Showing posts with label Bay Roberts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bay Roberts. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Do you have a memory of Muddy Hole, Shearstown?

Starting in the early 1800s, men from Mercer’s Cove and French's Coves visited the area bordering Bay Roberts and Spaniard’s Bay “chasing the wood” -- collecting winter firewood. As the area was more sheltered than the coast, some families started to overwinter there, returning to Bay Roberts in the spring. Eventually, they settled there permanently.

Some of the earliest family names of the Shearstown pioneers were Holmes, Earle, Hedderson, Badcock, Sparkes, Franey, French, Saunders, and Mercer.  Some settlers like Augustus Mercer worked in the fishery, while John and George Tetford set up a cooperage. The area was originally known as Ryan's Brook or The Gut, but in 1905, the name was changed to Shearstown in honour of the Reverend W.C. Shears.

During its early years, the most prosperous part of Shearstown was the section of the community known as Muddy Hole, which lies near the mouth of the Shearstown River. This was once a bustling trading place where people from Shearstown and its surrounding communities would go to buy supplies.

Do you have a memory of the section of Shearstown known as Muddy Hole? Heritage NL and the Town of Bay Roberts are working on a Virtual Museum Project, and any of your stories, photos, or memories of Muddy Hole are welcome!  You can email Dale Jarvis at or call 1-888-739-1892 x2.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Living Heritage Podcast Ep155 Adler’s Chocolate Factory, Bay Roberts

Scan courtesy of QEII Library, Archives & Special Collections Dept.
Collection: 3.08.064 - A. Adler of Canada Ltd. 
Have you ever had a nut king? Do you know what a silver mint is? Did you know chocolate and candy were produced in Bay Roberts in the 1950s? Listen to this podcast to learn about Adler’s Chocolate Factory in Bay Roberts. Terra discusses the research she has completed at the Archives & Special Collections Dept in the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, and the interviews with two women who worked at the factory, Irene Mercer, and Margaret Sparkes. Tune in to hear about the work the women did, the uniforms they wore, and the friends the made. If you know about stories about the chocolate factory let us know at

Download the mp3


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Living Heritage Podcast Ep154 Summer Update and Request for Help

In this episode we discuss some of the projects the ICH (Intangible Cultural Heritage) Office is working on this summer. First up Dale, and Terra discuss their research in Bay Roberts on significant sites in the town. These include memories from the chocolate girls about their time working in short-lived Adler’s chocolate factory, stories of the jacky lanterns of Fergus Island, the Klondyke causeway, and the history behind the mummer murder gate. During the second part of the podcast, Dale introduces Rachael, who is working out of our office this summer in collaboration with the Craft Council of Newfoundland and Labrador. Rachael is working on two projects including craft at risk, and the history of 275 Duckworth Street. She is working to create a database of craftspeople around the province and identifying crafts at risk. Rachael is also researching the history behind the Craft Council’s new building. So if you have memories of, or worked in the Newfoundland Clothing Factory, The Telegram, or Compu College on Duckworth, or have memories about the sites in Bay Roberts let us know at

Download the mp3


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio. Past episodes are hosted on Libsyn, and you can subscribe via iTunes, or Stitcher. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Living Heritage Podcast Ep150 Till the streetlight comes on

We are starting a new virtual museums project with our partners in the historic town of Bay Roberts. In this episode, we talk about the places and stories that make Bay Roberts special, and ask for your help in identifying locations of folkloric and historic interest in the community.

First up, we talk about children's games and Cable Avenue verandahs in an interview with best friends Wanda and Roxanne, and then sit down for a chat with Sandra Roach of Coley's Point, and Margaret Ayad of Bay Roberts. Listen to the end, and you might pick up some tips on staying safe from the fairies!


