The preceding two posts discussed Dad’s change of job, which was the reason we moved from our remote logging camp in Port Renfrew, BC to the big town of Corner Brook, NL.1 That was the late 1940s; we remained in Newfoundland until shortly after its Confederation with Canada.
This is the tale of our three year stay that remains lovingly in our family lore. It will include First Grade, first bike, cabbage and turnips, as well, the Hemmingsen grandparent’s visit. The story includes me, the child bride, along with some other genealogy, and certainly, some ramblings.
Newfoundland is place of splendid birds. It is of rugged beauty with a coastline etched deeply, by roil of the Atlantic’s water. It is a peaceful place where its people will quietly prepare feast and lodging from thin air, at moment’s notice, for a horde of strangers. The strangers will leave, but ever remember the warmth, and call Newfoundland’s people, their friend. It is a good place, a comfortable place, to be.
GLYNMILL INN AND OUR HOME
After our memorable trip across Canada, we settled into the Glynmill Inn.2 It was our home for an unforgettable six months. The building itself is beautiful, set in lovely environs. It has been designated a “Registered Heritage Structure” by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Why not detain at the hotel for a bit, and read about its role in Corner Brook history. But, come back, and finish reading this post.
As hinted by Glynmill, Dad’s new job was with Bowater’s, He was instrumental in the effort to mechanize Newfoundland’s logging operations.
My big brother John, and myself imagined we were ever so cool to take every meal in their dining room. We fancied ourselves celebrity, what with our British Columbia wow factor. We probably yakked about it unmercifully in wide eyed declaration of a child’s self-importance. Those brats! White linen tablecloths in Tudor backdrop was dissimilar to the warm maple trestle table of our BC logging camp home.
Sometimes a “Comment” says something way better than you did yourself. Many readers do not bother reading comments, so, this is inserted as an update and attributed under Comments.
… “Did you ever know we went to Cornerbrook and stayed at the GlynMill Inn. When I came down with the kids (I think your nephew was nearly 5) the staff was all lined up they thought I must be a new younger wife of Pops. Not so, John Junior, when I explained they were all so excited, all of them, their jobs and staffing had not changed in twenty nine years. They remembered both You and John and the fights you had with the dried cod downstairs in the basement. Not sure the menu had changed. The only change to the staff was the night guy 29 years ago was now day shift. Newfie’s are wonderful friendly folk”…..
Our table manners were impeccable. That is, until my requisite glass of tomato juice arrived each morning. Vital nutrients for the sickly kid, still recovering from a massive glandular abscess. The protest was that it burnt the lips, worse than orange juice. It never went unconsumed. My mother had brown, almost black, eyes, and auburn hair. They could silently compel almost anything.
Our new home was being built while we were luxuriating in the hotel. It sat at the top of a hill at 37 Elswick Road. Here is a picture from then, but it can be found online too, if still available from several realty sites. Dad’s book put construction costs at $25K. He noted that costs were very much higher in the Dominion of Newfoundland, than in the Dominion of Canada. It has been listed in the $395K range recently.
Mum was a stickler, and capable of doing anything but plumb. She did not tolerate imperfections in the plaster, or the paint. She would take “done” sections back to laths, re-plaster and paint. I was a gopher; coffee, trowel, paintbrush. She was too ardent of her can-do, to pass on her skills, or, I was inept.
This is the balance of the comment that started above:
…”Newfie’s are wonderful friendly folk We stopped at the house your Mom and Dad built to take a picture of it. A car drove into the driveway so I asked them If I could take a picture, they agreed, welcomed us and in true Newfie style and invited us inside. They showed us your parents bedroom and asked If we knew how your Mom had done the plaster and paint. They were thrilled that we did, they wanted to redo it exactly the same, it still looked very acceptable. Your Mom had also made the same design on fabric and made curtains to match, I also knew that on those she used a potato. By the way, the house was the only one set back from the street. Your Mom fought the city and was allowed the set back. We loved our visit to Newfoundland, even the black slugs that crawled up our tent at night”…
That was the first time I had heard of asbestos. Corner Brook could get a tad cold outside, and chilly inside. It was modern miracle, said she, for its insulation ability in the building industry. My brother has encapsulated asbestos in his lungs, although he blames the steel making process. Encapsulated is good, so you know. Not many are so unluckily lucky.
