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Monday 31 March 2014

Communication

The first year that Rick and I worked as teachers, he was in Grand Bruit, an isolated community on the southwest coast of  Newfoundland, while I was in Buchans. It was 1975, long before personal computers, cell phones and everything they imply. We had phone and mail as our only way to communicate.

However, the phone in Rick's boarding house wasn't much help. While phones in Buchans were fine, the same wasn't true for the phones in Grand Bruit. A mobile radio operator answered when Rick picked up the phone. The operator dialed the number you wanted and you spoke to your party. However, any radio on the south coast of Newfoundland or any ship at sea which had that public service band frequency could pick up the conversation. We were always guarded as to what we said on the phone.

 In addition, when you finished your part of the conversation, you had to say, "Over," so the other would know when to speak, otherwise the conversation could be cut off.

Our main method of communication became cassette tapes which we mailed back and forth to each other. The cassettes had a trip to/from Port aux Basques, then by coastal boat to/from the isolated little community. The length of the trip depended on the weather on the south coast and if the boat could make the trip. We lived through interesting communication challenges.

Today our granddaughter, Sylvie, and her Dad, Ben, speak almost daily to family in England or any place her Grandpa Noall is currently working. Sylvie sees them almost every day! Big changes in forty years! 

What will communication be like in Sylvie's lifetime if it's starting with Skype?

Friday 28 March 2014

Right Confused

When Frank and I'm were growing up, it was common to hear things like 'right delighted' used in everyday speech. Mom used the phrase a great deal, such as

"She was right delighted with..........."

The 'right' in this case means 'very.' Now if you're delighted, is the 'very' redundant? Maybe. However, Newfoundlanders don't care about redundancy. The emphasis is important.

You can use right with many words, such as 

right hungry,

right sad,

right mean,

right angry,

right sleepy,

You get the idea.

If you're a Newfoundlander and someone says, "He was right upset," you'd know exactly what it meant. If you're not a Newfoundlander, what would you think?

In addition you can substitute 'some' for 'right' and it means the same thing. So, "She is some sweet," tells us that she is right sweet, or very sweet.

There are things Newfoundlanders understand that would puzzle many English speaking people. We have our own Dictionary of Newfoundland English, edited by Story, Kirwin and Widdowson. It helps non-Newfoundlanders decipher what's being said. For Newfoundlanders, if we hear something unfamiliar that might be peculiar to a particular part of the island, we can look it up.

However, some things even defy the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. One night, after a particularly bad snow storm in Grand Falls-Winsdor, someone knocked on the door. When I went to the door, a man asked,

"Don't want no one to shovel no snow for ya, do ya?"

I hesitated. 

Tuesday 25 March 2014

The Innocents

She represents all of them, all of the children who died in their youth. You know the ones, the babies, toddlers and children who didn't live because of diphtheria, meningitis, tuberculosis, influenza, prematurity, accident or a myriad of other reasons. The names you've seen under births and deaths. The children who didn't get to know their parents or if they did, it was all too briefly. The darlings whose graves are unmarked; their potential lost, their promise unfulfilled.

This sweet girl is Mabel Corbett, who died of diphtheria a month before her fifth birthday. She was the oldest child of Jennie (Pretty) and Clarence Corbett of Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Unlike most of the other innocents, after Mabel died, there were items left behind that represented her. More importantly however, unlike many of the innocents, she had a headstone which her family placed in her memory. Her mother didn't have one,( she died six years after Mabel), but Mabel did. 



This information was provided by Betty Giddens Jennings:

Elizabeth Mabel Keller(n) Corbett

10 March 1892 – 2 February 1897

 

This was the infant, eldest daughter of Clarence and Jennie.  She died at age 4 years, 11 months from diphtheria.  

 

This portrait was given to my mother, Eva-Rose, from Anna (Ainslee) Keeler.  Anna’s mother, Rose, was Grammy’s (Hazel) stepsister.  Rose was Lucinda Corbett’s daughter, Clarence’s second wife.

 

It is a chalk/charcoal portrait.  The only signature on the picture is at the top written in pencil saying, Mrs. C. H. Corbett.  Could Jennie have been the artist?  It certainly runs in our family and I believe this is where it came from.


