July 29, 2009
The following question brought this flow of memories for our resident historian Bob Pelley. Last time Bob recalled where he used to ‘hang out in the old town Gander?’ This time he recounts: Where did we hang out in newtown Gander?
In the new town things became a little bit different. We didn’t lose our liberty, but somehow we became more civilized. Things became more organized. There were reasons for this, in a sense more geographical than anything else.
First of all, Gander had become more compact. Instead of being spread out all around the runways, we now were concentrated in a smaller town. People could group together more than more before. It was simply easier for people to cross each other’s trails. For example, kids who are interested in science, radio or chemistry now lived closer together and could indulge in their hobby without having to walk all the way around the runways.
Secondly, two new schools had been built. In the case of the Protestants, everybody now went to the Gander Academy. So it was now easier to organize school activities from Students Council to Red Cross to school dances. And of course there was now a new gymnasium to organize sports.
As well, new churches with their parish halls were now available. For example, St. Martin’s Hall became a focal point for dances and other activities. But perhaps the main reason for the change was the building of a new shopping center. Like the schools and the church halls, the new shopping center provided other important focal points. There were now places to go to after school or on the weekends. And unlike the schools and churches, we didn’t think about religion when we were at the shopping center.
One great place was the Highlight Restaurant right next to Milley’s Style Shop. The food was good and we could stay there for hours as long as we weren’t too rambunctious. That was a jukebox in the corner that played constantly with songs like Furlin Husky with “Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone” or Paul Revere and the Raiders. And of course, there was always the battle between the bad guy, Elvis Presley, and that nice guy, Pat Boone.
A little further along around the next corner, there was a poolroom. I don’t remember the name but it certainly was not all-guy hang out. There were as many girls as guys hanging around the tables.
But perhaps the biggest focal point was the theater. Ah yes, the Crescent Theatre was quite a joint. Who knows how many love stories were written or torn up in the back seats of the Cresent theater!
Right next to the Cresent theater was Grimes restaurant/tobacco store/ice cream counter. This place was never empty… there was always something going on. One of the favorite sports was arm wrestling. I remember arm wrestling with Johnny and Wilf Lambert on the little L-shaped section in the back of the store on many occasions. Wins and losses, as I remember it, were pretty much equal. One reason why this little store worked so well is that, contrary to today, there was no chip counter inside the theater, so everybody bought their chocolate bar, coke, chips and Cracker-Jacks there before going to see a movie.
When there was no movie, kids still hung around the shopping center usually near the theater. Just next to the theater was (and still is) the Co-op store which had a little ledge just the right height for sitting and chatting. I do remember though in 1961 thinking that there must be something else we could be doing instead of hanging around the shopping center. I went to see Konrad Mitchell who was the manager of the theater and asked him if he would mind me doing a survey on what activities kids in Gander would like to have. He very kindly helped me with it and collected the survey forms a week later and gave them to me. I remember as well getting in contact with the mayor, Mr. Robertson, and members of the Elks Club, the Lions Club, the Airport Club, the radar base and the churches to give them the results of the survey and in doing so, almost created a social incident. I figured that if I was the chap who called to the meeting, I should be sitting in the president’s chair and, without realizing it, took the mayor’s chair…but I think that he forgave me!
Having graduated from Gander Academy at the end of the school year, I don’t know to what extent that the survey and the meeting gave concrete results. But I was told that somebody else from Gander Academy carried on with the project later on. The only concrete thing I remember was a radio program I had on CBG Gander on Saturday evenings from 6 to 6:30 PM called “Teen-talk”.
I’m sure there was a lot more that went on in Gander in those days. For example just above the Highlight Restaurant the Ground Observer Corps had its offices and many kids from Gander participated in that.
Cadets was popular among the boys and many learned how to play musical
instruments for the first time.
Well, Bob, you covered a lot of ground, so it doesn't leave much, but I do remember we used to go cross country skiing at night, travelling around town, and down across the TCH and into the woods, in the new town, of course. On weekends we'd take our air rifles and leave on our skis before daylight Saturday morning, and ski out the railway tracks to Twin Ponds, and Warren's cabin. We took our skates with us, and we'd spend most of the day skating on the big pond. We were cool, we'd stick a can on the ice as a target, and while skating full speed, try to knock it down with a shot from our air rifles.
And speaking of Grimes little store, who can forget Bonnie?
Bob mentioned Wilf Lambert; I don't know how many know that Wilf lost his three young children years ago in a house fire in Norris's Arm.
How many can remember the night that Walt Baldwin Jr. had the winning ticket to shoot from center ice and try to put the puck through a hole a couple feet off the ice in a sheet of plywood stuck in front of the net between periods in a Flyer's game.
Walt's "Manager" Ralph Hart went to center ice with him, both well under the weather. Ralph lined Walt up, showed him how to hold the stick, they may have fallen a few times while putting on this show. When Ralph was satisfied, he stepped back and Walt wound up and let go a slap shot as hard as he could...and put the puck right through the hole. The place exploded, and of course Ralph took the majority of the credit. That was hockey.
Hi Faye, well mostly I hung out with friends at their houses or just wandering around, depending on the weather. As per many emails ago the GOBC was a great place to go and we have photos of those who attended the work sessions. Then there was the movie theatre in the new town; Pinsent’s Restaurant where you could order a plate of fries with five forks and make it last for hours just so you could have a seat; trips to the lake where we could make a fire and roast hot dogs - boy they were good and also go to the old abandoned cabin where we would smoke - you have the photos for that too.
I actually found the key for the cabin on the ground - there was no door - and had it for years. Not sure where it is now - a real archeological treasure! If we ever need a fundraiser I will donate it and without doubt it will raise thousands!!
I think I might even donate the wooden box which was such a desirable item at your Yankee Swap. It has a place of honour at the moment in my card room.
Michal Millar Crowe, Class of 1960
Next time how about telling us about the items that you could buy at Goodyear’s Store when you lived in old town…anyone remember those hard to get items that we might not find today? Thanks email me at email@example.com with info. Many thanks