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Thursday 29 January 2015

Fished Out

Favourite fishing spots can be fished out. People catch too many fish and the population in the pond cannot sustain itself. When it happens, the spot which once had many anglers, is only visited by the uninformed. However, people can be fished out as well because it happened to my husband.

Since I knew Rick, I knew about his dislike of fishing. However, I had no concept of the amount of fishing he did as a child. 

His father, an avid fly fisherman, always took his family on vacation to an area with a salmon river, where they stayed in a travel trailer. 

Rick and his mother, Sylvia, hated the heat and flies while his father, Melvin, delighted in the entire experience.

We discovered pictures of family fishing experiences recently from old slides which we digitized. The many pictures show a smiling, happy child, 

which is rather deceiving when you know how he hates fishing. 

However the smiles were about the time spent with friends and family not for fishing.

Rick is fished out.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Picnic Dreams

As the wall of driving snow envelopes us during the blizzard, 

my mind goes to late spring and picnics. 

Spring is when we normally start picnic season, weather permitting of course. If we are really lucky, the season can extend into October.

We are picnic lovers and for my husband, Rick, the enjoyment goes back to his childhood. 

   Rick, Sylvia, Jean and Stephen

He and his family often picnicked with his Uncle Carl, Aunt Jean and their son, Stephen. 

Picnics are better when they are shared after all.

The picnics I dream about today in Prince Edward Island include our family on a beach 

or in a park 

with a playground where our granddaughters can run and we can play with them. 

We often share these times with friends including the four legged golden, Georgie. 

As we look out at the driving snow today, these picnic dreams are but a fervent wish.

      Aunt Marie and Marie, both Smiths

So for now, picnics of the past fuel the desire for future excursions. How many day are there until spring?

Friday 23 January 2015

Aunt Evelyn

There were two boys already, Fred and Melvin, so the arrival of a girl was probably a welcome addition to the family. Evelyn was born in 1932 and was the first of five girls born to Ernest and Bessie Smith of Corner Brook, Newfoundland. At that time, Newfoundland was in the grips of the Depression and times were hard. However, her father had a job as a relief officer in Corner Brook and he had a steady though possibly meager income.

Evelyn, as the oldest girl helped with the younger children and the housework as she grew up. The day the youngest child, Marie, was born, Evelyn took the younger girls, Beryl, Janet and Mavis out of the house while the mid-wife delivered the baby. Then by the time Marie was seven, in the early fifties, Evelyn left home to join the Canadian military; Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949.

While serving in the Air Force, Evelyn met her future husband Len Hole. After they left the military, the couple moved to Medicine Hat, Alberta where they raised their family. Over a sixteen year period, they had ten children:  six boys and four girls. They are

William (Bill),                                                    
Robert (Bob),

Terry writes, for most of our growing up we lived in a tiny three bedroom house in the flats area of Medicine Hat. In addition, what I would like people to know about Mom was that family was everything to her

         Evelyn Smith Hole

Feeding ten children was not easy and Evelyn, a stay at home Mom, worked banquets with the Ladies Auxiliary of the Royal Canadian Legion to make ends meet. Evelyn cooked and baked for her family and one of the meals she made was called Shipwreck, a popular meal in Newfoundland. The name of the meal was unusual for the heartland of Canada, almost as far away from a shipwreck as you could be in the country.

Tami reports, Mom lost her Newfy accent but when she got mad, it came out. It is hard to lose completely the essence of the place you were raised even if you are away for decades.

With respect to Evelyn's attitude towards life, Terry writes, I think she came from a generation where you persevered and made do with what you had.

This attitude makes perfect sense when you consider the times in which Evelyn was raised. People were starving during the Depression. The Newfoundland government did not have the resources to provide much for its people. If you snared rabbits for food because your family was hungry, others could report you and your dole (welfare) would be cut. People were desperate but had to "make do with what they had." What you see as a child is sometimes how you live as an adult as well.

It must have been unusual for a young woman raised near the ocean to be so far inland in western Canada. As the children were born and her family increased, it became impossible for Evelyn to go home to visit, especially considering the cost and means of travel across the country at that time.

As Terry writes, although she never said it, I know it was painful for her to be so far away from her family. I remember the first time Uncle Fred came for a visit, she was so surprised and happy as he just showed up one day.

A year after his father's death, Terry and his wife, Cheryl, flew Evelyn to Ontario where she re-connected with her youngest sister, Marie. The sisters had not seen each other in fifty years. As Terry describes it, I think this was one of the most special times for her.

