brown. Not knowing how to swim and not wearing or even knowing what a life-jacket was, I would sail Baba Brown's rodney out of Trinity Bay into the open Atlantic ocean on the windiest days of the summer. With sea water coming over the gunwale and not a care in the world I would wave at passing fishermen, in their Acadia engine powered motor boats, as they returned with their daily catch of cod fish. When sight of land was dimming I would turn the rodney into the wind for my return sail to Thoroughfare and my Nana Brown's welcoming arms. When I finally returned to Thoroughfare, moored the rodney and walked up to Nana's house, Nana was waiting on the balcony and mildly admonished me for sailing so far out of her sight and then she hugged me tightly and shed tears of joy over my safe return from my seafaring that day. The exact same thing she would do on countless days, long before and long after, this particular day. Nana was the kindest and gentlest person who ever graced this earth with her presence and I am sure that if there is any such place as heaven, she is there. I have never believed in heaven or hell but of late some things have happened to me that have given me pause to reconsider. One of those things happened a month or so ago on a very still and quite night. From some place, that seemed to not be of this world, I heard a sound that I did not recognize as being normal to my surroundings. So I closed my eyes and listened carefully, with every ounce of concentration that I could muster, and I heard again that sound, a sound I have not heard since my early childhood. I pinched myself to ensure that it was not my imagination making me hear the sound that I was hearing. I am as positive about what I heard as I am about there being no escape from someday dying and leaving this earth. I heard the gentlest of foot falls above me that only she could make, the sounds I remember from childhood as she came up the stairs to tuck me in my bed for the night. I remained deadly quite in hopes that this was a dream that would never end so I could go on remembering her in the vivid technicolor of a dream. But such was never to be. I spent a lot of time with Nana when I was a child and one of my most vivid memories of that long ago time was my Nana crying along with the lobsters as she placed them into the cauldron of boiling water in preparation for supper that evening. Such was the ways of my very youthful days, days that I remember with fondness and a sadness for what once was but will never again be.
Shrove Tuesday Memory
Shrove Tuesday ( pancake Day ) is approaching, and a memory of a childhood tradition comes to mind.
Growing up in our small community of Morrisville, it was tradition to go door to door on " pancake day "
collecting pancakes. We would knock on a door, open it just enough to poke our small saucepan ( dipper )
in and recite this rhyme.
" pancake, pancake, pancake more,
if we don't get a pancake,
we'll beat down your door"
Everywhere we went, a hot delicious pancake was dropped into our "dipper".
Years later, I took a teaching position in another small community, miles from home. On Shrove Tuesday,
the lady I was boarding with was going to be away for the afternoon.
At lunchtime she asked if I would have time after school to make some pancakes for her daughter's supper.
I did, and to be sure I had plenty, I doubled the recipe.
When she came home and saw all the pancakes, she asked why I had made so many. I told her I wanted
enough for the children when they came around. She had no idea what I was talking about.
That's when I learned, not everyone shared the same tradition.
Stories of a Small Town
Dear Sir: I wrote this short story a few years back and thought I would share it with you. I would be delighted if it was printed in your book. Coal's Cove was a part of Long Harbour where I grew up. I currently live in Calgary area, in the City of Chestermere, Alberta. Thank you, Suzanne Demaer (If you do indeed wish to print it, please let me know and I'll made sure I buy that copy!) Best wishes to you all for the Christmas season. Stories of a Small Town by Suzanne Norman Demaer "Never forgetting the treasured memories of childhood" The ocean flowed into the harbour which was only a stone's throw from our home. Some days it could be quite a treacherous sea with waves splashing about. We wouldn'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. In the coldest of winter's days, big pans of ice would be beaten together by the waves, making the harbour seem like one sheet of ice. Only a few dared jump onto those ice pans, dashing from one to the other, hoping never to fall into that icy water. I never heard about anyone drowning. Then there were the beautiful summer days when the sun shined so brightly and that same water glistened. We could see the sparkles on the water and we'd listen for the motorboats coming back home from the fishing grounds. The men would bring back their catches and we'd wonder how much fish they'd have and wonder 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 - they were sure to be lifted to safety. That harbour was our haven, our home, and the little place it enveloped was called Coal's Cove. The hillside was made up of rugged rocks and stunted-looking trees. They were evergreens so they never lost that beautiful shade of green. Everyone knew each other, maybe sometimes too well. There