Alice Patten, date of birth: March 8, 1943
23 June 2003
Codroy Valley, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Alice Patten was born to Clara Janes and William Samms on March 8th, 1943. Her family moved from the Codroy Valley, Newfoundland, to Gallants, Newfoundland, when Alice was thirteen years old. She lived there for ten or twelve years then she moved back to the Codroy Valley where still resides in her own home.
Clara and William had twenty-two children including Alice. Out of the twenty-two children, there are seventeen still living. William worked with Bowater all of his life. Bowater was a company that owned the paper mill in Corner Brook, which now is owned by the Kruger Corporation. Clara was a homemaker. She would do the chores around the house and take care of the children. Clara would have to do the work outside in the barn because William would be gone two or three months at a time working with Bowater. "With a family of twenty-two we weren't well off but we had lots to eat and lots of clothing to wear. We had family in Toronto that helped us out. We were never on welfare."
Clara and William lived in a four-bedroom bungalow, which had a big kitchen, and a living room, which was not used, only if company came over. "Everyone slept head to toe," says Alice laughingly. "We weren't all home one time. My sister who is the youngest one of us is twenty-eight and I been married for forty odd years. There were probably ten of us home at one time. When you were seventeen or eighteen years old, old enough to work, then you were gone." For lights, Clara and William would use kerosene lamps and they would use woodstoves for heat. There were no toilets or bathtub back in those days, so they used an outhouse for a toilet and a galvanized tub for a bathtub. On Saturday's they would bring the galvanized tub and everyone would have a bath.
Clara would make the clothing for the family. Sometimes she would take two old coats and make a snowsuit. Clara and William had sheep, so Clara would sheer the sheep, wash the fleece, card the wool, spin it, and use it to make mitts and socks.
The water was carried in buckets from the brook to the house. "We were luckier than most people because the brook we used for our water was close to us." In the winter time they would fill the barrel with the water and keep it in the house." In the mornings the water was frozen because there was no heat in the house during the night. "In the night they make sure that every bit of the fire was out. They did not leave any stoves on, that is why there were no house fires back then like there are now. People were more careful. I know that mom would use water to put out the fire and in the mornings it would be hard to light the fire because everything would be soaked."
When Clara and William lived in Codroy Valley there was a doctor available to them if someone got sick. When they moved to Gallants there was no doctor there was only a public health nurse. The closest doctor to them was in Stephenville Crossing [thirty minutes away], or Corner Brook, which was the next available hospital. Clara would use some home remedies. For a cut, Clara would put spruce tree bark on it. Another home remedy that was used was nine raisins soaked in gin for nine days for arthritis. Alice can remember one time she was trying to take a shaving knife away from her younger brother and it slipped and cut her foot. A woman came in and put the spruce tree bark on it and it healed up without any infection. Some women back then would use homebrew to mix bread.
There were no telephones back then but there was a mail service. The post office was located in the grocery store, which was a two and a half mile walk. When Clara and William would pick up the groceries, they would pay cash.
As a child, Alice would go skating, horseback riding, swimming, berry picking, mountain climbing, and go for walks on a nearby beach. "It was kind of dangerous because we would go out into the waves." Besides play, there was work to be done. "We done everything in the house that could possibility be done. From the time I was ten years old I was washing walls and ceilings. I would go outside my home and do that for pocket money." The daily household chores would consist of making the beds, dumping the slop pails, washing dishes, and sweeping the floors. The boys would have to cut the wood for the stove.
They would only have church one day a month, so the days that there was church Alice would go three times that day. Alice attended an Anglican Church with services held by Canon Martin. Alice went to school until grade nine when she came out to go to work. It was a one-room school, which held grade one to grade eleven; there was no kindergarten. School was not considered as important as it is today. "You went to school because you had to. If there were more important things to be done at home such as haymaking, you stayed home and done it. Mom would consider it necessary to get some education. Dad only got grade three and mom didn't even get grade two."
When Alice was a child, she would get things such as a doll or clothing for Christmas. "Dad was one of those people who always wanted Christmas. He made sure that everyone would get something for Christmas." When Alice got married her husband liked Easter. "If you didn't get something new to wear for Easter, it was said, "a crow shit on you"." Alice liked Christmas; she would get a new outfit for Christmas as well as Easter. "You get two new outfits a year."
At the age of ten, Alice went to work as a serving girl. She would make anything between seventy-five cents to a dollar-fifty for washing down a room. Her duties as a serving girl was mostly housework until she went to work for the public health nurse of Gallants, where Alice would have to keep everything clean for the nurse. "If someone from the woods came in with a cut there would be blood from the front steps, through the house, to the clinic. I would have to clean it."
Alice cannot remember anything about the depression or World War II because she was born in 1942. She knows that she had an uncle in the war that was on three boats that got torpedoed, and he survived. "He had to jump into a ring of fire, and had to go underneath to get out of it." He lived in England all his life after the war.
Alice married her husband, Lawrence Patten, at the age of eighteen in the Codroy Valley in the Roman Catholic Church. They spent six years married in Gallants and then Alice and her husband moved to the Codroy Valley. Alice and Lawrence had five daughters and did not find it hard to raise their family. "I had two children at home, one I didn't make it to the hospital in Gallants, and my first one was born here, and I didn't get to the hospital." All her children were born with aid of a doctor.
Alice worked in the fish plant for twenty years while Lawrence worked many jobs. He worked trucking, with the fish plant, fishing, construction, in the woods, and Bowaters, whatever there was to do. When Lawrence fished, he used his own fishing equipment. He would catch codfish, flounder, halibut, lobster, herring, and mackerel. Lawrence would do the fishing for the extra money for his family. Alice would fillet the fish, sometimes roast it, make fish and brews, or make salt fish. "I just filleted the fish myself, picking all the bones out and getting it ready until it was ready for the pot." Alice tells us that her family was not well off but they were comfortable. "We didn't go without anything. We had a new vehicle every few years. We had trucks and skidoos as well."
