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My Labrador Fishing Experience
The heading of an article about Expo 67 in an American magazine referred to it as "the Big Blast Up North." That year I had my own blast up North far away from Montreal's crowds and pavilions; a fishing experience down on the Labrador. By 1967 the Labrador saltfish industry was winding down as the factory fishing super trawlers and fresh fish processing had been ongoing since the 1950s. We were floaters living on board our vessel where we salted our catch on board and at season's end brought it back to Newfoundland. My father-in- law was to be skipper, and his family relatives had purchased the Arachat and outfitted her for the voyage.
School was out, and on June 24, Dora drove me from Gambo to Lewisporte where I spent the evening reminiscing with a friend from University days. Towards midnight he drove me to the dock to board the coastal boat Bonavista. When I purchased my $7.50 Fisherman's ticket, my friend was curious as to what it included, to which the purser responded, "Just his passage." I looked around at the steerage section which seemed rather crowded with families and chose to hang around the first-class section. The next day the purser approached to inform me there was a cabin I could have. I mingled with some American tourists, and played with the piano in the state room. The purser kept telling me I did not look like a fisherman.
One dreadful fear I had was seasickness. As a young lad back home, I joined my classmate and his father on the squid-jigging ground once and was sick for two days. As we rounded Cape Bauld, crossing the Strait of Belle Isle heading towards Mary's Harbour the seas were violently rough. I was sitting alone enjoying my evening meal while many were outside leaning over the rail; it was such a relief to have my sea legs.
On June 28 we reached Indian Islands, Groswater Bay, but the Captain could not make contact with the Arachat. He finally reached a crew member of the Donna MacKensie who took me to the Arachat. I soon changed into fisherman's gear and started to cut throats, went to haul the traps; finally settling into deckhand. I was kept busy filling the boxes to keep three splitting tables going at full throttle. I also assisted the cook prepare for a crew of 16.
By July 12 our catch began to diminish; a decision was made to move North with 600 quintals salted down. It was no easy task taking up two cod traps and gear and storing it neatly to be used efficiently later up North. We had our two skiffs in tow as we motored slowly along, stopping at Cape Harrison and Ailik. After passing snow and icebergs, on July 15 at 2:30 we entered Hopedale where some crew members sent telegrams while others climbed the cliffs to quench their thirst at the American base.
The next day we moved off Hopedale to a place they called "The Railroads" where there were reports of a good sign of fish. The next morning July 17, all hands were on deck at three, and by 9 A.M. two cod traps had been set. We had a very busy week while working long hours with insufficient sleep. Some crew members had to be treated for slub-burned hands, others were a physical wreck. We had 2200 quintals salted down. But once again the traps produced diminishing returns and plans were underway to head still further North toward Nain to a place the fishermen called Cut Throat.
It was now August 10 which meant it was decision time for me. I had to be in Gander by September 1, since I had a teaching position there. I had just received word that I was a father, for the first time, of a son born a week earlier which gave me an added incentive to go home. This meant more responsibility, as we would need to set up an apartment and arrange living accommodations. If I travelled further North it might be more difficult to arrange transportation home. My father- in -law knew a guy from Centerville working at Hopedale and made arrangements for me to stay with him overnight. The next day, August 11, I got the small Grenfell Mission plane to Goose Bay from where I made connections to Gander.
In retrospect this trip was more rewarding than visiting Expo. The vigorous work and long days of sunlight were good for body, mind and spirit. I also had confirmation of the purser's earlier evaluation of my not looking like a fisherman to acknowledging that I am not a fisherman. There is no correlation between a piece of chalk or textbook to foot ropes or net mending. I gained a greater appreciation of the nuances and the art of fishing. Even living in close quarters with a group of men requires tact, give and take, while enjoying the friendly banter that helps lighten the burden. One also has a greater appreciation of our heritage; and of our ancestors who toiled to scrape a living from the sea, often against great odds, but always managed to maintain a sense of humor or dance a jig.
Old Perlican Island
Although it may not have the same appeal or enchantment as some tropical islands, to the youth of Old Perlican, the island, less than one half mile offshore, was indeed a "treasure island." Many of us could relate to E. Lockhart, "The island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever." Referred to as Saucer Island, it was captivating, giving a sense of a world unto its own, our "Magic Kingdom."
