Goodyear’s Canteen and Grocery (My first Summer Job)

By  Carol (Mercer) Walsh

As I worked on the item relating to Goodyear’s, it bought back many fond memories of my first job.  I was 15 years old that summer and had just finished Grade Ten. I was eager to get a job and, consequently, secured one with Goodyear’s as a waitress at their Canteen located near the Railway station.  My parents had severe reservations about letting me go to work there but finally gave in for some reason that I was not aware of at the time.

I was excited to don my white uniform and white shoes and early each morning I would arrive to the aroma of bacon, beans, and coffee. 

The canteen had an outer area with a private dining room inside that catered mainly to the residents of Gander Inn.  Most of the Gander Inn people were male workers who worked at the Airport and with the various construction companies.   

Anyone, of course, could avail of the Dining Room at any time of the day or evening but, generally, meals were prepared for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  There was a menu of sorts very basic and simple.  Tables were set with white tablecloths but were otherwise very basic with glasses, dishes, and cutlery.  They were a step above the outside booths which catered mainly to the coke and chips patrons.  

The Dining Room also catered to many individuals who traveled to Gander via the ‘wayfreight,” which was a combined freight and passenger train.  It stopped at places like Terra Nova, Glovertown, Gambo and Benton dropping and adding freight cars at each station.  Needless to say, it took endless hours to get from one point to another and travelers were often worn out by the time they arrived in Gander.  Patients from as far away as Port Blandford traveled on this train to visit the Hospital and the Canteen was really the only place for them to get meals unless they traveled by bus to the Air Terminal Snack Bar.

In those days, the wait at the Hospital was extreme and that was combined with the wait also for the train to return them to their communities.  The Canteen, being so close to the Station, became a place for them to rest and socialize and enjoy a meal. 

The main or outer area of the restaurant was a snack bar type of service.  French fries, pop, ice cream, cigarettes, etc. was the main fare.  It was also a hangout as it had a jukebox that played mostly country and western music.   It was where I first heard Elvis!

Patrons in the evenings were mainly workers with the construction companies and young residents.  It was centrally located so that the buses that traveled from the American Side to the RAF Side used it as a stop and its close proximity to the Railway Station was also convenient for those waiting or arriving on the eastbound and westbound Newfoundland Express trains which arrived nightly.

There were two shift supervisors who worked their until it closed its doors, they were, Willis Pritchett and Eli Hunt.  Mrs. Nellie Skiffington was the main cook.  

Although, it was fondly called the “Greasy Spoon” in the mid-fifties, it did not really indicate the nature of the Canteen.  Indeed, under the guidance of these people, the whole restaurant, including the kitchen, was maintained in spotless condition and anyone who worked their soon learned that there were very strict procedures to learn and to follow in order to ensure a safe and clean environment in the preparation of food – an education in itself.

Many a long term relationship began at this popular establishment and, I’m sure, that many people who frequented there would have very fond memories.  It was a place to met and socialize with others.                  

It was certainly not a lavish place but it served a great purpose and provided much entertainment, relaxation, and dining for many. 

As for me, I have only one bad memory and that was when the restaurant closed each night at 11:30 p.m.  It was the duty of the waitresses to clean up and that included mopping the floors!

The next summer I worked at the grocery store where I served customers and wrapped groceries in brown paper tied up with a string – now that was an art in itself.  No paper or plastic bags in those days.  Groceries in this store were behind the counters so a clerk had to pick each item from the shelve and bring it to the counter; cut cheese from a big round and have meat cut by the butcher as needed.  Salt meat was in a big barrel and had to be weighed and sugar was also weighed.  Not much was prepackaged!

…Aah… my parents were wise to let me have a taste of what hard work was really like.  They had hoped that if I survived this it would give me added incentive to get on with my education!