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Back in the late '70's my family and I moved to England, to a lovely little Hamlet called Chorleywood, in Hertfordshire. We bought a house on an "unadopted road." The house was on the same lot as the previous one that had burned down, and had been rebuilt from the ground up. The lady who owned the previous house, had sadly, died in the fire. Our neighbors told us she was a very lovely lady. But sadly she had lost her life. I was a stay at home Mom, my children took the school bus every day, so I was alone. I began to notice things, at first not really paying much attention, and put it down to our dog moving around, or the wind in the trees around the house. Then over time, the dog started barking and growling. Still didn't pay much attention. Until one day while I was in the kitchen, I heard doors opening up, footsteps in the hall and on the stairs. Knowing that I was alone in the house, made me think that someone was in the house with me. I bravely took the dog with me, and we looked around, all the time, she was growling. Her ears up, but her tail wagging. Well we saw nothing and the sounds stopped. A few days passed, and I was sitting in the living room. I heard the door close. Then it opened, and I saw footsteps in the carpet, and they led to the patio door, which was closed, and then the footsteps vanished. Other unexplained things happened. Flowers would grow in places that I didn't plant them. I had the most beautiful garden anyone ever saw. I would smell perfume, and see shadows. A very funny thing happened one morning while driving my children to the bus, I noticed several pairs of shoes in the driveway. So I put it down to the lady who lived there before me. I am not afraid of "ghosts", and I wasn't afraid of her...as I knew that it was the original lady of the house. And I had a feeling she was a friendly ghost. After a while, she didn't visit me anymore. I felt that she was checking me out, and that was O.K. with me. I guess I passed the test. Submitted by: Marilyn Woodworth
The Girls Get New Coats
When we were young growing up in rural Newfoundland there wasn't a lot of money to spend. Most families were big. There was only six of us, four sons and two daughters, we were considered a small family. Myself, I remember wearing a lot of hand-me-downs from my older brothers which included everything from underwear, coats, winter jackets and even our shoes. The shoes were not thrown out when they were worn, but rather repaired with new "taps" tacked onto the old ones when holes started to show. Most families had their own "iron last" which was used for shoe repair. An older woman who lived nearby would make shirts for us which were made by repurposing from my father's and some of our uncles who didn't need them for their own families. All these hand-me-downs didn't help the girls much. My two sisters didn't have older sisters that could pass down their dresses and skirts, shoes or coats. My grandmother used to get barrels of clothing from relatives she had in the United States. She would share this clothing among her grandchildren. She had a big family herself who were all married with children of their own. So she had many grandchildren to help and to please. We always looked forward to getting something from these barrels. Sometimes there might be a girls' coat or two in the barrel but most times there weren't any. The girls had to get new coats made somehow, after all they were young and growing every day. So my sisters and many other young girls from working class families - which was most girls in our area - had coats made for them. The coats were made from coats that had been worn by older women for several years. Parents, grandparents, aunts and other friends or neighbours. When my mother got one of these coats she would carefully take them apart at the seams - you didn't want to cut holes in the fabric. This was done by using a razor blade which was broken in half lengthwise. She would first remove the lining from the inside of the coat. Now, all o these coats were faded in colour due to years of wear and exposure to the elements of sun, wind and rain. Sitting in a chair, with the coat on her lap, mom would find the seam and carefully open them up, turn the coat inside out. She would do this with the sleeves and collar of the coat as well as the body. The beauty of it was when the coat was opened this way the underside was just like it came out of the shop, as regards to the colour of the fabric. This all took some time to complete because great care was taken not to cut the material, just the thread that held it together. When the coat was reduced to its many parts, mom would press the pieces out with a hot iron and wet cloth which helped to flatten the creases, making the material easier to work with. Now, my mother couldn't make the coats herself, that was a trade in itself. There were some older women in town who would make coats. Most of these women, though not all, were older women who had raised big families themselves. The now found they had a lot of free time with their children grown and gone. There were in great demand especially in the early fall and late in the spring when new coats were most needed. Mom would stuff the pieces of the old coat she had prepared into a clean pillowcase or flour sack and bring it to some older lady. Now, sometimes she had to visit more than one person cause these people were often very busy making coats. The making of a child' coat required a lot of work and took time to complete. There weren't any phones in our area so you couldn't just call someone up and ask them if they could do the job. Usually you met someone at church, the grocery store, post office, or by word of mouth. Then it was take the material, the girls the coats were to be made for, and their older brother whom no one was willing to babysit, to that person's house. I wouldn't know anything about this stuff if I hadn't been dragged along. The lady would first look at the material. Then she would measure my sister around the shoulders, neck, waist and hips, and shoulder to knee for length because the coat would be made to fit them. Now sometimes mom would use the buttons that were originally on the coat and sometimes she would use new ones. We always had a big container of button at home, my sisters and I would play with them, use them for money when we played shop. My older brothers also used them for money when they played cards like the cowboys in the movies did. It took a while to make a new coat, the material had to be cut to size, then sewn together, the sleeves made separately, likewise the collar with its lapels or whatever you call them on women's coats. Somehow the lady would inform mom that the coat was ready for its final fitting. This information might come via a hand-written note delivered to our door by a child or grandchild of the person making the coat. Sometimes it was a chance meeting at church or at the store or passing on the street. Remember there were no phones. Anyway, we would go back to the lady's house, mom, my sisters and me cause there still wasn't anyone willing to babysit me. This would take place some evening after supper. The lady would try the coat on my sisters, size it up and make note of any alterations that might be needed. Before we left her house that night she would tell mom when the coat would be finished and she could pick it up. It was usually only a couple of days after this final fitting. My sisters would try on the new coat, which usually fit perfectly, admire it in a mirror and insist on wearing it on the way back home that night. It was a big deal to get a new coat for any young girl at the time. The coats were made for them alone which made it even more special. Mom would pay the lady for her work which was a price agreed on from the beginning. The coats were always beautiful and functional made with love and care and a great deal of pride. All that time and talent, love and pride of workmanship in making the coats which looked as good as any that had come out of any shop for the sum of $5 each. Cyril Griffin New Perlican, NL
Living without a lifeline!
9 or 10 years ago I submitted an article to The Downhomer about my wife's desire to be buried with our son Arthur when cancer takes her life away. I have been trying to manage without her for almost 2 years but as time goes by every day without my 'Lifeline' seems harder. For anyone to understand how I feel my life has been without her I will give you an example as follows. I was driving on a dark as death night down an unlighted road, not sure where we were going, with Mary and our children (all of whom I loved without reservation) in the car. Everyone was crying, "where are we?" "I'm hungry!" "I have to pee!" "I hate you!" "Will we ever get there?", I kept on driving the car. At the time I was young enough to not let what anyone was wailing about to interrupt my thought processes and kept on driving without uttering a word. No words of comfort, solace or understanding. I was me and I just kept soldering on! I didn't know where or which way to turn but, somehow I knew, or maybe I hoped, that when I came to the right place I would intuitively know that "this is where I turn." Without Mary to guide me I feel the same way as I did years ago when we were lost somewhere in N.B. Not young anymore, not self-assured, lost on a dark and dreary road. Not knowing which way to turn. Each night I go to bed hoping to sleep until I am no longer among the living. And I won't have to live with cancer anymore.
