Les Andrews

On July 8, 1961 interviewed Lester Andrews at his home in Wesleyville. Although only Skipper Les is featured in this article, his wife, Neta, was also there in the kitchen filling in the blanks. I would like to thank Neta and Les Andrews for their kind hospitality.

Now, then shall we start at the beginning. You’re Lester Andrews, And, are you going to tell me how old you are?

I’m Lester Andrews, yes. And I’m seventy-five. I was born in 1921, so you can’t get away with it, The 17th of September. Born here. My father’s name was Harry, Well, I should say Henry, but let it go. He always called himself Harry. My mother was Eliza, Eliza Blackwood. Mother was from Brookfield and father was from here.

Do you have brothers and sisters?

I have one brother, Harry. His birthday is August 3rd, and he’ll be 70 now August the 3rd coming. Yes, I’ve got a sister named Sadie. She lives in St. John’s. She married a Burry. From Greenspond. He was born on Greenspond.

Well, good enough.

She married Doug Burry. He was born in Greenspond but they moved to Port Union—that’s where they grew up to. And I got a sister Emma. She’s married to Frank Spurrell in Badger’s Quay. And I got a sister Pearl and she lives in St. Pete’s, Florida. She married a Yankee. I got another sister Isabel. I had six sisters you know. There was three brothers but the other fella is dead. Edward died. He was two years older. And Isabel is in Toronto. And she’s married to Harold Humphries. And Bernice, she lives in St. John’s. The oldest sister, she’s dead, Triffie. She was never married. If she was living she’d be 81. She had a business in St. John’s, Modern Clothing Stores. She died suddenly. Triffie was short for Tryphena.

So, then, you grew up in Wesleyville. Here all your life? And you worked on boats all your life?

All my life, my dear, all the 75 years. Yes, on boats all my life.  Clear the last ten years. I had 50 years when I gave up the Greenspond ferry when the causeway went across. I gave up then.

Now then what was your first boat? You went to work with somebody first.

Oh my land. I had a lot of boats. I worked with my father, always down to the Labrador fishery. He was a Labrador fisherman. He always had his own boat. He was a Skipper. I learnt my trade with him. I was 12 years old the first time I went to the Labrador. When we joined Confederation that was our last trip. I was foolish enough to go back again 10, 12 years after. But that was no good, the fish was all gone then. We had two or three years very good years, but the last two years was a complete failure. When did I go back the last time? She won’t talk now cause we took her down the year of the jinx. We never got no fish at all. Yes, that was her fault. That was 1969 and there hasn’t been nothing down there since.

Your wife only went to the Labrador once. And there was no fish. Well, it had to be your fault. A jinx,

She was the cook. There was ten men on the crew. At that time you couldn’t get too many Wesleyville men to go fishing. They got too smart to go fishing. They went at different jobs, on the land work. Gander was under construction. If I was that smart, if I’d had give up instead of going to the Labrador, forgot about it, sold the schooner, I’d have been alright. But I thought it would be alright on the Labrador, and the prices were good. And when the road went through, well, you couldn’t get no freight then. Because I used to go to Greenspond almost as often as when I had the ferry, you know, when I had the small boat carrying freight there. But when the road got through that was the end of the coasting. You had to do something so I decided to go to the Labrador, to try it. The first two or three years was alright.

What year was that?

That was 1969. I tell you something, now. We thought we was going to finish up in Groswater Bay, or … they calls it on the radio. We always called it Groswater bay. Well, we got 1200 up there and the fish cut off, and we had to go down, down to Young’s Harbour, and that’s right down amongst the Inuit. I used to tell Henry stories about the Iniut . They were nice people. My father knew one old man there, a good man, a good worker, could salt the fish. Well, it was 20 years from the time I went down with my father and the next time I went down. Now Henry, my son, had growed up then. So by and by seen the old fellow coming. He had to walk across the neck, about two miles. He had to come see us. Now this was 20 years since I last saw him. Poor old fellow, it was a hot day. He came on board and shook hands. By and by he looked around at Henry and he said; “your son. Skipper? Your son?” He recognized Henry, See Henry looked like me.

