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Santa Comes to Grand Falls
One year in the late 1950s, I decided that I was a big boy, and would dispense with my childish belief in Santa Claus. I had overheard enough hints that the Santa 'stuff' was a big hoax. It had been such a delicious belief that he existed only to bring joy to boys and girls on Christmas Eve. But for one last Christmas, I suspended disbelief, and was convinced that my earlier convictions were indeed true. It all began around six o'clock on Christmas Eve. My older brother, Cec, had recently graduated from high school, and was enjoying his first job. He drove a van for Newfoundland Brewery. Despite the fact that he was far too young for such a job, this bothered no one. He delivered beer to local clubs, corner stores and homes. Picture it - a 17-year old with a van full of beer. On Christmas Eve, Cec was making his final delivery on Junction Road. As he was getting into the van, he saw the face of an old man staring into the passenger window. He had a white fluffy beard and a bag draped over his shoulder. At this time of the evening there were few people out and about. Cec went around to the other side of the van. "Young man, you wouldn't know where an old man might stay for a few days, would you?" Of course, Cec was well-beyond believing in Santa Claus. But that was the very thought that passed through his mind. Santa Claus!! And he's putting me to a test. He shook his head to banish the thought, and realized his childish first impression. It took him but a moment to consider. Our grandparents often took in boarders. But usually these fellows would be gone home for Christmas. "Yes, jump into the van. I think I might have just the place for you." Never thinking that Christmas was a reprieve for Mom Q, as we called our grandmother, from cooking and cleaning for the boarders. We had always called our grandparents 'Mom Q and Pop Q', short for 'McHugh'. Mom Q was reluctant to admit a stranger on Christmas Eve. But Pop Q intervened and welcomed the man into the kitchen. Of course, Pop had to do none of the work associated with putting up the boarders. He just enjoyed having a yarn, finding out where someone hailed from, and who they belonged to. Glad to have the man settled, Cec came home to our house. We heard him tell Mother about 'Santa Claus', who was staying at Mom Q's house. We gathered round to hear the details. No one was more eager to hear this than I. Oh boy, Santa is really here in Grand Falls! All my earlier misgivings evaporated. "Did he have his red suit on?" "I didn't see it. Maybe it was in his bag. I don't think he wears it daytimes. Only on Christmas Eve." "Oh Mother, we got to go over to Mom Q's house." "No, no, it's too late now. He'll be too busy getting ready. We'll see him tomorrow." I didn't get much sleep that Christmas Eve. Us kids were up pretty early on Christmas morning. After the excitement of opening our presents, we wanted to rush down to Mom and Pop's house. But Mother managed to hold us until noon, for our traditional Christmas dinner there. And there, in our grandparents kitchen, stretched out on the daybed, talking to Pop Q was Santa!!! Fat belly, snowy white beard, and a thin shock of hair on his head. The only thing missing was the red suit. We were already prepared for the idea that he only wore it on Christmas Eve. I thought, how lucky were we to have Santa Claus at our grandparents' house. We asked a few tentative questions. He played along with the role, and entertained our queries. Pop Q soon let us know that we'd bothered Santa enough, and shooed us off. During Christmas dinner I peeked over in Santa's direction as often as I dared. He was deep in conversation with Pop. I decided that they were old friends. Wow, I couldn't believe it. Over the next few days I made up excuses to go over to our grandparents' house to see him. But one day he was gone. No one ever said who he really was, or where he had come from. I don't ever remember telling my friends about our very own Santa. Surely they would have made terrible fun of me. I just wanted Santa for myself. I believe I really knew he wasn't the 'real' Santa. I just didn't want to burst the illusion. Today, Cec I sometimes reminisce about that Christmas long ago, and about our Santa. We decided that he came to us that Christmas as a special present. I wonder about him and what became of him. I hope he enjoyed that Christmas with our family. We sure did.
A Banana Story
by Hayward J. Prince There's a radio station in Winnipeg, CHNR, the nostalgia station. They play great oldies from past decades. I used to hear my favourite announcer, Gary Robertson, say, "This is CHNR FM, 100.7, where the past is always present." Those words are so true, because sometimes Gary would play a song that would remind me of something that happened to me forty or fifty years ago. It's the same when it comes to things I see and touch. For example, once, while shopping at the Great Canadian Superstore, I came across a virtual sea of bananas, more than I had ever seen in one place before. Right away it triggered a memory of a time when this would have been heaven to me or to a certain late relative. Let me explain. When I was a kid, I loved bananas and often wished I could afford all the bananas I could eat. When I would go to the grocery store for Mom, I would get a banana to eat on the way home. Also, I would often ask for a banana box to put on my head on the way home for walking or running around the harbour, as it was a real protection against that cold northeast wind of the bay. The holes at each end of the box were my windows on the world at that time in my life. I guess we all wish life stayed that simple. But I wasn't as interested in bananas quite as much as one of my relatives. I recall the story being told that the first time he went to New York - I believe in the 30's - he hadn't ever seen a banana before. Apples and oranges were familiar to him; they were shipped routinely into Newfoundland, but bananas were too perishable to survive the long and arduous trip to his outport home. When a New Yorker gave him one, he ate it without peeling it and was puzzled because everyone was staring at him. He also wondered why everyone raved about bananas - they didn't taste that great to him. Yes, just as nostalgic music from the forties, fifties, and sixties brings back great memories to me, so does the sight and taste of a delicious banana.