Th Salvation Army in Newfoundland
The Salvation Army in Newfoundland The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by William Booth, a Methodist preacher who sought to save both the lives and the souls of the thousands of urban poor in London's east end. From England, the Salvation Army spread to other countries. In Canada, the Salvation Army was first established in Ontario in 1882, but it was in Newfoundland that the Salvationists would achieve their greatest success. The opening of North America to the salvation Army occurred as Salvationists emigrated from Britain to Canada and the United States to find work. These immigrants longed for the energy and excitement of an Army meeting and took it upon themselves to begin Salvation Amy-style services in their new country. Informal services eventually led to the formal establishment of The Salvation Army in these two countries. However research was never officially conducted by The Salvation Army to determine whether to 'invade' the island of Newfoundland. The Salvation Army entered Newfoundland by accident after a couple of Salvationists honeymooned in Portugal Cove, just outside St. John's. Captain Emma Churchill, the eleventh officer commissioned in the Canadian Salvation Army married Charles Dawson, a Salvation Army soldier in Guelph, Ontario. In keeping with Amy regulations at the time forbidding officers marrying soldiers, Emma resigned her commission. Emma and Charles now soldiers, the equivalent of congregation members, traveled to Emma's hometown of Portugal Cove Newfoundland for their honeymoon. Since the Dawsons were soldiers. the Army had no control over their movements and Headquarters was not officially informed of their whereabouts. The Salvation Army, however, was still in its infancy in Canada and the movements of its soldiers and officers would have been easy to track. Considering the fact that Emma was an important officer, having opened a number of corps in Canada and the United States of America, the Army would have stayed in contact with her and her family and been aware that Emma and Charles were in Newfoundland. Headquarters did not issue any orders to attempt an invasion of Newfoundland, but considering Emma's experience in the rest of North America it was no surprise that the Dawsons held the first ever Salvation Army-style meeting in Newfoundland on September 3. 1885. Like the Army's pioneers in the rest of North America, the Dawsons were accustomed to energetic religious services and finding this energy lacking in the local church, they held their own service. Emma had already conducted a number of meetings in both Canada and the United States and using this experience she knew how to organize one in Newfoundland. The venue was the Methodist church of Portugal Cove. Emma's family church was unable to find any advertisements but somehow word spread to St. John's and a large number of people made the trip to Portugal Cove, making the first ever Salvation Amy-style meeting in Newfoundland a tremendous success. The Evening Mercury wrote, "a very successful meeting in connection with the Salvation Army was held. Eight o'clock was the hour appointed for the meeting to commence; but long before the hour arrived the Methodist Church was thronged, every available seat being occupied." The meeting was so successful the Young Men's Christian Association of St. John's requested the Dawsons to conduct services in the city. No direct evidence exists stating the YMCA requested the Dawsons hold Salvation Army-style meetings in St. John's, but it is a logical conclusion based on the information available. The YMCA held interdenominational Protestant meetings before the Dawsons arrived in St. John's. Always looking for new and exciting religious services the YMCA enlisted the aid of the Dawsons. This was the only way for the Dawsons to hold services in the city since they did not have the financial means to rent Victoria Hall for what turned out to be 5 months. Both Emma and Charles were soldiers while in Newfoundland with no money or official sanction for them to hold Salvation Amy services. Informal Army meetings in North America were conducted independently of any other religious organization by people living in the area. The Dawsons were not residents of Newfoundland and they were to leave the island once their honeymoon was complete. The Dawsons, therefore. were not attempting to establish a corps that they could attend. The Dawsons longed for the excitement of an Army service and so they had one. There was little thought given to the idea that they would establish The Salvation Army in Newfoundland. The service in Portugal Cove was as much for the Dawsons as it was for Newfoundlanders. Another significant difference between the work of the Dawsons in St. John's and that of the other Army pioneers in North America was that those in Canada and the United States of America acted independently of any other church. The Salvationists who first started Salvation Amy meetings in the rest of North America made it clear to the public that they were attempting to establish the Army and make converts in both countries. The Dawsons however, did not act independently of the YMCA. The Dawsons were soldiers, not officers, meaning they could not take charge of a corps in Newfoundland or any other place and their trip to Newfoundland was for a honeymoon. not a relocation which meant they intended to return to Canada. But they extended their stay, first for two months then five,and never during this time did the Dawsons branch off from the YMCA and hold meetings of their own. The Dawsons provided Newfoundlanders with a taste of The Salvation Army in the hopes that someone else would be able to build on the work they had initiated. The size of the meetings in St. John's can never be known precisely. but The Mercury provided an indication they were well attended. The Mercury wrote, "the Salvation Army have fairly struck the town. Yesterday they held two meetings, both of which were crowded." This success was attributable as much to the Dawsons as to the YMCA. Since the Dawsons were working for the YMCA, a respected Protestant organization, the churches of St. John,s were not threatened. The Ten-a Nova Advocate a Catholic newspaper, did not chastise its people for taking part in the services, nor did it print any articles attacking the Dawsons. Protestants had little to fear from the Dawsons since there was no Salvation Army corps for converts to join. Those who found religion at these meetings would belong to an established church presumably Protestant, to continue their Christian life. As long as the Army did not attempt to establish itself in Newfoundland, there was no opposition to their presence. This changed at the end of January 1886 when The Salvation Army officially 'opened fire' in Newfoundland. The Dawsons were optimistic about their work in St. John's and informed Headquarters, requesting an official party be sent to the island. On January 20. 1886. four female officers arrived from Canada to prepare for the invasion. Captains Phillips, Collins and Kimmerly and Cadet Larder were in St. John's for eleven days before District Officer Young arrived. The four lasses did not hold any Salvation Army services before the arrival of D. O. Young. They busied themselves finding a suitable venue for the Army's meetings and inquired about areas outside St. John's in search of other places to invade. A building was found on Springdale Street and the small band of Salvationists awaited the arrival of their leader. Footnotes: 1/ D.O. Young arrived in St. John's on January 31, 1886. 2/ Although Portugal Cove was the birthplace of The Salvation Amy in Newfoundland, by 1891 there were no Salvationists living there. 3/ My maternal grandfather (Richard Laurie, 1850-1925, an RC) was Emma Churchill`s cousin, which sort of makes me a fellow traveler I guess. PPS. The rapid growth of the Salvation Army in Newfoundland has been attributed to the novelty and excitement provided by meetings in which soldiers were encouraged to sing and play instruments as expressions of their religious faith. The military ethos was also an attractive feature, as it gave individuals a sense of importance and structure. Moreover, women were considered equal to men and were encouraged to participate fully and to become officers: the first corps commander at Springdale Street was Captain Annie Totten. However, just as these features attracted converts, they also generated hostility from the established churches in St. John's. On one notable occasion an outdoor meeting held at the Parade Ground drew a crowd that ultimately turned violent. The Salvation Army posed a particular threat to the Methodist Church, since the spontaneity and fervour of Army services were reminiscent of 'old time' Methodism. This was an important factor in the spread of the Army into outport Newfoundland. The north and north-east coasts had a large Methodist population, but there were few ministers outside the larger towns, and many outports did not have regular religious services. The style and structure of the Salvation Army was well-suited to outport communities and was able to fill some of the religious void. The schooner Glad Tidings travelled to remote outports, and made her first voyage to the Labrador coast in 1891. Salvation Army officers were stationed in a community on a permanent basis. However, if there was not an officer present, soldiers could still hold meetings, and meetings could be held anywhere. References: St John's archive, NL archive, MUN archive, family history and family folklore