He came aboard by himself, Usually when a Inuit came aboard a schooner he’d bring the whole family. That was a great trip,

So, everything you learnt about boats you learned from your father?

Yes, everything I learnt from my father, Yes, my father fished all his life. And his father before him. Right on back. My grandfather came from a place called Cape Island. And you know something, my great grandfather Blackwood, James Blackwood, he was drowned in Greenspond. In 1853. He was 27 years old. He had his own vessel, going foreign. Yes, he was from Greenspond. And on top of that, Andrews, me old great grandfather Andrews come from Greenspond and moved to Cape Island. See, there wasn’t room enough up Greenspond. No. That was John Andrews that came from Greenspond. It was too crowded up there and they had to move down here. John Andrews’s son was George Andrews and his son was Noah Andrews. And Noah’s son was Harry, my father.

So there was John Andrews who had George who had Noah who had Harry who had Lester who had Henry. Now that’s some family tree. So it was John Andrews who lived on Cape Island, was it?

Yes, and you know what, his headstone is still standing on Cape Island. It’s all gone now. Just the headstones left. A lot was washed away. I used to go over there quite often. Very friendly people on Cape Island.

So your mother was a Blackwood.

Mother’s father was Peter Blackwood.

Now you learnt all about boats from your father. Did you have any formal training?

Oh, yes, I got a ticket.

Where did you go for that?

St. John’s. Yes.

Now, when was the first ferry going up to Greenspond?

Now, that’s something I can’t tell you. But the Clara Hallett was the name of the first boat, the first ferry. Yes, called after Tommy Hallett’s wife. Old Tommy Hallett in St. John’s. Big fish merchant.

Now who owned the boat?

Now, see the Clara Hallett was a fishing boat, one time. There was an old fellow up on Silver Island who owned it. Silver Fox Island. Abel Feltham. Now that’s who owned the boat. She was turned into a ferry.

Now who owned it when it was a ferry?

Can you remember the ferry? Coming up on the ferry?

Oh yes, I can remember the ferry, I came up on the ferry. But I can’t remember the names,

Bill Pickett owned her after that. He made a ferry out of her. He lives in Centreville now, I believe. He was running the boat for a while. He was a friend of Mrs. Hutchins, Victoria Hutchins.
After Bill Pickett, Skipper Don Sturge took over the ferry, Don Sturge from Valleyfield. I went to work on her in ’75. Skipper Don Sturge had 8 or 10 years on her. That was around 1965. Don Sturge took over around 1965. I went on in ’75. The ferry went from the public wharf in Valleyfield. They used to go from Bown’s wharf. Bown’s wharf was nearly all dropped down, so they had to get out of it, Yes. They used the coastal wharf in Valleyfield after that. Bown’s wharf used to be the terminal.

Yes, I can remember Bown’s wharf. We used to park the car there and then pay the youngsters money to look after the car. Youngsters in the area.

In Greenspond we landed at the Government Wharf. Always. Clear when it was too bad to get out around and then you go in on back of the island.

Anything unusual ever happen on the ferry? Real rough trips?

All rough trips. All rough trips in the fall of the year. Southeast winds—that’s all rough waters. Shallow water too, you see. Sometimes in the summer you go on over those shoals but in the fall of the year you couldn’t go over them, because they were breaking. You forgot about the bad weather.

Was there always a crowd on?

I always had a crowd. Always.

How much did it cost?

