Notre Dame Bay Region ~ Fogo / Twillingate District
Joe Batt's Arm
"Cherished Memories" by Annie Violet (Payne) Wheeler
While in Newfoundland this summer I purchased a number of old magazines at a garage sale in Gander. Among the pile was a "booklet" (5 x 8), which to my delight seems to be a book of, what I will title, "remembrance of my childhood" The booklet's cover is missing, the only clue to the author is on pg. 11 there is one sentence . . . . . . . my name is Annie Violet Payne, so she just may be it's author. There are complete family histories on one of the back pages which include Payne, Torraville,Oake, Elliott, Peckford, just to mention a very few. Mentioned are memories of Joe Batt's Arm, Fogo, school, etc.
This morning, Debbie e-mailed a message to me with Annie Violet's history. Then, this afternoon Isabella, who was well aquatinted with Annie, confirmed that the book was indeed the work of Annie Violet (Payne) Wheeler. Annie was born 27 Feb. 1904, the daughter of John William and Patience (Torraville) Payne. She married Herbert Wheeler in 1924, and died 6 Jan. 1998. Today, I have received many, many wonderful comments about the booklet. I thought you would like to know a little more about her.
Annie Violet (Payne) Wheeler died in 1998 at age 90 years. Her great niece, the Rev. Joyce Payne, spoke of Annie in a very loving way. "she was always looking after someone, she was very moral, very kind and loving. Even after she realized why she had been given away, and knew it was the best thing for her, she carried that scar all her life". Rev. Joyce Payne told me the title of Annie's Book is CHERISHED MEMORIES.
In the back of Annie's book is the lineage of the Torraville, and Payne families. Other surnames linked to these two families are: Brazil, Bennett, Combdon, Compagnon, Curlew, Dowell, Elliott, Endicott, Ginn/McGinn, Harris, Jones, Leit, Leyte, Miles, Oake, Peckford, Ruby, Sharron, Squires, Tarr, and Woolfrey. If anyone is interested in any of the surnames they may e-mail me.
The information was transcribed by ARLENE BENNETT, 2001. While I have endeavored to be as correct as humanly possible, there may be typographical errors.
I can remember sitting alone on a bright summer morning with a piece of bread in my hand. My chair was an upturned junk of firewood, out in our back yard. Along came our dog "Tray" and took the bread out of my hand and in doing so nipped my fingers rather sharply. I remember my yell, more of outrage than pain, and of my mother running out of the house to see what was wrong. I must have been about three years of age then, because my mother died when I was four, and she had been confined to her bed quite a while before her death.
I can remember my mother in great distress, pacing back and forth in our kitchen with a baby in her arms, saying over and over, "Oh my poor baby, Oh my poor baby". I think the baby must have been my sister Lucy's baby, for I've been told Lucy had died shortly before then and Father and Mother had taken her two children into their home- a four year old boy Chesley and a infant girl whose name was Eloise. Eloise, so I've been told by my older sisters, died in my mother's arms and I expect that was when it occurred, but of that I am not sure. Very distinctly I remember being taken into the downstairs bedroom where my mother lay in bed, her deathbed as it turned out to be. My sister took me in and went out again, closing the door behind her. By her side, mother had a small bag containing a few peppermint knobs, a real treat in those days. She did not give me one till later. First she tried to prepare me for what she must have known for some time. She explained to me that she had to go away where she could not take me with her-that she would be alright. She told me down in Fogo I had an Uncle Tom and Aunt Eliza who were going to take me home with them, who would take care of me, and who would be very kind (how well she knew them). I was, she said to be a good girl and do as they told me. Much more she tried to explain to a four year old mind, but the rest of her words I have forgotten. Then as a special treat and to take my mind off the fears her words had caused, she gave me not one, but the whole bag of peppermints. I can recall running out of the room elated with my candy than concerned with the sad news she had just given me
Within a few days my mother died-April 20, 1908, on her fiftieth birthday. The events of that day are very vague in my memory. I can remember my two sisters Florence and Mabel huddled together sobbing and several neighbours coming to the house and going into the bedroom doing mysterious things to ma. We small ones were not allowed to enter. They were preparing her body for burial, I presume, for there were no undertakers in those days, just kindly neighbours seeing that everything was done decently. Between then and the day of the funeral I can recall nothing. On the day of the funeral I was taken down the road to a neighbours house and left for a few hours. I can still see my two sisters coming for me clad in their black dresses. One was determined to mother me but the other was just as determined. So there I was being dragged by either hand from one side of the road to the other, one sister saying "come with me, I'm going to look after you", the other saying "no, you come with me". We finally reached home, there my recollections end for the time being.
