Coming of age in Hant’s Harbour
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
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 …