Bill Westcott reflects on how he learned to spell ‘Carbonear’
I was only eight years old when I learned to spell “Carbonear.”
It was back in 1948 while on the first of many trips I would make to that jewel in Conception Bay. It began a lifelong fascination for outport living and all it had to offer, and still does up to this present day.
Last month, my wife Betty and I decided to drive from our home in Clarke’s Beach to Freshwater. Driving through the massive rock-cut heading down into the business district towards Carbonear proper, my mind is in a reflective mood, and full of nostalgia. I’m thinking back about my childhood, 65 years ago.
Driving around, it is impossible not to gaze at the magnificent scenery, a postcard panorama of sheer beauty with Carbonear Island in the distance — hauntingly rugged, its craggy face shagging down into the glistening wind-swept waters of Conception Bay.
Deep in thought I wondered, “What would Felix and Betty think of it now? What would they say to me?”
I’m referring to two of the most genuine and blessed people God ever created — the late Felix and Betty McCarthy from “the Burnt Head.”
Felix was born there and after he married his girlfriend and soulmate Betty, they, like a lot of their friends and family, moved away to St. John’s to work.
Felix was a carpenter and general handyman who could fix just about anything. He worked alongside my father at the U.S. Air Force Base (Fort Pepperell) in St. John’s. They became close friends and eventually closeknit neighbours. It would be through their relationships with mom and dad that my life began an adventurous new chapter involving Felix and Betty.
Uncle Felix and Aunt Betty, as I soon began calling them, although obviously not related, were frequent visitors to our St. John’s home. Betty and my mother were faithful churchgoers and grew to become social and spiritual friends. Dad and Felix enjoyed the outdoors, gardening, fishing and for fun, games of horseshoes played often in the open field out back of our properties between Pennywell Road and Prowse Avenue in the west end of St. John’s.
In the early years of marriage, Betty and Felix had no children — three would come later. Often after school mother would send me to McCarthy’s house to run errands for Felix. Trips to the grocery store for a block of butter, a bag of sugar or a tin of Carnation milk, raking leaves, pulling weeds, shovelling snow or any small jobs a young boy could handle. They were always generous to me and often wanted me to stay for sleepovers.
One early summer, I was eight then, Betty asked dad if I could go on a holiday with her and Felix ‘round the bay to Carbonear. They were going over for a week of summer vacation and wanted me to come along. “It will be good from him,” Betty said to Mother.
Seven years have elapsed and I am still trying to make sense of it. Yes, I understand government cutbacks, slow response time, precious time lost because of police procedure. It is harder for me to understand why the officers came from the Bay Roberts detachment and not the much-nearer Harbour Grace station, but I accept this as a budget-trimming measure.
I also understand him. He thought I was a senior. There were some old-age pension stubs lying about the house. They belonged to my late mother. The teenagers must have discovered them during the first break-in and passed the information along to their older, bolder friend. It would account for his surprise as he looked at my relatively youthful face under the porch light, his feeble attempts at appeasement when he is faced with a feisty mid-
As he meanders down the hall, I lie there in the dark. I am prepared for everything — the knife, the ski mask, the rope. I wonder what he wants. I suppose he just wants to terrorize me, but I wonder why. Finally, he throws open the door to my bedroom.
Yes, he thought I was a senior. A senior whose house he could ransack, a senior who would cower and scream or whom he would petrify into silence. I think of the many 80-something women I know who live alone and cherish their independence. What would they have done if he had entered their home? It is doubtful they would have acted like me. A heart attack or stroke would claim them quickly or force them into the lingering death of a nursing home, their much-cherished independence gone, their lives shattered permanently.
He is not just an intruder. He is a murderer. He is a murderer who will never face justice because the law does not recognize his actions as an act of murder.
I wonder if the Mounties ever went back to question the teenagers. They know who he is, of that I am sure. But then, I have never heard from the Mounties, either. I have only experienced lawlessness. I have never received justice.
Bill Wescott is pictured here, with the Town of Carbonear in the background.