                    Cup with Mabel's initials

Thank you to Jennie's descendants, especially Betty Giddens Jennings, for all the information and pictures about Jennie and her family.

Now Hazel is with her family in this world as well.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Jennie, Part 2: At Last

Hazel really missed Harold went he left for Boston. Because of the era, communication was sporadic at best. They didn't see each other for years. Hazel excitedly wrote her brother when she met the love of her life at the tender age of fourteen, in 1914. The year and her age coinciding were very meaningful to Hazel.

                        Harold Corbett

Then in 1918, Hazel married her sweetheart, Stuart Rector and they settled into life in Garrish Valley, near Economy, Nova Scotia. A number of years later, after they had several children, a tall, balding stranger knocked on the door. 

All he said was, "1914."

Hazel knew instantly that it was her brother. They hugged and cried. Visits back and forth between Nova Scotia and Boston followed. Hazel's children have fond memories of their uncle, who played with them and Aunt Phyllis, his first wife. Harold and Phyllis had one son, Edson. However, the marriage didn't last and Harold eventually re-married, to Marion Beane this time. They had two children, Jacqueline (Jackie) and Douglas. Sadly, that marriage didn't last either and Harold eventually re-married Phyllis.

                                      Harold and Marion Corbett

                                    Edson Corbett


Meanwhile back in Nova Scotia, Ethel eventually married three times. The first time was to John Taylor with whom she had one child. Then she married Harry Barron and eventually Wilbert Willigar with whom she had four children.

                                               Ethel Corbett

The Rectors eventually had ten children and life was busy. Hazel's family met their cousin Jackie once when she visited Nova Scotia with her parents. However, the families lost contact over the years. 

Stuart and Hazel raised their family, and eventually had grandchildren. They lived to have their sixtieth anniversary, a testament to the love which started with a fourteen year old girl. Hazel's brother Harold, died in 1951 and her sister Ethel in 1962. 

                        Stuart and Hazel Rector

                                                 Hazel Corbett Rector

The longing for her mother and her family never left Hazel. Various attempts to discover Jennie's family in Newfoundland were unsuccessful. The problem was due to the name itself. Jennie, to her family, was baptized Martha Jane. It wasn't until after Hazel died that one of Jennie's great grandchildren, John, checked the death registry at the cemetery, Forest Hills in Massachusetts. There the family got the proper name and the names of her parents.

                                           Jennie's Grandchildren

Having Jennie's parents' names made all the difference. Joanne, the Pretty family historian in Newfoundland, could fill in the names of Jennie's siblings and her predecessors.

However, before the family found Jennie's family they found each other. Harold's children by his two wives did not know each other. Their descendants finally found each other and connected with Hazel's descendants as well through a genealogical website. It was the entire group which found Jennie.

Then through the same website, Jennie's family found my great grandfather, Robert's family and Elizabeth's descendants as well. We know of Lydia's family too, but haven't had contact with them.  Many of the descendants of our great great grandparents, Samuel and Harriet Pretty are known to each other and have contact again. This contact was not possible for our predecessors.

In my mind, I always go back to the day I started at the Archives at the Rooms in St. John's, Newfoundland, looking for Pop Pretty's parents' names. Starting with one man led to the knowledge of many lifetimes of wonderful people who had their own stories, loves, children, grandchildren and beyond. It's been an incredible discovery so far and the journey continues.


Written by Betty Giddens Jennings and Marie Pretty Smith

Thursday 20 March 2014

Jennie: At Last, Part 1

'The journey to Martha Jane (Jennie) Pretty Corbett was a long one. It began with a two year old girl, her brother and sister. They were left behind when their Mom died of pulmonary tuberculosis in 1903. That longing for Mom and knowledge of her family stayed in the heart of that two year old baby until the day she died at the age of eighty-eight, a country away from where she started.

          Martha Jane (Jennie) Pretty Corbett

Born in 1900 to Jennie and Clarence Corbett in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, Hazel was the youngest of four children born to the couple. The oldest child, Elizabeth Mabel Kella or Keller, born 1892, died five short years later. She was called Mabel in her family. The other two children were Ethel Leona, born in 1895 and Harold Edson born 1897.

                                        Mabel Corbett

                Hazel, Ethel, Harold Corbett

The children knew that their mother was Jennie Pretty from Dildo, Newfoundland and that there was a Robert in the family, her father or brother they assumed. That was all they knew. 

