The Arcade

I was at Bedford Place Mall yesterday morning, and being an early bird Giant Tiger wasn’t yet open.  This mall is kinda like a wasteland now, other than Giant Tiger and Dollarama, there’s not a ton of businesses, or traffic.  At least I guess not, being the early bird I am, I don’t see it anyway I guess!

But while waiting, I wandered through the mall, and had a look around.  Not going to give you the directory, but there are a couple of interesting shops for card collectors and giftware anyway.  But this, to me at least, was new.  An Arcade!  Self serve by the looks of things, and can even pay by phone now!

It reminded me of years back, going with Mom and Dad to Clarenville to get groceries.  There was an arcade in Dalfens Mall then (it’ll always be Dalfens Mall to me) – owned by Eric Freeborn I believe.  If memory serves, it may have been once upstairs over the Chain Store too? Or was that just the video store owned/run by Scott MacDonald? (I need to write about that too, I nearly bought a Betamax!).

Somehow, it was always dark, and Dad would give me a dollar or two, and I’d run over and play a few games.  We never had much money to spare, so my dollar usually was just 4 games, each game being a quarter each, and used to have to get change from someone on the counter.  I was never very good at most games.  I had some skill with a few, but they were usually not in the arcades long either, with a constant rotation of games coming and going. It didn’t matter much though, I enjoyed watching others play nearly as much as playing myself, and learning how in the process.

I really can’t even remember the games now, I bet Pac Man, Galaga, Defender and Zaxxon were the constants.  I do seem to remember Ms. Pac Man too.

One lasting memory though, was looking at my watch, or the clock, and realizing I said I’d be back to meet Mom and Dad at the CO-OP and that the arcade would be closing,  turning and making for the door in a hurry, only to realize it had already closed when I ran face first into the glass door!

The First Pizza

Growing up back home, pizza was a foreign commodity, we’d heard of it, but there was none around Clarenville at all.  The only pizza we saw were the (I think) chef boyardee pizza kits, with a can of sauce and dough mix that was never big enough to cover the pan and some herbs to throw on, and a little (again i think) parmesan cheese.


It tasted exactly unlike anything pizza was supposed to taste like.  Of course we needed toppings, so seeing as we’d also never seen salami or pepperoni, we used the next best thing….. vienna sausages!  if you’ve never had these wondrous little delicacies, well then don’t.  They are one of the most horrendous products ever made in my opinion, though of course I know many people who love them.  I remember making someone, I think it was Tina Cooper, though that may have been dill pickle chips, throw them out the window of the car when they opened them, saying either the sausages went or they did. The smell is disgusting!  The only way I could manage them at all was to fry them up, not sure how anyone was able to eat the raw…. but I digress.  On those old pizza kits we’d slice these up as our pretend pepperoni, and throw the whole works in the oven.  It of course tasted nothing at all like pizza.

My first real pizza wasn’t eaten till I was 16 or 17, and in St. John’s starting at the College of Trades and Technology.  I decided to try it and went to Mr. Jim’s in Churchill Square, and sat down.  A waiter or waitress came and asked me what I’d like, and having no idea what any of these foreign sounding things were, I ended up with a cheese pizza.  Needless to say, after burning my mouth on melted cheese, and having no toppings, I was a little underwhelmed.

But that was the first real pizza, other than the kits.  I can still see those on the shelf at the CO-OP in my minds eye now!

Time to see the Butche…er I mean Barber!

My Kindergarten School Picture.

My Kindergarten School Picture.

When I was growing up, haircuts weren’t like they are now, or at least not around home. Till I got a little older, most haircuts were done at home with scissors and an old electric clipper.  The only other real option those days wasn’t a salon, it was a barber.

The only barber that I know of back how was Power’s Barber shop in the old Shopping Center back in Clarenville.  Was just over from the CO-OP if I remember correctly, and unfortunately had a big glass window so you were on display and doubly unfortunately was next to the bulletin board so there were always people stopping and though not necessarily looking in, making a self conscious boy feel like they were.

Like many doctors, dentists, butchers, and barbers in those days, gentle was not a word in their vocabulary.  Going to Power’s meant having your head yanked every which way, clippers and scissors wielded by someone who could have been Freddy Kreuger’s Great Uncle.

