Coming of age in Hant’s Har­bour

The Compass - - OPINION - Ed­i­tor’s note: Part 1 of a two-part se­ries Bur­ton K. Janes bur­tonj@nfld.net

From the com­fort of her re­tire­ment home in Grand Falls-Wind­sor, Lil­lie King (nee Short) of­ten re­flects on her up­bring­ing in Hant’s Har­bour, where she was born in 1927. In a re­cent let­ter to this colum­nist, she re­calls in keen de­tail her colour­ful mem­o­ries of her early life in the Trin­ity Bay com­mu­nity.

“Like a lot of other com­mu­ni­ties along our coast­line,” she says, “it was a strug­gle for sur­vival, es­pe­cially dur­ing the harsh win­ters.”

As part and par­cel of an English colony, New­found­lan­ders de­pended on the moth­er­land for help. “So,” Lil­lie adds, “along with our hard work we made it through th­ese tough years un­til Con­fed­er­a­tion with Canada in 1949. For many years af­ter that, there were still no paved roads or run­ning water in our area.”

Ev­ery­day chores, which were shared by all and sundry, in­cluded “fetch­ing water from the well, get­ting wood in for the night, and clean­ing and fill­ing the kerosene lamps. Our laun­dry was done with a wooden tub and a scrub-board, and hung out­doors on the line in sum­mer and win­ter alike. What didn’t dry out­side was then hung near the old wood stove to dry in­side.

“Our food con­sisted of lots of fish, served in var­i­ous ways of the day; home­made bread, pre­pared one day for the next; and home­grown veg­eta­bles, which were stored in the cel­lar for the win­ter.” Nor can Lil­lie for­get the salt beef, pork, beans, peas and rice, all of which were “ob­tained by trad­ing or bar­ter­ing salt dried cod.” Par­tridge berries, which were picked in the fall and kept frozen all win­ter, were turned into de­li­cious home­made jam.

Cloth­ing was home­made, “ei­ther knit or cut and sewn to fit from gar­ments handed down from fam­ily mem­bers or friends,” Lil­lie ex­plains. “We were very thank­ful and com­fort­able with them. Even our un­der­gar­ments were made from flan­nelette or a bleached flour sack from Cin­derella or Robin Hood flour. It served the pur­pose and was clean and de­cent.”

Com­pared to to­day’s stan­dards, ed­u­ca­tion was prim­i­tive, Lil­lie ad­mits. “Start­ing off, we had a slate and a scratchy pen­cil, eras­ing with water when nec­es­sary. Then there came the scrib­blers and ex­er­cise books, with lead pen­cils, along with eight colours of crayons and water paints. Dur­ing the school year, we would sell enough berries to ob­tain some of th­ese things.” Make no won­der the pupils were proud!

Lil­lie at­tended a two-room school. Grades primer (or kinder­garten) to six were in one room, while grades seven to 11 were in the other. Two of her teach­ers were Myra An­drews and a Mr. Good­land.

“Schooldays also in­cluded bring­ing wood for the fire in the old pot­bel­lied stove to keep us warm, along with kin­dling for start­ing the fire.”

She also has fond mem­o­ries of a

Lil­lie King

hand-held school bell sit­ting atop the teacher’s desk. “I re­mem­ber stuff­ing it with pa­per one April Fool’s Day, to pre­vent it from ring­ing,” she jokes. “No­body said a word!”

The Sec­ond World War lodged in her me­mory all too well: “we had very lim­ited com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Our war news was writ­ten in a large book (ledger) by the post­mistress, Melina Critch, af­ter get­ting the in­for­ma­tion by Morse code. It was then passed on to the pub­lic.”

Win­dows were draped in dark green blinds. “This was done be­cause there were some sub­marines lurk­ing off­shore, so it was ‘ lie low and keep safe.’

“Peo­ple, who needed to get to the train in Car­bon­ear from Hant’s Har­bour, some­times had a hard time get­ting there. They had to travel by horse-and-sleigh in the win­ter and mostly by horse­and-car­riage in the sum­mer.” Some­times a car would be avail­able, but there were only two cars in Hant’s Har­bour at the time. “The Heart’s Con­tent-Car­bon­ear bar­rens were not plowed in win­ter.”

Lil­lie’s fa­ther, Frank Short, was an avid horse­man who “helped in trans­port­ing some of th­ese peo­ple when needed.”

Med­i­cal care was lim­ited in those days. The near­est doc­tor was 12 miles dis­tant at Heart’s Con­tent.

“Seal­ing was a way of life back then. Ev­ery spring there were lots of seal­ing ships, out­fit­ted by mer­chants, which left for the ice fields with men from Hant’s Har­bour. They har­vested seals for the mer­chants, who al­ready had mar­kets for the seal pelts. Some of the boats met with dis­as­ter and many seal­ers were lost on such boats as the ‘Florizel’ and oth­ers.”

To be con­tin­ued …

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