After the short row across, the rodney was pulled up on a sandy and pebbled beach. The usual trek was to follow the beaten path to the lighthouse, first built in 1910. Sometimes we would row across to cook up a meal of fishermen's brewis. It was truly a unique culinary experience, to sit on a rock amidst rugged, natural beauty, and enjoy a simple meal contemplating this magical moment of solitude to refresh the soul. On a few occasions, I was in a rodney that accompanied some dauntless swimmer who possessed the intestinal fortitude to venture the human paddle to and from the island. There are two events, relative to the island, that are indelibly imprinted in my memory, one occurring in Summer, the other in Winter.
At a time when we knew nothing of poetic license, my more advanced school mate and I used our freedom to bend the rules by borrowing a dinghy without prior approval. It was a case of two different personalities, the unassertive, fearful one, and the undaunted daredevil. We went to the island several times; each time on our return I expected someone would be on shore to chastise us. But such was not the case.
We had one eventful trip when I thought our small craft (6-8 feet) would sink. My friend was just ahead manning the only set of oars while I was seated in the stern. When we got almost half-way across we came to a shallow area called the ledge where the seas were more boisterous; I feared the turbulence would hurl us into the water. My friend was an excellent swimmer, while I was a non-swimmer. It seemed as if we were in a stalemate; one foot forward, two back. On a few occasions I have used this allegory by way of comparison to the Christian life or life generally. We meet storms that test our faith and our resolve, and have moments when we seem to be treading water. But we must not lose sight of the prize or destination and must push on toward the mark. Eventually we did make it to the island and ultimately, safely back to a peaceful landing.
The second episode no doubt, pales in comparison to the drama of Dr. Wilfred Grenfell's harrowing experience in 1908 when he and his seven dogs drifted out to sea on a pan of ice. But for two six or seven- year-old boys to be cast adrift on an ice pan in the frigid Atlantic Ocean was, in itself, a terrifying and traumatic ordeal.
The coastal schooners were moored in the deeper water on the leeward, South Eastern corner of the island. One fine Winter day in the early 1940s my closest friend (who happened to be the resident clergyman's son) and I noticed that there was quite a bit of activity out near where the schooners were icebound or ensconced in the ice. Apparently, men were at work endeavoring to free the schooners from the grip of the crushing ice. I don't seem to recall how we managed to get out to the activity scene; I suspect it was from Hopkin's Cliff, since that would be the shortest distance. I don't know if our childhood innocence was being replaced by naivety, or we were so preoccupied with, and thus oblivious to, what was happening, but we suddenly found ourselves adrift on an ice pan. I seem to recall some kind of optical illusion, where the stationary field of ice appeared to be moving, not us. The tide or current took us westward toward the ledge and wharf. When we drifted by the M & S Johnson the skipper told us to jump. The distance to the schooner was approximately eight feet, and I did not like our chances of making it. We continued to be driven down towards the lower end of the harbor till we settled in among other loose pans of ice. We seemed to remain calm and kept our composure, probably unmindful of the perilous situation in which we found ourselves embroiled. It wasn't too long before we noticed some men in a boat, who had been observing our plight from the shore, meandering their way around pans of ice to come to our rescue. To this day, I have no idea who the members of the rescue team were. Neither do I have any recollection of the aftermath, or whether our parents were aware of our daring adventure. I don't recall any consequences or repercussions stemming from our venture. An appropriate description of the latter episode would be Graham Greene's quote, "Innocence is a kind of insanity."
Our battered, weather beaten island is a stark contrast to Harry Belafonte's "Island In The Sun," but it radiates the same sentiments and feelings, "Her shores will always be home to me."
In the summer of1948 my father was appointed pastor for the booming mining parish of Bell Island.
Some signature moments of our three years on the Island were experienced on "the pond", which in reality was a dry grassy hollow behind the manse that, once filled with fall rains and frozen, formed the best sheet of ice in our area.
I turned ten my first winter on the island and was still an unsteady skater. With four teenage brothers and their friends guess who was chosen last for a team and who "volunteered" to be goalie?