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep history alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HeritageNL and CHMR Radio. Past episodes are hosted on Libsyn, and you can subscribe via iTunes, or Stitcher. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Looking for more info on the Adler Chocolate Factory, Bay Roberts

Atlantic Advocate, vol. 49, no. 08 (April 1959)
Candy and Chocolates 
The Adler Company... is the chocolate firm which is now also making hard candies. People who have visited this operation have all come away with the same impression about the cleanliness of the plant. It is spotless just as a food plant should be, no doubt it is a shining example of how clean a food-manufacturing concern can be. The plant is geared to greater output than at present and can produce tons of chocolates and candy every week. All ingredients are mixed by machinery so that the human hand does not come in contact at any tune with the product. The female help a!1 wear smocks and head and hand coverings. The Adler firm is now contemplating the erection of a potato-chip plant adjacent to the chocolate factory.
From:  The Newfoundland Journal of Commerce 1956-08, Vol. 23, No. 08 page 7 

As part of our new Carved by the Sea project to record stories about sites of folkloric and historic interest in Bay Roberts, we'd love to hear some of your memories of Adler's chocolates! If you remember the plant, the candies themselves, or the radio ads, leave a reply below, or send me an email at

Thursday, March 8, 2018

UPDATED DATE: Booklet Launch for Coves, Streets, Fields and More: The Places of Bay Roberts

UPDATED DATE - Due to a scheduled weather warning for Saturday the 10th this event has been moved to Saturday, March 24th.

On March 24th, students from Memorial University’s Folklore Department will be in Bay Roberts to officially launch their booklet “Coves, Streets, Fields and More: The Places of Bay Roberts.” 

For three weeks in September 2017, Memorial’s newest folklore graduate students arriving from Northern Ontario, all parts of the United States, Iran, and Israel, were transplanted to Bay Roberts to participate in a three-week long cultural documentation field school. The event was a required course that takes place at the start of the first semester of the graduate program in Folklore.

Students in the 2017 Folklore Field School came to know Bay Roberts through the stories residents shared of some of the community’s special places: Drummer’s Rock, Muddy Hole, Bear’s Cove, Cable Ave, the field on Neck Road, skating locations, “cobby” houses, Powell’s Supermarket, the library, and the Amalgamated School. 

“The special places residents shared with students in the field school give shape to the town of Bay Roberts,” says Memorial University's Dr. Diane Tye, who ran the field school with colleague Dr. Jillian Gould. 

“The field school participants were warmly welcomed by local residents, and this booklet is both a ‘give back’ to the community, as well as a product of what the students learned.” 

The booklet was produced in cooperation with the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, as part of its ongoing Oral History Roadshow booklet series. The booklet will be launched at a special ceremony at the Bay Roberts Visitor Pavilion on Veterans Memorial Highway, 11 am on Saturday, March 24th. 

All are welcome to attend, reception to follow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Do you recognize this structure in Bay Roberts? #folklorephoto

Recently I worked on scanning 35mm slides for the Baccalieu Trail Heritage Corporation. The slides are organized by community and were taken between 1993-1996. One thing I found interesting in looking at the slides is the boarded up buildings and whether they were demolished or saved. Do you know anything about the building in this image taken June 1994 in Bay Roberts?

UPDATE: This building has been identified as Charlie Sam and Jenny Parsons Grocery and Dry Goods Store, located in Running Brook, the east end of Bay Roberts. I would love to see a photo of the store in its prime.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep079 The Isaac Mercer Mummer Murder

Joy Fraser is Assistant Professor of English and Associate Director of the Folklore Studies program at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, USA. She is completing a book tracing the cultural history of haggis as a contested symbol of Scottishness, provisionally entitled Addressing the Haggis: Culture and Contestation in the Making of Scotland’s National Dish. For the past several years, she has also been researching the relationship between Christmas mumming, violence, and the law in nineteenth-century Newfoundland.

In this episode, we focus on the murder of Isaac Mercer in Bay Roberts, who was beset upon by mummers, hit with a hatchet, and who died of his wounds. We explore the background of mummering traditions in Newfoundland, differences in mummering traditions in different communities, the events surrounding the murder case, her research using court case records at local archives, the licensing and eventual banning of mummering, and the link between mummering and violence in the historical period.

Listen on the Digital Archive:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Commemorating WWI veteran Robert J. Mercer in Bay Roberts.

This afternoon, I was pleased to attend the renaming ceremony for the Bay Roberts Council Chambers, located in the Bay Roberts Cable Building Registered Heritage Structure, which was designated by the Heritage Foundation of NL in 1998.