As a wife, Alice would do everything there was to do around the house. She would bring in the wood, light the stove, and any chores that needed to be done. "We didn't have that many chores that had to be done because we didn't have any animals or anything like that." Alice still brings in the wood and does the same chores as she did back then. Alice could make clothing but she did not do it very often. She still does when she is in the mood.
Some of the major changes that Alice seen in her life was getting televisions and radios. Back when Alice was growing up people made their own fun. "If you went to a party and someone was there playing an accordion, you're not going to drive them out, you will stay and listen to them. There was always somebody that could play. In fact, I still have my accordion. They made their own homebrew back then and probably moonshine." Everyone had fun together and they had good time without the modern conveniences that there are today.
Alice tells us that she would not change anything about their life because she enjoyed it. "We never had any complaints, but we didn't know any different. Everybody was in the same boat that we were in. Nobody had money but they had lots of fun. They had dances every two or three months and we would not get home until seven or eight o'clock in the morning. As a teenager living in Gallants there were tons of things to do. The Dhoon Lodge was right on the side of us. We would go there and they would let us in for five or ten cents. We mummered and always went to someone's house for a party."
Alice feels that it is harder for women growing up back in her day than it is for women growing up today. "All women got to do today is to push button. Now there are dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, and all of that stuff. We had to wash clothes on a board, and make bread every day. We plant gardens and grew vegetables." Alice feels that they worked harder than men at home. According to Alice, back in her day, the work was hard to do but life was more enjoyable.
Annie Aucoin, date of birth: August 7,1941
18 June 2003
Codroy Valley, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Annie AuCoin was born August 7th, 1941, in the Codroy Valley, Newfoundland. At sixty-two years old, she currently resides in her own home in Doyles,Newfoundland.
Her parents, Firzman and Margaret Samms lived in the Codroy Valley all their life. Her father was a fisherman and her mother was a homemaker who looked after the house and her four brothers. Her father caught codfish with a hook and line, salmon with nets and lobster in pots. When Annie's father was away fishing, her mother would make dinner, wash clothes on the washboard with sunlight soap and bring the water to the house. She would have to go down to the brook and bring it back in barrels and in buckets. There was no electricity and kerosene lamps were used for lights.
They would eat rabbits, moose meat, beef, sheep and lamb. Her mother would salt the fish, to preserve it because there was no refrigeration. Annie's mother would take the fresh fish; salt it, dry it and then she would have a bucket nearby for the pickling. You would make the pickle by mixing salt with water. After drying the fish you would place the fish in the bucket until you were ready to cook it. They made their own butter, but Annie never liked butter made from cow's milk. They had an old-fashioned churn that would separate the cream from the milk and turned the milk until it got hard.
Annie's father did have a small farm with cows, sheep and a horse. They had hens for eggs and a rooster in order to hatch the eggs. They had a big vegetable garden, since there was no fertilizer available; they used kelp, fish heads and caplin for fertilizer. Annie helped plant the vegetables in the garden and tend to the animals. The post office in the Codroy Valley was located in Mrs. Mark's store, and Annie would walk down to pick up the mail.
Annie grew up in a four-bedroom house, with a living room, kitchen and a porch. There was no toilet and they got their first telephone when she was about twelve.
Annie always went to church, it was an Anglican Church and the minister would walk or come up by boat from Port aux Basques to the Codroy Valley to have service on Sunday. They had a special dress and a special pair of shoes that they wore on Sundays. When they came home after church, you would take that off, and it was the same for school clothes. Annie attended Holy Trinity School, located in the Codroy Valley until grade ten. Holy Trinity was a two-room schoolhouse, the lower grades in one room and the higher grades in another. School wasn't considered important, boys were required to be more educated than the girls. If you wanted to work, the more schooling you got the better.
Annie had a lot of fun growing up in the Codroy Valley. In the winter they would sled down a hill until nine at night, get up and do it again the next day, or they would go walking out to Cape Anguille to skate on the pond near the lighthouse. They would skate for two hours, and then walk home. Sometimes her father would have to go look for them. In the summer they would go swimming. They would take her father's boat and row out to Codroy Island for berry picking, to make hay and for picnics. Her father had a battery radio and they would listen to the fights. There were two dance halls and a café in the Codroy Valley, there was always something to do. "Not like youngsters today, they don't know what to do."
Annie learned to drive with her brother's old International. "After awhile I would stall her out, and the battery would go dead." You would drive around the fields, until you got your license, then you could go drive on the road.
Christmas was a joyful occasion for Annie. She received the very first doll that was ever in the Codroy Valley. Annie had four older brothers that had jobs, so whatever she wanted for Christmas, she got. There was other children that didn't get as much as Annie. They had homegrown chicken, lamb, moose meat, beef and rabbit. There was no turkey like there is today. If the neighbor had nothing for Christmas, Annie's mother would take a rabbit over to them, "that's how they did things back then."
Annie says that mummering was number one on the Christmas to do list. Everyone would come to the houses; someone would wind up the music player and give you a piece of cake and a glass of syrup.
Annie was sixteen years old when she started working at a store in the Codroy Valley. She had to clean the store, order items in, do inventory and there was no cash registers, so she had to write it all down. She got paid one hundred dollars a month. Annie worked at the store for seven years, until she got married.
Annie was twenty-three when she got married to Walter AuCoin who was working for the Pulp and Paper Mill in Corner Brook. A minister in St. Ann's Church in the Codroy Valley married them. They have been married for thirty-eight years. Annie and Walter had two children, and both of them were born in a hospital by a doctor.
One of Annie's good home remedies, if someone got sick was to mix Vicks and goose grease together on red flannel and place it on the chest. If a child had worms, you would take a piece of your hair, cut it up fine and mix it with molasses, then eat it.
Annie bought her groceries at Mrs. Mark's and at the Gale's Store in the Codroy Valley. She never made her own clothing; instead she would order clothing from the Sears and Eaton's catalogues.
Annie never traveled to the rest of Canada when she was a child but after she got married she traveled to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. She says that it wasn't hard raising a family in the Codroy Valley and she has enjoyed her life.
