Memories and Images by Edward Parsons

A beautiful sunny morning. We walk across a bridge behind an old stage and we are on the Point. We are half a dozen young boys but today Bill Hunt is with us. He is a couple of years older than we, maybe he’s reached the teens. How he happens to be with us today is odd to say the least but we are glad to have him with us.

Like an old lazy river we meander along every little nook and cranny. We check every pool for any kind of life. We pick the snails along the shore line and tell each one about its house being on fire. Ninety per cent don’t give a dam so we toss them back to the ocean. After our wanderings we find ourselves climbing down in Laing’s Gulch.

I’m not well today. A bit of a cold, so when someone shouts out “Let’s swim down to Hancock’s Head”, I’m a bit put out. I don’t want to swim this day and yet I know I will. From Laing’s Gulch to Hancock’s Head is a long swim for boys our age. I have never done it. First of all the water is always colder and secondly the closer you get to Hancock’s Head the more you feel the effects of the undertow.

Soon one by one they slip into the water. Bill Hunt is not making any effort and neither am I. He asks if I am going to swim and I say “they are all gone so I guess I’ll have to”. Away we go. He is a strong swimmer and is soon quite a distance ahead. And then he makes a 90 degree turn and swims to the shore. I’m moving ahead but slowly. Legs are a bit stiff and my heart is not in it. Soon I’m up to where Bill had gone ashore and then this awful pain hit my legs and then my fingers on the right hand. I try to draw up my legs to ease the pain but that action pulled me under the water. Each time I did this I went under. I remember crying and being awfully scared and as I was going under again someone grabbed my back and lifted me up. Take it easy he told me and I’ll get you to shore. He did and lifted me above the water line where I got sick and threw up a lot of the Atlantic.

The rocks were warm and soon I was aware of the pain leaving and Bill there by my side. I tried to get up but fell back and landed on the only two or three sea urchins (they have another name) on the rocks.

There and then a mysterious friendship was made. It lasted through boyhood, into the teens and out of the teens into manhood and beyond.

The sea urchins? Well, mother and grandmother got out the thorns and put a dab of iodine on each spot.

It is late August 1935, I’m 19 and I’m just home from Port Hope Simpson after most of the summer with the bucksaw. Next morning I cut across the hill to see Ma Butt. You see my mother was a Butler and she always called her parents “Ma” and “Da”, so we boys picked up the Ma and Da and shortened Butler to Butt. I love to pass Bill’s home on top of Church Hill, so I go in and was greeted royally. Open comes the door and in comes Tommy Hunt. Immediately Bill goes into a jig and Tommy is ready at the first note. They are first cousins. After the singer and dancer had enough we settle down , get back to earth. I say I come home to get grade eleven. Bill jumps up and tells me he has decided to do the same and had all the text books. So we spent the morning making plans. I went to see grandmother and then went looking for text books. Magistrate Andrews was a great source.

One of the subjects we took was Physiology. Now it so happened that had a lot of sheep and a few goats. In October father usually began killing off the lambs and after he cleaned them Bill and I cut up a few hearts and kidneys etc and we used our text books as we dissected the organs and made notes.

We applied for summer school (1936) but did not make it as the C.H.E. results were not available until summer school operating for a week or more. But Bill got a school on the south side of the bay as an ungraded teacher. I already had two years as ungraded.

The next year we got in and we were teachers. The first grade from summer school was called a third grade and worth $100 plus salary; second summer school  was second grade and worth $200 and one year in college and one got a first grade and worth $300 plus salary. Bill was in St. John’s. He had two sisters living there. He wired his mother: “Passed with honours, Ed and Don too”. Don was Don Granter. And so we went teaching, but kept in touch.

It’s now September 1940 and I’ve met the language requirements (Latin) and am enrolled in the college. I get first grade but now I’m told I’ve contracted T.B. (tuberculosis) and there was a bed waiting for me in the sanatorium. So ended my teaching career.

It’s 1950, near the end of August and Bill is here for a few days. By now he is married with two children, and boy and a girl. He is the principal of Gander Amalgamated School. So I inquire about the possibility of getting a job in Gander. I didn’t care what kind of job it was. Once I got in there I could always look around for something better. Bill said he would see Ike Saunders. (Now there’s another wonderful friend. In 1952 he and Muriel took us in until Ike found us a place to live. In Greenspond Ike lived on the top of Ben Burry’s Hill. He had a couple of brothers and one sister, Elsie. Wonderful people.) So they get me a job as janitor. At this time Ike was in charge of the buildings and supervised the maintenance of the buildings as well as maintaining adequate staff. In two weeks I have an interview with Mr. Winsor, chief administrative officer, and get a clerical job. (Thanks to Ike and Bill) subject to passing a civil service exam. My accommodation is changed to the men’s staff building and I eat at the Hotel which is Building 64. Some years later I’m moved up there as the accountant. Saturday after supper Bill phones and wants a baby sitter and I become the official baby sitter and so the winter passed. They were good, the little boy would sleep well but sometimes the girl would wake up.

It’s St. George’s Day 1951, a holiday. Bill and some of his grade eleven students plan a fishing trip. They go to Miller’s Water. I can’t vouch for what I say. The way I got it there was a an old discarded gas tank from a small aircraft. I also heard it was some kind of raft. At any rate Bill got on it and floated down the pond and around a point of land. Everything seemed safe enough to the boys. Soon it’s time to bail up and they begin to shout out. No response. So they walk out around the point and spot his cap on the shore line. They begin to shout and search and decided they had better get out and seek help. Someone phoned me and I went down to his house but it was packed with his friends. His wife who was pregnant with their second daughter was being looked after. After work the next day I went over again to his house. I  had heard that he had a heart attack and I could live with that. But the doctor was there and he informed me that Bill had drowned. I thought he could save me but he couldn’t save himself. It was hard to know he had drowned when one knew he was such a strong swimmer. I think most of Gander turned out for his funeral. I was a bearer.

Years later I went down on the wharf. I go down pass Tom Hunt’s and coming towards me is my old friend Roy Crocker. He looks elated and with a grin on his face. He asked me if I saw Bill’s children who were visiting. He had told them to go see Eddie Parsons who had been close friends with their father. Well that set me back that I didn’t see them. I walked to the outside part of the wharf and sat down. There was no activity there. Memories started to fill my head. From Laing’s Gulch to our school year and our time in Gander. Images filled my eyes, a whole life time of images until I felt the flood gates about to open. So I got up and slowly, slowly, I walked home.


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