The Boys (and Girls) of Summer

By Eric Cooper

Today marks the beginning of a new baseball season as the Chicago Cubs get set to defend their World Series title. It brings back many fond memories of playing baseball here in Snooks Harbour, “over on the garden” by Mack Baileys. Most all the young people would play, boys and girls together and regardless of age.

The bats were usually homemade, although there may have been a couple of bought ones too over the years. I made my own bat and I remember that Dennis would always have a nice homemade bat. Baseball gloves were rare. I had a glove but most did not. I loved that first glove and looking back on it I must have caught a million balls with that thing. Randy bought a catcher’s mitt and that one seemed huge to me at the time. He probably still has it.  As for balls we always played with a sponge one. The red, white and blue balls were popular. I would pick a ball out of the bin at the Chain Store or the old drug store, or Dad would get one for me.

In many ways our style of play was quite different from the Major League game. There was no such thing as having too many players as everyone would take to the field. When it came to hitting, every player on the team would bat during each inning and every player had to get out before the other team batted! Like i said not many had gloves, so an out could be made by letting the ball bounce once as well as catching it in the air. But the most popular way of getting an out was to pick up the ball and throw it at the runner! If you could hit him with the ball before he reached base he was out. This proved to be a little painful for the runner at times, lol. Of course you could also chase down the base runner and tag him with the ball in hand. Since everyone had to get out, the last remaining batter had a decision to make. If he went past first base he would have to try to get all the way around. The other thing he could do was just touch first base and run back to home plate. Needless to say it was hard to stay alive on a slow dribbler back to the pitcher! By the way we always pitched the ball underhand.

The ball would quite often end up in the salt water and we would throw rocks in a frantic attempt to splash the ball back to shore. If unsuccessful we would have to get another ball or wait and hope that the ball would drift in to the nearby mead, which it often did if the wind was right. Many balls were also lost in and around the brook as there was lots of alders, weeds, tall grass and foamy water. Usually these balls were lost by a right handed hitter making what we referred to as a “cross bat” in which the ball was hit well out of play into extremely foul territory. Craig Baker was famous for this and Dennis Baker and Glenys Baker also hit their share of cross bats.

As far as i know there was never a window broken out of Macks house, although hit on several occasions. One time I remember hitting a high fly ball and Gerald George was pulling into the driveway at the exact same time. Just as Gerald was getting out of the car the ball landed on his roof with such a resounding thump, then bounced off and hit the kitchen window. I dont know who got the biggest fright, me or Gerald!

Another memory is of Vick Smith singing out to Scott, Derek & Rod to come home for supper. It was quite a distance but somehow her voice carried in such a way that we could hear her. I also remember the time that Rodney Ivany and Sheldon Berkshire got into a fight on the field, but I dont recall why. Then there was the time that Rodney walloped Peter Smith across the knees with the baseball bat. Peter was flicking Rodneys ears and Rodney hit him with a swing that even Babe Ruth would be proud of! But these kind of altercations were rare. We had so much fun playing baseball and it was such a wonderful and rewarding part of growing up.

The Cremation

Back in the early 90’s I think it was, one of our regular clan, and one of the hosts of our semi-regular poker games, Ivan Patey, went away to the mainland for work.  He’d been gone a while, and none of us (the gang of people, I can’t speak for his family) had heard from him in quite some time.

Anyway, we had no clue how he was doing, or where he was, and yes we kinda missed and worried about him.  But of course we can’t show that!

We also have our streaks of dark humour, morbid if you will, and I’m sure most do, and while we were pretty sure he was ok (and he was) we also joked around that he had died.  Yeah it may not be funny to you, and sorry if not, but at the time, in the moment, we did, and I think he would see the humour in it too.

Around the same time, someone, Don Hart or Gary Cooper had the old club open again for a spell.  Never a very “going concern” business I don’t think, but was convenient for us.  In the closet there was an old jean jacket vest over a hoodie (memory fades, not exactly sure the look now) and no one ever claimed it.  I think it may have been there since before the club re-opened, but no idea.  It did however look exactly (to a few of us anyway) like one Ivan used to wear, so we claimed it as his.

One night, feeling especially mournful, a couple of us, who I’ll leave nameless, felt it was time to pay our respects.  So we took the jacket to the beach and set it afire and said a few words for our departed friend (departed for Toronto that was).

Missed ya then, and miss ya now buddy.  Sometimes I wish things could be as they were.

Chirping My Senses

Its funny how some sounds can stir the memory, it’s like it brings everything flooding back. Growing up in rural Newfoundland, we had tons of gulls of course, but also some rarer birds, like ospreys (fish hawks) and a number of bald eagles, in my part of the world at least.