Barbara Bowdridge was born December 13, 1941, in St. David's, a community located on the West coast of Newfoundland. At sixty-two years old, she currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Barbara's father, Herbert Gosse, worked at various jobs. He worked for a painting contractor, as a farmer and also as a woodcutter. Her mother, Maud was a homemaker. Barbara attended school at St. Michael and all Angels in St. David's. After graduating with her grade eleven, she went to teach at the school in Cape Ray, a community fifteen miles east of Port aux Basques, Newfoundland.
In 1958, when Barbara was sixteen she left St. David's to teach in Cape Ray. She boarded with Eliza Tapp and family. Meals were provided at the boarding house. Extra items were bought at the local general store in the community. Water was provided through a hand pump in the kitchen. There was a wood stove for heating and oil lamps for light. Clothes were washed in an aluminum washtub with a washboard. It was rinsed and hung outdoors on a clothesline to dry. She ordered her clothes from the Eaton's and Simpson's catalogues. Some of her clothing was made by other people who could sew. The only telephone in Cape Ray was located in the post office. Car and trains were the main forms of transportation in Cape Ray.
For fun she visited friends, played cards, board games and attended dances that were arranged by the Home and School Association. Church services were held in the school chapel, which was at the end of one room behind a partition. The minister came from Port aux Basques. Some of the services were held by a lay reader.
She taught in Cape Ray for three years. Barbara taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and art. The school in Cape Ray was a two-room school, kindergarten to grade four was in the first room, and grade five to grade eleven was in the second room. There were approximately forty students in her class. There was a wood stove to heat the school and an outdoor toilet. Barbara also taught Sunday school, collected for the Red Cross, helped with school concerts and was the secretary at the meetings of the Home and School Association.
Barbara met her husband, Fredrick Bowdridge, now a retired Pharmacist, at the store in Cape Ray, when he was there visiting relatives. They got married in 1962, when she was twenty-one years old. They have been married forty years and have one child. They now reside in Halifax and go to Cape Ray to visit friends and relatives. Barbara has found that there have been some changes in Cape Ray since she left. There are paved roads and modern conveniences. The lighthouse is a museum and there is a craft shop. There are no more trains.
Bride Gale was born on March 2, 1940, in the community of St. Andrew's. Her parents were Carrie and Louie Luedee. Her father was from the Codroy Valley and her mother was from St. Alban's in Bay d'Espair. Her mother was a homemaker and her father worked as a farmer and a construction worker. Bride had four brothers and six sisters.
Carrie helped her husband by looking after her children, cleaning the house, and milking the cows. Her family was an average working family and would not have been considered well off at that time.
Bride helped her father plant and harvest vegetables. Her most fun experience was helping her father make hay. It was fun because she could play in the big piles of hay that were set out to dry. She also enjoyed it because a horse and cart was used to collect and move the hay and Bride could get up on the cart. Her father raised pigs, sheep, cows, geese and chickens. He grew potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips, cabbages and corn. Her father fertilized the fields with manure and kelp. She remembered one year that her father fertilized the fields with caplin.
Bride's mother made sheets and pillowcases. She also made curtains for her family. She made some of these things from flour bags. These bags were bleached with lye to soften the material. Her grandfather had a store and her family used sugar bags because they were made from a softer material. Her mother made clothes for the family and the relations would send hand-me-downs.
Bride and her family regularly attended the local Roman Catholic Church at St. Andrew's. There were two priests assigned to the Codroy Valley made up of a monsignor and a regular priest. Every Sunday one of these two would come to St. Andrew's for mass.
The Luedee family home had a pump in the house for water. Oil lamps lighted the house. A wood stove heated the house. The family had a slop pail and an outdoor toilet. They would take baths once a week in the washtub.
Bride attended school in St. Andrew's until she finished grade eleven. Bride was only one of three pupils that finished grade eleven in her graduation year. School was a bit different for Bride because most of the teachers that she had were from outside of her community. She remembered having a teacher from Ireland that taught Latin but it stopped being taught before she could take it. Bride also remembered that school was a little rough on the students because if they got out of line the teacher would hit the students with whatever they had in their hands. After she finished school Bride went on to St. John's to summer school for training as a teacher.
Bride taught school in the Codroy Valley for four years. She taught for two years in St. Andrew's. The first year she taught in St. Andrew's, Bride taught fifty-three pupils from grades one to five. The last year that Bride taught in St. Andrew's, Bride taught fifty-six pupils from grades one to five. She taught for one year in Loch Lomond. The year that she taught in Loch Lomond, Bride taught all grades in a one-room school. The last year Bride was working as a teacher she taught grades one to five at a school in Millville.
The students that Bride taught used a pencil, an exercise book and a scribbler for their school supplies. A scribbler was similar to an exercise book that was filled with rough paper.
When Bride was a child she would see a movie once a week at Gillis's store. This was where the local dance hall and movie theatre was located. She played games like pippy, hide and go seek, and tag. She can remember her grandmother making a ball out of old socks for Bride and her siblings to play with. In her words, " We did not have Fisher Price like they have today."
When Bride lived at home with her family she had to help with the housework. She had to scrub the canvas on the floor on her hands and knees. The type of canvas on the family's floor was called mill canvas. It could be painted and the paint would not wear off for about six months. After the paint wore in high traffic areas Bride would have to scrub it. She also had to scrub clothes on a board using homemade soap. The clothes were wrung using a hand wringer. The homemade soap was good for cleaning even though it was hard on the skin. Bride also recalled that her home had nine-foot ceilings. Her mother had a bad leg and Bride recalled her father placing planks on barrels so Bride could clean the ceiling when she was thirteen years old.
Bride went to work as a serving girl for a local woman when she was fifteen years old. This lady had seven or eight children and Bride had to do all the housework and use a separator to separate the milk and cream from the family's cows. Bride worked for two months and was paid forty dollars. This was a substantial amount of money in 1954. Bride bought the things she needed to go back to school. She bought a dress, a skirt, a blouse, underwear, socks, a leather school bag, two pairs of shoes and a supply of pencils and exercise books.