Highlights of my year working at the British Embassy in 1961
My first assignment at the embassy was an unpleasant posting at the embassy's garage doors. This was far from an ideal assignment, especially so that particular January, as it was very cold when I took up the posting, and the garage doors were more often than not usually open. In addition to the to the main embassy and the ambassador's residence, on Massachusetts Ave., the British Government also owned a number of other buildings around Washington, mostly warehouses and archival libraries. After my garage door assignment that lasted several weeks I was next stationed at one of these storage locations, often on weekends. Because these places were almost always vacant on weekends, they turned out to be ideal places to catch up on lost sleep, or to put in some time preparing for a couple of courses I was taking in International Affairs at the George Washington University. The main drawback of being in these buildings as far as I could tell was that they were insufferably overheated in winter and very stuffy in summer due to the absence of air-conditioning. The prestige embassy postings for receptionists and security were those at the ambassador's residence and the embassy's main entrance just off the Rotunda and both came my way before long. Sir Harold Caccia was the British Ambassador to the USA at that time (1960) and the general feeling one got about him around town, was that he was quite popular. Receptions Shortly after getting assigned to these plum postings in late February, more opportunities opened up within the wider embassy world. Within another month or two I was appointed liaison officer between the security section and the social affairs and public relations departments of the embassy, allowing insights into these other aspects of embassy life. The Ambassador's residence posting was quite a different quintal of fish again.Surprisingly,being here permitted me to eavesdrop on Washington's and the wider worlds political and entertainment glitterati of that era. My surprise posting to the ambassador's residence materialized quite suddenly late one afternoon. Quite out of the blue, my boss a fastidious Scotsman and head of the department asked me to take the 4:00 pm to midnight shift there beginning the following day. Almost immediately it began paying big dividends. Within the week I got to meet and greet the biggest Washington fish of them all. The Scotsman had told me that there would be a private dinner coming up at the residence the next week, for guests of honour, the US President, John F Kennedy and Mrs.Kennedy. (Soon to be well-known universally as JFK and Jackie.) I freely admit that upon hearing the news I grew quite excited. It was late in February and uncommonly cold for Washington when they arrived right on time, 7 pm sharp as expected. Although I could conceal it to some extent, I was nevertheless hyped up. Their group also included a select secret service detail that remained in the hall way with me for much of the evening, while at times sneaking peeps into the dining room, to keep an eye on their very important charges. The Kennedy party,pushed along by a stiff cold gust of outside wind quickly came through the residence's entrance and vestibule into the warmth of the hallway, where they suddenly arrived practically in front of my desk. Kennedy, as usual was wearing the ubiquitous, long navy blue winter great coat of his, a style that very quickly was becoming de rigour among Washington's political and bureaucratic ilk. He was already in the act of peeling it off the minute he got into the hall way, clearly a man of action. He swept past an embassy attendant sent to assist him and was past my reception desk, before an embassy first secretary came rushing up to greet them officially. He then escorted them down the hall a short distance to the residence's cloak room where other attendants awaited. The Caccias at that moment suddenly materialized from an adjoining drawing room smiling broadly, offering outstretched hands in greeting. Somewhat more attention seemed to be extended Mrs. Kennedy and she clearly allowed herself to be fussed over much more than JFK. Everyone in the immediate area was soon smiling grandly, including me. How could our distinguished guests not fail to notice such obvious affection? After being attended to, the small group, with the ambassador leading, made their way towards the dining room a little further down the hall. Amid all the hubbub I too had been the recipient however briefly of one of the captivating JFK smiles, as he passed by my post. That was as close as I got to the President and Mrs. Kennedy during my year at the embassy. Around this same time, another celebrity turned up at the residence as special guest of the Caccias' for a private dinner party and it was a more subdued affair than the Kennedy visit had been. The celebrity guest this time was Sir Lawrence Olivier, who arrived alone somewhat surprisingly,no date or companion. I gave him a genuine polite greeting as he walked past my table to sign the guest book, receiving a curt smile in return. He was met by the residence butler and led off to the drawing room across the hall where Sir Harold, Lady Caccia and a few of their select friends awaited him having pre-dinner drinks. Rotunda receptions The Rotunda, a special design feature to this quite new embassy,(late 1950s) was an eye catching large circular space that lay just to the right after entering the embassy. It was without question, the centre for all the embassy's larger social gatherings. I first met Mrs. Burke, wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Arleigh Burke one bright spring morning. I had been sent to meet her by the head of our department in order to be briefed on some joint US/British Embassy social events that she was involved in coordinating. Her kick- off event was to be a cocktail party to be held in the Rotunda she'd requested the embassy co-host. I don't think any of these initiatives of hers were in any way related to her husband's department though it goes without saying the mere mention of his name would surely have opened doors for her. The initiative seemed to be her own idea, another way of introducing visiting celebrity Brits to the Embassy to Americans as well, over drinks a few times a year. Of course, to get the green light for the Embassy to host these get-togethers required the approval of the embassy's security division. After he had been brought up to speed on Madame Burke's plans, my boss, the very fastidious Scotsman, did give his approval for the events after fussing for a while, concerned over the vulnerability of the Rotunda to the outside. He then delegated me to be his point man with Madame Burke. Ms. Burke was a very friendly, affable woman, who had a straightforward way about her of getting right down to the business at hand.This chatty side to her nature became immediately apparent the moment she welcomed me into her office, with an effusive greeting. "Hello Mr. Christopher, I'm so happy to see that you will be my embassy contact for our social committee's plans for the coming year. Please convey my warm greetings and thank yous to your dept. head Mr. Lowry for me.I'm very happy we had the opportunity to meet and I very much look forward to working with you on the planning of our events during the coming year." She enthusiastically then went on, describing her plans for the social committee in the coming year. "The security director informs me that your beautiful Rotunda at the embassy can be the location for our first cocktail party next month. Please, don't hesitate to contact me if any of our plans need further explanation with regard to the embassy's security protocols." The first social event I worked on with her was the cocktail party.As it happened it was held in conjunction with a visit by Dame Maggie Smith, who was then acting in a Broadway play in New York. Of course, most of Washington's official arts and cultural community showed up along with numerous glitterati for the event, as well as a number of interested or curious foreign embassy officials. The British embassy on Massachusetts, was quite new at the time and had only recently opened for business and I'm quite sure that many of the invitees for the event were simply curious. The embassy building itself was quite impressive and its opening just a few years before my arrival had received a ton of favourable press at the time. The Rotunda was located just to the right of the main entrance, after entering the embassy; in this respect the embassy was considered almost too accessible in the opinion of my fastidious Scots security boss. It could probably hold in a couple hundred guests for a stand-up cocktail party, where people could stroll around nibbling on hors d'ouvers sipping a glass of wine; which was exactly what our planned social events would seem to be. For a more formal sit down dinner, it might accommodate a hundred at best. The stand-up gathering, I think it might have been for the British Broadway star Maggie Smith was held in the very early evening, beginning shortly after 5:00 pm. In addition to the arts and entertainment crowd, there were scatterings of politicians, government bureaucrats and guests from interested foreign embassies along with many members of the press and