A Black & White World

by Jack Pinsent


A question was recently asked on growing up in Gander, what particular place or event sticks out in my memory. I sat for awhile and thought. As memories flashed through my mind, I kept thinking about the one thing that kept occurring and reoccurring, It was the lack of colour in my memories. I am not colour blind so why do I not remember anything that was colourful. I grew up in a black and white world.

For those few brief months of Summer each year, there were green leaves on trees that blended in with the colour of the majority of buildings in Gander . All buildings were covered with green strips of a covering that resembled roofing tiles with the exception of the brown and white shingled houses on Chestnut street and some business and government buildings or the mustard yellow coloured CNR houses down by the railway station.

When there were no clouds there were the blue skies. All the open fields or parade grounds were brown or concrete grey. No grass to speak of except little tuffs that managed to grow by the roadside or in random places, like weeds. Where the grass did grow, it grew unkempt, uncut and turned golden with the summer sun. I never seen a lawn mower until we moved into the new town and then it was a non motorized push mower. There were no flower gardens or rose bushes.. Just the wild flowers that grew sparsely along the roadsides. Well, maybe a flower box here and there with a few Pansies growing

In the winter months, everything was white for a short time till the snow turned a dark grey with the smoke and ash residue from the heating plants and houses that were heated with wood or coal. A new snow fall and everything became white again for a short time. The  terminology “don’t eat the yellow snow” was replaced with  “don’t eat any snow”. During the Autumn months the leaves turned yellow before falling with the wind. As for Spring, we went from Winter right into Summer.

Airplanes in those days were unpainted. Just shinny and silver, sitting on a black tarmac.

All motor vehicles were either brown, dark blue/green or black with the exception of a red fire truck seen through the doors of the fire hall. Our clothing were the same. Just different shades of brown, navy blue, denim, black or beige. Our school uniforms consisted of grey trousers/skirts and navy blue sweaters with a red, white, and blue tie on a white shirt. School uniforms were not strictly enforced but encouraged. Those that couldn’t afford uniforms wore clothing of a colour that wouldn’t stand out or be in contrast to the uniformed.

Girls wore black skirts with pink poodles and some of the older boys wore pegged charcoal grey slacks with a pink strip running down each leg. Slacks my mother refused to purchase for me. In the late fifties Plaid became a popular material for the girl’s skirts and slacks. The boys leaned toward Plaid mainly in sports coats. Oh, I almost forgot our father’s shirts. The more popular tartans of choice were the patterns of grey, black and white or shades of dark green and black.

Movies were in black and white except for coloured cartoons that were rarely shown as a filler before the feature attraction. The scattered movie, only shown at the Globe theatre, would be in Technicolor. The first movie I remember ever seeing in colour was The Robe. Not really a thriller for a young boy. I was more interested to see a Technicolor Cinemascope movie and my mother bought my story of me wanting to see the movie for its religious content. My power of persuasion had to be amazing. Our plain uncoloured world was never held in comparison to the black and white movie world.

Like movies, all photography was in black and white. When looking at photos there never was any question of what colour things might have been.  Photos were taken mainly of people or objects. Without colour, scenic photos were meaningless. Sunsets and sunrises were left to memory to be described to others as too their beauty.

Colour couldn't have been important to me and didn’t leave any mental impressions. That in its self, I think, was unique. It seemed as if there was just an absence of any contrasting brilliant colours. Maybe normal for those times.  But it was an exciting time growing up in Gander. Maybe all that excitement and devilment made me colour blind.

 Morley & I