Like a lamb to the slaughter I would make my way down the ice to stand there, between two chunks of firewood or some inattentive players logans which marked the goal. There was no net to define the goal zone and as a result many shots, high or over the markers, became matters of rambunctious contention. Some of those guys could shoot high and hard but were under parental orders not to do so. Low shots weren't so bad; I had shin pads. Stuffed down one wool sock was the Eaton's Christmas sale catalogue, an ideal thickness for this duty, and down the other was their arch rival Simpson's Wish Book. Without other protection of any kind I stopped more than a few shots with my upper body. I remember one particular occasion when a high shot raised an egg sized lump over my eye and left a shiner that was a beaut. It was not that I was all that brave or stupid, I just wasn`t fast enough to get out of the way of what the older boys swore were accidental risers and, of course, the code said we couldn't squeal to our parents. The fact that this 'Atilde' survived three winters of what was obviously a very real threat to life and limb was nothing short of miraculous.
Unfortunately for our neighbour Paddy Skanes this natural sheet of ice was well within shooting distance of his neat, clapboard-clad garage. You can probably see where this is going?
Paddy, who held a very dangerous job as a face cleaner in the mine, was not a bad sort and was usually quite justified with his complaints. He loved his deep burgundy, 1949 Pontiac coupe, and by extension his garage. Each puck that slammed into its thinly clad walls struck at his very soul. The older boys were capable of putting some force behind their shots. Each stray shot that hit the garage wall was deafening, left a telltale black mark and often resulted in another split board. If Paddy happened to be in the garage things got particularly tense. On more than one occasion the ensuing protest from this upstanding member of the congregation forced my father to shut down the game on church property and send everyone home.
Various remedies were tried to circumvent the problem. The rink was laid out across the oval rather than end-to-end, but that proved to be too short a distance to generate any momentum and in the heat of the game play invariably turned around and goal markers were again set up at each end. When the ice was cleaned all of the snow was piled at the end nearest Paddy's garage. The resulting mound usually absorbed all shots unless someone, usually one of the twins, got too rambunctious.
Winter rains melted the snow, but after the next freeze-up left an almost perfect sheet of new ice, albeit bereft of buffers for Paddy's haven. On these occasions it was invariably only a matter of time before father heard from him.
As the winter wore on the water under the ice was gradually absorbed into the ground leaving a thick sheet suspended between the pond banks with little or no support underneath. From the back porch, where we went to warm up in the heat of the open kitchen door, the sound of skates over the echo chamber under the ice reverberated in the still air of a cold winter`s night like the sound of distant drums. Inevitably that fateful day came when the ice gave one final ominous crack and collapsed in large sheets into the dry slough thus unceremoniously ending another pond hockey season. It was always a tossup as to whether the harbinger of the end of the season would be the collapse of the ice surface or Paddy's protests.
From that point on, other than the older boys` school games at the Miners Arena, our hockey experience was limited to sitting around the radio on Saturday night anxiously awaiting the phrase that focused the attention of fathers and their sons all over North America; "Hello Canada and hockey fans in the United States and Newfoundland". Foster Hewitt was on the air. After our first year on the pond political events rendered the last two words of that classic greeting redundant.
FISHING FOR COD, THE WAY IT USED TO BE
FISHING FOR COD, THE WAY IT USED TO BE
by Hayward J. Prince
"Time to get up boys! Got to get the trap hauled before the wind comes up!" That was the wake-up call heard by my brother Leaman and me on many a summer morning just before dawn in the 1950s. Dad was an experienced fisherman. He knew that the wind would usually rise with the sun and it was difficult to haul a cod trap when it was stormy, so he was anxious to get us moving.
Of course, the bed felt pretty cosy to us that early in the morning, but already we could hear the putting motors of fishing boats already leaving the harbour, so we could well understand the urgency in Dad's voice.
The trip out the bay to our trap was beautiful. The moon still rode high in the sky, reflecting on the calm, glassy water, and every now and then we would pass a jellyfish that turned the water to fire. Now the sky was getting brighter and I could see the white buoys of our trap in the distance. "How many fish are swimming around in our trap below those buoys?" I wondered eagerly.
