Brazil Street

The Pilot - - Editorial - Harold Wal­ters COL­UMN Harold Wal­ters lives Hap­pily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Cana­dian prov­ince with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at gh­wal­ Steve Bartlett is an ed­i­tor with SaltWire Network. He dives in the Deep

Robert Hunt has some lot of mem­o­ries.

Don’t we all?

But here’s the thing — Robert Hunt has the jump on most of us in that he has writ­ten and pub­lished his. As a mat­ter of fact, he has done so three times.

Brazil Street (Flanker Press) is the third book in a tril­ogy of Robert Hunt’s mem­o­ries.

Re­gard­ing all three books, Robert Hunt says he has writ­ten down ev­ery­thing he could re­mem­ber, “so that my chil­dren, their chil­dren, and the next gen­er­a­tion will know how we lived, how we sur­vived, and how we be­came the peo­ple we are to­day.” That’s a wor­thy pur­pose. In Brazil Street Hunt writes about his youth in St. John’s, New­found­land, dur­ing the first decade or so after Con­fed­er­a­tion pupped.

When we read a man’s mem­oirs we as­sume he is writ­ing about old times and, rightly so I sup­pose, un­til we re­al­ize that isn’t nec­es­sar­ily the case.

For in­stance. Once upon a Christ­mas, Robert wished for Bea­tle boots, and he ex­plains those boots were the craze of the day be­cause of a popular rock band called … well, The Bea­tles.

Robert, b’y, that wasn’t so long ago. That was just the other day when I was young, for frig sake. Any­way …

For many fam­i­lies dur­ing Hunt’s youth, gro­cery money was counted twice and, con­se­quently, grub was rough. Lux­ury fare — such as baloney! — wasn’t al­ways af­ford­able: “Sausages, ham and bologna were ex­pen­sive and la­belled ‘spe­cial’ treats at the time.”

Robert b’y, have you checked

The nest un­der the eave of my shed was gi­nor­mous, and I made the mis­take of googling “How many wasps in a nest?”

“A large nest can be home to 600,000,000.3 wasps,” the search re­sult read. “That army is pre­par­ing to at­tack you. Move to an­other hemi­sphere im­me­di­ately.”

OK, the warn­ing wasn’t that dire but it did of­fer a re­minder of how wasps can get ag­gres­sive if dis­turbed.

Oh, I’ve been there.

A few years ago, dur­ing a wooded walk to a swim­ming hole on sum­mer va­ca­tion, my son dis­turbed a nest, and a swarm got up un­der my trunks and held St­ingFest 2015.

If a Steve screams in the for­est, does any­body hear? All res­i­dents and in-shore mariners along Canada’s east coast did that day.

I got stung on the butt mul­ti­ple times and the ex­pe­ri­ence didn’t sit well for a cou­ple of days, which prob­a­bly ex­plains why I ab­so­lutely dreaded tack­ling the nest on the shed.

But it hov­ered over an area where my kids play, and wasps were fly­ing out of it when­ever some­one walked past.

It sim­ply had to go.

To do the job, I donned full wasp war­rior ar­mour — snow pants, leather mo­tor­cy­cle gloves and a black hoodie. the price of baloney lately?

Yes­ter­day, me and Mis­sus stopped at The Food Shop to buy some­thing for supper. We thought, baloney, per­haps …

… un­til we read the price. The cost of a chunk of baloney not much big­ger than a soup can was edg­ing to­wards $20. Six­teen loonies and change! Be­ing fru­gal and want­ing to stay within our bud­get, we de­cided to forego our feast of fried baloney — with a cou­ple of boiled pota­toes, had the supper come to pass — and opted for a cheaper cut of beef ten­der­loin. Would I tell a fib? An­other fond (?) mem­ory Hunt writes about is hav­ing com­pany from around the bay. Of­ten­times, kin that came to St. John’s — to see The Doc­tor, for ex­am­ple — stayed at the Hunt’s al­ready crowded house on Brazil Street.

I don’t re­late to such kin­folks’ vis­its but Mis­sus — reared up among Rab­bit Town’s war­rens — re­mem­bers …?… the pain.

Here’s what she said when I men­tioned that the bay crowd used to stay over at the Hunts’: “When rel­a­tives stayed at our house, my sis­ters and I had to sleep on sofa chairs pushed to­gether.”

Now in her vin­tage, Mis­sus moans of a chronic crick in her back, prob­a­bly the re­sult of the sofa chairs shift­ing apart dur­ing the night and her dou­ble-T butt sag­ging in the gap.

