A hospital boat entering Petites harbour.
Violet Taylor was born on September 9th, 1925 in West Point, a community on the Southwest coast of Newfoundland. This community is no longer in existence today because it has been resettled. At seventy-eight years of age she currently resides in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, at the Gateway Seniors Cottages.
Violet's parents were Henry and Esther Strickland. Henry was a resident of West Point all his life. Esther was a resident of West Point, and then she moved to North Bay and then Petites. Henry fished salmon and codfish in the sea around West Point. Henry owned a two-mast schooner with his brother. They used this ship to undertake voyages to Barbados in the West Indies for molasses and to Prince Edward Island for apples and potatoes. Esther was a homemaker who stayed at home to look after her children. There were thirteen children in the family counting Violet. This was because Henry was a widower who married twice. This second marriage produced four boys and eight girls.
The family was not rich compared to today's standards but never wanted for anything food wise. Esther helped her husband by making dry fish and tending her gardens. Esther grew rhubarb, carrots, cabbages, onions, turnips, potatoes, lettuce, and radishes. The family also raised hens and some sheep.
Violet would help her mother by taking in the dry fish and bringing manure for the gardens. The gardens were fertilized with a mixture of manure, kelp, and lobster bodies. The hen's manure was only used on the rhubarb plants. The lobster bodies came from Violet's uncle who ran a lobster canning operation and the bodies were saved as fertilizer. Violet helped her father by knitting twine for the heads of lobster pots and by fixing salmon nets.
Esther made a great deal of the clothing that her family wore. Sometimes this was accomplished by using older clothing and cutting it apart to make newer clothing. This clothing that was cut down, sometimes came from the poor box at the local church. Sometimes the clothing was made from flour sacks. This material could be used to make underwear or slacks. It could be left white or could be dyed depending on the preference of the person making the clothing. Violet remembered that the material for the flour sacks was sometimes rough and uncomfortable.
If someone became sick there was no doctor in West Point to treat them. Esther was the person that many of the local fishermen would come to see if they had a cut or an infection. For something like a boil Esther would use a bread poultice to draw out the infection. A poultice was bread boiled with some sugar or olive oil. If a bread poultice was not effective then a linseed meal poultice was used. Violet described linseed meal as having an appearance of brown flour but had a completely different smell. She would treat a cut with a piece of birch bark or turpentine from a tree. A scald or a burn would be treated with egg whites and olive oil. A serious cut was treated with rosin. Rosin was a substance that was used to plug the holes in a boat. This rosin would be ground up finely and placed on a cut to stick it together.
Violet and her mother attended the United Church in West Point. There was no permanent Minister in West Point. Instead he was assigned to West Point, Grand Bruit, North Bay and Petites. At a time when a minister was not available services were conducted by lay readers. Violet's uncle and her grandfather were both lay readers.
Violet attended the school in West Pont when she was five years old. This school had fifty students in one room when Violet started. Violet wrote on a slate and pencil when she was in school. A scribbler and pencil were used in the evening to take down and do their homework on.
Violet never had a whole lot of time for fun when she was a child because there was always work to be done. In the wintertime she would skate with one of her friends. They would use a pair of skates that Violet borrowed from her brother. Each of them would put one skate on and they would put their arms around one another in order to skate. The skates were significant because they were store bought skates. Violet can't remember who bought her brother the skates.
The family bought their groceries in West Point at Roy Strickland's store, which was a subsidiary of Newman Brother's store in Petites. The groceries were charged initially and were paid off when money came. Violet had chores to do when she was a child. She had to clean the dishes, make her bed, sweep the flour, and feed the chickens and the sheep. Violet had to hang the clothes out to dry when her mother was not around.
The home that Violet grew up in had three bedrooms in it and was in two parts. One part of the home had two bedrooms and a kitchen in it. The other part of the home was used primarily when the weather got cold and contained a large kitchen and a bedroom. This large kitchen had a wood stove in it for heat. Esther would spend her time in this large kitchen hooking mats and sewing clothing.
