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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.

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