Evelyn and Marie

As so often happens, just as someone has an opportunity to enjoy life, illness strikes. Shortly after her visit to Ontario, Evelyn was diagnosed with cancer. Two years from the day of Len's death, she died.

Evelyn has a tremendous legacy in her ever expanding family of ten children, nineteen grandchildren, twelve great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren. Now she has joined her ancestors in the family story as well.

Thank you to Tami, Terry and Aunt Marie for the information about Aunt Evelyn.

For a recipe and history of Shipwreck dinner check here.

Thursday 22 January 2015

Report Card

Delicate with age, yellowed, the single page report card is almost one hundred years old. 

        Grade 2 Report

It belonged to Richard (Dick) Edgar Mercer, my husband's grandfather, for Grade 2 in Harbour Breton, Newfoundland. Dick's father, Richard F. Mercer was a Church of England clergyman. His mother was Clarinda Moulton from Burgeo, where the couple met.

   Richard and Clarinda

One of their postings as a young couple was in Harbour Breton where they had seven of their nine children. 

The report card has subjects and grades written in pencil, in what looks like a child's printing, in a more mature script than a Grade two would have. There is a comment, handwritten and signed with an adult's hand. It looks as if one of the older students in the school printed out the report card and the teacher filled in the marks and signed it. Dick placed fourth in a class of twelve. He achieved the following:  

Writing        95
Printing       80
Arithmetic   70
Spelling       56
Geography  73
Reading      80
Drawing      65
Health       100

The teacher wrote

Dick is a good pupil in every way and does excellent work.

The teacher's name is difficult to read but looks like E Lex.

When Dick finished school he took a job at the Bank of Montreal in Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. While he worked there, Dick met Classie Lawrence. They married and had three children, Richard (Dick), Sylvia and Carl. 

                  Dick Mercer

Prior to his marriage in Port aux Basques, Dick did a correspondence program from Shaw Schools Limited, Toronto, Canada. 

He did courses in English Composition and Correspondence, Commercial Geography, and Arithmetic. 

There may have been other courses as well, but these are the books that we still have. The books were published in 1924 and 1927. 

Eventually he became a book keeper, working for Emanuel Pike in Port aux Basques and later for Bowater's Pulp and Paper in Corner Brook.

It was fortunate that Dick did further his education because physical labour became impossible for him. He contracted tuberculosis after the family moved to Corner Brook. Dick spent time in the sanitorium and lived the rest of his life with only a part of one lung functioning properly.

Dick was the only one of all of the ancestors among the Prettys and the Smiths who contracted tuberculosis and survived. We lost so many to the dreadful disease. Dick was a very fortunate man in many ways.

Tuesday 20 January 2015


In 1972, I visited Corner Brook, Newfoundland for the first time with my boyfriend, Rick. I was nervous meeting his family but they were very friendly and made me feel welcome. My only experience with Corner Brook prior to this occasion was traveling through on the train, the Newfie Bullet, on two occasions.

Rick is the only child of Melvin and Sylvia Smith. However, his father's youngest sister, Marie, is only six years older than Rick and she also lived in Corner Brook. Marie was more like a sister to Rick than an Aunt.

Melvin and Marie's father died in 1971 and Marie sold the family home. She and her son, Jeff, lived in the apartment in Melvin's house. Jeff was in Kindergarten when I met them.

                             Jeff, 1972

Jeff was a cute little boy, with dark brown hair and eyes, smart, a very verbal child. He was curious, energetic, a typical boy. Every morning Marie walked to the top of the stairs with Jeff and kissed him goodbye as he headed to school. 

Fern Street school was a short walk down the road from the house and Jeff walked to and from school every day. Corner Brook was like so many Newfoundland towns at that time. People did not lock their doors and children were free to go anywhere. Walking to school posed no danger to children.

The conversation at the top of the stairs often went like this:  "Now, Jeff, come right home after school."

"Yes, Mom."

"And don't walk in the water."

"No, Mom."

"Don't forget to give that note to the teacher."

"Okay, Mom."

As Marie kissed him, Jeff asked, "Any more constructions?"

Smiling, Marie said, "No, Jeffrey. That's it for today."

So Jeff walked to school, constructions and all!

Sunday 18 January 2015

A 'Little Duck' Moment

It was an unforgettable experience involving a small child and five singing adults. It occurred during the last trip my in-laws, Melvin and Sylvia Smith, made to Prince Edward Island before Melvin was diagnosed with cancer. The Smiths travelled here with Sylvia's brother, Carl Mercer and his wife, Jean, in their RV.

