Tales and Yarns

My Life in Newfoundland - Part Three

Author:  Don R. Wilkins

Deer Lake: Where it all began for me. I know that Mom and Pop lived somewhere out of Town when I was born. I know they lived in Botwood at one time. ThatÕs where my brother Bruce was born. I know they came into contact with the Pentecostal movement about the time of my birth. I believe Pop was a Lieutenant in the Salvation Army and had to leave because of their conversion to Pentecost.

My earliest memory is a house on the edge of town. IÕm not sure if Pop built it, but it was a fairly new house. It had a walkout basement, which faced the street. There was a driveway, but IÕm sure we had no car. On the driveway side were two basement windows with no window frames. ThatÕs where my first memory began. I was probably four years old.

It seems I had hidden some treasure in the basement and my brothers and some friends were going to get it. They ran around to the door, but I was smart, I jumped in through the window. There must have been glass on the floor or sharp rocks. Anyway, I had two deep gashes in the palm of my right hand. If a person had a cut like that now, it would take at least twenty stitches to close it up. Fortunately for me there was a wise old man walking up the street. Mom called him over to help. The man went to a Fir tree and opened one of the sap blisters, which we called it Myrrh.

He plastered that stuff on the cuts and wrapped my hand in a piece of cloth. I donÕt remember any pain or discomfort from that wound. It was healed in a matter of days. The scars are barely visible.

I remember a big pump house in the middle of an intersection, where everyone came to get water. Women, mostly, would walk to the pump house with two buckets hanging on a pole across their shoulders. The buckets were attached to a rope or wire on each side allowing the buckets to hang at arms length, so the weight of the water would be on the arms as well as the shoulders.

My memories of the early days in Deer Lake are few. I have no memory of leaving Deer Lake and going to Grand Falls/Windsor. Now we had come full circle, back to the beginning.

We took the train from St. JohnÕs to Deer Lake. Mom must have had her hands full with my brother Calvin, my sisters Ruth and Ruby and me. In Deer Lake we stayed with Nana Mills; Actually, I stayed with Aunt Mabel and Uncle George and their two children, Verna and George. The others stayed with Nana.

Deer Lake had changed somewhat. The old pump house was gone. Now there was electricity and running water. Our house was still there. I donÕt remember if it was finished or not. Probably was. I had planted an apple Seed there before we left. I forgot to check to see if it was now a tree.

There was now a building where movies were shown on Saturday afternoon and night.

It didnÕt take long to make friends, unlike St. JohnÕs, where people from Òaround the BayÓ were made fun of, because we had a different accent. Here I was respected because I came from ÒSt. JohnÕsÓ.

One day a bunch of us were just out traipsing around a mile or so from town, picking and eating wild raspberries. We walked through an abandoned homestead on the way to the river, when I was stung by a bee. I soaked my handkerchief in water from an old well and laid it on the sting. It took the pain away. I donÕt know why I remember that, but it has always stayed with me.

When we got to the river, what else? We decided to go for a swim, just get wet actually, because none of us could swim. The shallows only went out about three or four feet, then it dropped off into very deep water. We tried to stay close to shore, but one boy walked out too far and went under. I saw what happened and reached for him. I grabbed him by the hair and pulled him to shore but that pushed me into deep water. Luckily, I had learned to swim under water in St. JohnÕs Bowering Park, so I just held my breath and swam ashore under water. I donÕt think anyone including the boy I saved, realized how close we came to drowning.

A pleasant incident, which IÕve never forgotten. A picnic. Mom took us children on a picnic. The first and only one I remember. We walked out to the lake, just the five of us I think, where we sat on the grass and had lunch. I donÕt know what we ate, but I do remember, Lemon Crystals. It was dry lemon crystals, which you mixed with water and sugar and made Lemonade.

I didnÕt play all the time. At Aunt MabelÕs house I read, for the first time, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. As well as, the Leather Stocking Tales, by James Fennimore Cooper. Hawkeye, The Deer Slayer and The Last of The Mohicans.

IÕm not sure how long we stayed in Deer Lake, maybe a month. It was summertime. I remember it being much hotter than in St. JohnÕs. I guess the sea made the difference. I spent a lot of time at the lakeshore with my friends.

But the time came when we had to leave. Of course I didnÕt know it then, but it was the end of an era. Thousands of families, just like us, would leave Newfoundland for Toronto and other parts of Canada. Thousands of young women, who had married American Servicemen, would leave their families and move to America with their husbands.

I understand the out migration is still in progress.

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