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For the love of Dog Berries.
We all remember when we were younger and loved the first frosty day in the fall when we picked those juicy berries.
My mother (Marion West) is 85 years old and lives in a retirement home in Musgrave Harbour, Nl.
During a recent visit to the home i noticed she had a bruised hand. When i inquired about the bruise she told me she fell out of a Dog Berry tree. She had to be taken to Brookfield hospital to check on her hand. When they heard the story they could not stop laughing.
It appears my mother who some times uses a walker to get around had her eye on some Dog berry bushes behind the residence.
A morning after some frost my mother made her move. Fearing something might occur she went to the occupant of the room next to her and told him of her plan. She said im going for berries, if i fall and dont get up call the staff on duty. Now it gets funnier. Next door was a 98 year man, Mr Abbott, who agreed to watch from his window. If she fell and did not get up he would use his walker and notify staff. Well she fell but got back up and went back to her room with Dog berries and a bruised hand. She still has berries frozen in the fridge. I guess your never to old for the love of Dog Berries.
Who Would Think
Downhomer Article Submission November 2017
Submitted by: Stan Oliver, Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Title: Who would Think
After spending a majority of my working/volunteer career in and around the media world, I was quite accustomed to being interviewed both by television and radio reporters. For example; I had the pleasure and honour of being elected to the Town Council of Happy Valley-Goose Bay five times holding the positions of Councillor, Deputy Mayor and acting Mayor, from time to time. In addition to my council involvement I was the Executive Director of the Labrador Friendship Centre for about five years. This is a wonderful community based not for profit organization based in Happy Valley-Goose Bay that delivers countless community programs such as the food bank, soup kitchen, hostel, seniors and youth programs to the Upper Lake Melville area. Both of these positions gave me the opportunity and responsibility of having to give public interviews occasionally to share our messages. I will say for the most part, these discussions were always quite positive and enjoyable. But none of this would prepare me for what was about to happen.
I was working as the General Manager for a small family business in North West River, Labrador owned by Leander Baikie (well know musician with the band the Flummies) and his son Colin Baikie (MMA/UFC fighter) CRB Automotive. North West River has an estimated population of about 500-520 people give or take a few. CRB Automotive is the only garage/gas bar for forty kilometers and is situated at the most north easterly road in Labrador. They currently have twenty employees and offer automobile repairs and gas bar services to the community of North West River as well as the closely accompanying First Nation Reserve of Sheshatshui. They are literally at the end of the road. So, while I was enjoying my new quite life away from Labrador politics, unknown to us, a gentleman (Mike Armitage) who was an employee of Proper Television (who produce reality TV shows such as Cold-Water Cowboys) from Toronto was flying over head. He wondered to himself; "who lives there? What do they do?&" He subsequently posted a notice on a local social media site looking for a family operated garage with unique personnel and not your every day run of the mill customers. Colin immediately responded to the post and set up a meeting in Montreal (where he was training) with Mr. Armitage and others of Proper and sold his idea. He is quite the salesman! The rest is history as they say.
Before you know it, three people from Proper Television showed up on February/2017 and shot what is referred to as a Trailer/Teaser, basically they followed us around for a week and developed a five-minute promo for the Executive of Proper Television. By mid March, a full crew was on our door steps which included camera men, sound technicians, producers, director, production assistants and project developers. So, I guess they liked the teaser! The show is tilted âï¿½ï¿½Last Stop Garageâï¿½ï¿½ and started to air every Monday night on October 23/2017 on the Discovery channel. The official Discovery web site posted the following about our show âï¿½ï¿½it stars a colorful crew of ingenious mechanics who using sometimes questionable backwoods resourcefulness, the clever hack specialist put their "mechanical magic to work" to fix and build just about anything for any one in the remote area. With a whole lot of heart, they "get er done", Labrador style. Just as the community often relies on the garage, the staff (characters) rely on the eccentric locals for wisdom, hard to find parts and a helping hand. They filmed twelve episodes which featured projects ranging from building a miniature ice groomer for outdoor rinks to the building of a floating barge to haul garbage from damage caused to the recently flooded community of Mud Lake. All in all, the whole experience was one I will soon not forget. What the future holds for this show and a possible season two is yet to be worked out with the decisions makers.
