Goodbye to Corner Brook

We're going home.

Well, this is it, the final blog! We’re outta here! We leave next week.

And in keeping with tradition, here’s some surprises and differences between our first Newfoundland adventure, in the fall of 2008, and now, winter, 2012.

#1 surprise? The explosion of social media here. Everybody is on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and some have even mentioned Tumblr and Evernote. Every fourth person has a blog. This is not Bill’s hyperbole or exaggeration for effect. (Cue the sound here of Pauline’s eyebrows rising.) Facebook’s advertising page gives all the current statistics, and this place is at the top. Corner Brook and 50 miles around it has a population of 40,000 to 45,000, and there are over 40,000 Facebook accounts here! An associate professor of marketing at Memorial University says, “I’d say there’s probably four people that aren’t on Facebook.” He said it jokingly. But he might be right. Pauline says every single one of her students has a Facebook page.

Look at my example. I’m not on Facebook nor will I ever likely be, but who thought I’d ever start a blog? Last time here, I started to learn about using the computer and I hadn’t advanced very far. But the local library has hired someone just to teach this stuff, for free. Even if you’ve never seen a keyboard, he’ll teach you. Even if you’re incompetent at the computer as I was, in two free lessons I was blogging. What a fabulous thing!

The result is everybody is doing it. I’ve read dozens of very, very, good local blogs; it gives me hope that people are starting to write again, instead of just texting with short forms, and misspellings and jargon. The best blog in Canada? It started here in 2010 and in 2011 it won Best Overall Blog in Canada— Congratulations to Tom Cochrane. I think he’s 23, but grandmas are blogging, too, and at least one grandpa (that would be me) is getting about 90 hits a day from countries all over the world! (Just where is Moldova?)

Winter Carnival snow sculpture.

#2 surprise? Just how active this community really is. Hundreds turned out just to light the flame and go on a two-mile candlelight walk along a snowy trail to start Winter Carnival. Every event, rabbit dinner, seal flipper dinner, play, talk, poetry reading, art show, you name it, sells out. Corner Brook has now made the final three cities for the CBC Live Right Now Challenge (worth $100,000 for the winner) which rates community health and activity participation. This is community spirit like I’ve never known it.

Part of this activity translates into the very physical. If you want to skate, ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, hike, bike, kayak, canoe, cave, climb, curl, backpack, dogsled, fish, hunt or just cut logs, this place is for you. In St. Catharines I know ladies who lunch: here they powerwalk. There are trails everywhere, including the incomparable Corner Brook Stream Trail going right through the heart of the city.

More surprises. The oil sands companies are back here hiring, with ads in the papers and local meetings in various Inns and halls. I went to one of the job fairs for fun. (Yeah, sure, laborer at 67; I didn’t get a call back.) The bonuses alone you could live on, including a bonus of $120 per day for “living out” to help with food and lodging. The travel allowances were huge, too, and then there are retention bonuses and performance bonuses, and…..The rooms were busy, because jobs seem to be scarce here, now, a big difference from 2008 when every second store had a help wanted sign and garages were closing because they couldn’t get mechanics. This is still a “have” province, though, contributing to the rest of Canada.

Oh, one last delightful surprise. The government is granting Indian Status to one last tribe here, the Qalipu (Caribou) First Nations band (Mi’Kmaq). And, really surprisingly, the First Nations are holding well-attended meetings in town to sponsor local businesses in a partnership format. They want to go into business, and if you’ve got a good idea, they’ll financially back it as a partner. Wow! Isn’t that a change.

You get a real winter here, but it is just too long.

Will we come back? It would be a great place to retire: it’s safe, clean, with no street people or homeless, and no visible drugs or prostitutes, problems that plague our Ontario town. But we missed our spring garden and the winter is overly long here (it is still snowing on April 13) and it really is difficult to make friends, being an outsider. Newfoundlanders are friendly, but don’t make an effort to include outsiders. I played a whole night at a charity poker game and not one person talked to me! (Well, one girl said “Fxxx ye!” when I knocked her out of the tournament.)

A number of people from Ontario say they are now going to visit because of this blog. Please do. The province is spectacular for sightseeing, the grandeur is breathtaking, the people friendly and interesting, and the adventures….excellent.


The Corner Brook Quiz

Well last week’s quiz provoked the most response so far, with only a few claiming to have gotten 15 or more right.  Anyway, today’s quiz gets you an honorary Corner Brooker seal (oops, touchy word here) if you get 15 or more right.  Answers at the end.

Corner Brook city hall.

