March 14, 2010

Ok folks we’ll start this off with another mystery photo from our early Gander Days. If you recognize this one, please send replies to me at



Now onto something we have been gathering information on for awhile….’Co-op Housing’ being built  in newtown Gander. Thanks Gerri Fitzgerald Nimmo for suggesting this topic….


My father, Jack Fitzgerald, belonged to one of these co-operative groups of 12 men and he, along with 11 others, built our home at 2 Balbo Street. I understand from an old friend of my father's, Morgan Hinchey, who still lives in Gander that the 12 men who belonged to these groups usually gave the group a name.  His co-op group was called 'The Heathers' named by a member who was Scottish - don't recall the name of my father's group.  Apparently starting around 1955 until 1957 there were over 200 homes built through this program in Gander - so there were numerous co-ops groups going at once. 

Dad's co-op group included Ed McCarthy, Gerry Wakeham (father of Bob Wakeham, the columnist), Eric Smith, Abie Knee, Johnny O'Reilly, two brothers by the name of Price. All these men had their regular daytime jobs and after working all day, they would return home, eat dinner early, and then they would all meet at one of the sites about 5 or 5:30 to start work - 12 men building 12 homes. 

The men chose the co-op they belonged to and would do this based on the various skills of the workers.  So in each group there would be plenty of expertise, i.e. my dad worked as a carpenter and also did the bookkeeping for the group, another, a painter, a plumber, electricians, etc.  In Morgan's group, he was the treasurer, and says that they were able to complete their 12 homes without hiring outside contractors - the only outside help they needed was to have someone construct chimneys.  At the time he recalls that it cost about $1,000 more to build a two-story home over building a bungalow.

I recall very well all those long evenings when dad would come home from his job as an accountant with DOT, eat, don his coveralls and off he went with his box of tools to his evening job.  They worked weekends as well.  My mother and us kids would not see him very much during this time.  It took about a year and a half to complete all 12 homes - our home was completed in 1957.   In some cases there were trees to be cut down, lights were set up during the evening hours, and the men would work in freezing temperatures clapboarding, etc. to get the homes built - then there was the excitement when it was announced that so and so's house was just about finished and the family would be moving in soon.  They would be so proud of their work and everyone would come out to visit the newly completed home.

Not sure of all the legalities with the town council of choosing sites, etc. but plans had to be approved, and adhered to, and periodic inspections made but it certainly was an exciting time to see the Town of Gander taking shape and more and more families moving out of the temporary buildings and barracks and into their brand new homes on the 'townsite'.

Would love to hear from others with memories of their homes being built in the mid-fifties in Gander - perhaps there are some out there whose fathers may have been in the same co-op groups as my dad or Morgan's.

Geraldine Fitzgerald Nimmo, SJ Class of 1959


 The name pf the Price brothers were Bill & Clar in that group. Bill was my Dad and I remember  well the building of those houses,.

Gertie Price Collins, GA Class of 1958




I also remember the Co-op groups building new homes in the Town of Gander.  My dad, Ray Carter along with Bill (hotshot) Maloney, Fred Dawson, Howard Cranford, Andy Dyke, Des Griffin, Cal Osbourne, Steve Walsh, Harry Hayward, Harry Rideout, and Cal  Pelley built homes on Hawker Crescent. 

I remember it well.

These men with the assistance of a hired foreman (Mr. Dawe Rideout) worked very hard to complete the construction of each home.  The agreement was that no one could move into their home until all the houses were built.  These men had jobs mostly with the airlines and would have to work on the homes during time off and holidays.  As result of the tremendous work by these men, new homes soon appeared with beautiful lawns. This added to the growth of  the Town of Gander. 

To date, the only original builder still living in his home is Mr. Fred Dawson.  Our home at 62 Hawker Crescent is presently on the market to be sold.  This co-op group were great friends and neighbours and it was a pleasure to have grown up in Gander.

Don Carter, GA Class of 1964

You hit a nerve with me on this subject. My father built our house in the new town under this plan as did other of my friend's families. It was a plan that made home ownership possible for many. Owning a home that required a mortgage was something new for Newfounlander's so keeping their costs low was a priority, especially labour costs. Mortgages were also new. Newfounlander's were used to building their own houses and without borrowing money from banks. Also building a house under this system allowed for a very low down payment and almost a guaranteed mortgage approval.

