Rural Newfoundland

Reflections

This post is probably for me more than anyone, but feel free to read, or skip….

 

I don’t remember the exact date anymore, but sometime around the 26th of this month, it will be 22 years since I got in the old Corsica with Keith and came to Halifax for a 9 month course.  Mom and Dad followed to spend the winter up here too, and my sister, Annette, was already here; the main reason Mom and Dad came up.

Well Dad lasted 2 winters, passing in March 1998, but maybe his happiest years in a way too, spending them with the little girl he doted on.  I’m moving into my 23rd winter now I guess.  Funny how things work out, had no expectation I’d ever be here beyond my course.

I finished the course in July 97, and had a job starting the Monday (or Tuesday, I forget) after I finished, in Gander.  Packed up the old Corsica again and moved there from July to January 98.  At that time the school I had gone to offered me a job and the option of being close to Mom and Dad, and really having enjoyed my experience there, I moved back to Halifax.  Again, never really thinking about staying.

Apsey Brook from across the sound.

Well 22 years has come and nearly gone, a house mortgaged, brown hair (what hair? Hayley will ask) changed to gray, red beard changed to white.  And I guess somewhere along the line Halifax (technically Bedford) became home, even if I will always call Random Island home. When you look at it, I’ve only been here nine less years than there.

Not even gotten back much lately, but, and I guess this is where this comes from, I did go “home” in September for a week. It was kind of a good bye trip I think, and while I may very well go back again, maybe sooner, since Eric is so generous with a place to stay, it was still kind of a farewell tour.

Friggin’s Cove Pond

I got to visit old haunts, re-live memories, visit Dad both at his gravesite and in my memories at places like Friggin’s Cove Pond.

When you move, in your mind the people and things you’ve left behind don’t change. I had such thoughts – Walking from the old mill site across “the land” to McGrath’s Cove, walking down and seeing the old root cellars, other little things that no one but me would get, like 2 huge ant hills on the path from Uncle Hay’s to Colin’s.  It was all gardens in my memory.  The “paths” were often used by trucks back then, the gates big enough for horse and slide and vehicles.  Well without a machete, or perhaps a chain saw, that’s not happening anymore.  What were roads and paths are forest.

Gull (Sapphire) Rock

I went to the rattle (Friggins Cove Rattle that is) though it was dry, walked on “The Level” and Granny Walters hill. The sea arch at Phillip’s Point, Gull (or Sapphire to the older generation, though not sure what generation I am! Aside: Why did we kids call it Gull Rock I wonder?) Rock, saw the “black rocks” fishing mark. Saw an Apsey Brook sunset.  Visited all the communities; went across the neck, out to southwest arm, the brickyard, I can’t even remember it all already.

I loved it, always will.  And I miss the good friends I have there, pretty much all one family really, Bernard, Eric, Barry mostly, brothers from another mother.  But while its “Home”, I don’t know that I could live there anymore.  There are facets I love of course, but being there for a week and doing something every day isn’t the reality of anyone’s life.  And mainly I guess, for me, at least till she’s out on her own too, Home is where Hayley is.

 

Snook’s Harbour Pond

I’ve written a little about Aunt Ethel and Uncle Will before, but something I did know, but had forgotten was that Uncle Will wrote quite a bit of poetry.  I know I’ve seen this before, but had completely forgotten it, or where.  Thanks to Eric Cooper for the picture.  Enjoy and reminisce a bit.

Troutin’ and Smokin’ (“We’d have to kill him!”)

By Eric Cooper

For many years I’ve had an interest in smoking (foods that is,lol). My first smoker was a Luhr Jensen Little Chief. Peter Smith and I bought it between us. That little smoker got lots of use, as we experimented with different kinds of meat and fish. Smoked herring was, and still is my favourite. We also made lots of jerky, which was a big hit with everyone. Smoked trout was also very good and Junior Patey liked it more than anyone.

Junior loved to go trouting, just like me. We went together numerous times, always enjoying it. One time for an upcoming weekend he suggested that we bring the smoker to his place to smoke some trout. But of course first we needed to catch some. We decided to go to figure eight pond to try our luck. The trout weren’t overly big there but at least we would have a good chance to catch our quota. Rod Smith loved smoked trout too and we knew that he and Peter would most likely be there for the feast, and maybe a few other friends. So off we went, myself and Junior to the pond.

