Radio Phone – Over

A short post tonight, but was somehow reminded of Radio Telephones today.  I can’t say I have much memory or experience with them, but there was a time when I was a small boy that for some reason dad was away for work.  Somehow I think it was only over around Clifton, but though that seems close, it is quite a jaunt, especially back in those days on gravel roads, and it quite likely was in winter.

rotary_1I am pretty sure it was winter cause my memory is pretty vivid of talking to him on our old white rotary dial phone, and it being dark outside.  I was pretty small, and was never a late night kid (some things never change).

What was kinda cool, or not cool about those phones was that you could talk, or listen, but not both at the same time (half-duplex vs. full-duplex), so the people on the phone had to take turns.  When you were done speaking, you’d say “over” so the other person knew you were done and then they could speak.

Small memory, but another small one with dad; I remember that holding that big old receiver and talking to him and saying “over”.

First Job

Elliott`s Cove Ball Park

Lion’s Ball Park

Last night, I saw John Cleese here in Halifax.  And that reminded me, in a round about way, of my first job.

In the summer of 1982, the year I graduated high school (last graduating Grade 11 class before grade 12 was introduced) the Random Lions Club got a grant to develop a park at Elliott’s Cove Pond.  They proceeded to have a summer job program for some students, and one supervisor.

I put my name on the list which if I remember correctly was by filling out a form at manpower, and was lucky enough to get chosen.  After all these years I forget who else worked there that summer, but I do remember Merril Rogers was our supervisor/co-worker, and that both Rob and Derek Burt worked there as well.

At the time, where the park is now was nothing but woods, we worked hard that summer, clearing land with chain saws, sometimes in oilskins in the pouring rain.  Wheeling wheelbarrow loads of crushed stone to make paths, chopping up roots, hauling stumps, making bridges, etc.  But by the time the summer was over, a lot of the core park area was ready to be developed more.

One regret that I have is that from my first paycheque, which Dad cashed for me at the bank while I was working, he got me a silver dollar to have as a keepsake from it.  I had it for many many years, until my move to Nova Scotia where at some point it was forgotten or mislaid.  Hoping sometime I can find it.

How does John Cleese enter into this? Well one of my most vivid memories of the summer was myself and Rob Burt, on the beach near the brook, reciting scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail as we ate our lunch.

Hard work, and still a lot of fun.  And we started a park that while maybe nothing spectacular has had lots and lots of use since, and am proud.

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.

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.

Happy Father’s Day

This was tough to write…

Dad was a bear of a man, him, Uncle Hay and Uncle Lindo all were. Possibly uncle Herven and Lawrence too, but they lived away for most of my memory. (Well St. John’s is not so far away in Uncle Lawrence’s case, but what I mean was I never saw them in their Random Island living days). By bear I mean they were strong as bears, I remember stories told to me by third parties of feats of strength by both Uncle Hay and Dad. I’m sure they probably got exaggerated over the years, but I know from my own memory they were strong as hell.

But they grew up in a time of manual labour, working in the lumber woods, cutting cords of wood a day with a bucksaw.  Living away for months in rough camps to earn a living.  And then coming back to work the land and sea for their own food, as well as maintain their own houses.  Everyone was a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician.

But as strong as Dad was, he was a gentle soul, with a huge soft spot.  I remember when squirrels were new to Newfoundland, Dad had found one injured and brought it home to care for it.  He was also the devil incarnate at times, mischievous as all get out, and quick with a quip.  He taught us pride and humility, respect, and most of all love and joy.

Dad was taken in 1998, and while I can’t claim to be very religious, I do feel him, hear him, and most of all see him in the eyes and love of my little niece.  He would have doted on her just like he doted on my sister.  She’d be Poppy’s girl for sure.  Of course I can’t say I’m immune to that doting either.  And there is no jealousy in what I say of my sister, I doted on her too, and still do.

Dad was loved by many, known by more than seems possible, and missed terribly by us.  The memories are great ones, and will cherish them.  Miss you Dad, I see you now in my minds eye in by Fox Pond when I towed you in there on the ATV. We spoke then that it was likely your last time, and last trip, gout having made getting around difficult. We had many good times before and after that, but that was a special day to me, we shared a quiet time, words weren’t necessary.

Happy Father’s Day everyone.

When the Horses Ran Free

I guess it was a simpler time, and a simpler place.  Growing up in the 70’s in a town with a population of 65, and nearest large town about 20 minutes away, and that only having a population of a couple thousand, things were quieter.  You didn’t lock your doors, you often left your key in the car.  If you visited someone you almost always did, so that people could move them as necessary, or just take the most outside one.

A lot of people kept some sort of livestock, and a lot more kept a work horse, though for many, and my dad for sure, as much a pet as a work animal.  In those days you kept your horses and livestock on your land in winter, available for use, and often let them roam free in summer.

Seeing a group of horses walking down the road as they roamed the island over the summer was a common thing, and we often knew which to avoid as there were always a few saucy ones.  It was also not so uncommon to accidentally step in some stinky sheep manure, especially in patches of grass where you couldn’t see it.  Sheep were especially annoying as if they saw a fence, they just had to try and get behind it, and of course, when they did, not being the brightest of animals, were nearly incapable of finding the open gate when you tried to herd them out.

