I minds when
Bill Williams lives in retirement in Conception Bay South, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots. He was born in New Harbour and educated in Green’s Harbour.
“When I return to my home community,” he says, “I become more aware that the sights and sounds in every harbour, cove and inlet around our shores change in every generation.”
As a professional, Bill worked as a teacher, millwright, maintenance supervisor and, latterly, United Church minister.
His first book, “Reflections,” is a compilation of his meditations, reflections and prayers.
“I hope that as you read and reread through the pages,” he states, “you will be lifted up when you are down, relaxed when you are tensed, feel joy when you are sad, be comforted when you mourn, have a purpose when you feel rejected, and feel the presence of God when you are alone.”
In his latest book, “I Minds When,” he writes: “It is a foregone conclusion that if someone from that era starts to tell a story, it will always begin with ‘I minds when.’ The story will hardly ever begin with ‘I remember when’ which, of course, means the same thing.” The subtitle reads, “Connecting With the Past Through Stories, Poetry, Reflections, Wit and Humour.”
He owes the inspiration for “I Minds When” to his chats “with older persons who loved to tell stories of their past, back to where the action was. In their stories, I sense a need for older people to say, ‘I was not always old, so here’s my story of who I really am.’”
The stories depict “a way of life that is no more.”
He provides a word portrait of, among other things, the Gerald S. Doyle news bulletin on radio, his grandmother’s reports on the day’s events through the bedroom window, children getting coasters and sleighs for Christmas, his first box-
Bill is also a poet, finding “it entertaining to put words to rhyme when making up a ditty, so that the audience can participate.” He includes such original creations as “My Bathroom Flows Into the Ocean” and “When I Was Three.”
His short stories include “A Bruised Ego,” “Max Dawe’s Slaughterhouse and Puddin’ Shack” and “Squid-jigging.”
As an indication of the “religious formation” in communities in earlier days, Bill includes such reflections as “By the Light of the Moon,” “We Remember Kindness” and “Share the Light.”
Having grown up in the 1950s, he can personally “connect with the stories … I’ve noticed that those aged stories are generally always told in a humourous way. We sometimes think that the perceived difficult past was mostly doom and gloom. That is not the case, as older people will tell you that times were hard, but there was a lot of fun and humour which was a big part of their lives. For that reason, I believe if their stories are told with humour they ought to be written in a humourous way and read in a humourous way.”
He’s specific about what he hopes readers will take away from his writing which, he says, “con- cart ride, his consumption of codliver oil, and outdoor toilets over the harbour.
He writes about events as mundane as Aunt Sarah’s goat and Aunt Jane’s hen. Another story concerns the day a boy lost his helmet.
“Sir,” the lad said, “can I kneel down by the (church) bell and pray?”
“Yes, of course you can pray,” Bill replied. “Is there something on your mind that you want to pray about?”
“Yes, sir. I lost me new bike helmet, so I wants to ask God to help me find it. If I goes home without me new helmet, me mudder will knock the head off me.”
Words to rhyme
nects them with their own stories, inspiring them to recall stories of their past and sharing them with their family and friends.”
The cover of “I Minds When” is a reproduction of an original acrylic painting, a hobby he acquired in 1991 on his first pastoral charge.
“I could always sketch,” he recalls, “and I remember my children coming home from school and asking me to draw a cover sheet for their assignments.” Now, he considers his paintings to be “a window of opportunity to tell a story of New- foundland and Labrador heritage, beauty and culture.”
With his second book in print, he’s not about to “rust on his laurels.” Another one “will focus on growing up in the ’fifties as a child, remembering my growing up in a rural community.”
Burton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His column appears in The Compass every week. He can be reached at email@example.com