Capt. George Justason1 at 85 remembers Black's Harbour when it was too small to support a store. "My parents (George Sr. and Ida May)2 walked to Beaver Harbour to get groceries", he recalls, to feed their family of 10.3
George - who like his parent's was born in Black's - was the youngest of five boys and the only one to follow in his father's footsteps as a fisherman, a decision he made in 1910 at age 12 after finishing the 8th grade.
By age 16 he was master of a sailing sloop engaged in freighting goods for Connors Bros. between Blacks Harbour and Eastport, Maine. The sloop had an auxiliary kerosene engine, "Which didn't matter much", George recalls, "because we could never get it going."
With two short interruptions, George Justason was to remain at sea on a full-time basis until his 70th year, and made intermittent trips for several years after with his last occurring five years ago when he was 80. His first absence from the sea took place during World War I when he served from 1916-1918 in the 115th Infantry Battalion of the Canadian Army. His second occupied 1920-1923 when he worked as a loom fixer in the giant Gibson textile mill in Marysville.
Always A Boat
George, who "always had a boat", was a weir fisherman and for years operated his own sardine carrier. He joined Connors as master of freighter in 1939 and remained with the company until 1967 when he reluctantly retired. Over the years he had earned certified qualification as a mariner at navigation school.
When George began as a boy to ply the waters of the Bay of Fundy, mechanization was not in vogue. "Everything was done by hand, and we used sail power", he said. He feels that those were, indeed, the best days. "We worked hard and we had some hard times", he said, "but if given a choice I would take the old days over again."
One of George's fond memories relates of the summer of 1926. Together with another man he scooped 1,400 hogshead, working by hand. Their quarter share, after the fish were delivered to Eastport, was $700 each.... "a lot of money then, and if caught fish like that today, enough to make you rich."
If the good days are in fact gone, George attributes their passing to the advent of large mechanized vessels and over-fishing. "It has taken its toll, especially in the small bays."
Radar is singled out by George as the most dramatic aid to navigation to come along in his time, and it doubt would have come in handy on the only occasion when a vessel under his command went aground. The mishap occurred off Cape Race, Nfld., in 1952. George had been up for 70 hours in rough weather and was trying to catch a few minutes sleep when he felt a thud. The Connors Bros. II, loaded with machinery, was aground in a remote area where the nearest help would take seven hours to reach her.
"It was the only time I felt I wasn't capable of looking after things", George remembers. He went to his cabin and prayed and miraculously the vessel washed free without damage. "I gave God praise for getting us off", he said. A devout member of the Wesleyan faith, he added, "I've always believed and I always will believe."
He is the last male member of his immediate family and his only surviving sister, Mrs. Mildred Yeldon4, lives in nearby St. George. His only daughter, Joan Richardson, is a nurse in St. Stephen and he has two grandsons.
Still steady of hand and with a full head of white hair, George passes some of his time making ship models. He looks forward to making more, in particular two foot models of trawl dories with two sets of oars, buoys, and everything that goes with making them authentic replicas of an earlier time.
SOURCE: "Times & Tides" (1983) - written by permission.
Additional notes by G. Christian Larsen
1 George Alger Justason was born March 6, 1897/8 in
Blacks Harbour and departed this life Mar 31, 1989 in Blacks Harbour.
2 His parents were George Washington Justason (1859-1923) & Ida Mae Call (1863-1943).
3 The family of ten comprised of the following children: Warren, Minnie, John, Frank, Josh, Bertie, George, Mabel and Mildred. The tenth child was Charlie Bowen, a nephew of Ida (Call) Justason's that George & Ida raised from birth.
4 Mildred Ellen (Justason) Yeldon was the author of "Justason Hertiage (1743-1980)".