But âï¿½ï¿½who would thinkâï¿½ï¿½ that a group of (some will say misfits) would star in a show that is being aired through-out Canada as well as at least five other countries and have a blast doing it. Not only has the show catapulted the characters into the public eye, (people actually stop me and want selfies, LOL), but it has profiled the beautiful wonderful community of North West River and the stunning scenery of the Big Land.
To The Rescue
Recently there has been a lot of information posted on the GrandFalls-Windsor Historical site re the movie theater set up at St. Joseph's school under the tutelage of Father F. P. Meaney, the local parish priest.. As a young boy of about 12, I remember one particular incident which has stayed in my memory for 60 years. I was attending a western movie with my grandmother when what we called a crook was creeping up, six shooter in hand, behind the hero (Rocky Lane, Lash LaRue or Roy Rogers). A gentleman sitting next to my grandmother, jumped up, took a hunting knife from a case on his side and threw it at the back of the crook. Of course it went through the screen, leaving a large tear. Nevertheless the hero was saved, at least in the mind of the knife thrower. The screen was later taped up and the repair remained until the theater closed down some years later. What a different world!
My First Taste Of Canada:
My first taste of Canada is maybe an incorrect title for the story of how I happened to go to the mainland, still Canada to me, at the tender age of fourteen years. Perhaps I should have titled this little memoir "'Tag Day' in the coldness of a St. John's November."
My wife of almost 57 years has always 'tagged' along with me wherever my wanderlust or my employer decided that I should go. I think sometimes that I came from a seafaring family and as my maternal grandfather was a master builder of schooners I may be correct in my thinking. This may help explain why I have wandered so far from home but my wife is no where close to being nomadic so it is either my charm or that Mary really loves me the reason she has always 'tagged' along with me. Which brings me back to Tag Day.
We now live, or I might say on my subsistence pension exist, in Cobourg, Ontario. But forget that, a few days ago at Walmart I gave a $2 coin to a 12 year old air cadet selling tags as it was Air Cadet tag day. The weather in southern Ontario is a little milder than I remember it being when I was a 13 year old Air Cadet standing outside Parker Brothers Shoe Store, smiling my sweetest smile and trying to entice passersby to donate ten or twenty cents for a "tag", a nickle would have been great as well. I don't remember how much money I collected that day but I do remember that it was the usual cold and gray foggy day on Water Street. But the time I spent in the cold and dampness of that November day hoping to sell tags as well as the time spent attending drills was paid back in spades when the following summer I was selected to attend summer camp at RCAF base in Greenwood, N.S.
I had reached the age of twelve years old on December 29th, 1953 and sometime in September of 1954 I joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. Why I joined the Air Cadets and not the Navy Cadets, which would seem to have been a better fit for a "bay boy"like me (I lived in St. John's but in my heart I was always a Trinity Bay Boy) I cannot recall. I cannot as well recall the reason or if I even had one, I normally didn't need a reason to do anything that I wanted to do, for joining the Air Cadets. We were not paid, but got a free uniform that I was told young girls liked, so money was not the reason. But for whatever reason I joined the Air Cadets mattered little to me because of Greenwood, N.S.
Going to Greenwood in August 1955 we boarded a B52 at Torbay air port and secured our selves along the fuselage in straps, more or less standing, along the wall of the airplane until we landed in Greenwood. At the RCAF base we were assigned to barracks, a bunch of young guys sleeping in one room; can you imagine the talk, the chaos?
During the seven day camp all cadets in attendance were taken for a ride in a four seat Piper Cub, with each cadet taking a turn in the co-pilot's seat. As things worked out I was sitting in the co-pilot's seat when we were landing at the air strip in Greenwood, an experience that I shall never forget. When we were approaching the landing strip it seemed to me that I was sitting in a chair and watching the air strip come to me, as if I were playing a video game. At that exact moment I knew what I wanted and what I was going to do with the rest of my life, become a pilot in the R.C.A.F. and fly around the world forever. But fate, whose name is Mary, as it inevitably does intervened and my plans, as seasons do, changed.