The other day when we all were young, cash money was dif­fi­cult to come by. Robert Hunt, how­ever, was an in­dus­tri­ous lad. He worked hard at any­thing that would earn him a dol­lar or two. He sold cod tongues; he scav­enged scrap metal; he ran er­rands for Amer­i­can per­son­nel sta­tioned at Fort Pep­per­rell. With sav­ings from his job at Wool­worth’s — and from a sec­ond job at Bob Glasco’s Meats — he ful­filled a dream.

He bought a cam­era, a Ko­dak Hawkeye Flash Fun.

“Rob­bing a con­ve­nience store to­day, Steve?” the neigh­bours might ask.

“No,” I would tell them in a con­fi­dent, quiet Clint East­wood­like voice, “I’m go­ing to make some­one’s day.”

East­wood’s Dirty Harry had a Smith and Wes­son. I had my daugh­ter’s TimBits mini-soc­cer ball.

I threw it at the shed roof three times to gauge how the wasps re­sponded to a threat, and to get an idea how many might be in­side.

They re­acted with vigour — all 140,000 of them!

Clearly out­num­bered, I pon­dered knock­ing the nest down with a hockey stick … and then dozens (or more) of them fly­ing un­der my hoodie, sting­ing my neck and bald spot re­peat­edly.

“Hey Steve,” the cu­ri­ous would whis­per if that hap­pened. “Are those lit­tle fol­li­cles? Are you get­ting a hair trans­plant?

“No,” I would re­ply with de­feat. “Those are wasp sting-

For a while, as a teen, I worked at a Hud­son Bay Com­pany store in a for­eign prov­ince. Like Robert, I saved up enough money to ful­fill a dream.

I bought a por­ta­ble writer.


Robert fan­cied he might be­come a fa­mous pho­tog­ra­pher. I ex­pected I’d one day be awarded a No­bel Prize for lit­er­a­ture.

An aside. The most use­ful thing I learn in high school was how to type. Im­mune to mock­ery from com­pan­ions with vis­i­ble abs, I weaseled my way out of phys-ed classes and en­rolled in typ­ing classes … with the girls … who ig­nored me com­pletely, hav­ing eyes only for the guys with abs who fool­ishly risked crip­pling them­selves jump­ing from spring­boards in the gym.

Sadly, Robert lost his cam­era. As far as I know, he isn’t a fa­mous pho­tog­ra­pher.

I haven’t the fog­gi­est no­tion what ever be­came of my typewriter but I still keep a space dusted on a dis­play shelf for the No­bel medal­lion.

Last thing. As boys, Robert and his best friend, Dickie White, coined them­selves a con­cept — Or­phan Lake, a place where dreams come true.

That’s a lake we’d all like to splash in, eh b’ys?

Thank you for read­ing. type- ers that got stuck. It’s ahhh … How’s Mil­dred any­way?”

I won­dered how to keep the wasps from swarm­ing and sting­ing, and was quite proud with my de­ci­sion — to turn on the hose and put the noz­zle on spray!

I tested this com­mon gar­den weaponry by throw­ing the TimBits ball at the shed and spray­ing the wasps that came out.

The wa­ter muted their at­tack, so I kept spray­ing and spray­ing, ap­proach­ing the nest un­til di­rectly un­der it.

Count­less wasps flew out into the spray and re­treated from my shed.

I con­tin­ued hos­ing un­til they had all fled.

Turn­ing off the noz­zle, I stood, soak­ing wet but re­lieved, star­ing at the empty nest.

No more im­mi­nent threat to passersby, to my kids, their friends and my wah­zoo.

I found my­self re­ally wrestling with the con­cept of the empty nest though.

Some day my kids will leave and that will sting more than any wasp ever could.

In the lat­est in­stall­ment of my per­sonal six de­grees of separation saga, I was able to draw a direct line of con­nec­tion to the story this week about that cou­ple hop­ing to open a Balkan restau­rant at the site of the former Sports Bar on Bon­cloddy Street in St. John’s.

Now, first of all, be­fore I cap­ti­vate Read­er­ship Land with my re­la­tion­ship to that area of town, I would sug­gest city coun­cil fol­low the lead of coun­cil­lor Art Pud­dis­ter and find a way for this Bos­nian fam­ily to cir­cum­vent a fool­ish mu­nic­i­pal tech­ni­cal­ity and be given an hon­est crack at hav­ing their dream reach fruition.

It’s re­ally a no brainer, not?

From an eco­nomic point of view — even from a feel-good an­gle, one not nor­mally associated with politi­cians — it makes so much sense for coun­cil to ex­pe­dite the change in the zon­ing reg­u­la­tions, and let Eldin Hu­sic and his wife pro­ceed with their plans to give town­ies (and vis­i­tors) an­other unique, in­ter­na­tion­ally flavoured eatery.

