Friday, June 23, 2017

Looking for traditional NL dancers and dance groups!

Hello, my name is Jane Rutherford and I have been doing Newfoundland and Labrador set dancing for 30 years. Now I'm a graduate student at Memorial University and doing research on traditional NL set or square dancing - like the Lancers or the Square Dance. I'm trying to find where in the province people are still doing this style of dancing - in any way, shape or form. If you would be interested in sharing your dance experiences with me, I would love to chat. But I'm also interested in simply learning where people are dancing. Through my research, I hope to find information and resources to help people continue to enjoy traditional Newfoundland dance.


Here's a video from Fogo Island of the type of dancing I'm interested in:

For more information, or to share information about traditional dancing in your community, please contact me!
709 237-1297


Jane Rutherford
Candidate, MA Ethnomusicology
Research Centre for Music, Media and Place
Memorial University of Newfoundland

photo: Decade Dancers, Grand Bank

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Seals, Culture, and Craft - a podcast with Clare Fowler

Clare Fowler grew up on Bell Island. She spent time working in fish plants and other food processing plants before moving to Ontario in 1999 to do the Chiropody Program at the Michener Institute for Applied Health. She moved to St. John’s in 2004 and worked for a decade before switching gears and following her passions for art and craft. She completed the Textile: Craft and Apparel Design program with College of the North Atlantic in 2016 and is now a full time crafts person and maker with an open studio at the Quidi Vidi Village Craft Plantation. Her body of work focuses on the use of seal fur and seal leather.

In this podcast, we talk about Clare's journey as a craftsperson and maker, her work with seal fur and leather, the craft program at the Anna Templeton Centre in St. John’s, National Seal Products Day, and future work on seal art and documenting and learning bark tanning and sealskin boot making on the Northern Peninsula.

Visit Clare Dawn Couture on Facebook

Download the MP3

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"We didn't live in a place where there were stores" - Interview with Keith Hillier

Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Memory Mug Up
Keith Hillier, interviewed by Emma Lang. 

Keith Hillier was born in 1954 and grew up in Campbellton Notre Dame Bay. Today he is retired and lives in Portugal Cove-St Phillips. His mother, Violet Melina—known as Lina—was from Shoal Harbour and his father, Wesley George Hillier—George—was from Campbellton. They met when Lina came to Campbellton to teach school. Her family was well off with her father serving as the Roadmaster for the Bonavista Branch of the Newfoundland Railway. This afforded Lina the chance to attend the Normal School in St. John’s for three years to train as a teacher, more training than many teachers in Newfoundland and Labrador received. George Hillier was a carpenter originally working in the lumber industry building camps and later building public buildings in Central Newfoundland.
Father was a—well, when he was younger he worked in the lumber woods, and then he, I guess he was recognized in there at building camps and what not, as being a very good carpenter or whatever, so eventually he wound up being a carpenter and being foreman of a crew of carpenters, building hospitals schools, churches, and apartment buildings and whatever in the Central area.
He [George Hiller] didn’t work home, he worked in Buchans most of his life, which is, now is probably an hours job, but back then when it was gravel roads it was probably three hours drive from Campbellton…. But he didn't come home every weekend, he only came home, sometimes he came home every weekend sometimes he could go months. And, I kinda think, way back, when times weren't as good, he probably may have been away as long as six months at a time. Which is not uncommon around Newfoundland—if you left the place you were living in to work. So what was that like growing up with him gone. Well you know if you grow up without something you really don’t know you don't miss what you didn’t have
Like his father, Keith Hillier was interested in hand-on work.
Keith Hillier (KH): No, I didn't [like school] I couldn't stand it! [laughs]

Emma Lang (EL): Any particular reason?
KH: I don’t know what the reason would be, I was too hyper to be sitting in a seat for hours. It wasn't interesting. I mean, the subjects that were taught in school, I can't say that any of them interested me that much. Geography was perhaps the, geography and math was perhaps my most interesting subjects. English and French and history, if you had to read, I wasn't that interested in it.