But thank you Newfoundland and the R.C.A.F. for an experience, that for all the money in the world, I would never sell. I would die a pauper first.
I wonder, but I am not sure if I really want to know, if in this age of computers, X-Boxes, I-Pads, I-Pods and a gas tank full of other things too numerous for a mere mortal such as I to remember, let alone mention at the time of this writing: do kids in the Wintertime still have snowball fights? Do kids today even go outside when it is snowing or when there is enough snow on the ground to make a snowball? Do kids today know what a real snowball is or do they think it is something mom buys them at the grocery store (do we still have those?) as a treat when she comes home from work and the baby-sitter says they were good all day? Maybe, maybe not but like I stated above, I was only wondering.
I just got home from putting my motorcycle away for the "b'rrr" winter and I was feeling a little sad about now having to wait another six months before I could again enjoy the freedom that riding my motorcycle gives me. Then my mind flew back to when I was teenager and living in St. John's where on most days, snow permitting, I was able to ride my bike year round. With skis U-bolted to the frame and a chain on the rear tire and no more than five or six inches of snow on the roads I went wherever I wanted to go. Big snow storms, which I remember at times as being of Jovian size, were not welcomed by me as I had to keep my bike in our shed.
But long before I was able to ride a motorcycle I wished for the snow to start flying so I could go outside with other kids in the neighborhood and play the winter games we all loved to play so much. Doing something outside in the snow, just tossing snowballs at each other, was far better than crayons and a coloring book on the kitchen table in the house.
One day, after a heavy snow fall, my brother and I were out in our back yard tossing snow balls at each other when a light rain started. Rather than go inside my brother and I decided to make a bunch of snowballs out of the slushy snow for "future use". Overnight the temperature fell below freezing and by the next morning our slushy snowballs had become ice balls. "Wow, this is going to be a really good snowball fight" my brother said and me, not one to back away from a challenge said O.K., lets go.
The first five or six ice-balls that we threw missed their mark and we only a few each left. Well, my kid brother was not going to get the best of me and with my last ice ball I wound up, in Sandy Koufax fashion, and let fly my last ice-ball. Smash! The bedroom window of my parents bedroom exploded in a shower of glass and my only thought was "sheet, mom is going to kill me". Thinking on my feet I whispered to my brother "follow me and say what I say, come on". I ran up the lane and started yelling "come back here, I saw you and I am going to tell my dad. I know who you are".
I came back to our house and when mom said "what happened?" I said "a guy from Mundy Pond threw a rock or something at us and broke your bedroom window. I never saw him before but he was bigger than us and I couldn't catch him. Mom said "well never mind come on in the house, dad will fix the window when he gets home."
I think that was the last snowball fight I participated in. Do kids today, still do this kind of thing? Snowball fights, that is.
Irwins Road, Long Pond, and Sandpits Area - 1940's - 1950's
Irwins Road, Long Pond, and Sandpits Area - 1940's - 1950's
By: John (J.J.) Williams
Irwins Road, Long Pond, and Sandpits - An area bounded by Long Pond and Irwins Road on the north, Elizabeth Avenue on the south, Allandale Road on the East, and Newtown Road Extension on the West.
IRWINS ROAD AREA:
The predominant property in this area was the Church of England boys orphanage on Irwins Road, with large fields for cattle grazing pasture land on the north and south sides of Irwins Road and west to Newtown Road extension. The old Irwins Road was redeveloped and renamed Prince Philip Parkway, when the new memorial university was built in the 1950-1960's.
The Sandpits, between Long Pond, Irwins Road and Newtown Road extension, was an area containing fine sand, possibly ten to twelve holes over an area of two hundred by two hundred feet. Sand from this area was used for cement mixing for some houses in the area. Also, used for building the Newfoundland Constabulary and Royal Newfoundland Regiment Rifle Range located west of Kelly's Shamrock Farm which was located at the bottom of Nagels Hill (Blueberry Hill). The target (elevators) used on the rifle range were still operational until 1960 when Irwins Road and Sandpits was re-developed.