I think it was a dollar. That wasn’t bad. It went to two dollars the last year I was on it. By, a lot of people travelled to Greenspond. The people from Greenspond, I think, was different than anybody else. Because every holiday they came home. Yes. Every weekend, especially a long weekend, they were home. By there was a lot of people that thought a lot about the old birth place. They had nothing there. But still they came home to it, you know. I don’t know. Now our crowd down here was never like that way. Now Ken Sturge was always second engineer with us, on her. Ken Sturge from Pound Cove. And Ken had daughters and sons gone away, see. And Ken says; ”Lord jeez old man, I don’t understand this. My crowd I can’t get them home. And the Greenspond women, look at that woman there.” Calling her by name, you know, we could almost call everybody by name, you know, after you got there. And Ken says: “see that young maid there, a young White from Greenspond, she comes up every single holiday!” And by, older people is the same way. I see people going down to Greenspond for a visit, coming out of it after, 85 years old. First time they been back for 40 years, 50 years, you know. I remember, what’s her name? Jerrett, I think, and she was gone over 50 years. And she was 80 something. She came back.

Yes, A couple of years ago I brought Mae Green home, Mae Blandford, She was in her 80s, Wanted to come home to Greenspond. She wanted to have her picture taken in Blandford’s garden under the lilac tree. That’s Millie and Stu Bragg’s garden now.

Oh, yes. Stuart and Millie, yes. Yes, that’s Blandford’s garden. And Tom lives up in the church garden. Tom got the old parsonage, see.

Can you remember the Hutchins up there?

Now I can remember the first time I went up to Greenspond was to get a clearance to go to the Labrador. Lots of time my father wouldn’t go and he’d send me up to get the clearance. Oh yes, I’d go up in motorboat.

That’s in the Post Office, the old Customs House.

Yes. I can’t remember the Customs Officer’s name. You’d get your papers so you go to the Labrador. You had to list the name of your crew. File for Customs.

You ever get stuck up in Greenspond over night? Due to bad weather?

Yes. I’ve been up there several times overnight, yes. But, see, before I went there, the ferry spent nights there all the time. It would tie up in Greenspond. After we got there we changed that. I didn’t see the point of it, the ferry to be up there in Greenspond, especially in summertime. When you had people down her waiting to get over.

Waiting all night to get up to Greenspond. We changed our sched¬ ule. We leave Valleyfield eight o’clock in the morning. We got in Greenspond about half past eight, usually a half hour. We’d stay in Greenspond for a half hour. About nine o’clock we’d come back then.

We had good times and we had bad times. Serving the public, you know, you got criticized sometimes. Your skin had to be tough. You met them all, you know. If the ferry didn’t get there in time and that. Most of them was fine people. I got nothing bad to say about them. No. I got along quite well. I knew most of them from days on the Labrador. Freddie Green, you know him? Tom Bragg and Fred Bragg. Fred is well, eh?

Did you go up to Greenspond when you were young? Did you know Greenspond people who came down here?

No, I didn’t go up when I was young. But Greenspond fellas came down here, a scatter time. But we didn’t go to Greenspond very much. But now on the boat, the ferry, I must have made a thousand trips. Three trips every day for ten years. We’d go up in the morning and again at 12 o’clock and again in the evening around five o’clock.

Yet, you know, he had nerve enough to cut me abroad and do anything. But he was frightened on a boat. I wouldn’t have a nerve at all to cut a fella.

Did you ever have any emergencies?

Oh, yes. One night we had an emergency call. It was twelve or one o’clock. I went up to the hospital and picked up the nurse. Old Fred Kelloway was the engineer with me. Kenneth Sturge. We all goes up. It was a bad old night too. When we were going into Greenspond, the doctor went on and we turned the boat around to be all ready to go. By and by we saw the doctor coming back. The patient was already dead. A woman Hawkins. She lived by herself. Lloyd Hawkins’s sister and Owen Hawkins. She had diabetes real bad. The doctor was Doctor Jeon. He was frightened to death. He used to say: “Doctor, can you see?” I said yes, I can see, I’d have me head bent down looking at the radar, and I’d say yes, I can see, perfect. Yet, you know, he had nerve enough to cut me abroad and do anything. But he was frightened on a boat, I wouldn’t have a nerve at all to cut a fella.

We had a woman doctor and a man doctor. Man and wife. That was around twelve o’clock at night. We done the same thing. We put the doctor ashore and turned the boat around all ready to go. By and by the two doctors came along. I said where is the patient. And they said there’s nothing wrong with her only a cramp in the belly.