One morning my brother Tom, aged 6, my nephew Chesley aged 4, and I were sitting at the table having breakfast. We were dawdling over our porridge, making some sort of game of it. Suddenly the boys stopped eating and playing and stared at the door. I turned to see why. A group of people stood in the doorway, all strangers These people were my Uncle Tom and Aunt Eliza and the crew of the boat that had brought them from Fogo. They had come to take me with them. On the chair in the kitchen was a wooden box containing my few articles of clothing, so my father and sisters must have been expecting them. We arrived at the rocky shore of Joe Batt's Arm where my uncle was employed at the time.
Earle Sons & Co. of Fogo had a retail/wholesale business at Joe Batt's Arm. It was quite a large business in a two-storied building, a large wharf and many stores on the waterfront. They bought and exported dried fish. In the top story one could buy groceries, small wares, glassware, chinaware, yard goods, footwear, clothing and school needs, books, pencils, slates, etc. Downstairs were the wholesale provisions, barrels of flour, tubs of butter, hundred pound bags of sugar, rolled oats, bales of hay, sacks of poultry feed, tons of coal, lines, twines, nets, anchors, etc. Here in the lower part my Uncle was manager. As our home was in the town of Fogo, my uncle rented a house near his work and an open space called Burke's Point. A huge two story cottage roof house it was, but more about that later. The family consisted of my Uncle Tom, Aunt Eliza (whom I called mother) one grown daughter Laura who held the position of senior teacher in the local two room school there, one son Sidney aged 14, and me aged 4. We arrived by boat at the shore of Burk's Point, a rocky shore it was with not a bit of sandy beach anywhere. It was difficult stepping from the boat to the shore so down from the house came Laura to assist. I was suddenly terrified, another stranger. She had lots of dark hair piled high on her head in the fashion of the day, but nothing like I had ever seen my mother wear. She took me kicking and screaming right up to the house and set me there down in the middle of the kitchen. A huge woodbox stood near the stove. I scuttled behind that carefully hiding my eyes and face-I suppose I was not visible to anyone. My fear of Laura lasted quite a long time. After Laura and Sidney left for school I would creep downstairs for breakfast then sent outside to play in the fresh air. I would wander around the open field and down to the waters edge where I would sit for hours on the boulders watching the waves splash against the rocks. I was not particularly lonely, though having been taken from my family of lively boys and girls to a home where there was not a single child around. Without fail when it was time for school to be let out for midday meal, I had the strongest feeling that I must hide. I would run indoors, upstairs and shut myself in the room and no amount of coaxing would get me out. Then I would hear Laura's voice, "now father, you are just spoiling that child. Leave her alone and when she gets hungry she will be glad to come when she is called". Then I would hear footsteps on the stairs and a voice "open the door", it's Uncle Tom, "see what I got for you". He would come in with a tray, his own dinner on a large plate and mine on a smaller plate. Not a word of chiding, just a gentle "come on now, this trunk will be our table. . . lets see who can finish first". Afterwards he would take the tray and say "now you wait here until I see if there is any pudding down there". Back he would come with dessert on the tray, a serving for each of us and a cup of tea for himself - always under protest from the women folk. I don't know how long he kept bringing our midday and evening meals upstairs, but kept it up he did until I had overcome my fears. Do you wonder that I hold his memory very dear and precious. ? Some evenings before bedtime uncle and I would play dominoes, or sometimes get the board out to see who could catch the most fish. Pictures of fish of different sizes were on the board, he would add up the catch. Sometimes I had the most, sometimes I lost, but it didn't matter I went off to bed happy anyway. When I began bringing home report cards from school, usually twice a year, they were very proud. I remember bringing home my first examination certificate, my uncle was so proud, he took it straight away to a shop to get it beautifully framed then hung it up for all to see. Do you wonder that my memory of him is still very dear and precious?