was never a dull day it seemed. We kept track of everyone coming and going, and it felt like the community was one big family. The school house 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. We would go on a family day. We'd pick berries and see who could get the most in the least amount of time. We'd listen to our father tell us stories about the fairies and how they used to sneak into the woods and scare children. We'd 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 days we'd go "trouting". Most people would say fishing. We'd take our bamboo poles with the lines and hooks attached, and walk towards the best pond. Sometimes we'd 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. She'd 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 was always a dance on Friday nite at the big hall. People would come from all the nearby small towns and there'd be a great time. The first dance I attended was when I was fourteen, just a week after my 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 2 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, you'd have to look around and hope that person wasn't at the concert. How embarassing that could 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 catalogue Wishbook for weeks before Christmas and we made many wishes. We each hoped that Santa would bring us something special. Christmas mornings were stupendous. The living room floor would be covered in cars, trucks, dolls, sleighs, apples, oranges and candies as we opened our gifts. The kitchen wafted wonderfully cooked smells at our noses. It is one of my most happiest memories. Family time at Christmas was the best we could ever wish for. We didn't ask for anything. Whatever we got we enjoyed. The home cooked meals prepared from the fixings from dad's garden and the ocean nearby provided us with our healthy meals. Our parents loved us and tried their best to give us a balanced life; one filled with laughter, song, books, discipline and well-being. Life certainly wasn't bad in a small town. We didn't have as many choices as kids do today but I will always remember having more than a fond memory for one small town nestled close to that old ocean. As did many young people from that little town, I grew up and travelled to other places, all the while never forgetting a special place called Coal's Cove.
My Dad's Tools-Then and Now
Our summer place is on the hill side of Highway #450 that runs through the Town of York Harbour. We have a view of the harbour, Governors Island and other Islands out in the Bay of Islands. My dad loved that view. He passed on in 2009. After World War II, he took courses in the electrical and carpenter trades. He built my parents first home; a wall, a door, a room at a time on what was Glen Valley Road (now Carmen Avenue) in Corner Brook. Our basement there was outfitted with a long work bench and above that were many nails in boards along the wall where he hung his tools. Some of these were handed down from his father so already by then they were antiques, Dad was 85 when he passed and his father lived to be in his 90's. Back then tools got a lot of use in the Richards family.
I was born the year before Newfoundland joined the Confederation of Canada. As a child growing up, our indoor play area was the concrete floored basement. The basement was also home for all those treasured tools. I did not think that at the time - they just looked old!! Dad gave me many a lecture when it was noticed that a saw or the hammer was out of place. As a kid I was never allowed to use his beloved always-kept-sharp saws. One not so fond memory, (since it involved a loud stern lecture) was when I decided that we (my two sisters and I) should have a marble hole in the concrete floor to play allies. I thought an appropriate tool for the job was the ten pound maul to start and then finish making it with dad's hammer!! He was not amused. However, the marble hole served us for years to come.
We bought our York Harbour summer home in 2008. Dad was alive then and he felt I should have some good tools to do the odd jobs around, so he started giving me some of his extras, even though by now he knew that I mainly dialed 1-800-carpenter/plumber. When he passed on and my brother in-law and I were deciding what to do with dad's tools, it was decided since we have a large shed in York Harbour that I would take as many of them as I needed as keepsakes. The shed has two big peg boards above a long workbench that the previous owner had left in place. I have hung dad's fine cut saw and the one handed down from his father, a key hole saw, a plane and the beloved hammer (with some noticeable nose flaking from the marble hole caper) on one side (as per picture #1).
Since I retired in 2013, we are there longer in the summertime and I have started to make wall or fence hangings and bird feeders from found beach wood or downed tree branches on our property. I also make flower boxes and picture rails.
To do these items I now get to USE ALL OF DAD TOOLS whenever I want. Each time I pick one up to do a Project, I look at the worn handles and think admiringly of dad and grandfather Richards. In life some things go full circle. If you have the opportunity to complete one, do it since it is so very rewarding.
Garry Richards, York Harbour NL
PS: The picture was taken by me at our shed, at our summer place, in York Harbour in August, 2016.