Today, the chambers were named to honour WW I Veteran Robert J. Mercer, who was also the town’s first mayor in 1951. The council chambers were absolutely packed, with many representatives of the Mercer family, including sons, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild! Guests spoke about Mr Mercer's contributions to the community, the Royal Canadian Legion, the Masonic Order, and the Church Lads Brigade. Congratulations to the town and to the Mercer Family!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Photo-Post: A Great Day to Unveil

Marilyn Dawe, MHA Glenn Littlejohn, Eric Jerrett, Mayor Philip Wood, and Frank Crews unveil the Cable Avenue Registered Heritage District plaque.
Photo opportunity after the unveiling. Look at those nice smiles!
Myself, center, standing with some champions of heritage in the Bay Roberts area. Without the dedication of these women, commemorations and events like this would never be possible.
What an amazing turn-out--thanks to everyone who was in attendance, and to all who worked so hard to make our plaque event a success! 

To see some photographs and read about why the Cable Avenue Registered Heritage District was designated by the province please click here.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Join us for a heritage district event!

Please join us for the Cable Avenue Registered Heritage District plaque ceremony in Bay Roberts!

This lovely historic street is receiving a commemorative plaque and all are welcome to join us.  Refreshments will follow the unveiling....we hope to see you there.

Where:  The Cable Station Building
When: Friday, August 1st, 2014
Time: 3:00 pm

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Book Launch - Folk Belief and Legends of Bay Roberts and Area

The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation invite you to the official public launch of our booklet:

“Folk Belief and Legends of Bay Roberts and Area”

Saturday, 3 May 2014
2:00 p.m.
Bay Roberts Pavilion, Bay Roberts, NL
Free Admission, Booklet cost: $5.00

Join us for the launching event of our booklet “Folk Belief of Bay Roberts and Area” to see just how rich your local stories are and learn a dozen different ways to cure a wart. The booklet is a collection of anecdotes that celebrates the oral history, folk beliefs, storytelling traditions, ghost stories, fairies stories, and folk remedies that have been passed down through the generations in Bay Roberts and surrounding communities. Much of the material presented was submitted by students in Kim Welsh’s grade 10 English class, and rounded out with oral history interviews with elders in the region. Come by to hear some tales, have a cup of tea, and purchase a copy to take home (just $5.00). 

You can preview the booklet in pdf format here.
Book illustration by Graham Blair.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Burf Ploughman, the Barrel Bucker

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to visit with a wonderful 83-old-man named Burford Ploughman. Knowing of my penchant for oral history, Burf invited me over to record his reflections on the some of the games and antics he and the boys would get up to in the Bay Roberts area in the 1930s and 40s. Originally from Coley's Point, Burford has a sharp memory, and can recall exactly what it was like to grow up in that area. From the early memories of his father keeping animals, to later times of living on Cable Avenue, Burford provided a detailed description of his youth.  In his stories, he really emphasized the fact that the local boys were real pranksters, and luckily, the community was very tolerant of them. One particular activity that they got up to was, on the days approaching Bonfire Night, they would go out and "buck barrels." Bucking* barrels, I soon found out, is the act of taking (stealing) barrels from different families around town, to be used as wood for the bonfire. Burford explained (with help from the Dictionary of Newfoundland English) that bucking isn't like borrowing, as the object will never be returned to the owner, but it wasn't exactly stealing either. 

*Buck v To purloin; to collect or gather surreptitiously. He bucked a barrel last night for the bonfire on November 5th.  Click here to visit the Dictionary of Newfoundland English.

Like often the case during oral history interviews, childhood recollections were just the tip of the iceberg. Eventually we went on to discuss the fact that Burf ended up leading a most interesting adult life too. Without any specific ambition to do so, but because of his love for debating local issues, Burf became a talk-show host for a television show called Analysis. During the five years that he was on this show, Burf had the opportunity to discuss major issues with people such as Joey Smallwood--the most important political figure of that era. These interviews led him towards a deeper understanding of the political themes that were resonating throughout the province. His interest in achieving what he considers the best possible life for the people of Newfoundland continued throughout his career, and continues today. In fact, Burford was recently interviewed for Atlantic Business magazine (Mar/Apr 2014 issue) because of a specific vision he has for creating a transportation tunnel between Labrador and the Island. Like a true debater, he presents his arguments using clarity and logic.

