There is no place like the out­ports

The Compass - - NEWS -

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.

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