Category Archives: Archival Moments

International Airport Proposed for Trepassey

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 21, 1928

International Airport at Trepassey, Newfoundland

On June 21, 1928 the prestigious New York Times  newspaper declared that Trepassey, Newfoundland would be the site of a great international airport.

The newspaper headline declared:

“Miss Earhart Predicts Great Airport at Trepassey for Transocean Flights.”  

The headline came about as a result of an interview that Amelia Earhart had with the international press shortly after landing at Burry Port, Wales becoming the first woman to make the Atlantic crossing.

Earhart and her crew had departed fromTrepassey, Newfoundland the morning of June 17 landing “across the pond” on June 18.  Prior to departure from Trepassey she has spent twelve days in the town meeting many of the local people.

Earhart told the New York Times reporter:

“Trepassey ought to be some day a great airport for transoceanic travel. It processes the finest harbor, perhaps the only harbor, adapted naturally for seaplane takeoffs in its part of the world.”

But she cautioned that Trepassey needed to develop an infrastructure to sustain this new industry that was emerging.  She told the reporter:

“…there are very few trains from the outside world into Trepassey and absolutely no facilities for taking care of a plane or repairing them. … If someone would build a seaplane station in Trepassey it would be a great help to aviation, for there is going to be more transatlantic flights from there so many that they will not even be of interest to the public.”

Unfortunately for Trepassey no infrastructure was established.

In Newfoundland, the town of Harbour Grace became the airport of choice. The  Harbour Grace airfield, built on the summit of this hill by the  local  people became starting point of many early flights from West to East.  Amelia Earhart  the next time she was in Newfoundland  by passed  Trepassey that she had spoken  so highly about   and completed the world’s first transatlantic solo flight by a woman after taking off from Harbour Grace, on 20 May 1932 and landing at Northern Ireland about 13 hours and 30 minutes later.

Recommended Archival Collection:  (International) George Palmer Putnam Collection of Amelia Earhart Papers:  The Amelia Earhart papers offer a rare glimpse into the life of America’s premier woman aviator. In 1928 she was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic.  The online collection includes more than 3,500 scans of photographs, maps, documents, and artifacts relating to Earhart.  http://www.lib.purdue.edu/spcol/aearhart/

Recommended Reading: East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart  By Susan Butler.  Da Cappo Press, 2009.  (A chapter is devoted to her time in Trepassey.)

 

Mary Imelda Dohey, C.V.R.N. Canadian Hero

MARY IMELDA DOHEY, C.V.R.N.

September 22, 1933 – June 12, 2017

Mary Dohey was originally from St. Bride’s, Placentia Bay

Mary Dohey, was a Newfoundland born  flight attendant who was the first living person to receive the award Cross of Valour, Canada’s highest award for bravery, for her conduct during the hijacking of a commercial DC-8 aircraft in 1971.

At the risk of losing her life, Dohey declined an offer of a safe release from an Air Canada DC8 to remain with her fellow crew members and pacify hijacker Paul Cini, on flight 812 from Calgary, Alberta on November 12, 1971. During eight hours of terror, the hijacker, with a black hood over his head, was armed with a shotgun and two bundles of dynamite. Mary had to hold on to the wires of the dynamite and not let them touch.

Cini threatened to take the lives of the crew and all the passengers on board the airplane. Although continually threatened with the gun, Miss Dohey spoke to the aggressor and succeeded in discouraging him from undertaking violent measures which would have killed many people. When the aircraft was diverted and landed in Great Falls, Montana, she was able to persuade the hijacker to allow all the passengers and part of the crew, including herself, to disembark. With absolutely no assurance that she would come out of the ordeal alive and because of her concern for the welfare of the remaining crew members, Mary Dohey turned down the offer of release. The hijacker wanted $1.5 million.The plane landed and the demands were passed over. There was only $50,000 in that briefcase unknown to the hijacker. Mary continued to appease the hijacker until the drama was brought to an end.

Mary Dohey graduated years earlier as a psychiatric nurse and that training and experience proved invaluable. Because of the courage she displayed during the hijacking, Dohey was awarded the Cross of Valour in December 1975.

Mary was the youngest of 14 children A celebration of Mary’s life will be held from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m., on Sunday, June 25th, 2017 on the main floor at 350 Princess Royal Drive, Mississauga, ON L5B 4N1.

Mary Dohey, 1975 receiving the Cross of Valour

Online condolences/tributes can be made at http://www.forevermissed.com/ Mary-Imelda-Dohey. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/thestar/obituary.aspx?n=mary-imelda-dohey&pid=185830092#sthash.agnyX9Uz.dpuf

 There is a merit award named in her honour, administered by the Friends of Cape St. Mary. See more: http://www.friendsofcapestmarys.ca/

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

Archival Moments

June 13, 1915

Newfoundland Nurse: Letter from the trenches

nurseOn June 13, 1915 Maysie Parsons, 26 years old, originally from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland wrote to her father Edward Parsons from L’Hopital de L’Ocean, a field hospital in La Panne, Belgium. In her letter she wrote frankly about war and what she was witnessing. She wrote:

“My Dear Father

Although we are only six miles from the trenches, we never hear any war news. The only thing we do know is when there is a battle on this end. We can hear the guns and see the flashes and lightening, and tonight, oh, it is simply terrible. It is just the same as thunder and lightning and to think that every flash means so many deaths!

