January 21

Responses to the question:

“When did you arrive in Gander?  And what were your first impressions?

NOTE: We are open for many more such answers to this question…your replies welcome at email: faye@villagereporter.com .


My foray into the exciting and carefree life that was provided for children in the early days of the Newfoundland Airport (later named Gander) was on  January 18, 1940 (aged three months and 24 days).  My Mom, Vera (Greene) Dempsey, and I left Bishop's Falls (her home town, where I was born "feet first" in my hurry to enter the world!!) via the old Newfoundland Railway.

We were met in Gander by my Dad, James Dempsey and Abbie Knee (Jeanette Singleton's father) his co-worker. To accommodate the welcoming snow storm and "hip deep" snow, as my Father describes it, our "chariot" turned out to be a man-made box-like shed mounted on a sled and pulled by a tractor.  The shed contained two seats along the side that could accommodate 5-6 people and a coal/wood burning "bogie" to provide heat . . featuring a stove pipe through the middle of the shed. A coal oil lantern for night light, a window on each side, and a door at the back of the shed was the access route.

The long arduous train ride and then the snow sled adventure to our new home - an apartment over the Receiving Station which was originally built for the radio operators - seemed to have (to quote my Dad) set me "howling."  Both he and Mr. Knee were astounded that a “scrawny,” underweight baby,  “bundled as tight as a mummy,” could "howl" so loud.  Mom already knew of my ability to express myself as she, my maternal Grandmother, Elsie Greene and maternal Great Grandmother, Lucy Warren (who was a mid wife and responsible for saving my life at birth and then sustaining it with the help of her home made incubator kept warm by the heat from the oil stove) had nursed me through to the time of my train "jaunt" to the Newfoundland Airport. Needless to say, my parents were grateful that Mr. Knee's wide grin and comical smile settled me down. 

 As an aside, in years to come, I was responsible for changing that smile for a short period of time as I deemed, at the age of three, that the home made brew he and my dad were "hatching" stank too much. So, in my wisdom, and busy body pre Suzy Homemaker or Martha Stewart, little way, I pushed a bar of sunlight soap down the neck of the large green glass acid bottle they used to create their quench saving "elixir." The bar was not discovered until the time of "capping."  My Mom assured me that this episode eventually brought smiles and laughter to my Dad and Mr. Knee and no corporal punishment was applied!!

It was a long journey from the Gander train station to our new home which at the time I left Gander, and for many years after, was inhabited by the Canadian Navy. Whether it still is or not, I do not know.  Ironically, that home was just down the road beyond the current Gander Cemetery where my Mother is buried. Her resting place being very close to her first home as a young married woman and pioneer of Gander.

 Note:  The aforementioned shed/sled was constructed by the Mechanical Department to provide transportation to and from work for the men in times of bad weather. The size of the shed as my Dad remembers it was eight by ten feet and seven feet high. The tractor was an RD 8 Diesel. The Receiving Station, two miles west of the Airport, contained the direction finding M/F (medium frequency), point to point and air to ground circuits.

* I do have a picture of the old receiving station but do not have all of the fancy computer equipment to transport it to you.  Maybe Jim Strong has a picture.  His father worked with my Dad at the same Transmitting station and prior to his marriage, he baby sat me.  He named and called me “Demmy” up until the time of his death.  Apparently, “Demmy” was how I pronounced Dempsey way back then!!!


 aka - Patricia M. (Dempsey) Hiscock  Class of 1956


We arrived in Gander the first week of December, 1946.  I was 5 years old.. We arrived from Middlebrook, Gambo. We had to take the train to Gander, but I remember we had to take a Snowmobile from our house for a 3-mile ride to the train station. I remember almost not able to breathe because everyone in the snowmobile, except my mother, was smoking. I think there were about 10 or more people in the snowmobile which was owned and driven by my father's first cousin, Harland Pritchett.

When we first walked into the apartment on Washington Ave., I remember that it was very warm, because of the steam heating.  There was a refrigerator in the kitchen, switches on the wall to turn on the lights, and a bathroom, which we had neither of in Middlebrook. And we had no central heating, no bathroom, no electricity, and no refrigerator in Middlebrook.