They remembered something about their Mom however. No matter how sick she was, she'd sit up in bed and put ringlets in the girls' hair. It looks like she put them in Harold's hair too because his hair is so curly in some of the pictures. 

Though her story was sad in the end, Jennie had started out from her home in Newfoundland with her sister, Elizabeth, in the late 1880s (we think), probably with the spirit of adventure as all young people have. They stopped in Halifax on the way and this is where the picture of the two sisters was taken. (We assume this is Jennie's sister, Elizabeth, because the eye condition visible on the woman in the picture is the same as Elizabeth's son had. Jennie and Elizabeth did cross into the United States together.)

                          Jennie and Elizabeth Corbett

The women went to Boston and worked as seamstresses. Jennie eventually met Clarence Corbett from Five Islands, Nova Scotia. They married in 1891 and Mabel was born the next year.

     Jennie Pretty Corbett and Clarence Corbett


Elizabeth married two years later. However, the children didn't know anything about their Aunt and her family who lived in the same state. There weren't any ties with the Pretty family at all.

When she was sick, Clarence took Jennie back to Canada, initially to his mother, then to his half brother's family, Cassie and Charles McLellan. Eventually however, the family went back to    Massachusetts, where Jennie died.

                       Jennie's headstone, erected recently by her descendants

Clarence Corbett met his second wife, Lucinda, in Boston and moved back to Five Islands with her, his three children and her four children from a previous marriage. We believe Lucinda's first husband died. However, of her four children, the couple raised one of them, having sent three of the children to be raised by relatives. The boy they raised had health problems and was spoiled. He and Harold didn't get along, so, incredibly, Harold, at fourteen years of age, went back to Boston to find work. 

Written by Betty Giddens Jennings and Marie Pretty Smith

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Pop Pretty, Part 6: The Big Picture

Have you ever struggled over a puzzle, one in which all the pieces look alike, except for the edges. All of the  border is done and you've sorted as best you can. You need to find a few key pieces to get you started but everything just looks the same.

Genealogy is like that puzzle for me. However there isn't a picture to guide you until the pieces are retrieved and assembled. I had the borders of the family puzzle done. I knew our great grandparents and their predecessors for three generations back.

From Joanne, the Pretty family historian, I had found my cousin Patti, her Mom, Olive and Olive's twin sister, Jenny who were my father's first cousins. The father of the twins, Fred Pretty, was my grandfather Samuel's brother. Patti, her husband and parents, live in Australia. They were looking for the family's history as well.

                     Olive, Patti and Jenny on Pretty's Lane in Dildo, Newfoundland. 
        Olive and Jenny are Robert Pretty's granddaughters. Patti is his great granddaughter.
                                           

There were lots of Prettys in Newfoundland but other that Robert's descendants, I didn't think any were from our Samuel and Harriet, because Robert didn't have any brothers. Samuel and Harriet had one boy and four girls. According to Joanne, some of the girls had gone to the mainland. That was too big a pool to search on my own so I joined a genealogical website and put in what I had.

Within a short while I found descendents of one sister, Martha Jane, called Jennie by her family, through her great granddaughters Gwen and Betty in Nova Scotia. Within a few weeks I found descendents of another sister, Elizabeth, through her granddaughter Dolores, in Massachusetts. It was as if the world opened up. More unbelievably, there was a picture of the sisters together. The families hadn't known each other but like me, they were looking as well.  

           Martha Jane (Jennie) Pretty and Elizabeth Pretty
Jennie and Elizabeth were seamstresses. Did they make their coats? Elizabeth's coat is form-fitted for that hour glass figure. 

Since that time, I have tried to find descendents of Lydia and Edith. Lydia did have a son. After she died of tuberculosis, her husband remarried. Her son eventually married and had a family so there are descendents but I haven't been able to contact them. The other sister, I believe, died young, but I haven't proof of that yet. She is one of the unknowns.

These three sisters, like Robert, died of tuberculosis at an early age, leaving young families. That disease devastated the descendents of Samuel and Harriet. However, the children, in spite of the loss of their mothers, survived to grow and have families of their own. Generations later their family lines are thriving.

