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

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Known burials at the Old Methodist Cemetery at Jimmy Gilbert's Garden, Come By Chance


Heritage volunteers in the town of Come By Chance have been busy cleaning up an old, overgrown, Methodist cemetery. There are ten marked graves, with a number of other spaces which could possibly hold other burials. Parish records identify an additional eight individuals buried in the cemetery, without markers. Most are members of the Adams and Gilbert families, with a Dicks and Stanford also buried there.

You can see the headstone data for the Cemetery here:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Always a Use for a Flour Bag: Quilts, Shrouds and Sails

On August 3rd, I interviewed Sarah Griffiths Ennis (born October 20, 1946) of Placentia. When we met, I asked if she wished to talk about anything in particular. Without missing a beat, she said, “Recycling. You know, how we recycled, because we didn’t waste anything then.”

For the most part, we talked about flour bags, which, as Sarah noted, were “a big thing.” At the time, everyone had a 50 pound sack of flour at home. Sarah explained, “You didn’t buy small amounts, because everybody had to bake their own bread and make their own cookies.” As a child, Sarah would venture into the family’s pantry to play with the sack of flour, discovering that “if you hit both sides of the bag, you’d get a little puff of flour, because these were cotton sacks. … I thought it was spitting at me.” She could also mold the sack into “a real good snowman”:

            Andrea: So was that while the flour was in the bag?
Sarah: Yes, but if it was real full you couldn’t make a snowman, because it was too dense. So you had to wait until the flour bag was about a quarter gone, or two thirds gone, or whatever. And then you could push up the flour so you could mold it. And you could make a little waist around the middle. [laughter]

Once the flour (and the snowman) had been used up, the flour bag was always repurposed for something else. The cotton of the bag had a dense weave—it had to be, to contain the flour—and was thus a highly valuable commodity. As Sarah explained:

Sarah: So anyway, when the flour bags were empty, they were used for everything. There was fabric—it was well needed, the fabric was. So it was great. You got the flour, and you got the cotton. And most women at the time would use them, embroider them, or make clothes out of them. They were probably used for shrouds, too. But they were used for school bags, shopping bags, quilts, blankets—you name it and they used the flour bags for it. Bandages. Slings. And when we were younger, houses weren’t heated, and we used to wear a lot of vests inside our clothes. So the vests were often made with flour bags. So then they would get fancier, and get embroidered. They’d make beautiful things, and the cotton didn’t wear out, it was good heavy cotton. … And my dad was a sign painter. So if he was doing signs that were banners, you know, big banners going across—the flour bags would be used for that. So there was another use for them, right. Always a use for a flour bag.

As Sarah and her six siblings grew up and left home, the family’s flour bag supply began to decline. With less people in the house, less bread was baked and, as a result, fewer flour bags were free for the taking. Unfortunately, this scarcity also coincided with her mother and father’s upsurge in “time for creativity.” As Sarah put it, “a silent war” then began to be waged over the the flour bags. While her mother had visions of flour bag needlework, her father wanted flour bag sails for his boat. On one occasion, Sarah was summoned by her father from St. John’s, and asked to sew six flour bags (which “was a big thing, right, six flour bags”) into sails. Ordinarily, Sarah’s mother would have undertaken this task, but the two seemed to have reached an uneasy kind of stalemate. Though her father had won the flour bags, her mother wasn’t about to help him. A few months later, Sarah and her father set sail in the flour bag sailboat, and had a close call out to sea. They made it back to shore in the end, but as Sarah remarked, “I always said, ‘That’s the flour bags getting even.’”

While Sarah doesn’t have any of the family’s flour bag creations in her possession, she showed me a flour bag quilt made by another woman in Placentia:

Sarah Griffiths Ennis poses with her flour bag quilt.
It's a little hard to make out, but some labels are still visible on the quilt. The mirror image of this one reads "Goldrim Flour":

"Goldrim Flour," visible from the back of a flour bag quilt.
As Sarah summed it up, “this flour bag thing was so valuable in everybody’s life, everybody in our era.” However, other kinds of recycling were engaged in as well. In the following audio clip, Sarah describes how cans of tinned milk and other can lids were reused during her childhood:

Thursday, April 20, 2017

From Pliny to Placentia Bay: The Folklore of Vinegar. #folklorethursday

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Up Jack got, and home did trot
Fast as he could caper,
He went to bed to mend his head,
With vinegar and brown paper.

The traditional “Jack and Jill” rhyme we learned as children dates back at least to the 1700s, and exists with a number of different verses and variations. What we are focussing on today is that second verse, with the reference to the vinegar plaster. An earlier version, noted in The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, goes:

Up Jack got, and home did trot
As fast as he could caper;
To old Dame Dob, who patched his nob
With vinegar and brown paper.

The idea of patching your nob with a vinegar plaster goes back a long way. Greek physician and botanist Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40 – 90 AD) included vinegar in a cure for headaches in his five-volume De Materia Medica. Dioscorides was employed as a medic in the Roman army, so I suspect he knew a thing or two about bumps on the head (and hangovers, for that matter). The idea was supported by Pliny the Elder, who encouraged the use of a vinegar plaster as a cure for snakebite and scorpion stings. Vinegar as a headache cure persisted for a couple thousand years, ending up in children’s rhymes. Well into the modern era it was a common practice in areas without sophisticated medical care, and still survives as a home remedy today. In a 1946 article in Decks Awash, Victor Butler writes,
Many years ago when people lived in the harbours and coves of Placentia Bay, they were without medical assistance in time of sickness and accident. This was one of the prices liveyers had to pay for living in isolation. However, in all the communities first settled, there resided from one to three middle aged mothers who were skilled in administering to the needs of the sick and suffering. Some were more skilled than others in using the limited amount of available remedies to cope with the different ailments. In later years I have given much thought to how those very intelligent, although illiterate women, acquired the skill to use the different roots, leaves, barks and buds of trees and plants in a suitable manner to ease the pain and discomfort of people suffering from so many different ailments. The majority of settlers in the Bays and Harbours migrated to Newfoundland from England, Ireland, Scotland and the Channel Islands. They must have been aware of the different remedies mentioned and then passed the information along to their descendants.
Butler then goes on to list various traditional healing concoctions. Two of those involve vinegar:
7. White liniment —- Equal parts of spirits turpentine and white vinegar were combined with the whites and the shells of two eggs. 
8. Brown paper and vinegar — Brown paper saturated with cold vinegar was placed on foreheads for headaches.
Dame-Dob-of-the-nursery-rhyme was, apparently, of the same school of traditional medicine as Butler’s three middle-aged Placentia Bay mothers.