1. There’s a brand new city hall. A local commentator in the newspaper has been quoted as saying that the outdoor clock “must have been designed by a mainlander”. Why?

a) it was never accurate

b) it couldn’t be easily seen by either drivers or pedestrians where it was placed

c) it gave mainland time, not Newfoundland Standard Time, which is a half-hour different

d) it was digital

2. Maybe cruise ships will dock at Corner Brook this fall. Which statement is true:

a) don’t be silly, fool, why would cruise ships come to Corner Brook?

b) don’t be silly, fool, cruise ships require a deep harbour and there’s not one in all of Newfoundland

c) don’t be silly, fool, of course they’ll come, 15 are booked already

d) don’t be silly, fool, cruise ships come to Newfoundland, but they only stop in colourful St. John’s

Shez (?) West restaurant, Corner Brook

3. Can a town with a restaurant called Shez West (that’s Shez, not Chez) offer fine dining? Which of these statements is not true of Corner Brook:

a) there is a barista at Brewed Awakening on West St.

b) there is fine Indian dining at Indian on the West

c) sushi is available at Newfound Sushi as well as fresh at Coleman’s grocery store

d) Gitanos’ Supper Club and Tapas Bar offers casual elegance (and live music Fridays)

e) Sorrento offers excellent Italian food, but you will likely need a reservation

f) The Mamateek Inn offers the best dining view in town, but not fine dining

4. You want to place a classified ad in The Western Star, the local paper. The large building is located right across from your closest Tim Hortons, so you pop in and say you want to run an ad. What happens? (Worse than that, why are all these unbelievable answers so likely?)

a) you’re told that you can’t place it in person, you have to phone and you can’t use their phones

b) the clerk phones someone who comes to take your ad, but you need to go elsewhere to pay, and they don’t take cash or debit, only Visa

c) the clerk phones Montreal and is put on hold for ten minutes

d) the clerk says no-one uses the classifieds any more except companies from Fort McMurray needing workers, because of all the free classified sites on the internet

Local glass artist Urve Manuel

5. Urve Manuel is a local glass artist. (Yes, we bought a piece.) She was commissioned to do a spectacular 22 foot installation at the Deer Lake Regional Airport. It was called:

a) “A Stone’s Throw”, representing how close Deer Lake is to Gros Morne National Park, only 15 minutes away

b) “Salmon Run” because the nearby Humber River is the world’s greatest salmon fishing river, with 70,000 going upriver every year

c) “Net Worth” showing colourful cod fish, a Newfoundland symbol, milling in a net

d) “Coming and Going” featuring different very large Newfoundland fish going in different directions, like travellers

6. There are interesting towns close by to Corner Brook. Which of these statements is false?

a) Deer Lake, 30 minutes away, was named by the early settlers from Cape Breton, who saw deer swimming across the lake

b) Pasadena, 15 minutes away, means beautiful valley, and it was named by a guy who met a girl in Pasadena, California, liked the name and the girl, and brought both back home

c) Stephenville, 30 minutes away, has its streets named after American states

d) Lark Harbour, 20 minutes away, was named after one of Captain James Cook’s boats

7. A long whistle sounded at 4 o’clock today that could be heard throughout the city. It was:

a) the Newfie Bullet, the train that travels across the province, signalling that it was ready to leave

b) a call to alert the volunteer firemen to call City Hall for the location of a fire

c) the ferry leaving for Blanc Sablon, Quebec, (at the Labrador border) signalling it was about to leave

d) the whistle from Corner Brook Pulp and Paper marking the end of a shift

Yes, Empire Theatres does have a marquee.

8. It’s February. You want to go to a movie in Corner Brook. There’s only one theatre. You find out what’s playing by:

a) driving by to look at the large marquee

b) looking for the ad in The Western Star

c) going to to see the regular movie listings

d) all of the above

e) none of the above, you can’t find out what’s on until you go inside the mall

9. The CBC has a 9-week Live Right Now Challenge which offers a $100,000 nature park for the winning community. The idea is for communities to exercise more and eat healthier. Corner Brook is one of the final 13 communities in Canada! Which of the following is true:

a) as part of its social media section, the City of Corner Brook used this blog because it showed residents (i.e. Bill and Pauline) snowshoeing, dog sledding, caving, snowmobiling and generally exercising

b) there was a healthy dessert contest at the Pepsi Centre (no irony intended)

c) a massive Zumba class was led by the Humber Community YMCA

d) all of the above

e) two of the above

Grenfell's brand new observatory, soon to be fully operational.

10. Corner Brook’s Grenfell Campus of Memorial University has a new observatory waiting to be put into full operation, the largest in Maritime Canada. What’s the hold up?

a) the steel dome containing the telescope is frozen shut and covered with ice from the winter weather, so they’re waiting for warmer weather

b) a mainlander sent over the wrong lens, holding things up

c) the steel dome containing the telescope cannot be heated since the warm air rising from an opened dome would distort the images being observed, so they’re waiting for warmer weather

d) it’s not an observatory, it’s a planetarium, so it isn’t being held up by the wrong lens

11. Which of these does not exist in Corner Brook:

a) high speed internet

b) CBC’s The National

c) Rogers Cantel mobile phone service

d) Rogers digital t.v. and internet

e) Bell satellite service

12. In the last 4 years all of these have been built in Corner Brook except:

a) a new court house

b) a new city hall

c) a new skateboard park

d) a new long-term care health centre

e) a new curling rink

f) new buildings at Grenfell, along with an observatory

13. The City of Corner Brook has 19,886 people officially. I guess you don’t need 20,000 to be a city here. Anyway, an awful lot of stuff gets built (see #12). What serious financial cost is missing from Corner Brook’s budget?

a) firemen’s wages, it’s all volunteer

b) police wages,  the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary are paid by someone else

c) salaries for the mayor and councillors, they all work pro bono

d) salaries for staff, there’s hardly any for what is basically just a small town

