Photo courtesy the Julia Ann Walsh Heritage Center's collection. Date unknown.
This week's #FolklorePhoto is of a snowmobile outside the Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital. It was common, and convenient, for people to be transported by snowmobile in the past. Doris Randell recounts a memory from her childhood when she went home on a snowmobile: I was [at the Cottage Hospital] as patient when I was eight years old. I remember being on the ward, and some of the girls that worked here were local girls. They’d bring me a little treat when they’d come from the kitchen. My next door neighbour had a baby here at the same time, and my cousin was working here. So the next day she showed me this coat, and I was only eight years old, and she asked me, “Do you know who owns this coat?” I said, “Yes, that’s Bessy’s coat.” She said, “Bessy is here.” I was right overjoyed. She said, “Bessy had a baby girl.” Of course later in the day Bessy was moved on the ward - the same ward that I was on - so I got to see the baby several times in the day. It was a fairly pleasant experience . . . And when I went to go home from the hospital, she was going home the same day, and a friend of theirs - actually I think it might have been a relative from up in Portland Creek - came in a snowmobile, you know one of those big ones that you could take many people? So that’s how we went home from the hospital Sunday; her with her new baby and myself.
Community kitchen workers. Photo by Terra Barrett.
When Terra and I were in Bonne Bay in January, we discovered that one of the meals the Cottage Hospital was best known for was called "Main Arm Slob." Neither of us had heard of this before, and so we asked one of the RNs, Susan Reid, to explain what it was: "Main arm slob was just salt meat cut up in small pieces with onion, pepper, carrot, turnip and potato. It was cut up and I suppose it was cooked so the starch - it was almost white - would come out of the potato and it would thicken the sauce. But that’s what it was. We used to call it main arm slob because it used to be main arm - where you drive in [to Norris Point] was the main arm. And when it iced over you’d get the slob on it. So we used to call it main arm slob. That’s where the name came from."
The community kitchen will be serving this, and other traditional dishes, for lunch soon. If you are interested in trying some of the foods that were served in the Cottage Hospital stop by for a visit!
Participants share a laugh at the wine and cheese. Photo by Katie Harvey.
In late January, Terra and I travelled to Bonne Bay to begin conducting research and oral history interviews on the Cottage Hospital as a part of our Oral History Roadshow Series. We met Joanie Cranston, former chair of the ICH committee, at the hospital where we would be staying for the next few days. She had organized several events in order to gather locals to reminisce on the thriving days of the cottage hospital.
When we arrived, the ladies of the community kitchen program had prepared supper for us and baked a variety of delicious treats. Terra and I ate and familiarized ourselves with our temporary home. The hospital is now used as a physiotherapy clinic, a radio station, a public library, a hostel, a museum and a community center. That night I had the old hag. Terra and I were sleeping in the upstairs portion of the building, which was where the female staff once lived. I awoke around 3:00 a.m. and was unable to move or speak. I attempted to call out to Terra but I couldn’t make any noise. Finally, my body was freed by the apparition of my mother who was pressing down on my side with her index finger.
The next day I told Joanie about my experience. She was intrigued and explained that a Peruvian healer had stayed in the hostel years ago and he too had had the Old Hag. He proceeded to cleanse the building of spirits, but he claimed that one spirit refused to leave without a visit from a Catholic priest. According to Joanie, that male spirit remains in the building. She said I was the first person to have been hagged since that man had performed the cleansing.
Katie Harvey sits in an old patient bed. Photo by Terra Barrett.
The next day we hosted a memory mug-up in the daytime where people who worked as LPNs, blue aids, housekeepers, laundry workers, and cooks gathered to discuss their memories of working in the hospital. We ate goodies that were baked by the ladies of the community kitchen program. Terra and I spent the day conducting interviews with participants.
That evening we hosted a wine and cheese and more people came out to share their memories. There were lots of laughs as people discussed memorable patients, practical jokes, ghost stories and close calls. Terra and I conducted several more interviews and turned in after a long day.
Here is an example of one of the stories we heard, as told by Dr. Jim Bowen:
"There was a night I was on call and it was a weekend night. So back then we had a club, The Ferryman’s Lounge. There was usually a dance there on Saturday nights. Not uncommonly, there would be a fight or something would happen. Someone would come in a 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, usually drunk, cut with a beer bottle or knocked out loaded, and you’d be called in. So on this particular occasion I got called in, and a gentleman was there inebriated and cut. So I was getting ready to sew him up. And his buddy was with him and I noticed the buddy suddenly got quiet. I looked over at him and I could see that he was looking faint. I didn’t want him to faint on top of what we were doing or hurt himself so I said, “You better go outside and get some fresh air or sit down.” So a few seconds passed after he left the room and I heard a thump. So I knew that he had fainted. Another minute or so passed - I had sterile gloves on and I was fixing up the other guy’s head so I couldn’t really leave and see what was going on - and then I heard the janitor behind me. The guy had fainted right on the long winter boot mat. So the janitor had just grabbed the ends of the mat and hauled him down the hallway on the mat, unconscious. He just pulled up in front of the door, I turned around and he said, “Where do you want him, Doc?” I said, “Well, put him in room number two.” So he pulled him on down the hall. There was a lot of really funny moments like that."
Terra Barrett interviewing Dr. Terry Delaney. Joanie Cranston sits in on the interview. Photo by Katie Harvey.
The following day Joanie had organized a couple more interviews, so we completed those and packed up to head home. We had conducted over twenty interviews over the course of two days, and we learned so much about the Cottage Hospital. The major theme that arose was how much everyone loved working there, and how close the staff had been. It was great to be able to hear about these positive memories, and see that the building was still remaining useful in a variety of ways.
The information collected from our trip to Bonne Bay is currently being compiled into a booklet. This will be the eighth in our Oral History Roadshow Series, so keep your eyes peeled for the launch of that soon!
This photo of the Taylor House in Woody Point was collected by Charlie Payne and donated to the HFNL as documentation of the Woody Point Heritage District. A unidentified woman stands on the roof of the house looking over the piles of snow surrounding the house. Date unknown.
This photograph of "Bruce and Harry" ready to go sliding in Woody Point, is part of a collection of snapshots taken by residents of the Woody Point area. Images were collected by Charlie Payne and donated to the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador as documentation of this Registered Heritage District. To see more items from the Bonne Bay area visit the MUN Digital Archives Initiative
The ICH office is hitting the road! I'll be running a community oral history workshop at the Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital, 2-6 Hospital Lane, Norris Point, on March 20th, 2015. The workshop is being organized in Norris Point by the Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital Heritage Corporation.
It is free to attend, but you need to register in advance.