Share your photos,
videos, stories, poems and more.
If you have fond memories of the past - or were a witness to an historic event, we'd like to hear your recollections.
If submitting a photo to accompany your memory, please remember to include names of any individuals pictured, as well as when and where the photo was taken. Include any other pertinent information you feel may be relevant for caption writing, should your submission be chosen to appear in a Downhome publication.
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!"
The Hot Sauce Story
"Mommy! I'm so excited for my third birthday!" I explained without being able to pronounce my Rs. "I know! I am too," My mother said, "You are such a big girl now!" It was almost time for my guests to arrive at my party! My Aunt, Uncle, baby Cousins, and other family friends. My mother was cooking away and I asked, "Where is daddy?" "He is getting some last things for your party, don't worry, he would never ever miss your birthday!" my mother replied. I was sitting in the dining room watching my mother in awe as I saw her dice up hot peppers. chop, chop. And make them into a paste with vinegar and lemon juice. I wanted to be like her someday! Following the chopping and the squeezing, she put it into the blender to sort of smooth it out. I wanted to use the blender to make my own delicious foods that everyone would love! My mother put the chunky mixture on the stove top for a few minutes to warm. She stepped away for a moment, because she always tells me, "A watched pot never boils." She came back once the mixture had warmed to a boil. "Now, I am going to put this in the blender to cool." My mother told me. "Why are you going to put the goop inside the blender?" I asked. "I need it to cool away from the stove top because I want to bottle it up," she replied. When she was waiting for it to cool she wanted to do a last minute tidy of the house to make sure everything was spot on. Before she went on her way she told me in a stern voice, "Do not under any circumstances touch any button on the blender. The top is open and if you press the button it will splash everywhere!" I sat in the dining room, the urge to press the button was unbearable! I sat fidgeting in my seat. I then told myself "What is the worst that could happen? My mother said I was a big girl now. So what's the harm?" I got up when I knew that the coast was clear. I climbed on the counter and I began to count, "One... Two..." I was so excited! The moment would come that I would finally be able to touch a blender! "Three!" SCREAM! I pressed the button! When I pressed the button I felt nothing but burning hot sauce on my skin. "It burns! It Burns!" I yelled. The dark red mixture burnt my eyes like fire, it was intolerable! Salty tears ran down my red face. My mother came out of the bathroom faster than light to see what the problem was. She came out to me covered in cherry red burns and hot sauce. "Let's get you into the bathtub!" my mother said. My skin burned as the cold water touched my face and arms. Splash, splash. My father just came in the door and was very confused at the sight he saw. But he is a dad so he grabbed his old Samsung camera and went into the bathroom where the salty tears were still running down my face. "Happy third birthday!" my father exclaimed. My screams became louder. He then asked, "Why are you rubbing your eyes?" I didn't respond to this question because it was too hard to talk about at this moment. He brought the camera into the kitchen, there was hot sauce everywhere! My mother managed to clean me up as well as she could just in time for my first guest to arrive. When the first guests had arrived, they asked, "Why is there a blister on your forehead darling?" I decided to not tell the truth and throw my mom under the bus by saying, "Oh ya, mommy burnt me with hot sauce!" The guests had traumatized looks on their faces. "Don't worry," my mother said. "It's a long story." She then had to explain the story and why there was hot sauce all over our kitchen. Before the other guests came, we needed to wash the walls, the floors, counters, tables, the cabinets and the back door! And when I say we, I mean my mom and my dad! The party then continued as normal. During the party I still felt the burns on my skin, they we as prominent as when I got burnt. After the party, after everyone went home, I was doused in slimy aloe vera oil to try and reduce swelling and keep the burning away. Once I was covered in the clear ooey gooey plant, I went to sleep and thought about the crazy day. I was a very curious kid, and I didn't really care if anything bad happened as a result of my actions. This was the day that I realized that I never want to use a blender ever again in my whole life, and that sometimes curiosity can sometimes get the best of you. Make sure to always think before you do things because it may result in something like this!