Long Pond was a favourite swimming place in the 1950's for residents and public during the summer months. The City of St. John's constructed a semi-circular pool area, about seventy five by fifty feet bounded by a walking platform and rails on both sides leading to a diving board on the outside, or pond side centre for good swimmers and divers to use.
In 1954, an accident claimed the life of a St. John's resident from Mundy Pond. When he dove off the diving board he hit his head on an under water post that was embedded on the bottom, possibly broken off when the rails were removed the previous year. This went unnoticed when the new pool enclosure was reassembled the next spring. There was no lifeguard on duty and no emergency services in the area at that time. When an attempt was made by a local resident to phone for assistance he could not get a phone line out.
Access to the Long Pond swimming pool was by Carberys Lane, a lane running from Irwins Road to Long Pond along the side of Carberys property. Half way down the lane, was a gully where locals played shinny. Next to the gully was an area called "The Green", an open area green space where those with vehicles would park, old and new lovers, for necking and schmoozing, mostly at night.
On the south side if Irwins Road in the Church of England pasture fields, was a hill going down to Burtons Pond marsh, used by the locals for sliding. On the top of the hill was a large old ships anchor about eight to ten feet long embedded in the ground. No one in the area knew where the anchor came from or where it went when the land was redeveloped. This anchor was at least two miles from the harbour of St. John's.
On the east side of the Church of England boys orphanage near the coach house on Irwins Road, was the house of the farm caretaker (Searles) . There was an avenue lined with oak trees extending south to Burtons Pond. This avenue was used by the boys in the orphanage and locals for sliding on their Rocket Racers or Champion slides, from Irwins Road to Burtons Pond. There is an old oak tree with a plaque on it commemorating a visit by Queen Victoria. Next to the orphanage, was another large property and house owned by the McGilvary family. It was later sold to the Barr family.
The north side of Irwins Road there was another pasture field for Church of England orphanage cattle. It extended from Allandale Road by Long Pond to the Hoskins property. The Hoskins lived in the back side of a large house on the property and and Reddys lived in front. The Ryan's lived in a small apartment on the left side of the house. Previous to the above living arrangement the 1940's, the Hoskins had a small confectionary store on the front of the house. The on the west side of the property, was a lane way leading to Long Pond. At the bottom of the lane, was a gravel pit. The Wheeler house was situated south of the pit. West of this lane way were several open pieces of property and a wooded area bounded by Carberys Lane.
On the front side of Carberys Lane was the Carberys house which also had a small confectionary store on the right side called Quintons Store which had a large WYNOLA sign on the side. In the back side of the house was an apartment occupied by the Kinsellas, and on the left was a bed sitting room occupied by the Sweeneys. The Carberys resided on the front side of the house and later sold to the Reardons when they moved to Field Street in St. John's. A very sad day occurred when a young child of two years wandered away. Many residents searched for hours and she was found deceased in a well at the back of the property.
Going west on Irwins Road was the Gollop house, Hynes house, and Lar Williams house. That house sold to an elderly British couple who later sold to the Austins. West of the Austins property was the Coady property which held a small summer shack, later used as a stable for their horses, Queen and King. At the back of the property was a large concrete block shed holding coal products and birch junks. Next to the Coady property was the Harry Williams property with a small poultry farm and large vegetable garden. In that garden they had a Christmas goose tethered who was on charge of keeping the garden free of bugs and weeds. Adjoining that property was the Kirby property. It held a small shack on the front for the Moores and on the back the Kirbys had another small shack where splits (kindling) were made by Mr. Kirby and sold in small bundles to locals.
Next to the Kirbys was Cranes vacant lot. Next to that, the Charles Williams/Snow property. They had a small goat that was brought in nightly and stood on a table to be milked. They also had a very big pig that everyone fed daily leftovers. West of there on Irwins Road was a wooded area which extended to Newtown Road extension and held the original sandpits.