Is that garbage under there? Why the netting? (2008 photo)

14. Every Thursday in our section of town nets and blankets are strewn over lawns and driveways. They have been covering the green garbage bags. What is the garbage being protected from?

a) feral cats

b) rabbits or hares

c) coyotes

d) seagulls

e) crows or ravens

f) all of the above

g) two of the above

15. Which of the following was not a recent headline in The Western Star:

a) Polar bear shot after breaking into four homes, killing sheep, ducks in Goose Cove (possibly a world record for longest headline)

b) Feral cats a danger (may be infected by rabies)

c) Police issue caribou warning (the caribou change colour in winter, unlike the moose, so they blend in and are hard to see crossing roads)

d) Man shoots 82 lb. coyote (the government gives a $25 bounty per coyote)

16. Hey, this headline business is fun. Which headline is fake?

a) Moose in danger? (dealing with the significant expected decline in the moose population)

b) Humane Society to sealers: “Let’s Talk” (the talk is about buying out the sealers and so ending the annual seal harvest once and for all)

c) RCMP issue polar bear warning  (this one was on land but left on some ice with a seal, but it could end up in Wesleyville, depending on the tides)

d) Wild rabbit meat banned for commercial purposes (rabbits or hares can’t be sold at events such as the United Church annual rabbit supper)

One of the many plaques at Captain Cook's monument overlooking Corner Brook and the Humber Arm and the Bay of Islands.

17. Captain James Cook helped defeat the French at Quebec. Then he helped liberate St. John’s from the French who had captured it in The Seven Year’s War to use as a bargaining chip. He then mapped Newfoundland and stayed in Corner Brook while mapping the area. As a reward for such excellent maps, used for almost 200 years, he was sent to:

a) Tahiti

View from Captain Cook's monument.

b) Vancouver

c) Australia

d) Hawaii

e) New Zealand



18. Tom Cochrane is a young local.  He has gained fame for:

a) shooting a moose weighing 1832 lbs. on his first moose hunt

b) opening a sushi restaurant in a town where they said it wouldn’t go because people want trucker meals like a Jiggs Dinner

c) establishing his own band, following in the footsteps of his father, Tom Cochrane, who had a big hit with “Life is a Highway”

d) establishing a blog,, in June, 2010, that won Best Overall Blog at the 2011 Canadian Blog Awards

Are there really sidewalks in this part of town?

19. It has snowed every week since January 1. At home, if you don’t shovel your sidewalk within 24 hours, you’re fined. Here Bill doesn’t shovel the sidewalk. Why not?

a) that’s Pauline’s job

b) the guy two doors down has a great snowblower (lights and everything) and is happy to clear all the neighbours’ sidewalks

c) there are no sidewalks in the part of town we live in, Townsite

d) there is so much snow, no-one clears their sidewalks, people just walk on the road

e) the people in this part of town are too old to shovel and if Bill clears his sidewalk, it looks bad

The Sir Richard Squires Building, an eyesore of a highrise in a majestic valley. Most residents like to see the trees on the horizon. With lots of land available, most of the new buildings have a low profile, suiting the environment.

20. Sir Richard Squires was Liberal Prime Minister of Newfoundland twice. His government was accused of using bribes to win the 1923 election. He was arrested, released on bond and so resigned. After being re-elected, his finance minister revealed Squires was receiving secret payments out of public funds. Over 10,000 people marched on the House of Assembly, broke in when no-one came out, and Squires, disguised, escaped out the back door. He brought Newfoundland close to bankruptcy and he was the one who offered to sell Labrador to Canada for $98 million. (Canada refused). He was also fined for income tax evasion. In Corner Brook, there is a high-rise named The Sir Richard Squires Building. Unbelievable! Why?

a) well, he was a local boy

b) this is a Liberal stronghold in a Conservative province, so there you go

c) he built the railway that connected the whole province

d) he brought a pulp and paper mill to Corner Brook

e) every-one knows that every old-time politician was corrupt in this province, so it doesn’t much

matter to people

21. Bonus question. Pauline stopped to watch a small boy at Canadian Tire who was fascinated by something. His mother confided; “He’s never seen one o’ those in Labrador.” What was it?

a) an escalator

b) people going through an entrance turnstile

c) an elevator

d) a mechanical claw that picks up plush toys

Answers.   1. b You can’t see the clock in the picture because it’s up by the flag at the top facing the street.  2. c  Corner Brook has a fabulous deep-water harbour. The cruise ships come for the spectacular fall colours here and because Gros Morne is only an hour away.  3. b  4. c  5. d Urve’s business is called  “A Stones Throw Glass Studio” and “Salmon Run” and “Net Worth” are titles of other major works she has done.

6. a  There are no deer in Newfoundland! What they saw was caribou, but they thought they were deer. Stephenville was an American military base, so that’s what’s up with the street names. 7. d  A beautiful sound we hear every week-day. It’s so nostalgic. 8. e  Well, you could also look it up on the internet at but I hate computers. In defense, maybe it was too cold in February and March. Now in April, ONE side of the marquee tells the movies. 9.  d  10.  c

11.  c   12.  c  But they did buy new equipment for the old skateboard park, and they promise a new park soon! 13. b

It must be Saturday.

