June 4, 2009
Special edition (part 1)
....we continue the discussion
Furnishing our homes in Early Gander: On the question: What kind of furniture did we have in the early days of Gander? Here is what I recall:
Even during the time we were still British citizens (Britain's oldest colony) and through to the present day, we had furniture the same as everybody else who lived throughout Canada, the USA, the British Isles, etc. Said furniture was purchased at local stores or at stores in St. John's and Grand Falls. Check with Jim Strong because some of the furniture may have come from Lewisporte where his maternal grandfather had a store. Somewhere in the dregs of my memory are thoughts that Doris Moss Crowley's maternal grandparents owned and operated Pope's Furniture Factory in St. John's. I am not sure if that is the correct name.
Then, of course other sources were the Eatons, Simpson, Simpson-Sears and Sears catalogues. Furniture and other personal possessions were brought to Gander by its residents from their original home towns. Some were antiques from the "old country" and some were crafted by members of the families who owned them. Unfortunately, quite a bit of the latter was given away to CFA's because the "locals" thought that they were of no or little value when "catalogue" furniture arrived in the province.
Then, some antiques and home crafted furniture were more or less "stolen" or bought for a pittance from Newfoundlander's not knowing or realizing their value.
One of my astounding discoveries - when travelling through out the province as a Girl Guide trainer and commissioner, etc., was to see a beautifully crafted complete dining room set broken into pieces and heaped on top of a woodpile. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies!
One house in particular, that I visited many times over a number of years was situated in Trinity, Bonavista Bay - it was a treasure trove of marvelously honed and well kept antique furniture.
The churches in Trinity were also beautifully appointed and because they were never locked they were (on a weekend) robbed and vandalized. Persons from outside the community were suspected as having been the culprits.
My maternal great grandmother in Bishop's Falls and relatives in Ferryland/Cape Broyle were also blessed as owners of antique furniture, picture frames, sewing machines, and all other household goods. Even the stoves were cast iron works of art. Stoves in the regular kitchen and in the summer kitchen were entirely different and equally attractive.
The HGTV designers of today would "die for" the clawfoot bathtubs and pedestal sinks. Newfoundland furniture would outclass or rival any world class flee markets or antique shows of today.
I still have my rocking chair and iron from my childhood days and many items that belonged to my great grandparents, grandparents, and parents. I proudly display the silver teapot, sugar dish and milk jug that were a wedding present to my parents from Dad's co-workers in Botwood.
(Part 2 to Pat's informative piece will follow in the near future)
And this clarification from Doris Moss Crowley:
Yes, my mother's family had the Pope Furniture Factory on Waldegrave Street and a Showroom on McBride's Hill/Water Street. My great grandmother, Sarah from Fogo, ran the business which initially started out by making coffins. Her three sons continued the business, one of whom was my grandfather, Thomas Pope. Two of his three sons worked in the business but gradually the business died as the demand for 'modern' furniture increased, such as could be obtained in the new Woolworth store of the 50's on Water Street. That was about the time the tram tracks and cobblestones of Water Street had been replaced by asphalt.
I received a Catalogue from Vermont Country Store this week; it's now fashionable to have retro kitchen furniture, vinyl table and padded seat chairs with the tubular chrome metal legs, and a matching kitchen high/bar chair with the fold up steps.
Oh, the dollars we could have saved...