Our new apartment was on the ground floor, and Ross Patey lived directly over us, so I had someone to play with in the heated stairwell during the cold weather. None of which I had out at Middlebrook.

My brother Dennis was only a baby, so I couldn't play with him.

I remember the next day going to the Co-op store with mom and dad, and we bought a lot of food to fill the refrigerator and cupboards.

The night we arrived, Mrs. Patey, upstairs, brought us some food to eat, and Ross and I were getting to know each other very quickly. I also remember the loud noise of the airplanes taking off right next to our apartment building. I used to run to the window to try and see them, and got so excited seeing something flying.

Denny & Campbell

I remember dad bought me a sled and used to tow me around in the snow, and I used to look at the big apartment buildings.

Now just to put it in perspective, we used to live in St. Johns when I was one to three years old, while dad was working there, so I had seen large buildings before, but I couldn't remember the electricity or the bathroom there. We moved back to Middlebrook when I was about 3 1/2.

I remember getting motion sickness on the train between St. John's and Gambo. I think I ate too much candy as well.

We were only in the Gander apartment for a short time when we got a radio, which we could leave on as long as we wanted, because it was plugged into the wall. Out in Middlebrook we only used the radio for listening to the news, because it would wear down the batteries.

One Sunday shortly after we arrived, dad took us down to the terminal to have sandwiches and chips and see the airplanes up close. I'd say that's about it for now. Hope you enjoy reading this. I guess you saw the pictures of my brother's band in Gander?

- Campbell Pritchett, Class of 1959



My first impression of Gander was preceded by a rough boat trip across the straight to Port Aux Basques and then a wonderful train ride aboard the Newfie “Bullet,” (I believe it was called). Whenever I think of the ‘golden age’ of rail travel, I think of the tiny state room our family shared (4 of us). I thought it was great fun.

We lounged in the day cabin with trips to the dining car where meals were served atop white linen tablecloths. I was quite impressed with ‘silver service’ teapots, and one of the paper napkins beneath my breakfast plate bore a map of Nfld…it eventually made in into my scrapbook.

The train ride was a fun experience, unlike the ferry crossing where in our below decks bunks (probably down in the hold) we heard a constant banging, all night. It had me jumping up from a dazed sleep whacking my head on the low ceiling. I remember thinking each time,  “time to look for the lifeboats”? It was a long night.

While I can’t remember actually arriving in Gander, I do recall our first impression of our Air Force PMQ (home) on Elizabeth Drive. We had put most of our belongings in storage, back in Halifax where we’d lived prior to this move.

We came to learn that these furnished PMQs got a bit of rearranging as the tenants moved on to new postings. (We did the same thing when we left). If there was a better couch, or a less tattered rug, it got traded with someone else in another PMQ who had one that needed upgrading, just before the party left. This was all done ‘after hours’ because what would the Air Force know, or care? A switch here or there of a hard mattress, would anyone be the wiser? 

Our new home for a year amidst these friendly, welcoming people became a part of beautiful memories made. We moved,  just one year later from this home where we’d lived in 1958-1959.

-  Faye Lewis Raynard, Class of 1959


 Hi Faye- Well, I'm out of this discussion for sure!  I was born there at the local hospital.  Hope you're well and had a great Christmas and New Year.   Jerry and I sent our tree and decorations down to our cottage in Jamaica and had a fabulous time.  Nothing like hearing Christmas carols on steel drums! 

Take care-

- Marilyn (Knee) Pasternak, Class of 1962


I arrived in CYQX at the ripe old age of 6 months of age, and as bad as my memory is now, it was worse then! I don't remember a blessed thing, so I'm not much of a candidate for the project.

You should get on Mary and Bob (Warren’s) case as they seem to have retained more that I did.


 - Dave Robertson, Class of 1961



I moved there from Shoal Harbour when I about 18-24 months. Can't say I remember it very well!

 - Robert .G. Pelley, Class of 1962