14. g   (both d and e) First the ravens rip open the bags, then the seagulls swoop in and it’s “one beejeesus mess”. On Saturdays, with no garbage collection, the ravens go to Timmies and I have the pictures to prove it! 15.  b  There are feral cats and some communities are trying to round them up, but so far they haven’t made it into the headlines

16. d   17. a   18. d   19. d    If you picked “a”, you lose 2 points, unless you’re from Corner Brook where I see a lot of women shovelling driveways.  20. d    Well, that’s the only real answer anyone has come up with so far, although my other entries may be partially right, too. 21. b  Amazing what we take for granted, isn’t it.






Your Chance to Become an Honorary Newfoundlander

Pauline the professor. Only one more week of classes.

With classes ending soon, Pauline is starting to prepare final exams, so I thought that maybe it was time to give my dear readers a pop quiz. Here is your chance to become an honorary Newfoundlander. You must score 15 out of 20 or else it’s back to “kissing the cod” for you. No peeking, but the answers are at the end.

1. In Ontario it’s Trawna for Toronto. What’s the local pronunciation of Newfoundland?

a) new found land

b) new fun land

c) new fun land

d) new fun land

2. The local pronunciation of Labrador is:

a) lab ra dor

b) lab ra dor

c) lab ra dor

d) lab ra dewar

3. The Western Star, the Corner Brook daily, often uses phrases not understood by all. Tuesday it was Shrinky Dinks, which turns out to be a children’s craft project where you bake plastic and it shrinks hard. Thursday it was Sheila’s brush, which is:

a) another craft item, where the brush brings out hidden designs

b) a Newfoundland expression where you get off scot-free from a small crime, like “Sheila” once did

c) a term for women’s (Sheilas) work , brought here by the Australians who settled Bonavista Bay

d) a Maritime weather term for the final winter storm of the year which comes after St. Patrick’s Day

4. “The overpass” refers to:

a) an actual overpass on the highway passing Corner Brook by

b) an actual overpass, determining the town limits where you can start to shoot moose

c) an actual overpass, the dividing line between St. John’s and the rest of the province, a serious political divide

d) an actual overpass, the dividing line between Corner Brook and the rest of the west coast, a not very serious political divide

5. Which one of these is the name of a Newfoundland band?

a) The Once

b) Great Big Sea

c) Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers

d) all of the above

e) two of the above

6. Eighty Ontario snowmobilers arrived here this week to experience the world famous snowmobiling and Newfoundland hospitality. At a recent public gathering, an announcer, maybe in his cups, suggested Newfoundlanders may be getting tired of being portrayed as being so nice. He said someone even proposed standing at the ferry at Port aux Basques

Arrival by ferry, Port aux Basques

as the tourists arrived with a placard saying:

a) Yankee go home

b) we’re not so nice

c) we don’t care

d) take this place and shove it

7. “ Yes mam’s” are:

a) what you say to the servers at the United Church rabbit dinner when they ask if you want seconds

b) a local treat Pauline likes, much like Joe Louis back home

c) bumps on a snowmobile trail

d) what you say if someone cuts you off on a snowmobile trail

8. The March Hare is:

a) an annual gathering of poets, writers and musicians

b) a local variation of the Easter Bunny story

c) the name for the rabbit supper at the United Church

d) the title of Donna Morrissey’s new novel due out in September

9. Which of the following facts are true of Newfoundland.

a) there are four identifiable flags here

b)Newfoundland is the only Canadian province able to land the space shuttle

c) Newfoundland was the first place to vaccinate for smallpox

d) all of the above

e) none of the above

10. The robocall scandal didn’t affect Labrador, because:

a) everyone in Labrador knows where their polling station is, so wouldn’t be fooled by saying its moved

b) if someone called, everyone would know who it was, the voice wouldn’t be anonymous

c) not only does everyone know everyone, they know how they vote

d) all of the above

e) most of the above

St. John's. (2008 photo)

11. It’s January 31, and you want to get off the island by boat. You can leave by ferry from only two of these locations. Where can’t you leave from.

a) St. John’s area (Argentia) to go to Nova Scotia

b) Corner Brook to go to Blanc Sablon, Quebec, near the Labrador border

c) Port aux Basques to go to Nova Scotia

12. The Newfoundland and Labrador legislature has been shuttered for most of the last 14 months. Which local expression did political scientist Christopher Dunn use, describing this:

a) yes mam’s (the Newfoundland premier is Kathy Dunderdale)

b) a mainlander must have designed it

c) I went looking for it and there it was, gone

d) hoist me a coob, woot

13. Joe Batt’s Arm is:

a) a town in Newfoundland

b) a local pub at The Glynmill Inn in Corner Brook

c) a famous short story about a fisherman who lost an arm but still landed a giant squid later eaten by sharks

d) the name of a famous schooner

14. Fraser Ross, mayor of Leading Tickles, attended a kind of important event in Glover’s Harbour late in 2011. Which of the following statements are true?

