In Conversation with Doug White and Barbara White, October 1995

On July 10, 1995 Linda White interviewed Doug White and Barbara White at their home on Little Street in St. John’s, They reminiscence about Jim White and Jim’s fight to get a causeway for Greenspond. While visiting the Whites, Doug showed me his family Bible that was presented to his father, Frederick White, in 1911.

Although the interview took place in St. John’s, Doug and Barbara spend a lot of their time in Greenspond. They own an historic house in Greenspond that was originally owned by Jacob and Martha Jane Harding.

Well, what should we talk about first, the family Bible, or the causeway? Let’s start with the Bible. This Bible was presented to your father, Frederick White. Your mother was Clara Burton, right. Frederick was the son of James and Eunice White. Clara’s brother was Sidney, Sidney Burton. Where did you live in St. John’s, Doug? When did you move in to St. John’s?

Doug White:   Gower Street. 127 Gower. My parents moved in to St. John’s in 1953. Harry Burton and his parents moved in in 1955. They moved in for Harry [Burton] to find employment. First Harry’s work was playing the organ down at Steer’s on Water Street West. In the department store. The organ was on display in the show room and Harry would play it to encourage the customers. That was only temporary. He did some work on radio, the C.B.C., with Harold Ivany, singing. Harry played and Ivany did the singing.

Barbara White: And you know he was organist and choir master at St. David’s Presbyterian Church. And he was supply organist at Gower and he was the music teacher at Vater’s Academy.

Now, then, this family Bible was given to your father, Frederick White, on December 11, 1911. Do you know who gave it to him?

Doug White:   No, we don’t know who gave it to him.

Barbara White:   I remember now your grandmother’s name. It was Sophie. That was Clara Burton’s mother, Sophie.

Very good. Now then who else is in this Bible.

Doug White:   Sidney White married Dorothy on December 28, 1905. Edgar White married Sarah July 7, 1911. That’s Lester and Wylie’s father. Sarah, she was from Safe Harbour. She was a Burry, I believe. Willis White married Kate Carter in 1911 and Stephen White married Elizabeth Parsons from Gooseberry Island, December 10, 1913. That’s Bob and Ray’s mother and father, and Nina. And Fred White married Clara on August 6, 1919. James White and Eunice were married May 31, 1871 by Rev Craig, St. Stephen’s Church, Greenspond. Now, James White is buried in the Church of England cemetery and Eunice is buried in the old United Church cemetery. Does anyone know if grandfather White is buried with his first wife and is grandmother White buried in the United Church cemetery with her first husband? No one knows. You see, we should have all been Church of England. But Grandmother didn’t follow her husband, James, see. Eunice went to the United Church.

This is a lovely Bible, Doug, Your father, Fred White, he had the store, right?

Doug White:  Yes, he was a smart man, my father was. He went to Crummey’s school. They all did. He had the most education of all of them.

These are lovely certificates, here. This one says the Council of Higher Education, Newfoundland, F. White has Passed the Preliminary Grade Examination of this Council in Second Division, satisfying the examiners in English Grammar and Composition, Geography, Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Bookkeeping, Freehand Drawing, Penmanship. Granted 15th of October 1908. He then received his Intermediate Grade Examination and received his Second Division Certificate in October 1910.

Doug White:  Yes, these are my father’s certificates. I can remember after he opened the store in Greenspond and the examination time came in June month and I was only in kindergarten or grade one. And they’d come down to the Lecture Hall then with the exams and he’d be stood in the door way waiting for them to come up with their papers and look at the algebra and geometry tests. He would do the answers. He knew then. The Whites are good with numbers.

This is Fred White’s birth certificate. He was born 12 of June 1892, Greenspond. Sidney White was born September 20, 1879, Willis White born June 10, 1882, Stephen White born September 24, 1885, Edgar born October 13, 1887, Clara born February 16, 1890, Fred born June 12, 1892. Then there is James White, that’s your brother, right. He was born February 18, 1921 and Dougald born August 27, 1926. Also it says George Burry born February 20, 1872. Now who was that?

Doug White:  That was Eunice White’s first husband. Also written in the Bible is James White died February 11, 1921 aged 78 years and 8 months. Gordon White of Stephen died March 19, 1924 aged 9 years and 10 months. Martin Meadus died June 3, 1932 aged 45. That was Aunt Clara Downer’s first husband, see. Charlie Downer was her second husband. Eunice White died February 27, 1942. I remember. There was mountains of snow. You know Ben Burry’s hill. Well, there was a shop there belonging to John Saunders, and you walk in over the roof. My father was a cripple, see, and he used a walking stick and he couldn’t get up to Pond Head, two days after mother died. And they had to postpone the funeral because they couldn’t get up to Pond Head. Too much snow. She was 89 years and 9 months.