Horse manure wasn’t as bad, being quite a bit larger.  I can often remember in winter we’d use a frozen road apple as a hockey puck in our games of hockey.  Dad had a horse, and I guess the name he gave her, Pet, showed that he thought as much of her as pet as a work animal.  She had some Smith traits too.  Stubborn for one, she could not pass one water hole when pulling wood in winter without getting a drink, no matter how often she had passed it, and no amount of coaxing got her to go till she was ready.

Pet was large for a horse back home too, larger than most of the others.  I really have no idea if she was a Newfoundland pony or not, but was larger than most of the males.  I assume this is why she never had a foal till she was very nearly 20 years old, nearly ancient for a horses, or at least those I knew.  But this one summer, we had heard someone say she had one.  We tracked down the herd near the brickyard near Snook’s Harbour, and sure enough there was a little black foal with her.  We named him Frisky as he was a handful.  We eventually sold or gave him away, he didn’t have the best of temperaments to my memory. But still the sight of a herd of horses, roaming free for the summer, stopping traffic on times, was a memory of growing up that I’ll always cherish.

The Birthday Party

My little niece can’t seem to catch a break this year, going from pneumonia, to now a flu, or possible food poisoning, yet through it all, she’s a chipper little girl, who takes more responsibility and shows more maturity than most. My niece being sick brought this story to mind.

In 1970, I began my edumacation at Balbo Elementary in Shoal Harbour, and I was a sickly child, tiny, pale, undersized (I was 4’2″ at the start of Grade 8, for reference, my niece is that now in Grade 1). Dr. O’Mahony used to say to mom, some puny isn’t he? Many days were spent in Neta Pelly’s trailor (seen in the picture just past the school), my kindergarten teacher, while waiting for Dad to come get me.    The school was this huge or at least huge to me building full of stairs, rooms, and hallways and the usual school things.

I don’t remember a huge amount about it other than Hughie Reid and I playing on the stairs, and chasing Sharon Adams around (who I wouldn’t know today if she bit me, though I hope she doesn’t). My best friends back then were Danny Moodie (Moody?) and Gregory Steele, both of whom I also hope don’t bite me.

I was neither responsible nor mature when I was 6 or 7, (well probably not mature even now), and this lack of responsibility is at the heart of this story.  Gregory Steele invited me to his birthday party in Grade 2, which would have made me 7 at the time.  Somehow I forgot to admit this fact to my parents, or to get a gift, or to do anything one normally does for a party.  Likely I forgot all of the above, but I do remember clearly Gregory asking me the day of if I was coming.  I responded that I had no gift and so couldn’t come.  He replied that didn’t matter and that he wanted me to come anyway.

Well with that, I was off.  After school I made my way to his place (I don’t remember how) and enjoyed cake and games. My brother, who usually met me at the bus in the evenings didn’t think much of me not being there as I often was sick as noted, and Dad came and got me.

Balbo Elementary (shared on facebook, if this is yours, let me know and will credit)

Balbo Elementary (shared on facebook, if this is yours, let me know and will credit)

The party was located somewhere back up in Shoal Harbour, closer to home than the school, near where Bruce’s Marine is, or was.  Once I was done with the party, I decided it was time to leave, and with no more thought than that, I left, and started walking to where Dad worked.  Dad was working with the Department of Highways as a clerk at Shoal Harbour pit, a location where they used to make concrete pipes, and located approximately where the Shoal Harbour Softball field is now.

So I, a puny little runt, proceeded to walk, at age 7, the approximately 2 miles to Dad’s work.  I couldn’t have stayed at the party too long, because just Mom found out I wasn’t with my brother, (the bus ride took perhaps an hour or more), and called Dad in a panic, and Dad got up to leave to come look for me, there he sees me strolling into the pipe yard as unconcerned about my absence as if it was a normal thing to do.

I really don’t recall if I was punished, or if they were too relieved to even think of that, but I’m sure I did get a yelling at least.  In any event, I guess I grew out of my sickliness, even if I didn’t mature.  Its ok, makes me one more big toy for my niece to play with.  Get better soon sweetie.

When fish were big and boys were small

One of the staple things we had growing up was fresh, frozen and salted cod.  Here in Nova Scotia haddock reigns supreme, but nothing to me beats the taste of a fresh out of the water cod.  Generally the casual fisher back home used a hand line with a traditional or Norwegian jigger. We’d lower the line overboard till it hit bottom and then pull up a fathom or two and start jigging back and forth till we hit a fish, then we’d pull it up and into the boat to be immediately cleaned.

I can still remember the feeling when you hit a big one, or as dad called them, a growler. You’d be jigging the line back and forth and then suddenly you’d bring up solid.  Sometimes they were so hard to pull in.  And if you happened to hook a mackerel  well, then your line was on times tight and then loose as they’d swim madly like a fly fish.

And of course in the days before nylon line, we’d have the older cord, everyone had notches in the gunnels of their boats where the line wore into the wood.

This one year, for whatever reason, dad decided to try a trawl.  Essentially it was a line with 50 smaller lines attached, with baited hooks on each.  We set it out near our marks somewhere and came back a day or two later.  Well we were pulling it in and caught a few fish, and then… it appeared.  As you can see on the left, the fish was bigger than me!  This was probably about 1974 or 75 I think, I’m pretty sure it was before my sister was born, making me 9 or 10 in this picture.  The cod weighed in at 65 pounds!

We cleaned it and tried to salt it, unfortunately it was so thick it didn’t take well, or we didn’t leave it long enough, and some spoiled, but we still got quite a few meals!