Interview with Jean Burry White 1994

INTERVIEW WITH JEAN (BURRY) WHITE
Interview with Jean White at her home, 99 Commonwealth Avenue, Mount Pearl on February 28, 1994, Jean was born in Greenspond and was married to the late Robert White. They have three children: Gordon, Barbara and Bernice,

Interviewer; Now, Jean, start at the beginning.
Jean: I was born Jean Burry in Greenspond, Bonavista Bay. I’m not telling you my age. My parents were Llewellyn and Elizabeth Burry, She was a Burry before she was married. Her mother was a Squires from Eastport, Dora Squires. Her parents came from England.

Interviewer; Do you have brothers and sisters?
Jean; Yes, Raymond, Marion, Josie and Verna. Verna was here all day, today, That’s when you should have come in. That’s all we talked about today was olden times. Baxter brought her in about quarter to ten. She sat in the big chair and I sat in the rocking chair. Baxter, her husband, is Baxter Parsons from Bloomfield. My brother Raymond was married to Catherine Wheeler from Greenspond. He died about three years ago. You knows Edward Wheeler and Aunt Lizzie Wheeler used to live over on Ship’s Island, you know the little short woman, she was part Eskimo, well that was Catherine’s mother.
My sister Marion, she died in October, She was married to Albert Snelgrove. He was from Lower Island Cove. Josie is married to Gordon Janes.
Interviewer: I must ask you now that we’re talking about Josie and Gordon, is their house near the cemetery? Was that a Catholic cemetery?
Jean: Yes. The Catholic cemetery is right by there. The Catholic Church was right across from them. What they call the chapel. That’s over near… you know where Ned Coward used to live. Well there’s a little lane that goes up there, well that’s where the chapel was. Chapel Lane it was called. I can remember the chapel. There was nobody going to it then. It was in a state of disrepair.

Interviewer; You can see the headstones in the cemetery. I think the priest used to come over from St. Brendan’s. Hannah Kennedy was the last Catholic buried there.
Jean: Yes. Aunt Hannah Kennedy. I think the Church of England minister buried her. And in the spring the priest come down from St. Brendan’s and buried her all over again. You know, did the ceremony.

Interviewer: Did you go to school in Greenspond?
Jean: Yes, the Salvation Army School. I never finished grade ten. My sister, Verna, she got grade eleven.

Interviewer: That’s a lot. Not many got that much education then. Why did you give up school?
Jean: I came up here [St. John’s] and went to work, went in service.

Interviewer: Everyone went in service, didn’t they? Who were you with?
Jean: I went with a Mrs. Chafe, She lived down off Queen’s Road. Then when I left there, I went to work with Emma Sweetapple, That’s my father’s cousin.

Interviewer: Are they from Glovertown?
Jean; She’s from Greenspond but he’s from Glovertown. His name was Dawson Sweetapple and she was Emma Burry from Greenspond.

Interviewer: Now, how did you hear of Mrs. Chafe?
Jean: Well my sister, Marion, was working with Rev. Burns of Gower.

Interviewer: Rev. Burns. He was the minister of Gower Street Church? How did she hear of the job?
Jean: I don’t know. She came up here looking for work and probably got in with someone who knew the Burns were looking for somebody. The Chafes were friends of the Burnses and Mrs. Burns asked Marion where she could get a girl. And Marion said my sister is looking for a job. She said “tell her come on.” This was in 1942. I came up on the Sagona.

Interviewer; This was when the war was on. Was this your first time out of Greenspond?
Jean: Yes.

Interviewer: Was it exciting?
Jean; Yes. It was exciting. Yes. Mr. Chafe was down to meet me. When he came down for me at the railway, when I got in the car he asl<ed me if I was nervous coming up? And I said no. And he said, “Didn’t you think about the submarines?” And I said, no, that wasn’t in my mind. He knew a girl when he was overseas by the name of Jean, Jeannie, And every now and then he used to sing “I Dream of Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair.”
I didn’t stay with them very long. I was there about four months. They were alright but they wanted everything done. Mostly what I done was serve the meals because they had another girl there. She was from up in Trinity somewhere. They had two girls and we had to do everything, We used to sleep right up on the top floor, and they slept down on the next floor, and then the living room and dining room was down on the next floor and then downstairs was the coal bunker cause they used to burn coal then. We used to have to bring it up to put it into the stove. And they had laundry tubs in the kitchen and most of the laundry was done by scrub board.

Interviewer; Did you have to look after the children, too?
Jean: No, they were 12 and 14 years old and could look after theirselves.

Interviewer: What did he do, Mr. Chafe?
Jean; He used to work at the Daily News, I believe,

Interviewer; How much did you get paid?
Jean; Ten dollars a month. I left after four months, They were talking about moving in the country for about a month or six weeks. And she said you’d have to scrub floors and bring water from the well. So I said to Marion I’m not going in there. So anyway father was up here working. He did carpenter work.
I left the Chafes and went in with Emma Sweetapple, my father’s cousin. They lived up on Campbell Avenue. Father used to come in there a lot and Stanley used to board there, you know Stanley Burry. Emma had six boarders. So I helped her out.