I do not know to whom the house in Burkes Point belonged, but it had been vacant at the time my uncle was looking for a place to rent. It stood some fifty or so yards from the shore in the middle of a grassy common. The house itself had a fenced in yard, and another family, the Donahues, had a smaller house just a little way up the common. Our house was large, I can remember the porch which was under the same roof as the rest of the house and was larger and longer than any kitchen I had ever seen. I think it served as an entrance, work space for washing and ironing and at one end was a pantry where bulk food was stored. The kitchen was very large. It contained a large wood and coal stove, a large woodbox (my hiding place), kitchen table and chairs, a sofa, and a rocking chair. No built in cupboards in those days so a large dresser held the dishes with drawers for table linen, etc. Upstairs the bedroom was also roomy and airy, and in the winter Oh so cold. The stairs leading up were steep, wide, and drafty. A strip of carpeting ran all the way down the middle of the steps held in place under each riser by a brass rod which had to be polished each Saturday to keep them bright and shiny. But the coldness of the house is what stays foremost in my mind. Although the kitchen stove was kept often red hot during the winter days and evenings, the parlor fireplace was burning all day and evening, the rest of the house was so cold. Well I remember being undressed and put into my night clothes beside the kitchen stove, my evening prayers said there, my hair braided there, and then I was hustled up the chilly stairs into my bedroom. I have often wondered why it was, having accepted everything else- the strangeness of the house, the lack of playmates, the difference in my new surroundings- could I not accept Laura too. She was never unkind, never scolded, certainly she didn't pet or coddle either. I think she had objected to the idea of her parents taking on an added responsibility at their time of life. They had raised their own family and had given a home to a couple of teenaged girls earlier on who were now grown and married. Besides that she knew I was a puny and delicate child, perhaps inherited the dread malady that had taken my mother. Tuberculosis was rife in those days. About a year later she married Stanley Layman of Fogo and went to reside there. Although I felt relived when she moved out, I felt no animosity toward her she lived to be a grand old lady, dying in her mid nineties still with all her faculties (the next 2 pages, which I will skip, are about picking berries in a thunder storm. The only name mentioned is Albert Oake, Sidney's cousin from Fogo). In 1910 my uncle decided it was far too cold in the house for us to spend another winter there, so we moved for the winter months to Fogo. He still stay on in Joe Batt's Arm and boarded out coming to us only on weekends. Weekends at that time meant from 6 p. m. on Saturday to 7 p. m. on Monday. In Fogo he and his older brother owned a double house which they had built together and intended both families to share, Uncle Ben had only his wife Aunt Betsy, so there was lot of room for everyone. The house was warm and comfortable and everything was fine except that Uncle Tom didn't like boarding out and wanted his family with him. So it was that he bought a smaller house back in Joe Batt's Arm but he couldn't buy the land on which it stood. We stayed in it where it was until he secured a piece of land up by the school. By that time it was fall again. Across the road from us were several families of Bretts. One family whose wharf adjoined the land on which our house stood had the sad misfortune of losing their small son by drowning-little Peter. He fell over the warf and rescuers were to late to save him. Almost next door to that bereaved family lived Mr. and Mrs. Lot Brett who seemed to be close friends with my uncle and "mother". When came time for moving our house to the newly acquired property, men were engaged to get the house ready for launching. While they were busy inside and outside the house boring holes in the floor and bolting down to the runners of stringers, "mother" was busy packing breakables into boxes and barrels and everything moveable was fastened down. Now we were all topsy turvey, so we were invited up to Mrs. Brett to stay the night and the next night too, until the house was firmly settled on its new site. We all enjoyed a nice supper and a comfortable night, the men smoking their pipes and the two women sewing away and chattering away thoroughly enjoying themselves. The house meanwhile had been moved out into the road, blocking the narrow road off entirely. By that time darkness had come and the men went off to their homes and the evening meal, intending to return the next morning to finish the job. During the night a heavy snow storm came on. Such a lot of snow fell that fences were buried and out of sight and only the roof and upper windows of our houses were to be seen. Storm followed storm, though it was early November and there blocking the road stayed our house all winter long until April. What an enjoyable winter we spent with Mr. and Mrs. Brett. Everything was jolly. The men went about their work by day. I spent most of the time in school. The women must have done their household tasks in the morning and the afternoons were spent sewing, mending or knitting. Most women wore their hair in the same style, but that winter "mother" and Mrs. Brett thought they would try something new. In front of a mirror they would try this way and that way, laughing as they viewed the effects. How they enjoyed their months together. "Mother", though never grim or glum, was not a laughing person, but I am sure she laughed enough that winter to make up for all she hadn't laughed. The men enjoyed it too, for all they didn't know what the world was coming to, grown women acting like a pair of young maidens.