a) Leading Tickles is in Nova Scotia, but Glover’s Harbour is in Newfoundland

b) Glover’s Harbour is known for its statue of the largest squid ever caught, at 16.7 metres long

c) Canada has a Kraken stamp, not a giant squid stamp

d) all of the above

e) none of the above

15. Which of these stories made headlines this winter in Newfoundland?

a) a teacher was suspended because she sprayed Febreeze on a student because he smelled of fish

b) with the help of new scanners at court, St. John’s sheriff officers found bear spray, two bottles of beer (one opened), and marijuana, among other things

c) the government agreed to “relocate” the two residents of Round Harbour because they voted for relocation, effectively closing the town down. Lorne and Violet Fudge of nearby Harbour Round are fighting this in court because they fish in Round Harbour

d) all of the above

e) none of the above, Bill is just getting silly

Canadian Coast Guard ship in front of the Petowick Glacier

16. A man was arrested for glacier ice theft. Which of the following is true?

a) tourists are served whiskey chilled with glacial ice—which brings extra kudos because it comes directly from the glaciers

b) officials from Cochrane found five tonnes of ice in the back of the man’s truck from a glacier in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park

c) this happened in Chile, not Newfoundland

d) all of the above

e) two of the above

L'Anse aux Meadows recreated compound (2008)

17. There are many Newfoundland sites dealing with different aspects of early settlement. Which one is 7,500 years old, 3,000 years before the pyramids?

a) the Burial Mound at L’Anse Amour, dealing with the Maritime Archaic

b) L’Anse aux Meadows, dealing with the Viking landing and settlement in North America

c) Red Bay, dealing with a Basque whaling station

d) Cape Ray, dealing with Dorset Paleoeskimoes

e) Boyd’s Cove Beothuk Interpretation Centre, dealing with the original “Red Indian” because these aboriginals actually covered themselves in red ochre a couple of times each year

18. Figgy Duff is:

a) boiled fish and boiled hardtack chopped together

b) vegetables boiled with salt meat

c) steamed pudding with raisins

d) a pie made with wild berries plucked from coastal bogs

19. Greece almost went bankrupt this year. In the 1930’s Newfoundland almost went bankrupt. Which is a true statement?

a) in an attempt to completely pay everything off, Newfoundland offered to sell all of Labrador for $98 million dollars

b) Canada bailed out Newfoundland on the condition it became part of the country. Canada wanted the fish for the upcoming war.

c) The U.S. bailed out Newfoundland so it could build air bases in Stephenville and Gander and a sea base at Argentia so it could “jump off” to attack Germany in the Second World War

d) Britain bailed out Newfoundland so it could use the country as a dumping place for bad Irishmen, rogues and cons, and undesirable women, too

20. Which of these places get special Newfoundland postmarks on Valentine’s Day?

a) Cupids

b) Love

c) St. Valentin

d) Heart’s Content

e) all of the above

f) two of the above

Bonus Question, a freebie.

21. Steven Harper brokered a deal to bring two Chinese Pandas to Canada. What do Newfoundlanders think of this?

a) who is Steven Harper?

b) why is Steven Harper pandering to the Chinese?

c) they don’t know and have never met Steven Harper and are quite “prepared to keep it that way without too much loss of sleep”

d) a man from Nain said he “didn’t give a rat’s posterior one way or the other” and so did a man from Croke, except he didn’t say posterior

e) you guessed it, all of the above

Well there you have it, a first-ever, honorary Newfoundlander quiz. The answers are;

1. b  Any other answer, and you’re a come-from-away  2. c   Ditto. Definitely not a livyer.  3. d   Sheila was St. Patrick’s mother or maid or mistress or something and she’s “brushing” the winter season out. Some sealers and fishermen won’t go out any distance if this final storm hasn’t come.  4 c  This is a very serious matter. 5. d  Tickets sell out overnight for any performance of Buddy; we’ve missed him twice.

6. c   I’m sure the announcer was in his cups, although somebody did honk at me this week, so maybe this “nice” thing has been overblown 7. c   The explanation was too hard to follow, just accept it, OK?    8. a  That was a freebie for anyone following this blog!    9. d  The shuttle can actually land at two airports here, Gander and Stephenville. 10. d   Answer is courtesy of Michael Johansen, columnist for The Western Star.

11. a  There’s no winter ferry service for most of the population of the island unless they drive 10 hours across the province! 12. c  The final expression means, “give me a kiss, would you” 13. a   An arm is an ocean inlet and Joe probably had fishing rights there.  14. d   Ross designed the 2011 stamp featuring Glover Harbour’s tourist attraction, the giant squid statue.  15. d

16. d   The glacier ice was worth about $6,000. They take their glaciers seriously in Chile. There are no glaciers on the island of Newfoundland, although Labrador has five. The pictured iceberg is from Greenland.  17. a   L’Anse aux Meadows is about 1,000 years old, Red Bay about 500 years old, Cape Ray about 1,800 years old, Boyd’s Cove about 200 years old. 18. c   The others are fish and brewis, Jiggs dinner and bakeapple pie  19. a   Canada had its own financial problems and so refused to buy Labrador from the country of Newfoundland. Britain couldn’t see part of its Empire go bankrupt so put in some overseers to manage the country until Newfoundland voted to join Canada in 1948.  20. f     Love is in Saskatchewan and St. Valentin is in Quebec but they too get special postmarks that one day of the year, as well as Christmas Island, Nova Scotia, only not on Valentine’s Day.  21. Yes, it’s e   This question was taken from a column by Edward Smith, a very witty fellow, in The Western Star.