When life presents obstacles, the immediate challenge can seem insurmountable. Those ancestors of ours, dying young and leaving such young families, must have been devastated to leave their children. Today, with the passage of time and the help of technology, we can see the big picture.

  L to R, Back:  Colleen, Barb, Larry, Carl, Betty, Gwen. Front:  Jack and Eva (Jennie's granddaughter)

     Dolores and Richard with their thirteen grandchildren from their seven children. Dolores is Elizabeth's granddaughter.

These pictures make me smile!



Sunday 16 March 2014

Pop Pretty, Part 5: The Man

While my grandfather was loving towards my brother and I, he had a troubled relationship with my father when Dad was a boy. After his mother died, Pop was very abusive physically to my father. I can't speak for the rest of the children. However, over time, he and Dad worked out their issues, and Dad, Mom and I lived with him for a time. He and Dad became very close; he cooked dinner for Dad every week day during the last few years of his life.

My grandfather didn't know how to be a parent. His lost his parents at such an early age and who knows what he experienced himself growing up. He obviously relied on Ida to raise the children when he was working and away so much. After she died, the children at home, teenagers, were on their own and Pop was away as much as ever. How could he control them? There isn't any excuse for abuse of children. Each of us can choose how we react to situations. Pop was lucky enough to mend the broken relationship with my father. 

Pop was a good neighbour. He had good friends who lived on either side of his house on 166 Topsail Road; the Mulrooneys, the Ash family, the Walsh family next door to the Mulrooneys.They relied on each other, had fun together, and knew each other's families.

Mary Pretty, back, Mrs. Mulrooney, Lucy Pretty, Juanita, Mrs. Walsh, Sam Pretty, Ruby Taylor, back

I don't remember my grandfather driving but I think he did earlier in his life. His housekeeper, Juanita, eventually got her license and a car and she drove him everywhere. 

Sam loved his job with the Newfoundland Railway. He progressed from fireman in 1911 to locomotive engineer in 1919. He worked into the late 1950s for sure, maybe early 1960s. When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, with new medical requirements, Pop failed the eye test because he was colour blind. For the remainder of his career he worked in the roundhouse in St. John's. This was certainly a change for him. I don't know how he felt about it though. 

One hundred years ago many young Newfoundlanders left their communities to fight for 'King and Country' in the war. Luckily, though a young man of eighteen, my grandfather didn't join the Newfoundland Regiment as so many other of his compatriots did at the time. He and his brother Fred had jobs with the railway, so they stayed and worked during this war that saw so many young Newfoundlanders give their lives. 
    
My grandfather was an interesting character in a restaurant. He always made friends with the wait staff, joking with them. If we ate in a diner, he always took some of the packs of sugar, salt, and anything else that was packaged. I was always embarrassed by this action. As I got older, I relaxed about it. He used the things at home. He'd say that he had paid for it, so he was taking it. I guess his youth had been one of poverty and he used anything available to him, even though his circumstances had changed in life.

Pop was a good cook. He spent time away from home as a locomotive engineer and cooked meals for himself and others. I loved the steak, brewis and gravy that he made, often at my request. He could put a unique taste on his food. I loved it. I have never been able to replicate his steak! My grandfather O'Brien didn't cook meals like Pop Pretty did.

Watching hockey was one of the great joys in my grandfather's life. He loved the game and especially the hard checking or even fighting! He sometimes came to our house to watch a game or Dad visited him. Saturday nights for my grandfather meant hockey. He listened to games on the radio other week nights, usually with all the lights off in the house. No need to waste "the juice,"as he called electricity.

While he had two brothers, only one of them lived in St. John's. His older brother Fred lived a short distance from my grandfather. They were close, phoned each other and visited each other regularly. They had a great deal in common because of their jobs as engineers, but Fred's wife survived him, while Nan had died in the 1940s. Their younger brother Cyril, lived in Port aux Basques and at that time, communication wasn't as easy as it is today. They phoned each other rarely. That cost too much for my grandfather! He didn't write letters. That wasn't his thing. I think he and Fred attended Cyril's funeral in Port aux Basques. 

The picture below was taken on the way to/from Cyril's funeral. Fred, Jessie, Sam and Juanita stopped in Corner Brook to visit the Lawrences. Leona Lawrence was connected to Nora Pike Pretty by marriage. It's incredible that Leona married into my husband's family, on his mother's side. 