EL:…what would you have rather been doing?
KH: Well I've always been a person that's been hands on and I’ve been very involved in a lot of things that require use of your hands, more creative. What would I have been doing?... I was fascinated, when I was growing up, the woman across the road used to sew and she had a sewing machine. And it was one of those where you put your feet on it and it goes around like, goes up and down with your feet. Now, I was just fascinated with the thing on the sewing machine bobbing up and down. I would sit on the corner of her daybed, you know? Right here going along and see her sewing and watch that for hours almost. But anyway, I became interested in sewing,
Mr. Hillier attributes his interest in sewing and cooking to his own creative interests and to exposure to these crafts he received while spending time as a child with his grandmother and mother.
I had a grandmother lived next door to me, so she was always into the, we'll say the women's stuff, and my father was away so I didn't get much exposure from him to the more manly stuff. But even if I did, I wouldn't have, perhaps been interested in it anyway. because, you know I just have a more of an interest in arts and crafts types things and wood working, once I got older, where I could have tools and buy the wood and what not. so, I became interested in carpentry work and I’ve been interested in it perhaps more so than anything for the best part of my life. I've been involved in renovating houses and building houses and that type of thing. but when I was a kid I was more involved, and I was interested in cooking and being in the kitchen and I’m still interested in all that.
Mr. Hillier taught himself how to sew, he said with a big laugh, “my mother couldn't sew on a button, right! she was more of a cooker and baker that was more of her thing and that what she enjoyed doing most.” But she was willing, with some prodding, to help him pursue his interests.
…we didn't live in a place where there were stores. It was a small town. There were stores, but you’d order a lot of things from catalogues. and I’d want her to be ordering fabric from a catalogue so that I could make curtains, say, or drapes for a bedroom and if I kept on enough, [laughs] and nagged enough [laughs] it just might happen. 
Today Mr. Hillier lives in a house with drapes he made himself, and continues to make things by hand.

This interview was conducted as part of a Collective Memories Mug Up project conducted by Memorial University students enrolled in FOLK 6740: Public Folklore, Winter 2017. If you would like to listen to the full interview click here
Photo: Julie Pomeroy, Town of PCSP, with Keith Hillier. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

St. James Anglican Cemetery in Carbonear

Last week Dale and I went to Carbonear with Edwina Suley of the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation. We were there to talk with volunteers from the St. James Anglican Church about their cemetery and help them make a plan for the future. While the more recent sections of the cemetery are easily maintained, the older sections which date back to the early 1800s, have become extremely overgrown. The group is looking to clean up the area to make it easier to maintain and to help preserve the history of the area.

Unfortunately in the cemeteries current state many of the headstones are difficult to access, making it hard to view some headstones, particularly those that are broken and continue to deteriorate.  

The church group is enthusiastic about beginning the project of clearing up the cemetery, even in knowing that it will not be a quick process. They are also interested in comparing the current cemetery with the church burial records, particularly with graves that do not have headstones. Some plots are marked simply with a fence, and other are unmarked entirely.

The cemetery is partially bordered with a stone wall and features a beautiful gate in one corner, both of which will need repairs in the future. Another interesting feature of the cemetery is a bronze sundial with cast iron pedestal. The sundial is located among the headstones, and marks the centre of where the old church once stood.

We look forward to the work that will be done to clean up this cemetery, and expose the history of the church and community for current residence and future generations.

~ Kelly

Monday, June 19, 2017

Collective Memories Monday - Hermann's Shoe Shop

Elizabeth Munch in front of Hermann's Shoe Shop. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Munch.
On October 14, 2016, as part of the Collective Memories project, I interviewed Elizabeth Munch Power of Grand Falls-Windsor about her family’s business and experience on Main Street.

In this interview Elizabeth discusses her parent's move from Europe to Canada, and how they made their way to Windsor, NL. She also discusses growing up in Windsor, her father's cobbler/shoe shop in Windsor, the camaraderie of the business owners on Main Street, and the family's move to St. John's. I posted a short clip of Elizabeth discussing Bonfire Night below but your can click here to listen to the entire interview and learn more about Hermann Munch's shoe shop.