Memory of South Brook
I drove the Trans Canada Highway to Corner Brook a while ago and passed the entrance to South Brook, as I have passed it so many times in the intervening 60 years, and I spent a few moments reminiscing about that Labour Day Weekend in 1959 when one family in South Brook was so kind to our family. My late husband, then a young social worker, had been transferred to Corner Brook and I had gotten a job teaching French at a high school there. We packed up our things and our toddler and with our old Escort packed to the roof left St. John's early Saturday morning for the seven-hour drive over the (mostly) dirt road to Gander. It was a long and tiring but uneventful day; we were glad to tumble into our bunks at the barracks hotel, The Saturn, after a brief meal. On Sunday morning we were off to an early start wanting to make Corner Brook by dark. We planned a stop at the Taiwan restaurant in Grand Falls for lunch. Our little son had been cranky leaving Gander, so I'd given him a bottle (Carnation milk, hot water, and corn syrup in a glass bottle with a rubber top as was the fashion in those days), and he'd slept most of the way to Grand Falls. We were all ready for Chinese food. I often look at young mothers now in fitted-out changing rooms, with a wide variety of disposable diapers to choose from, a packet of baby wipes at hand, and think of that day in the crowded ladies' room. I'd packed all the baby supplies in a large plaid bag - cloth diapers, bottles, cans of Carnation and corn syrup, wet clothes in a plastic bag, and an extra bag or two for the used diapers. It all got the job done, however. We were soon on our way again anxious to reach Corner Brook. In those days - and I wonder why I remember the road so fondly - the Halls Bay Line running north from Badger to South Brook was a narrow, winding dirt road that, even though graded frequently, had sharp stones sticking up through the surface. Driving on it was always tense as flat tires were more than likely. We took our time driving it and about three hours after leaving Grand Falls we decided to have a snack (carried with us, of course) and give our son a bottle. I reached for my plaid bag but it wasn't anywhere to be found - I had left it in the ladies' room at the Taiwan! All I had was an empty bottle left over from the early morning and some cans of Carnation and extra diapers in the trunk. My husband wisely refrained from saying anything except "What do we do now?" We were approaching South Brook and, inspired, I said "stop at the fourth house on the right." He did. Finally he said, "what now?" I explained that this was the first house that had smoke coming out of the chimney and they therefore had a fire in; I was going to knock at the back door and ask if I could wash out the bottle I had and open my can of milk and have some boiling water and a little sugar for the baby. My husband said, "you can't do that, you don't know these people." I should explain that he came from a small Conception Bay town where everyone knew everyone else and where had such an emergency happened there, he would have had no problem asking at any house. On the other hand, I was a 'townie' from Cochrane Street who would have crawled back to the East End rather than knock on a West End door to ask a favour. (Although from all I know about West Enders they were, and are, just as hospitable as other Newfoundlanders!) As it turned out, I was right about the people of South Brook. I went up to the back door of the fourth house on the right; I knocked briefly; I went in. In the kitchen were five people - a man and a lady of middle age, an older woman, and two other people. I explained to the lady my problem, and it was a problem no longer. It was "come in, my dear," "no need to open your can of milk we've got one we just opened," "turn up the stove," "the kettle will take a few minutes," "tell your husband to bring the baby in," "give me that bottle I'll wash it out," and so on. They may have been somewhat taken aback at first by this strange young woman at the door, but their natural kindness soon took over and we were offered tea and biscuits, the kettle was boiled, the bottle was filled, and we were on our way. My great regret is that I did not ask their names so I could have sent a thank you note or a Christmas card. But I never drive by the entrance to South Brook but I remember their kindness and I have always had a warm spot for the town and its people. The story has another bit attached to it. We stopped for gas at what was then probably the only gas station between South Brook and Deer Lake - somewhere at a road junction (to Springdale or Baie Verte, I think). Even though it was Sunday afternoon, the small confectionery store was open and we went in. I told the man behind the counter about our mishap and the kindness of the people where we'd stopped. He said, "At the Taiwan, you say, a plaid bag; give me an address in Corner Brook where it can be dropped off. I've got a friend who's a trucker from Corner Brook, he'll be through here en route to Grand Falls in a little while. I'll tell him to pick it up and take it over to you." I gave him my cousin's West Street address as we were going to a hotel, and sure enough three days later the plaid bag was dropped off as promised. Maybe this could have happened anywhere, I don't know. I've certainly met very kind people in places as diverse as Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Chicago. Nonetheless, when we talk of the hospitality of our own people it is this story I think of, and the family in South Brook all those years ago that typifies for me the kind of folks we are and the kind of culture we struggle to maintain.
