Read these personal accounts of what life was like way back when in Newfoundland and Labrador, sent by our readers.
Riding the Bullet As I write this story I am dating myself, but write it I must. It is not the kind of story to be kept to oneself. Having taken a taxi from Terrenceville, Fortune Bay, Newfoundland I connected with the west-bound train in Goobies. It was the holiday season, so the train was filled, except for one seat at the rear of the car. It was one of the locations where the last two seats faced ... click to read moreAs I write this story I am dating myself, but write it I must. It is not the kind of story to be kept to oneself. Having taken a taxi from Terrenceville, Fortune Bay, Newfoundland I connected with the west-bound train in Goobies. It was the holiday season, so the train was filled, except for one seat at the rear of the car. It was one of the locations where the last two seats faced each other. The attendant said, "You're lucky son, there's only one seat left." I thought, being lucky to ride the "Newfie Bullet" at any time, was a matter of opinion, but I kept it to myself.
I sat next to a fully uniformed Salvation Army cadet. She was impeccable, with that scrubbed, neat look, and that hard bonnet perched perfectly on her head. Across from us sat an elderly lady with her granddaughter. The click-clack of her knitting needles did not cease, as we all exchanged greetings. With a jolt, the train started its move from the station and westward along the track.
The cadet had apparently joined the train in St. John's. She told how they had partied late through the night, and didn't get much sleep. Apparently she and her colleagues were headed to their prospective posts, and wanted to savour the moment until departure from each other.
The conversation went well until she asked what kind of work I did. When I told her I was a United Church minister things turned sour. Apparently there was some dispute in her community, between the Salvation Army and the United Church of Canada. From that point on her rudeness shocked both me and the elderly lady. Silence followed, that is if such is possible on the Newfie Bullet.
We noticed that she began to nod with drowsiness, and barely kept herself from falling asleep. I had settled myself to reading. The knitting needles continued to blur in the hands of a professional at her craft. The little girl busied herself with what most little girls do, playing with her doll. Someone must have been smoking, because the whiff of pipe tobacco drifted through the car. Then it happened. The cadet finally succumbed to her needed slumber. Worse yet, she collapsed across my lap. The impact sent my book flying. She lay there with her hard bonnet askew, like some lifeless corpse.
I was about to wake her and remove her from my lap, but the elderly lady, with finger at her lips, signaled silence. She whispered, "Leave her be, she deserves it." So I thought, who am I to go against my elders, and I left her be. The little girl giggled, but was chastised into silence by her grandmother. The lady looked across at me, as a wizened, satisfactory smile beamed from her wrinkled face. It was clear she was immensely enjoying this moment, especially as I fought the decision of what to do with my hands.
We rode like this for many miles, until that infamous narrow-gauged monstrosity, true to its nature, performed one of its fitful jolts. The cadet immediately awakened with a start. Upon realizing her circumstance, she up-righted herself and, looking away from us, rearranged her dignity. The little girl put her hand over her mouth to stifle a smile. The elderly lady stopped her knitting, smiled at the cadet, and whispered, "Well dear, did you have a good nap?"
I left the train at South Brook, and continued on my journey to Pelley's Island and Triton to visit my parents. I have often wondered about that cadet, who was headed somewhere in the White Bay district to perform her duties. What did she take with her from this experience? Was it continued resentment, or did she learn something of value, to help in the performance of her duties? God truly does work in mysterious ways.
Memories of Summer Camp One of my favourite memories of Killdevil Camp happened in the summer of 2010. I was a "staff brat." A staff brat is a child or relative of a staff member. One of the many fun things that we do at Killdevil is have a staff hunt. Each staff member is worth a certain amount of points. Each cabin goes out in teams and tries to find the staff. I am never very good at ... click to read moreOne of my favourite memories of Killdevil Camp happened in the summer of 2010. I was a "staff brat." A staff brat is a child or relative of a staff member. One of the many fun things that we do at Killdevil is have a staff hunt. Each staff member is worth a certain amount of points. Each cabin goes out in teams and tries to find the staff. I am never very good at picking hiding spots. I always lose at hide and go seek but this time I really wanted to try. So I grabbed a dark green blanket and went off into the woods. I picked a small shady patch of woods and laid down. I made sure to cover myself with the blanket. I was sure that I had a perfect hiding spot. I heard the whistle blow announcing that the game had begun. Within about five minutes of the whistle blowing I had been caught. I was so disappointed. But now that I think about it, the hiding spot wasn't really that good after all. Every year that I go to Killdevil I look forward to the staff hunt. Although my cabin never wins it is always a highlight of my camp experience. This is from my daughter Rachel, age 12. ... Hide full submission
Back in the 1950s, Suzanne Warren and Barb Whelan lived in St. John's, Newfoundland. In 1955, and 1956, they both worked at Bowring Brothers department store in St. John's. They used to walk back and forth to work together. It was a ... click to read moreBack in the 1950s, Suzanne Warren and Barb Whelan lived in St. John's, Newfoundland. In 1955, and 1956, they both worked at Bowring Brothers department store in St. John's. They used to walk back and forth to work together. It was a very long and hilly walk and they quickly became friends. Barb worked in the office and Suzanne worked in the women's clothing department.