Bride got married to Garfield Gale when she was twenty years old. He worked as a heavy equipment operator on construction site all across Newfoundland. Getting married at twenty was a little old to be married when Bride was married. She recalled that many of her girl friends were married by ages seventeen or eighteen. Bride and her husband had nine children together. A family of nine was not unusually large at this time. Bride recalled that most of the women that were marred the same year she was had between six and nine children.
After she was married Bride and her husband lived in Gallants where he was working. They later moved back to the Codroy Valley. He later worked on the Churchill Falls Hydro Project. He worked on the Bay Despair Hydro Project and worked on a site at Baffin Island in Nunavut.
After she was married Bride and her husband lived in a two-bedroom trailer. Her chores included boiling water on the stove to wash and clean. Clothes were washed in her gas powered wringer washer
All of Bride's children were born in a hospital. All were born in Port aux Basques except one who was born in Stephenville Crossing. There was a nurse in the Codroy Valley when Bride was growing up. The closest doctor was in Port aux Basques. The family would use home remedies for minor ailments. One cure for the flu that Bride remembers was to steep out burnt bread and makes the patient drink the liquid. A cut could be stuck together with balsam from a tree. Bride cut the top of her finger off and her grandfather stuck it back on with balsam. A toothache was treated with cloves. Miner's liniment was drunk for a sore throat. Vicks and hot water was drunk to cure chest congestion. A tonic made from senna leaves was drunk to cleanse the blood. Another cure for chest congestion was a piece of red flannel placed on the chest.
The first Christmas that Bride can remember getting anything was when she got a bottle of Halo shampoo and a doll. A bottle of shampoo because at that time Bride did not use a shampoo every day when she washed her hair. She also remembered another Christmas when she got a porcelain doll and her brother dropped it. She remember getting fruit and candy at Christmas. The family usually had roast pork, salt beef and vegetables for Christmas. The family used to go mummering but Bride did not enjoy it because she had breathing problems and was easily recognized. The family used to go visiting on a horse and sleigh.
It was hard at times for Bride to raise her family because her husband was away for long periods working. She had to be both parents to her large family.
Bride used to pick up the majority of her groceries at stores in Port aux Basques. She would pick up any odds and ends that she needed at local stores in the Codroy Valley. These odds and ends could be paid with cash or placed on credit and paid later. The clothes that the family wore came from the Sears or Eaton's catalogues.
Bride remembered that her family had a telephone growing up. It was an old crank model with a party line. This meant that all the other homes with telephones could listen to a person's conversation. Her family originally came from Chebucto, New Brunswick and were French. Her grandfather and uncle could speak French. If there was something that they talked on the telephone about that they did not want heard it was spoken in French. There was a post office in St. Andrew's when Bride lived there and mail was dropped off and picked up by train.
When asked, Bride feels that she would not change anything about her life if she could. She feels that her generation had it harder growing up than today's generation. Bride states, "How many sixteen year olds could keep house like I was taught." The biggest changes that Bride can remember is the coming of roads, telephones, and electricity to the Codroy Valley.
Carmel Ryan, date of birth: August 22, 1943
10 June 2003
Codroy Valley, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Mrs. Carmel Ryan
Carmel (Fitzpatrick) Ryan was born August 22, 1943, to Mary (Mae) and Thomas Fitzpatrick. The family lived in the town of St. Lawrence, Newfoundland. Carmel attended Marian Elementary School and then later Marian High School.
Carmel's father, Thomas, worked in the mines at St. Lawrence where he developed a sickness from the dust in the mines. After being sick for nine years he passed away at the age of thirty-eight, which left her mother to raise the children and do the housework. Carmel also had to help her mother with chores around the house - sweeping the floor, doing the dishes and bringing in wood for the stove. However, Carmel says she still spent more time outside than children do today. Mostly they played house, played ball or built doll houses. In winter they would slide and skate.
Carmel's mother, Mae, did the housework, took care of her children and made their clothing. She also went out to houseclean for other people to make ends meet and to keep food on the table. Carmel had one brother and two sisters. She says, "After my father died we all had to pitch in and help with the work." The children, along with their mother attended church regularity. "We went every day. We were Catholics, so we had to attend mass every morning."
Christmas was the same, yet different. The traditions and celebrations were very similar, but today there is so much more materialism. Christmas morning then was simple and special. The children would usually receive an apple, an orange, some grapes, candy and a small toy or a piece of clothing. If you were lucky, you would receive a rag doll. Christmas dinner was slightly different - the table wasn't full of goodies like there is today. Carmel says there was usually turkey and vegetables, but not much else. Mummering was also a big thing back then. They would dress up in all kinds of clothes to disguise themselves, and then go from house to house. The people would let them in, and everyone would dance, eat cake and drink syrup.
Carmel doesn't remember a time without electricity as St. Lawrence had the 'power' because of the mines. However she does remember her mother telling her about the kerosene lamps and how they had to be cleaned every night. Carmel, however does remember not having a telephone or running water. Their home was heated by wood and coal. The wood had to be chopped and brought in each day and the coal bucket had to be filled. The coal would come from Nova Scotia by boat and you would buy enough to get you through the winter.
All washing was done on the washboards in a big tub of water, which had to be heated on the kitchen stove. Carmel says her mother used sunlight soap, although lye soap was very common. This was made by boiling animal fat, then adding lye. It was then put to set in a big mold, and later cut into smaller blocks. "I remember the lye soap, and I remember seeing a lot of red knuckles."
After graduating from Marian High School in 1961, Carmel went on to Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland where she did the teaching training course. She started teaching at nineteen years of age. She spent two years in a convent and then taught school in St. John's, St. Lawrence, Stephenville Crossing and Manuels before moving to the Codroy Valley in 1968 where she met and married Dennis Ryan two years later. They had four children, but one was tragically killed in an accident at a very young age. When asked how many children she had, she replied, "I have three children, but I used to have four."
Mrs. Ryan went on to teach in the Codroy Valley for the next twenty-five years, where she juggled raising a family and finishing her university degree with her teaching career. She says her teaching experiences over the years have been good. The children were often idle, but they were always respectful. Today, however, many of the children don't respect themselves or their teachers.