Hermann Munch on left. Circa 1950s. Photo courtesy of GFWHS.
~Terra Barrett

Friday, June 16, 2017

#FoodwaysFriday - What is your favourite type of baked bread?

Bread making workshop. French bread before going in the outdoor oven, Conche, Newfoundland.
Photo by Lisa Wilson. 2010.
When we discuss foodways of Newfoundland and Labrador the first food that often comes to mind is the codfish. Cod has played a major role in everything from the province’s economy to its culture. It is featured in many traditional dishes however it is not the only food tradition in the province. Seafood and fish, caribou, seal, sea birds, berries, root vegetables, and imported products such as molasses and tin milk all play a part in the province’s food traditions. In celebration of the diverse foods harvested, grown, cooked, and eaten in Newfoundland and Labrador we will be doing a #FoodwaysFriday feature on the ICH Blog.

This week we are featuring a series of photos from a bread making workshop in Conche from 2010. The French Shore Historical Society has an outdoor oven where they bake French style bread. The loaves are served hot, right from the fire, a traditional way of baking bread that very few people practice today. In the spring, 2010, the FSHS held a bread baking workshop for members of the community. From mixing and kneading dough, to monitoring the fire's temperature, every part of the process was explained and demonstrated.

If you want to learn more about French bread baked in Conche, NL click here to view the photos from the workshop!

Share your stories and knowledge of food with the hashtag #FoodwaysFriday.
Nora Hunt making bread. 1970. Conche, NL.
A Pictorial from the Northeast Coast of Newfoundland.
Virtual Museum of Canada.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

“It’s a nice time, right?” - Interview with Palma Mercer

Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Memory Mug UpPalma Mercer, interviewed by Jordan Zalis

Palma was eager to get started at the Portugal Cove-St. Philips Memory Mug-up at the recreation centre. She was the first to arrive and had her hands full with old photos and a book of happenings that she found among her late father’s things. “Unfortunately, two pages are gone,” she said of the book from the 19th Century. Events of Newfoundland was full of community news-stories that had Palma smiling while I read it out loud. She takes pride in being born and raised in the seashore community, saying “I’m from Portugal Cove and never left – the only way I leave now is when I die.”

Life on ‘The Cove’ has been good for Palma (née Harding), who grew up on Harding’s Hill, an area of the community that has hosted her family since 1750 when the first Harding arrived in Newfoundland. As the family grew, so did their homestead, though they all remained close by. Palma, born in 1950, remembers the long conversations she used to have with her great-grandmother and how her father built their house himself.

Through our morning together, Palma shared with me some amazing memories that demonstrate the strong ties her family has to Portugal Cove and a certain historical richness she feels through them in the area.

“We never suffered hardships…my father always went to town and whenever he’d come back, he always brought me back a new dress…and I’d wait for him.” He did this quite a lot.

About her father, she says, “he was a very interesting man – he could tell some stuff too.” He worked construction down at the American military base and later drove a cement truck. About ‘The Cove’, she says, “he could go way back!”

“Oh yeah,” Palma’s husband agreed. They came to the Mug-up together, but he wanted her to be the focus.

“There were good wages back then,” she said of her father’s work and in turn, her upbringing. One advantage that Palma had growing up was that her father always had a car -- and always had a nice car. But needing a car can be another story altogether. Palma, an engaging storyteller, tells it like this:

“The house just up from me was a small bungalow. There was still a lot of snow left on the ground. So, me [and] my brothers, somehow managed to get up on the roof of the porch and jumping into the snow for fun, right? So, I had to jump -- and break my leg. Yeah, I got to my fear of heights that day, that’s where it comes from. But anyway, I had to wait all day for my dad to take me to the hospital. I had to wait the whole day, I never forgot that. My leg on a chair…I was screaming in pain. Anyway, back then you were put in the hospital. I was put in the hospital for two weeks for that…I had two brothers so [my mom] couldn’t stay with me, so they had an orderly sit by my bed every night…A cast on and a big old slipper on that foot…I got a terrible fear of heights.”

