Snook’s Harbour

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.

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!

Nar bit Contrary!

Dad (Willis), Hay, Mae (Litty), Lawrence, Lindo Smith

Dad (Willis), Hay, Mae (Liddie), Lawrence, Lindo Smith

Dad’s brother Lindo died in 1979, when I was 14. I don’t have a lot of fully fleshed out memories of him, but lots of little anecdotes I guess. From other people’s recollections, I’m pretty sure he was liked quite a bit, though some or all might say he was a teensy bit contrary. I really doubt that, I mean saying snow was black just to be contrary isn’t contrary right?

He was a carpenter, lastly working at Stanley’s in Clarenville. But besides that I know Aunt Vick had the post office in Snook’s Harbour (can still remember the mail slots in the old porch) and also they had a store (who didn’t?) with this huge old cash register.

Whatever he may or may not have been, I know he seemed to be good with kids, or me anyway. If Mom or Dad had to be away, we mostly always seemed to stay with Aunt Vick and Uncle Lindo, and if I was up in Snook’s Harbour playing ball or whatever, it was like a second home to me, always a place at the table.

One of my memories of Uncle Lindo was from when I was there eating. I have an odd delicacy I love. Trout tails! Yes, that’s what I meant. If you fry trout in pork fat and flour the tails become crispy and tasty, like trout bacon, and I love them. When ever I was up at Uncle Lindo’s and there were trout, he’d always cut the tails off and give them to me, remember that so vividly!

I have another memory of spending time with him down in his stage looking after the salt cod. Just me and him, I don’t recall much else, but something about it sticks with me and makes me feel…. warm.

Another was of his two dogs, Fuzzy and Fluffy, who, if I remember correctly would only eat cat food! And he’d feed it to them from a fork or spoon.

Another was his love of wrestling, he’d watch it in the dark in the living room up in Snook’s Harbour, where all I could make out on the screen was snow. We used to go to Clarenville stadium in those days to see the likes of Sailor White and Mad Dog Vachon.

Datsun 620

I also remember he had this Datsun B210 for a car, I can hear the beep beep now. Was unusual to see a Japanese car back home in those days. He also had at one point, I believe, a Datsun pickup. It was white, and seemed to have all these compartments in the side of the box, or at least I think it did.
One of the more vivid memories though was a camping trip we took at some point when I was a boy. Mom and Dad, Keith and I, Uncle Lindo and Aunt Vick. We did a lot of booting about, places I don’t recall really. I remember one spot where him and I were trouting from this little rocky point. I also remember a fire one time where we roasted flings (those curved cheesie things) – they were made with real cheddar and tasted like yummy melted cheese.

But the best, or the worst part was one night we made camp after dark. It was wet, the old canvas tents would leak easily if you touched a point of canvas, and we were all pretty miserable. After getting to sleep, at some point during the night we were wakened by the unholy racket of a train passing by a few feet away. In the dark, we had set up tents right next to the train track without noticing!

Mothers in Changing times

Its Mother’s Day, and once again we give thanks to those wonderful Mom’s who were mom to many, nurtured kids of many families and kept them all fed and clothed.  We all had extended mothers in those days, and no one thought twice about chastising someone else’s child as they would their own, nor would us kids back talk, or fail to obey (well most of us and most times anyway).

We grew up in a simpler time though, and things have changed, some for the better, some for the worse.  When I was a boy, it was nothing for me to take off in the woods and be gone for hours, perhaps walking as far as Friggin’s Cove pond on my own, or to go to McGrath’s Cove or on the beach and wharf for hours on end, out of sight and earshot of everyone.  Or to get off the bus in Elliott’s Cove or Snook’s Harbour and only let anyone know when I showed up with Dad later on.  But in those days everyone who saw us was “minding” us, Aunt Vick looked out to me when I was there as much as mom did, and was just as likely to pull my ear or tell me off for whatever reason.

Nowadays, at least living in the city, those days are gone, I’d not think of letting my niece out of site like that, barely for a minute, let alone the whole day.  I know Random Island is still small, but the modern world has crept in there as well, and I doubt many would let their kids be off like that nowadays either.

There is no right or wrong here, things change, and in some ways I’m glad, but in some ways I do miss the carefree days we had, and wonder if kids today have lost something special with it in the name of the safety we feel we have to provide with all the people who now try to take advantage.

Our mothers didn’t love us any less, just the needs and times have changed.  Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who give so much to us who don’t realize how much it is till much later.