We were close to the end of the road. Google often affords me a walk around the old neighborhood. It is all built up now. We had a strong brook at the back yard boundary. Mum had never gotten over rescuing my brother from the torrents of the San Juan River at rain season in the rain forest. We were to enjoy the babble of our brook, pretend we did not hear frogs, and dream of the lure of the water. Nothing more. Sure. Now, ours was the only mum who truly had eyes in the back of her head. We deal in data, my brother and I, and can say it was verifiably so, by documented cases of reaction following action. We never ever played in the brook, except for, when we did. And we survived the water, but not the eyes.
One could look beyond the brook, and see a hospital on a far hill. Memory says was a TB Sanitarium. Mum volunteered her laboratory experience by running a professional clinic until it could be staffed.
CABBAGE AND TURNIPS
I was less than robust, and Newfoundland was want for the plentiful fresh vegetables and fruits of the pacific west coast. This hardship was due to a combination of climate, and huge cost of importation to The Rock, way out there, on the Atlantic.
Fish Liver Oil was a total affront. Mum claimed to be allergic to fish, such that salmon and other rich offerings of our upbringing never hit a Hemmingsen plate. It must have been unreported child neglect. Strange then, she could pour this vile oil to tablespoon, for forced consumption by her poor little wee one.
Then came the sticky brown Neo Chemical Food. Molasses base, I bet’cha. Molasses adulterated with minerals, and such. The objective here, was to let as much as possible adhere to the spoon. Our back door entranced the kitchen, off of which was a small breakfast nook. That’s where the ritual took place each morning. The next room was dining, with a sitting ledge next to the window. The forlorn child would sulk at the window, willing the terrible tastes to abate. After all, the toothbrush and instant relief were all the way upstairs. “Don’t you want to go outside to play, dear?” NO! I want to watch the rain make rings in the puddle.” Adulterated Molasses; shades of a future pharmacist. Meany Mum.
NO EXAGERATION HERE
I do have unimpeachable documentation of my mistreatment as a child. Now, somehow a piano would find its way to 37 Elswick Road. They made me practice. Too bad I was not exceptional, musically. Or, otherwise. Yet, I would later play piano in Sunday School. Poor kids.
But, can you imagine a little girl being prompted to grow her own carrots because turnips were more plentiful than they?
Memories of sweet peas though; heaven sent, or heaven scent. 2795 Burdick Avenue had carrots and peas and sweet peas and nasturtiums. And, Tuffy the Siamese Cat.
Despite the endorsement, I never made teacher. I never even surpassed Brownie status. Brownie leader, yes. My girls were brownies and more, and my grand girls too. So, some of it came true.
MY BIKE AND VALE
Mum and Dad conspired with the doctor to offer a bike, should I put on one pound. That and they tired of my brother breaking my neck by riding me on his handlebars, no matter what Granddad Hemmingsen had instructed. Dad’s job was to teach me to ride. I am certain that he started me at the top of the hill, on Elswick. Yes! He let go. I stayed balanced, shrieking, until I hit a cross road, with a bridge, over the brook. He laughed when I could have drowned. Meany Dad. I ever imagined the hill incline to rival the best of San Francisco.
All these years since Corner Brook, I have thought about my neighbor friend Vale. She was a little older, which made her worthy of great admiration. Perhaps she could corroborate the grade of that hill, for my brother just pooh-poohs.
I love the name Vale, so it was an indelible marker. Her family was from Howley. That remained in my recall because I once came home with the emoji look of total shock, to declare that the Howley Gang was coming to town. Unbeknownst to Vale, the Howley Gang had a long life of exploits of my father’s conjure, to mock me. I had not spoken to Vale since 1950, but it occurred to me, a couple of months ago, that I might be able to find her.
A LITTLE GENEALOGY
I had no current location for Vale, no maiden name, or married, should she have wed. Just Vale, an approximate age, Howley and Corner Brook. As luck would have it, Newfoundland had conducted a census in 1945. 3 It held a first-name match for a girl whose age made sense to the storyline. Her maiden name was suddenly familiar.
What next? Simply plugging “obituary” “Vale” “Newfoundland” and her newly remembered maiden name, into a regular search engine, brought up a deceased dear one. Vale was mentioned, with her married name. Using that at white-page type lookups brought residences and contact information. I had a wonderful conversation with her via phone, almost seventy years after bidding her adieu.
Vale permitted use of her particulars, but, in full disclosure, Vale was not her name, rather, another name I have come to love. I chose to anonymize her because I am wary of all the available personal information at one’s fingertips. As well, there is the issue of privacy laws concerning genealogy, with regard to those living. I knew those rules, but sometimes the temptation to be personable leads us astray. Luckily, I had just read a well put caution by The Legal Genealogist. 4
Vale reported that my hill was ordinary, but that the bridge did exist, and ran over the brook that had flowed behind my house.