But the noise that brings all of those back to me, is from none of these, its from what we called a “Sterrin” (God knows if I’ve spelt that right, or if you can even spell a wrong name wrongly).  From looking up seabirds of Newfoundland, it appears to me it’s most likely a common tern, though I wouldn’t be surprised if we mixed and matched those and the similar arctic tern too.

Not much to say about them really, except they had this very distinctive chirping call, and I loved the way they looked.  Seemed so sleek and clean as compared to the gulls. Have a look and listen below.

The Alouette

“Alouette, gentille alouette”

We probably all sang that song in elementary school, though I’m sure I massacred it worse than most.  The song isn’t the only memory of that name though!

Back in the…umm..80s? and maybe before, as he had it a long time, Ross Smith had an old Alouette Snow mobile, very like the one pictured.

Later on he sold it to Dad, I hope for not very much, because to be honest it wasn’t worth very much! I did get to have a few adventures on it, one I’ve documented before.  Though more of a great memory of Uncle Hay than an adventure really. We went out on the sound on it fishing one year when it froze over, you can read about it by clicking this sentence.

I’m sure the machine in its time was a good one, but it was, if memory serves, a 1974 model, and weighed about 4 billion pounds.  For those who know such things, it had a 2 cylinder Kohler engine, it was probably very like the one mentioned in this article.  The 440cc that is.  It also had a center drive track that we had to replace, was pretty rotted out when we got it.  I think we had to order it in, and if I remember correctly, from Parts Unlimited (Thanks Dennis, I couldn’t remember the name) that was just in past Murphy’s as you went in around Shoal Harbour.   I remember Elvis Cooper and I stopped there too on our trip down to his cabin one winter.

It had a speedometer on it, and god knows how accurate it was, but I once took it on the ice up to Snook’s Harbour, and though it wasn’t running on both cylinders correctly, the thing was clocking 80mph.  I’m sure that was inaccurate, but it could definitely bang along!

But like I said it was heavy, you needed to be a lot stronger than me to deal with it to be honest.  Also was a pull start, and that could strain the guts out of you just getting it going.  I once took a ride in to Island Pond path behind Apsey Brook (which if you know the area, wasn’t a very good path to begin with), and when on the way out, slid off the track a little right by a goowitty scrape which sloped down to the brook.

Of course I couldn’t budge it, and of course, like always, it flooded, I ended up walking all the way out and having to ask Sam Kelly to come in and help me get it out.

After that, I honestly don’t remember much about it, which is probably for the best.

Afterthought: Lorne Patey also had an old Ski-Doo once.  A 1972 Evinrude I think it was.  Another name you don’t associate with snow mobiles anymore!

Stylin and Profilin… In my North Stars and GWG’s

When you go to Sport Chek or similar places, there are more brands of sneakers than you can count.  Same with jeans.  There are stores that specialize in them.

Growing up back home though there were very few available.  And of course we all got them at the Chain Store.  I remember later on, I saved a lot of money and bought a pair of Brooks from Roses Plumbing and Heating (Yes, I’m serious, the plumbing store sold sneakers).

Of the sneakers available to us were the old canvas high tops with the rubber thing right at the ankle bone.  I’m sure they were modelled after Converse, but I really don’t remember if they were real Converse or not. Then there were Cougars.  They were usually more like shoes than sneakers though.  But the one we all likely remember best are North Stars, with their distinctive double stripes.  Whether intentional or not, they kind of look like Adidas.  And of course we all had them for gym. and beating around. and everything.

And of course with our fancy shoes, we all had to have designer jeans to match.  And what else would we wear but GWGs.  The letters stood for Great Western Garment company. The Levis of Canada. I still remember the stitching on the pockets.  Similar to levis, but swooping down to make a loop below.  I know there were a few other options.  Like Levis for one, and Wranglers for another.  But I can’t remember any others now to be honest.

And of course we got them at the Chain Store too.  I mean where else was there?

Anyone remember any other brands? Anyone still have any?

March of Dimes

Short post, but for whatever reason, was driving along somewhere today, and something jogged my memory of the March of Dimes, or more specifically, the little folder we got at school (I think).

It wasn’t exactly like the one pictured, I think it held more dimes for one thing, but also I seem to remember it being blue.  I really just remember trying and sometimes succeeding in getting dimes insert into the little slits.

I believe the charity used the dimes for Polio research, or similar to that.  Anyone else have memories and pictures of that?

Minard’s Liniment

The weather was messy the last couple days, rain and wind.  Days like these not only cause my sinuses to complain, but also make my decrepit old joints and muscles ache. I don’t know if you remember the old Three’s Company episode where the girls, for whatever reason, mistook the mother of the girl Jack was dating for the girl herself.  (I know, its was unusual for Three’s Company to have an episode about a misunderstanding).  In any event, Larry got in on the misunderstanding, and for some reason, ended up asking the mother about the fantastic scent she was wearing, only for her to say Bengay!