(In con­trast to Pud­dis­ter’s sen­si­ble sug­ges­tion em­a­nat­ing from what The Evening Tele­gram of the ’60s and ’70s head­lined as “Coun­cil Notes,” there was Sandy Hick­man’s Monty Python-like pro­posal the other day to the ef­fect that the best way to deal with those ma­cho bik­ers vi­o­lat­ing the tran­quil­ity of Sig­nal Hill Road is to con­struct an­other route up to Cabot Tower, one that would, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports I read, swing right by the Miller Cen­tre, where peo­ple are pre­par­ing to die in the pal­lia­tive care unit and oth­ers are en­dur­ing ag­o­niz­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tive pro­ce­dures.

Like that tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial for a for­eign beer would ex­claim, in a clas­sic Bri­tish ac­cent: “Bril­liant!”

A quicker so­lu­tion: have the New­found­land Con­stab­u­lary en­force laws al­ready in place and pa­trol Sig­nal Hill with more vig­i­lance, in­stead of wast­ing time fill­ing ticket quo­tas in ar­eas where speed­ers are easy to nab).

But I di­gress (char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally so), I would ad­mit.

An­other prag­matic rea­son to change the Bon­cloddy Street rules is to give the res­i­dents there a chance to have a classy use for the old Sports Bar build­ing, after many years of hav­ing to tol­er­ate the fall­out (so to speak) of a hard ticket tav­ern in their neigh­bour­hood, and, for a while, the head­quar­ters of a de­light­ful mo­tor­cy­cle gang, un­til it was shut down by the cops.

Now, I never dressed head to toe in leather — the im­age does gen­er­ate a cer­tain sense of nau­sea — or raced around the down­town on an ob­nox­iously loud mo­tor­cy­cle, and there­fore had no as­so­ci­a­tion with the gang whose mem­bers did their thing on Bon­cloddy Street for sev­eral years.

But I have a his­tory at the bar, a dive by any stan­dards, a place of habi­ta­tion dur­ing my time of con­sum­ing beer by the truck­load. It was an all-male is it es­tab­lish­ment, although no self-re­spect­ing woman would have wished to spend time in a dwelling where the smell of piss and stale beer would knock a good snif­fer side­ways, and a place where the only en­ter­tain­ment was the oc­ca­sional racket and a juke­box that seemed to play noth­ing but hurtin’ songs.

My bond to the place goes even deeper: I ac­tu­ally lived above the tav­ern, a con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion for some­one who thought of beer as the nec­tar of the gods (un­til the gods turned on me and my liver). Friends of mine would sug­gest all that was miss­ing from the apart­ment when I was its sole res­i­dent was a round hole in the floor and one of those poles once a fix­ture in fire halls, so I could just slide down each morn­ing to the bar for my morn­ing straight­ener.

An­other con­nec­tion to the bar: I named a dog of mine “Sport” in mem­ory of the Bon­cloddy Street es­tab­lish­ment where, as it turned out, some of my last days of ab­ject de­bauch­ery were spent.

Sport was one of the finest dogs I’ve ever owned (and I’ve had more than my share of fourstar pets) and, aside from be­ing ab­so­lutely lov­able, as cud­dly as they come, had a rather unique ta­lent: he re­sponded to trout the way a bea­gle re­sponds to rab­bits.

When I was fly fish­ing in a shal­low brook, Sport would stum­ble over the rocks, make his way to my side, in­tently fo­cus on the end of the line, and would lit­er­ally shiver with ex­cite­ment when­ever a fish would breach and show at­ten­tion to the fly.

The rou­tine was al­ways the same: when­ever I’d swing the pole (rod, for the purists) back for a cast, Sport would fol­low the tra­jec­tory of the line, and would then watch — mes­mer­ized, it seemed to me — as the fly even­tu­ally landed and floated down the brook. On cue, he would once again quiver when­ever a trout would jump for the fly.

And when I’d fi­nally hook the fish, Sport would raise his head sky­ward and howl, in ap­pre­ci­a­tion (I liked to think) of his mas­ter’s work.

Sport lived for about 12 years, and we had many a grand fish­ing trip to­gether.

Sappy (per­haps in the per­spec­tive of some), but true.

And thus ends this me­an­der­ing, six de­grees of separation sub­mis­sion.

Ex­cept to wish Mr. Hu­sic and his wife the best of luck.

May they have bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ences than I did on Bon­cloddy Street.

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