Resurrecting childhood memories of outport NL never fails to instill in me the assurance that I grew up in the right place at the right time.
Remember the stillness of a sunny Sunday morning with not a ripple on the water in the cove. So still, you could hear the squeaking sound caused by the friction of wooden paddles rubbing against wooden thole pins as someone rowed a punt. The stillness was further broken by the ringing of the church bell. The stillness is broken today by things once considered taboo on Sunday. The sound of power saws, lawnmowers and automobiles all but drown out the sound of the church bell.
I remember summer holidays when young girls would visit our community from different parts of the province. All hell would break loose on times as the lads in the cove weighed for the attention of those "fair damsels". Fisticuffs sometimes resulted from heated confrontations.
Animals roamed freely, horses and sheep would enter fenced properties through a left open gate. Trying to get the animals to exit through the same gate proved difficult as they would go around and around several times before deciding to leave. Close observance of the animals as they performed their mating rituals helped us to disperse the myth that storks and stumps were involved in where babies came from.
As boys we gazed over the "stage head" into crystal clear water, observing a host of sea creatures. Every year squid and capelin rolled ashore on the beaches. Sadly, your gaze now falls upon murky water with automobile tires, bicycle frames and plastic containers littering the bottom where the sea creatures were. The squid and capelin no longer enter the toxic water of the cove.
A small brook flowed behind our house. It yielded many a meal of delicious trout. I recall lying in bed at night listening to the babbling water of the brook. The brook still babbles but no one eats the trout.
One memory I try to block but cannot is the memory of the outdoor toilet. Our "Cottonelle" so to speak was the Eaton's catalogue and brown paper bags. I would rate the flush toilet invention right up there with the invention of the wheel. On a humorous note I remember when our cove was connected by road to a neighbouring community. My father, fortunate enough to own a car took a man and his wife for a ride. As they rode along the wife looked at her husband and said, "If we had a car like this we would be killed more than once."
Uncomfortable situations with a little fear involved is a guaranteed memory retainer. Such was the case when a classmate of mine in the lower grades. At recess time, he had a misfortune in the bushes as he answered the call of nature. He had to return home to clean up and change his clothing. Upon the resumption of class the teacher inquired as to the whereabouts of our classmate. The class with limited vocabularies was unable to find the words to describe what had happened. Only after being faced with the threat of staying after school hours did someone blurt out enough information for the teacher to get the picture as to what had occurred.
I recall the church ladies having a fundraiser. The mother of a friend of mine baked a cake with something hidden inside. The idea was to pay for each guess as to what was hidden in the cake. My friend relayed to me what his mother had placed inside. You can well imagine the looks of suspicion when I piped up with the correct answer which was a "budgie bird feather." The cake was delicious.
I remember the local storekeeper. As a child, it was like a performance to me as he used a knife to cut portions of bologna, ham and cheese "exactly" to the specifications of the customer, wrapped them with the exact amount of brown paper torn from a mounted roll. He completed his act by neatly tying the purchase and bursting the string with a "snap."
When I was a boy there were twelve inches in a foot. The first day of spring was the 21st of March and not the 20th. At bedtime, folks wound up the "time piece" and threw the cat outside. Remember when blueberries were red because they were green?
My Father, Martin Seward
In Newfoundland and Labrador, fish means codfish. All other fish are known by its proper name; cod is known by one word, "fish." It was common to hear someone say I caught a tub of mackerel, five halibut and two quintals of fish. Cod was split, which was the removal of the sound bone (spine). Most fisherpersons can split fish, but a few were exceptional; my father, Martin Seward, was one of those few. Many stories have been told of Dad's speed at removing the sound bone. One such story is a member of his fishing crew counting fourteen sound bones in the water before the first one reached the bottom. The following was related to me many years after Dad died, and over forty-plus years after he retired from fishing. In the early 1990s, while crossing Newfoundland on a business trip, I stopped for a few days to visit relatives and friends in the Southwest Arm. One of the visits was to Ulysses Lambert, a friend and crew member of Dad's. his wife Lillian introduced me to her son, who appeared to be in his early twenties. He looked at me and said, "Are you a relative of Martin Seward's?" I told him I was Martin's son; he said, "I bet you can't split fish like your father?" I replied, "I cannot split fish period." I asked him how he knew about Dad's fish splitting since he wasn't born when Dad retired from fishing. His answer, "Wherever I travelled, and the subject of fishing came up, Martin Seward's name was always mentioned for his speed at splitting fish." Another story comes from Skipper Allan Tucker from St. Jones Within, who was a very successful schooner captain in the Labrador fishing seasons. He was the original owner of the schooner, Norma and Gladys. Marie and I had the pleasure of spending about two hours with Allan in 1992. We were on a trip across Newfoundland that I will not soon forget. We stopped at Clarenville to visit my cousins, Robert and Will Balsom and their families. While we were there, their sister, Janet Balsom and her husband Oliver Tucker arrived. Oliver is the son of Allan Tucker. I inquired about his father and was told that his father was in good health. Oliver and Janet were living with Allan at the time and invited us to follow them home to St. Jones Within. We pulled into the driveway behind them and with Janet leading the way we entered Allan's home. Janet introduced me