Bonfire Night

Tuesday is Bonfire Night! Guy Fawkes night for some, though I can’t remember ever, as a kid, knowing what bonfire night represented except a good time!  I don’t think the tradition is as strong as it once was.  When I was a teen, we’d have been cutting trees for months, I remember one year starting in August!

We’d gather them, and anything else we could burn, boats, driftwood, garbage, pretty much anything.   Come supper time on the 5th, we’d light it up, keeping much off to one side to keep it going all night. Many times we’d have enough fuel to restart it from its coals the next night and do it all again.  Old tires had to be a favorite to burn for sure, they’d burn and pop, and stink everything up, and turn us all black with soot, but we had a ball.  Off to one side we’d have smaller camp fires to roast potatoes, wieners, marshmallows, and maybe some less traditional roasting foods, like kippers!

I remember many if not most of our fires were on the beach.  I remember one year in particular it being down on McGrath’s Cove below Colin Miller’s house, and us getting up on the bank to watch. I think i remember Rick throwing a bag full of aerosol cans in that one, for our own form of fireworks.  The beach was covered in shaving cream!

As we grew up, most of us stopped the smaller community fires and many of us would gather and help at the one on Randall’s garden in Snook’s Harbour.  I remember the huge piles of brush and tires. It was also fun to look up and down the sound in the night and see the fires in Georges Brook, Harcourt and Monroe.

I think though the best memory has to be the time there was an empty propane tank on the fire, and Gar Whelan risked life and limb to run into the fire and yank it out before it exploded!

Many “beverages” were consumed, and often the police were there too, though they never interfered, or stopped us from having our “beverages” in public.  I do think they got too close one year and the paint on the door melted a bit!  Though perhaps that was someone else’s car, memories run together as you get old.

The link below is to a video on Memorial University’s site.  Have a watch, and feel the memories flood back.

Bonfire Celebration in Brigus, Newfoundland

Hope you all have a great bonfire night!

Wiener Roasts and Fireworks

Its the lazy days of summer now, evenings are starting to close in a little earlier, nights are a little chiller, perfect for sleeping, and for fires on the beach. In our teens, and likely much beyond back home these evenings often led to a bonfire on the beach, or sometimes just a smaller fire. We’d gather round some big rocks to sit on, skin out an alder or birch branch or three, and relax and tell lies as we roasted marshmallows and wieners on a stick.

I’ve not had a wiener roasted over a fire, or a toasted marshmallow in years, but I can taste them now, but I think what was even better was a potato, rolled on to the coals to roast, then pulled out, burning our fingers in the process, and drenching it in butter and too much salt and pepper as we scooped it out, often with our fingers, or a stick shaped into a fork or spoon.

Another thing we used to do, back in the days when we we’re less green, or a lot more stupid, you pick your choice, was a bit more dangerous, but in its way a lot of fun.  Years ago, many people had heavy lead or other metal pipes in their houses and outbuildings for drainage.  These pipes were pretty thick as well, and often there was a lot of this around as scrap.  Well we had a piece about yay long (imagine me stretching my arms out :P).  We had it balanced against something, perhaps nothing more than a forked branch, I forget, angled out over Snook’s Harbour. The other end was pressed down into our usual fire pit, with the end underground.

Well we’d gather up spray cans that were nearly empty, bags and bags of them sometimes, and light our fire.  Once it was going good, we’d drop the cans into the pipe like a mortar and run off a little and watch.  Of course once they heated, they’d explode and shoot off over the harbour like a shot, making a huge bang.  What was best was shaving cream cans as they’d trail white foam as they shot off, or WD-40 cans as they’d go off like a flare!

Of course times have changed, and we’ve gotten smarter as well as older, and realize this hazardous not only to ourselves, but bad for the environment.  But sometimes there’s something to be said for being young and stupid too.

Cocks and Hens

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to go cod fishing.  Its funny, but we never called it that, a trip to the fishing grounds was usually just called going out in boat.  I guess the two just naturally went together, I mean why else go out in boat?

Usually cod fishing was done by the old standard hit and miss method of using a cod jigger.  You’d lower the jigger to bottom, and then pull it up a fathom or so and stroke the line back and forth, hoping to hook into a cod.

But other times we’d use a feathered hook, or a baited hook with some orange cloth on it.  Well I’m not sure the orange mattered as much as something to attract the fishes curiosity.  For bait we’d use squid, caplin, herring, or often, cocks and hens.

They are properly a soft shelled clam, but we always knew them by the name cocks and hens, I really have no idea why, maybe someone can enlighten me.  These clam live in the soft muddy tidal flats around the shore line.  For us. we’d usually go to Southwest Brook, near Snook’s Harbour at low tide and walk out on the mud.

The clams themselves live 6-8 inches deep in the mud, you could see where by the little round tube they left in the mud to let water and food in and waste out.  Finding these, we’d dig down with a shovel, generally a little ways away from the hole so as not to smash them.  The shells on these are very soft and easily broken.  Generally we’d dig up a 5 gallon bucket full of them along with some sand and ocean water to keep them moist, and leave them in the cool fishing stage.

On our next trip out in boat, we’d take the bucket, and open a cocks and hen, and put it on our hook as bait to try and catch a nice growler (Dad’s term for a big one that would make the old corded jigging line growl)!

Nothing I loved more than an early morning trip out in boat, spending a few hours on the water.

Bud Fights!

Spring is here finally (knocks on wood to not jinx it) and greenery is springing up everywhere.  I really can”t recall what time of year wild Irises grew or bloomed, but am reminded of them now as the weather gets warmer.  I kind of think it was closer to the end of the school year, but I may be wrong.

A couple spots on the old school garden in Apsey Brook, and more around Mac Bailey’s and Randall’s garden in Snook’s Harbour had some huge wild Iris plants.  Back then, the somewhat impressive blue flowers really didn’t faze us much.  What was neat was taking the flat blades and holding them between your thumbs just so, and blowing through, making it a reed in our own human wind instrument.

What was maybe less neat, and somewhat painful, but hours of fun were the thick green (well till they dried out) seed pods (buds) that formed underneath the flowers.  We’d gather up tons of these in our hands, pockets, what ever containers we could find, and chase each other throwing them at each other as hard as we could.  Those things stung like mad, but we’d throw them at each other till we either ran out, or were too exhausted to keep it up any longer.

Always curious, we’d also peel them open, and spread the seeds everywhere, throw them in the harbour, carve them out into little boats.  A somewhat wistful memory of the hours of amusement something so simple can give you.

 

The Bus Shelter Social Center

Every rural area has their one spot where people seem to gather. It’s often a local store, and Berniece’s Variety in Elliott’s Cove was one such place, and deserving of a post of its own before long, but before that, when we were younger, and especially in summer, we had another spot.

Back in the late 70’s or early 80’s, the Random Lion’s Club made and set up bus shelters in all the communities on the island. Painted with the, ahem, lovely lions purple and gold, they became a place to stand out of snow and rain while waiting for the school bus.

But more than that, they became a congregating place for the younger people, and none more so than the one in Snook’s Harbour bottom.

While there was nothing to do there really, it became the place to meet up before doing other things. The fact that the meeting often became the other thing was just part of our lives.  We’d spend hours there, chatting, laughing, socializing, gossiping, making up lies, drawing crude graffiti, and generally having a good time.  In summer time we’d prop our bikes against it, use it as home base for kick the can, and god knows what else.

Looking across Snook's Harbour to the mead

Looking across Snook’s Harbour to the mead

It became our spot, and while the memories run together, I can hear us all, Eric, Barry, Bernard, Craig, Jim, Susan, Miss Stephanie, Renee, and many others laughing, yelling, cursing and being young.  It was the launching point for our evenings and nights, many meetups there to go elsewhere, including to have a bonfire on the mead pictured.

 

 

Up, Down, Out, Over the road

It may be prevalent elsewhere, but one thing Newfoundlander’s know is that distance isn’t measured in miles or kilometers, its measured in time.  How far to St. John’s? 2 hours.  Gander? Hour and a half. If you don’t do it in those times, then you’re obviously driving too slow.

One other thing we have is how we point out communities and locations on the way.  Back home, Apsey Brook was at the end of the road, so we of course had to go “up” the road to go anywhere, and everyone knew coming from that direction you were coming up.  A confusing side effect of this was that Snook’s Harbour meets at the bottom of three hills or grades, and so that portion is of course named “bottom”.  It was always amusing to see CFAs (come from aways) confusion when we said we were going up to bottom.  Of course, since the road took a 90 degree turn there, we had to go “over” to Elliott’s Cove.

Going to school was down to Hickman’s, and if we went shopping we went up to Clarenville. It all makes perfect sense, no?  Then again we also had to deal with going out the arm, out the sound, in to town, and so on and so on.  Yet we all knew which was which, and if someone got it backwards (like maybe me now, is it out to town? or in? I keep forgetting?) god help them for the fun making about to be heaped on them.

Anyway, was always fun to head up to bottom and play ball, and then run over to the store to get a snack.  If you get a chance, pick me up something while you’re over :).