Burf Ploughman in his home, April 2014.
What I enjoyed most about this oral history interview is the sense that Burf still marvels at what a grand life he has had. The wonder and joy could easily be read in his face throughout my stay. Our visit was recorded and will eventually be submitted to the Digital Archives Initiative so that it will be publicly accessible. I plan to visit for a second time, to go into more detail about the games that children would play back then, and see if Burf can recall for me some the rules and different ways of playing. It is guaranteed to be an interesting follow up interview.

Did you ever watch the show Analysis? Did you ever buck barrels from your neighbours? I'd love to hear your memories:


Friday, April 4, 2014

Folk Belief & Legends of Bay Roberts and Area

As of this week, our much anticipated booklet Folk Belief & Legends of Bay Roberts and Area is all done and ready to be released to the community. This printed booklet is the result of a collaboration between the HFNL and the Bay Roberts Cultural Foundation and involved several weeks of research in that region. Starting last October, I began visiting the Bay Roberts area to find community elders and ask about the legends, tales, and/or beliefs that they encountered growing up. To start the project, we even went into Ascension Collegiate and asked the students to question their parents and grandparents. What the students gathered from their families is a large part of what made this project a success, and our combined oral history digging has been compiled here. In the end, what we've got is a collection of superstitions, cures, remedies, and stories, that helps to celebrate the unique culture and history of this part of the island.  Haunted rocks, visits from the old hag, cures for warts, ghost dogs, sneaky fairies--there's a little bit of everything in this book.

Over the next few weeks I will be planning a booklet launch so that the people who contributed their stories and memories will be able to meet up, tell a ghostly tale or two, and pick up a copy of the book. More details about this event will be posted soon!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Cable Avenue Heritage Meeting, Bay Roberts

Earlier tonight, I finished up a meeting with the heritage committee of the Town of Bay Roberts. We went over the commemorative text for the bronze plaque that will mark Cable Avenue as a Registered Heritage District. Last year, the Heritage Foundation of NL designated the avenue, and helped to celebrate its 100th anniversary; this year, we'll install a large bronze plaque to mark the avenue's historic and architectural significance.

We've tentatively set the first weekend of August for a formal plaque unveiling. Stay tuned for your invite!

Photo: Surveying site of superintendent's house, August, 1913. From The Cable Building Story.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Games We Played - A Coffee and Culture Presentation

Thursday, February 27, 2:30 pm., The Rooms Provincial Museum

Hoist Your Sails and Run, Spotlight and kite flying are just a few ways that children traditionally entertained themselves in outport Newfoundland. Join folkorist Lisa Wilson as she explores these and other types of childhood play that have an important place in our living memories.

This is a multi-media presentation, but there will be a chance at the end to share some of your own memories and experiences around childhood games and experiences. Hope to see you there!

Children of Cable Ave., Bay Roberts, courtesy of Linda Sesk.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

It's Cold Outside...Let's Keep the Bogey Going

During an oral history interview with 95-year-old Alice Mercer, originally of Bay Roberts, I asked her to share some memories from her school days. She talked about having to go outside in all kinds of weather to use the washroom, and how it was hard work for the teacher to keep the classroom warm.

"We had stoves in all the classrooms. Teachers had a time to try and learn us something and keep the bogey going. One of the boys would come with a handful of splits in the morning and the bucket of coal. Used to buy the coal from the coal shed. He’d light the fire and it was up to the teacher then to keep it going. sometimes the teacher would forget it and it would go out. Then we’d get cold."

Wait, "...keep the bogey going"? What's a bogey? From the context of the conversation I could see that with her use of the word bogey, she was referring to a stove for heating, but since I hadn't heard that word before, I checked the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, just to make sure. It states:

bogie n also bogey, bogy. PARTRIDGE bogy 4 'a stove for heating'; SND ~ 'cooking galley on a fishing boat (1916); DC Nfld (1916-). A small stove used originally on a fishing schooner; applied generally to any small coal- or wood-burning stove.

This was the word that Alice and her family would have used for a wood stove when she was a child. But do people still use it? And are there regions of the province that it is more widely known?

(The above photographs of two variations of small stoves, or bogeys, were taken from the Geography Collection - Historical Photographs of Newfoundland and Labrador on MUN's Digital Archives Initiative.)

If you have an experience with this word and its uses, please feel free to drop me a line and let me know.

- Lisa

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stories and Superstitions of Bay Roberts

Throughout the month of October I spent a great deal of time working on our current collection project on the folk culture and beliefs of the Bay Roberts area. This involved traveling to and from Bay Roberts to visit and interview long-time community residents. During these visits I queried them on everything from what it was like to live there in the old days, the remedies they used when doctors were scarce, and some of the unusual or ghostly stories they were told as children. Needless to say, while the project is not yet complete, the people of Bay Roberts have been so enthusiastic and welcoming that our growing body of material is already richer than I could've expected.
Mr. Gerald French of Bay Roberts, in his home behind Cable Ave.
My most recent visit was with a man named Gerald French who was born and raised on a property just behind Cable Avenue (which is now a registered heritage district). His father was a caretaker for the Western Union Company, so Gerald had many memories to share about what life in and around the cable office was like. He is also a great storyteller and recalled a few ghostly tales he was told as a child. One of which took place on the dark streets of Bay Roberts, Barnes' Road to be exact, before the days of the street lamp. A man was out walking and it was very dark, so he cursed out-loud, wishing for a jack o'lantern to appear and light his path. All of a sudden, a large light appeared in front of him. It gave him such a fright, that he ran the rest of the way home. I've now heard many such stories, most taking place in the days before the street lamp came to town. As Wilbur Sparke's explained, "A man once said to me: 'I'll tell you about the ghosts. All the ghosts left when the electric lights came.' Now that's an interesting bit of psychology."

Despite the apparent demise of the ghost story telling tradition (due to the proliferation of the street lamp), a recent trip to Ascension High School offered us many a spooky tale. Indeed, of 35 students in Mrs. Welsh's grade 10 English class, most had a ghost story to share with us that they had heard from friends or family. Below is a story told by Jesse Rideout about a ghost-fisherman giving his friend a helping hand from a watery grave. 

I've also been interested in collecting superstitions from the people I visit. Mr. French offered this one, which he still believes in to this day: "You didn't like a black cat crossing in front of you. And the crows, even now if we're driving, we'll cross at the crows. Just put your finger like this..." He then took a finger and crossed the air in front of him. "Lots of time when we're out I'll say, 'They'll say we're nuts, b'y!' " His wife Eliza assured me that it's true. When he's driving in traffic he'll say to her, "Eliza, cross out that crow will you?" He says it every time, he doesn't miss a crow.

Another superstition that involves making a cross with your finger came from Greta Hussey's book "Our Life in Lear's Room, Labrador." Greta is another person that I interviewed for this project and her book is filled with old superstitions, remedies, and traditions. The one I found most fascinating is that in the Hussey family, when a hand or foot would fall asleep, they would make the sign of the cross on the bottom of the foot or the palm of the hand. I suppose it was meant as a cure for numb appendages.

A few other good luck/bad luck superstitions were offered by Olivia Bradbury from Ascension High. She said: "Cross your socks when you take them off before going to bed to prevent bad dreams."  And: "Exit through the same door you entered from on Fridays, or bad luck ensues." Olivia also reiterated Mr. French's belief that crows are indeed, very bad luck to see.

This project is going very well, and I hope to find more stories, cures, remedies and superstitions before the fall season is up. Please feel free to be in touch with your own, no matter where you are from in the province:


 Paula Roberts wrote in and said that she too crosses out single crows. It seems if just one crow crosses your path it's considered bad luck, but two or more have a whole different meaning. Here is a rhyme she learned as a child about crows and luck:
"One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a kiss,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a story that's never been told." 

Thanks Paula!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Ghost Ship Called the Blue Jacket

In preparation for Halloween, I've been listening to some spooky tales that I've recently had the pleasure of recording in and around the Bay Roberts area. Here is a clip of 92 year old Greta Hussey of Port de Grave talking about when her father saw an infamous ghost ship called the Blue Jacket. Greta is a fantastic story-teller and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to spend time with her.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday's Folklore Photo: Hammock Days

As we settle into the fall season, I'd like to share a nostalgic summer photograph from the Bay Roberts area. This image was shown to me by 84 year old Wilbur Sparkes during a recent oral history interview. During our talk, Mr. Sparkes reminisced about how his mother used to string up a hammock between two large trees to help take advantage of the summer weather. His grandmother is shown relaxing in a rocking chair next to her. This was just one of many wonderful memories he shared about growing up in the community he still calls home.