Interviewer; How much did you get paid there?
Jean; Fifteen dollars a month.

Interviewer; Did you have to work all year round? Did you get time off in the summer?
Jean; No. No. You’d get one day off a week and every second weekend off. You’d get off Saturday night and Sunday night. But you’d go back there to sleep. You’d get off Sunday to go to prayers. I went to the Salvation Army on Adelaide Street.

Interviewer: Did you know Mom [Joyce (Carter) White] and Aunt Leah [Leah (Burry) White] then?
Jean: No. Leah wasn’t in here then. I think she was still up in New York then. 1942. I don’t know. The first time I met your mother was when we had our wedding.

Interviewer: Is that right? When did you get married?
Jean: We were married down to Gower Street in 1942. Nina White [Bob White’s sister] was maid of honour and Albert was best man. Nina went away in 1944. Nina used to work down at Gerald S, Doyle.

Interviewer; Was she in service too?
Jean: She used to be in service until she got the job down Gerald S, Doyle. She used to work in the factory where they made the cod liver oil.

Interviewer: Where was she in service? Gosh, every woman in Greenspond went in service, didn’t they.
Jean: She was in service with the Perlins. Her and Olive Crocker. Then she went in service with somebody up on Patrick Street. And from that she went away to the States.

Interviewer: Did you know Bob in Greenspond before you got married?
Jean: Oh yes.

Interviewer: Where did you live in St. John’s?
Jean: First we lived on Calver Avenue when we moved in in 1947. Gordon and Barbara were born in Greenspond and Bernice was born in here. Then we moved over on Freshwater Road in 1964. Mother and father was up with us that winter cause she had cancer. They used to stay most of the time with us. And she’d stay in Mount Pearl with Verna. She died then in 1965. Father went back to Greenspond and then he’d come in here. Verna and Baxter moved back to Bloomfield and he went out there, Then he’d go back to Josie. Move back and forth like that. And then he got sick.
We moved off Freshwater Road and down to Winchester Street in 1968. I started working over the Grace Hospital then. I was there until 1986 in the diet office.

Interviewer: Now, tell me about your mother, the first librarian in Greenspond. That’s Mrs. Elizabeth Burry. Did she have education?
Jean; Yes. She was a teacher first. I’ll tell you where she taught. Up in New Harbour.

Interviewer; Where’s that to?
Jean; Up around the point [Shoe Cove Point]. Up in New Harbour. There weren’t many families up there then. So when she came home in June, that was it. Yes, when she came home in June she said that was it. She didn’t like teaching.

Interviewer; Now, where was she born?
Jean: She was born in Pond Head. Her parents were Dora Squires from Eastport and Aaron Burry from Greenspond.

Interviewer; How did they meet?
Jean; He always had schooners, what they called bulleys then. And I suppose going up the bay that’s how he met her.

Interviewer: When he had schooners, did he go into St. John’s with his fish?
Jean; Yes. I can just remember him. He died a young man. He wasn’t very old. One time on the Labrador fishing he got a hook in his finger and it turned to blood poisoning, So on their way up they took him into St. Anthony and they cut off the finger to the joint but it was gone further up and he died that winter. It never healed. He was 68 or 69.

Interviewer; Jean, who were your father’s parents? Llewellyn Burry’s parents.
Jean; Sarah Hunt and Mark Burry.

Interviewer: Is he Mark Burry from Newell’s Island? The man that had the ferry going back and forth to Ship Island. Clarence Burry told me about him.
Jean: Yes, that’s him, Marky Burry.

Interviewer; Can you remember them?
Jean: Yes. Gordon was about three years when she died.

Interviewer: Was Sarah Hunt a Hunt from Ship Island?
Jean; Yes. Aunt Fanny Burry was her sister. Fanny’s husband was Saul Burry. That’s Clarence Burry’s grandparents, Fanny and Saul Burry. See, we’re related, Clarence Burry and myself. Fanny had another sister over the Main, over in Port Nelson, that’s Louie White. She was my grandmother’s sister. Sarah Hunt’s brothers were; William (Billy), Thomas, Noah and Henry. Noah and Henry were over on Ship’s Island. And then there was Aunt Ella Hunt. She married a Young and they lived in Long Island, New York. There was also Parker Hunt.

Interviewer; We’ve lost the librarian, Elizabeth Burry. I think we got sidetracked.
Jean: She was born in Pond Head. She was a school teacher for a year. She had grade eleven. Mr. Crummey was there then, you see, as teacher. She didn’t like teaching. So then she got a job down the Union Store. She was there for two or three years perhaps, \ don’t know, and from that she got married to father. Father lived on Newell’s Island.

Interviewer: So they lived on Newell’s Island. When did they move over to Greenspond?
Jean: Well, I was the first one born in Greenspond. Marion and Raymond were born on Newell’s Island.

