Thoughts of tidal waves flowed through my childhood. Nan O'Brien wanted to keep me off the beach so she talked about a tidal wave carrying me away. I often paused and looked out to sea when I went to the beach. At night before I slept, I planned how I would run up the old road and up the mountains to escape a wave. However my plan did not include how I would know about such a wave at night.
Last week was the eighty-fifth anniversary of the tidal wave, now called tsunami, on the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland. A family friend was a survivor of this event. Her name was Gladys Barnes and she spoke of the event up to the end of her long life; the event having left a huge impression on her. When I noticed the anniversary this past week, I thought of Gladys.
She was on the Burin Peninsula that November day in 1929 and saw houses carried out to sea, one with a lamp lit in an upstairs room. How was Gladys saved from the wall of water which came ashore that day?
Mrs. Barnes and her husband, Chesley, lived across the street from my family in Mount Pearl. They were great friends over the years as the couples played cards and visited each other. After their husbands died, the bond between Gladys and my mother, Mary, strengthened. The widows were great company for each other and often shared meals. Gladys worked as a cook at a hotel when she first went to St. John's as a young woman. Mom always said, "Mrs. Barnes could put a good taste on a beach rock."
Gladys, in her nineties, continued to live at home and still cooked for herself. Her mind was good but her body was frail, especially her legs. She died in hospital shortly after a fall at home. Gladys was a good wife and mother to her two sons, a good friend and neighbour, and a loving grandmother. She was a good woman.
My grandmother had some knowledge of the events of the tidal wave of 1929 and she was nervous about the possibility of it happening in Maddox Cove. Nan transferred her fear to me as well in an effort to keep me off the beach. I hope, unlike Gladys, I never have to find out what a tsunami is really like.