Your mother and father were married in St. John’s were they?

Doug White:   Yes, they were married in Cochrane Street Church on August 6, 1919. The witnesses were Hiram Young and Queenie Young. That’s Vic Young, you know Vic Young with the FPI, that’s his grandmother and grandfather. There’s some relationship there.

Your father died up here in St. John’s on May 12, 1956.  And your mother died October 10, 1963 and your brother, James, died June 1, 1994 aged 73 years. Now, Doug, what’s the earliest thing you can remember about Greenspond? Up in Pond Head.

Doug White:   I was only three when we moved from Pond Head down harbour. I went to the United School, Miss Halfyard was my teacher. Sam Carter would remember her. Sam is three years older that me.

Where was Fred White’s store?

Doug White:   Do you know where Wright’s Tinsmith was? It was right next to that. It was general merchandise. The store was attached to the house. He worked with Boorne Brothers first. Then he went away to Woodstock, Ontario. He was with Boorne’s for 10 or 15 years. Jesse Boorne. He went to work in Ontario with a man Sparkes from Greenspond, Moses Sparkes. He stayed with him for awhile. Uncle Sid Burton went with him. They were both carpenters and Uncle Sid was gone one year and father was gone two. And he came back and set up the store. He bought the house from Silas Sainsbury. And the living room was on the front of the house, fronting the road. And Uncle Mart Meadus, he came in and father had him do some work for him. Put a chimney up through, I can remember very faintly, Uncle Mart Meadus putting the chimney up through the roof of the store. That was in 1932, I believe. And the store closed in 1948. There was no business. I was there fishing. I was 16 or 17. I was finished school. I fished with the Hiscocks, you know, Robert Hiscock and Bill Hiscock. I did that for five years. I was about 24 years old when I came to St. John’s in 1951. I had a job to go to Seven Islands. I stayed with Jim on Empire Avenue. We went to see Joey about getting work up at Seven Islands. The Confederation Building wasn’t there then.

Joey? Joey Smallwood? You went to see Smallwood?

Doug White:  Oh, yes. We had to go see Joey Smallwood. This was the beginning of the Seven Islands. We went to see him for work. We wanted to know about wages and working conditions. I didn’t go afterwards. Job Granter, down Greenspond, he went. There was five or six of us going to go. Arthur Burton, that’s Bill Burton’s son. Bob Lush, Job Granter and I don’t remember who else. Arthur Burton, he took sick that fall, and he came home and he died the following year. This was in 1952.

See we closed the store in 1948 and after Confederation came in there was more money in circulation, see. But the store had been closed, Joey then brought in the resettlement program and Greenspond went down to 250 or 300 people in the early 60s.

So. I didn’t go off to Seven Islands. I went to work with Bob, Bob White, for a month, painting. Then I got a job at the Butter Factory, painting the building outside. So then the first of September I got a job at the Royal Stores. Jim and Shirley went downtown one Saturday night and ran into Frank Mullet. Frank was working at the Royal Stores. And he said to Jim, “Jim, is your brother Doug still in St. John’s?” “Yes,” says Jim. “Well, I can get a job for him”, says Frank. Hiram Young wanted to see me. Hiram Young, see, who was at my mother’s and father’s wedding. He was manager of the wallpaper and paint department. Jim came and got me and took me down to the Royal Stores. And he took me up to see Campbell McPherson. He said, “Would you like to work at the Royal Stores?” I said “Yes, sir, I’d appreciate that very much.” So I started Monday morning. I made $25.00 a week.

Was Dad working there then? [Malcolm White]

Doug White: No your father was gone out of it about a year before that. He was working at furniture on Duckworth Street. I worked at the Water Street building. I worked with Mr. Young for 6 or 7 years and then they transferred me upstairs in the wholesale division. I was there until they closed and the building got torn down and they transferred me to Duckworth Street with furniture, appliances and carpets. That was 1967. They closed down Royal Stores on Water Street in 1965, I think it was.

The Avalon Mall started then, you know. I worked with the firm for 16 years. That was around November 1967. Then I got a job at the Liquor Store. A man I knew called Barb and said “Tell Doug to come and see me I got a job for him.” So, Barb phoned me down to the Royal Stores and I was into the Kenmount Road in less than 20 minutes. And that was Thursday evening and I went back to work the next morning and I didn’t tell anyone about the job, and I went in to see Cluny McPherson, he was managing director at the time. So I went into see him at 9 o’clock and when he see me he said what’s on your mind, this morning? I told him I was resigning.