Now there was a bog; that’s where a kid’s boots get encroached with oozy black stuff-becoming-earth. If the kid retracts a boot properly, the bog utters a slurp sound. I do know that I sunk in it once, both boots up past my eyeballs. Just, there is no historic account of such tragedy averted, in old newspapers. Vale could not help me with that one, either.
THEN THERE WAS THE WAR
My room had a knee-wall. The enemy hid there, and in the deep of night they came to get me. The central stairwell was between my room and my parent’s. To save them, I deflected the bad guys by flying down the stairs. That is, I ran, but my feet never touched the stairs, so, I hovered down to safety. I never died, not once, because they could not hover.
My casual memory said I lived in Newfoundland during the war. Clearly I did not. Our living room was huge, the whole house long, and lay at the other side of the stairwell. Just like the dining room, it had a wide ledge in front of the window. Perhaps it was merely an ample sill.
Never forget. One side of the ledge held a chronology of war in “Look” “Time” “Life” “Post” and others, when their pages were many. Cigarette smoking was beneficial. Scenes of the war, the hate of the Holocaust, utter depravity. Never forget.
A LITTLE GENEALOGY
Conflation of reality and mixed-up memories often befuddle family tales.
Does anyone ever forget first grade? Wonderful, but rough, winter trudges to school with brother John remain vivid, when the work that was required to move forward in a b. i. g. snowsuit was more than what was in me.
Once on, there was no bend. So, when pushed to angel, the best effort was “Wait up” “Wait up, or, I will tell on you”, for, I could not get up. Or, so it seemed. I’m sure I was left to freeze all alone, hidden by a shed that was half-way home.
First grade in Corner Brook was likely like first grade anywhere. The student was required to rise and read a paragraph aloud, a sentence, or, just a word. Depending. I was ever so shy. But my reticence was stayed by the boy who could not; he shook in his stance, and “lost it”. Today, we might say he was dyslexic. My schooling was great, but, to this day, I cannot reminisce upon it, without extending my heart, and hoping he was healed of the humiliation. I do not recall if it happened but once. Once was too much for a lifetime.
I kept my report cards until the day before I started writing genealogy. I recall that I passed First Grade, and the teacher found me a pleasant little girl. But, Granddad had been wrong; she did not say I was smart enough to beat everyone – or even anyone.
ME, THE CHILD BRIDE
Blue Teddy, Giraffe, and my whole menagerie made by Mum, killed and revived by her as decried in the notorious Lambsy Divey murder , made it to Corner Brook. Instead of reporting her to authorities, our neighbors applauded Mum for her creativity and care for her often indoor child. One would be surprised then, by the uproar when Dad allowed me for marriage, while yet a child.
OUR HEMMINGSEN GRANDPARENTS VISIT CORNER BROOK
Accounts of the child bride rang far and wide. The letter writer and Granny immediately packed their bags to have the marriage promptly annulled. While this must have been their main agenda, there was much catching up to do. Here are a couple of pictures at the train station as they were leaving to travel back to British Columbia, via train. The first picture is courtesy of my dear cousin, Margot Orcutt, who is responsible for the blue poppy art, as header to this blog.
CHILDREN LOVING CORNER BROOK
We kids could not get enough of our backyard brook and winter’s mounds of snow. Skis were the foot ware on the kids pictured above, who are wearing snowsuits. We loved all things bog, as kids should. Water was everywhere on The Rock and swimming holes were plenty.
We met Dick and Jane, and saw Spot run. We had dear friends who started this journey with us.
We had crossed Canada three times via ferry and rail before Dad and Mum decided to return to British Columbia. It was driven both by my health and that call of a close family. The trip home would be by car, and will be subject of the next post.
PLEASE SCROLL BENEATH NOTES AND SOURCES TO COMMENT, LIKE, ETC.
Notes and Sources
1. The Hemmingsen Family Collection including “John O Hemmingsen / Mary Margaret Hemmingsen (Dickson)” authored in 1999 by John Oliver Hemmingsen. All materials posthumously published at marileewein.com © 2018. All rights reserved.
2. Glynmill Inn at http://www.steelehotels.com generally, and specifically http://www.steelehotels.com/our-hotels/the-glynmill-inn/#sect-overview .
3. 1945 Provincial Census, Newfoundland, Humber District, Howley © Newfoundland’s Grand Banks (1999-2018) http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/9.836019/publication.html
4. The Legal Genealogist copyright © 2012-2018 https://www.legalgenealogist.com