NEWTOWN ROAD EXTENSION (Sandpits Road) AREA:
On the corner of Newtown Road Extension and Sandpits Road was a house owned by Brigadier Peach, a devout Salvation Army Lady. Also residing in the residence was the Read family. North of there on a lane off Sandpits Road was a small cabin housing a bachelor, Mr. Kennedy (Johnny Plum). From here the road turned left to the bridge over Learys Brook leading to the rifle range and Kelly's Shamrock Farm. Pat Kelly was a well known long distance runner and owned a 1930's Rolls Royce Car. At the bottom of the property, there was a swimming hole called Sandy Bottom on Long Pond. This was a popular camping area on the weekends during the 1940's. On Learys Brook, north of the bridge was a man made swimming pool called Twinkle Eye, serviced by the Canes. North on Sandpits Road, properties were owned by the Canes, Whittens, and Evans families.
West of Newtown Road Extension on Learys Brook was part of McPhersons farm was a small children's wading pool used by local families for picnic outings and boil-ups.
On the north side of Long Pond were two ski hills. The left hill was a very steep dog-leg for better skiers and the right hill, was straight and extended onto Long Pond. In later years, a house was built on the top of the right hill by the Newfoundland Provincial Government for its Premiers. Between the two hills at the bottom sat a cabin owned and occupied by an Eskimo man, Billy Winter. He let us, the locals, use his flat bottom boat when he was not using it to row down for provisions from Trickets Store on Allandale Road by Long Pond Bridge. The Tuffs, Giles, and English boys had a 65 horsepower Piper Cub that the local kids pulled on wheels and slides from Allandale Road to Long Pond from which they flew in the winter. When the Cub became unserviceable to fly, they mounted the engine on Billy's boat. On the first run down the pond the boat became airborne and flipped ruining the engine.
HIGGINS LINE AREA:
On Higgins Line at the place which now has a road onto the Confederation Building was a slough called Larrys Bog. Behind it there was and old shack that held the remains of an old WW2 Tiger Moth aircraft. This aircraft was later moved to Kenmount Road area, to a structure quite a ways behind Kelsey's farm.
NAGLES HILL AREA:
On the North side of Long Pond the Allandale Road/Long Pond Road branched to the left to the Nagles Hill area. A large house on the corner of Nagles Hill and Higgins Line housed the Rowe family. Up the hill on the right, a lane way went to the Squires house.
Across on Long Pond side was a large white house owned by the Horwoods. That house was known as the farm foremans house. The Bessos lived there, and when they moved, the Morrisey family (Newfoundland singer Joan Morrisey) moved in. On the same property, over a small brook the Evans family lived. They had to cross a small bridge to get to the house. The Evans and Bessos had two greenhouses on the property growing mostly flowers. The Evans had two Newfoundland dogs, Lucky and Princess which were from the purebred McPhersons Westerland farm litter, producing a pup name Sherman (big like a tank).
RENNIES RIVER AREA:
On the east side of Long Pond ran Rennies River. This river flowed south then east into Quidi Vidi Lake. From Long Pond, the river fed Silver Pool, and Sliding Rock swimming holes. South of Elizabeth Avenue was Rennies River pool, which was kept up by the city. It was later closed due to residential development in the late 1950's.
ALLANDALE ROAD AREA:
Road runs south from Long Pond Bridge. On the corner of Strawberry Marsh road and Allandale Road was the Church Of England girls orphanage. On the east side of Allandale Road was the Vallis, Halley, Benson, Tuff, Giles, and Mercer properties. Next, was the Knights Store and hang out called Knightville. It was a convenience store and soda joint with a small dance floor and tables where young people gathered to enjoy French fries and milkshakes. The Knights had a big Newfoundland dog named Bruno who was friendly and slobbery.
On the West side of Allandale Road, going south to Elizabeth Avenue was the English property. Next were several more properties including Collins, Parrels, and Dunns.
Collins had a small skate shack backing onto Burtons Pond where the public went to change into their skating gear.