When Carmel was raising her family the food really wasn't much different from today. The vegetables were fresh and wholesome. Nothing was grown with chemicals or enhanced in any way. Carmel's husband, Dennis grew their own vegetables- cabbage, carrot, turnip, beets, and potatoes. There was also a lot of meat and fresh fish. Dennis kept a small herd of cattle - six or seven - so they always had their own beef. They would also have rabbit and moose.
Health care in the Valley wasn't easily accessible, although there usually was a doctor in the area, who would come for emergencies. If you were really sick you would have to go to Port aux Basques. Carmel's children were all born in Port aux Basques hospital. Carmel says she remembers some home remedies such as poultices. This was used for infections. They would take bread and soak it in boiling water. Then they would put it on a cloth and place it directly on the infection. This would draw out the poison. " It was always very effective from what I remember."
When asked about the changes in life between then and now, Carmel said, "It was harder then, physically, but today it is more complicated for women, and there is a different kind of stress. Women today have the worry of working, taking care of the family, as well as, living up to the standards of society. So I guess in a way it is harder today."
Carmel also commented on her life in general from growing up the way she did, to teaching, to life as a woman in general. " I found it hard at certain points in my life, I did struggle from time to time. Raising a family is hard, but I think I would live it all over again!"
20 August 2003
Port aux Basques, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Christine Buffett was born in Scotland. She currently lives in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. She is currently employed as a librarian at the Port aux Basques Public Library.
When she was four years old Christine and her father, James Spencer and her mother, Mary Spencer, who was a war bride who moved from Scotland to Harbour Breton, Fortune Bay, located on the South coast of Newfoundland. Her father was from Harbour Breton. Christine's family lived in Harbour Breton for almost all their lives. The family moved to St. John's when Christine was between nine and eleven years old. When this time was over Christine and her family returned to Harbour Breton.
Christine's father was an engineer on a boat and her mother was a librarian. Her mother did all the chores that had to be done around the house. She washed the dishes, dusted, cleaned the floors and tended to the garden with a hoe or a rake. She grew carrots, potatoes, cabbages, and rhubarb and used capelin for fertilizer. Her mother had cows when they lived in Scotland, but when they moved to Harbour Breton they just had some chickens. Everything the family grew or raised was for their personal use.
Christine's family lived in an A-frame roofed house, which had a living room, kitchen, pantry, bedrooms upstairs and a bathroom, which was added later. Before they got running water, the family got their water from a spring and wells. When they were living in St. John's, Christine's family had running water and a full bathroom. Christine was thirteen or fourteen when they got running water and indoor plumbing in Harbour Breton. Her mother would wash the clothing by hand in a big tub on a scrubboard. She would first boil some lye on the stove to make her laundry nice and white and when it was a washed, she would spread the clothes on hills (low brush) to dry. They used to make soap or buy sunlight soap. Christine's father made bureaus and chairs for his home, all other furniture was store bought. Her mother did make some of her clothes. She knitted, sewed and did some crocheting. Her grandmother also did that kind of stuff. She knitted but did not spin her own wool.
Christine's mother was a good cook. She liked to cook anything. At first they had a coal stove. They use to buy coal, shovel it in storage for the winter. They used coal buckets to bring it up, as they needed it. Then came the oil stoves. Jiggs dinner, stews, and baked chicken she cooked it all on the coal or oil stove. Stews would simmer all day long, "by the time you eat it, it would be some tasty." Everything tasted good, the meat and the fish. It was a good living. Christine's mother would buy her groceries at the local general store in Harbour Breton. They put everything into a little black book and paid at the end of each month.
There was a cottage hospital in Harbour Breton. There was another hospital located in Burgeo. There were a lot of home remedies that were used, molasses and sulfur and band-aids for cuts. Her grandmother would use salt pork for warts. "I remember that there was a little girl. I'll never forget her. She was covered in warts. Her mother was a nurse and her father was an R.C.M.P officer and they were stationed in Harbour Breton. They brought the little girl to my grandmother. She cut the pork into little pieces. Then she rubbed the pork on the warts and said some words over it but Christine didn't know what she said. After her grandmother cut it up, she buried the pork in the ground. She told the little girl that she had to believe in it for the cure to work. As the pork rotted away the wart would disappear. "Some people would call this witchcraft today." Her mother was shocked that she became cured of the warts.
There was a coastal mail service and there was a post office. When the boat came in, the mail came in. A man would pick up the mail at the coastal boat in a wheelbarrow and deliver it to the post office. They would sort it out back with people waiting out front by the mailboxes. There were no telephones back then, but in the later years there were telephones. Before telephones people would send word by note in order to keep in touch with others. In later years the telephones came in, there used to be three or four people on a line. When Christine's mother got on the telephone, there was probably someone else on the line, this was called a party line. They were wall telephones or as they were called, crank telephones. This meant that the crank would have to be turned to power up the telephone. "I remember that because I stayed in a boarding house when I was teaching school, when I was in University in St. John's. I was coming back by coastal boat, we had to come into Terrenceville and stay in a boarding house all night and they had a crank telephone. The lady who owned the boarding house had to call to find out when the boat was coming in." Christine had seen telephones, but they never owned a crank telephone, just a party line telephone.
For years people in Harbour Breton were connected by coastal boat with the rest of Newfoundland. The first road that came to Harbor Breton was the base for the current highway in the 1960's. It was all rocks, with holes and to drive over that it would take you hours. "I say it was a good five hours to get to there from Grand Falls." It takes three hours now to drive to Harbour Breton from Grand Falls on the highway today. Christine used to come up to Port aux Basques by coastal boat when she was here teaching.