television. Ms. Burke had covered the invitee spectrum pretty thoroughly. I learned from my boss that all I would have to do during the party was keep my eyes open and circulate around, appearing to be just another one of the guests. "Act like you're one of the crowd. Just fit in! You can do it," he ordered. To assist in this charade I decided to walk about with a glass of wine always in hand. As I hadn't cleared this ploy with my boss however, I lay off drinking it as much as possible during my walk-about. Of course I kept sipped away throughout the entire event so that by the end of the evening, I had probably put away several large glasses of the embassy's best grape and become slightly lightheaded. Nevertheless, I still attempted to do my duty and continued to keep a sharp look out for any suspicious looking behaviour. As the function began to wind down, I was approached by Mrs. Burke , who seemed to be a bit woozy herself, exclaiming "John how are you? How nice it is to see you." Mock surprise upon seeing me, (but without giving away our undercover game). I should explain that I had been dating a couple of young women during my time working at the embassy, one from in-house connections and the other locally , a resident of Washington D.C. Neither was with me at the the gathering for Maggie Smith that night Ann Fear was the rather proper daughter of Wing Commander Fear our Military Attache. She was then an Oxford University nursing student taking what seemed to be a rather long holiday visit to Washington. Nancy Hansen, on the other hand was just her opposite, the completely free spirited daughter of a left wing Senator from Wisconsin I believe. I spent many enjoyable hours in the Hansen household, usually on Sunday afternoons, when there seemed to be an open house for all comers. Everything had gone as smoothly as we'd hoped. No one became intoxicated, no scenes were created, and nobody blew my cover that evening.Security personnel at the embassy didn't wear uniforms; there no markings of any kind to identify such individuals. We were all hidden from view. (In those days Embassy employees were issued a cartoon or two of cigarettes (Players) and a couple bottles of booze weekly, overseas posting treats for British Nationals I suppose.) The food and booze served at these Rotunda affairs was always top drawer, with most products carrying the seal of Her Royal Highness. I soon discovered that on the whole, the events I worked on were interesting and educational. The 'high-light' reel for me before the year at the embassy ended was a weekend spent 'guarding' Sir Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, then on head of state visit to the USA. It turned out to be the busiest event of the year for us, involving as it did both the residence and embassy and it involved a great deal of preparation on the part of embassy staff as well as American governmental officials. At the time, there was among other things, a major crisis brewing between the American government and the Soviets over the installation of soviet missiles in Cuba. For me, purely by accident, it turned out to be the most interesting time to be working at the British Embassy. JFK, the knight from Camelot found himself locked into a game of chicken with the colourful bombastic and very controversial Nikita Khrushchev. (Who could have forgotten his famous shoe banging incident at the UN?) It was around this time that the witty, urbane and pragmatic Sir Harold, (Supermac) undertook his visit to the USA, ostensibly to express solidarity with Kennedy but perhaps also to help calm the waters. At the embassy we all looked forward to the MacMillan visit much anticipation. Still ahead, lay the fiasco of the failed CIA sponsored anti- Castro paramilitary invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs (Invasion de Playa Giron) in April 1961. Meanwhile,at this time, rumours were running rampant that the embassy was full of closet reds, with accusations being made almost weekly that soviet moles had already been planted in our midst by moles then working at MI 5 itself. This was in all likelihood probably true. All of this intrigue just added to the glamour of working in the place. I felt quite lucky to be working there that year, and as it so happened on the 'inside' in security. Real or imagined security challenges at the embassy, kept us on our toes, always on the lookout for possible moles among our embassy employees, even among the highest levels like first and second secretaries. We were kept pumped with weekly pep talks by our very conscientious and overly suspicious supervisor, to report on any questionable employees. This excessive diligence was put to the test during our nightly rounds when we inspected certain offices following official business hours, when we could do our snooping unhindered. We were told to be particularly on the lookout for official looking big brown manila envelopes marked Top Secret that were left out, on desktops and the like, not under lock and key as they should have been, after the office occupants had left for the day. If such things were discovered, we were to report them immediately to our Scots boss so he could get to work questioning the rule breakers right away. This extra degree of scrutiny was to be undertaken especially in the offices to our most senior secretaries more so than in those of individuals lower down in the pecking order. Naturally, Security felt that it was only these people who would have been privy to the most important sensitive government information; MI5 may in fact have tipped us off to undertake this extra degree of surveillance. When such infringements were discovered and reported to the Scotsman, a stern warning was given to the office occupant, to get their house in order. If a second breach occurred, they would be watched more closely, perhaps even secretly, and it would be reported up the chain of command even up to the ambassador himself. I'm not aware that anyone on staff was ever caught spying for the USSR while I was there, although there were, from what I later learned through the grapevine, a number of individuals under very close surveillance. Just a few years later, a maelstrom exploded within MI5 itself, when a group of former Oxford chums led by Kim Philby, who then occupied a very senior post at the spy agency, together with five of his notorious friends, were outed as USSR moles in 1963. Just as the noose was closing in on him however,Philby was successful in making his escape to the USSR just in the nick of time. After he fled, Philby was forced to live the remainder of his natural life in the USSR, dying there in the mid-1980s. Apparently Philby's spying had been going on for decades and undoubtedly senior MI5 officers had not been completely without their suspicions, but proof of his guilt always eluded them until just before he flew the coup in 1963. Security officials at British Embassies worldwide, had been alerted to the possibility of potentially dangerous in-house situations by the time of my arrival in 1960. For those enjoyable days I spent in the company of Sir Harold, I have to thank again my boss, the Scot. It's not every day that someone as young as I was would have the opportunity, (even at the most important UK embassy of them all), to spend almost three days wandering around with while keeping an eye out for the Prime Minister of Great Britain, especially someone of Sir Harold Macmillan's stature. I was indeed lucky to be chosen one of just a few embassy security people to accompany Sir Harold on his embassy and residence rounds during his visit to the USA that year. During the week -end he was kept very busy with meetings, receptions, press conferences and formal dinners at both the embassy (where he stayed while in Washington), and the US state department. NOTE: embassy security didn't accompany him outside the embassy where he was accompanied by his own Scotland Yard people, who had also accompanied him at all times within the embassy, in addition to his numerous engagements around Washington DC. On Sir Harold's final night, the Ambassador had a formal dinner for him at the residence for just a select list of dinner guests. I had the opportunity to observe him up close, under different circumstances of course during most events at the embassy and his comings and goings between embassy and residence. I remember particularly that final evening when he attended the formal good bye dinner at the residence, hosted by Sir Harold and Lady Caccia. The guest list included several foreign ambassadors, some of whom may have been personal friends of Sir Harold's, along with a number of local friends and politicians of the Caccias and Sir Harold's. Perhaps, because of advancing age, (he was then 66 or 67) combined with the extremely long working hours he'd put in during his visit, he appeared to grow quite weary, stifling many yawns, as the dinner wore on. Also contributing to the ennui may have been the pre-dinner drinks and the dinner wine. But he was a tough old bird and knew how to handle himself in these situations having undertaken many similar tours of duty on Great Britain's behalf, going back to his days as Foreign Secretary for Prime Minister Anthony Eden, (who, by the way, he somewhat resembled in appearance, natty dressing, and manner and whom he succeeded. Unfortunately, in so doing he was left with the aftermath of the ill-conceived Anglo-French Suez Canal fiasco to clean up. He was active