The Parrels had two properties with a change house for skaters. They built a race track like rink with lights and a music system for playing old skating songs. They also had a business supplying ice blocks (delivered in an old modified Chevrolet dog catchers truck). The blocks were cut at Long Pond and stored in saw dust in an "ice house" in the area.
On the South side of Burtons Pond on Elizabeth Avenue was the Clark property. It was one of the first properties developed in that area.
The writer had a paper route on Irwins Road, Allandale Road, Elizabeth Avenue, Whiteway Street and Pine Bud Avenue in the early 1950's. All of the above text was written based on his memories of the late 1940's and early 1950's. There are many people that lived in the area that will enjoy the trip down memory lane and have many fond memories of their own.
My dear silver-haired Grandpa was "the" Santa of our small town where I grew up. Every Christmas Eve he would proudly don his Santa suit with his borrowed bells from his faithful horse. These he would drape over his shoulder like a Miss America (or Miss Universe to me). His Santa bag was always filled with peppermint knobs (candy) and NFLD twenty cent pieces which he gave to his faithful little followers.
I remember one Christmas in particular sitting on the steps leading from our kitchen to the back porch just waiting for that magic sound; then it came, the magical horse bells. A thrill that went right to the pit of my stomach and caused tears to my eyes.
My dear precious Santa Grandpa had arrived-Christmas had officially begun!
Cigarettes $1.00 per carton.
CIGARETTES, ONLY $1.00 PER CARTON:
Can anyone besides me remember the time when a person in St. John's could buy a carton of cigarettes for one dollar. Yes I am talking $1.00 for a carton of cigarettes containing ten packs of twenty cigarettes for a total of two hundred cigarettes. Or to put it another way Â½ cent per cigarette. Of course a person could not normally buy a carton of cigarettes for $1.00 at the corner store. Unless you knew the clerk who worked there really well and the clerk didn't own the store and was willing to sell you cigarettes in an âï¿½ï¿½under the tableâï¿½ï¿½ sort of way for a dollar of less per carton. I started smoking at a very young age but never knew anyone who might be described as an âï¿½ï¿½under the tableâï¿½ï¿½ sort of person.
As such I had to find where and from whom I could buy cigarettes for $1.00 per carton and from being a âï¿½ï¿½Nosy Parkerâï¿½ï¿½ which was what I remember my mother saying I was every time I asked her a question I knew two places I could buy cigarettes for a dollar a carton. One place was by knowing someone from Peperell Air Force Base who could get them for you or you could go aboard a Portuguese or Spanish trawler, docked at Job brother's wharf, and buy them from any crew member which I did while selling "The Sunday Herald". So buying cheaply priced cigarettes was not a problem but one major obstacle remained and that was finding the dollar to pay for the cigarettes which I solved by waiting until next week when I had gotten my dollar, plus tickets to The Star Theater for selling my quota of The Sunday Herald. Oh, the joyful times of childhood by acting like an adult by smoking a Camel unfiltered.
Cherished Christmas Memory
here is my story of my most cherished holiday memory.
My cousin Carole and Muriel and myself, Mary, were put to bed Christmas Eve early. Our ages at that time were 3, 4, and 5, I was the oldest and Muriel was the youngest, We all slept in the same bed upstairs in the alcove. We noticed downstairs the Dining Room door was open. While our parents were decorating the tree we all sneaked out of bed and sat on the top of the stairs to watch our parents decorating the Christmas tree. Our parents never found out about the great time we had.
We all kept it as a secret. Our ages now are 78, 79 and 80.
Christmas on Carson Ward
Many years ago I worked as an R.N. on Carson Ward at the General Hospital. It was an open ward of twenty-one beds, male surgical, and men came there from all over the province to receive treatment.
It must be stated that at this time, transportation and communication were not what they are today. This meant that although some patients were well, they would not be able to travel to their isolated home because of weather or other circumstances, and would have to stay in hospital until conditions improved. This was often the case at Christmas time.
