Downhome Magazine

College Days in St. John's

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In the mid-1950s, my classmate Owen Hiscock and I finished our grade 11 high school education from the one-room school on Cowards Island, one of the Islands that make up the Flat Islands Group in Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland. We had already been accepted for the six-week teacher training summer school course to start in early July and end late August, at the Prince of Wales College on LeMarchant Road in St John's.

Although we had never been to St. John's before, it was not completely foreign to us, because most of the commercial and personal trade with the Islands was done at St John's. In early spring most Labrador fishermen from the islands visited St John's, to take on supplies for the summer fishing voyage and again late in the fall to sell their catch and purchase supplies for the winter. Also on the Islands were two large retail businesses and several smaller ones all doing business through the merchants in St. John's. It was through one of those business owners that we were fortunate to find a boarding house with a Mrs. Johnson at 103 Cabot St. Ideal for us, because it was close to the college on LeMarchant Road.

So in early July, dressed in our new clothes the latest styles that our mothers had ordered from the Eatons or Simpsons catalogue, and toting our cardboard suitcases, we were on our way. The first leg of the trip was on the passenger boat to Glovertown, then by taxi to the Alexander Bay Railway Station for the overnight train trip to St. John's. The trip from the Railway Station to Cabot St. in the back seat of an old St John's Taxi Cab, although a relatively short distance, was indeed an incredible experience. What we didn't realize then was that before we went back home later in the summer, we would be riding through the streets of St John's in, if not the most expensive car in St John's, certainly the nicest looking one.

Living with Mrs Johnson was her granddaughter Hazel and her husband Jack Janes, with their one child at the time, John. They were all wonderful, delightful people and treated us as if we knew them all our lives. Jack worked with Hickman Motors on Water St. West as a auto body man. His job also included checking and test driving new cars prior to delivery to the customer. For some of these test drives Jack would bring a car home after work and take the family out for a ride after supper. We liked this very much as we got to see a lot of the city.

This particular evening as we were eating supper, Jack came home and in his usual pleasant manner said, "Boys, I got a beaut out there this evening to take for a drive." With that, we all rushed to the front door where some people had already gathered to admire a big, shiny, yellow and black Cadillac. No doubt this was the nicest looking car in St John's. As soon as supper was over we were on our way: Owen and I in the back seat with "Hazie," as Jack usually called her, and John in the front. We were to drop them off at Hazel's mother's, Mrs French on Field St., a place where I would stay for quite a while on my return a year or so later to attend the Trades College on Parade St.

So here we were, two boys from outport Newfoundland being chauffeur driven in probably the most expensive car in town. Jack was in his glee and loved every moment of it because when we came up Harvey Road, the people in the lineup for the 7 pm movie at the Paramount were waving and cheering as Jack kept blowing the horn and saying "Boys, wave your hands." This was an unforgettable moment for us as we were driven in style through the streets of St John's.

Jack Janes left Hickmans some time later to start his own business, Janes Auto Body Clinic on Topsail Rd., which is still in the family and going strong today, while managed by his second son, Brian. Thanks for the memories, Jack Janes. RIP.

(Note: Not sure about this but seem to recall that this car was owned by Mr. Marthy of fish and chip fame.)

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