March 10, 2008
So, here folks, is my question:. Of all that you remember about the fond times growing up in the Old Gander town what place stands out most.? If there was only one of these special places that could have been saved what would it be? And why? Thanks, Faye
OK kids here some of the impressions that the ‘Old Town Gander’ left with you.. Though your words I can visualize how important many parts of the Old town were in your lives. So here my friends are some of the ‘pieces that have disappeared and yet have remained stored in the ‘old’ memory banks. We’ll start with Bob Pelley’s recollections:
“I've been thinking about the buildings I would have saved but the list is too long. I decided to simply make a list of 20 buildings, other than the terminal and the schools, that I particularly remember and some of the reasons.
1. Building 30 on the Army side where I first lived : lots of memories there, like the time in December of 49 or so when someone was looking at 30.30 rifle and it went off with the bullet going under the wood stove and luckily hitting the chimney...or maybe I wouldn't be here to explain it.
2. Star theatre : great movies for the time, the serials, especially the Movietone News, trading comic books, playing marbles and going on the very high swings before the movie started. (already did a piece on that for the website)
3. Coop store on the army side: where my mother sent me when I was 5-6 and came back with empty handed because nobody could figure out what I meant by round split peas.
4. The woodworking shop south of the tracks: had the greatest smell of freshly cut spruce and fir - and there were always scraps of wood around to do projects
5. Nolan and Broderick jewelers : they took up half of the building with the library. I always checked their garbage can when I went to the library as they always were a few non repairable watches in there that were great to take apart and 'fix".
6. The library : I practically lived there, found a ton of books about world war two, historical novels and kids mystery stories.
7. The Quonset huts on the road to Deadmans Pond : when my father took them down, I found hundred of Popular Science, Popular Mechanics and Mechanics Illustrated....an education in itself.
8. Lushes restaurant on the Army side : my father and I sat on the steps one day and he stuck his pocket knife into the side of the step for a second while he was doing something. We found it a year later - all rusted out. Lushes had the best french fries west of St John's.
9. The garages next to Lushes restaurant: My father had the one on the end and I can remember him changing the motor in a 48 or 49 Dodge.
10. The Shell building near the railway tracks: Loved to see the sparks fly when the men would sharpen their tools (and hunting knifes and axes) on the grinde
11. The dry cleaners : always fun to see the big spouts of steam that would come out a pipe on the side of the building
12. The Salvation Army chapel : there was always great music from the band and we all followed them when they would go to play at the railway station when the Saturday evening train came in.
13. Goodyear's restaurant near the railway station : we spent a lot of time there because - people spent a lot of time there... sort of like the hot dog sausage paradox : they are fresh because people eat them and people eat them because they are fresh. And their fries were close to Lushes fries!
14. Vatcher's garage: I don't know if that was the Vatcher who surveyed the site for the airport but there was always a bunch of parts of this and that lying around for our experiments or just playing. I once (happily) found a few .303 bullets out in the back.
15. The railway staff house: went there once with an uncle. There was a poker game going on and for some reason I had five dollars in my pocket that my uncle immediately borrowed to join the game. Didn't know what was going on but loved to watch and have loved poker ever since.
16. The cookhouse near the library : I went past it quite a few times but would never go in... rumour had it that it was full of cockroaches and I didn't want to accidentally bring any of those critters home with me.
17. Bldg 67 on the American side : we lived there for 5-6 years and our main fun was sliding down the 2nd floor fire escapes. Funny, back in those days, nobody was worried when we climbed up the sides and we didn't even have to wear helmets..wow!
18. The RCAF radar site : at times, parts of the site were reverted to civilian use and back again. I remember one particular occasion in maybe 1952-53 where a large section of one of bldgs was used a showroom for a new thingy called a television. It was in black and white and the signal, from I think Grand Falls, was blizzard of snow. But we were impressed all the same.
19. Lushes cabin on Deadman's Pond : There is a lot about this on Liz's old site, but to me, two things come to mind. Firstly, I loved the little walk on the trail along the shoreline and for some reason I loved the small "bridges" along the way with little creeks going into the pond. And the reward for that little walk was a great ice cream cone that was so refreshing on a hot summer's day.
20. The Shell cabin on Gander Lake. This had bee built by RAF officers as an annex to their officers' mess and was taken over by Shell Oil. Because my father worked for Shell at the time, I always thought I was "privileged". But when I come to think of it, just about everybody in Gander seemed to use it. I saw it last year and all that is left was the fireplace and the chimney which is still standing tall and parade-square straight, a salute to those who built it.
They are certainly more buildings that could be mentioned but I'll leave those for some one else's memories!!
- Bob Pelley, Class of 1962
That note started a few memories of my own. Bob mentioned more than a few, but here are a few of my own:
1. Building 22 on the Army Side, where I spent about 12 years of my early life.
2. The Quonset huts that were located north of the Army Side and we used to play all sorts of war and western games. Also found lots of spent bullet casings to make the belts, etc., that were a popular item on the Army Side in the early years.