Trout

It was a long walk to the pond but that didn’t bother us at all. The trout were biting really good that day and we felt very confident about catching enough for our get together. We had a great day trouting and proceeded to make our way home. Back in those days there was an old cabin near round pond. We stopped there to take a break and have a coke, and I decided to count our trout. I laughed and told Junior that I think we “slightly” exceeded our limit. A friend of mine Bax Quinton was a fisheries officer at the time. I said to Junior, “what would we do now if Bax happened to come along?” His quick response was “we’d have to kill him!” I laughed and when I looked at him he grinned and chuckled and said “oh yeah we’d have to do it there would be no other way around it!” It was so funny the way he said it, I’ll never forget it.

I fried some of the trout and the rest were smoked and eaten at Junior’s house on the weekend. It was a great weekend with friends, lots of laughs, smoked trout and a few India beers. Such good memories.

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!

 

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”.

Calling All Kids!

One of the major things that’s changed over the years, is the sense of safety we enjoyed as kids.  No we weren’t any less brave or less of risk takers than today’s kids, but there was a sense that everyone watched out for everyone’s kids, and also that there were no external dangers like stalkers and the like.

We often were told to go outside in the morning, and unless hungry, may not be seen again till the evening.  Wherever you were, whoever had food, usually got something for you, even if it was a slice of jam bread.

But we also had to listen for when we were called to come home, and were expected to come right away.  Sound carried far in those small communities, there wasn’t any background traffic, or industry.  You could hear a door close pretty much anywhere.  But some people could be heard even further!

My Aunt Vick had this call, I’m not sure what to call it, maybe the closest thing was a yodel, but whatever you call it, it was piercing, and we had no trouble hearing her up at bottom from their house a half mile away.

There was also Ralph Smith. Ralph didn’t call out for Lorne (his nephew, who lived with him) he whistled.  And did that whistle carry.  Once, during a wind storm, the remnants of a hurricane I believe, we were on the beach, quite a way from their house, but even with all the wind, and the lop breaking, we could hear Ralph when he whistled.

Remembering Ralph also reminds me of another story.  He had this big old car, of course I guess almost all the cars were big back then, but anyway… It had some weird wiring issue.  In those days, you could turn “back” the ignition to turn on accessories, listen to the radio, etc.  This old cars ignition was so worn that you could do that without the key.  Well for whatever reason, when you did that, and turned on the radio, pressing the brake pedal would start the car!

Of course time muddles memories, and the exact combination of actions may be mixed up, but the story is true!

Give em the Slip!

Was reading through some old posts the other day, and seeing mention of my buddy Eric, and also of my Uncle, Larry Leawood, I was reminded of tailing slips.  I think pretty much every young boy has experienced this back home, and likely most continue to do so as long as they can.

For the non Newfoundlander, or perhaps for some of those too, you CFA’s know them as rabbit snares, but they’ll always be rabbit slips to me.  Essentially, they are a loop of wire tailed in a rabbit trail used to catch rabbits for eating.

Back in older days, slips were always made out of this…. braided? not sure the right term right now, but was made up of many many filaments, and was nearly impossible, for me anyway, to keep it in a loop shape without it twisting.  I still remember buying it, and the newer aluminum? wire at Handy Andy’s back in the day. Part of the fun I think was interacting with Stan and Dennis, but you could buy the wire and the licence nearly anywhere.

I also remember playing with the old filamented wire on the old flashlight batteries, and having the little ends glow red hot, but I digress.

Often times, you could tell who owned a slip in the woods, just by looking at it, as they were often as unique as the person who tailed them.  Uncle Larry for example always tied his on with a granny knot, while others made their loops in slightly different ways or shapes.  You’d often see them tailed in the same rabbit run year after year, and others you’d see someone make a spot to tow the rabbits, chopping down some tasty young birch and making a run of your own to tail your slip in.

This wasn’t done for fun, though it can be fun too, but rabbits were and are a big addition to the winter food store.  And quite tasty to boot, I’d like to have a freezer full right now!