to him, saying, "Do you remember this, man?" He shook his head and said no. It had been over forty years since we had seen each other. I said, "You do not know me, but you might remember my father, Martin Seward," he turned to me and said, "My God, could he ever haul the bones out of a fish." Janet made us an afternoon lunch, after which Allan asked me to come into the front room (living room). "I have a story to tell you." He informed me of the many schooners he owned or sailed. On one wall was a picture of each, and in the middle was a portrait of his late wife, Violet. He then related the following series of events that occurred during the summer of 1945. I paraphrase. I was looking for a splitter to join us on our first voyage to Labrador in the new Schooner Norma and Gladys. I heard about your father's skill as a fish splitter, and I went to Southport and asked him to join our crew, he accepted. After launching the Norma and Gladys, we left for St. John's to pick up supplies and sailed for Labrador. On arrival, we set out our traps, but the fish were scarce. On Friday, I went to the local village. While there, I learned of a church supper to be held the next afternoon at 5 pm. When I returned, I told the crew that if we had the next day's catch of fish cleaned up, we would go ashore for a well deserved home-cooked meal. The next day, Saturday, we went to haul our traps and found them loaded with fish. On our return and after a quick mug-up, we forked the fish up on the deck and started the cleanup. Looking at the vast amount of fish we had to clean, split, and salt, I decided we could not make it to the dinner. Before I told the crew, I went to Martin and told him we would not be going to dinner. Martin asked. "Why?" I said, "We have too much fish to split." He said, "Skipper, you put them on the table, and I will split them." Skipper Allan turned to me, and with a smile, said, "We made the supper." When Marie and I were ready to leave, I asked him if Marie could take a picture of him and me together. At first, he hesitated, I told him I would like to have it to show my children and grandchildren. He gave his ok. We left shortly after. That was the last time I saw him. Meeting Skipper Allan Tucker is a memory I will never forget. The picture of us hangs in my office. Some years later, I had a conversation with Allan's son, Oliver, who told me he heard his father say, "Martin was fast at splitting fish but more important, he was clean." He meant Dad left very little flesh on the bone.
Christmas Around the Bay When I Was Young
The Christmases of our youth were fun-filled days. The anticipation of Christmas morning built during the week ahead. I remember singing in the choir at Midnight Mass it was the only time I was in church after dark and sitting in the choir loft singing O Holy Night with the sound of the organ and our voices blending, the lights, the warmth, and the snow falling outside was magical. Walking home on the crunchy snow and knowing in the morning the tree would be up with the colourful lights all lit and the stockings and gifts ready to be opened was a wonderful feeling. The stockings always had the same things in them an apple, a banana, an orange, and little bunch of grapes. We each got one gift and it was usually something we really wanted. Every Christmas Eve my Dad would come home from Town (where he worked) and bring a stranger with him, he never failed in doing this. One year he was late and I remember him saying he had a hard time convincing this young fella. He would bring a young man home who couldn't get home for Christmas, they would stay just for a meal with us all around the table and then they would head out to make their way back to their rooming house in Town. He said, "No one should be alone on Christmas Eve." He would head out during the day to the woods behind our house and chop down our tree. We never saw the tree until Christmas morning we would walk into the kitchen and there it would be all lit up in colourful lights with shiny tinfoil like rings around them and decorated with a variety of decorations, often most were homemade. I remember spending days stringing popcorn to put on the tree. We would run into the kitchen in the morning and stand staring at the lit-up tree, it was a thing of beauty. We always got our stockings first and ate some fruit. My favourite was the Red Delicious Apple. There were Christmas candy, cookies, cakes and purity Strawberry syrup to be had at various times and various houses. Boxing day was the day I was allowed to go around to the houses to see their trees, I would bundle myself up in warm clothes and head out, I'd knock on doors and ask the Mrs if I could see her tree. Some folks would ask my name and I would say it and in I'd go they would plug the tree lights in and I would marvel at the beauty of it all. Some were loaded with tinsel, some heavy with spray snow but all had tons of lights and were just the most magical things I'd ever seen. I'd always compliment them on their beautiful trees. Everyone's tree was a bit different but the smell of the cooking, the warmth of the homes, and the enjoyment I felt just staring at the colorful lit up trees was priceless. Often during the season, the mummers would come barging in and that was delightful, you never knew who they were with the homemade costumes done up to change the way the person looked. Mummers were given a drink and a bit of Christmas cake often one or two would sing or step out in a dance. You could usually tell the one who brought their fiddle by the way they played it. If you guessed who someone was they had to uncover their face and there was great laughter in the house when the mummers came in. We usually had some time off from school over Christmas and if there was enough snow we would haul our coasters out and slide down the hills. Lots of snow meant forts could be build and snowballs made ahead of time. Then we would form teams and have epic snowball fights. I almost forgot... The Christmas Concerts in the hall, how could I forget those. We would practice for what seemed like months. It was delightful! Christmas around the bay when we were young was looked forward to all year and enjoyed to the full. The music, the food, the fun with friends and family, was renewing and you felt happy and part of the society around you. I really loved Christmas around the bay when we were young.
