Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Was visiting Mom yesterday at the nursing home for Christmas, and for whatever reason, we were talking about buttons. And that reminded me of the old “button can”.

I know we weren’t the only one with one, but ours was an old biscuit tin, battered and faded and worn from likely decades of handling, similar to, yet totally unlike this pristine one here.

I can’t remember where it was when our old pantry was actually used as a pantry, rather than a porch/entry way, but perhaps it was the same place.  We had a narrow opening in there, with small shelves, and hooks for brooms and mops, known, oddly enough, as the broom closet! Those were kept “clicked” in these kinds of holders. We kept the can on one of the shelves in there.

Everytime there were extra buttons on anything, or one was found I guess, it went into the button can, and many a time when one of dad’s shirts for works went missing one, it was pulled out to look for one that was a match, or at least similar.

And not only shirt buttons, but also coat buttons, with their different backing.

What was very surprising, at least in my memory now, is how often we actually found a match!

Not a very Christmasy post, but was what was brought to mind yesterday.  Merry Christmas everyone!

The Strange Case of Ralph’s Car

Not written in a bit, just because its not often a story comes to mind I’ve not already written! Probably cause I’m gettin’ old and just keep repeating myself. 😛

Anyway, was thinking about old times today, and for some reason, the strange case of Ralph’s car come to mind.  Now I’ll preface this by saying I really can’t remember if this is true, or if its me remembering a dream or something as true, but in any event, it SEEMS like it was true to me.

Back in the early 70’s, Ralph Smith used to have this big old car, well what car’s weren’t huge back then.  I remember Dad got a Chevy Nova in 72, and people thought it was tiny with its little 6 cylinder engine, but I digress. I believe Ralph’s was an Olds 88 or 98. something like the model on in this picture.  Seem to remember it was white with a green roof, but not sure.

f0258ed5fbec449322206f533c0c3783This car had some peculiar wiring issues in my memory.  Most are probably too young to recall, but back in olden times, we used to have these old car radios with analog tuners, and buttons you’d pull out then push in to set the channel.  AM radio of course, that’s all we had in those days, even if the radio could receive FM. On another topic for another day, who remembers scanning the dials late at night looking for skips? Remember getting all kinds of weird things like that, but I digress again. In any event, these old cars had an auxiliary option where you could turn the key backwards to listen to the radio, or use the wipers and a couple other options.

I seem to remember hearing about the weirdness of Ralph’s car, but then one day I saw it (or dreampt it, who knows, twas 40 years ago!).  We used to have a little store back home in Apsey Brook back then, well we didn’t was a small co-op of people that had it actually, but we were operating it.  Which meant going out to it with customers when they’d come looking not spending the day out there.  In any event, I remember Ralph coming over one day, and the car being parked outside on the side of the road.  Seem to recall me and Keith and Lorne being aboard with the radio on, and with the weird wiring…turning on the emergency signals, and then touching the brake, and the car would start!

Drop me a line with your old memories, or write me a post to add here, love hearing and relaying the old memories of home.

Spring is Sprung, the cucumbers is riz?

Spring is sprung
the grass is riz,
I wonder where the bluebirds is?

An old rhyme that I’m sure most have heard before, but coupled with memories the other day of double daylight savings time, I was reminded of another of our illustrious former premier Peckford’s achievements, the Sprung Greenhouse! I won’t doubt his ambition, even if the results were less than hoped, but these two items are all I really remember of his reign.

And really who could forget the crops of English Cukes filling up the produce section at the CO-OP? Or the glow emanating like an alien space ship whenever you glanced towards Mount Pearl?  Well I guess most of us did, as it really was an unmitigated disaster, costing tax-payers a fortune, and failing to produce to quota.

I’m sure the 22 minutes bunch, or codco, or whatever there may have been back then would have (or did) have a field day (well maybe not a field, it was a greenhouse after all). An expensive lesson for Newfoundland, but one we can look back on and laugh at.




The Seal

So Pam Anderson was back home yesterday, offering money for people to stop sealing.  People seem to fail to understand that the seal hunt isn’t clubbing babies anymore.  Its as humane as any hunt can be, and more so than any slaughterhouse.  Yes seal furs are used for clothing, but so is cow leather.  Seals are over populated and threatening fish populations, noone mentions that. Nor that they provide a source of food.

But anyway, this isn’t a political blog (and I’m not going to allow hate filled comments here either), its memories.

Seals weren’t that common back home, at least not right up in the sound, but they weren’t that uncommon either.  And anyone who’s seen a big old harp up close, snarling and trying to get at you isn’t going to say they are very cute either.  But they are some damn good eating!

Once many years ago, Eric and, I believe, Cory Avery encountered one on the beach in winter in just such conditions.  Perhaps they were looking for it, I forget, but I believe one of them had a license and they managed to kill it.  Once they did that though I think they were stumped as to what to do next.  None of us were squeamish about cleaning things, and that was done pretty promptly, but they really had no idea how best to cut or process it.

If I remember correctly they came to Dad, and he gave them some advice. I’m not sure how much Eric and Cory ate, if any, but I know Dad and I had a few good meals from it.  I love the taste of seal, reminds me a great deal of the taste of turr, but if it gets any blubber on it during the cooking it can ruin it.  I think this is why a lot of people don’t care for it.

Dad had some trick of soaking it in water and baking soda though, and that somehow made the blubber crystallize, and it could be separated easily. But the biggest memory was  that Eric and I used Dad’s old band saw to slice the frozen meat.  If you didn’t like seal before that I’m sure you wouldn’t after.  Seal sawdust has quite a pungent smell!


Oh that Dogberry Wine

In rural Newfoundland, store bought anything in earlier days was rare. People fended for themselves, and their neighbours, and as I’ve mentioned before, trades of things were common.

Store bought alcohol was as well rarer than now.  People made their own home brewed beer with their own recipes, not the kits like we used. I remember even hearing of potatoes and raisins in the mix.  Lemon Gin was popular, though it may or may not have had any lemons or juniper berries for that matter though they do grow back home.  Wine was also common, usually from blueberries which are plentiful.  I’ve heard some made some from apples and other berries as well. And I’ve even heard tell of people making dandelion wine, though I can’t say its something I’d ever want to experience.

But the granddaddy of them all had to be dogberry wine.  Dogberries are plentiful most falls back home, people would often use them as a portent of winter.  More berries meant a longer winter. Being so plentiful, people used them as another source for wine, and one year Eric and I decided we had to try it.

Finding a recipe for it from either mom, or a book, I forget, we followed it, and fermented the berries into wine and bottled it into, whatever bottles we had on hand.  And of course we tried some.

Well lets just say the results were less than spectacular in the way paint thinner is a little unlike champagne. It has to be pretty bad when we couldn’t even manage to drink any of it.  Other than a taste here and there to remind ourselves how bad it was.

That said though, we did manage to get rid of it.  To this day I’ll never understand how he could drink it, but one day Eric, Junior and I (and likely more) planned to meet and head off ice fishing and atv/skidooing.  I remember we went to round pond and L pond, and on the path between them there was an old one room cabin.  We went in there and lit a fire, warmed ourselves for a while, and had a drink, and watched and laughed as Junior was somehow able to manage to drink a whole bottle of the stuff.  As for me, I’d rather have drunk a bottle of varsol!

Good times with good friends.  Those are the things we miss most.


For anyone foolhardy enough, here’s a recipe from Downhome Recipes:
Dogberry Wine (Beverages)
• 2 quarts dogberries
• 1 doz. apples
• 4 quarts water
• 8 cups sugar
• Yeast
Cook berries and apples in water. Strain. Add sugar in a large crock. When lukewarm, add 1 pkg.
yeast. Store in a warm place until all bubbles have gone. Strain again and bottle.

If you can’t steal from your friends…

The winter and spring before I moved to Nova Scotia was the first and only time I drew EI. I had left the hotel/accounting business and was looking for something different, and eventually decided to go back to school, and then, then and then…. well that’s a whole long time ago, and a different story.

While I was off, I was lucky to get to spend a lot of time with a good group of friends from back home on Random Island.  Eric, Derek, Lorrie, Julie, Corey, Barry, Bernard, Jim, Trina, and I’m sure I missed someone.  Don’t feel insulted, I’m old and forgetful 🙂

We spent many a day ice fishing, trouting, barbecuing, playing cards and up to general no good.  One of our up to no good plans started before that year, and was a staple pastime of Eric and I for quite a while.  And that, as the picture indicates, was making home brew.

Everyone told us we were nuts, because it wasn’t fit to drink, and I’ll admit some of the brews (John Bull) out there that people used weren’t.  But Eric and I read up, visited the brew shop, asked questions and decided to try Coopers Lager.  We took our time, followed instructions, bought some gear, racked the brew, let it settle, re-racked it.  Bottled it, let it sit…. and when we were done, well we had something that tasted very like Canadian Lite.  Say what you will about that, it was a popular beer back then, and for a home brew we were pretty happy.  I remember Randy being especially skeptical, but he enjoyed it when he tasted it.

Hmm, off topic here, I wonder whatever became of the home brew Rod Smith put away for years and years in his basement, will have to ask him….

Over time we tried more varieties, ales, stouts, and some were good, some less so, but for a while, we always had about 15 dozen beer on hand in my basement.  Like all Newfoundlanders, when a case of beer is open, you offer your friends one, and we shared the home brew as well.