At that time in her young life, Sylvie, our granddaughter was learning the wonders of Youtube. She loved action songs and especially Five Little Ducks, the version which has five little girls performing the actions to the song. During one of her visits to our house while her family was visiting, Sylvie expressed interest in her great grandparents' laptop. We found the Five Little Ducks and played it for her. Over the next twenty minutes we played that song numerous times as the five adults in the room with Sylvie learned the song and sang along with the music. It was one of those moments in life which you commit to memory. One year old Sylvie was fascinated. But...the song does not end there.

                 Sylvia, Melvin and Sylvie

Melvin and Sylvia traveled back to Corner Brook, Newfoundland with Carl and Jean. On the journey home, when one of the four sang, "Five little ducks went swimming one day."

The others joined in, "Over the hills and far away," completing the rest of the song. It happened a number of times during the journey.

        Jean, Sylvie and Melvin

In addition, when they arrived home, each of them sang the song periodically while working. A smile always followed.

              Marie, Sylvie and Carl

Now our second granddaughter, Caitlin, loves the Five Little Ducks as well. Her great grandmother plays it for her.

                    Caitlin and Sylvia

I will always remember the experience in that room with Sylvie and the rest of us singing Five Little Ducks. Some of the most precious moments in life cost nothing, are very simple but touch the heart. My wish is that everyone gets to experience a 'Little Duck' moment.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Pull Toys

Almost thirty years and a thousand kilometers separate the events in time and place. In the first, Melvin Smith, pulled his granddaughter, Claire Smith, on her bike as if it were a pull toy. The experience delighted Claire. 

                  Melvin and Claire

We lived in Buchans, Newfoundland at the time, while Rick's parents lived in Corner Brook and we all visited back and forth as often as we could.

                      Claire and Poppy

The relationship between Claire and her grandfather was special. Melvin idolized this little girl, and she adored him. They lived three hours apart by car, so the time they spent together was precious and they enjoyed every minute. They laughed and giggled together, cooked breakfast, played with her toys, goofed around. Melvin was funny and this thrilled Claire; they had great times together being silly.

The second event occurred in Summerside, Prince Edward Island when her great grandparents visited Sylvie, Claire's daughter. She loved her great grandparents, and called them Pop Pop and Nan Nan. Sylvie really enjoyed the ride on this 'pull toy.' 

           Melvin and Sylvie

She had several visits with her great grandfather before his death when her great grandparents visited Prince Edward Island twice. Also Claire and Sylvie visited Corner Brook twice, once when Melvin was diagnosed with lung cancer.

                 First visit with Pop Pop

Sylvie was two when her great grandfather died. She still remembers him and asked recently about him. Even a young child remembers such love.

           Sylvie, Age 3


Tuesday 13 January 2015

The Nap

It was a momentous occasion. My in-laws, Melvin and Sylvia Smith, visited Prince Edward Island to see their first great grandchild, Sylvie. They left Newfoundland the day before, travelled on a Gulf of St. Lawrence ferry to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia and drove to this island, via another ferry. It was a long, tiring journey for the couple, both in their late seventies.

They arrived at our home and Claire, our daughter, brought Sylvie. Claire was so happy to introduce her grandparents to their new family member.

The joy was palpable as they greeted Sylvie. 

Each of them had time with Sylvie.

Melvin talked to her.

Sylvia fed Sylvie at lunch time.

Soon it was nap time.

For everyone...

It was an exciting day!

Sunday 11 January 2015

The Slides

The little rectangular boxes have been around forever. 

We collected them from Rick's parents years ago. They contain slides, the little framed negatives of the life of the Smith family years ago, long before digital photography.

The slides hold unknown treasures, loved ones older now or some long gone, other faces long forgotten or memories of places lost to the years.

Several years ago I gave my husband, Rick, a film and slide converter so we could digitize these slides. This past weekend we started. Many laughs, smiles, stories, and tears later, we have half of them done. 

Younger versions of familiar faces appear, as children or young adults reveal themselves on the film. The younger Rick was there, among the friends and family, some of whom, like his father, are deceased.

There he is, the baby Rick,

the numerous fishing excursions,

times with his mother, Sylvia when his father, Melvin worked,

and special times with Melvin.

He smiled a great deal. 

The slides reveal many things, including a happy childhood.