While this was meant to be fun, I still hope that you learned something more about this “marvellous terrible place”.

Two Americans Visited Newfoundland……

Two Americans visited Newfoundland, and the contrast between them, and the contrast in how they responded to Newfoundland, and then in how they themselves were ultimately treated by this place, well, there’s quite a story in all of that.

Rockwell Kent, artist, illustrator.

The first American you may even have heard of. His name was Rockwell Kent. He became a very famous abstract impressionist artist and illustrator who now has works in major museums world-wide. He was born to privilege, well-educated, and visited Newfoundland during the First World War. The other you won’t have heard of. He was Lanier Phillips, born very poor, a share-cropper’s son from rural Georgia, and he visited Newfoundland during the Second World War. Rockwell Kent was exiled from Newfoundland, the only person ever to receive that dishonour. Lanier Phillips was awarded the Order of Newfoundland, the province’s highest award, and received an honorary degree from Memorial University, the only black man to ever receive these two honours.

Rockwell Kent, at 32, brought his wife and child to Brigus, an outport but still a well-established town about forty miles from St. John’s. He had already visited Newfoundland and he had a patron who financed him with an agreement to buy all the paintings he could produce. He took an isolated house at land’s end in Brigus and fixed it up. Other than a few professionals, everyone in town made their living from cod fishing and sealing.

Rockwell Kent, "The Drifter", wood engraving.

But then World War I broke out. Now Rockwell Kent had had an Austrian maid who taught him German and German songs before he was five. He had visited Germany. And like most U.S. intellectuals of his time, he admired German culture and considered it superior in comparison to the British. He loudly expressed his support for the German side (as many in America did at first). Most of Newfoundland was of British or Irish descent and supported Britain strongly.

Rockwell got into an argument and was fined $5 for threatening, attracting even more attention in a small town. Invited to perform a solo in church, he sang a song by Schumann, in German.  He called the locals bigoted and stupid in an article in a U.S. paper, and refused to let the postmaster unwrap and inspect a parcel he was sending to the U.S.

Rockwell Kent, "Men and Mountains".

Needless to say, many in Newfoundland thought he was a spy and that the parcel was a map of the island. After that, Rockwell suspected that his mail was being read (it was), so he purposely took a snapshot of himself dressed like a spy with a German-looking moustache and he wrote provocative comments in German in a letter. When The New Republic, a U.S. magazine, published a letter of his which stated that he hoped some German would “capture, transform and annihilate that sterile land” of Newfoundland, the St. John’s paper picked it up and it was front page news.

The government threw him out, exiling him, the first and last time anyone has been exiled from Newfoundland.

A young Lanier Phillips

The second American, Lanier Phillips, joined the navy after America entered the Second World War to escape Georgia where there were systematic Ku Klux Klan lynchings, church burnings, cross burnings and whipping of blacks. Indeed, his own “coloured” school was burned to the ground. The Navy was no picnic for a black American, though. Segregation was an official policy and blacks were expected to “serve” the regular white navy man by almost exclusively working in the mess hall or laundry. On one voyage, the U.S.S. Truxton, a destroyer, docked in Iceland and over the loudspeaker the captain announced that the crew could go ashore, all except the black sailors. The blacks aboard assumed they would be lynched in Iceland.

Later, in February, 1942, off the icy snow-covered south coast of Newfoundland, the Truxton and another ship ran aground in a furious winter storm and ultimately broke up at Chambers Cove. About 200 died. Of the 186 who survived, Lanier Phillips was the only black man. The other black sailors refused to attempt to make it to shore as the ship was breaking up, because it looked like it was still Iceland and that they would be lynched.

The cliffs at Chambers Cove

The local Chambers Cove mine closed down so everyone could help rescue sailors, as did the nearby communities of St. Lawrence (population 900), and smaller Lawn, Newfoundland. Everyone came out in the time-honoured tradition of sea-faring communities. Phillips was badly injured, frost-bitten and unconscious as he was hauled over the jagged, windswept, icy cliffs to a field hospital at the mine. The women of the two nearby towns took in the sailors, cleaning them up from all the bunker oil on them and feeding them soup and nursing them back to health.

Here’s what Lanier Phillips told the St. John’s paper of his experience. “When I got my eyes opened, I saw the ladies, they were massaging my body, getting the circulation going. I was completely naked and I was really afraid….Being from rural Georgia, it was a crime to be naked in front of a white woman—to even look at a white woman was a crime. Maybe you’d be lynched for it.”

He said the women did not realize he was a black man. They had never seen one. “One of the ladies had my hand and was trying to get the bunker C oil off of me. And she says ‘This poor fellow, I can’t get it off. It’s in his pores.’ That’s the first time I spoke up. I said, ‘It’s the colour of the skin. You can’t get it off. I’m black.”

Her reaction was immediate relief rather than repulsion or disgust and this amazed Lanier Phillips. That he was not white changed nothing. This is how The Washington Post later recounted the story:

The woman cradled Lanier Phillip’s head in her arms as if he were a baby, gently feeding the shipwrecked sailor hot soup she had brewed to save his life.