Most cases were emergencies though. Always in the night though.

A lot of fellows would leave Greenspond Friday evening and you wouldn’t see them no more until Sunday evening.

Now, who paid you?

You didn’t get paid extra for emergencies. That was part of the job. But if you wanted to hire the boat to go over for a trip, you’d pay $25. Some fellows would hire the boat. They couldn’t wait.

And you went up three times a day.

Yes, but they couldn’t wait. They had money. Now that’s the same for the boys who’d come home night time. Then by and by they’d say let’s go and get the boat now and go home. A lot of fellows would leave Greenspond Friday evening and you wouldn’t see them no more until Sunday evening. They’d all come down here and go to the clubs. Then Sunday night it’s time to go back and they’d be dead broke, not even a dollar to pay the fare. They’d tell me I’ll pay you tomorrow. Tomorrow would never come.

You probably got fellows up in Greenspond who still owes you money.

They don’t owe me, it’s the company that’s running it.

Who owned the company?

Beothic Fish owned it when I first went there. Boyd Way. He’d do the same thing if he was on her. That’s the kind of fellow he was. Yes. How many fellas would say can you lend me $20. All the boys, you know. But they always paid me, you know. Yes, sir. They were honest fellows, that way. Other than sneaking a free ride. We didn’t count that. But when the young fellows borrowed money they al¬ ways paid it back.

If it was nice and settled they’d be above, but if it was rough then they’d scrabbled to get in the house.

Where did people sit on the ferry? Would they all go below?

They’d go on everywhere, my dear. If it was nice and settled they’d be above, but if it was rough then they’d scrabble to get in the house. See we were only suppose to take 13 people. I’ve often taken over 80 and 90.

You’d take 80 or 90 and you were only suppose to take 13?

Yes, so you can imagine where my head would have been to if there was any misfortune happened. I’d never get away with all the crowd that came aboard. What could I do? The passengers didn’t care. I can remember one time—it’s all over now—I can remember one time in particular, it was Sunday, a beautiful day, not a hair of wind. We went up. Now Ken was with me, Ken Sturge. Ken says “Lester, by, we’re going to make two trips today.” We knew all the people that was up there and they had to go home. So any way we goes up. Well, by and by, here they starts coming. I says “now boys, you know, there’s going to be too many for the ferry today so you might as well stay on the wharf until we comes back. No, sir, they all came aboard. What a crowd. Was I ever on edge. I knew the old boat was gone. The Clara Hallett was gone. She was a rebuilt boat. The old timbers in her were all rotten. When we got in around Valleyfield I said thank God we’re going to make it. In them times, as a fella got off the boat they’d pay the dollar. It cost one dollar. I’d take a dollar and put it in my pocket. Then I thought I got to find out how many people were on her. And the children didn’t cost nothing. They could travel free. After they all got gone, I got down somewhere by myself and count the money. I went down in the quiet. I counted one hundred and five dollar bills.

You counted one hundred and five and you were suppose to carry 13!

Yes, and that was paid passengers. That’s not counting the youngsters. There were probably 20 youngsters. No, I would never get out of jail no more if anything had happened. No never no more. They all wanted to get back.

Yes, I can remember trying to get out in time to catch the ferry.

And in the summertime we had the night service on, that was Td just get away from 9:30. That was always a scramble. I’d just get away from the wharf and I’d hear a car horn blowing and I’d have to turn around and go car horn blowing and back and pick the poor feller up. Oh, yes, I’d go back and pick him up.

I ain’t be out on Ship Island for some spell. I goes up now in car and just turns around and comes back. Can you drive out there in car now?

Oh, yes, you can drive right out on to Ship Island. Drive up in front of my house.

The Drawbridge is wide enough for that?

Oh, yes. I parks in front of my house. Right next to Sam Carter.

Where is your house?

On Ship Island, next to Uncle Sam. It was Lockyer Carter’s house, my uncle, Lockyer Carter.