Thursday 8 January 2015

The Team

He knew soccer, in every fibre of his being he knew it. Six years before I was born, this was my father, Samuel Pretty's life, the team. My mother did not move from Maddox Cove, Newfoundland until she was twenty-one, in 1947, so I do not know if he even knew my mother at this point in his life. Soccer consumed his life and even though by this time he was working at the Newfoundland Railway on the Southside in St. John's, he played soccer every chance he got. The team became his life, the game, the common goal which brought them together and the comradery, important to his well being.  

Sam Pretty, third from the right, top
Holy Cross Championship Team, 1947

His pre-occupation with the game started when he attended Holy Cross school on Patrick Street, near his family home on Water Street across from the railway station. He had a tough time in school, thanks to the Christian brothers who taught there. Physical discipline was all some of them knew and Dad was on the receiving end of a few of their fists. His mother was sick and eventually died and his father was gone a great deal, an engineer on the trains. Dad skipped school to play soccer after his mother died. Reports to my grandfather by the Christian Brothers meant that Dad was beaten again. He quit school, boarded with another family and eventually got a job at the railway on the Southside Road. There he met my mother, who was boarding at her cousin's house on the Southside Road as well.

     School Boy Sam

Meanwhile the game kept him on the straight and narrow path, hours spent kicking the ball, practising with the boys and on the Holy Cross teams in the St. John's soccer league. The friends became household names as the girlfriends and later wives met in the stands for every game. The team members often socialized together and as families grew, they brought their children to the games as well. I have vivid memories of playing on the sidelines with other children as our fathers played soccer.

He was a quiet man, loving, patient, a family man who suffered a variety of health issues during his years after soccer. A congenital back problem resulted in surgery in his mid fifties, but back problems were an issue long before the surgery.

How did he play the variety and number of sports that he did with the spinal malformation that he had? Maybe the shape of his spine gave him an edge up to the point when the damage to his back was too bad to let him function. Mom spoke a number of times about Dad scoring a goal, kicking the ball out from his goalie position. He had quite a boot.

Dad spoke of his time rowing on Quidi Vidi pond for the regatta as well. At one of the regattas, after rounding the buoy at the top of the pond, his boat ran aground. The coxswain took credit for that mistake.

I did not hear much about my father's softball career. He must not have played long after meeting Mom because she never spoke about it. He was probably too busy with work, soccer and dating to continue with softball too.

      Sam Pretty, Age 22

So there he is, twenty-two years old. A young man whose mother was dead, a father who was often absent and with whom he had a strained relationship at that time. He was on his own from the age of fourteen really. Soccer and the team kept him going until my mother joined them. He knew what he had with each of them. 

Dad was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Soccer Hall of Fame in 1987. This is the what the Association wrote about his career. 

Sam Pretty
(Inducted in 1987)

Sam Pretty enjoyed an outstanding career, particularly in St. John’s soccer, but also at the provincial level. His playing days ran from 1942 to 1962 with a brilliant Holy Cross eleven that captured seven St. John’s soccer titles and the first All Newfoundland honors in 1950. While he was known as one of the best fullbacks in the league, Sam also played goalkeeper for his club on many occasions. He was also called on to take free kicks and penalty kicks when his team needed a goal. Although he will always be best remembered as a soccer player, Sam also played softball and was a member of the West End senior softball championship team of 1946. He also rowed in the annual St. John’s Regatta for a number of years. Following his distinguished playing career, Pretty became one of the founding group of former players that established the Mount Pearl soccer organization in 1973. He served as an executive member for approximately seven years, found time to coach both minor and senior teams and even came out of retirement and played in the Mount Pearl senior soccer league. In 1976 at the age of 50 he was a member of the United team that captured the championship in the senior soccer league. Sam Pretty was recognized for his efforts when he was inducted into the St. John’s Soccer Hall of Fame in 1984 and the Mount Pearl Sports Hall of Fame. Sam passed away in 1986 but will always be remembers for his long and distinguished career as a soccer player for Holy Cross and for his contribution to the development of soccer in Mount Pearl. Each year a school scholarship is awarded in Mount Pearl in memory of Sam Pretty.

This is the link to the site.

Sometimes today we hear of sports teams that involve themselves in team misconduct or illegal activity. Professional athletes making millions of dollars become idols to people, especially youth. The men in this picture were athletes to the core, some of the best examples of what local athletes can be. We can learn a great deal from such athletes, especially the importance of team sport in a young person's life.