The roads that weren’t

Likely few know or remember it now, but back in the late 60s or early 70s, Random Island nearly had 2 more roads.  Some may still remember near the Apsey Brook cemetery they had even cut a “line” going through the woods, passing near Island Pond (not whats labeled Island Pond on the map, that’s Fox pond),  curving round it, and passing between the two ponds of Double Pond to meet up with the road to Bluff Head Cove Pond.

I really don’t know the real reason for this planned road, rumors had it it was mainly as a convenience for the ministers, but not sure how much influence who had on whom to get it started. It would have been nice for all of course, to be able to more conveniently connect to Petley, Britannia, etc, but unfortunately, it never came to pass.

I’ve added this map with the route highlighted, you can still make it out on the map.  Link to unhighlighted version below.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@48.1517425,-53.82556,2220m/data=!3m1!1e3

If memory serves correctly, there was another “line” cut from Lower Lance Cove to Deer Harbour before resettlement quashed that.  I seem to recall it even being started and being able to see the road going up over the hills, though my memory may be manufacturing that.  Others can correct or confirm!  But if you use the link here, https://www.google.ca/maps/@48.1375084,-53.6848017,2386m/data=!3m1!1e3 and scroll around, you can see google even highlights the “road” that wasn’t to Deer Harbour.

I’ve never made it down there, nor to any of the other abandoned communities out the end of the island, something I hope to correct someday, but it’s very disappointing to me that this road in particular was never completed.

So much work, gone for naught, communities that may have prospered, abandoned.  More money spent on resettlement than a road would likely have cost, especially since it had already been started.

Keepin’ Yer Feets and Hands Warm!

Yesterday I posted about the old loom, and it reminded me of another staple past-time/skill of the older generation of ladies; knitting.  I bet nearly all my generations Moms knit, and perhaps many younger still do.  We all had ugly cardigans and fisherman’s knit sweaters, and the ugliest of all the Christmas one with the deer and snowflakes (thank god I never had one of those!).  But the best thing of all, and something we often got at Christmas were our vamps and double mitts!

Darning Needle

I know from experience if you tell someone from outside Newfoundland that you’re wearing vamps they won’t have a clue what you are talking about.  But I still wear them to this day to keep my feet warm on the basement floor here. What are they?  Well they are over-sized socks, not like store bought wool socks which are a finer stitch, but more like a sweater for your feet.  Often well worn, and holes darned up with the old darning needle, making them a patchwork of multiple colors, but like comfort food, they are something that just makes you feel cozy.

Another staple we wore back in the day was what we called a double mitt.  Rather than the traditional mitt, with a thumb and larger section for your fingers, these had a thumb, index finger and then the larger space.  There’s probably a reason why, but darned if I know what it is.  These were almost always (except in my picture of course) had a different square pattern on the back of the hand from the rest of the mitt.  If anyone has a picture, I’d love a copy!

Besides keeping yoru hands warm, though these often had another use, and maybe that was the reason for the index finger.  If you think back on watching the older fisherman in their stage at the slitting table, you’ll likely recall at least some of them wearing a double mitt on one hand, to better get a grip on the slippery fish!

For whatever reason, likely nostalgia, these in my memory seemed to keep our hands warmer than anything store bought.  I can remember now, coming inside with balls of snow stuck to them from making forts and tunnels, throwing them in the warmer, or on the oven door of the old wood stove, and hauling on a dry pair of vamps after a day outside.

The Loom looms….

Yes it does, the loom looms over the whole room! There, that’s my attempt at poetry for today.

As a kid, I never gave much thought to it, but so many people back home had looms, and wove all kinds of things, (well I assume there were all kinds of things, the only real one that comes to mind now is place mats). Like everything in rural Newfoundland, I am sure it served a much greater purpose than just a craft for enjoyment, our fathers and mothers were more practical, not by choice but by need.

But now that I’m older, I sometimes wonder what that purpose was.  I know so little about the loom, just how big and complicated it looked, and watching Aunt Vick, amongst others, sliding the shuttles back and forth and pulling the weave tight.  But I wonder what did our forefathers use the woven material for? Clothing? Table cloths? Bags? Bed clothes?  I really have no idea!

I think all our foremothers knit as well, and I’ll write a piece about the old double mitts and vamps soon, but I’m curious now as to the use of the loom!