The family's home was furnished with primarily homemade furniture. The home had an old fashioned couch, wooden chairs, feather beds and two of the bedrooms had bureaus in them. The home had a stove that could burn wood or coal. All of the furniture that Violet recalled was homemade except for the beds which were bought somewhere outside the community.
There were no private telephones in West Point when Violet was growing up. There was a mail service that would bring the mail from Lapoile by boat once a week. There was a telephone in a home in West Point that was used to send messages to the rest of the island.
The diet that the family ate consisted of a great deal of vegetables and berries. Esther would make jam from marsh berries and partridge berries and this was put in a barrel on the porch. All the meat that the family ate was salted because this was a time before refrigeration. The family ate salted wild game such as caribou and salt water birds. The meat could not be put into bottles for preservation due to the design of the bottles. The kinds of bottles that they had were topped with wax paper, which made them unsuitable for the storage of meat.
Christmas was a fun time of year when Violet was a child. Violet recalled that she used to do better than some other people because her mother used to knit the family sweaters and even knit underwear for the girls. She would knit her children pyjamas with feet in them. She used to knit her children wool socks or as they called them double vamps. In the wintertime when the snow was hard you were able to walk on the snow with just these socks on rather than boots. Esther made her daughter's dresses and sometimes she would get the materials and patterns to make her children toy dogs and dolls. Her father made little wooden buckets, wooden dolls and boats in bottles for the children. The family had molasses pudding, a berry pie, and salt water birds or mutton for their Christmas dinner. Violet used to mummer when she was younger. They would dress up in disguise and go from house to house visiting people. People would give the mummers ginger wine, a drink of syrup or lemon crystals. In West Point people would go visiting from house to house. People in Petites would go dances at the community center.
Violet left school part way through grade six to go to work for her aunt as a serving girl. The reason that Violet left school was because her father became sick and Violet left to ease the strain on the family. She worked as a serving girl for three months and was paid fifty cents plus her room and board. Violet worked from seven in the morning until ten or ten thirty at night. Violet had to bring the water, scrub on the board, look after a flock of sheep, care for two pigs, and look after a flock of hens. Violet had to care for her aunt's family and a share man. A share man is a crew member that fished in a fishing boat for a share of the catch. The only job that Violet was not required to do was clean the dishes. Out of her fifty cents pay Violet bought her sister a stop and go car and a pair of cotton socks for her mother.
Violet got married to her husband, Percy Taylor, when she was fifteen years old. They will be married for sixty-three years on September 27th, 2003. He has worked at a number of jobs over the course of his life. He was a fisherman, a gold miner, a diamond driller, a hunting guide, a trapper, and a logger. Violet moved from West Point to the community of North Bay. North Bay was a community located near Lapoile. This community no longer exists because it was resettled by the Newfoundland government. Violet and Percy had nine children but only seven survived to adulthood. The children were spread out and the oldest child was married by the time that the youngest child was born. When the family lived in North Bay they bought their groceries at one of three stores. Her uncle Joe Farrell had a store, Ernest Farrell, and Violet's brother-in-law, Max Strickland, had a store. Three of Violets nine children were born in a hospital. Two were born at the hospital in Port aux Basques and one was born at the hospital in Burgeo.
Percy fished out of his own boat for codfish and salmon in the waters around North Bay. He used trawl for codfish and nets for salmon. The cod was dried and sold to a local fish merchant. Violet never helped her husband with his fishing and never went into the stage for anything. That is not the case today where one of Violet's daughters is a fisherperson.
One of the memories that Violet remembers from her time living down the coast was the time when her nephew, Norman Strickland, cut himself severely. He was cutting slats for lobster pots on a table saw. Norman slipped and ran his hand through the saw taking off most of his fingers. Violet was the person that had to bandage up his wound before they took him to Port aux Basques for treatment. She had to tie a knot around his wrist and wrap his hand with a towel and a pillowcase. He ended up losing all the fingers on his hand except his thumb.
Violet feels that she had a good life and she feels that she would not change much about her life. She feels that her generation worked hard but they were better people because of it.