Mr. Smith At The Narrows
Introductory Note The tragic loss of three members of one family from Shea Heights, St. John's when they went fishing outside the Narrows in September 2016, brought to mind my own frightening experience when I was a boy. It seems that only by a quirk of fate, we did not suffer the same outcome. I can relate to Shea Heights because our family lived on Mill Bridge Road which was just below South Side Road West. In those days Shea Heights was called the Brow. In my story, the main character, Mr. Smith and his family lived on South Side Road West just below the Brow. The house where the Smiths lived is still there; however, Mill Bridge Road and where our house stood are gone, being absorbed by the expansion of the harbor. My story begins in the late summer of 1945. I was ten years old. Mr. Smith At The Narrows It was only about two weeks before school started and shortly after we had arrived home from Aunt Eliza's when Mr. Smith came to visit us with an unusual request and it was a complete surprise to me. Mr. Smith and his family were good friends of ours, and they played cards together often, Mr. Smith was Chef Petty Officer in the Canadian Navy, and he was stationed in St. John's. As it was he arrived at our house one day and asked Mom if I would like to go fishing with him in the harbor outside the Narrows. Mr. Smith was on leave, and it would be the last chance he had to take his son Ray out fishing before his leave was over, and wondered if I would like to come along as it would be company for Ray; who was a year younger than me. It was alright with me because I loved to go fishing. Mom asked him how he was going to go fishing, since she knew he did not have a boat. He assured her by saying he had a fisherman friend down in the Battery and had arranged for a loan of a boat and gear from him. So it was arranged we would go out the following Saturday morning. When we got to the dock where the fisherman had the boat, I was surprised to see it was not a fishing skiff like my Uncles, but it was more like a dory, about twelve feet overall; with one end squared off on which was mounted a small outboard motor. It looked like a coffin to me. However, I had every confidence in Mr. Smith; him being a sailor and all. The fisherman friend showed Mr. Smith how to start the motor and after several tries, finally got it going, the outboard was not new and no more then a four hp motor and had a very unhealthy sound. My confidence factor dropped a little as we left the dock. Mr. Smith was a big man and when he sat in the stern, by the motor, the bow stuck up in the air, so he had me sit at the bow and Ray sat in the middle on the thwart, to balance out the load. Mr. Smith was in a jovial mood as we headed to the Narrows; saying how many fish we would catch. Now, as most people know the St. John's harbour is a naturally land-locked harbour, and inside the Narrows the water is always calm. Outside the Narrows it could be blowing a gale with waves up to four feet, but once a boat got inside the Narrows; the winds were abated by the high cliffs of Signal Hill and the harbour was like a mill pond. Once we got to the mouth of the Narrows and faced the open Atlantic, we could see it was all white caps and it was blowing a small gale, and there was an appreciable drop in the temperature of about ten degrees that you could feel. We were almost outside the Narrows, about even with the Fort Townsent lighthouse, when the first big wave hit us. The wave hit the bow of the bow and almost knocked me overboard, but I had a good grip on the gunwales and held on. Ray on the other hand who was just sitting on the center seat was knocked to the bottom of the boat, and began wailing like he was scared to death. Mr. Smith was not jovial any longer and kept a good grip on the tiller to keep the boat pointed into the waves. The boat was bouncing up and down like a cork; and then the worst thing happened: the motor conked out. The next big wave hit the boat broadside, and there was a note of apprehension in Mr. Smiths voice as he told us to sit still and not stand up. This was hardly necessary as Ray was lying flat in the bottom of the boat and was drenched by the cold water as it cascaded over the side. Mr. Smith was trying desperately to get the motor started, and now without any power the boat was blowing in the wind and waves toward the Fort Townsent side that was just a huge grey rock rising out of the ocean, and I could see the waves crashing high in the air as they hit the rock. Mr. Smith was working feverishly on the cord trying to get life into the motor, but each time he pulled the cord it sputtered, but would not start; I said, "don't worry Mr. Smith, I can row" and crawled over Ray and put the oars into the pins in the gunwales and pulled on one oar to get the boat into the wind. The effect of the one oar dragging on one side and me pulling the other helped steady the boat somewhat. The outboard was really old and did not have the recoil housed internally with an automatic recoil; instead the cord had to be manually wrapped around a large fly wheel that was mounted externally on the top of the motor. This was extremely difficult to perform in a small boat that was bouncing up and down in waves up to three feet, and the wind blowing the boat toward the rocks. Each time he pulled the cord and it did not start, he had to wrap the cord around the fly wheel again, and although it was probably less then a minute to do, it seemed like forever. We were now within a stone throw of the Fort Townsent side, and after about six tries, finally and not a minute to soon, the motor sputtered into life. Mr. Smith gradually turned the boat back into he harbour, and once inside again it was calm. "Well