politically during a time when there were many world crises unfolding including the erection of the Berlin Wall, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crises and the start of the Viet Nam war. Great Britain's attempts to be included in the European Common Market were also an on-again/ off-again preoccupation during his years in Parliament. Whatever the causes of his obvious ennui, I noticed he did indeed nod off on occasion while at table, if only momentarily. Perhaps he was just bored or disliked what was being served. He appeared not to be a very hearty diner on that particular night. From my hall door vantage point in the corridor I could still occasionally sneak a glimpse into the dining room and keep an eye on him. On one of these peeping-toms I studied him closely for a couple of minutes as he rather daintily nibbled on a bit of asparagus. During his visit there were no scandals and nothing gossipy for the newspapers to report, he displayed no behaviour quirks and no scuttlebutt ensued. But he was still at the time a very important person politically to the rest of the world. Since taking office in 1957 he had acquired the well -earned title of 'the decolonizer' for beginning the process of disengaging Britain from her colonies in Africa that began with Ghana in 1957, with others to follow before he left office in 1963. He and John Kennedy were on very good terms both politically and personally, perhaps in part due to the marriage of Kennedy's sister to a nephew of MacMillan's. He and Jack hit it off from the very beginning and a solid committed friendship continued until Jack's assassination. Jack often kept Harold in the loop with as many as six cable grams a day. Jackie continued a warm personal relationship with Sir Harold until his death. Jack and Harold were an odd couple in that Jack was such an obvious womanizer (sometimes as many as three girlfriends a night) while Harold was just the opposite, a staid faithful husband up to the end. (In this regard unlike his wife who carried on a thirty five year affair with a colleague of Harold's.) Trivia collectors might be aware of the fact that he was the last British Prime Minister to wear a moustache and the last PM to be born, (in 1894), while Queen Victoria was still on the throne. He lived to be 92, and remained active politically in retirement with biting critiques of those with whom he disagreed. He died in 1986. I remember my girlfriend Ann and her air attache, Wing Commander dad, both saying at the time I was then en garde at the embassy that it couldn't have occurred at a more interesting time. Sir Harold was always very courteous towards me during my rather brief time with him. I recall him now, as a very natty dresser, in the conservative manner, always very smartly and expensively turned out. He was every inch the British gentleman. He was the PM during the 'good times' of the British invasion in music and fashion in the UK (1957-1963) and was followed by yet another conservative Sir Alex Douglas Home (pronounced Hume). Sir Alec was the last in a string of Tories and was ousted only a year later by Labour's Harold Wilson. John P Christopher Toronto, ON
A Grandfather's Compass and the Journey It Began
by Graham Hookey Barrie, ON My high school English teacher, Miss Stewart, is undoubtedly turning in her grave. I am certain I was her most recalcitrant writer, the first question for every assignment being,"How many words does it have to be?" and the subsequent work production fitting precisely to the requirement. She said, once, that a writer lies in every one of us; we are just waiting for the story to tell. It turns out she was right. My parents were both born in Newfoundland, left in their early twenties and returned when my father retired. I lived in Port Rexton as a toddler for a couple of years but those fleeting memories were chiselled more from the stories of others than from the clarity of absolute recollection. It wasn't until my parents retired, and I was a father myself, that more regular visits 'home' took place. Still, the visits were short and filled with experiences in the moment. I never asked about the past and my parents never talked about it. In the summer of 2011, my father was on his last legs and I retired early to offer the palliative care and support of a son. Like most Newfoundlanders, he had no greater desire than to stay in his own home until the end so I vowed I would help him do that, leaving my wife behind for what might be an indeterminate length of time but which I was relatively certain would not be a long one. For the next four months we lived each day, once again, in the moment, enjoying drives to his favourite views in the area, watching Wings Over Canada DVDs, and playing lots of cribbage. Since my father had been a merchant mariner, and thus been away from home for periods of nine months or more, it was actually the longest continuous time we'd been together in our entire lives. I took the opportunity to talk to him about his life, video recording a few sessions as memories for his grandchildren, but it was not an activity he took much pleasure in. A quiet and humble man, he was not prone to carrying the conversation and he viewed his life as somewhat inconsequential, as if there was nothing worthy of telling. I didn't probe; being an annoyance was not my role at this stage in his life. On the day before he passed away, he asked me to get out his papers and check that everything was in order and I came across a small, brass pocket compass in the metal box where he kept his valuables. "What's this?" I asked. "Ah, it's your Grandfather's compass. I found it in the house after your Grandmother passed and I just put it away." I pulled off the lid and stared at the paper face with the cardinal points on it, still somewhat accurately indicating the direction when I held it perfectly flat. 'So what's the story behind it?" I ventured. He winced a little, quite uncomfortable at this particular time. "I don't know. Evidently it was quite a bone of contention between them but I never asked why. They didn't talk about the past and we never asked. That's just the way it was. In that moment, I realized that's pretty much the way it was between my father and me as well. Suddenly, my mind was reeling with questions I wanted to ask him, about his parents, about his life and yet, here we were, hours from his passing and he in no condition for an eleventh-hour interrogation. Returning home to Ontario after the funeral, with the compass in my pocket, I found it was like a pea under my mattress. Why had my Grandmother kept it for 22 years after my Grandfather's death, especially if it reminded her of some contentious issue between them? I tossed that question out to my mother, and to some more historically informed relatives, but I was consistently met with blank stares. "No one asked them about their life," was the most common response, "and those who knew about it are gone now too." The only written record was a few birth, death and marriage dates in the front of the family bible. I retired six years later and bought a small place in Champneys Arm, NL, as a summer retreat. From my window I could see both the house in which my father was born and raised and the gravesites of my grandparents. With time on my hands, and the compass burning a hole in my pocket, I ventured out to try and find the truth. In every community, there are people who document and people who remember. I found a website of family information compiled by local historian, Terry Piercey, and I talked to anyone who knew my parents, my grandparents and any other relations of mine. And while I learned a lot about the area and a lot about my family members, there was not a whisper of understanding about the story behind the compass. As I said earlier, Miss Stewart was right and, at last, there was a story I felt I had to tell, one for my children and their children and all of the children who found a branch on the family tree that began with my grandparents. In fairness, the story is one of historical fiction. Real events, real settings and real people mixed with fabrications of the conversations and emotional interactions between them. The bone of contention that the compass represented is, in fact, a figment of my imagination. Then again, perhaps it's not; we'll never know. It took the better part of a year of reading everything I could get my hands on to research the living conditions of early 20th century outport Newfoundland and attempt to accurately reflect what I'd learned about my grandparents as individuals and how they'd lived as a couple and, eventually, as a family. The books, the conversations, the internet searches, the graveyard visits and the walks on paths and trails on which they walked deepened my appreciation for the extraordinary circumstances and coincidences that led to my own opportunity for life. Even more, it dramatically increased my passion for Newfoundland, for its people, for its culture and for the stories it has to tell. I cannot say for certain how important that compass was to my Grandfather, but I can say with absolute certainty what it means to me, and I've made sure my children have a written record for the time when they, too, wish they'd asked more questions about their heritage. Graham Hookey is a retired educator who has written two books about Newfoundland, Pop's Compass and Rhymes, Rhythms and Reflections of Outport Newfoundland. Both are available on Amazon.ca.