“Swallow” she said gently, “swallow.”

Phillips could scarcely believe what was happening, a white woman caring for a black man as if he were a son. Back home in Georgia, he thought, she would have been run out of town, and he could easily have been lynched.

Lanier Phillips became reborn after this experience. He realized his value as a human being. He became involved in the civil rights movement and marched with Martin Luther King in Selma in 1965. He spoke tirelessly throughout the U.S. at public gatherings, schools, and events about his liberating experience in Newfoundland.

Lanier Phillips in 2008. He received an honorary degree from Memorial University.

In the fifties he applied to the U.S. Navy’s Sonar School and because of the backing of the first elected African-American Michigan congressman, he was accepted. He graduated in 1957 becoming the first African-American to do so. Later in life he worked on marine submersibles, worked for NASA in the space program and was part of Jacques Cousteau’s deep-sea exploration team, blazing trails everywhere.

At every opportunity, he said it was his experience in Newfoundland that changed his life. The Newfoundland government awarded Lanier Phillips its highest honour, the Order of Newfoundland, in 2011. Lanier Phillips died last week, at 88. Newfoundland mourns him.

Once Upon a Time…..The March Hare Comes to Corner Brook

March 15, 2012

I like stories. Nay, I need stories. I’ve always known the power of the written word, and I read fiction voraciously, and I think I would wither away if deprived of books. But I never recognized the power of the spoken word until The March Hare came to Corner Brook.

March Hare host Randy Maggs with Irishman Karl Parkinson, who left Bill gobsmacked.

The March Hare is a “gathering” of writers, poets, musicians and tale tellers, mostly from Newfoundland, who speak or play over three days at a couple of locations in town. This gathering has been going on for twenty-four years, and while it may have originally been started to give poets a chance to read aloud and maybe find an audience, it has expanded way beyond that. There were about 35 participants this year and for a second time Theatre Newfoundland Labrador also put on a play one afternoon, so it looks as if another art has been added.

Poet Elizabeth Bachinsky signing the last copy of "god of missed connections" for Bill

Talk about using words powerfully, I was absolutely gobsmacked by Karl Parkinson from Ireland. He didn’t just read his poetry. He gave a performance at a tremendous volume with his Irish brogue. It was modern, hip and referenced everything from Ezra Pound to Jay Z and “ Beyonsleazy.” If this was the poetry I had taken in high school instead of the Romantic poets (“I fall upon the thorns of life/I bleed”) maybe I would like poetry more than I do. Or maybe I had to have heard poetry recited with this passion the way Pauline did at her grandfather’s knee (“The Bell of Atri” and “The Inchcape Rock”).

Two other poets who gave readings that I liked were Elizabeth Bachinsky from Vancouver and American Leslie Vryenhoek now living in St. John’s. I bought their books too. God bless poets trying to make a living anywhere, I think, but especially in Canada.

Authors Alexander MacLeod and Donna Morrissey. Both read from their works. Powerful writers, powerful readers too.

I got to meet and talk to one of my favorite Newfoundland authors, Donna Morrissey. Her four novels gave me great insight into Newfoundland history and culture when I first lived here three years ago. Is she feisty! She talked of growing up in an outport of twelve houses, with six she couldn’t visit, though, (wrong religion) and “escaping” at sixteen. On the train out west she met an American from the south who asked if there were any tourists in Newfoundland. Between his accent and hers, thinking he said turrs (a Newfoundland bird) she said, “Yes, Daddy shot six last week!”

She told of her ex husband calling to speak to the kids and as soon as words like “Jerk”, or worse, started flying around, the kids would relieve her of the phone, knowing it was for them. Still, twenty years later, when she needed to find the “voice” of the oil riggers for What They Wanted (a novel dealing with Newfoundlanders going to Alberta), she called her ex, buried the hatchet, and got the “talk” right for the novel. And can she read! She read from that novel, another sad Newfoundland tale, as so many of the novels and songs here are sad, it seems. Tough is what they know well, here. She told me her new novel will be out in September. Sign me up.

Alexander MacLeod read from his Giller Prize finalist, Light Lifting. (This was also a Globe and Mail book of the year.) It’s his first work and the reading was as powerful as the writing. I now know that if my eyes go, I can listen to stories and still be happy. Alexander is the son of Alistair MacLeod of No Great Mischief  fame,  the Canadian masterpiece. (Pauline’s note: If you only read one Canadian novel in your life, make it No Great Mischief.)

Not everything was deep at The March Hare. Recitalist Dave Paddon is an Air Canada pilot, and on flights where he has five hours on automatic pilot, he composes and memorizes long, long rhyming poetic yarns that are a cross between Dr. Seuss and Paul Bunyan. The audience loved him.

That's Andrew James O'Brien leaning forward. His Mom makes him announce that his CD is for sale at the back of the room, every concert. NL male artist of the year, best newcomer! He's good.

We had Andrew James O’Brien, a Newfoundland musician who picked up three Newfoundland awards this year, including best newcomer and male artist of the year. He’s sort of a cross between Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Bought his CD, he was that good, and again, if poets have it tough, I think beginning musicians are fighting it out one CD at a time. Andrew says his Mom makes him tell everyone at every gig that he has a CD for sale at the back of the hall.