At Joe Batt's Arm we were part of the parish of Fogo and often Rev. E. A. Butler would come in the afternoon to our house for his evening meal before going on to church for Evensong. He always came on a horse and buggy, a white horse names Charlie. Sometimes he would give me a ride around the common behind Charlie. Once he came all unexpected and mother seemed to be all flustered. I was very fond of jelly and knowing that they used to give me a generous portion and sometimes a second helping. Usually for Sunday supper we had boiled eggs, a cake of some kind, plenty of home made bread and always jelly. As we sat around the table this Sunday evening, I noticed my serving of jelly was very small and that Mr. Butler's was much larger, which I didn't think was fair. I accepted the fact knowing that his coming was unexpected and after all he was a man, a very important man at that. Behind his chair "mother" was standing looking at me and by signs forbidding me to ask for seconds. I accepted that too, thinking there was no more. Then to my great disgust, she was saying to Mr. Butler, "eat up your jelly sir and let me give you another helping", this was to much altogether. The warning glances were still being sent across the table to me so I sat outraged but silent. At the end of the meal Rev. Mr. Butler spoke to me - "now little girl, will you say grace and thank God for a good supper?" "Oh !" I blurted out, "how can I thank God for a good supper when I didn't get half enough jelly?" How embarrassed that must have made "mother" feel and Uncle Tom too. Sidney silently cheered me on. There was a custom in the church at that time to give all attending children a missionary box to take home for a certain length of time to fill with coins to be used to help the missionaries abroad. It so happened that these boxes were to be brought in at the evening service on the same Sunday as the unfortunate jelly episode. During the service the rector stood in the chancel beside a table covered with a white cloth and invited the boys and girls to come forward. We all did, I was about fourth or fifth in line. As the first one went up with his box the rector asked his name and wrote it down. The second one went forward and was also asked her name. I supposed that he didn't know them so that was all right. When it came my turn he still asked my name, as if he didn't know, and that was going to far. I replied with all the dignity I could muster "my name is Annie Violet Payne and you know that, you ate all my jelly". With that I flounced back to our pew and couldn't understand the horrified looks on mothers face. At Burke's Point when I was first brought there, there were just two houses. The one we rented, and a little further up the road, a smaller house owned by Mr. & Mrs. Donahue. They had sons and daughters, to me they seemed to be all grown up, but one young fellow still went to school. There was Ned and Peter young Joe and of course, Mary. In the spring they would put all their most needful articles of clothing, some cookware and their mattress on board their fishing boat and go for the summer months to another island were they had a fishing cabin. There they would stay until October when they would return and Oh how glad I used to be to see them again. I was always welcome to come and go as I felt like it. On rainy days when I couldn't stay out in the wet I was sure of a welcome. Sometimes they would let me sweep the floor or part of it. Sometimes I was allowed the great privilege of mending Mr. Donahue's socks. I don't know how they ever got them untangled again. If I were sick, as I often was, Mrs. Donahue would come down to our house bringing something I might fancy to eat. At Christmas there was always a bag of apples, oranges and candy that Santa Claus had left up at their house with strict orders that they were for me. They were of the Roman Catholic faith. Sometimes I would wander in as far as the door to see them all kneeling around the chairs in the kitchen, one of them would becken me to come in. Very quietly I would slip in and kneel with them while they all repeated what I now know to be their rosary. They were good, kindly people and often as I sit alone and recall those people I wish I could have done something to repay them for their kindness. I did go looking for them in 1973. The older people were long gone, Ned now an old man, had suffered a stroke some time earlier, so I couldn't understand much of what he was trying to tell me. While living at Joe Batt's Arm our house was not far from school, perhaps a hundred yards or so. It had like all schools, high windows, well up from the floor, so that unless we were standing we could not see anything outside. A porch was built on with pegs for our coats. The teacher, this particular year, had a unique way of mild punishment. If one of us was caught talking or being inattentive, she would send the offending one to stand in the corner, not in the classroom, but face to the wall outside in the porch. There we were supposed to stay put until she allowed us to return. Talking was my besetting sin as lots of people could tell you. One day it was my turn to be sent out in disgrace. Did I stand in the corner? Oh no! At that time we had a number of hens who had used their own nests, all except one russet coloured pullett. She had laid her first egg in the corner of our porch and afterwards would lay nowhere else. Mother must have gone out that day and shut the door to the porch. As I gazed out the window of the school porch, unlawfully, I could see the little red hen pacing frantically back and forth, flying up to peck at the window. She was in an awful way and I knew why. I wondered if I dared, without permission, to run down to open the door for her. I decided to try for it, quietly, very quietly, I sneaked out, crept all along the side of the building out of sight from the school windows. When I reached the road I knew creeping was no protection so I boldly made a run for it, hoping the teacher would be blind for a while. I reached the house, opened the door and let in the red hen. I wondered if I still had time to go inside into the kitchen and grab a ginger-snap. I took a chance once again and made a run for the school and back in the porch where I was supposed to have stayed all the time. I just had enough time to stand myself in the place of punishment when the school door opened and I was told that I was allowed back in my class as I had been standing there long enough. Luck had been with me. After school when mother wondered how the little red hen had got the door open, I told her that I had run down from school to open it, but I didn't tell her I had done so without permission. Good gracious no, but secretly to myself I felt, nothing dare, nothing do. Again, by the same window looking down at our house I found myself in real disgrace. I think I was in grade three. Every evening for homework we had a list of words to learn how to spell, often the list was long with some strange words. We were supposed to learn them letter perfect. When we first began in September our class of fifteen or more were told to stand in line along in the back of the room. On the first day we were allowed to stand where we wished but after that we had to keep our places until we earned the right to step farther toward the top of the class, to be at the top was what everyone wanted. I do not know where I stood that first day but somewhere in the middle, how I wanted to get to the top! Every night I made sure that I knew my spelling well, so day by day, most of the time, I got up past at least one pupil, sometimes two, until Oh joy, I finally made it clear to the top of the class. I was prouder than proud and vowed to myself that I would stay there. No one would get the chance to out spell me because I would be sure of every word. But pride comes before a fall and all owing to that bally red hen. We were in class for our spelling test and of course I was near the window, being at the top. The teacher asked me first and I answered correctly, she passed on to the next and next. I didn't expect her back for the second round yet so I let my attention wander, watching that little red hen again trying to get into our porch. The teacher came back, saw I was not noticing her and asked me another word without calling my name. I didn't realize she was speaking to me or that it was my turn again, so I made no reply. She did repeat the word but still no answer. Then sharply she called me by name and said "this is the second chance I have given you, you are not paying attention, go right to the bottom of the class" Oh no, I couldn't have heard her rightly, but I knew I had, so shamefacedly and very undignified I did so. Oh shame, shame, and Oh that bally red hen. I may add that my shame was long lasting for I never again did I get to the top.