boys," Mr. Smith said, "I guess it's a little to rough to go fishing today; we'll go again another time." When we got back to the dock, and faced the boats owner, Mr. Smith was fit to be tied. Being a big man and also a sailor he had a few choice words for his fisherman friend; saying something about not giving that motor to his worst enemy, and also a few swear words about the thing conking out, and how we were almost swamped. These words were not for young ears, but I was old enough to know what they meant, and they were my feelings exactly. When Mr. Smith dropped me of at my house, Mom asked, "how come you're back so soon, and why is Ray soaking wet?" Mr. Smith told her briefly of our adventure, and downed played the danger because he did to want to alarm her. He said in parting that we would go fishing again when the weather was better; but we never went fishing outside the St. John's Narrows again. In Retrospect The quirk of fate, mentioned beforehand was the fact that the motor stalled before reaching outside he narrows. What seemed like a misfortune at the time, was probably what saved us, because had we gone beyond the Narrows completely, our little boat and motor were not made for the three and four foot waves, and gale of wind of the Atlantic. We would have been swamped for sure. In those days we had no life jackets or flotation device of any kind. As I write this, we learn of another tragedy to a family of crab fisherman and a friend, which just occurred in May 2020 off St. Lawrence on the Burin Peninsula. Appendix The Transportation Safety Board investigation into the loss of the small open fishing vessel, Pop's Pride off Cape Spear NL on September 6, 2016 concluded on October 18, 2017 and was released on November 27,2017. Marine Transportation Safety Investigation Report M16A0327 which can be found at https://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/marine/2016/m16a0327/m16a0327.html
The Day the Circus Came to Town
Growing up as a little girl in Newfoundland we entertained ourselves and made our own fun. Not much excitement came to our little town but I well remember the day my father told me the circus was coming and he would take me to ride on the merry-go-round with the painted ponies. I was very young and not sure if I knew what a circus was. This would be my first big adventure with my father. The day finally arrived and I put on my favourite pink dress and little white shoes with bows. I was ready. I remember walking across the fair ground with my father holding my hand and the excitement bubbling up hearing the music streaming from the merry-go-round. My father bought the tickets and when the music stopped, he sat me on the pony with the big, blue eyes as he stood by my side holding the pole. I remember the feeling of closeness with my father as we waited for the music to start. The ride was magical and I never wanted it to end. There are many times as an adult, when I think about my father who has now passed, and it takes me back to that special moment when the circus came to town. In fact, I wrote about poem about it: The painted ponies smile as the music plays and the merry-go-round goes around and around, up and down. The music stops and her daddy picks her up, places her on the painted pony with the big blue eyes and the easy smile. He holds her tight as he stands by her side. The music starts and the ponies go around and round, up and down. The most magical feeling with daddy by her side as she enjoys the exciting painted pony ride. Every year the circus comes to town and daddy will take her to ride on the merry-go-round as the music plays and the ponies go up and down. Memories float back about this adventurous ride with daddy by her side, as the ponies go around and round, up and down. It seems her life has gone around and round, up and down, no pony to ride no daddy around. She thinks back to the joy of those precious days, the circus in town, a little girl amazed. When she needs to feel comfort, her memory strays Back to those safe and fun-filled days, With her daddy holding her tight knowing everything was right. The ponies went around and round, up and down as the music played when the circus came to town. -Melvina Walter (nee Smith)
A Tribute to Missy
"Missy" was the lovable brown and white family pet beagle of Alex Street, his wife Joan, and their two children, William (Billy) and Holly, who lived on the Cape Spear highway not far from the village of Blackhead. I first met Alex through CB radio in the 1970s. Now if there was one thing that Missy loved better than a pat on her head, it was to go across the road and try and make friends with those cute bundles of fur (rabbits), which, much to Alex's chagrin, she was always after. She was a master at escaping from the collars around her neck to keep her at home, even getting out of a body harness because those fur balls were always calling her to come join them in their playground. One day Alex suggested that he and I should go in rabbit hunting some fine Saturday, but I never owned a gun let alone fired one. So one afternoon I stopped into the sporting goods department of F. W. Woolworth's on Water Street and purchased a 16-gauge shotgun, a box of shells, and a game license. Once home, I phoned Alex and told him and it was decided we would go in hunting on Saturday morning coming. Saturday arrived and the three of us walked up the road to a neighbor living on the south side of the road, asked for and obtained permission to go down behind his place. Alex and I found a little clearing and in moments Missy had rousted out a rabbit and the chase was on! She must have chased that fur ball to the outer fringes of Maddox Cove yelping the entire way. Then they turned and came back to the southern