Later on, a salon opened in back of the old drug store in the same shopping center. Though that was really the “new” drug store.  The old drug store was down near the fork where memorial and marine drives split.  Not far from the old police station.  But that’s another story.

One of the stylists there was Carol-Ann something, she opened her own place in the old Pop Shoppe building later on.  I forget the other ones name, tho I preferred to visit her for as long as she was active and I needed a hair cut.

But for the longest time, we only had Power’s or our own wiles. Usually a professional cut was only done for special occasions when I was really young, though, as you can see by the picture, a professional cut may as well have been a butchers cut as a barbers.  I can’t say that I ever felt Power had any talent for cutting hair.  I remember mom saying he nearly butchered me! Even had my ears nicked and bleeding.

Maybe it was a rite of passage?  I don’t know, but luckily its now past!

Apple Pickin Time

Near the road back home in Apsey Brook, on Uncle Luther’s Land (I guess Carol’s? Meghan’s? now, well thats irrelevant :)) is Dad’s apple tree. Its Dad’s because his grandmother gave it to him, so its a little bit old now.

I’ve not had an apple from it since I moved here I don’t think, but my mouth waters now just remembering them.  Around this time of year, probably a little later if you liked them ripe, was time to start picking the apples.  I preferred them a little unripe, and still green, they tasted pretty much like Granny Smith‘s then.  Later when they got yellower and some frost got into them, they got a little mushier, and more like a Golden Delicious, not my favorite.  And in general not most others either, as the old folks would say they were only fit for apple sauce and pie then.

The tree brings back a lot of memories too.  I remember taking a book from the bookmobile  and laying back on the big branches reading for hours on end while leisurely eating apples.  I also remember hundreds of friends and strangers coming to the door looking to buy a bag.  Some years there were soooo many it seemed there was no end.  Others there were less, but usually there were tons.

I remember one year, I sooooo wanted a pair of $200 hiking boots from Roses Plumbing in Clarenville (yeah, shoes, at a plumbing store… ).  I sold enough apples a two dollars a CO-OP bag (our major supermarket) bag full to buy those boots.  And those weren’t like today’s bags, there were soooo many apples stuffed in them!  Plus on top of that we gave plenty away to friends and family and had more than enough for ourselves. Shame of it all is Mom accidentally threw those boots away a year or so later!

Of course everyone made pies, and apple sauce, and baked apples for dessert.  But my favorite was to eat them raw, or to have moms green apple and green tomato pickles (like a chow chow for the non-newfoundlanders). I love those things so much, don’t want a lot, but it adds such a taste to the traditional Sunday supper cold plate.

Of course there are other memories too.  The tree was near a huge bed of wild roses.  Those things smell terrific but there’s no way to control them.  We’d try to trim them back and keep them somewhat under control, but they also did help provide a barrier to the thieves.  Yes, crime was rampant back in those days, and likely still today.  At least the crime of young people robbing apple trees, its a rite of passage!  Even with my own tree, I’ve participated in this rite.  Something we all did.  In earlier times, you could get an ass load of salt for your troubles.  Some of the older folks would make their own shotgun shells filled with coarse fisherman’s salt and shoot those heinous robbers.

I never did it often, nor got caught (at least that I remember) but I did scare quite a few people out of our tree.  The one time I remember best was when Dad and I scared Jason Bailey out of the tree, and he jumped…. right into the rose bushes.  I can still see dad now, bent double from laughing so hard as Jason was scratched to pieces in those old trees.  I don’t know if he ever came back to steal some again, but I am pretty sure he still remembers that night!

Going to Work with Dad

Dad at Work

Dad at Work

From the time I was born till he retired, Dad worked at the department of highways as a clerk.  Now a clerk for the department of highways may be an office job, but the offices them selves were usually one room buildings attached to bunk houses the department had set up in various working areas around the province.  Sometimes, when I was young dad may have stayed at these locations overnight or worked later than is the norm now.  One of the curiosities I remember was dad calling home on the old mobile phones and having to say over after we finished speaking.

As a kid one of the great things about Dad’s work, was that in summer time I could actually go spend the day at his work site, in many of the locations.  When I was a small boy, he worked out of Shoal Harbour Pit, a pipe yard for making concrete ditch pipes.  The old pit is gone now, but it was located where the ball field is now.  I can’t really remember much about this location except the little white shack dad worked in.