I was spending a few weeks at Gander Bay with my brothers and sisters when the announcement of war came and my young brother Tom was excited and began to spin tales of what to expect. "Any day now a German ship will come in our harbour to round up all the Germans who were around to take them off to fight". I pointed out that there were no Germans around here. "No" he said, "but they don't know that, we have to hoist a red flag to show we are not Germans" But we don't have a red flag, I told him. He considered that for a moment and then said we've got to get something red. We'll hoist up Auntie's red flannel petticoat, that will do just fine. Auntie was our stepmother, summer and winter she did indeed wear a heavy red flannel petticoat. That settled, his imagination raced on thinking up chilly gruesome stories of what we must expect. We did not realize what real tragedies and heartbreak did lie ahead. Back in Fogo, volunteers were being called for and by twos and threes, were leaving home for the great adventure, most of them never to return. It seemed just that to me, a great adventure until Sidney signed up, dressed in his khaki, left us. I was so proud of him, I could see his mother and father were fearful for his safety. I did not realize how many mothers, fathers, and sisters lived in constant dread. Before long casualties were making their fears all to real. At school almost everyone had a brother or brothers and even some fathers overseas. Some families had as many as three in the army or navy. Soon came "lost at sea" or "fallen in action" and then one or more of our school mates would be out for a few days, coming back quiet and sad. From our school steps we could plainly see our church flag and if at half-mast, everyone stopped and wondered, is it Charlie?, is it Jimmy?. Everyone hurried home, some to face anguish, others to find relief. On one sunny day we learned it was George, lost at sea. George's brother Harold was one of our class mates, he would be out for a few days now, we thought. As we returned to school at 2:00 p. m. , there was Harold putting his books together and looking very grim. We didn't know what to say. Someone said nervously, what are you going to do Harold?. He said viciously, "I am going to enlist, right now, today. They will pay for that" He did, though too young, but he looked older, he never reached his brother. He didn't even reach England. Their ship was torpedoed in the Atlantic, Harold was not a survivor. Many, many others from our town lost their lives during that terrible time. It went on and on, people were so pathetically glad to get letters from their sons and brothers and so tensed up when there were none. For four years this went on, with many a casualty casting a gloom over everyone, it seemed there was no end in sight. Then, all unexpected, came Armistice Day, November 11, 1918. It was a day I shall never forget, never want to forget. It was around noon and as I stood in the doorway helping "mother" put clothes on the line, I said that our church flag was flying and not at half mast but right up to the top. Then we noticed knots of people grouping together. We joined them and were greeted joyously, the war is over, the war is over, Oh thank god the was is over. Peace has been signed, Oh thank god the war is over. Women shed tears, hugging each other. Men shook hands all around, slapping each others back, all the time wiping their eyes with the back of their hands. They were rejoicing with those who could and wept with those who wept.
