Dr. Grenfell as I knew him
It was almost the last summer I was at Turnavik. The skipper of the steam launch became sick and had to go up to one of the Grenfell hospitals. Father told me that I had to take his place. I got a bad dose of tonsillitis. I had them pretty big and sore; this was a pretty bad mix-up, and now the skipper of the launch in the hospital! And the end of the capelin school, when the codfish were biting well, and a good supply of bait would be a good fishery. The fish were hooking well and, in another week, we would be out of the woods. No one could be spared to take my place, so I had to go.
I was just getting ready to leave the house when the Strathcona, with Grenfell, was coming in the tickle. Father had a boat sent alongside and got them up to the house, in the meantime telling me to wait until he came.
‘ One of those
In Dr. Grenfell came, and the first thing he said was,“Let me look at your throat.” Then he fooled around in his pocket and brought out a case. Opening it, I saw something for the world like one of those gadgets you used to snip candles. Backing me up against the wall, I opened my mouth, and in went the “candle-snipper,” as I called it, which was an old-fashioned tonsil extractor. He kept snipping away until I could hold out no longer, so I pushed him away. When I cleared my mouth, through the tears in my eyes, I tried to get my breath. I was sort of groggy, but I could hear him talk, and it seemed far away. I suppose my senses were dulled with the struggle and he was so interested in his enthusiasm, as was always his wont, that he did not realize he was doing this job without any ether. I was holding on as long as I could. This, we were taught, was the part of a good soldier. Then I heard him say, “Oh! I am sorry. I have cut your palate!”
I was galvanized to action, and I came right out of my stupor and said,“No! No, you didn’t. I can speak!” And then I laughed, and the look of relief on his face was very noticeable.
I gathered up my gear, oil clothes, mitts and a few other odd things I had, went out of the house and to the launch, which was already blowing off steam. Going out of the tickle, I had to pass the house and the flagstaff, and there was Dr. Grenfell, waving his hand.
The late Dr. Henry Grier Bryant [1859-1932], President of the Philadelphia Geographical Society, was a great personal friend of Grenfell, and also a director of the Gren- fell Association of America. Dr. Bryant had made several trips to the interior of Labrador, and knew firsthand many of the liveyeres, the Eskimos and the Nascopie and Montagnais Indians, all of whom Dr. Grenfell’s mission had reached.
Dr. Bryant was also a great friend of Admiral [Robert E.] Peary [1856-1920]. I had met him at Turnavik back in 1894. It was in the days when Peary was making his trips, in which he was getting ready for his onslaught for the [North] Pole. I had dinner with Dr. Bryant at the Art Club in Philadelphia. The late John Huneker, the brother of the well-known writer, James Huneker, Andy Marty and Joe Miller, all friends of the Grenfell Association, were there, too.
One of the doctors at the dinner was a surgeon with Dr. Bryant and also with Peary in a previous summer trip. We got talking about the North, Labrador Grand Falls, mosquitoes and the hardship of travel, both in Greenland and Labrador. Then it came to Grenfell’s work and, of course, Dr. Bryant had firsthand information. I told them of the tonsil story, shooting the partridge on the Lance Ground and other stories connected with the Grenfell work. I had forgotten to mention that my being at this dinner was by invitation from Dr. Bryant, to introduce Dr. Grenfell at the Academy of Music, where Dr. Grenfell was to give an illustrated lecture to a Philadelphia audience. The majority of this audience would be sympathetic to Grenfell and, of course, this audience would be of the very best people in Philadelphia and the suburbs.
‘ That story of the tonsils and the bird’
John Huneker said that I had better tell that story of the tonsils and the bird. Somehow or other, when I met Dr. Grenfell before the lecture, I changed my mind. He was a bit nervous; he probably thought, “Well, Bob will talk about the tonsils and will probably use curse words, which will sort of embarrass the audience, and make it difficult for me to get under way.”
I only said a few words to introduce him. It was very easy. Dr. Grenfell was known to the Philadelphia audience almost as well as the President of the United States.
He showed his pictures and had his audience with him from start to finish. In talking to him afterwards, he said, “I thought you would tell the tonsil story.” I don’t know yet whether he was disappointed or pleased; so many people were around and, with the excitement, it was difficult to tell by the expression on his face or in his words to me.
...To be continued.
Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org