For another summer at least he worked out of a similar camp in Robinson’s Bight, not where the community is now (there wasn’t one there then) but closer to lady cove, in an old gravel pit by a brook.  As a kid I spent days there with him, playing around the area, catching trout in ice cream tubs, catching water skippers (I hadn’t remembered water skippers in years till I started writing this!), and of course sharing lunch from dad’s seemingly huge lunch can.

Mostly though, i remember dad working at the salt shed in Clarenville, first in the old style camps, and the later, as seen in the picture a better building, still with an attached kitchen and bunk house.  As a kid I’d go to work with dad, and sometimes spend the day, exploring the yard, playing with the glass beads they used to add to paint for road lines, marveling at all the salt in the salt shed, making castles out of the sand blasting sand, and of course playing poker with the adults at lunch time :).

Other days tho, I got a kid’s delight, heading out on the old float (flat bed) with Ches Baggs, or on a dump truck with someone, perhaps Ted Ryan, I forget who did what now, or hanging out with Paddy Mitchell, though I complete forget what he did.  Also trips on the grader, bulldozer, and god knows what else anymore; all in all a young boys delight.

So many characters were there too, with their many accents and mannerisms, and so much shared food and fun.  Of course nowadays, you’d never get away with such things, nor would you likely trust your child to be gone for the whole day with a lunch can on heavy equipment with co-workers you really only knew from work.  But it was a more trusting time, and a smaller world.  And I was lucky to have got to spend so many wonderful days with such patient men who took a young scrawny kid and spent the day with him, as well as spending wonderful days with my dad.

The Cable Trail

2013-02-07 15.54.59Back in 1955, the trans-atlantic telephone cable came ashore in Clarenville.  I’m not sure if the old cable station is still there on Cormack Drive or not, or if the cable is still used anymore, but I have to imagine it was a big event back in the day.

What many don’t know though is that the cable, or another related one actually cross Random Island between Snook’s Harbour and Elliott’s Cove and coincidentally (or not) near the brickyards in each, and the trail can still be seen reasonably clearly even now, and it is even more obvious from the satellite images on Google.

I’ve always meant to walk across the trail from one side of the island to the other, but never ever did get to it.  It was quite a wide path last time I was there, though there’s a good chance its torn up by atv’s and skidders now.

I don’t know if anyone reading this is old enough to remember the cable being laid, but if so would love to hear from you, its an interesting part of the history of the island that few know, or now, even know of!

One last link about it, and some other local history.

Clarenville Day

Its been too damn hot to sit in front of the computer and write anything lately.  Thankfully its cooled down a bit the last couple days.  I saw a note on The Packet twitter feed about Clarenville Days, and of course it reminded me about the old Clarenville Day from years back.

I really recall less than I should, but I do believe, like Regatta Day, it was held on a Wednesday rather than making a long weekend of it.  I’m not sure I ever understood that logic, but hey!  Of course, I may be mis-remembering….

I was never a big participator, nor had a lot of interest, I think my dislike of crowds started early, but there are some good memories for sure.  Memories of fries in the grey cardboard box from the old stadium canteen.  Custard cones at Nikki’s Nook, Fish and Brewis from somewhere! And of course moose burgers!  I could eat about a million of those.

The big attraction of course for many were the dory races.  I remember being down by Jack Duffett’s bar  (does Jacks still exist?), or up on his patio watching them.  I don’t have any recollection of knowing who rowed in any of these races, but I can clearly remember the dories, painted bright colors, with the old names on them like Handy Andy and Chain Store.

While I never got overly involved, I think the biggest fun for me was to spend a day with Dad, a non working day for him while I was a boy home from school for the summer.

MMmm those Wedgies!

Seems a lot of my posts talk about food, but its really an integral part of rural Newfoundland life.  A meal was more than an opportunity to fill your belly, it was a social family event.  And no visit was complete till you had a “cup of tea” which meant, tea, cake, cookies, jam, crackers, etc, etc.

When we were younger, take out food was both rare and a treat, and there weren’t a whole lot of restaurants nearby.  We’d go to Greening’s down across the neck sometimes, but that was quite the jaunt, and of course the Irving as well, but there weren’t a lot of take out type places, and fried chicken was really a little unusual.  That was remedied somewhat by Reddi Chef.  I can’t remember if it came to town in my early childhood, or was there before, but I think the former.  I guess it was a franchise, because I remember visiting another in Burin, and they had a fish burger called the Big Eric.  But to me Reddi Chef will always be about wedgies and will always be down the road from Mercer’s, on the corner of Bourne Place (I think).

All I remember was the little hole in the wall take out selling chicken and, and this is the big AND, and wedgies.  Oh my god! Nowadays you can get wedgies and taters everywhere, but back then, well these were unusual, and while their batter was I think mainly pepper, I will never forget how good they tasted!  Reddi Chef came and went a couple times over the years I think, and other take outs in the same building made it seem like it was always Reddi Chef.  I believe Carpenters had a store there in the same building, and perhaps had the takeout too, before they moved up to the new store on Memorial Drive.

Lots of memories there for sure, and another part of growing up back home.


Handy Andy Entertainment Store

Handy Andy Associate store was located on Marine Drive in Clarenville, and sold camping and fishing gear, bikes, and automotive parts.  But I think the biggest draw there was entertainment.

It was always a favorite spot to go to look at new fishing rods and reels, as well as tackle.  I believe Eric Cooper and I bought our first Williams spinners there, and boy were they awesome, I still think they were the best spinner ever made, even better than the traditional red devil!

And I can’t count how many headlights I had to buy there for that old Chevette that used to burn through them like crazy.  Brake pads, and lots of other standard auto parts were always on hand.  A couple racks of bikes would greet you when you walked in, and all the accessories, pumps, tubes, tires.  And camping gear nearby, tents, sleeping bags, the works.  It was a small store, but seemed to have everything you could ever want for outdoors.  I think there was even a rack of comics over to one side!

But going in there wasn’t just about shopping, I’m not really sure who owned the place, whether it was Laurel and Hardy, or not.  But Stan (Fleming) and Dennis (Strong) were the two major personalities in there, and always made your trip, even if you were just browsing, entertaining.  Stan was pretty quiet, but every so often, he’d let out a quip that would leave you in tears, whereas Dennis was outgoing, friendly, and funny as hell, and could always make you laugh and at ease.

The store closed up years ago now, but will live on for me forever as one my favorite memories of Clarenville, and one that helped me get a love of camping and fishing to this day.  Not sure if Stan and Dennis are still with us, but they too will in some ways be with me always.  Fond memories.

Nikki’s Nook

One of the treats of going to Clarenville when I was a boy was a trip to Nikki’s Nook.  Its possible my early memories have combined several places into one, but if memory serves. Nikki’s Nook started out down by the old railway station, not far from Duffett’s, Stanley’s and an old favorite for another post, Western Tire.  I don’t remember much about it, other than we could get that old Newfoundland take-out staple, french fries (or as we all called them then, chips) in a grey cardboard package, and eaten with a toothpick.  Of course we had to drench them in malt vinegar too, and not the weak stuff you get now, but the dark stuff that could take your breath away at 10 paces.

The other main treat there, and my first memory of ever having it, was a custard cone, or as it’s been named nowadays, soft serve.  It was soooo good, and soooo new to us back then, I remember people would be lining up for them. And then later you could get them chocolate dipped, and as a kid I was in heaven.  Kinda reminds me, back then you could also buy ice milk at the grocery store, which tasted similar, but haven’t seen in years.

Nikki’s Nook moved at least once, and I think maybe more.  I seem to remember it moving down Marine Drive to a little building near where the Lethbridges lived.  This may be a memory of another take out though, I’m not sure.  Later on they moved up near the stadium on the shopping center parking lot in another small building, and that became probably the most popular spot.  We’d come out from events at the stadium and get a custard cone.  I can remember it most especially on Clarenville Day (another topic for another day).

Eventually the owners built a new modern building closer to the old Scotiabank, but still within the shopping center parking lot, and opened a full scale sit down restaurant.  I’m not sure if the overhead was too much, or what happened, but eventually this closed down, and if memory serves, George’s Pub opened in the same building.

I’m not sure what, or if, anything remains there now, but god I’d love some chips in cardboard box and a custard cone!