Today, we are more likely to use vinegar on our fish and chips. Even that custom has its own traditions and folklore.

According to a 1980 article by Susan Coen, the 1953 Avalon Telephone Company phone book had one listing under "Chip Service" for St. John’s -- Ron's Snack Bar, Lime Street. In an interview with Ron Martin, son of the original owner, Martin noted this about vinegar:
The vinegar, fast foods don't even think about vinegar. But vinegar is a very important thing to fish 'n chips. It's got to be brown and it's got to be mixed vinegar. Little packages of that white vinegar, we just don't even use on fish 'n chips. It sounds foolish, but it's a fact. Brown vinegar. I drink it. I actually drink it. Yeah. Every hour I usually have a handful of brown vinegar.
Today in St. John’s, a new generation of vinegar-makers is emerging. Janet Harron is the proprietress of Wild Mother Provisions, a food company specializing in artisanal vinegar and the traditional baked goods of Britain and Ireland. Harron currently sells at the St. John’s Farmer’s Market and her beer-based vinegar (technically alegar) is also available at Rocket Bakery and other retailers in downtown St. John’s.

“We are looking for stories about the use of vinegar in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Harron says. “For example, do you remember a vinegar plant in your house when you were growing up, a home-fermented vinegar made from toasted bread, molasses, yeast and water? What was it used for? Do you remember eating vinegar pie? Or a vinegar drink sweetened with molasses?”

Harron notes that this vinegar drink dates from the 18th century and is called “switchel” or "Haymakers’ Punch" in United States, not to be confused with Newfoundland and Labrador switchel, which refers to tea left boiling on the stove all day.

What are your vinegar memories, or pieces of vinegar folklore from your community? Did you have a vinegar plant? Let us know! Comment below or email

Works Cited:

Butler, Victor. Angels of Mercy. Decks Awash, vol. 05, no. 05 (October 1976): 14.

Cohen, Susan. “Fish ‘n Chips” in St. John’s. Culture & Tradition, vol. 05 (1980): 43-54.

The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Exploring placemaking, the fishery, and traditional games

In the December 2014 edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Update for Newfoundland and Labrador: the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador (HFNL) explores membership with the Inter-City Intangible Cultural Cooperation Network (ICCN); some thoughts on placemaking; the Outer Battery’s Charles Pearcey is designated as a Provincial Tradition Bearer; HFNL Announces Three Fisheries ICH Projects in Cupids, Pouch Cove, and Labrador; and Sharon King-Campbell declares war! (Don't worry, it is just a game.)

contributors: Dale Jarvis, Sharon King-Campbell

Photo: Children playing “World” in Southern Harbour, Placentia Bay, 1987.
Photo courtesy Delf Maria Hohmann.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Floating George and Annie Warren's House, Placentia Bay

Lisa Wilson and I are just back from a trip to Arnold's Cove, to meet with their local heritage committee on a web project they are undertaking, on the theme of resettlement.

Committee member Edna Penney shared with us this great image, which would have been a fairly typical sight during the resettlement period. It shows George and Annie Warren's house, being floated from Best's Harbour (Tack's Beach) to Arnold's Cove in July 1966.

If you've got a photo of a family house being floated, or hauled across the ice, we'd love to see it. Toss us a line at

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mapping the legacy of resettlement in Arnold's Cove, Newfoundland

"Overall, some 307 communities were abandoned between 1946 and 1975, and over 28,000 people relocated. Captured in film, poetry, visual art and music, the response to resettlement was an important political thread in the province's cultural renaissance in the 1970s. The programme had a profound impact on the lives of those affected, and continues to resonate in the culture and collective psyche of the province today."

- excerpt from “No Great Future” Government Sponsored Resettlement
in Newfoundland and Labrador since Confederation

I had an interesting day today, with a trip out to Arnold's Cove to meet with representatives of the town's heritage committee. I was there to help provide some advice on project focus and preliminary project planning around a few ideas they have for future heritage projects.

I'm always encouraging communities to focus on projects that are somehow unique to their communities. One of the interesting facts that came out of today's meeting is that the town has a large number of buildings that were moved into the community from now abandoned Placentia Bay towns during the resettlement period.  A lot of communities in the province have resettled buildings, but the heritage committee has tentatively identified 71 houses still standing in Arnold's Cove, with a few additional buildings yet to be added to the list.  They are clustered, perhaps unsurprisingly, with people from the same home towns, with people setting up their houses in Arnold's Cove close to their original neighbours. You can see a rough version of a preliminary map above.

We are talking about setting up a public workshop in Arnold's Cove around the topic of mapping cultural resources, using this as a case study, and possibly incorporating features from of one of our old Google map workshops. Stay tuned! If you'd like to be involved in some way, you can drop me a line at

Resettlement Links: