Friday, June 20, 2014

Reflections on Petty Harbour

Annie Lee and Ann Payne
This morning I had the pleasure of conducting my first interview as part of the Petty Harbour Oral History project. I interviewed Ann Payne from the Petty Harbour Maddox Cove Museum and her ninety five year old mother Annie Francis (nee. St. George) Lee.

Annie was born and raised in Heart’s Desire, Trinity Bay and moved to St. John’s for work. When Annie was nineteen she left work at Donovan’s hotel and moved to Petty Harbour where her sister Mary lived. Annie worked in Chafe’s shop in Petty Harbour for nine years and after nine years she married the owner’s brother Ambrose Lee.

Ann Payne was born in St. Claire’s hospital, but grew up and spent her whole life in Petty Harbour. Anne had many memories of growing up in the area and stories about the changes the community has seen.

The interview covered many aspects of life in Petty Harbour from beliefs about fairies to Christmas visiting to memories of children’s games. Annie and Ann discussed Chafe’s shop and how is carried everything from a “needle to an anchor”. The shop carried a variety of foods and also sold material. Annie mentioned the priest’s vestments were made out of the thick cloth which was sold at Chafe’s shop.

Ann described growing up in Petty Harbour and the different areas where she would play as a child. The river was a particularly important place and somewhere you would play during the day. Ann said you would never visit the river at night as you were afraid of the fairies. Ann’s father’s family was from Ireland and had a strong belief in fairies. Against advice Ann’s uncle cut across the river one evening, was caught by the fairies and held in the water and broke his leg. Ann said she felt the river was a magical place due to all the stories which surrounded it. The children would go skating on the river during the winter when parts of it froze and in the summer families often had to bathe in the river as their wells would run dry. The river was also a source of water for gardens or for washing clothes on Mondays in the days before indoor plumbing.

School plays, concerts, variety shows and dances were discussed as major sources of entertainment in Petty Harbour. The annual garden party was a particularly important afternoon where there would be turkey teas and tables. Years ago each lady would have their own table with their goods. For example Mrs. Marty made her own butter so she would have a table of homemade butter while Aunt Lucy would have one for desserts. In the years Annie was involved with the garden parties there were no individual tables although she did make a good pie. She won five trophies at the agricultural fair for her baked pies, jam jams or homemade bread. There were also cash prizes for the best vegetables and Annie’s husband Ambrose won a number of times. Community dances and in particular dances during the war were great fun. Annie told a story of how she went to a dance with Ambrose but barely saw him the whole evening as she was dancing with everyone who asked.

Another form of entertainment mentioned was weekly games of cards. Ann described her father and his friends playing games of 45s or 120s where they would gamble for a quarter or a half cow. Annie played cards on Monday evenings in the different spots in the community and continues to play today.

Ann said a favourite summer activity was a picnic to Cape Spear or an outing to pick berries. On a day when her father was not working the family would pack a picnic lunch and head over to Cape Spear. She described the roads as being worse than Petty Harbour’s and when you hit a pothole the whole car went in. Another outing the family would go on would be a berry picking excursion which would involve swimming for the children and lunches of corned beef and cabbage on the Coleman stove.

It was a really great interview and an excellent starting point for the Petty Harbour Oral History project. The interview touched on many aspects of community life in the harbour and sparked my interest in the folklore of Petty Harbour. If you have any memories about the concerts, times and social customs in Petty Harbour I would love to hear from you: terra@heritagefoundation.ca or (709)739-1892.

5 comments:

Betty Cheeseman said...

Great article,nice read. Mrs. Lee looks wonderful. Lovely lady. Stories of the garden parties and Chafe store brought back great memories of growing up in Petty Harbour!

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Dale Gilbert Jarvis said...

Thanks Betty! Would you be up for a chat with Terra about your memories?

Betty Cheeseman said...

Sure!

Betty Cheeseman said...

Sure!

Dale Gilbert Jarvis said...

Betty, you can call Terra at 1-888-739-1892 x 5 or email her at terra@heritagefoundation.ca