The first line Leaman hauled up was to close the doorways, because when that was accomplished, the fish were trapped inside the net. Then using other lines, we hauled the heavy net to the surface. Now it became a two-boat job, so Leaman climbed into the punt that we had towed behind our boat and went out on the heads (outer edge) to pull the net up on to the gunwales to prevent the fish escaping over the top. As the net broke the surface, the cod were flipping and flashing, flapping their tails in a panic at losing the freedom of the wide bay, That's when Dad went to work with the big dip net and gradually loaded our boat with their beautiful silvery bodies.
To a young boy, the trip home felt so exciting. I lay on the cuddy with my head hanging over the bow. Now the boat rode so low that I could reach out and trail my hand in the water. The wind was coming up, some of that water was spattering my face, and it burned in the hot sunshine of the sparkling morning. As we edged up to our wharf I could see a knot of old retired fishermen waiting to welcome us home. Fishing was still in their blood so they were as pleased with our catch as we were. After tying the boat to the wharf we trudged wearily up the hill to home, where Mom had breakfast cooking on the old wood stove. That bacon, eggs and toast with partridgeberry jam on Mom's freshly-baked bread tasted wonderful. Spending a morning on the salt water and hauling a full cod trap gave Leaman and me such an appetite we felt we could have eaten a whale.
After breakfast, there was still lots of work to be done. The fish that were still on our boat had to be unloaded, thrown up onto the wharf one at a time, using a two-pronged fork. Then, they had to be cleaned and, since there was no refrigeration back then, covered with a thick layer of salt. When our morning's work was finally finished it was time for a nap, because in the evening we'd again be out on the water pulling the trap, probably toiling late into the night.
Those summer mornings a long time ago were a busy, backbreaking time for our family, but if I could turn back the clock, I'd love to do it all over again.
A CLOSE CALL Please see three pictures to go with this story Turres, Roy Anstey, John Gillett and Clarence Oxford.
A CLOSE CALL By JOHN GILLETT The morning of Saturday October 30, 1971 was calm and cool, wood smoke from the chimneys was drifting slowly straight up in the air as I walked down the wharf towards a small fishing boat. Dawn was just breaking showing a blood red sky towards the east as Clarence Oxford, my good friend and neighbor and I slowly left the dock at Gillesport on Twillingate Island, Newfoundland with our guns and shells aboard to hunt Turrs a Newfoundland seabird that is a delicacy to many of us. Caution was always told to me about a red sunrise as it was a bad weather breeder usually rain and high winds. I knew the forecast wasn't good but the bad weather was not suppose to come on before evening. We were pushing the envelope, but I was in trade school in Grand-Falls taking a electrical course. My wife Linda and I, my two children Sherry and Richard were renting a basement apartment in Grand Falls but we still had our house in Twillingate. So on Thursday night I called Clarence to see if he was going hunting and he told me he go if I came out, he had his boat all ready. Clarence and I did a lot of hunting together over the years. Getting Turres for part of our winter food have been in our culture for centuries plus they are good eating and Saturdays were the only days that I could hunt because I had school the rest of the week, also if time allowed we were going to catch some codfish to salt for our winter supply. It was illegal to hunt on Sunday at that time or we were told it was illegal. White sided dolphins raced through the water along side or boat and would jump high in the air causing small rainbows in the sun light as we headed from land. Clarence and I were in good spirits when we killed our first Turrs just a few miles from land. The water was shiny claim and the reflection of the black and white birds illuminated off the water like a mirror has they flew just out of range was invigorating and increased our hunting spirit but something didn't seem right, Turrs usually didn't fly when there wasn't any wind but this day there were flocks and flocks of them flying and in towards the land. I was told later by a old fisherman that's what the sea birds does when there's going to be a big blow of off wind. Clarence was at the engine, a 15 horse power outboard motor and we idled off from the land killing birds as we went. Every once in awhile light wind from the Southeast would ruffle the surface of the ocean in places and the calmness would disappear. We never saw another boat with hunters in it all the while we went off land. We saw a few small boats fishing for cod just off the land early in the morning and we waved to them as we went by. Gus Pelley and his son Edwin were setting trawls on the Gull Island ground and Harvey Pelley was hand lining cod on a fishing ground called Bradley. We were about seven miles off of Twillingate Long Point when right out of nowhere a strange feeling came over me and a thought came in my mine to turn around and head back. This never happened to me before or since because when I was hunting seals or birds I always wanted to go further off shore and very seldom would I even look towards the land. I was the gunner up in front of the boat, this taught was so strong that I turned around and told Clarence that I think we had enough birds