Two unknowns, Samuel Pretty front, Fred Pretty holding unknown child, Jessie Pretty behind Fred, Juanita, Leona Lawrence, Marina hiding.

In 1967, I travelled to Thunder Bay, Ontario, to visit Aunt Muriel and her family, with Pop and Juanita. Expo 67 was held in Montreal that year and the schools in St. John's each picked a student for an all expense paid trip to Expo. I was picked from my school. However, when the school submitted my name, they were told they had to send a boy, which they didn't know initially. I had already saved money for the trip from babysitting and Mom had bought me some new clothes. You can imagine the disappointment when I couldn't go. My grandfather took me to visit Aunt Muriel instead. We went by train and ferry. I really appreciated what he did for me and loved meeting my aunt and her family. I travelled with them over the next few years as well. I loved being with them! I think that loss of the Expo trip is one of the reasons I was motivated to travel with my own family. I have been making up for that trip ever since that time.

Many people of my grandfather's generation had false teeth. Not my grandfather. He kept many of his teeth to the end of his life and visited the dentist regularly. The dentist often queried how his gums were burned. Pop brushed his teeth with Jeyes Fluid, a cleaning liquid. How he didn't poison himself I'll never understand. I guess tooth paste was unavailable when he grew up and he continued to use what he knew.

My grandfather wasn't religious at all. He discussed with my mother about burying him with a Mass at the Catholic Church. He married in the Roman Catholic Church as well. He is buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery as per his wishes. He often asked me if I would visit his grave and leave flowers there. I told him I would. However, now Frank takes care of the visitation and flowers for our family. I often visited when I was home though and will again.

Pop had congestive heart failure in the end. He went to traffic court to fight a parking ticket that Juanita got for parking on the road during a snow storm. He collapsed in court and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. The judge dismissed the ticket. Pop would be very happy about the outcome of the ticket. He died in a battle of his own choosing. He'd be pleased with that too.

Friday 14 March 2014

Pop Pretty: Part 4, Life Goes On...

My grandfather met Ida Frances Stewart in St. John's. She was the daughter of Thomas Stewart and Mary (Walsh) Stewart. The Stewart family lived on Job Street, then Water Street opposite the train station. They married in 1917 and a year later, Mary Muriel, called Muriel in her family, was born.

A year later, Albert was born but died within a few years. Thomas Bernard was born in 1920, followed by Margaret in 1922,  Angela in 1923, Samuel in 1925 and Robert, 1926. Robert died that same year.

The children were raised living near their cousins, Charlie and Jackie Grills, Mary (Min's) children, (Ida's sister.) They lived on Water Street with their grandparents, Thomas and Mary Stewart initially. Then they bought a railway house, part of a duplex, on Avalon Terrace. Houses were built by the Union of railway workers and sold to union members. There was a lack of suitable housing in St. John's after the great fire of 1892 so various groups stepped up to fill the void for their people. It was a four bedroom house, with a large bathroom, kitchen, pantry, living/dining room and a big basement.

     Back:  Belle Stewart Robson, Ida Stewart Pretty. John Grills, Min Stewart Healey Grills
     Front:  Child Robson, Marg Pretty, Tom Pretty, Muriel Pretty, Charlie Grills

Meanwhile Pop provided a steady income and a good livelihood for his family in the 1920s and into the 1930s when many people were suffering due to the Great Depression. Ida kept the children well dressed and she had nice things in her home, fine china, a fine dining set, a piano among other things. Though Pop spent time away from home due to his job, Ida did a great job with the children. 

Things were going well until Ida got uterine cancer. She kept going as long as she could according to my Aunt Angela (deceased 2013.) When Ida finally took to bed, she died quickly. After their mother's death, the children left home and started out on their own. My father, fifteen when his mother died, eventually moved out as well, after he quit school and got a job. He eventually got a job with the Newfoundland Railway, as did his brother Tom. They worked side by side for their working careers.

My grandfather didn't speak to me about Ida. It must have been a huge loss for him though, having lost so many other people in his life. To my knowledge, he didn't speak about her death with the children either. It wasn't common to talk about things in those days in that family. My mother introduced that concept to my father.