As I mentioned before, I started off school class at the two room school at Joe Batts Arm, I was six tears old. The lady teacher was very nice and didn't force us too much. Later our teacher was Mr. William Harnett from Seldom. He was dour but that is the worst could be said of him. Then Mr. Cull, who was also very dour and not given to smiles, but I think a very good teacher. The next winter, as I have said before, we moved to Fogo just for the winter months. That winter seemed years long at school for the teacher there was awful, I won't mention any names but she made my life miserable. She did not bang us around, except for a sharp rap on the knuckles every so often for no reason that I could see. But she knew our week points and used them to embarrass us all day, every day. If we found long division difficult, she would put a particularly long one on the blackboard and name the ones she knew couldn't master it to come forward and do the sum, Oh how I dreaded my turn, and it seemed it was almost always my turn. I would falter, she would hold me up to ridicule, then red-faced and humiliated I would make more mistakes until I was actually sick. "Mother" thought I was shamming just because I didn't like school. I was not shamming, I had such a dread over me that I felt actually sick. Then our school inspector made his annual visit. He asked our grade to write a letter to a friend, relative or a business letter, and to do this while he was interviewing the teacher. Opportunity had knocked and I was quick to take advantage. I wrote my letter to him, telling him something of my problem and begging him to let me go to the next classroom. When he stopped by my desk I trembled. Supposing he would read my letter aloud and refuse my request. my fate would be worse than death. But to my great relief he smiled and said "this little girl thinks she is ready for grade IV and I think so too". He asked if I could have grade IV text books for the next morning and ruled that the following morning I should present myself to the master in the next room. I blessed his name over and over. From that day on until my school days were over I never once had any trouble and enjoyed every hour spent in class. For two years our schoolmaster was Mr. Pullins who later studied medicine and became a doctor. I can't seem to remember any lessons he taught except once he reminded me to loop my t's and l's or any letter on the end of a word. Then came Mr. Wilfred Verge and my education really began. He was not standing for any excuses, he was there to teach and we were there to learn. Early in the year when we were signed on for exams to be written in June, he said So! there are 36 of you and I want 36 passes, not 35 or 34, but 36. That means hard work for all of us, but we can do it, and I believe we did. Mr. Verge was a good teacher, stern, sometimes harsh, but never mean or unfair. He had the knack of making us learn in all subjects and certainly, he would brook no nonsense or inattention. In the mornings, after prayers were said, everybody kneeling on the dusty wooden floor, and after the usual hymn was sung our scribblers were taken out and work begun. Eventually we came to "problems" at which some were good, and some were very good. At the back of our arithmetic books we could find the answers. If we found that answers were wrong, we could go over and over our work until we had it worked out correctly.
It was custom in our house to kneel together for evening prayers. "Mother" (Aunt Eliza) would usually read and we would all kneel around the kitchen chairs. I would always kneel close to Uncle Tom. I cannot remember what we prayed about, except the Lord's Prayer. Further on there would be a prayer for widows and orphans. Uncle Tom would pat me and whisper loudly, "That's you my dear". While the war was on and Sidney was away, when we came to a prayer for "our absent ones" he would pat me again and say "That's for Sidney my dear". Somewhere in the prayers would be a petition for the sick and uncle would nudge me again and say "That's Jim my dear". Jim was a neighbour who was an invalid for years. I loved our evening prayers, kneeling around the kitchen chairs. For a long time, when I would be in my own room saying my morning and evening prayers, I could see God listening to me, and he always looked like Uncle Tom, long boots and all. For a while I had nightmares, bad nightmares and I became loath to go to bed. When I told "Mother" about them, she said, "you take your prayer book up to bed with you and put it under your pillow and you will sleep without bad dreams". I did so and sure enough, nightmares never troubled my sleep again. I suppose you don't believe that, but it's a fact. Another time, I was working on a geometrical problem that I could not solve. Eleven o'clock came and "Mother" insisted I give up and go to bed. I begged to be allowed another half hour to see if I could finish, but she insisted I had been at it long enough. In the morning I began to think of my problem, it became clear as anything. After going downstairs I took up my pencil and sure enough it came out right. How wise she was, she knew the rest would do more good than over working a tired brain. There comes to mind as I sit and look back over the years, so many memories that I cherish. Little things in themselves, but fresh in my mind as though it were yesterday, little things that bind my heart and soul to those dear people who made up my world. Like when my uncle would come from work with three, always three, boxes under his arm, each containing boots for me. I wasn't to have three pairs, of course not, I only had one pair of feet, but he brought three as to make sure I had a perfect fit. If two pairs were equally suitable I was allowed to choose between them, usually there would be laced up ones, and buttoned up ones. Having made the choice the other two pair would be rewrapped and uncle would return as he went back to work. How I loved those boots. Lined with bright red flannel in winter, or bright red cloth in summer and the outsides all shiny and new. I kept them close by me, admiring them and as I went up to bed I would place them in such a way as to see then as long as there was light. When Sunday came I wore them to church and kept them on all day. I remember walking home from church with Uncle Tom, we had a long way to walk, my hand clasped in his chit chatting all the way. When we came to the turn off to go down through the common to our house there were six or seven cows lying on their haunches lazily contentedly chewing their cuds and basking in the bright sunshine. Taking my hand from uncle's I rushed towards them saying, "See, I'm not afraid of cows", to my great horror one cow picked me up with her crooked horn by my sash (all girls wore a sash on their Sunday best) and tossed me high in the air and dropped me on the ground. Luckily I did not land on a stone but plop on the sod much shaken but unhurt. I picked myself up and said "what a nasty, saucy cow". Uncle did not sympathize, "that cow is not saucy, she didn't say a word to you, you frightened it, and I suppose she didn't like that". Making sure I was only dusty and brushing me off, he said "pride comes before a fall", I felt subdued.