Interviewer; And you and Josie and Verna were born in Greenspond.
Jean: I was born… you know where Dot Woodland lives…well there is a house right up from that, right up by the road and it was Charlotte Granter’s house. She had a son named Ray. Well that’s where I was born. In that house. While father was getting the house built we lived there for a few months and then we went and lived up on the island, up … do you know where Aunt Polly Wheeler lived? Well we lived up there for here in two or three months until father got the house built.

Interviewer: And where did he build the house?
Jean: Where Wince [Winston Burry] is living now.

Interviewer; Oh, I see, across from the Salvation Army School. You didn’t have far to go to school. Do you know why they moved off Newell’s Island?
Jean; Well, I suppose. Well, a lot of men went away to New York to work. And father was one of those. He was up there I think for three years. Go up in the spring and come back in the fall. He did that for three years. That was in the 1920s.

Interviewer; When did he die, your father?
Jean; In 69, 1969. And mother died in 1965. My mother was 69 years old and my father was 79 when he died.

Interviewer: Did he do carpentry work in New York?
Jean; He had done fishing, you know. But there was no fish. So he worked around the Island. He worked down in Port Hope Simpson for two years. He was down there with those people from Glovertown, the Sweetapples. He did carpentry. And he worked in Grand Falls and Corner Brook and he worked in here, in St. John’s, a lot, He built a house on Empire Avenue. And he helped build a house on Hamel Street. It used to be Cec Oakley’s house.

Interviewer: When he came home did he bring things back with him?
Jean; He brought me back a doll and he brought Josie back one too. They were big dolls. Nice. Their bodies were straw but hands and face were porcelain. And he brought me back a little dog, a yellow one with a red ribbon on it’s neck. And I had that dog until, we used to keep her in the front room…and we had a little round table in the corner, and the family Bible used to be there. And that’s where the dog used to be kept, on the family Bible.

Interviewer; You didn’t play with it?
Jean: No. Wasn’t allowed. When I got married and went to Pond Head I took my dog with me. And my doll. One day a little fellow came to the house. He was about two or three years old. Walter Pond. That’s Evelyn and Harry Pond’s son. He came down to the house and he saw the dog and he wanted her. He used to cry for the dog. So I gave it to him. But my doll, I had that one until we moved in here in 1947 and Aunt Clare Downer took her and did her up and gave her to Vera, Ben Downer’s daughter. I didn’t bring her in here, no.

Interviewer: You were in service and then left the Sweetapples to get married. Did you and Bob stay here or go back to Greenspond?
Jean: We stayed in here for four months. Bob got laid off, see. Bob worked at the butter factory.

Interviewer: I didn’t know that. How come he came into St. John’s? To go to work, too? Everybody came into St. John’s to get work.
Jean: Oh, yes, that was the main place, here and in Gander when the war was on. He went to work with the butter factory and then he went to work with Bill Lovelace. Painting.

Interviewer; Is that Lovelace from Greenspond?
Jean: Yes. So we’ll get back to mother now.

Interviewer: Yes, we get off track.
Jean: Yes we do. Mother was librarian for years and years,

Interviewer; When she came back and worked at the Union Store for a few years and then she got married.
Jean; Yes. After all her family was gone she went to work as the librarian.,. She was librarian until 1964. Harry Wright was looking after the library. That’s Ralph Wright’s brother. Harry Wright asked her if she would go. He said it would be a good job for her. She didn’t want to at first but he Icept on after her. So she said she’d try it. She used to get a lot of letters and books from Bob Saunders. Robert Saunders.

Interviewer; Oh, yes, Robert Saunders. That’s Louise Saunders’s brother. He’s the one who used to write up in the Newfoundland Quarterly.

Jean; Yes, she used to get letters from him, And he used to send down for stuff. And mother used to get stuff from the library and ask people in Greenspond things and she’d send the information to him. Yes, that’s where he got a lot of information from for his articles.

Interviewer; You haven’t got any of his letters?

Jean: No, maid. Mother knew Jessie Mifflen. She used to come here to St. John’s for the librarians’ meetings. I got a picture of her with the librarians at a meeting.

Interviewer: Tell me about her wanting to get her hair done when she came to St, John’s for the librarians conference.
Jean; Yes, she wanted to get her hair done. So I took her out to Murphy’s on Blatch Avenue, a beauty parlour on Blatch Avenue. First time ever getting her hair done. And she wanted it cut so they cut it to shoulder length. Mother always had a bun.
And so they then put her under the dryer, and when she was under the dryer she’d look over at me and say it was too hot and that she was going to get out from under it. I’m not staying here she’d say, And she made me ashamed so I put the paper up in front of me eyes so I wouldn’t see her.
So when the lady took her out, her hair was still wet. But the hairdresser had to let her go. She said to me, your mother is some nervous. That was the first time she was ever in a beauty parlour. So when we came out through the door she said to me “First time in and last time in.” Never again she said would she have her hair done in a beauty parlour.
When we got home, then, she was trying to get it up in bun and didn’t know how cause it was too short. So she went in the room, in the bedroom, and took a card of clips and when she came out she had it done, all pinned back and a hairnet on. And that’s how she went to her meeting.

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Get the latest information on Greenspond Historical Society news, projects, funding, volunteer opportunities, and more!