It is horrible. We do get terrible cases in. I know if you saw the poor patients, you would wonder how they could possibly live. It is impossible to sleep lots of nights.

War certainly is HELL

Tonight I am writing by the light of candle. We can’t get any sleep. And have been watching the flashes off the guns, etc., all along the lines for hours. It really seems that the fighting is all around us. I am glad I came but it certainly seems strange.

Wherever we go we very seldom meet anybody that can speak a word of English, and then if we go for a walk about every few yards we are held up by a sentry and have to produce our passports.”

Maysie was frustrated that she could not speak the language of the soldier boys that she was treating. When war broke out, Belgium did not have enough nurses so were dependent on nurses sent from British Commonwealth countries including Canada and Newfoundland. Masie signed up with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. She wrote:

We get a lot of cases in here that only live a few hours. It seems terrible, they have not a person belonging to them, and I wish I could speak French. It is certainly hard to nurse every sick patient when you have to guess at what they want, and then not to be able to speak to them. Kindly and sympathize with them. I think a kind word often means a lot.

Maysie was also conscious that all of her letters would be read by censors and was careful not to disclose details that would result in her letter being delayed and or not delivered.

Yesterday we had quite a lot of patients come in, 61. I could write for hours about how thy have been treated, but you see, our letters are censored, and there are lots of interesting things we cannot tell.

Like other letters that were sent by sons and daughters from the trenches of Europe to parents back home in Newfoundland the letters would always make reference to other Newfoundlanders that they had encountered, their Newfoundland patriotic fervor was always evident.

The other day a man came and asked me what part of Canada I as from, so I told him not Canada, but Newfoundland, he told me he knew Sir Edward P. Morris quite well, and how he had to study up about the fisheries, for the Convention of the Hague. He was asking me about Newfoundland, and afterwards I found out he was the Editor of the London Times.

We found an English newspaper today, and you should see the bunch get around it, it was about a month old, but we read everything in it, even the advertisements. It was good to see something in English.

I sent some cards home, hope they get them.

Love too all,

From your Loving daughter

Maysie

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Great War Photograph  Collection  in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Exhibit: BEAUMONT-HAMEL AND THE TRAIL OF THE CARIBOU

Where: Level 2  The Rooms: The First World War had a profound impact on Newfoundland and Labrador. It involved thousands of our people in world-changing events overseas and dramatically altered life at home. Our “Great War” happened in the trenches and on the ocean, in the legislature and in the shops, by firesides and bedsides. This exhibition shares the thoughts, hopes, fears, and sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who experienced those tumultuous years – through their treasured mementoes, their writings and their memories.

 

Art, Forgery and Prison Romance

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 15, 1880

Hall Ceiling Painted by Pindkowsky, Government House

On June 17, 1880, the Carbonear Herald a local Newfoundland newspaper reported on the conviction of  Alexander Pindikowsky, a young artist and fresco painter, convicted for forgery. He was sentenced on June 15, 1880 to fifteen months at her Majesty’s Penitentiary.

The St. John’s newspaper, The Royal Gazette reported:

 “Pindinkowsky was ordered within five days of his release to quit the country (Newfoundland) for life, in default of which, on his return to the country at any time, he is to receive further imprisonment.”

Pindikowsky  (also Pindikowskie) arrived in Newfoundland in 1879 as a professional artist and fresco painter. He was hired by the Anglo American Telegraph Company to give art instruction to interested employees and their wives at Hearts Content Cable Office.

He was arrested on March 10, 1880 and charged with attempting forge two cheques in the name of E. Weedon, Esq. of Hearts Content, Trinity Bay.

The Polish artist’s talents as a fresco painter were brought to the attention of the authorities at the Penitentiary and they were soon put to official use, in return for a remission of five weeks on his sentence. He was set to work designing and painting frescos, to relieve the drabness of the state rooms of Government House.

Governor John Hawley Glover (1876-1885) was so delighted with the frescos that he suggested to Prime Minister William Whiteway that the prisoner Pindinkowsky also decorate the ceilings of the two legislative chambers of the Colonial Building.  Seeing an opportunity the Presentation Sisters at Cathedral Square in St. John’s who were in the process of working on their chapel and drawing room invited the talents of the young artist.

Each day Pindinowsky was brought from the penitentiary to his place of work until the frescos were complete.

It could be said that this is one of the first documented cases of  a prison rehabilitation program in Newfoundland and Labrador.

ROMANCE IN GOVERNMENT HOUSE

Researcher and historian, John O’Mara in his research on Government House in St. John’s discovered that Pindikowsky was also a romantic. In his research he discovered the face of a woman subtly painted into the ceiling of government house.  Some believe her to be one of the maids at government house.  She could possibly be Ellen Dormody the mother of Pindikowsky’s first child, Johanna Mary Ellen Pindikowskie, who was baptized at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) on May 1, 1882.