Who could ever forget Reverend J. O. Britnel after attending a church service and hearing his words from the pulpit. His sermons were always morally uplifting and every person in the congregation listened attentively to every word. Sometimes the theme would be honesty, and he would show how many ways there were to be dishonest; sometimes it would be on truth, which is another form of honesty; sometimes on gratitude, he would remind us not of one blessing or two, but of the many things which perhaps we had taken for granted, he would go on to point out the ways we could show our thankfulness. His sermons always left us feeling ashamed or encouraged or grateful or dubious about out own behaviour. He always had a real message for us that we could go home and think about. The Ten Commandments were heard at every service, not the watered down version; and I can hear him now, slowly and distinctly. "Thou shalt not steal, remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day", and so on. Whatever has happened to those ten rules? After all, they are the road rules of our journey through life and they seem to be ignored like a fallen down sign post. Not only in our home but all over the community the Sabbath Day was special. Looking out the window, men could be seen standing around their homes or across the way talking to neighbours and every one dressed in his Sunday best, always with a white shirt and tie. No one would think of picking up a hammer or axe on Sundays. No one would dream of going to their nets or mending their nets on Sunday. Whether all these men went to church or not I do not know, but our church was always well filled at every service. In our house kindling for Sunday and Monday morning was brought in Saturday afternoon or evening and the woodbox piled up with plenty for all day Sunday and plenty of coal to see us through until Monday morning. Vegetables were brought in from the garden or cellar Saturday, peeled and washed all ready to cook on Sunday. No dishes were ever washed, the breakfast dishes were piled in a tub and covered with a cloth. The same thing with the dinner dishes, and dishes from the evening meal, all put together to be washed on Monday. We lived a long walk from the church but always attended the morning and evening services and I attended Sunday School in the afternoon. >From Sunday School we all paraded to the church which was just across the road, for children's services. These services we always attended by a few adults, and strolling home with my friends was nice. On reaching home I would find "mother" reading aloud from the Bible and Uncle Tom listening quietly and I expect, thinking about what was being read. Religion was lived at our house, never talked about, perhaps once in a while. "Remember what the Bible said" or "remember what the parson said Sunday". I was told my mother went to heaven and I thought while looking up at the stars, what a beautiful home she has. The rainbow was a sign to us that God had not forgotten His promise, the rain was angels crying over someone sick or in trouble, and thunder was because God was very angry with someone doing wrong. Today, scientists would scoff at such fantasies, but who's to tell? Anyway, I like to think back on their simple faith. I do not remember much about the old St. Andrew's Church except that it was rather small and stood in the same place as our new church still stands. I do remember all of us going to a service in it that seemed to me to be a sad affair. The old church was being used for the last service and was being deconsecrated, people sighed and seemed regretful. I didn't realize the old church had been theirs for several years, some were married in it, children had been received there, and some had taken their loved ones there for the last time. After that Sunday all services would be held in the Fisherman's Hall which was large and stood way up the hill. The pews were taken there, the font, litany desk, lectern, and the usual church furniture. For two years we used that Lodge as a church. Meanwhile, the old church was taken down, and work was begun immediately on the foundation of the new one, but Oh much longer and wider. It seemed that at a meeting of the men it was agreed that all but the master builder and his son work free labour to cut a lot of cost. Every time I passed there I would count ten men and two strangers. It was agreed that ten men would work free labour for a week at a time. Later on some one would be painting while others were setting in windows. Eventually, and in a surprisingly short time, there stood our beautiful new church in all it's glory. Inside was beautifully painted, new furniture, pews, four rows of them, the new pipe organ, and the two transepts were also furnished with the pews. All except the font and bell were new. Most of the furniture was given as memorials, mostly for those lost in the war, for this church was built during the war years 1914-1918. The new pulpit given in memory of a wife, the reading desk in memory of a mother. Mostly though, offerings came in from grieving parents who had lost sons in the war. When all the furniture was installed some people put beautiful plaques on the walls. I can remember very well Rev. Brittnell, speaking from the pulpit, "Please Oh please, do not bring anything else to the church building fund. We already have everything we can possibly use and I do thank you all for your generosity, but please, no more". I like to remember the sound of the gas lights, at least two on every pillar. We were not accustom to gas lights and the whir of all these lights still lingers in my mind. Bishop C. White consecrated the new St. Andrew's in September 1918, only about two years after its start and shortly before the Armistice in November 1918.
The time came for me to go to work. I left home full of anticipation and excitement. I was to travel by boat, the S. S. Clyde to Lewisport where I would take the train for the west coast. Uncle Tom took me and my trunk to the Clyde and gave the Captain strict instructions to look after me, then he left and returned home. The first qualms of loneliness set in. The boat began to steam out of the harbour and as we came past the familiar houses and our own came into view, only to be left behind as we entered the open sea. A deep longing made me want the Captain turn back, Oh turn back for me to have one more look at the dear house that had been my home. Of course I couldn't hope for that and as the houses and then the shore and the hill disappeared from view I was heart sick. I went to my cabin and gave way to tears, almost to the point of sickness. However, youth has a inborn resiliency and after a while I was looking forward again to the future. Until that time I hadn't realized how deep was the love that I had for the dear people and their home they shared with me. Even now, many years later, I can still feel the aching loneliness of that parting. Who is a mother? The parent who conceived you and brought you to life? She is of course your mother, but it doesn't stop there. She nourishes you, feeds you, weeps for you when you are sick, watches over you and nurses you back to health, keeps you clean, well fed, spends endless hours soothing and sharing your pain without ever a thought of payment. If all these things make a mother, than Aunt Eliza was the best of mothers. I wonder how many sleepless nights I caused her. I was delicate and every time the wind blew from the east I would have a bout of ear ache, lasting for a week or more. No relievers like aspirin then, just had to suffer it out. "Mother" would apply heat in any way she could and rub and sooth all through the night. I'm sure she must have often longed for her own comfortable bed. By the time the trouble passed, I'm sure she was exhausted. I could sleep it off, but she had her housework to do everyday. A few sunny days, then a damp easterly wind and the whole nightmare would start all over again. Neither she or Uncle Tom had never complained. Later on when I was 11 or 12 I developed a cavity and I was up many nights with a very powerful toothache. Sometimes it would come on during the night and both she and Uncle Tom would be up with me. This particular time I am thinking of was an especially busy time for them. They had seeds to put out, ground to prepare, potato seeds to cut and plant and of course the usual spring cleaning to do. So after a few sleepless nights, she gave me for the first time an ultimatum. "The earache I know you can't help, but the aching tooth can be removed. You must go to Dr. Mackenzie and get it out after school, and be sure you do. It will hurt a little but not worse than the toothache". So off to school I went. After school the tooth didn't hurt and I was scared so I went home. I admitted that I didn't go as she said because I had no toothache and I was scared. The next night it started again and this time she put her foot down. "Get that tooth out, or we'll not stay up with you another night, you'll have to bear the pain alone". Oh, that was unthinkable, so the next afternoon I dragged my feet in the direction of the doctors office, praying with each step he'd be out. But as I timidly knocked on his door, there he was as if he were expecting me. I almost said I had just come for a social visit, but I remembered "Mother" and Uncle Tom, so I blurted out that I had an aching tooth. He gave me a hard time of it without a sedative. By the time he had finished my head was throbbing, the tears flowed with the bleeding. As I blindly tried to find the door he stopped me and said, "here take this if you want it". When I found out it was the offending tooth wrapped in a paper towel, I threw it at him. Apart from this, how many kindly things she did for me. She was a neat sewer, every spring and fall she made me a pretty Sunday dress of sprigged muslin. When she finished, she would say "lets try it on and see what Uncle Tom has to say". He would sit up and admire, then say "that's a pretty frock, when you get the skirt on you'll look right smart". That was a sly did because "mother" didn't make my clothes so long as he thought decent. My stockings were always knitted by her own hand from beehive wool, and she made sure I had plenty. All this and much, much more she did for me. I wish, Oh how I wish I had stayed to take care of them in their old days, to give back to them some of the care they gave me. The thought never crossed my mind until it was to late, much to late, and I have regretted it ever since. As things turned out I nursed, fed, and took care of my father in law who was blind and bedridden. For three years I hardly had time to move from his room. Then, my sister in law became the victim of a stroke. There was no one to take care of her, so I felt I had to take care of her, which I did for another three years. All this care and attention for strangers, but no care for those I loved best in the whole world. I know they were well cared for, but not by me, who owed them so much. Oh if only I could roll back the years. I had the chance to go return to the old place, but my people had gone, my friends scattered, and even the dear old house had been moved, but just seeing it after all those years had a warming effect on me. All the little memories I have written about and many others come back to me as I sit alone with lots of time to remember. I wish I could have set down these little stories when my dear folk could have read and chuckled over them. I do so now as a tribute to their memory, a warm, loving tribute.
Fogo / Twillingate District