In 1956 Suzanne fell in love and married Bernard Carlisle, a Michigan man who was in the US Air Force stationed at Pepperrell Air Base. They moved to Muskegon, Michigan in late 1957.
In 1957 Barb fell in love and married Harry Seibert, also in the US Air Force. Soon after they moved to Dearborn, Michigan.
Even though Suzanne and Barb were both living in Michigan, they were still approx. 200 miles apart. Also, they both were very busy raising children. Suzanne and Bernie Carlisle had five. Barb and Harry Seibert had four. Suzanne and Barb managed to visit each other on two occasions. Their last visit was in 1963.
Not long after, Barb and Harry moved to Delaware. Suzanne and Bernie had also moved and somehow, they lost track of each other. Over the years, Suzanne often thought about Barb and wondered how she and her family were doing. Barb also thought about Suzanne while they were living in Delaware.
In 1992 Suzanne and Bernie Carlisle moved from Michigan to Sun City, Arizona.
In March 2013 Barb and Harry were visiting Barb's sister who wintered in Mesa, Arizona. Barb was looking online at the Downhome site and came upon an article submitted by Suzanne Carlisle of Sun City, Arizona. She immediately recognized the name of her long ago friend and went to the phone book to look her up. Suzanne was very surprised and happy to hear from her old friend. She and Bernie invited Barb and Harry over for the following Tuesday. They spent most of the day together talking about old times, families and just catching up. They hadn't seen each other in 50 years! They even talked about the four of them possibly meeting up again this summer in Newfoundland.
Parade Breakfast One of my fondest memories of the Christmas season took place in the eighties when I was a leader with the Fortune Girl Guides. We were planning to decorate a float for our Santa Claus parade. Some of the work needed to be done last minute - and the parade was 10 a.m. I thought to myself, how can I get those girls at 12-13 years of age up and on time on a Saturday ... click to read moreOne of my fondest memories of the Christmas season took place in the eighties when I was a leader with the Fortune Girl Guides. We were planning to decorate a float for our Santa Claus parade. Some of the work needed to be done last minute - and the parade was 10 a.m. I thought to myself, how can I get those girls at 12-13 years of age up and on time on a Saturday morning to decorate a float? I thought about this and decided I would invite everyone to come to my house for breakfast. Saturday morning came and they all arrived on time, 8:30. There were 19 of us all together. We had pancakes, cereal and toast. There were lots of yawns but lots of laughter. The weather that day was cold and sunny but there was lots of warmth in everyone's hearts. That breakfast was a lot of work but very rewarding, I think of it often.
The Nurse’s Kit One Christmas that stands out in my mind as very memorable was one of two small girls, my sister and I. It really wasn't what two little girls would expect. I have had many wonderful Christmases but one that keeps coming to mind was way back in the forties. I'm getting old!
Anyway, times were poor back then and we didn't have much in our house. My mom was sick in Burin Hospital; she ... click to read moreOne Christmas that stands out in my mind as very memorable was one of two small girls, my sister and I. It really wasn't what two little girls would expect. I have had many wonderful Christmases but one that keeps coming to mind was way back in the forties. I'm getting old!
Anyway, times were poor back then and we didn't have much in our house. My mom was sick in Burin Hospital; she wouldn't be home for Christmas and we couldn't go visit her because the only way to Burin back then was by boat and it was too far away. The steamer only came once a week, I think at that time it was the Petite Forte.
My sister Madonna and I were only five and six at the time and we were excited about Christmas like all children are. When we awoke on Christmas morning, Santa had not left anything at our house. We thought, "He must have forgotten us." I remember my father cutting a peppermint knob candy in two pieces and giving it to us. I don't remember being sad or anything. I guess that's the way it was then.
Dad cooked a hen from the hen house for dinner. We never heard of turkeys back then. After dinner, Dad said to us, "Why don't you go see your aunt Maude." (God rest her soul. She's gone now. We loved her dearly. Mom and Dad are gone as well.)