Go Fly a Kite
When I was young growing up in rural NL, every spring the sky around our town would be full of kites. All of these were homemade by young people of the place, mostly the boys, sometimes with help from their fathers who had been young boys themselves once. It was a beautiful sight to see these things flying high in the air with their long tails trailing behind them. We didn't have a lot of money in those days, so most of these kites were made from material we could scour locally. The basic material to make the kite were paper, string, shoe tacks, small narrow slats of wood, a finish nail, old Eaton or Simpson mail order catalogues for the tail and a little paste made from flour and water. We would search around the local wood factory to find the thin wooden slats for the frame. Most people had shoe tacks for repairing the family's footwear. Most stores used string to tie parcels, so we just had to save the pieces of string, roll them all together in a ball for future use. The paper usually came from big paper grocery bags which were carefully taken apart. We would tear pages out of the old Eaton mail order catalogue - which were also used for toilet paper in our outhouses - roll them individually and connect each one to the other with string several inches apart. There were several different shapes to the kites. Some fellas liked the rectangle shape, some the diamond, most preferred the octagon shape, which seemed to climb the highest. These kites would be assembled on the kitchen floor. Mother usually made the paste with the flour and water so the kids wouldn't waste the flour or make a mess. I will try to describe for you how we made our kites, but please remember this is being done form memory over sixty years old. If someone reads this piece and finds some error in my description, don't hesitate to correct me. So let's you and I get our stuff together and make a homemade kite. First, we need to decide what shape we want. This is important because the shape determines how many slats we need - only two for the diamond, one twice as long as the other, up to five for the rectangle, and three or four for the octagon. Lets assume we settled on the octagon. First we need to make sure the slats are the same length and thickness, then we pile them one over the other, drive a finish nail trough all four slats at the middle, then we unroll the slats so they are evenly spread. A small shoe tack goes in the end of each slat to which the string is attached. Now you have your basic frame. Now we have to apply the paper shell over the frame and glue it together. First, we cut the paper to fit the frame with about an inch and a half for overlap. The paper shell must be tight over the frame. The paper is on the floor, we place the frame over it, make sure it's even all around, then we fold the paper over the string and use out paste mom just made to glue the overlapped paper to the shell. This had to be left to dry so in the meantime, we work on the tail which is made by first taking a page out of the catalogue - make sure it is expired, old winter edition is safe to use - then tie each separate piece together maybe six inches apart. Each page needs to be rolled up separately. You'll need at least six or seven feet of tail. This keeps your kite flying straight when it's in the wind. Now, when our kite frame with the paper shell is ready, we come to the most important part of the construction. We have to fasten a bridle to the kite frame. So pay close attention here, and critics please get out your pencils, paper, and iPhones. No iPhones when we were young. You need three pieces of string, each one the same length as the others. Each is tied to the frame at different points near the top and sides, then pulled tight and tied together. It should look something like a pyramid when pulled from the frame. The kite line is attached to this bridle, it keeps the kite stable in the wind and allows you to control the flight from the ground. The finished product seems somewhat heavy with the tail attached to the frame, but it will fly. You will need an open space - stay away from power lines or tall trees. You will also need a buddy to help you launch your kite. Your buddy will hold the kite frame up to the wind while you let out some line as you run in the opposite direction. When the wind catches the shell of the kite, it will rise up, just keep running for a little while pulling on your line with small jerks. Let out more line to let the kite climb higher. The kite will gain altitude quickly depending on the force of the wind and how much line you have. You can guide the kite by pulling on the string. To get the kite back down, you just reel in the string which should be wound around a short stick in your hand. I did mention earlier that you had to gather the materials for the kite from items close at hand. The kite line however, which needed to be strong, had to be bought unless you had a father or uncle who was a fisherman. We had to buy our kite line at the local hardware store. It was the same line the fishermen used to make their trawls, I think they called it 'bank line' - referring to the fishing bank, not the financial institution. It would be on this big swivel suspended from the ceiling of the store. You just walked up to the counter and asked the clerk for say, ten cents worth of kite line. So, how much line is that, you might ask? Well, believe it or not, that depended on who was behind the counter at the time. At one hardware store when I was growing up there were two different clerks working there. We soon learned to watch out for our favourite clerk so we would get more line for our money. Cause you see, we had already given up a lot of candy or trouting gear to buy the line in the first place. The system worked like this: when you asked for say ten cents worth of kite line, the clerk would hold the end of the line in one hand, pull it from the swivel with the other hand, the distance between both hands was one cent's worth, so he would do this ten times then break the line. So, for the sake of my story I will give the two clerks names, just so I don't have to refer to them as 'clerk one' or 'clerk two'. Just remember these names have no relationship to anyone living or dead. So let's just say one is called George, the other, Jim. George would keep both hands on the counter and stretch them out a couple of feet. Jim, on the other hand, would take the end of the line in his right hand, stretch his arm out from his body in one direction and his other arm containing the other end of the line stretched away from his body in the opposite direction. Now, I ask you, who would you rather by your kite line from? - Cyril Griffin New Perlican, NL
Then and Now
THEN AND NOW At about 11:00 AM on the 26th of July, 1962, two young men from Moncton, New Brunswick stood before a Commissioned Officer of the RCMP in Fredericton. Gary Leaman was the first one into his office to be sworn in, followed by myself. We were then driven to Fredericton Junction where we boarded a train for that faraway place of Regina to begin our recruit training. Our training syllabus included many different activities, one of which was swimming. At that time it was required that every member immerse themselves into the pool, from the deep end. One soon learned that they were either a swimmer or a non-swimmer, and I fit into the swimmer category, but just barely. During the following nine months, David Dean, our instructor, caused many a member to swallow (in their own mind) half of the pool. The one thing that I learned from swimming was that it made me comfortable in and around the water, as I finished training with my Bronze Medallion and Award of Merit. Not bad for one who initially could only swim one and one-half lengths of the pool. I was transferred to B Division from Depot in May of 1963 and during the fall of 1963 found myself stationed at Lewisporte Detachment. Lewisporte is a seaport town in Notre Dame Bay on the Northeast coast of the province. Being the junior member at the Detachment most of the mundane duties fell to me but they were a great learning experience. Conducting driver's tests was one of them, and anyone who tested a driver's skill can tell some hair-raising stories. On the 8th of April 1964 a gentleman by the name of Albert Blackwood came to the office to be tested, and as I was the only one in the office at the time, the chore fell to me. In reality, he was supposed to be tested in Gander Detachment as he was from Carmanville, and not from our Detachment area. He passed the written test so we proceeded to go out and do the driving portion. This entailed driving from the Detachment through town and making a few turns, stops and starts. At this time of the year the harbor ice was breaking up so there were many places with open water. On the way back to the office, on Main Street, at the end of the test, I looked out the passenger side window and saw two young children, a boy and a girl, standing on the ice, at the edge of some open water. I looked back to the highway again, checking on the driver. When I looked at the children again, there was only the girl standing on the ice, the boy had fallen into the water. I had Mr. Blackwood stop the vehicle and I proceeded to go down over the embankment to the ice at the harbor edge. I ran out to where the child was standing and noticed the second child was going under the ice - the tide was going out at the time. I jumped into the water and went under the ice and brought him back to the open water. Mr. Blackwood had followed me down onto the ice and had taken the girl away from the water's edge. After I managed to get the boy and myself out of the water, I went to the nearest house on Main Street to see who the boy might be. The first house I visited I was told by the lady of the house "Well, he's not mine." That was not exactly the response I was hoping to hear. When asked if she knew where the boy lived, she indicated a couple of houses away. At the second