Muriel married Wilfred Sauriol. They had three children, Sandy, John and Vicky.


        Muriel

                                         Wilfred (Babe) and Muriel (Pretty) Sauriol

Tom married Lucy Rossiter. They had four children, Greg, Ann, Donna and Chris.

   Tom holding Chris, Lucy, Ann and Greg Pretty. Missing from photo, Donna Pretty.

Marg married Pat Evans. They had four children, Allison, Brenda, Robert and Douglas.

                        Pat and Marg (Pretty) Evans and oldest daughter, Allison

Angela married Alex Woodford. They had two boys, Donald and Ian.

      Ian, Angela (Pretty) Woodford, Donald

                            Alex Woodford and Donald

Sam married Mary O'Brien. They had two children, Frank and me (Marie.)

           Sam holding Claire Smith, Marie (Pretty) Smith, Frank, Mary (O'Brien) Pretty

                                              Frank's Family, Samantha and Michele
Though she was in her forties when she died, Ida left a tremendous legacy in her children, then grandchildren and into later generations. Pop Pretty lived long enough to see his grandchildren and some great grandchildren were born by the time he died. 

     Tom Pretty, Angela Woodford, Muriel Sauriol, Samuel Pretty. Marg died in the late 1950s.

That young boy left with just two brothers from a large family, has a family that is growing every year, even with great great grandchildren.


Tuesday 11 March 2014

Pop Pretty, Part 3: Tragedy

My grandfather Pretty's family story is a tragic one. It started out happily enough though, Mary Ann Day married Robert James Pretty in 1884. A year later, their oldest child Albert was born. Mary Ann was from Old Shop. Robert, from Dildo, worked as a fisherman, as had his father before him.

                                         Dildo, Trinity Bay

Over the next fifteen years, Robert and Mary Ann Pretty had seven children, two girls and another five boys. One of the girls, Sarah Lydia, died at two years of age. Then, by 1903, Robert was dead from tuberculosis. In 1906, the second oldest, Harry died of tuberculosis. His death was posted in the newspaper at the time.

Evening Telegram – St. John’s, Nfld.

November 10, 1906 – Died at Dildo – A Telegram was received today telling of the death of Mr. Harry Pretty at Dildo. He worked as an apprentice engineer at the R.N. Co. machine shops and being very ill went to Dildo for his health’s sake. He was a brother to Mr. A. Pretty of the Dispatching Office of the R.N. Co. and was very popular.


   Dildo, Trinity Bay. At one time, all the land above the road was owned by the Pretty family.


Albert married Maggie Pike of Port aux Basques and they lived in St. John's. Albert worked in the dispatching office at the Royal Newfoundland Railway. ( How did Albert and Maggie meet and how did Albert get that job? Had Albert started his career on the trains and met Maggie in Port aux Basques? I guess we'll never know.) 

It seems that Mary Ann and the children lived in St John's as well after Robert died but returned to Dildo when she got sick. (Was Mary Ann working in St. John's to support her family?) She died a year later.

This is the notice from the newspaper at the time of her death.

Evening Telegram – St. John’s, Nfld

June 5, 1908 – Mrs. Pretty Dead – Mrs. Pretty, mother of Mr. A. Pretty, Chief Dispatcher of the R.N. Co.’s office, died at Dildo, Trinity Bay at 4 o’clock last evening. Deceased, who had been residing in town ary Annwent to Dildo in July hoping that a change of air would arrest the progress of the disease consumption. She had been ailing of about a year. Deceased was in her 47th year. Leaves five sons and one daughter to who the Telegram extends its sympathy in having lost their dear mother. Her husband predeceased her about four years ago.


Emily Muriel was the oldest child at home at the time of her mother's death. At eighteen, she had responsibility of the boys, and this is where Old Shop and Mary Ann's family help out. We think that Emily Muriel and the boys, Fred, Sam, Cyril and Robert, ranging in age from, fifteen to seven, went to live in Old Shop. Soon Fred went to work at the railway in St. John's where he boarded on Shaw Street. Cyril eventually lived with Albert, Maggie and their daughter Mildred in St. John's. This left Sam and Robert in Old Shop with their sister.