Christine was a very lucky child. She had one of the first bikes in Harbour Breton. She claims to have been very selfish. Children would ask her for a ride and she used to ask them for a quarter. She used to go for bike rides and play games such as hopscotch, etc. for fun. They amused themselves. She remembers the first television coming to Harbour Breton, the merchant's daughter had one, and there were no channels. He had to place an antenna up on the hillside to get a signal. She remembers sitting there for two hours waiting for something to come on, but all she could see was snow. She never got to see a picture. In spite of this she remembers that this first television was very exciting. There were always parties when she was a teenager. Christine says, "We didn't have the facilities of today, but we always had a grand time. Teenagers today will never know the joy of it." On Christmas Eve, she would be excited, walking home from church in the snow. Friends would come over to her house after supper, come into the kitchen, and they would put their make-up on together. "Mom would sit back and enjoy every bit of it." She remembered that the community was closer because people visited each other. People don't do that anymore, unless they are invited.
Christine is very ashamed to say this, but growing up she never had too many chores to do. Christine was the only child. She was in school all day and her father was away working. When Christine came home, her mother pampered her. Her friend had all these chores to do, so while they were doing their chores she would be waiting for them to finish. One day Christine decided to ask her mother why she didn't have to scrub the floors or do anything around the house. Her mother said that there was no need, she had it all done, but Christine decided that she wanted to try. So when she was scrubbing her mother would be watching her, saying, "Make sure you wash the legs on the chair." Christine would get mad and say, "Let me do it my way," and her mother would say, "You got to do it the right way." Christine got mad and decided not to do any more chores. She didn't do many chores until she got married. Then she found out the hard way what it was like.
Christine always went to church, there was an Anglican minister stationed in Harbour Breton. She attended school in Harbour Breton, went to St. John's for three years, then came back to Harbour Breton and went back to St. John's to attend university for a year.
There were two schools in Harbour Breton. One school Christine went to had grades kindergarten to seven. You attended the school located on the north side of the harbour when you wanted to attend grade eight. School was considered important. "In those days you decided what you wanted to do then move on to another thing." School was a big thing.
Christine got a lot of child things for Christmas, like toys before she turned eleven. Then when she was thirteen, she tells us, "Mother turned on me and bought me all kinds of jewelry, makeup and perfume." At eleven Christine still believed in Santa Clause. "What a let down that was. I can still remember that. All the stuff done up in little packages, lipstick, makeup and perfume. My mother said that I was becoming a woman and I needed that. I was so mad. I didn't want to become a woman." Christine was confused because she didn't want to grow up too fast. It was a time after that when Christine was older that she adjusted to what her mother said.
Christmas was a big celebration in Harbour Breton, there were dances during Christmas. People would plan these dances for weeks, up at the school. "It was a big thing, your first square dance. You would dance all night long and you would be some tired. You would dance until the wee hours of the morning. Have your jiggs dinner at five o'clock in the morning." Christine would get a band together with a few boys with keyboards, guitars and microphones. People enjoyed it because it was different from just a man playing accordion, which what it usually was. The accordion is a big thing in Newfoundland. Christine started playing the accordion and keyboard at nine years of age (self-taught) and today plays in public with bands for dances, festivals and volunteer causes such as the hospital etc. Christine would go mummering at Christmas time. "I do it every year. Go mummering and get a piece of fruitcake with wine. If you got a mummer, you wipe up after them. People have carpets now, and don't want people coming in and making messes. You didn't care who it was, it was someone from the community who you knew. Now there is so many strangers, you don't know who it could be."
They would always have chicken or duck for Christmas dinner, they never had turkey. Her mother would make different dishes. She made Scottish short bread cookies and scones. Christine got fruit at Christmas time. She would get excited to see an apple. "I have to say, I didn't do without fruit. I was the only child. My mother and father provided well."
Christine was married twice, once in 1965, for twenty-one years and a second time in 1990, to her second husband. Christine had three daughters from her first marriage. Christine and her second husband have been married thirteen years. Christine has two stepsons from her current marriage.
Christine and her second husband were married in Port aux Basques. Christine met her second husband in Port aux Basques, where he was employed. Her second husband used to fish a lot mainly as self-support in order to buy schoolbooks, for pocket money, etc. He is originally from down the coast. It was survival back then, and they had to support themselves.
Christine bought her groceries down at the old Food Center at Port aux Basques. The Food Center was located across from the current site of the town hall. Another store was located where Coleman's grocery store is today, but when she came to Port aux Basques it was under another name. Telephones were already in Port aux Basques when she came here.
Christine never found it hard raising a family. There was a cottage hospital when Christine came to Port aux Basques. All of her children were born in a hospital with the help of a doctor. If she could change anything in her life Christine said it would be some of her choices but she would never change her children, or darling grandchildren. She has five grandchildren now.
Life was harder work wise when Christine was growing up. Christine tells us that there is nothing to do now as compared to then. "Just pop something into the dishwasher, everything is automatic." She also thinks that her life may have been different if she had furthered her college education. A college education would have opened up more opportunities for her. However Christine did fairly well in the workforce. She was a teacher for three years, she worked at Sears, she ran a constituency government office and for the past fourteen years she has been working at the public library in Port aux Basques.
She thinks that the roles of women have changed, "women are supposed to be equal now, they got their own voice." When Christine was growing up the men usually worked for a living and the wives stayed home as homemakers. "My mother handled all the financial aspects while father was away at work."
Clarissa Porter was born on September 11, 1941, in a small community called Burnt Islands, Newfoundland. Currently she is residing in Port aux Basques.
Clarissa's parents, Thomas and Elsie Herritt, raised a family of fourteen children and have lived in Burnt Islands all their lives. Thomas was a fisherman but wasn't very well off. He died at an early age and left Elsie alone with fourteen children. At the time of his death his youngest son wasn't even born. Helping her husband mainly focused on raising the children and the housework. Cooking and washing also factored into her daily work. When Clarissa was young she would help out around the house by cleaning the smokey lampshades from the night before, cleaning her room, and dumping the slop pail in the morning.
As a child Clarissa would play games such as pippy, hide and seek, house, and would also play down in the cove. She can remember there were dances for kids, adults, and teenagers. She attended school until grade ten. It was a two-room school, grades primary to six in one class and grades seven to eleven in the other. Her parents wanted their children to get an education but couldn't because when you were old enough you had to quit due to the lack of money. They also attended an Anglican church. There was always a minister nearby.