I was only a lad when this all happened so much of my knowledge on the subject came form overheard conversation from my parents and others at the time. My father's co-op group , what I can remember, consisted of, Lud Hoddnott, Gus Bailey, Walt Mesh jr. Charlie Mullins, Morley Brinson, Clar Lannon, and ???. I just can't remember….

Each evening and weekends the men worked on each of the homes together as a group, taking their turns on the basic construction tasks. Between the group they hired a contractor to do plumbing , electrical work and a master carpenter to supervise their work and to help. I was 13 at the time and I was allowed to help with nailing boards as instructed by my father. Every bit of help was a dollar saved. I didn't learn much. I am still as bad of a carpenter today as I was then.

My father never discussed his financial situation with me so I have no idea on what his mortgage was and I never asked, even as an adult. It just didn't interest me. We had a modest home and it was comfortable to live in. We moved into that house in 1958 and my parents lived there until 1998. The co-op home building system , in my opinion, was a vital key to the construction of the new town.

Jack Pinsent, GA Class of 1960


Reading Jack's account of his family building under coop housing brings back memories of my family leaving the American side to build in the "wilderness of Beaverwood" (now Memorial Drive) where land was available to war veterans who built under The Veterans Land Act. I was about 8 years old at the time but can vividly recall my parents clearing the land, literally by hand. At times when the stumps were too deep they hooked them onto the car to loosen them; eventually pulling them out. No wonder in later years they both suffered from back problems.

Money was tight in my family, too. The house was partially finished when we moved in, floors still plywood, no painting, some sheetrock still to be hung; but I thought I was in heaven for I had my very own bedroom. But my biggest love was being surrounded by the woods..the smells still linger with me today....and my treehouse that gave birth to a vivid childhood imagination.

My parents being quite self sufficient and frugal planted a large garden every summer. Now that was a thorn in my side as my job was "picking rocks' and weeding. Weeding was a cinch!  "Picking rock" was another story! For those of you who don't know, picking rocks was the never ending job of ridding the garden of the ("curse-ed" my dads word) rock that came forth from the earth each year in seemingly ever increasing numbers. They were so plentiful we actually built a rock wall down the length of our driveway on both sides. To this day I grow only flowers, just had my fill of vegetables growing up in Beaverwood.

I'll stop now but my guess is that Ken Barnes, Bill and Jane Baird, Linda Collins and others can tell stories of growing up in Beaverwood amidst some closely knit families who all looked out for each other.

Thanks, Faye for your never -ending work in helping us trigger some wonder-filled memories of our young lives in Gander.

Alice Taylor, GA Class of 1960


Greetings, Faye:

As I've been reading all of these fine articles are various Gander topics, I've been thinking of the archival value of all of this - for today and for the future - those on the Reunion website and those share via email.  Have you kept all of this?  I'm thinking that there must be somewhere in Gander (Library; City Hall) who would value this material.  If not there, I would think that the Provincial Archives in St. John's would find it valuable.

Thanks for all of your work re this.

Marion Pardy, GA Class of 1958


Folks we appreciate all of the kind comments…Jack Pinsent (the flight Webster)  is the keeper of the key for all of this…see you all were making history at the time and didn’t even know it. Thanks for sharing because without your input,  none of this would be recorded in this conversational fashion . Of course we always welcome everyone’s suggestion on any topic for inclusion…just email

Now how about some discussion on ‘clubs, organizations, special passes that we or our parents enjoyed in Gander. I’m told there were many.

All of you ‘kids’ remember the Ground Observer Corps, and we have talked about Scouts and Air Cadets, but what other groups were there and do you still have your membership cards. It would be fun to see some of those different membership cards and passes. Jane Dempsey Donnelly has a train pass that she used to use to get to Clarenville…I’ve heard of a Rod and Gun Club, and the Airport Club…were there cards for that and other groups? And any recollection of what you did or learned as members of these groups would be fun to talk about too..