Shoal Harbour

Music Class

The item in the image above, if you don’t remember, was used to draw music staves on the chalkboard (though it was also co-opted to use for cursive writing and maybe, just maybe, to make writing “I will not chew gum in class”100 times easier).

I posted it a couple days ago on twitter, and it seemed to blow up, my most interacted tweet ever, so I guess there’s a lot of nostalgia for it!

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

As I write this, I’m sitting in the old shoal harbour school, Balbo Elementary, upstairs (oh what fun Hughie Reid and I used to have playing on those stairs), grade 2, and Dorothy Guillam (I probably am totally botching that spelling) is using a device like it to draw staves on the board.

Brings back memories of terms I’d forgotten, treble clef, bass clef, etc. To be honest, I had totally forgotten that until a user on twitter mentioned the old mnemonic to remember notes “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge”. I’m sure she drilled that into us too, or similar, though to be totally honest all I really remember was, that to a 7 year old brat like me, she seemed ancient, and totally “prim” especially as she was from the UK and had an accent, which made her seem upper crust and “proper” to me.

I am not sure the truth of this, but I’ve heard that she was somehow involved with the community of Weybridge on Random Island changing to this name, from its former name of Foster’s Point.  If you have any details, please leave a comment and let me know, would love to learn more.

Music class kept on going to about grade 6 I think, with lots trying to learn an instrument.  I even had a guitar back in the day, but if I’m not tone deaf, I’m at least tone dumb, and, as dad used to say, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Laura Rogers was the last music teacher I had, and one thing I do remember from my time with her, and I’m sure every parent does too, with a sense of dread, was this hideous screeching thing.  They call it a recorder, and say it’s a music instrument, but I personally think it was some sort of practical joke, or mild form of torture from music teachers everywhere to parents.

I can remember Dad now yelling out at me “Peter, for the love of God, stop!” when I was trying to play/practice it.

Anyway, Happy New Year! And I hope this took you down a nostalgic rest stop!

Randall’s Store

When I was a boy, Bax and Eli Randall had a store on the road in around the harbour in Shoal Harbour.  I even remember an old gas pump outside saying something like 35 cents a gallon, though it wasn’t operational that I can recall.

The store had pretty much everything, building supplies (who didn’t have panel board on their living room walls from Randall’s at some point?), groceries, appliances, and many other things, plus, lots and lots of dust! Dad used to say though that Bax and Eli would rather spend hours talking about chain saws and chain saw parts than they would sell a fridge or stove!  I remember going there with Dad for plugs and feeler gauges and the like for the old pioneer,and they’d pull out the parts and talk about them and show them off.  There was rarely a light on, or if so, very few, always so dark and dingy.  Fussels cream and Carnation milk on the shelf covered in dust.  It was…. heaven!

I always heard stories about the Randall’s being “frugal” as well, no idea how much truth there was to any of them, but my favorite had to be the story about Bax bought 2 cars in St. John’s, and rather than paying someone to drive the 2nd home, he’d drive one a mile past the other and walk back and do the same over and over till he got them home!

I can still see the store now in my minds eye, not far from the old bridge as well with the double concrete loopy sides.  If I remember correctly it was so narrow you used to only be able to have one car on it at a time, but that’s fuzzy now.

Fun memories!

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 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.

Nickels on the train track

The Bonavista Branch line stopped running in 1986 from what I can see, though had been reduced in service prior to that.  Most of the young people now can’t remember the joys (some sarcasm may be included here) of stopping for the train at the bar hill, in Shoal Harbour, up by Newfoundland Hardwoods, down at the crossing, up by Best’s store…..Yes, there were a lot of crossings back in those days!

As a kid, I didn’t mind the waits as much, especially the one up by Newfoundland Hardwoods. You’d be sitting in the car, with the tracks just to the side of you, watching the train go by.  After a while it felt like you were the one moving and the train was standing still.  I can imagine it got frustrating as a driver though. At least Clarenville wasn’t a high traffic town, though as a service centre it did get more than its size would indicate.

When I was a kid at school at Balbo Elementary in Shoal Harbour, the tracks ran right behind the building.  This was in the early 70’s and since I finished going to that school, and moved to Random Island school in 73-74, I can’t say I recall lots, but one recollection does stand out.  The train ran daily then, and if I remember correctly,  sometime between morning recess and lunch time.  I remember kids used to (I’m sure I was guilty too) take nickels down at recess time and put them on the tracks.  At lunch time they’d go back and pick them up, after having been flattened by the train.

That in and of itself was kind of cool, but it didn’t end there!  Just up the road from the school, there was a little store in someone’s basement.  I may be wrong, but I think it was owned by a Pardy family.  The owners were elderly, and we kids would take those flattened nickels up to the store and spend them as quarters.  Nowadays doesn’t sound like much, but back then you could get a pack of chips, a bar, and a pop all for a quarter and have a few pennies left for candy.

I wonder though, did the owners really not know? Seems kind of hard to believe now that they’d not have caught on.  I’m thinking they just liked the kids.

Bus Rides

When I first started school, we were bussed to a school called Balbo Elementary in Shoal Harbour, named after an Italian General who landed and departed from there in the 1930’s.  I can’t say I remember much about school there, nothing memorable right now anyway, but I do remember this one huge bump on the ride home that made us all come out of our seats, more so I bet because it was only a few people on a mostly empty bus, so less weight.  Anyway, I remember it well, I swear I once hit my head on the roof, tho my memory may be faulty (perhaps from the bump?)