April 27

Well folks, this little ditty from David Naish brought out some memories of roads less traveled in the early days of Gander: David  had a special fondness for Mercurys.

So tell us about your favorite old vehicle (s) …

- Faye Lewis Raynard, Class of 1959


'Riding in my Mercury'

 Mercury Blues. My first ride in a Merc was 1957, hitching a ride from the Clinton Base (Ont.) into town. The guy drove it 110 miles an hour. We arrived in less than a minute.

The second was in Sharon's father's Merc. I had to drive it to Windsor to deliver a family friend. Every gas attendant who opened the hood came back saying he'd never seen anything like it. I drove it very carefully.

The third was in my brand new 1968 Cougar. Green metallic, black vinyl roof, gleaming chrome, sequential tail lights, retracting headlight covers, 302 engine, E70 tires. Polished it  weekly. Kept it for 20 years. But it never could go 110 miles an hour. I put the pedal to the metal one day on a vacant stretch of the 401 and it just would not go above 105.

It's long gone now. Except for the sequential tail lights. I took them off, removed the little timing motor and the wire loom before the carcass went to the wrecking yard. I've actually been planning to reassemble the tail lights in some kind of a working collage for my basement project room.

I remember Bob Warren (Class of 1959) had one back in the late 50's that got 60 miles to the gallon...of oil.

-          David Naish, Class of 1960


Dave: I love it...A Merc, huh? My dad had a 1954 Merc with automatic transmission that he had taken into Gander via train (that's the one he drove the Queen's lady in waiting in)  when she opened the terminal in  1959. So at the time, our car was old, by today's standards. But yes, the guys especially will love this topic. You could eat off the engine in my dad's car as well. He believed in keeping that thing spotless.

A brand new Cougar betcha wish you had it today just to cruise around in.

- Faye Lewis Raynard, Class of 1959


My Dad had a 1954 Chev. Two tone green and white. It would not have been on the list of cars to carry the Queen's people. As it was, it barely made it off the island in the summer of 1960. Some of the roads we travelled were pit run gravel. When the trunk was opened after the William Carson (ferry) landed in North Sidney, both rear shocks were through the floor. 

-          Dave Naish, Class of 1960


How many of you remember the 8-9 old cars that used to be parked in the early 1950s along the fence on the north side of Bldg 67 on the American side? That would have been just next to the mess hall where the construction companies used to feed their employees and was open 24 hrs a day.

These cars included notably one black Model T Ford. This was the sort of thing the gangsters from Chicago would have used in the 30s so it didn't take much imagination to turn a broom handle or piece of matched lumber into a Thompson machine gun and become either Elliot Ness or Al Capone. And how did we know about Ness and Capone in the days before TV - simple, the Movietone News that came on just before the movies told us all about it.

There was also a dirty old pickup with a wooden box that would not have been out of place in Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath.  There were a few sedans that could be used to escort Prime Ministers/Presidents/kings or anything else our imaginations could come up with. What they all had in common was that musty smell of upholstery that suffered too many seasons of heat, damp and cold. 

But these cars were ordinary and common-place compared to those that were to be found near the runway  on the road between north end of Grant and Washington Avenues.  One was as I remember a black Packard that would have been fit for a movie star. Anybody remember who owned it?

Most of these vehicles ended up behind the garages (sometimes converted Quonset huts or just made of scrounged wood)  built along the south side of Roosevelt Street.  By now they had come to be known as non operational. At the same time, we were getting older and more interested in the mysteries of the mechanical and scientific world.  So now the big fun was to beat out the speedometers to get the magnets.  We did a lot experimenting with those.

The cars finally ended up in most cases in the dump on the left-hand side of the Burner Foad leading down to the lake, just opposite the burner itself. Someday, a few centuries from now, some gang of archeologists will discover these old cars in the burner dump and wonder about life back then.  I sure hope they will have as much fun a we did.

-          R.G.Pelley, Class of 1962


My parents decided to drive from Montreal to Gander, where my dad was to take up a job in the meteorological office at the new airport. They had no idea that once we left the ferry at Port Aux Basques, the road wasn't paved! My dad had bought a  new car in Montreal and by the time we arrived in Gander after having driven almost two days on gravel roads, it must have been five years old. I didn't  think it was possible to survive that much constant bumping and jostling without being permanently traumatized!

Although we were to live in a house in the new town, it wasn't ready when we arrived, so we spend the first couple of weeks in one of the big wooden apartment buildings in the old town. It was incredible. I remember how the building creaked and groaned, that the windows didn't completely close, that the heat came in from the outside through huge pipes that ran around all the buildings, that there were some cracks in the wooden floor wide enough to see through to the apartment below. I think we must have been the last
people living in the building before they pulled it down!

What else do I remember? Once we moved into the new town, things got better, although we lived in a street of identical brown and green houses. We were a brown house. The only way you could tell our house from the other brown houses was by its number.

But I did like the school. I had spent the last three years at an all-girls  school, so having classes with boys was quite a change - and not an unpleasant one! I enjoyed being a prefect, working on the Flight magazine, going to hockey games, singing the latest songs, going to dances, and sitting on tree
stumps and gossiping during recess.

So although I sometimes felt like I'd been moved to Mars, still it was an interesting time. I grew up very fast, met really good people who I still think of fondly today, learned to appreciate the tough, newfie character (it snowed from October to May for goodness sake!) and by the time we left ten months later, I'd even begun to think of that brown house in the raw new town as home.

- Liz (Morgan) Marshall, Class of 1959



Interesting to read Liz Marshall's impressions of  arriving in Gander.  Can't say mine are very vivid apart from the fact that I had already completed my school education so I was a bit fedup at having to go back to school.

The hospital I did my nurse training at did not want me to go straight from school into nursing .  Also I was 17 when I arrived in Gander and could not start nursing until I was 18 1/2. There was nothing much else to do in Gander apart from returning to school.  However, I did enjoy it once I got settled in. 

My Mum was very used to traveling round with Dad's job so I don't think she was too concerned about it. The snow was a great excitement as we had never seen anything like it in England and I remember buying winter clothing through a catalogue Montgomery Ward I think.  That was a new experience. 

Other things I recall were trying to learn to ice skate  not a great success and being a member of the Observer Corps.  Will think hard and see if I can come up with anything else. 

Marg (Hawkins) Moore, Class of 1959


That’s it for this time kids, send us your memories and pix of ‘old cars’ trips in Nfld. And our website guru, will get them posted for us on this page. Appreciate it faye@villagereporter.com