Oh, yes. Sure we carried over all that lumber for Lockyer. Most of them new houses on Greenspond, we carried over all the material. Clear those that were built in the last ten years. We’d

One day Steve Mullins called, he was the mayor, Come up and take this backhoe. No I says, Steve, I can’t take it, take all that on the ferry. Every bit of freight we carried up. We carried lumber, fish, everything.

We took all them engines off Greenspond. And we carried them all there. They was big motors. That was for Light and Power. That’s what they had over there first, for electricity. We carried them all over and carried them back. And that back hoe they had up there. I got to get permission from the skipper, Skipper Boyd Way before I takes that, It’s an old boat and that’s heavy machinery. No, says Steve, you can take that. And I says if I takes that and has a misfortune. If Boyd Way says it’s OK, I don’t care if you put two aboard. By and by I was called in the office. Skipper Boyd Way wanted to see me. I went in. Well, it was just what I expected. Steve phoned the Skipper. So the Skipper says to me, what are we going to do for Steve? Do you think it’s alright to take it down? Steve had talked him over. Steve thought a lot about Boyd you know. Oh yes. Boyd would send him up a bottle of rum every Christmas. Ah, says Boyd, take her. Fine I says it doesn’t bother me. I was wishing the backhoe would go right through her. I knew the old boat was too old to be at it. I got it down.

Oh, yes, old Stevie got what he wanted, Then the next thing you know, Steve is phoning me complaining “what’s the ferry doing,”

How did you get the backhoe on the boat?

We had to wait for the tide to rise. And we went in where the fishermen’s slip is up there. Brought the backhoe down. Oh, yes, old Stevie got what he wanted. Then the next thing you know, Steve is phoning me complaining “what’s the ferry doing.”

Boyd Way was a fine fellow, was he?

Oh yes. Boyd Way, he was a fine man. A fine gentleman. I had no trouble with Mr. Way.

He was your boss, then. Were you the only skipper? Did you get a day off?

Oh, yes, on the end of it. First we didn’t get no days off. But on the end, we got two days off. We’d be on a week and off two days. Kenneth Sturge would take over then. Then Jim Davis came on. He had a ticket. Anybody could relieve. But for the master you had to have a certificate. But anyone could relieve. You had to have your master’s ticket but anybody at all could relieve ya. Now that man was as good as I was but he didn’t have that piece of paper. But we made it alright.

So you delivered goods to all the shops in Greenspond.

Yes. Lewisporte Wholesalers came to the wharf. She’d have a full load for Greenspond. Winter and summer. A lot of stuff brought up. Yes. Only a small population but they ate a lot! Now summer¬ time was worse. The population went up. Everyone came home. Rev. Kirby had a crowd come home every year. I saw Mrs. Kirby last year in one of the stores. We had a good yarn. See, her father, Skip¬ per Jim Carter. I was a pretty good buddy with Skipper Jim. He used to go to the Labrador and look after the Inuit. Oh, yes. He used to go down every summer and tell them what to do with the fish. Split the fish and cure the fish.

Yes, Skipper Jim and I were old buddies. But then I knew all the Greenspond people.

I didn’t know that about the Inuit, making the fish.

Yes. The Inuit didn’t know much about the fish. Oh, yes they got paid. Fish they caught. The government supplied the traps for them.

Now, the fish that you caught, you and your father, did you split and dry it up there or did you bring it back with you?

We brought it all back here. All dried down here. Flakes everywhere. All gone now. People that were away a long time and come back, couldn’t place it. Everything gone. They couldn’t place it. There used to be fences everywhere. No flakes now, and no fences.

You’ve seen a lot of people on the ferry.

Yes, we had a professor come down one time with a whole group of professors. A fellow Osmond, I think. He wanted to take the group out around and see the islands and explain it all to them. I told him it would cost $25.00. They all got aboard, with their cameras, the worth of the boat. I took them all out around. They wanted to go over to Greenspond. So the next day, they came down and I took them up to Greenspond for the day. They were professors from all across Canada. All in a day’s work. I got a lovely letter from them afterwards. They had a grand trip.

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