Rencontre East, Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada
Isolated and Loving It
Wonderful Memories of Growing Up
Most all activities were centered around the fishing industry, particularly the herring, lobster, and cod fisheries. Lobster fishing meant long hours and a lot of hard work. Piles of firewood and barrels of water had to be brought by rowdory. The lobsters were boiled in large galvanized vats, then packed in tins, and sold by the case to local fish merchants.
by Celia Giovannini
Herring were frozen in the winter months and large quantities were stored in the holds of the Grand Bank fishing fleet, which was moored here for the winter months and which left in early spring for the Grand Banks fishing grounds. These vessels would return later on in the spring and buy more herring for bait from the fishermen who caught the fish in large seines and smaller nets.
Cod were caught by cod nets or large cod traps. These fish were eaten in a fresh state, sold in salt bulk, or dried on flakes built along the beaches or shorelines. This fish was later sold to merchants who usually traded or gave food and other items in exchange for the fish. All the fishing was done by rowing the dories to and from the fishing grounds. It was later that engines were used, making the work a bit easier for the fishermen.
There were two churches in Rencontre. The Roman Catholic church was built in earlier years and the Anglican Church was built later. Much of the money to build the Anglican Church was raised by the whole community through events such as soup suppers and cabbage and bean suppers. Before the church was built prayer services were held in the one room school house. These services were well attended by the young and old.
Our first post office was in a private home. First a mail boat and later the C.N.R. boats delivered the mail once weekly. People went to the house and stood in the hallway and waited for their names to be called and their mail passed on to them. Later a post and telegraph office was built, where along with mail deliveries, telegrams could be sent by telegraph. A large ledger was placed on a shelf outside the wicket where the news of the day was written. Movements of the coastal boat were posted in the window.
Medical services were provided by two doctors, one stationed at St. Jacques and the other at Pools Cove. These doctors came by boat when called. Later we had a hospital ship. "The Lady Anderson". Also, a district nurse was stationed here, and when necessary she called the "Lady Anderson" as a doctor was on board at all times. When the cottage hospital was built at Harbour Breton, patients were either sent there or St. John's for medical treatment.
The children attended a one-room school house with one teacher for all grades, from primer to grade ten. These teachers were very strict and one soon learned to be obedient. If we were out of line at any time we were punished by various methods including being strapped or being forced to stand in the corner. We were always scared that our parents would find out that we had been punished at school because that would mean a second punishment for us once we got home.
We had no electricity at all. Kerosene lamps were used at night. We had battery operated radios. Heat was supplied by the kitchen stove, fueled by wood, or coal which was brought from St. Pierre or North Sydney. We had no heat while we slept and during the winter months the water would be frozen each morning. All our water was brought in pails from two public wells. Later we had our own well and water was pumped to the house by handpump.
Most people had their own vegetables gardens and raised enough vegetables to last nearly the entire year. These vegetables were stored in underground cellars during the winter. There was plenty of wildgame like rabbits, caribou, ducks, and turrs to be had so fresh meat was in good supply.
People kept cows, sheep, and goats. Cows and goats supplied meat and cream and the sheep supplied wool which was made into yarn to knit sweaters, socks, mittens, etc. Other items of clothing were made by our parents using materials bought at a local store. We had a new dress twice a year, at Christmas and at Easter. We wore laced boots with spats over them to keep our legs warm. Canvas sneakers were worn during the summer, unless some (especially the boys) preferred to run around in bare feet.
For recreation there were frequent dances, with the music being supplied by accordian, violin, and mouth organ. There were parties from time to time, where we played cards and cooked up a scoff (usually Jiggs Dinner). During the winter months we took part in outdoor delights such as sleighing and skating. The summer months were spent swimming, fishing and picnicing. On May 24th (Victoria Day) nearly all the people joined in a big parade through the community waving flags and banners. They would proceed to the picnic grounds where they would partake in games (with prizes for the winners) and family picnics. The children were given candy, or caught what they could as the sweets were tossed into the air. Everyone had a wonderful time at this event.
Our homes were well kept up. White fences made of palings surrounded the houses, and trees and flowers made the yards a lovely sight in summertime.
People worked hard but there were lots of fun and happy times during my growing up in Rencontre. As I look back over the years I have wonderful memories.