There was no doctor in Burnt Islands; the doctor would come down from Port aux Basques by boat. There wasn't as much as a nursing station in Burnt Islands at the time. Her aunt was a doctor but not by profession she was just good at helping people. Her aunt operated on her head once and the hole is still there. One home remedy was to squeeze a dry potato and then blow the dust at you to cure nosebleeds. " It worked."
Clarissa worked as a serving girl in Port aux Basques when she was around the age of fourteen. She worked for her sister, who had twelve children, while she was waiting to get a job in Port aux Basques. She did every chore that a mother would do except for nursing a baby. The most common time to have a serving girl was when the woman was pregnant. While working in Port aux Basques she made twenty-five dollars a month. There was another child her age she could play with, while she worked in Port aux Basques.
During Christmas not much was received but everyone was thankful for what they got. When Clarissa was a child they would get some fruit and if they were lucky maybe a doll. Unlike today turkey wasn't a common thing to eat. It was very rare that someone would have one. The more common bird eaten at Christmas time was a turr (wild salt water bird). Mummering was something that was done every night during Christmas. It was so much fun that some people had a different outfit to put on each night.
Clarissa was married at the age of nineteen by a minister to her husband, Allan Porter. Clarissa's memory of how she met her husband was vivid. She came to Port aux Basques at an early age with a couple of girls. They had to be on good behavior because they didn't know anyone. There was a boy who would follow her around. He finally asked her out and she was very excited because a lot of other girls wanted to go out with him.
Allan worked with the Canadian National Railway for most of his life. He started out as a stevedore then he moved on to be one of the first bus drivers in the area. Clarissa worked as a retail sales clerk, an assistant manager, and she owned her own business at one point in time. While Allan was at work she made all the decisions and did the entire house work. She even designed the home she is living in. She had two children and didn't find it hard because they had more than she did when she was young. In the earlier days water was carried in buckets from the well. The well was located a long way from their home so they had quite a walk to get water. They received running water a short while after she got married. On Monday's the pots were boiled on the stove because it was washday. The clothing was washed with a big metal washtub, some bleach, and a scrubboard. They started out with kerosene lamps but as times got better they got polan lamps, then Tilly lamps. A coal stove was use as a heating source for the home. She did spin wool but it wasn't her own, she helped her mother and grandmother. The wool was used to make mitts, socks, and sweater. In the home there was a table, hardwood chairs, and there was no kitchens or cupboards, there were pantries back then. There was no toilet; a bucket was used in its place. For bathing, a big metal washtub was used. Every Saturday was bath night whether you wanted to or not.
When telephones made their way to Burnt Islands, Clarissa was a teenager. They were big crank telephones that would be hung on the wall. It was only in one person's house so you would have to go there to use the telephone. The mail would come to Burnt Islands by boat. Clarissa's uncle ran the post office in the community. Fish was a big part of their diet but as the years moved on fish began to fade out of their regular food source. The first car she ever saw was in Port aux Basques. At the time there was a general store in the area that they could get groceries. She would also make her own clothing by taking apart old clothing and remaking them.
The only thing Clarissa would change about her life in Burnt Islands would be to have running water instead of lugging it. The times were harder back then because there was no washing machines or electricity, which is a big difference. The thing she could remember the most was the friendship in the community. She said, "maybe it was because we were isolated we helped each other and did things together." Today there are more roads, which gave many isolated communities access to bigger communities. People are getting more education today than ever before. One time you could see everyone growing vegetables in their yard but that is something that is very rare to see today.
Evelyn Janes was born to Philip and Eliza Tapp on August 25, 1940, in Cape Ray, Newfoundland. She is now residing in her home in Cape Ray, the community she has lived in all her life.
Evelyn father, Philip, was born in Cape Ray and her mother, Eliza, came from Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Philip worked for the Canadian National Railway (CN), while Eliza was a homemaker. She had thirteen children so Eliza has a full time job taking care of her children. "It was a teaching experience," Evelyn says.
As a child, Evelyn would go for long walks for fun because there wasn't too much more to do. Evelyn had to go to church and school. They had a school chapel that you could open it up for school and close it up for church. It had four doors at the back for opening and closing the school and church. Also at the back of the chapel there was an alter. Evelyn tells us there was no minister in Cape Ray so they would have the minister come from Port Aux Basques for services. Evelyn went to a one-room school. She says the first school had around eighty students. The name of the school in Cape Ray was St. John the Evangelist. If someone got sick there was no doctor in Cape Ray so they would have to travel to Port Aux Basques by train. As a child Evelyn's daily household chores would be bringing in the wood, making beds, sweeping the floor, and looking after the younger children. They never had a toilet but they had an outhouse and they used a washtub to bathe in. While Evelyn was growing up there were no telephones in their home. They never got one until she was about fifteen years old. Even though there were no telephones they could still communicate with people in other communities. They could send letters in the mail because there was a post office in Cape Ray. The type of food that was eaten back in Evelyn's day was items like salt beef and fish. They raise their own meat and grew potatoes. They had cows, sheep, and hens. The boys took care of the animals.
Christmas was a joyful time of the year for Evelyn when she was a child. She would get clothing for Christmas. The main Christmas dinner was a piece of fresh beef and vegetables; there was no turkey back in those days. A famous Christmas tradition that Evelyn took part of was mummering.
Evelyn got married to Austin Janes at the age of twenty-one in the school chapel. Evelyn and her husband never had any children. Austin worked with the Department of Highways and Evelyn worked as a store clerk at the local store and janitor at the school in Cape Ray (St. John The Evangelist). Cash was used to buy their groceries at the local store in Cape Ray. Evelyn didn't make any of her own clothing; she would order it from Eaton's and Simpson Sears.
Evelyn says that she thinks they had a better life growing up in her day than children do today. She says "there wasn't so many temptations."
Joyce Janes, date of birth: December 14,1942
28 May 2003
Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Joyce Janes born in Cape Ray on December 14, 1942. Today at the age of sixty she is still living in her own home in Cape Ray.
Joyce's parents, Elizabeth and Walter Osmond, moved to Cape Ray when they got married. Her mother was born in Lapoile, one of Newfoundland's isolated communities on the Southwest coast. Walter was born in Port Aux Basques and worked with the Canadian National Railway for many years. While he was at work Elizabeth would stay at home to clean the house and look after the children which was expected of all women at the time. She kept the clothing clean by scrubbing each piece of clothing across a small rigged washboard with soap, in a large wooden washtub full of water. "With a big family in them times she had lots to do." Whenever water was needed for anything it was brought from a well or stream in buckets. "I don't remember much about it because I was only thirteen months old when she died," said Joyce about her mother. Joyce would also help out around the home. She would have to bring wood in for the stove at night and set the table at mealtime. Every weekend she would have to clean her room and wash her own dirty clothes. When the girls go up in the morning they had to fill the lamps, trim the wicks and clean the globes before they went to school.
As a child Joyce would play games such as pippy. "Pippy was a game where you had a short stick and a long stick. You would dig a hole in the ground, put the short stick across the hole and flick it with the long one." Skipping was also one of the things she would do to amuse herself. Joyce went to church only once a month when there was a service held in the Cape Ray church. The old church was not in the same place it is today, back then it was out near the lighthouse. She attended St. John The Evangelist School in Cape Ray until grade nine. Joyce remembers when she was in school they would go to Tom Tapp's General Store at recess time. One day on their way from the store Joyce and her friends saw an eel through the ice. So they all gathered around to see it and the ice cracked in under them. They had to go back to school cold and wet. Another one of her memories was the time she got caught smoking for the first time. Joyce, Bernice, and Alec all put their money together and got a pack of tobacco and cigarette papers. They went down behind the school to a camp they had built in the woods to have a smoke. Joyce got sick when she went back to school, the teacher thought it might have been caused by a flu or cold. When she arrived home that day she thought nobody knew about it, and she had gotten away with it. Then her sister got home and told on her for smoking that day. "I got a beating and remembered my first smoke."
During Christmas they didn't get big fancy gifts that children today strive for. In Joyce's childhood they didn't get much for Christmas but were thankful for whatever they got. When Joyce was a child for Christmas she would get a piece of ribbon or a pair of wool socks which she was very happy with. Mutton, which is sheep meat, was a very common food during Christmas time. Turkey was a very rare treat if you were able to get it, which in this case it was never ever seen. If they were lucky a wild bird would be killed for Christmas dinner. Occasionally moose meat was eaten if one was killed and brought home around that time. The most popular Christmas tradition during this time was mummering. Almost everyone on the Southwest coast went out mummering some time in their life. Mummering consisted of people dressing up in disguise so nobody knew who they were and going around from house to house dancing, eating cake, and if they were lucky getting some syrup to drink.
In Cape Ray at the time if someone got sick the nearest doctor was in Port aux Basques. Even to this day Cape Ray doesn't have it's own doctor and the people there still have to travel to Port aux Basques to see a doctor. If there was a problem that wasn't too serious they had home remedies to cure themselves. A cut would sometimes be treated with sap from a tree to stick it back together so it could heal. Joyce's grandmother made an ointment from ground ivy to put on cuts and burns. A tonic was made by boiling or steeping bark from a cherry tree.
There was a store in Cape Ray where they could buy groceries. A lot of fish was eaten at the time but it was mostly dry fish because it was the only means of preservation. Joyce raised cows, ducks, hens, and geese. She also grew her own vegetables. There were no modern machines, like tractors, everything was done manually. A horse and plow was used to till the ground. The places they couldn't get with the plow a hoe was used. In order to clear out the rocks they had to use a rake, a punch, or a shovel.
Joyce got married at the age of seventeen to her husband, Harold Janes. A minister from Port aux Basques married them because at the time there was no minister in Cape Ray. Even to this day there is no full time minister in Cape Ray church even though it is an Anglican Church. A minister still comes from Port aux Basques to hold services.
Joyce also spun her own wool. This was done by first shearing the sheep, and then washing and carding the wool came next, then it was put on the spinning wheel and spun to make yarn.
Harold worked with the Department of Transportation and Joyce worked at T. J. Hardy's fish plant for two years before she got married. While Harold was at work Joyce would stay home and do basically the same chores as her mother. She would wash clothing on a scrub board, carry water in buckets, look after the children, cook the meals, and clean the home. It was difficult doing all theses chores because there was no electricity and everything had to be done manually. There was an oil lamp to light up their homes. There was only one source of heat that came from a woodstove in the kitchen so there was no heat in the bedrooms. "The windows only hade one pain of glass. I tell you if it wasn't a pretty night I had to sweep the snow off the bed". The mornings were also very cold considering some mornings the kettle would be frozen to the top of the stove. Once a week the water was heated on the stove and a big metal pan was filled up so everyone could have a bath. Their toilet was an outhouse outside that was really cold in the winter. There was a chamber pot under the bed and a pail with a cover in the corner. Eventually she did get a Delco to run her wringer washer and a freezer. Electricity didn't make its way into the people of Cape Ray's lives until 1965. There were no telephones so their main form of communications was mail. The mail use to come up on the train to the post office, Thomas Tapp ran the post office. Telephones didn't come to Cape Ray until the eighties. The section foreman for the Canadian National Railway owned the only telephone in the community. The floors in their homes were not like it is today with tile or carpet. They were just plain wood that had to be scrubbed with a brush. There were only three bedrooms in the house. One was for the girls, one was for the boys, and one was for the parents. The beds were shared with so many people at the head of the bed and so many at the foot of the bed.
Another memory for Joyce was when she used to pick berries for a lady who would pay her with tobacco and cigarette papers. She was supposed to keep it quiet so nobody would find out. Then she gave the tobacco and papers to Joyce in front of her father. She never got her tobacco and papers and she got a severe scolding.
Joyce feels that life is much easier today that it was when she grew up. " They would starve to death because they can't even light a fire." It was harder because when her husband went to work she would have to be mom and dad. She did make her children do their share of the work to help out. They would have to bring in wood and coal; they would have to bring water too.