Old time Christmas in Newfoundland
Christmas time used to mean a lot more to us when we were kids than it does today. When we were growing up, the only times we would get anything new other than clothes or school supplies, would be on our birthday and at Christmas time. Christmas would be the best because the whole town would be getting new stuff all at the same time. It wouldn't be anything expensive, but it would have been things that we would have appreciated. Every Christmas was basically the same; about a week before Christmas, my father used to go in Nar Wes and cut a Christmas tree. While he was in cutting the tree, my mother would put a few wreathes on the doors and windows. When he brought the tree home, he would stand it up in the living room in the tree stand. My mother would decorate it and we used to love helping her. She would start by putting the bulbs on the tree and then hanging tinsel on all the branches form top to bottom. Once the bulbs and the tinsel were on the tree, she would throw some angel hair (big balls of cotton pulled apart), which she loved to use, on the tree. The tree would finally be topped off with a multi-coloured shiny star. When she was done with the tree, she would take some garland and make an "X" on the ceiling and then take a multi-coloured snowflake ball and hang it from the center of the "X." She would then put some more garland around the windows and around the doorway between the kitchen and the living room. Once she was done with the tree and the garland, she would hang a gold banner across the top of the doorway with the words "Merry Christmas" written on it in red lettering. That would have been it for the decorating; now, all we had left to do was the worse part of the entire Christmas. We had to wait. When we finally went to bed on Christmas eve, we could barely sleep because of the excitement of knowing that when we got up, it was going to be Christmas morning. When my father called out for us to get up on Christmas day, every one of us just bolted down the stairs. We would just pass right on by our breakfast sitting on the table in the kitchen and head straight into the living room. When we got to the living room, we were never disappointed. Christmas morning was the absolute best day of the year for any kid; not just in our town, but anywhere you could have thought of. What a feeling we got when we opened our gifts on Christmas morning and found a holster and gun set and a straw cowboy hat with a star on it with the word "Sheriff" written above it. There would have been a string hanging down from each side of the hat to tie under our chin to keep it on our head. The guns would have held these rolls of caps that would have made the gun sound like a real gun; a decision that I thought our parents may have regretted after. Sometimes we'd get this blue plastic case with the word "Matchbox" or "Hot Wheels" written on it and there would have been a few dinkies inside. Sometimes we would even get the figure 8 racetrack with it where the pieces snapped together to make the track. We'd also get comic books, colouring books and crayons every year. I sure do miss the old time Christmas.
Raising Kids in Newfoundland
Before we had indoor plumbing in our house circa 1970, I remember my father used to get up before us to put the fire in. After he'd get the fire in, he would start getting our breakfast ready, which was the same thing every day. He'd toast a loaf of homemade bread every morning for all of us who would be living there at the time. To toast the bread, he would put it right on top of a wire toaster that was flat on top of the stove so the bread would be singed as soon as it hit the toaster; a couple of seconds from start to toast. The toast would then be topped off with Eversweet margarine. The smell that came from the toast was incredible. He'd also have a cup of tea each ready for us to go with our toast. To get water for the tea, he used to have to take a pot down to a well we owned down over the bank beside Martin Davis's store. The well was a wooden barrel that was put into a pre-dug hole in the middle of a stream. To boil the water, he would pour some of the water out of the pot into the kettle that was always sitting on the stove. Back then, tea came in a package about the size of the block of the Eversweet margarine and it wasn't in bags. He would put a spoonful of loose tea leaves in the cup, then pour the boiling water over it. We'd put the sugar and canned milk in it to our own liking. While we were stirring in the sugar and milk, we could see the tea leaves twirling around in the cup as it kept rising to the top and going back down. After we finished stirring it, all the leaves would settle to the bottom, and then we would dunk our toasted homemade bread into it. We sort of had an unspoken competition