I used to play (badly) a lot of ball back in my younger days as well, and I used to use the old Rub A535 for my aches and pains. And I still use some heat cream from time to time, but when we were growing up, the product of the time was Mindard’s Liniment.  I remember the older folks using it a lot, and mom would use it on us sometimes when we were achy or had a cold.  She usually kept the bottle on the heater to keep it warm, but I remember it going on cold sometimes and feeling like ice.

There was no hiding when you had it on either, you could smell it from across the house, perhaps across the community! Makes sense I guess when I learned that the main ingredients were camphor and medicinal turpentine.  Just learned today when writing this that it was a product of Nova Scotia too.  To me though it’ll always be linked with things like Nitre, and the old Chase’s Almanac.  And that kinda reminds me of olive oil too, not the cooking variety, but the medicinal.  Perhaps I’ll write about that soon.


Cans and Tins, Oh My!

Saw someone post on Facebook “What do you call these?” in relation to Pepsi, Coke etc.  Of course what they were looking for was Soda, Pop, Soft Drink, etc.  But someone (Jim Pottle) had replied “Cans” – and that brought to mind that we actually never used to call them cans back home when I was small, we called them tins.  And we never called it soda, or pop, we called it drink.

I can remember it well, going to the store and getting a tin of drink.  What kind of drink? Pepsi, of course!  I can only assume we called it tins because the cans were actually made out of tin.  And remember that pull tab? How many broke off, and we’d try to ply it up with a key, or knife. And of course they were as sharp as hell (remember the do not lick the lid on pudding “tins”?).

I’m sure we’ve all likely cut or at least nicked our lips or tongues on them at some point or another.  And I remember the contests, always printed on the bottom of the tin.  We’d have to cut it out with a can opener to turn them in.  I wonder how many sticky can bottoms I’ve carried up to the old drugstore (the one in the old shopping center, on the end, Pizza Delight was there after).

That reminds me of the old old drugstore, by the fork in Clarenville where Marine and Memorial split.  But that’s another story for another day.

Dr. Chase’s Almanac

Nowadays we seem to have the Farmer’s Almanac, and maybe we did when I was a boy too, but what I remember most is the Chase’s Almanac.  Like all of the, full of anecdotes, and bathroom reading material, and planting times etc.

Oh me Nerves!

Oh me Nerves!

But I think what stood out most were the ads.  I’m not sure where the almanac came from, whether we bought it, or if it were delivered door to door, but the ads were for things that no store carried, or at least none that I remember.  The biggest being Dr. Chase’s Nerve Pills.  As my buddy Eric would say, Oh me nerves!

Another thing I remember was that it had a puzzle in the middle.  I guess one crossword a year was enough for most people!  Actually if memory serves the crossword was part of some contest.  Anyone have any pictures or memories of it?

The Wish Book

Wish BookGot the wish book earlier this week, and my how its fallen.  Less than 200 pages and the paper is so cheap feeling.  I remember as a kid we’d get this and pour over it for days, dog earring pages, circling toys and skates, slyly looking at the underwear models….

The bonus was we had two! Not only was there the Sears Wish Book, but we also had the Eaton’s Christmas Catalogue you see above.

Mail order was the thing for a lot of us back then, no big name stores nearby in Clarenville, though of course Cholock’s had their big toy section.  And St. John’s seemed as far away as Toronto does now back in those days.

Chip Away

Chip Away

One thing I remember wanting for ages, and then knowing I had it when I found it hidden in the closet underneath the stairs was a chip away set.  Was these lumps of plastic that came with a mallet and chisel that you were supposed to chip away to get to the statue underneath, and then paint.

Table Hockey Player

Table Hockey Player

The reality was a little different though cause one or two smacks and it all fell away.  Kind of a let down.  I remember other things too from the catalogue; a wood burning set that was kinda fun, let you scorch patterns that were painted onto wood, the old dinkie car tracks, a race track, and of course the ubiquitous table hockey game.  Ours had the replaceable plastic players something like those in the picture here.  And they all had their names and numbers.  Remember there being the old Seals players, and Dave Dryden (Ken’s brother) there as a goalie for Buffalo! We’d jam the puck against the corner of the net, the wind the defenseman up until the spring had too much tension, then whip the puck down the “ice” and half the time down the stairs!  One puck was so worn down, we played that so much!

Back to the catalogues, not only were they good for shopping, but after, some people would fold alternating pages to make an ornament! Of course, I’ve also heard stories that before my time, the pages made a good substitute for toilet paper in the old outhouse.  Might be indicative of how good the items were?

Ah memories! Share your wish book memories too!