About a week before Christmas the radio broadcast of greetings was held for all the hospital patients. This took place from Carson Ward and patients could send greetings to their families via radio. This was a very emotional time as for many people, it was the only contact they would have with their loved one during the season. The ward was decorated with paper chains and bells and a real tree stood in the corner, adorned with mostly homemade ornaments. Many local entertainers came to perform and I especially remember the late Joan Morrisey, who with her great singing voice and bubbly personality did much to bring cheer to the occasion.
Very early on Christmas morning, the sweet voices of student nurses could be heard as they made their way through the corridors of the hospital singing carols.
It must be noted that there could also be some very sick patients with us at this time, and their care and comfort, as always, came before everything else.
Christmas morning passed with breakfast, fish and brewis for this special day, patients cared for and the ward tidied.
As dinner time approached a long table would be set up in the middle of the ward, covered with a white sheet. The table would be laid and at each place would be a brightly wrapped gift, a pair of gloves or socks or a bottle of after shave (times were simpler then).
Meals were prepared on site then, and we served them from a heated cart, placed in the middle of the ward.
On Christmas day there was turkey, potatoes, turnip, carrots and parsnips. Lots of dressing and gravy and plenty for second helpings.
Dishes of mustard picked and beet would be set out.
There was plum pudding for after and one year we had a man with a cooking background who expertly flamed the budding (brandy courtesy of the pharmacy) much to the delight of all. Crackers were pulled, paper hats put on, and gifts opened, a merry time for everybody.
After dinner and a rest, visitors would arrive, and as is the way of our people, the visitors would include everybody in their conversations so that nobody would feel lonely or left out.
Some lively talks took place at these times, as people told about their homes and work after finding out that they had friends or relatives in common.
So passed a happy afternoon, and then it was supper time. That Newfoundland favourite, the cold plat was served with plenty of salads and cold meat. There was trifle for dessert.
After supper we turned off the ceiling lights and with just the side lights, the place took on a cozy, almost home-like atmosphere. Somebody would get a game of cards going and sometimes there would be a patient who could sing or recite, causing much laughter and merriment.
Then it was bed time and a mug of hot strong tea and purity biscuits. Those who had received treats from their visitors shared them around, and all this made for a happy ending to the day.
As the patients settled for the night, we made our rounds to make sure everyone was comfortable, taking time to stop for a chat with a man who perhaps was sad with longing for his beloved home.
Thus passed Christmas on Carson Ward, and we were glad to know that although our patients could not be home for Christmas, perhaps we had brought a little bit of home to them.
Nature is a source of joy and it's all around us; all we have to do is embrace it. Many poets have expressed a close-knit identity with nature. Wordsworth experienced his "bliss of solitude" and lingering pleasure long after viewing the field of daffodils. Frost was enthralled with the serenity and calm as he stopped to watch the snowflakes fall on some remote wooded area. Everyone has a part of the earth that they can relate to most. Whether it be a majestic mountain, a roaring waterfall, a quiet trout stream, or the calm of the woods; these are places to get to know oneself and build bonds with family. For me, the mind has been most content, and the soul has left its print, when I have been berry-picking. For as Henry David Thoreau said, "Heaven is under our feet as well as over our head".
I was returning to Summerville after Christmas vacation in 1956, when on the radio of the taxi that had picked me up at Southern Bay,( a stop on the since abandoned Bonavista branch of the Newfie Bullet), I heard one of my favorite 50's songs Fat' Domino's Blueberry Hill. While too young to experience the romantic thrill of that song, I indeed had my first thrill of berry-picking on Hurt or (Hert) Hill a short distance from where I grew up. From childhood, I've held a close-knit identity with nature and a love or, what might be considered an obsession, with berry-picking. I can relate to John Burroughs feelings when he said, "I go to Nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put together."
Once, at an Educational conference, my former Grade 10 teacher and Principal at Russell Hall was telling everyone how he had rescued me from being a high-school dropout. During my high -school years, I lost practically the entire month of September picking blueberries to sell commercially to help get school supplies and things needed for winter. I do recall him interrupting our late afternoon baseball game enquiring when I was coming back to school, but I think he was overestimating his own importance relative to my intellectual pursuits.