going on to see who could eat the most and we'd eat up that loaf of bread in a matter of minutes. When we were finished with our breakfast, all the tea leaves would be stuck to the bottom and the inside sides of the cup. We could also see leftover sugar on the bottom where we didn't stir it enough because we were too anxious to see if we could get more slices than anyone else. After we finished our breakfast, my father would have to throw some more wood into the stove so my mother could start baking more bread, and then he'd head into Nar Wes to cut some wood. That stove used to be going all the time; even in the summer because that was what my mother not only baked bread with, but she also had to use it to cook our suppers every day. When she used to do the laundry, she would use a washer that looked like an over-sized propane tank standing upright with two rolling pin shaped wheels tight together going across the top for a wringer. She would put a couple of pots of water on the stove to warm it up and dump it into the washer and then throw the clothes into the water. When the washer was finished, she would take each piece of clothing individually and run them through the wringer. Once it had all gone through the wringer, she would then put them in a basket and take them out to the clothesline. There would be a really long stick holding up the clothesline that would be leaning so the clothesline would be close enough for her to reach to put the clothes onto it. Once she put all the clothes on the line, she would take the clothesline pole and stand it almost straight up and drive the bottom of it into the ground for stability and so that the line would be high enough for the wind to get at the clothes to dry them. When I think about all the work our parents went through to keep us fed and clothed, it totally astonishes me.
Growing Up In St. Alban's NL
When we were knee high to a grasshopper, our parents would go to mass on Saturday night and we would wait until Sunday morning to go. Our parents would go on Saturday night so my mother could cook for us on Sunday morning and we could come home to Sunday dinner; Chicken, stuffing, salt beef, potatoes, carrots, turnip, cabbage, pudding, gravy - which we could smell before we even got close to the house. We would wait until Sunday morning to go because we thought we were too big to be seen going to church with our parents. Once we were finished with our Sunday dinner, however, we didn't mind being seen with our parents at all, because Sunday was family day. Some Sundays we would go down to Lew Cove for a picnic. We'd go swimming for a while, which mainly consisted of just crawling around in the shallow water. Then we'd do a bit of fishing right there on the beach. Our fishing poles were cut by our father. He would cut the longest alders he could find and take the bark off them to let them dry out. For a fishing line, we used that white line that they used to use for tying up packaging; for a hook, we would use a safety pin, and for our bobbers, we would use a little piece of wood about the size of your finger, but not as long. There would be a notch cut in it all the way around to tie your line on to prevent it from slipping off over the bobber. We never caught one fish the entire time, but we didn't care. If we got tired of fishing, we would use our fishing poles and swing them at the hoss stingers (dragon flies) that were flying around everywhere. Come to think of it, I don't think we ever caught one of those either. It seemed like every Sunday, we'd have a cold plate for supper; Cold chicken, ham, potato salad, mustard salad, beet salad, cole slaw, a couple slices of beets, sweet mustard pickles. You wouldn't be able to smell it like you'd be able to smell a cooked meal, but it was every bit just as good. If a Sunday was a bit too cool to go swimming, we'd go in Nar Wes or up long path somewhere picking raspberries. When we'd go berry picking, everybody would have a small pot each, and our parents would have a really big pot each for us to dump our smaller pots into once they were full. If we ever got thirsty while we were picking berries, we'd just dip our faces in the nearest brook. You'll never find a bottle of water that tastes like that did, that's for sure. Once all the pots (big and small) were overflowing, we'd head home. I don't know how many of you have ever been raspberry picking, but by the time we got home, the pots wouldn't be much more than half full. That wouldn't be because we ate them, but they had settled and they were almost like jam by then. When we got home, it would be close to supper time and my mother would start making up our cold plates. After supper, we'd watch some T.V. until we went to bed. The next day we'd have our fresh homemade bread with fresh homemade raspberry jam on it. Yum.