Albert died in 1910 and Maggie eventually moved back to Port aux Basques with Mildred and Cyril. A year later, my grandfather started work in St. John's as a locomotive fireman, the way paved for him by Albert, Harry and Fred before him. Cyril eventually worked with the railway as well, out of Port aux Basques.


               Albert Pretty's headstone


                      Grandfather Samuel Pretty's Engineman's Certificate

          Cyril and Norah (LeMoine) Pretty


Sadly, Emily Muriel died of tuberculosis at the sanitorium and Robert, the youngest, died in 1918; all but three of the family died of tuberculosis. How had Fred, Sam and Cyril survived when the disease was all around them and so easily spread? What must it have been like to have both parents and so many siblings succumb to the terrible disease? I imagine the dying parents admonished the children to be good, not to cause any trouble to those who would care for them.

Mary Ann's brother and his wife appear to be instrumental in caring for the orphaned Pretty children. Fred and his family stayed in touch with Abner and Phoebe Day. Between 1896 and 1917, Phoebe and Abner had eleven children. They were also very kind and possibly cared for Mary Ann's children after her death as well. While Abner died in 1939, Phoebe lived into her nineties, dying in 1968. Obviously she was tiny but mighty!


        Great Uncle Fred Pretty, Phoebe Day and Fred's Wife, Jessie

Sunday 9 March 2014

Pop Pretty, Part 2: The Search


To understand my grandfather Pretty (Pop), it is important to understand his family history.  This was a mystery initially because Pop never spoke of his parents. Neither Dad or Aunt Angela ever remembered Pop speaking of them.  I once asked him about his parents.  All he said was that they had died. We had no idea what their names were.

Pop Pretty always said that he was from Old Shop, Trinity Bay. Years after his death, when Rick and I visited Old Shop and spoke to some of the locals, their comments were that the Prettys were all from Dildo, Trinity Bay, just across Dildo Arm.  That was surprising news indeed. 

                                                                   Old Shop, Trinity Bay

I took my search to the Archives at The Rooms in St. John's, Newfoundland. I didn't know Pop's birth date but I figured out a range of years to search. I started in the microfiche and spent a morning looking for Samuel Pretty, born in Dildo. No luck finding my grandfather and his two brothers. I learned that some of the Church records had been lost in a fire. As a last resort I searched the records which were sworn affidavits for people whose records had been destroyed.  Sure enough, there he was.  His parents were Robert Pretty and Mary Ann Day.

                                                                  Old Shop

From census and other information on the Newfoundland Grand Banks website, I discovered that getting any further back than Robert Pretty was going to be difficult because there were so many Prettys with the same names. Through deduction I eventually eliminated a number of possibilities and found a Robert of Samuel Pretty. 

Through the Newfoundland Grand Banks website, a distant cousin, Joanne, gave me the information about a particular Samuel, married to Harriet Oakley. When she mentioned Oakley I knew I'd found them because Mom had repeated the name Oakley to me the week before she died. She had heard my grandfather mention Oakleys in his family.

    Joanne, Pretty Family Historian, lives in New Harbour, Trinity Bay. (B. Jennings photo)

Having found Robert, then Samuel, Joanne filled in the rest. She did a lot of work on the Prettys of Newfoundland. We all come from the same two people, Samuel of Chard, Somerset, England and Elizabeth. Our line was from their son Joseph and his wife Catherine.

One of the reasons I write about people in my life, especially the women, is because of the unknowns like Elizabeth and Catherine. No more unknowns!

                                                  Bus Shelter, Old Shop, Trinity Bay

When we saw this bus shelter we smiled. The quaint setting has the road alongside the water, with the houses on the opposite side. The area is like a garden set beside the ocean. A stream runs into the ocean where ducks swim undisturbed by the children playing nearby. It is a peaceful place where the serenity now may be the antithesis to the bustle of activity when the inshore fishery was the occupation of the residents during my grandfather's time there. Located at the bottom of the bay, it is a sheltered area which was a haven to our ancestors when they were orphaned. The sign and the battered school bus shelter one hundred years later are reflective of the history of the little community.
                                                     

Friday 7 March 2014

Ridiculous and sublime

Due to technical difficulties today I had to suspend the story of my grandfather and post another story I've written.