But sharing has its limits! One night, as I was nearly asleep in my room, one friend, who shall remain nameless (cough Lorrie), with some gentle persuasion, (she didn’t need much) from someone else (Eric) walked into the basement, bold as you like, and made off with some home brew!

What a bunch of crooks I have for friends!


I’m no poet, but for what its worth, this came to me last night.  Hope you like it.

Partridgeberry jam by the spoonful from the jam dish: You can taste it.
Wood smoke drifts from chimneys in the frosty morn : you can smell it.
Dew kissed fence palings on your path : you can feel it.
Vapor rising from the glass like sound : you can see it.
An echoing put put from down the arm : you can hear it

Home, it fills up your senses, never to be forgotten.

… Me …

I will Remember

As a boy, I used to sell poppies door to door for Uncle Eph (Eaphraim) Cooper.  Well I guess it was for the Legion, of which he was a member, but I always called it for him.

As such I learned what they were all about, and gained a great deal of pride in my Newfoundland and family heritage, learning about such things as the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, Vimy Ridge etc.

Uncle Eph was a veteran of WWI, and I will always remember what he and his companions did and scarified for us, and I will always wear the poppy.

I have no objection to those who want to protest war, my wearing of the poppy doesn’t signify a glorification of war.  I do believe sometimes wars are necessary, or have been. Sometimes freedom IS at stake.  And for those who are free to protest war, think about what your freedom cost.

Do I believe some of the actions or government takes now are for freedom? No, I do believe many are for profit.  And to me that’s just another sign of the deterioration of our so called democracy, not a reflection on our soldiers.

Remember those who are lost, those who didn’t come home, those who sacrificed all.  Remember that we are free, free to argue, free to not wear a badge, a number, free from incarceration without cause.

“Blind faith in your leaders, or in anything,
will get you killed.”

Bruce Springsteen.

Don’t take our freedom for granted.  Honor those who have fallen, but remember what they fought for, and lets make sure we don’t lose it from the inside.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam

One of the most poignant remembrance day images comes from the comedy show Black Adder.  Have a watch.  Probably the toughest TV scene I’ve ever watched, if you can make it through without tears, well you’re doing better than me.

Why’d You Play the Left Bower There??!

I’ve never played Bridge, and don’t know the rules or at least not totally, but back home in Newfoundland, we had a similar game called 500’s, the objective of which is to get 500 points, duh!

The game is deceptively simple to play, but can take years to master.  There’s a lot of strategy involved, and many arguments have been had between partners about playing the wrong card at the wrong time.  The joker is highest card, followed by the right and left bower (right is the jack of your suit, left is jack of the same color suit), followed by Ace, King etc.  The deck has some cards removed, I can’t remember for sure, but I think the deuces and 3’s are taken out.  Hands are dealt 10 cards per person, with a 5 card kitty that the winning bidder gets to choose from.  Suits as well are ranked from Spades, Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts and No Trump.  (At least I think that’s the order).  The lowest possible bid is 6 Spades, meaning spades would be trumps, and you win your points if you win 6 tricks.  The highest bid would be slam no-trumps.

Its a great social game, lots of fun, and people play and play for hours, and some keep lifetime tally’s of playing with the same partner.  Some great memories of playing 500’s around a coleman lantern in a cabin with a glass of rum, or beer, and a roast of moose in the oven.  Ahh good times.

Someday I hope I get in a game again, until then, may all your kiitys be full, your bowers be played correctly, and no-one cut you off with the joker!

Fish n Brewis

Purity Hard and Sweet Bread

I guess every culture/region has some of its own “weird” foods, and Newfoundland is no exception.  I guess being reliant so much on fish as a locale (and by fish I mean cod, to Newfoundlanders any other fish has a name), we came up with or borrowed many unique methods of preparation.  One of these is Fish n Brewis. The link provided is wrong in my opinion though.  It says that fish n brewis uses salt cod and fisherman’s brewis uses fresh.  I’ve always known it to be the opposite; we always use fresh, and I personally don’t care for the salt fish variety.

Even in the fresh there are different methods of serving, but first… what is it?  Well its basically hard tack (hard bread) soaked in water to soften, and boiled fish.  Sound appetizing right?  Well it is delicious! Even better when served with rendered pork fat and scruncheons drizzled over it!  Some people prefer to keep the bread and fish separate, I’ve actually never tried it that way, I prefer it mashed together, drizzled with pork, and blackened with pepper, mmmmm.

Some people serve it with drawn or drawing butter, another thing I’ve never been fond of, though all it is is butter, onion and flour thickened as a sauce.

I’m not really sure the origin of fish and brewis, but I like to think its probably from the offshore fishery or navy, where non-perishable foods like hard tack were prominent, and cooks needed to improvise meals as best they can.

In any event, today’s supper was a memory of home.  Hope you get to enjoy some soon!