3. The big field on the Army side were we staged a lot of our popular baseball games.
4. The gravel pit just outside the Army Side were we skated and skied in winter; had our bonfires on November 5; and played in summer.
5. The drill hall next to the Star where, in winter, brave souls jumped off the roof into snow banks; also the railway boxcars we jumped off on our way home from school during the winters.
6. The airplane dump were we spent countless hours climbing over the old wrecks and "flying" the bombers.
7. Bob Chaulk's general store. There is a picture that was taken in that store in the railway museum in St. John's.
8. Bob mentioned the Star Theatre, but how about the Globe! Many a good movie seen there. It was also the place where a lot of the visiting celebrities gave their shows. I'm presently looking at an autographed picture of Hank Snow that was collected at the Globe. There were many other shows there as well (The Carter Family and Ed McCurdy are two that I remember, as well as a school concert that I participated in during my earlier "stage" career).
9. Then there is the Lush establishment before the restaurant on the Army Side. The bowling alley on the American Side which later became a drinking establishment that I remember as Cy's.
10. And who can forget the old natural ice arena on the American Side where just about everyone in Gander froze their a** off watching the Flyers play. And if you were not lucky enough to be at the game, all you had to do was pick up the telephone and dial the arena number, you could talk to just about anyone who was not at the game because the telephone lines were so congested that the telephone system broke down when everyone called the arena to get the score of the game!
There is my contribution to building memories of Gander. I'm sure, given the time, I could come up with a few more! Thanks for the memories, Bob!!
- Jim Butler, Class of 1959
So look who joined us walking down Old Gander’s Memory Lane. Little Angus Taylor. (He’s all grown up now, tells me he plays hockey with the ‘oldtimers’ in B.C. a couple of times a week. Can you believe that they let kids play with oldtimers?). Spends winter in B.C. and summers in NL.
Bob has covered a lot of buildings and provided a lot of enjoyable memories. I'd like to talk about one and that is the old terminal building and what it really meant to me and a lot of other kids growing up.
One of the highlights of our week was catching the bus from the American side and heading off to the old terminal, stopping everywhere along the way. Gander in the 50's, then being truly the crossroads of the world, was the focal point of all trans Atlantic carriers from all over the world. And with them came people--people of all colours and in all sorts of garb, dress and outfits--everyone from the ordinary to the famous. You could just sit there and gawk at all the passengers who came from all over the world.
I remember the old hardwood floors and the passageways that linked up the buildings. You could actually wander through from the main terminal into the hangers. Imagine doing that today at an airport!
The standard drill for me was to head over to the crew room of Imperial Oil where my father worked and sweet talk him into giving me 25 cents ( I don't know how Bob Pelley managed to have $5 in his pocket by the way - where was he when I needed him?) and then head off to the canteen for a plate of chips and coke. You'd actually have change left over from the 25 cents. Then we'd wander over to see if we could sweet talk our way up into the control tower.
Yes folks, we could actually walk up those spiral stairs to the control tower unchallenged, and ask if we could come in and almost always, the answer was yes! You could actually stand there, behaving yourself of course, and watch and listen to what was going on between the skies and the runways. Sometimes you were allowed to pick up and look through those huge heavy binoculars that they had in the tower and get close-ups of aircraft landing and taking off. Well at least they seemed huge and heavy at the time. If you were really lucky, at a not so busy time, you could look into the radar screen. Imagine doing that today!
Now the real nugget would be when either my father or someone else who knew you and was working on a shift that day, took you aboard an aircraft that was being serviced during a lay over. Now that was cool! Sometimes they would be carrying live animals as cargo. Cooler still!
Aircraft full of people coming and going all the time.
Sometimes just to pass the time, I would sit on top of the 'CO-OP Hill' ( which was actually a bomb shelter then used by Skinny Griffin to store his beer and cola - that's another story) and watch the aircraft line up and warm up for take-off one after the other.......KLM, Seaboard and Western, Flying Tiger Line, Sabena, Capital Airways, PAA, TWA, TCA, BOAC and more..... one after the other.
Things sure were simpler then weren't they? At least they seemed so when you were a kid..............growing up in Gander.
Angus Taylor, Class of 1962
Angus talks about corridors connecting the buildings in the old terminal. Does anyone remember the grafitti on the walls there? This one written by an airman in the RAF sticks out in my mind after all these years :
American girls are pretty,
Canadian girls are smart,
But the Newfoundland girl,
Can melt an airman's heart.
I'm thinking, because it was written by an RAF guy and it distinguishes between Canadian and NF girls, it may have been there since WW2. Perhaps written by a lonely Brit airman.