house, there was no such reaction when the lady of the house opened the door, as she was very surprised and shocked. I took the young man into the house, undressed him and got him settled in some warm water in the bathtub before I left. As I had did some falling and bumping into rocks on the way down the embankment I had to get to a local doctor to have a leg attended to as it had received some cuts, scrapes and bruises. I later learned the young boy was Brill Clarke, aged four, son of Bram and Lucy Clarke. I was transferred to Goose Bay Detachment in July of 1964 and at that time Labrador was under the administrative jurisdiction of Corner Brook Sub/Division. I received a personal invitation from Insp. Sweeney, the Officer Commanding to attend the Sub/Division Ball in October of that year. At the Ball I was presented with the Commissioner's Commendation for Bravery by Insp. Sweeney for saving Brill Clarke. I transferred to various places in B Division until I took my retirement on the 19 Aug 1991 while stationed in Gander. Sometime after retirement, I was approached at my home by Brill, and was asked if I might drop in and see his mother in Lewisporte. It was stated that she had never thanked my for saving Brill and that she wished to do so. Later that particular summer I was in Lewisporte and looked up the address for the Clarkes and knocked on the door. Mrs. Clarke was hesitant of letting me in the house until I told her who I was, at which time I was more than welcome to enter. We spoke for awhile about the past and current matters, she thanked me, and when I was ready to depart, she said something to me that remains very special to me, and that was "You are as welcome in my house as any of my family." I do not believe that any greater compliment can be passed on to a policeman than that. Advancing forward to 2012, Barry Clarke, Brill's older brother, contacted me, around the middle of July, to see if I would attend his parents' 60th wedding anniversary party on the 31 July 2012. I agreed to do this and learned that only Barry and his wife would know I was to be there. He stated that but for me saving Brill in 1964; the entire family would not be at the party. When I arrived at the party, Barry asked Brill and his daughter to come forward and it was then I was introduced to them and the other people in attendance. It was a surprise to Mr. and Mrs. Clarke, as well as the rest of the family and I found it to be somewhat emotional. This was the first opportunity I had to speak to Brill and he stated that he could remember going into the water, losing a boot, going underwater a couple of times and starting to feel comfortable. The next thing he remembers was being in a warm bathtub. At the time this happened in 1964, I had the confidence to go into the icy harbour water as a direct result of learning to swim from my days in Depot. Many of the activities we endured and learned during our training days were a benefit to our members after the 'Passout' and some still hold us in good stead today. Lindsay Fraser Reg # 22711 (Rtd)
Paddy's on the Mainland
The grannykids are on the floor. Who in the name of God could ask for more. He'd love to stay but he's in the way. "Here's my boat, she's yours to use, if you choose, and good luck with the season." So Paddy's heading for the mainland. But his heart is on the water. A friend did say, "B'y, come and stay with me." So Paddy left the tiny cove that was the only home he knew. He traded in the gravel lane for the concrete sidewalks and the busy crowded streets. The quiet of the little cove for the constant noise of the city that never sleeps. So Paddy is on the mainland, but his heart is on the water. He sits in the seat of the streetcars, riding on the rails. He watches for his marks, his stop is up ahead. But for an instant, he's standing in his motorboat, Skurv Island at his back. He searches the shoreline and the cliffs above for the marks his father showed him. And this is how you set your cod trap. But Paddy is on the mainland. But his mind is on the water. He stacks the crates on the factory floor in piles so straight and neat. The young foreman asks, "Oh Paddy, how do you do it, so straight and so tall? He says, "M'son, it's 'heads and tails', that's the way you do it. Did your father never show ya?" And Paddy is on the mainland. But his mind is on the water. He's got a 'bob or two' in the bank and more in his pocket. His friends say "Paddy b'y, you got it made." He doesn't care much for the noisy smoke filled barrooms but it's what you do on a Saturday night when the work week is done. He lifts the bottle to his face and pretends that he enjoys it. But he longs for the quiet solitude of the twine loft, with needle in hand. There's nets to be made and more to mended, Spring is round the corner. Paddy is on the mainland. But his mind is on the water. The boss comes by and says, "Paddy my boy, you're twice their age. How is it you make it seem so simple? How is your work so sure and fast? Where did you learn to work like that?" He walks away and shakes his head. What was it that Paddy said? What did he mean by "Sure man, it was round the splittin table?" Paddy is on the mainland. But his mind is on the water. Paddy is gone. He passed away. They buried him deep beneath the clay. The mainland dirt is weighing him down. He never got to go back home. Yes, Paddy is buried on the mainland. But his soul is on the water. Cyril Griffin
Gone Moose Huntin'
by Georgia Chouinard I awoke after a long winter's night in the small wholesome house that I'd lived in for as long as I could remember. The air was warm with the smell of the woodstove and baked beans. I stretched and yawned, before dragging my sleepy body to the kitchen to greet my family - my best and oldest friend, Graham, and his grandmother, Peggy, or Nan as he always called her. I stepped in the kitchen and Nan was there, cooking away as usual, and Graham set the table while thanking her for everything she did for us. "C'mon b'ys," said Nan, "come sit and eat your breakfast now." Graham and I had been best friends since we were youngsters, and his grandmother, being the caring woman she was, basically adopted me after I'd spent so much time there. Of course, I didn't have a parent to my name either. We sat there, quietly eating our beans and biscuits when Nan asked, "When ye go out huntin' today, would you mind bringing back some moose meat so I can make some burgers?" My friend and I were hunters, some of the best on the Rock. And knowing Nan had recently become quite ill we had no problem with going out to get a bit of moose for her. "Sure, Nan. You knows I'd do anything for ya," Graham replied with a smile. I'd finished eating and quickly went outside and hopped in the truck, right ready for a good hunting trip. Graham came shortly after, in his flannel and ball cap and sat down in the driver's seat. He put his rifle in the back seat, and off we went. Although the hunt was my favourite part, the drive to the woods was half the fun. I loved driving around our small town and saying hello to everyone I knew on the way. Before heading up to the hunting grounds, we pulled into the gas station lot, and after filling up the truck, Graham went inside to pay. I always stayed in the truck. I didn't really like going to the shop because people didn't seem to like me very much and I was never really fond of them either. I only really like the people I knew. Graham was the 'people person' of our dynamic duo, probably because he was quieter and he was kind of intimidating as well. So I always let him do the talking. Although he was only in there for a few minutes, it seemed like hours since I was so excited to get going. But the wait was completely forgotten when I saw him walk out with a case of Coke and a box of HotRod sausages for us. Afterward, we drove further from town, crossed the trestle over the river and I grew more and more excited as we drove deeper into the woods. I looked at Graham as we drove up to our woodland parking space. "You ready buddy?" he asked with a grin. I smiled and nodded and we both hopped out of the truck. When my feet hit the ground, something immediately felt different. The forest floor felt cold and lifeless, yet it felt different than that of a brisk winter's day. Graham tilted his head and pointed his gun in the direction we were to go, and we began our hunt. As we trekked through the forest there were little signs of life. There was no sound of scuffling rodents on the forest floor, no rustle of the bushes where the prey fled. Not even the curious, yet common, chant of a chickadee. But I didn't really think much of it, as Mother Nature can be quite random and unpredictable sometimes. We kept searching for quite a while, without even the sight of broken branches before my head was finally jerked upwards to meet the gaze of Mother Nature's noisiest rodent. It was nothing more than a yelling squirrel. It was almost as if he was mocking our lack of prey with his ear-splitting chatter. This drained the last of my patience. Although he was my best friend, Graham was not the stealthiest of hunters, and he had a tendency to alert game of our presence. So I decided to head off on my own in the hopes that I would have more luck with the moose hunt. It wasn't the first time that he and I split up to hunt, but this had been the longest I'd ever done so. For the longest time my luck had been no different than when I was alongside my friend. I continued on my way when suddenly my luck changed, and I could hardly believe my eyes when I stumbled upon some faint hoofprints. These weren't just any hoofprints, they were moose prints. My first instinct, as usual, was to gloat to Graham about how I'd found prints first, as I did when he first taught me how to hunt. But I quickly remembered that we were several miles apart. Flooded with hope and excitement, I began to follow the footprints with a much welcomed and needed pep in my step. I followed the prints so intently that I hadn't even noticed