Anyway, we went to visit Aunt Maude. She was always happy to see us. When we got there we saw two presents on the chair wrapped in pretty Christmas paper. We looked and looked at Aunt Maude, and finally she said, "These are yours, go ahead and open them." We were so excited, one had my name and the other had my sister's name. It was presents from Aunt Jean, Mom's other sister. She was working in St. John's at the time. We were so excited as we ripped off the paper. We couldn't believe our eyes - we each had a nurse's kit. We had never seen anything like that before. A little blue case with all the things nurses would have, all plastic of course: a stethescope, a thermometer, a needle (wow!), the thing to look in ears, even candy pills. There was a plastic apron, a writing pad and a pencil. We thought we had the world. We ran home to show Dad what we had. Christmas had not passed us after all.
Dad took us on the wood slide, the one he used to bring wood for the stove, and went over the Boat Harbour ice to visit Dad's sister Aunt Effie in Brookside. She gave us apple pie and lassie bread.
Our mom got home from the hospital two days later and we had a good Christmas after all.
Mom Downs' Healing Gift During high school in the '70s, my best friend Nora Downs from St. Lawrence had the most wonderful parents. They were funny, loving, and comical as all go get and just absolutely good people. I had a really bad case of warts on both of my hands and being a teenager, tried to hide the hideous things. Nora's Mom, Betty, who I endearingly called Mom Downs, said, "I can fix that me child. Come I ... click to read moreDuring high school in the '70s, my best friend Nora Downs from St. Lawrence had the most wonderful parents. They were funny, loving, and comical as all go get and just absolutely good people. I had a really bad case of warts on both of my hands and being a teenager, tried to hide the hideous things. Nora's Mom, Betty, who I endearingly called Mom Downs, said, "I can fix that me child. Come I shows ya." She withdrew a stick of white chalk that she had in one of her kitchen drawers, crossed all of my warts with an "x" and when finished, she marked three "x"s in her oven. She said that when the chalk in the oven was gone, so would my warts. The only thing I had to do was believe.
Of course, I'd have believed anything at this point, because I'd tried everything to get rid of them...Compound W, burned by the local doctor, cut potatoes and whatever was on the go during that time. But I believed Mom Downs. Like any teenager at this point in their life, we were busy with softball, volleyball, school, and friends and so on. You can imagine my surprise a few days later to discover all of my warts gone. Stunned was an understatement. The best part of believing was yet to come.
Life went on and years went by. Like most Newfoundlanders, I moved to the mainland, started a family and only got to visit home once in a while. My daughter Lenna was a swimmer since she was a youngster and through the years, developed planter warts on her feet - all over her feet, in between her toes, just everywhere. Poor thing suffered so much with them. Anyway, one year we decided to come home to visit and it was during that visit, I found that "Poppy Downs" had passed away. I went to visit Mom Downs just to let her know that I was thinking of her and to offer condolences. When Lenna and I knocked on her door, there wasn't any answer, and as we started to walk away, we heard a hello. Turning around was the woman I've loved always, standing in the doorway, squinting her eyes, saying "Elaine?...My God, you look the same as always." We hugged and said hellos and reminisced about Poppy as she was still grieving over her recent loss. We chatted about our shenanigans long ago and she asked me if I had any warts come back and I reassured her that no more made any appearances. I told her it must have been passed onto the children, and filling her in on Lenna's "wart story," she told me to hang on a minute. She went to the same drawer, pulled out the SAME piece of chalk (she told us that it'd been there since she last used it on me), crossed them over Lenna's feet and marked her x's in the oven. Lenna thought we were nuts! We left her with lots of hugs, and promised to keep in touch.
We had a great time on holidays that year. Lenna got to swim in a "real ocean" for the very first time. She got to meet her grandmother, aunts, uncles and lots of extended family. And of course it had to end. And warts were the last thing on her mind. So back to Ontario we went where work and school was the next big thing. We were only home for a few days in Ottawa when, like you would, we started rehashing the holiday and all the fun we had. It was then that we remembered the warts. God Lord Almighty! The bottoms of that child's feet were as smooth as glass and not a single black dot could be seen anywhere. Yep! Every single one of them was gone.
That woman with the sweetest smile and the biggest heart made our daughter a very, very happy little girl. She will always hold a special place in my heart. Bless you both Mom and Pop...hope you're clearing up the warts of angels! (You know they got big ones when the thunder's too loud and you'll need BIG sticks of chalk for that crew!)