June 22 , 2008
The subject of piggeries in Gander is still on our minds, and beyond that, we’ve had some discussion of Joey Smallwood and then our first jobs. Let the conversation begin…
“Just a note to say that woods have grown up around the 2 piggeries with the floor of the RCAF and part of the chimney left and the chimney still stands at the RAF side piggery. I walk my dogs, depending on the time of year, in those areas.”
Peter Blackie, Class of 1957
And somebody mentioned that Joey Smallwood started a piggery in Gander…
“Got another Joey story for you. One of my first jobs in Ottawa was as Secretary to Jack Pickersgill, who at the time was Minister of Transport. He was “given” a seat in Nfld by Joey. As former Secretary to Mackenzie King, no one knew their way around Ottawa better than Jack, and he did many good things for Nfld. I accompanied Jack to Nfld for one of his riding visits and naturally we had to pay respects to Joey at his circular “ranch” home outside St. Johns.
The home was filled with books and clutter, and with about a dozen sofas there was barely room to sit down. And of course Joey had a large indoor pool. (Amazing what you could do on a salary of, at the time, $15,000 a year).
Joey took me to his downstairs bedroom, and found a pair of his “Florida” swimming trunks for me, since I hadn’t bought any.
So out we go to the pool, and there was Jack, Andrew Crosbie, John Crosbie’s brother (at the time the Crosbie’s were Liberals) and another Assistant. After a short swim Joey just had to give a speech (even though we were only 4 people). So he stood in the short end of the pool (I think he was about 5’ 5” tall), and we stood in the deep end. He made a wonderful 20-minute speech about another company he was bringing to Nfld, and we stood there and had to applaud.
Great memory and he was a remarkable man.
Ken Barnes, Class of 1960
While I’m at it, I’ll tell you my favorite Jack Pickersgill story.
He was a very skilled politician who could not get elected on the mainland. Joey wisely selected him to become Nfld’s cabinet minister, and introduced him to the voters of Bonavista Twillingate. (Jack told me this story late one night, as I was driving him home from a tour of the riding.) So the Nfld Liberals welcome Jack in St John’s and decide to take him in a trawler up the coast to Bonavista harbor. On the way they feed him his first real Newfie meal, naturally it was Fish n’Brews (fried fatback pork and salt codfish, in case you have forgotten).
It became a bit of a problem to keep down in the rough seas. And Jack said he did his best to bring up the meal in the head before they arrived, but did not succeed.
Those were the days when Joey spoke for an hour and Jack spoke for 5 minutes. Jack said he climbed on a barrel beside Joey in the natural amphitheatre harbor, and smiled at the crowd. He said if he threw up then and there it would have been the end of his political career. So the only way he could keep the food down was to clasp his fingernails into his palms, so hard, that his hands bled. He said the pain kept his stomach under control until he was introduced. Once he spoke he was OK. He said he barely made it into the head on the trawler when finished to bring up the meal, and was OK after that.
Talk about a determined politician.
Ken Barnes, Class of 1960
Ken, you were secretary to Jack Pickersgill? How old are you, about 120? Have you ever thought about going into zoology...you’d be good with dinosaurs!!
Just kidding – Pickersgill also worked with Louis St. Laurent, and became Clerk of the Privy Council in 1952. Some say he was more influential in bringing Nfld into Confederation than Joey was. He was also one of nine people to be given the title of “the RIGHT Honourable” rather than just “honourable” without having been PM, Govenor-General or member of the Privy Council. As devious as the devil in my mind but in his case it could be taken as a compliment.
You are a lucky person, Ken, to have been able to work with folks like JP.
Bob Pelley, Class of 1962
Also a memory about the "other" piggery owner. I remember in the late 1940s when Joey was coming through Gander on the Express train (arrived at 9:15 pm at Gander Station) my father took me up to see the famous man he knew. When Dad was talking with Joey he patted me on the head and said hello.
Years later, in 1980, his son did the legal work for my second house and his office was in the same building where Joey was working on his "Encyclopedia of Newfoundland". Joey came over to talk with me and then he took Stephen (my youngest son) over to his desk and sat down. Taking Stephen on his knee, he chatted with him and gave him cookies, etc., for quite a while.
Some fond memories.
Oh look who just popped in—Bob McKinnon, with his recipe for ‘Mustard Salad’. I was asking him to come to the Newfie Potluck Supper (previous column), and was wondering if anyone remembered this recipe. Thanks Bob…
Preparation procedure for mustard
Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s Class of 1961
Thanks Bob…Jellyfish you say?
So on to the question about first jobs. Let Jack Pinsent start things off here…
After we moved into the new town in 1958, I started working at the Co-op Supermarket on Friday evenings bagging groceries. The work day was from 5:00PM till 9:00 PM for a wage of 75 cents an hour. Every second Friday after work. John Anstey, the store manager would pay us $6.00. Don’t forget, a coke cost a dime, you could buy a candy bar for a nickel and a movie was 35 cents so 6 bucks was a princely sum for a teenager.
This one day I received a call from Mr. Anstey. He would like to talk to Gene Simms and myself. He had a proposal for us. Would we like to make a little extra cash? Over the winter the store had over stocked their potatoes and subsequently a lot of them had spoiled. We would come in every afternoon from 4:00 till 6:00 and cull the bad potatoes from the good ones. It would take about 5 days he figured. At $1.50 a day for 5 days, of course we would. A little extra pressure on me because now I would have to avoid detention.
The first day at the potato culling job we were led down into the basement of the store, into the cellar where the vegetables were kept. Along one side of the wall, 75lb bags of potatoes were stacked. And there were a lot of them. What was that smell? Just a few rotten potatoes we were told. A few rotten potatoes! These bags were practically all rotten. Liquid potatoes were leaking out of the bags all over the place. What a mess picking through these rotten potatoes looking to separate the good from the bad with our bare hands. No rubber gloves. It took us about an hour to figure it was easier to condemn the whole bag then pick through these rotten spuds. We did have to produce some results so the not so bad looking, or drier bags, we had to pick over. Even at 15 years of age, we did have some scruples.
We didn’t get the 5 days work we were promised. Just a couple if I remember. They realized the ratio of bad vs good potatoes wasn’t worth the effort. Anyway we made $3 but what we had to endure.
And I thought the piggery smelled bad. It seemed like an impossible effort trying to wash the smell from my hands, not to mention what my Mom went through washing my clothes. I had complained before but bagging groceries sure was a good job after that. The check-out girls smelled a lot nicer as well.
Jack Pinsent, Class of 1960
OK that’s what we’re talking about, first jobs. I still have some more contributions in reserve on that topic. So come on folks, let’s hear your story about your first, worst, favorite or best job in the world. Just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org And thanks. Honestly, isn’t this stuff fun? Could anyone have had a better childhood than living or growing up in Gander? I don’t think so