Most of the other music over the three days was “traditional” but too much of this Irish/ Celtic/Newfoundland music at one time starts to wear on you, and we had already heard an evening of Kim Stockwood doing traditional songs earlier in the weekend. One of these sad traditional songs surprised me though. Since I live within sight of Brock’s monument, why did I have to come to Newfoundland to hear Mathew Byrne sing “Not One in Ten Thousand Knows Your Name” about the soldier lying dead next to General Brock on Queenston Heights?

One different group was the Nuala Kennedy Trio from New York, originally from Ireland. I was electrified with a “progressive” piece where a loud flute dominated an electric guitar and violin. This piece left Pauline cold, however, and she is the real musician in the family. What they did get a standing ovation for, a never-ending reel or jig, left me cold so there’s no accounting for taste.

While this is not my usual exciting adventure story, this “adventure” certainly is out of the ordinary for me. I couldn’t see myself going to poetry readings at home, there’s just too much else to do. Although, then again, I would drive a hundred miles to hear Karl Parkinson once more. This is what it must have been like when the “beat” poets burst on the scene in the 50’s, mesmerizing, challenging, electrifying. Long live the spoken word. It’s alive and well in Newfoundland.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth, or, Caving in Newfoundland

March 10, 2012

Ready to go.

Oh, yes, where were we? Somewhere past the sinkhole, which is part of the cave system that collapsed, and doesn’t that inspire confidence in this caving trip, below a dam which featured a big build-up of ice, lost (well, I was lost) in rural Newfoundland at the entrance to a cave getting serious instructions about safety while adjusting my helmet and headlight. I mulled over that part about the big build-up of ice at the dam above us. Was that serious? Was it a danger? Why did the guide mention it? Unfortunately, I couldn’t concentrate on two things at once, never mind trying to do myself up as well, so I missed most of the safety talk and can’t really pass on any tips to you.

Why am I first?

Since this was not a real young fit group (no snickering), we agreed in advance to not venture through passages where both stomach and back would touch at the same time. Fine by me. And I wasn’t up for sawing off my arm to escape, either, like in that movie “179 Hours” or whatever, I can’t believe anyone paid to see. Because we were so heated up from our “strenuous” snowshoeing approach, we all shucked down to sweaters only, despite the minus 15 degree temperature. Inside caves it’s always moderate.

Don't fall off!

But back to the caving. There was some crawling through narrow passages at 45 degree angles and at the entrance there were some slippery patches because of ice, but this was not extreme caving. The only stalactites (c for coming from the ceiling) or stalagmites (g for growing from the ground) were just icicles in the first few hundred yards. They were interesting because the water was so clear you could read through the icicles.

The geology, however, was spectacular. This is marble country and huge veins slashed through the caves, glowing beautifully in a multitude of colours. It’s also magma country. When North American and European/African tectonic plates collided the upheaval forced part of the earth’s mantle to the surface here. This is the stuff below the crust and it’s so toxic nothing will ever grow on it. There’s a huge mountain of it in Gros Morne National Park about 50 miles away and it is striking to see a completely bald mountain when other ones all around it are tree and brush covered. That’s part of what makes Gros Morne a World Heritage site.

Some features.

This stuff is astoundingly hard as well, but I was able to retrieve some scoured fist sized pieces that had washed down in the stream after the dynamiting for the dam above us. The guide noted that this was not a protected cave as many in the world are. We could take anything we wanted and touch every feature we felt like.

The stream causing the cave was pure and clear from passing through limestone and evidently occasionally washed down specks of gold, just not for us. (There is active gold mining not far from Corner Brook. It’s the world’s 235th largest deposit or something like that.) In the summer the cavers swim from cave to cave in water up to their necks. The lights on the helmets last underwater for fifteen minutes I was told.

Veins of marble.

A surprising thing was that the rushing stream was quite loud when we were near it, a real roar, but around one corner away you couldn’t hear it. These mantle rocks were so jagged (note one slashed pair of jeans) that they muffled sound so there was no echo at all.

There were no bats in the cave. According to our guide these toxic rocks would support nothing edible so bats couldn’t survive. Now I’m not sure there are any bats in Newfoundland at all. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of wildlife other than moose and rabbits, whereas at home in southern Ontario I see a hundred Canada geese a day and our backyard alone supports a family of racoons and about fifteen rabbit-sized squirrels (not the palm-sized chatterers I note very occasionally here.)

The cave was good for an hour’s exploring and a neat thing to do in the dead of winter. It would be interesting to go from cave to cave in deep water but with temperatures of minus 23 one day this week, I don’t think the water will get warm enough for me by the end of our time here in late April.

I keep expecting adventures to run out. Then I notice a poster for “The March Hare” which doesn’t have a lot of information on it, but the event seems to be some sort of Poetry Slam or something. Once again, the locals seem to know by osmosis about things.  Also, I found out that there’s a wonderful 1400 foot ZIP line that criss-crosses (eight times) a local gorge and beautiful Steady Brook Falls. Which one will Pauline choose? Will Bill follow instructions or get himself hurt if he gets to choose? You’ll find out on our next……Falling for the Rock adventure.