We picked blueberries for thirty-five cents per gallon. The early aim was to get at least three gallons in order to get a one dollar bill. Later I would double that by carrying a blueberry wooden box with a stick reeved through two rope handles. I had one memorable experience where I learned a valuable lesson. Against my better judgement, I deferred to an older chap, who was not a regular berry-picker, to go in on bicycle. On arrival at the purchasing agent's store, with the day's work attached haphazardly to the parcel carrier, my worst fears were realized. The berries were so wet the agent had doubts about taking them. She must have sensed my disappointment and devastation and finally assumed the risk of accepting them.
The joy started to diminish a little, however, as September began to wane. It was not easy maintaining enthusiasm. especially while trudging through the early morning dew- drenched bushes and shrubbery that would probably not dry until the approaching lunch break. The one bright spot would be, on our return, sitting down to the evening meal of fresh vegetables amidst the glow of the kerosene light.
After the blueberries, we advanced to the partridge-berries, known internationally as the Lingonberry which were carried in flour sacks on our backs or over our shoulders. It was much harder on the hands than the blueberries; after a few days, the fingers became sore and bruised from the barbed, brambly underbrush. Some used a stall, a rag covering for a cut thumb or finger. I recall one year, in particular, the price was so good, our family picked eight barrels, enough to purchase our supply of coal for that Winter.
Two types of berries which we now harvest that were not very popular when we were younger, (perhaps because of their low commercial value) are wild raspberries and cranberries. Picking the former is the least delightful; foraging for them requires tenacity, adventure, and some risk-taking. One needs long sleeves and long pants to counteract thorns, poison ivy, grubs, and spiders. (good we donâï¿½ï¿½t have snakes). Thorny undergrowth ensnarls oneâï¿½ï¿½s feet; large, ripe berries dangle tantalizing over rocky ledges; swarms of mosquitoes, test one's determination to persevere when one's footing is so uncertain and precarious. Cranberries grow on coastal headlands or in and around bogs and marshes. I have picked them as I followed a brook or stream perilously close to the ocean. A friend in Cape Freels took me in on his ATV and landed me in a grassy marsh and picked me up about three hours later in the same spot. A few years ago, I spent a night in Old Perlican in October. I got up early on a Saturday morning to seek out cranberries. It was freezing cold with a strong North wind, but I decided to defy the elements and venture out. Later, my brother gave me a picture of my exploits; he had followed me and had clandestinely captured the moment.
The bakeapple, or cloudberry, is the ultimate - the most cherished among the province's wild berries. It has been suggested the name has been anglicized from the French baie qu' appelle meaning what is this berry called? It has been described as a distant cousin of the raspberry, red and hard when not ripe, golden amber, soft and juicy when ripe, with a superior, unique taste. They may fetch up to eighty dollars per gallon. I recall in the late 1940's my Dad and I were walking out by Long Pond, Old Perlican with our bucket of bakeapples just harvested from bogs where fog obscured our visibility. A car stopped, and a gentleman asked if we were going to sell our berries. I gave a barely audible no; I'm sure if prices like that had been mentioned, we would have given it more consideration. Another sublime or serendipitous moment occurred while picking bakeapples with my Uncle, under resplendent sunshine, taking a break to enjoy refreshments and reminisce.
On a number of occasions, I have gone in from Pound Cove, walked around Gull Pond and surrounding area picking bakeapples. After about seven hours bending and trudging over bogs and carrying a bucket of berries in each hand and another in a backpack, it was a relief to reach the vehicle and get a refreshing drink.
A few years later, I am also more aware of our fragility and our human limitations. "All good things must come to an end", penned by Geoffrey Chaucer in the fourteenth century is a constant reminder of the transitory nature of life. When my own life and career was still ahead of me, I recall my Dad's frustrations dealing with advanced age unsteadiness and spilling his berries. As Shakespeare said âï¿½ï¿½The wheel is come full circle, I no longer can trek the bogs. Age diminishes our strength and robs us of our pleasures; unfortunately, we have no control over our situation, the only thing we have control over is our perspective.