and maybe we should head in. Clarence agreed and said that "we would kill more on the way in." I didn't mention about the feeling I had to Clarence. Clarence gave the engine a little more gas as the little boat slipped swiftly through the water towards land that loomed in the distance. We may have went a mile when the engine gave out, the drive shaft had twisted off. I put out the paddles and started rowing by this time wind was starting to blow and all the calm water was now gone. Clarence put a rubber jacket on a dip net which was a signal of distress and raised it high pinning it to stay up hoping that the light house keeper would see us. It would be very unlikely that anyone would see us from the land unless we were reported missing and the lighthouse keepers would be scanning the ocean with a telescope. I didn't share this thought with Clarence. I was sitting down on the seat pulling the paddles and Clarence was standing helping me paddle by pushing the paddles. We were about six miles off making good headway. I was young in my twenties and didn't mine rowing but Clarence was in his forties, it was a little harder on him. Gradually the wind picked up from the Southeast, white caps were starting and squalls of wind would hit our little boat. Minutes went by and we did not talk, reality was starting to kick in especially when we crossed a tide rip and the head of the boat dipped and the back of the boat dipped and water poured into the boat. Two hours went by and we were making very little head way. Clarence was getting discouraged as he bailed water and saying we were done for and how his poor old aging mother was going to take it if he was lost because she already lost one son to the sea. Clarences brother Harry Oxford was lost overboard in a late November gale in 1940 eight miles off Cape Race aboard the sailing schooner Grace Beohner while he and another crew member Frank Guy were lashing cargo that had come lose on deck in the storm. Both men were washed overboard Frank got washed back aboard the schooner but Harry who was mate didn't, his body was never found. This was playing heavy on Clarences mind thinking more about what his elderly mother would go through if anything happened to him rather than what was facing us. Blood was starting to squeeze out between my fingers from the rubbing from the lum of the paddles on the palm of my hands. My hands were not as calloused now as they were when I was a teenager and had paddles in my hands nearly every day rowing a punt around Jenkins Cove in the summer and in the fall with Howard Linfield, Harry Stockley, and Bruce Roberts we would row around in Twillingate bite killing Bull Birds, Puffins and Turrs. We can only hunt Turrs (Murres) legally now since joining Canada in 1949. Clarence told me he took a mark on the land and we were losing ground our boat was been pushed away from the land. I told Clarence that the signal we had up was like a sail dragging us back but he wouldn't take it down, he truly believed that the light keepers would see us. We decided that we would give it all we had and try and to get within seeing distance of Gus and Edwin who would now be hauling back their trawls. Within fifteen minutes we were exhausted. Things were looking very grime for Clarence and I. Water was now coming over the sides of the sixteen foot boat and Clarence was slowly bailing it out. I stood up and dipped my hands in the cold ocean water washing the blood from my hands and letting the cool water ease the pain in my hands that were now gone crooked and stiff. I glanced up towards the west and I could see way off in the distance a boat or a big ship, it looked like a paper boat that traveled to Botwood, Newfoundland to pick up rolls of newspaper from the Grand Falls paper mill then carrying it around the world. Clarence and I started rolling again because this boat was inside of us and we wanted to make sure we get close enough for them to see us. With new vigor and optimism we gave everything we had, this was our last chance to be rescued. Closer and closer the boat was still coming towards us. We had it all planed that I would cut the sleeve out of my sweater and tie it to a gaff handle pour gas on it, light it and make a fire signal, there wasn't any flares around then. As the boat got closer we could see it was a trap skiff with a speed boat in tow. The wind and the water had distorted it's view. It was pasting just inside of us, they had to see us so we didn't use the gas and my sweater sleeve. Clarence was waving the coat signal and I was firing the guns making sure they saw us. "They turned towards us" Clarence said. They seen us but then they turned sharply away. My heart sank this is our last chance and I started firing the guns again and Clarence was waving the coat and shouting I doubt if they could hear him. The skiff continued to the east and away from us then they started shooting, they had seen a big flock of birds in the water. They had seen us but wanted to get the birds before coming for us. Finally the skiff headed for us, what a relief . When they pulled up along side I recognized one of the men but not the other two. The skiff belong to Roy Anstey a cod trap fisherman from Purcells Harbour on the eastern side of Twillingate Island. The other men were Steward Bastow from St. John's and Stewards friend John Johnson. Steward is Roys cousin and every year at that time he would try and come to Twillingate to get his winter supply of birds. We were very lucky that day that Roy and his friends came to our aid. John Johnson as since pasted on.