fringes of Blackhead then turned again towards us. Alex whispered to me "get ready, they're coming." So I placed a shell in the gun and raised the gun to my shoulder. The Alex spoke up, "Don't shoot the dog! Don't shoot Missy!" In a heartbeat I realized that it could be a real possibility, because this was the first time I had held a loaded gun to my should let alone pulled the trigger on one, so I lowered the gun, removed the shell and pocketed it when something shot in front of my feet and Missy hot behind it. "Boom!" from my right as Alex fired off a round towards the retreating animals. I watched as Missy dug in her paws and came to a full stop and walked up in front of Alex with a pitiful look in her eyes. I'm sure the words in her mind said it all "You missed! How could you?" Alex ignored her and said, "Let's go back. Joan will have lunch ready soon." Sadly, Alex found Missy one morning passed away in her sleep. No doubt she was dreaming of those little fur balls she always wanted to be playmates with. Submitted by Robert Hammond
When I first spent my boyhood summer vacations "in-the-country" far away from the busy streets of St John's, I soon discovered that most people in this place still believed in fairies, ghosts, and the like. Though it was only an hour or two away by car it seemed to be an escape into a different world. My mother was born here in 1900, which led her to have a richly imaginative life, believing in such things even if it also included living in constant fear of them. Of course when we came along, my sister and I picked up on all of these ghostly phenomenon as well. She may have got this way because as a young girl she often accompanied her mother on her spooky rounds of preparing the dead of the place for wakes and burials. It seemed only a matter of time before I too would encounter my own specter, and sure enough, it came along shortly after my 12th birthday. Yes, I swear that I saw old Aunt Lucy's ghost when I was 12. It occurred when I was forced by winter weather to spend the night in her somewhat isolated home only weeks after she had passed away. Not only that but it was also necessary for me to sleep in the very room and yes, even in the same bed in which she had succumbed only weeks before. Sometime shortly after 9 pm I was taken up to her bedroom and given a chamber pot and a lamp by her middle aged spinster daughter who bid me good night and departed. All was silent within the room except for the sound of the fast flowing river than ran along only 30 feet or so behind the back porch. Somewhat comforted by the sound, I climbed onto her bed, if a little uneasily, and attempted to get relaxed on its very thick, soft goose feather mattress. While waiting to fall asleep I became aware of a dark shadow moving along the wall next to the bed. After watching it for some time, I turned away from the wall to look out into the room where I saw the bent, shrouded figure of an old lady wearing a black shawl pacing. She continued walking back and forth silently beside the bed as if ignoring my presence. I could clearly see her form in the moonlight that filled the bedroom. She continued to pace there silently throughout the night, all the while making no attempt to disturb me. I lay awake the entire night, unable to move from the bed in order to flee the room, so consumed I was with fear. To escape her tormenting presence I often turned my back on her and pressed my face towards the wall that ran alongside the bed. But each time I turned again onto my back I saw that the wretched form was still there, wandering in the gloom. Finally the dawn came leaking through the delicate lace curtains and banished the spirit. When I saw that I was thus released, I quickly rose from my prison on the bed and bolted from the confines of the room. Running all the way, I was breathless when I reached my Aunt Liza's house a mile away and pounded on the door to be admitted. Even though the hour was curiously early to be arriving there and under such strange circumstances, no one queried as to why or even commented on it. It was as if they already knew what might have caused my panic. The End...
College Days in St. John's
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.)
A Great Trade by J. Wayne MacLean
The year was 1942, August 31 to be exact, when my twin brothers were born in Cheticamp, Cape Breton. I was five years old, living in Dingwall, Cape Breton, where my father was employed with National Gypsum. Around mid-December of that year, a trade was proposed by our neighbour, Bush Morrison. Bush owned two beautiful, big, black Newfoundland dogs, which he hitched to a cargo sleigh. The sleigh had runners that Bush put his feet on and handles at waist height for his hands. He would put me in the sleigh and we would go all over the country side on the never-ploughed snowy roads. Bush's proposal was to trade his two Newfoundland dogs and sleigh for my little twin brothers, Jim and Dick. I can remember running home and telling my mother about the great deal I had struck. I really think she did give it some serious thought. At that time, roads were not ploughed and we had no electricity. Water had to be boiled on a wood stove for washing diapers, clothes, and for taking baths. My job was to wash the baby bottles with a long brush under the watchful eye of my mother, a former nurse and very particular lady! Bath time was in a big wash tub so the twins were a lot of work at the young age of four months. Bush's big friendly Newfoundland dogs were certainly a great temptation to this five year old boy! Incidentally, I cannot remember if the dogs ran along hitched to the sleigh one behind the other or side by side. Perhaps one of your readers might know what the typical practice was.