Did you get a pension?

Doug White: No. I paid in to a pension for about two or three years before I left it and I got it back, about five or six hundred dollars. So, I left it and Monday morning I went to work at the Liquor Store on Water Street. And in 1975 I got the assistant manager’s job and 1984 I got the manager’s job. And in 1989 I threw in the towel, I made a good move – to go work for the government and get a pension.

When you worked at the Royal Stores did you live on Gower Street?

Doug White: I lived on Gower Street for ten years, 1953 to 1963. That’s when we got married in 1963.

Did you know many people from Greenspond when you first came in here to St. John’s?

Doug White: Not too many. There was two or three people who worked at the Royal Stores from Greenspond. Frank Peckford, Frank Mullett, and Betty Mullett, Frank’s daughter. Frank became manager of wallpaper. Betty was working in the office.

Now then, tell us about the causeway. When was it that Jim White, your brother, first start talking about the causeway?

Doug White:   Jim started talking about the causeway at least five years before anything was started.

Barbara White:   Oh he started before that. It was 1969 I first heard him talking about the causeway. I was up by the United Church cemetery, 1968 or 1969, with Barry. It was a real hot evening in July and we were up by the cemetery and Jim stood on this rock near the cemetery and he stood upon the rock and looked out towards the water and he said: “I don’t when or how long … but people won’t be depending on a ferry.  If they put a road in here to Shambler’s Cove it won’t be long before we get a causeway.”

Doug White:   Frank Moores was out here for an election and Jim got Frank Moores down to Greenspond during the election. That was in 1971. He got Frank Moores down to Greenspond and now he said “Frank, promise the people that in all probability you’ll get a road out to Shambler’s Cove. And during the meeting he did promise that if he got elected he would. And he did. See, the road had to be there first. And once they got the road out Jim started at the causeway.

See, Jim was supervisor of Public Works in the government. He was a draftsman. You see, when he came back from overseas, after the war, 1940 to 1945. Five and a half years, he was in the Royal Navy. He came back in January 1946. He came to Greenspond for a week and then he came up to St. John’s to look for work. He worked at with Purity Factories for a short time. And then he went to Halifax. He got married in June and went to Halifax and took a course in drafting. He was there for a year and half or two years. He came back in 1948 and he got a job with the Provincial Government with the Department of Public Works. He started out as a draftsman. He was the outside building supervisor when he retired. He spent twenty- nine and a half years with the Provincial Government. He was 57 years year old when he retired in 1978.

Barbara White: You see he was working with the government and he was in the right department for getting the causeway, the Department of Public Works.

Doug White:   He was after Joey first. He couldn’t get to first base with Joey. Joey said that Greenspond was an island, she was going to be resettled. No. Frank Moores got into the picture. He was elected in 1971. And soon after the road was started to Shambler’s Cove. Then Jim started preaching causeway. They called him “Causeway Jim”.

What did you think at the time?

Doug White:   I didn’t think much. I thought it was just all talk, I didn’t pay any heed. I said to Jim that I can’t see it. The population was getting smaller. This was shortly after the resettlement program. But, then Fisheries Products put a fish plant there in the 1970s. There was various versions on that. It closed up eventually. Jim White and Fred Noel looked after it. Jim looked after the construction work and Fred looked after the finances. That’s Shirley’s brother. His wife, Shirley, they put it there. Then the price of fish went down. And they had high interest on their loan. They had everything against them. They rented it to someone in Clarenville for a year. Then Boyd Way took it over. Things caught up to them financially and they declared bankruptcy. Beothic Processors took it over, Boyd Way. See the plant down Valleyfield was built in 1960 for research by the federal government.

Have I got this right? It was after he retired from the government that Jim went down and built the fish plant in Greenspond?

Doug White:   Yes, that’s right. And after he went bankrupt, he left. He sold his house to Eric Burry. It’s unfortunate that things turned out sour for him. Because I think it had an impact on him.

There was already a bait depot there.

Doug White: The government put the bait depot there in 1944 or 1945 because I worked on it. I worked there. That part is still there. The fish plant was built on to it.  During the time it was operated by Jim and Fred, it had been supervised by three different plant managers.

Barbara White:   He invested all his own money in it. He lost it all.  Interest rates in the 1980s was slcy high.

Doug White:   He did it himself. The causeway was officially opened November 16, 1984.  We were there for the opening, George Cross was there. [Cross was the MHA for Bonavista Bay]. Stephen Mullins was the mayor at the time. Stevie did his best. He did his best to get the causeway, too. They called it the “Jim White Causeway”.