Bob McKinnon, St. Joseph’s Class of 1961
I don't have any pictures to share, only memories. If there was a building I'd like to see again it would be the old movie theatre. When my family and I moved to Gander there was a building boom in progress. New PMQs wre being built and a new shopping mall nearby. There were a few places where one could go for entertainment and no television. That old movie theatre was an oasis for my wife Flo and I. We would go there a couple of times a week despite the old worn put projector.
Of course the rink was another place families could gather for fun. Despite the lack of entertainment facilities, we didn't suffer from a want of amusement. There was a Newfoundland family living close by and we used to visit one another and share stories. Their name was Lambert and they were typical Newfoundlanders - great story tellers and a lot of fun to be with.
Another building I wouldn`t mind seeing again is the old barber shop.I remember my first trip in there. There was a large group of men sitting around swapping stories - I thought it would take forever to get my hair cut. I haven`t been back to Gander since the late 1950s so many things would have changed in the interim. However, Gander will always be a special place for me. Take care
- Dave Gilhen, RCAF Gander 1955-57
We had another barber on the Army Side. I can't remember his first name (perhaps Jack can) but his last name was Faulkner. When we moved to Gander in the mid 1940s we were one of the few families on the Army Side with a telephone during that first year. Just about everyone would drop by to use the telephone. I remember one very cold winter's night when Mr. Faulkner dropped by to use the phone. He came in the house stamping snow off his boots and waving his arms saying, "Boy, it's some frore tonight!"
- Jim Butler, Class of 1959
Dave Gillian had a nice story. I would have to say that some of my best memories include the old Star Theatre. The Ball field in the centre and the gravel pit. These were all on the Army Side. Every Saturday afternoon we went to the movies to watch all those westerns. In season, we played ball on the diamond, hockey in the gravel pit. In that same gravel pit we used to make forts and play coyboys. Also we had our BONFIRES on BONFIRE NIGHT in that same pit. As soon as school started in September we would start gathering up tires, trees, wood , anything that would burn, and then hide (?) it in the woods arround the pit. On NOV 5 we would drag it all down and start the bonfire.
We really worked at it. Later that night there would always be a little "carrying on" by taking some soot and rubbing it on peoples faces. You do realize that a lot of these same stories were told by email , when we first got together for the 2005 reunion, But you are getting some new ones. Keep it up.
- Morley Smith, Class of 1959
The old Star Theatre was a mecca for kids in Gander in the early ‘50s. Every Saturday afternoon for a quarter (10 cents for the movie and 15 cents for a coke and a bar) you could get an afternoon’s entertainment. Some fond memories of the Globe theatre as well.
And the hours of entertainment at the public library, wow, the things you remember when the seed takes hold! Flying the old planes at the airplane dump was usually a Sunday afternoon treat for some of us!
And the fondest of memories for me was the baseball games we played on the sports field just north of the hospital or the big field on the Army Side. Competition between the Army Side and the Canadian Side.
In winter, skating at the gravel pit and the street hockey games on the roads of the Army Side. Cherished memories!
- Jim Butler, Class of 1959
Oh, by the way, that Feburary baby, Campbell Pritchett, just celebrated another birthday:
“Thanks for the birthday wishes, Faye. The big day has arrived, and I don't feel any different. As a matter of fact, I don't even feel 67. So I guess I'm one of the lucky people from Gander Academy. We've been busy with friends and relatives, and interior painting. So we haven't been sailing lately.
“If anything in Gander could be saved,
I'd have to say the old piston aircraft trans Atlantics. Also,
I just talked to Gilbert Wells a few days ago and he's doing fine. He's wrapped up in watching the USA political primaries.
Cheers for now,
- Campbell Pritchett, Class of 1959
Ask Angus if he remember Flying Tiger's planes full of Rhesus monkeys??
Research on these animals resulted in the discovery of the Rh factor, named for the rhesus monkey.
The Rh factor (ie, Rhesus factor) is a red blood cell surface antigen that was named after the monkeys in which it was first discovered. Rh incompatibility, also known as Rh disease, is a condition that occurs when a woman with Rh-negative blood type is exposed to Rh-positive blood cells, leading to the development of Rh antibodies.
This research was done a lot in the 50s. The animals were captured in the jungle and flown to research centers in the US in pressurized DC6s. When the plane landed in Gander they often opened the carrgo doors to let fresh air circulate through the plane, For those of us who had "ramp priviledges(!)", we could see the monkeys in the cages.
I always had mixed feelings when I saw them. They were always a bit comical but there was a tinge of sadness because I knew how they would end up.
Does anyone else remember this?
Bob Pelley, Class of 1962
Searching for the old Gander: This
group of bus passengers at the 2005 Reunion could find little to no
trace of Old Town Gander that once existed.
Let’s hear some more memories like this…be sure to add some of yours to the list by writing to Faye@VillageReporter.com. Thanks in advance.