Short Cuts & Losing Grandfather

by J Pinsent

When I was a young lad, I measured distances in triplicate. Therefore I always ran at three times the speed of walking in order to reduce the distance by 1/3. That is unless either my mother, school teacher or cub master told me not too.

 Just walking from A to B, if it wasn’t in a straight line, seemed like an unnecessary waste of time. That was when I was traveling alone. When with others of course I accepted the pace and the route of the group. Most of my friends felt the same way but we gave way to the slowest denominator.  Maybe it was just a boy thing. Through this philosophy, we devised a new concept in the travel world, so we thought, called the short cut. We had a short cuts to go everywhere.

 From the Army side to the school was a distance of approximately 2 KM (at  the most) via the road. There was a short cut that went through the woods, up by the power plant, past the old hennery, in front of Smith’s house, across the tracks to the school , that was  the standard shortest  route. Normally the morning route. Saved at least 200 meters. But after lunch, if you had to take back books to the library to avoid the 2 cent late book return penalty, you would take the road and cut across the railway tracks, across the field heading towards Bldg 50, then down Churchill St, drop the books off, past the Globe theatre and the heating plant, through the “green lane” to Goodyear’s Canteen/Cash & Carry, stop to buy 5 cents worth of candy, Mrs. Hoddinott  would not sell you gum during school hours, and down Foss Avenue to the school. Some dalliances along the way, being late for school the occasional time. Maybe the same distance but you saved a trip to the library. If the trees were wet from rain then it was the agonizing walk via the road with one little short cut across the first 90 degree turn to the right to save at least 10 meters. There was another 90 degree turn to the left further along the road but you would take another cut up to the railway tracks, in front of Edgar Bairds. Another 10 meters saved.  My world, consisted of saving time and distance.

 That was going to school. Leaving school at the end of the day, travel went into the slow travel mode of fun time. I always had a long way of getting home. My mother gave me marching orders every time I left the house, particularly on my behavior in school, always ending with the phrase  “…and be a good boy”. In my mind, her instructions only had a life span of 24 hrs. And she knew that. So every day, when I left home after lunch it was “ Now you come right home after school…” plus the other normal instructions. “Yes mooooom” I would respond. Great. She didn’t say, ”take a short cut home”.  There were days she forgot to give me the “come home” instruction. Yesterdays instruction didn’t count. She regretted that later.  (more stories there).

 My Grandfather & Grandmother (dad’s parents) came to Gander in 1952 to spend the winter with us. The only time my grandfather had ever been to Gander was during the airport construction in the late thirties. My Grandmother was never here before.  Within a short period of time after their arrival, my grandfather wanted to go up to Goodyears Cash & Carry on the Canadian side to visit Mrs. Hoddinott. She came from a little outport near where my grandfather lived and he had not seen her in years. I was required to go along with him and be his guide. I was only 9 years old but my mom understood I knew my way around and he certainly didn’t.

 The trip to the Canadian side was with my dad who dropped us off in his car. When our visit was completed we started our trek home, my grandfather following me, a 9 year old little boy. Leaving  Goodyears we walked up through the green lane, across Chestnut onto Churchill past the heating plant and the Globe theatre. When I started to leave the road up near Bldg 50 and take my favorite shortcut across the field towards the army side, his immediate reaction was to ask me if I knew where I was going. He had to be kidding. Of course I knew where I was going. Did Gene Autry sing cowboy songs?

 I was one of the first kids to live on the army side. I helped make those shortcuts. I even had shortcuts in the shortcuts that led to other shortcuts. You know, just in case you changed your mind. Also had “secret” shortcuts. These were shortcuts that had hidden entrances. Only our own little select group knew about these.

 We stated a minor grandfather/grandson argument, which I lost. Grandfathers always know best.  He concluded I didn’t know where I was going and refused to follow me. So I said, in so many words “ I’m going this way and if you want to take the long way, go ahead and fill your boots”. I went my way and he went his. I wasn’t going to waste my time talking the long way.

 When I got home, a short while later, my mother asked where my grandfather was. I said  “taking the long way home” and began to explain what had happened and told her about our little disagreement. Both my mother and my grandmother became very upset. “You have lost your grandfather” they cried. “you shouldn’t have left him”.  Talk about putting a guilt trip on a little kid. How could I lose someone? I was upset but deep inside I knew I was right in what I had done.  Besides how could you get lost if you walked along the main road. You would only end up either on the American side, down by the terminal or maybe Deadman’s pond.  My mother called my father and a search commenced. Finally my father found my grandfather wandering the streets of Gander, somewhere down by the railway station heading for the RAF side, completely lost.

 My mother consoled me later telling me that my grandfather was an old man ( in his 50’s) and that I should watch out for him, him not being familiar in a “big” town.  I don’t know if my grandfather admitted to himself that I was right or not. He never mentioned to me about what had happened but from that time on, “I was number 1” in his eyes and he made me feel as if I was the smartest kid in the world.


 Morley & I