If you're a Newfoundlander, you've lived with the reality of the environment, the rocky soil, the outcrop or erratics deposited by melting glaciers. If you're a visitor, you too have seen the rugged coastline, thrust upward by the moving mantle eons ago, with the thin layer of soil which has managed to cling to the windswept landscape.

Our ancestors toiled long and hard to establish soil rich enough to grow vegetables in most parts of the island. I watched my grandfather use seaweed and manure to bolster the thin soil in Maddox Cove. Dig a shovel into the soil and you quickly dig your way to rocks of all shapes and sizes, small enough to extract if you're lucky. Large boulders or bedrock could also be the find however. Not so easy to manipulate!  The beaches of my youth weren't sandy but covered with sea-sculpted beach rocks of various sizes. We live on 'The Rock' for sure. 

Port aux Basques epitomizes 'The Rock' to me. Approaching the town by car or ferry you see the outcrop covered with thin soil. The road to the ferry is blasted through an impressive wall of rock. It's rugged but so beautiful in its way!

You could call Newfoundland ridiculous for rock. 

We lived on 'The Rock' for over fifty-five years. We are from a people who forged a community and a livelihood on this rock, the rock which played a huge part in our formation as a people. Surviving in that craggy, rock strewn environment created a self reliant, practical people. (The weather is another issue entirely.) The starkly beautiful environment is our ancestral home; the roots are deep though the soil is thin. They are wrapped around the rock for anchor. It is an incredible place to live and raise a family.

Then in 2010 we moved to Prince Edward Island. It was difficult to leave Newfoundland. It's as if a part of me is still attached by the root around that rock. However, this move was the best thing we could have done. To live near our family finally is a gift we give ourselves every day.

The year after we moved here, Rick and I, 'old school' as we are, wanted a clothes line in our back yard. We proceeded to dig the hole for the pole and were shocked after a lifetime of rocks, not to find one. We could dig forever it seemed and not a rock was to be found. (So that's how they grow all those potatoes!) After we filled in the hole again, we couldn't find any small rocks to place by the side of the pole to stabilize it and discourage the dog from digging there. There wasn't a rock to be found in the neighborhood and four years later, there still isn't. Some people actually buy rocks!

A trip to many beaches here is an experience of miles of red sand. The shoreline in many places may look like layers of sandstone but isn't compressed enough to be rock. Drop a piece of this 'rock' and it crumbles to sand.

Prince Edward Island is sublime for its lack of rock.

However, like many things in life, rock or the lack of it each has its place. After all, while a rock-free vegetable patch is ideal, it's important to have a good rock when you need it!

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Pop Pretty, Part 1: Tarring the Roof

Some of my earliest memories are of my grandfather Pretty; my brother and I called him Pop. Mom, Dad and I lived with my grandfather and his housekeeper, Juanita, from the time I was born until I was two or so.  At that time my grandfather worked at the roundhouse in St. John's, still employed with the railway, but not as an engineer, as he had been until 1949. He worked shift work and when he came home from work in the morning, I wanted to be with him. He took me into his bed and I jumped and climbed over him. He loved it and so did I.  Juanita always tried to take me away so he could get some sleep. Pop would gesture her away. (Juanita was deaf.) I loved my Pop from an early age.

                                                 Samuel Pretty 

Samuel Pretty only had one given name according to his birth certificate. However, he is listed as Samuel Bernard Pretty in the marriage announcement when he married Ida Stewart, my grandmother. I learned this information long after my Pop's death though. He wasn't one to talk about things, unlike my mother. While he wasn't talkative, Pop had a commanding presence. The grandfather of my childhood was tall, with a huge belly, and white hair which was balding on the top. He had a light complexion and burned easily in the sun.  My father had a dark complexion, more like his mother.

Pop had a good sense of humour and my grandmother O'Brien always enjoyed any time she spent visiting with him. He always had a joke or story and he kept her laughing with that silent shaking laugh of hers.

If Pop was at our house and I came home from school and asked where Mom was, his response would always be,

"She's up tarring the roof."

It was his catch phrase for every query about someone's location.

Recently, I asked Claire what her plans were for the day. "I'm going up tarring the roof now in a few minutes," was her cheeky reply. She and I both laughed. We knew!

Three generations later, Pop's phrase is still in use in his family, and has taken on a wider usage than he had for it. Evolution!