the change of scenery until it stared me directly in the face. The footprints led me to the edge of the river and continued on across it. I could tell based on the depth and definition of the prints that the moose had crossed several days earlier and since then the ice had thinned out a fair bit. I looked out across the frozen river, and present morphed into past as I remembered the first time I stepped foot on the river. It was years ago, Graham had taken me out ice fishing for the first time. The air was crisp, and the howl of the wind mixed with the laughter of the children who skated with glee on the bumpy ice. I stood by the ice's edge, just as I did now, looking at Graham as he gathered all the equipment. I was always ready to try new things and this was no exception. Excited, I went out on the ice to start fishing, when I heard a sudden cracking noise. I ran quickly back to shore and Graham laughed at my inexperience. He taught me the dos and don'ts of ice fishin' and how to tell if the ice was safe to walk on. We caught loads of fish that day, and when we came home Nan had stew and biscuits all ready for us. That was a great day. And staring out at the frozen landscape I hardly thought that today's excursion would be any different. I kept looking over my shoulder, hoping that Graham would show up behind me, even though I knew he wasn't near. I waited anxiously for a few more minutes. I wanted my friend by my side when we finally caught what we had spent so long searching for. But when a bull moose suddenly came into my sights, I wanted nothing more than to complete this simple favour for Nan. I ran out on the snow-covered ice in pursuit of the target I had search so long to find. As I ran towards it, I thought only happy thoughts, like the heart-lifting smile that would appear on Nan's face when we came home with supper and how overly grateful she would be. I also thought of Graham's prideful grin that I saw every time we made a kill and the words of encouragement he gave whenever we were unsuccessful. But most of all, I thought of home and how happy everyone would be. Then my mind stopped in an abrupt rush of fear. I heard the voice I had longed to hear all afternoon, but the last thing I felt was relief. I heard Graham's panicked voice from behind me. "HUDSON!" he hollered. "What are you doing?! Get off the ice!" His words brought me to the terrifying realization that I was no longer on safe terrain. That the seemingly solid ice that I so impulsively ran out on had slowly turned to a thin, slushy excuse for ice. "Stay put, Hudson!" The moose was long gone by this point and before I knew it, Graham came running towards me on the ice, trying to get us both safely to shore. I stood there, frozen in my tracks from fear and regret. But the situation only became worse when Graham slipped and fell awkwardly on the ice, causing it to fall away beneath him. I was no longer stuck in place, and I started running like a bat out of hell to help my friend. My heart sank as I watched him struggling to get out of the freezing water, but this image fueled my energy and I ran as fast as my legs could go. I finally made it to Graham after what seemed like hours of running. I grabbed him by his shirt collar and immediately started pulling as hard as I possibly could. Unsurprisingly, the surrounding ice was thin as well, and every time I managed to pull him out a bit the ice would break and fall away leaving us both struggling in the cold murky water. Neither of us could swim well, and we were both panicked and coughing as we took in water. The freshly broken shards of ice pierced my skin, and the water and ice around us were stained with blood as we flailed around trying desperately to get out. We both began to give up, and the world around me grew darker and colder as I began to sink deeper to join the salmon beneath us. I came face to face with Graham as he tried with all his might to reach the surface, and I knew I couldn't let him drown. Then somehow, against all odds, I managed to muster up enough strength and I grabbed Graham and was able to pull us both to the sun-lit surface. Graham too had somehow gotten a sudden burst of hope and strength, and he managed to drag us both up onto solid ice. We both laid there, purely exhausted, and somehow breathing, the simplest thing to do, felt impossible. My side heaved as I panted with pain and exhaustion, so much so that I couldn't even lift my head to see how Graham was doing. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the pain and sting of my many wounds, but the pain wouldn't cease. My eyes opened when I heard Graham's worried voice. "Hudson!" he said, as he came and knelt by my side. "It's gonna be okay bud, it's gonna be okay," he said to himself more than me. Although he said everything would be okay, I knew deep down that it wasn't, and all I could do was lay there while he tried desperately to do anything he could to help me. Tears fell down his face as he took off his flannel to try and stop my bleeding. I hated to see him so distraught, trying with everything he had to save me. I lifted my head and looked at him and gently touched his shoulder. He stopped what he was doing and then turned his gaze to mine. He sat there shivering with tears falling down his cheeks, his eyes full of fear and sadness. I smiled at him and suddenly, his fear turned to relief and he smiled back. He even gave a small chuckle as more tears fell down his face. I smiled again and then laid my head back on the ground to take a little rest. Graham laid his hand on my side for comfort, and for some reason, these last moment were free of pain and I felt nothing but peace, comfort and happiness. As I took my last breath, Graham patted my shoulder and said his last words to me. "Good dog, Hudson." And with him by my side, I fell into an eternally peaceful sleep.
From the Old to the New
In the early days of growing up, heat in the home was usually in one place - the kitchen. The stove was as central to the kitchen as the table, even more so. It was the means of providing warmth for that room and a little for the rest of the house if it managed to escape there. The water for cooking, bathing, shaving, cleaning and whatever you needed hot water for was heated on the old black-top stove. One very large black iron kettle always was used for hot water for everything except a cup of tea. That kettle was shaped so that its bottom could fit down into the stove when a cover (damper) was removed. In our house it always sat in its hold. You had to make sure there was water in it all the time and never allow it to run dry. Watching that old kettle lazily blow steam kept you feeling secure and at home. We would often toast bread in the front grate. This was accomplished by sticking a slice of homemade bread on a fork and holding it in front of the grate until one side as sufficiently brown, then switch it over. As boys we would also play with the ashes in the front grate. Sometimes, to get more life out of old flashlight batteries we would punch holes in their bottoms and try to stuff in ashes, believing it would help. Whether it did or not, I'm not sure. We would often be warned when playing with the ashes in the front grate that if we did it long enough it would cause us to pee the bed. The oven was set on top of the stove as part of the pipe was used for the smoke to escape. I believe the oven was double walled with the smoke and heat travelling between the walls causing the oven to heat up. Watching the large loaves of homemade bread being pulled from the oven, reacting to the aroma, and imagining that as soon as it cooled enough, a slice covered in Good Luck butter (margarine) and molasses, make you want to go back. Yes, that stove was a centerpiece for sure. I can still sense the peace and security as darkness began to settle in with the clicking from mom's knitting needles, the hum of the kettle boiling, and the only light for a while would be the glow from the kitchen stove front grate. Who would want to change such an atmosphere? My mother did. Keeping the old stove clean was quite a chore. There was nothing to tell how much heat was in the oven. You really had to bend over to attend to what was coking because it sat so low on the floor. Its black top had to be polished quite often, and of course, things were starting to get modern, such as kitchen cupboards and ranges. So one day, mother ordered a new Enterprise range from Mifflins. Boy was it different from the old stove! Like putting your hillbilly cousin alongside of a Hollywood star. The gleaming steel top, the enamel over with the temperature gauge, the gleaming white enamel exterior, the large warmer on top and large tank on the side for warming water made the old stove look so shabby that we really felt sorry for him. We had gone modern. We had come up in the world. No doubt about it. This new gadget, however, changed some of our attitudes. We no longer stood around a friend, we now stood back and admired the intruder. But we knew it was our mother's pride and joy and we would have to get used to it, like it or lump it. My grandfather who had known the old stove much longer than any of us certainly wasn't impressed by the big piece of gleaming steel and enamel. You could hear him grunt to himself and say under his breath, "You won't get any heat out of that. You can't even see the fire in the grate." But he was a great old man and if my mother wanted it, he would learn to accept it. He was usually the first up in the morning to light the fire. He found out the first time he did so in the new range that it could give off plenty of heat. Not only did he have the top red, but the water in the tank that was meant only to get warm was boiling. He grumbled no more on the new stove. The new range proved to be a great kitchen companion for my mother and we learned to accept it also. The memories of the old stove still linger however, but we won't tell the range. He might get his top red again. Sam Johnson St. John's, NL