Friday, January 23, 2015

Making an indoors in the outdoors

In December, I asked Vida Edwards about indoor games she played when she was growing up in Trout River. This was her answer:

 “Let’s face it, when you’re growing up in Newfoundland and you have a little small house and it’s six and seven kids and the house is probably I’m thinking maybe 900 sq feet, you don’t have a lot of space, (…) you don’t want to be inside.”

She has a point: indoor space was at a premium. So some children built themselves some outdoor space that still provided a bit of shelter from our fine Newfoundland weather.

The Dictionary of Newfoundland English has an entry for just such a structure; “copy house” is defined as “a little house built by children.” Paula Roberts remembers one in particular in Clarenville:

“We built a fort up behind Randy’s house and I remember he was nailing from the top and I was nailing from in the fort, and I stood up and one of the nails wasn’t driven in and I drove the nail into my head.”

Aside from that memorable incident, Paula and her friends spent most of their time pretending to be baking, making mud cakes and serving them to guests on plates made of wooden planks.

Photo provided by PANL

In the winter, of course, the building materials changed, but the idea was the same. Paula recalls digging out from mounds of snow left in their yard by the plow. She says,

“Building snow forts was mostly what we would spend our time at. In the same area that you’d be making up the mud cakes and everything in the summer, you’d be building snow forts, and creating benches, and everything.”

Winston Fiander’s snow houses in Coomb’s Cove were even more sophisticated.

“We used to make the walls perpendicular, and then we’d get pieces of lumber and put across the top, and put snow on top of the lumber,” he said. They’d care for and maintain their houses all winter long, and hope that it stayed cold.

“Of course you had to be careful now when you got a mild spell because the thing would collapse on ya. Weren’t allowed to go in there.”

If you built a play or copy house, or a snow house, and would like to share your memories, please consider participating in the Hoist your Sails and Run project (see here), filling out our online survey (here), or contacting me at 739-1892 ext 3 or by email here.

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