We found out then, that Palma had, in fact, left ‘The Cove’ at least once, and she laughs about it now, but this was 1958 and she explains “there were no taxis…I had to wait for my father to come home.” This was also during a great storm where much of the area was without power for two weeks – but they had a generator.

Palma’s father played into her stories a lot and him having a good job in town afforded her and her younger brothers other luxuries that were rare at the time. “We were one of the first with a television…one of the first.”


Summertime made for different fun growing up on Harding’s Hill on ‘The Cove’. It was “the spot.”

“We used to go [up the hill] and explore…we’d be gone all day…and go get some money and get some candies…then mom would call us for supper.”

She reflects warmly:

“We’d pile-up on Harding’s Hill, that’s where I grew up, it’s named after my family, and we’d play everything over there because there wasn’t much traffic going up and down. If there was we’d just move to the side and the cars would go back and forth. We’d play hopscotch and ball…softball…baseball. I’d be the only girl…and there would be six of us and my two brothers, and basically I’d be looking out for them too.”

But “looking out” did not necessarily mean keeping them, and herself, out of mischief:

“My [neighbour] was a fisherman, so at that time he had flakes there, they were called. He’d lay the fish out to dry in the sun…someone…anyway decided we’d take a few fish…and at that time in the backyard was a big old garage with old batteries and whatever. And we were trying to figure out how to set fire to roast the fish…Anyway we set fire to the battery…we got matches from somebody…somebody was a smoker or whatever…all to roast a fish, right?”

Or, there was the time she left her brothers while they got into it a little deeper at another neighbour’s house:

“The father used to have a backroom that he had all his old beer bottles in…I’m going to get in trouble for this one…But my cousin Doug and my two brothers decided they were going to take the bottles…and there was a snack store just down the hill…Siskin’s Store…So they went in…I don’t how much they got for them…They sold all of his bottles! Well I’ll say they were in trouble that night...I don’t know if they gave the money back to the man…I mean back then, that was a lot of money…For some reason, I didn’t want to get involved…mischief, right?”


Palma had so much to share, and really enjoys telling stories about her family, and food, and all the fun she had growing up in the area. Her tales are rich with imagery, full of real history, and reflect a beautiful life held with warm memories.

“It’s a nice time, right?”

This interview was conducted as part of a Collective Memories Mug Up project conducted by Memorial University students enrolled in FOLK 6740: Public Folklore, Winter 2017. If you would like to listen to the full interview click here

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Church of England Cemetery in Harbour Breton. #folklorephoto

One of our former board members, Doug Wells, was inspired by the podcast we did last week with archaeologist Robyn Lacy (listen to that interview here). He sent us a few photos of the old gravestones at the old Church of England Cemetery in Harbour Breton, sometimes referred to as the Newman & Co. Cemetery.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Collective Memories Monday - Harold "Sparks" Squires, Wireless Operator

VA 10-56 "Sparks" [Harold Squires (telegraph operator)] and Adelie [penguin], Hope Bay. 1945. Courtesy of The Rooms Provincial Archives.  
In March, I digitized a series of cassette tape interviews from Admiralty House Museum and Archives. One of the interviews recently added to the Mount Pearl section of MUN's DAI was an interview with Harold Squires, a wireless operator who worked for the Marconi Company and traveled to the Antarctic on the S.S. Eagle. In the interview, Squires talks about life on the ship, his job, the other crew members, and his nickname "Sparks", One of the interesting stories Squires tells about the voyage, was how when the ship warmed up, the deck on the old sealing vessel oozed seal blubber. Squires also talks about working as a wireless operator at Cabot Tower and having to walk to work everyday.  

To listen to this, and other interviews about Mount Pearl and the early days of radio in Newfoundland and Labrador, visit Memorial University Digital Archives Initiative.