It was the Spring of 1962, the year, that on December 29th I would attain the age of twenty-one years of age and be able to buy a beer legally. I was at work at the time and talking to a fellow employee, about what now eludes me, and I remember the fellow saying to me "isn't that odd?". Oddly, that thought took what seemed to me at the time permanent residence in my head. When I got home later that day and seeing my wife Mary standing at the stove preparing supper that odd thought was still with me so I sat down and wrote a little poem for her. The pack-rat that I am I put the poem away with a lot of other youthful writings and while going through these things a few months ago I came across the words I had written so many years ago. I thought I would share them with you, as corny as they are, and you may do with them whatever you wish.
I have often wondered why
Some people do odd things.
Like throw away all reason
For a pair of wedding rings
Have you ever met or known
Some one just like that?.
Or have you ever let yourself
Do an inane thing and on your face fall flat.
Have you ever been lonely
Have you ever felt sorrow?
Have you ever chased a rainbow
Then lose it and give up til tomorrow?
If you have ever in your life
Done such an odd thing.
You really need to see someone
Who will make you laugh and sing.
I have done all those things and more
Then I met a person who made me laugh and sing.
You know of whom I speak
The one to whom I gave a wedding ring.
Inspired by Michael Crummey
After reading Michael Crummey's Under The Keel Hard Light poetry collections, I was inspired to write my own account of an early memory of mine;
Hare Bay ca. 1982
Headed for the bay
with dad, granda and Glen.
Trying to figure out the thick
cove accent on a long,
lost relative. The more he talks,
the less I understand.
Shove off and head towards
open water, deep dark water.
Imagining great beasts,
from the sea, surfacing,
with their salutations and
greetings from the murk.
such a cathartic exercise.
The pulling and letting go
in a repetative manner,
from the depths.
Got one by the gut,
it feels like it weighs
a tonne! Drop the line again.
Pull up a creature that has
no head, all teeth and snake,
like body. What mysteries lie below.
Senator Pratt's Meteor
Saturday, July 1/17, 9:07 AM, my wife out sailing (yard that is), me home alone and our phone rings. Normally I ignore the ringing of our phone because, ever since my aneurism on June 28/01 my mother's 82nd birthday, every person I once knew must have thought I had died, the phone is only for me on Father's Day and my birthday. But in a weak moment I answered the phone with a cautious "hello" and a man's voice asked "is this Randolph Toope?". "Who wants to know?" I answered. The man told me his name, said he was originally from Botwood and moved to Ontario several years before I did in 1964 and that he now lived in Keane, Ontario. He had just finished reading an article in the Life is better Downhome Magazine that I had written about my summers in Thoroughfare, and after saying "I'm Randolph Toope", he told me that he had immensely enjoyed my "memory note" and praised my writing style. I think that was what he said. Before we said good-bye he thanked me for rekindling old memories of home that my article had awakened in him.
At the time of this telephone call I was unaware that my article, which had been sent to the magazine on a dare, was published in the July 2017 issue of the magazine. I went to the Downhome Web site and reread my article sixteen or seventeen times just to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me. Then, metaphorically speaking, I started trolling through the annals of the Downhome web site and came across an article from September 16/14 by Derby, Vermont referencing an article from August 2014 by Ed Smith about poor driving conditions on the TCH. I couldn't find, or didn't look for, Ed Smith's article but the mention of bad driving conditions on the TCH, the Avalon peninsula portion in particular, caused vivid memories of my first trip on the TCH to return to me with a vengeance.
