There is no place like the outports
You never know what historical treats reside in buildings doomed for destruction.
Recently, a friend of mine gave me some lett ers removed from a dwelling, which was being dismantled.
The letters speak of a much earlier time, 1941. The one I’m quoting from is dated Thursday, August 28.
It’s written by a young man, Tom (not his real name), who has left his home in Coley’s Point to work in Grand Falls.
That evening, he sits in his apartment on Pine Avenue and writes his mother. A well-spoken lad, Tom has a good command of language and is an able and astute commentator.
The letter is mildewed with age. It’s difficult to breathe as I read it because of the all-pervasive moldy smell. Though the careful handwriting has faded with the passage of time, it’s still decipherable.
Today’s reader is, in effect, able to sit behind Tom’s shoulder as he writes, reading about the things that are on the mind of a son away from home.
“ I received your most welcome letter,” Tom begins somewhat formally. “I am well, and glad to hear ye are the same ...
“I am not working this evening, as it’s showery.” He must have had an outside job.
He asks to congratulate those back home who passed in school.
He inquires about a girl, wondering if she passed. I wonder, who is she? His sister? Girlfriend? The possibilities are intriguing.
“Did any of the Grade Eight Class fail?”
Tom admits, “ I haven’t got my mind made up yet as to what I am going to go at. I don’t see anything that I could do, except that I go to summer school next year and go teaching for a while.”
He has a humourous streak, evident from his next statement: “I will have to do something before I forget what I do know.”
He realizes it’s “no use stopping there because it is like throwing money away.”
Meanwhile, he also realizes he will “ have to wait until I come home and see what is best to do.”
The day before, he received a letter from Pop. His father or grandfather? We simply don’t know. Tom plans to respond on Sunday.
He misses home. “I would like to be home now,” he admits, “to go out in the boat sometimes fishing. There is no place like the outports.”
He informs his mother he “got a suit of clothes the other night. It cost a good bit, but it was the best I could do. There are two pairs of pants. Of course, it was not my doings. It got to stand me a good while now.”
He again mulls over his future. “I wouldn’t mind if I had to go to school another year,” he adds, “ because when I am finished school, there is no stop at all. You have to be working all the time.”
He asks about another young lady, wondering if she “got a school yet.” Who is she?
“ I guess if I had stayed home,” Tom admits ruefully, “I would have made almost so much as I will down here.”
Board is costly. “ It would be alright if I didn’t have to pay so much for board,” he complains good naturedly. “ That spoils it all. Anyway so I pay off what I owe this summer is all I care.”
His mother had spoken to her son about rubber taps.
“ Well,” he responds, “I don’t think you need bother about that. So I was thinking about getting some leather in here and tapping my shoes. I think they have a last over to Gillette’s.”
She had sent him a parcel, but it hasn’t arrived. “ The shipping bill for it is come, but we cannot find the parcel.”
Tom had to condemn his old shoes; indeed, he’s now wearing a pair belonging to somebody else. He hopes to receive the parcel the next day.
“By what you said on your letter,” Tom writes, “you had the storm Sunday harder than we had it. The lightening was terrible heavy, but we had no thunder worthwhile, and that was distant. I was out in all the lightening because when I came home it was all over. We didn’t have any rain with it.”
The end of August is at hand. “ Summer will be over,” Tom adds sadly. “It seems only a very short time since we were going to school, and now it is time to go again.
“ Well, I think I have told you just about all the news for this time. So I think I must close.”
Tom wants to be remembered to various individuals. “ With love, your affectionate son.” I wonder, what became of Tom? Did he come home for good? What course did he choose for his life? Did he become a teacher?
The list of possible questions is endless.