Life and Times of a Door to Door Vacuum Cleaner Salesman
"Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate!" Those motivating words were coming from our instructor, and were directed towards me and a half dozen other young men gathered at the rear of a narrow storefront office on Water Street in St. John's. The year was 1971, and although I had already established my own cleaning business, I needed to supplement my income to provide for my growing young family. Selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners door to door presented an exciting challenge to me. Because I had listened intently to those words of my instructor, for many years to follow it often meant food on our table. Let me give you an example. One day, I stopped at a drive-in restaurant. The owner invited me in, but I was disappointed that there was no carpet to be seen anywhere. Even so, those words kept going around in my head: demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate. So, I removed the vacuum from the box and put all the parts together, explaining the best I could how each attachment worked. Looking back, close to fifty years later I can still see that lonesome Electrolux vacuum sitting in the middle of the room looking like it had been abandoned in the middle of the Sahara Desert. You wouldn't believe the customer's next words: "How much?" To my surprise and delight, I was able to write on his receipt Paid in Full. This was a second surprise because most people back then just made payments of ten or fifteen dollars a month. Another instructor taught me a positive slogan: "If you try, you might; if you don't, you won't". Those words proved true over and over again. At first the householder would say, "I'm not interested, I have a vacuum cleaner," but if you could persuade them to see it demonstrated, one out of three would buy the Electrolux, the Cadillac of vacuum cleaners. When I moved my young family to Winnipeg in 1975, I continued selling Electrolux door to door for two years. Not long after our arrival, I went out selling one day, got lost, and sold two vacuum cleaners. At our "revival meeting"the next morning I was the centre of attention. The sales leader said, "Look at Prince, a Goofy Newfie, just arrived from Newfoundland, goes out yesterday, gets lost, sell two vacuums! What's the matter with you guys?" But let me tell you, although I was the good guy that day, I was not given such high honour on other occasions. One of my first trips out in the country was in springtime, when I was introduced to the "joys" of Manitoba gumbo. The customer's house was at the end of a long driveway. I barely got off the main road when all four wheels disappeared into that muddy, greasy mess. After walking about a mile, I found a garage, and its owner came to my rescue. With much difficulty, he managed to tow me back on to the main road again. How could a I make such a mistake? Well, don't forget, I grew up on The Rock; I had never heard of Manitoba gumbo. At the time, other companies marketed their vacuum cleaners the same way, door to door. I remember how I would sometimes squash the competition. One particular model was big, heavy and noisy, so I would tell them it would make a good anchor for their boat; what they actually needed was an Electrolux. In fact, I recall taking one such competitor's model on trade, with the price tag still dangling from the handle. Yes, being a vacuum cleaner salesman you have to have a sense of humour and be able to shoot a lot of propaganda. We not only sold vacuum cleaners; the Electrolux line also included a "floor conditioner" that would strip and wax floors and shampoo carpets as well. The first time I demonstrated the conditioner by shampooing a lady's carpet. I thought to myself, "This carpet is really looking good", but then I just about fainted when I realized that I had put wax stripper in the tank instead of rug shampoo. The lady was very pleased with the job I had done, and why shouldn't she be after all, she had the cleanest carpet in town! Let's hope that years later, when the rug disintegrated, the kind vacuum cleaner salesman was long forgotten. It can be a little discouraging if you go a week without selling. I was having such a week when my sister Anita and husband Dave came to visit us from Pennsylvania. One evening, Dave offered, "I'll come along and keep you company". We drove out to Selkirk, Manitoba, where I had had success on other occasions. Dave said, "I'll go for a walk while you make some calls". Well, at the very first call I made, a friendly school teacher and his wife invited me in and I made the sale. In the meantime, I had the left car doors locked and poor Dave was fighting off swarms of mosquitos. However, when he heard I had made a sale, he soon forgot the bites that were covering his mangled head. I guess you can understand why he was, and still is, one of my favourite brothers-in-law. One day I had been working in an area where a lady had been murdered. To my surprise, when I arrived at the office next morning, there were two detectives waiting for me. They knew I had been in the area because I had left my business card under the lids of all the mail boxes. Of course I was quickly cleared, but to this day, it's still an unsolved murder. My loyalty to the older model Electrolux made in the 60's and 70's is still part of me. In fact, on an early Saturday morning you might find me dashing from one garage sale to another to try to find an Electrolux that I or one of my buddies sold nearly fifty years ago. Over the years, I've probably owned, for my cleaning business, over a hundred of them. Sometimes, people will remark on the age of a vacuum I'm using, saying, "Boy, that's really old; my grandmother had one like that". I'm happy to reply, tongue in cheek,"I made my first million with one like this!" When you're young and have little mouths to feed at home, you would do just about anything to provide for them. I've had a successful business all my life, but the positive attitude taught me in my younger years selling vacuum cleaners door to door was a great contribution to that success. ' I'm getting older, but my memory's still sharp. My wife and I will be driving down a street and I'll point to a house where I sold an Electrolux, and over there another one. She politely says, "Yes dear", but she's not quite so long suffering when we drive by the office and I tease her by saying, "I think it would be neat to sell Electrolux again." "Do you want a divorce?" We have a good laugh and I keep driving because, after 55 years of marriage, I know I've got a good woman. As we head home for a cup of tea I think of the favourite words of a well known sports announcer here in Winnipeg, the late Jack Wells: "And it turned out nice again!"