Tales and Yarns

My Life in Newfoundland

Author:  Don R. Wilkins

I was born in Deer Lake in 1932. Number four in a line of fifteen births. My father Egbert Isaac, "Ike" was married to Mildred, (Mills), daughter of Ambrose and Jesse (Stuckless).

My Dad was a Pentecostal Preacher above all else. Carpentry was his trade and I'm sure he would have been a Master Carpenter if there had been a Union in those days. Sometime in the mid-thirties we moved to Grand Falls/Windsor where he worked as a carpenter at a Paper Mill being built.

I remember he salvaged enough packing material from the Mill to build us a house on a lot right next to the Pentecostal Church. If I remember correctly he held some kind of a position in the Church. Assistant Pastor, I think, but I'm not sure.

It was in that house where I learned what Sunlight soap tastes like. One day I was swinging on the gate when some children came by. Just by way of having fun I stuck out my tongue. My mother didn't think it was funny. She hauled me into the house and washed my mouth with soap. Yuck! In memory, I still taste it. Pentecostals were pretty strict in those days. Still? I don't know.

I started school while we lived in Grand Falls/Windsor. Pop, as we called him and still do when we talk about him, had to build desks for us boys. Being a practical man, he built one desk, with seats, large enough for all of us. Good thing it was a one-room school.

In 1942 Pop decided to go to St. John's to work. The Americans were building a Military Base and needed carpenters. First of all he moved the family to Hare Bay, Bonavista Bay, his birthplace. I have no memory of how we got there. At that time there was no road into Hare Bay. Before he left for St. John's he built an eight or ten foot boat, with a sail, for us boys. We kept the boat moored in a fairly sheltered cove a little ways from the house. One day a storm came up, so my brother and I decided to move it to a better spot. We had no idea how to sail a boat, but we did manage to rig the sail and headed out into the Bay. What a surprise! When we cleared the point the wind hit us. So help me I don't know how we got back to land. Fortunately it was an offshore wind or we'd still be sailing.

I remember, very well rowing out a few hundred feet from shore and stabbin' Flatties, once in awhile a Flounder. My uncle Will liked Flounders.

Then there were the times the squid came in, or the Capelin, so many you could almost walk on water. In a few days the smell of rotting capelin covered the town like a blanket. But the potato crop was always good.

I have many memories from that time in my life, too many to relate. We went to a Salvation Army School, which was the only School in Town. The first year, at Christmas time, I saw a Christmas tree for the first time. I don't think Pentecostals believed in that kind of Christmas. I maybe wrong. Anyway we were each given candies, an apple and an orange, again, a first for me.

In the winter everyone brought a stick of firewood to school to feed the big old pot-bellied stove sitting in the middle of the room.

Most of us didn't have pencils or paper. We had a six by twelve inch slate and a piece of chalk. You always carried a small bottle of water and a rag for cleaning the slate.

I don't think Pentecostals were very popular in those days. Pop had renovated the downstairs of Uncle Hughie's house for a Church. We moved from the old family homestead to the upstairs. It was decided to hold a Baptismal service for the three or four converts. As we walked along the edge of town, to the water's edge, a number of people stood and jeered and threw sticks. I'm sure it's different now.

I'll end this part of the story with me catching pneumonia. It took two weeks for the Doctor to get there. I had to go to the Hospital in St. John's. We took a motorboat to Gambo, then by train to St. John's. I'll tell you some more later if you like.

Copyright © 2007-2018. All Rights Reserved.  
Privacy Policy       Terms of Use