Saturday, July 7/62 my wife Mary and I were visiting used car lots looking for a better car than the old 1954 Dodge that we owned at the time. We had already visited a couple of lots but could not find a car that suited us or our budget. We then went to Munn Motors on Blackmarsh Road (why do I remember the phone number 579-4061?) and according to the salesman at Munn's the car that I was looking at, a low mileage 1958 blue Meteor, was previously owned by Senator Calvert Coates Pratt. It was especially customized, had power steering, power brakes, a V8 police car engine and many more options that, in all of my twenty years, I had never heard about. This again was according to the salesman that I had just met and implicitly trusted and believed every word he said. I can't remember his name, what he looked like, how old he was or any thing else about him but I was sure at the time that he was an honest person and had my best interests at heart. But I did look for old Purity Factories goodies but found none. Munn's did a good inside cleaning job.
The1954 Dodge that I had let run dry of oil causing the engine to "knock"louder than a starving beggar would knock on a door looking for food to keep himself alive, was to be my trade in. The salesman at Munn's wanted $2,400.00 after my trade in and because I wanted my dream car so bad I said OK "where do I sign?" . But my wife said "hold on one second, that is way too much money, we will not pay a cent more that $1,800.00!" I was about to cry a watershed of tears as I could see my dream car going the way of the dodo as I knew Mary would 'act the mule' and not give in until she got her way. The salesman did a double take, thinking he had closed a sale and looked at Mary, with a disbelieving stare on his face and said "I'll take it to my Sales Manager and see what he says". The salesman came back to us about five or ten minutes later and with a withering look on his face said "lady, you drive a hard bargain but you have a deal". Thanks to AVCO, despite working for a bank I wasn't earning enough money to qualify for a bank loan, I became the proud owner on Tuesday July 10/64 of Senator Pratt's old Meteor automobile.
Mary said to me on our way out of Munn's "is there really a sales manager?"Discretion being my forte, I didn't answer her.
I had two weeks vacation coming to me in August and with our, new to me and reliable car, decided to drive to Trinity to visit my uncle Raymond and hopefully have a fisherman motor us to Thoroughfare to visit my grandparents. My wife and I along with our 9 month old daughter, my sister, her husband Frank Saunders and their two year old son packed our bags and left for Trinity via the long anticipated Trans Canada Highway which was still not complete and under construction in "all the wrong places". But I figured the TCH would make our trip a lot quicker than it would have been a year or two before when we would have had to go via the Conception Bay Highway, a scenic but tiresome ride that I had endured with my parents numerous times before. Our trip turned out to be almost as arduous as the Conception bay highway but we made it to Trinity with out major incident and then on to Thoroughfare.
For our return trip I had knowledge of what to expect and was better equipped for our journey except for one thing that I hadn't anticipated. Shortly before we reached the Goobies turnoff a torrential rainfall started and continued until after we finally arrived back in St. John's. The rain we encountered along the way turned the TCH approaching Whitbourne into a river but as I had a real good car I just plowed on. All of a sudden 'Senator Pratt's Meteor' was stopped dead in the middle of the highway having gone into a pothole, that seemed deep enough to bury a corpse, and held the driver's side front tire firmly in place. After help from another motorist, a bumper jack and some 2Ã-4's we found along the side of the mud-way, we rescued my car from the crater-like hole and started to head for home. "Oh, oh, something is wrong" I said to Frank "I can't steer the car I think my arm is going to break off". Frank got the jack out again, hoisted the car up and crawled under the front end, then I heard him say "Randy, the power steering box is hanging off and all the fluid has leaked out of it, we're in a lick of trouble".
But Frank, besides being a solid fellow was a jack-of-all-trades, said "hold on a minute and let me check in the trunk". In a rusty old tool box that my dad had put in the trunk of my car Frank found some old pieces of electric wire and a roll of electric tape. Taking these items with him he sidled on his back, while up to his neck in muck and mud, then wired/taped the power steering box to the car's chassis. We all got back in the car and headed for St. John's, with me still driving but more slowly and with more caution, until we were safe at home. There, with every muscle sore I crawled into our bed and slept for almost twenty straight hours, waking up only because of Mother Nature's call.
If Ed Smith had been with me on that trip in August 1962 his August 2014 article about poor TCH conditions would have started with a different statement than I imagine it did. Most likely he would have started it with some thing along the lines of this: "From start to finish of that neglected, shoddy and god-awful roadway the experience is nothing but physical misery and mental anguish"and I have not witnessed anything that was as bad since August 1952"