It is clear that Pindikowsky banishment from the country was withdrawn, he decided to stay in Newfoundland. In 1882 he was advertising his services in a local newspaper, as a fresco painter.

The Athenaeum, established in 1879 with it’s 1,000 seat theatre, that was central to much of the musical activity of the city hired him. He painted some very fine murals on the interior walls of the building. Unfortunately the theatre and his work were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892.

Pindikowsky left St. John’s for the ‘Boston States’ in approximately 1882  followed a year later by Ellen Dormody. She is recorded as travelling from St. John’s to Boston on the SS Colan (or Coban) in 1883.

Life in Boston was unsettled they fist settled in Malden, Mass in 1885 where he is listed in the city directory as a painter then Brockton, Mass, in the city directories of 1887, 1888 and 1889, back to Malden for 1890, then in Newport, RI where he was listed in the city directory as a painter in 1897 and later back in Brockton, Mass.

It appears that he died between 1887 -1906.  His wife is listed in the  Brockton city directory as a nurse and a widow in 1906.

Ellen Dormody the wife of Pindikowsky would have felt very at home in the Boston area. The Commonwealth of Boston census for 1885 reports that 2851 Newfoundlanders had settled in the city and surrounding towns. That number had grown to 7,591 Newfoundlanders by 1895.  The census for Boston in 1915 reports that 13,269 residents of the Boston area claimed Newfoundland  as their place of birth.

The ‘Boston States’ and  Newfoundland  have many connections.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Take a look at some of the  photographs  of the interior of Government House –  100 years ago – Pindikowsky  is responsible for the ceilings. Type  Government House Interior in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: Art, Love and Savagery: Carolyn Moran. Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2016.

Recommended Website:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/govhouse/govhouse/tour2.html

Recommended VisitTo see the work of Alexander Pindikowsky both Government House and Presentation Convent are available to the public by appointment.  The Colonial Building is undergoing extensive renovations and is closed.

 

The ruins of St. John’s watered with tears: The Great Fire

ARCHIVAL MOMENT

June 9, 1846

St. John’s previous to the fire of June 9, 1846

The origin of the fire, which broke out on  June 9, 1846, in St. John’s, has generally been attributed to the carelessness of a cabinet maker who lived on George Street.

By 7:00 p.m., when the fire had finally run its course, over 2,000 buildings had been burned and about 12,000 people, or 57 per cent of the town’s total population, left homeless. The total amount of property loss was estimated at £888,356.   Altogether, there were three casualties: one soldier died as a result of the demolition ordered on Water Street; one citizen collapsed while attempting to carry his possessions to safety; and one prisoner died in his cell when the gaol burnt. A few days after, two labourers clearing away ruins were killed by a falling wall.

Homeless Seek Shelter

On June 10, 1846 many of the 12,000 refugees from the fire could be found in make shift tents in this neighborhood (Fort Townshend) now the site of The Rooms. Others found shelter on the grounds of the new R.C. Cathedral (now Basilica) that was under construction, others in the area now called Bannerman Park on Military Road.

One of the Presentation Sisters  who stood witness as her convent and school (located on Long’s Hill)  burnt wrote:

“the ruins of our convent  (and St. John’s) were well watered with their tears.”

In the days following the fire the traditional resilience of Newfoundlanders  was well displayed. One of those present described the scene:

“The very next morning some of the citizens were at work excavating among the ruins of their dwellings  and preparing to erect temporary sheds, thousands were ruined, but everyone there was hopeful, determined that St. John’s would rise again …”

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Type  Fire   in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: The Great St. John’s Fire of 1846 by Melvin Baker (c)1983 Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXIX, no. 1 (Summer 1983) http://www.ucs.mun.ca/~melbaker/1846fire.htm

Recommended Archival Collection at the Provincial Archives in the Rooms:  MG 50.2:  Map of St. John’s, Newfoundland, showing all the buildings erected since the fire of the 9th of June 1846 from actual survey (MG 50.2)

 

Fly over your home town from The Rooms.

Photo Credit: The Rooms; St. John’s Harbour, Aerial view VA 15b 24.3

Lee Wulff (1905-1991) was a well-known sports fisherman and hunter, conservationist, author, photographer and film producer. He initially visited Newfoundland in 1935 on a fishing expedition as a guest of the Commission of Government of Newfoundland. The government was inviting photographers  to visit Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1930’s with the goal of boosting  tourism. Wulff  an avid fisherman promoted salmon and blue fin tuna fishing, establishing two world records. He also ran fishing camps on the Great Northern Peninsula.

Over the next three decades, Wulff served as a consultant on sports fishing, hunting and tourist resources in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Wulff introduced several innovative techniques for sports fishermen, which received international recognition. These included the short wading vests worn by fly fishermen and hair-wing dry flies for the salmon fishery.

Wulff favored the designation of salmon as game fish, and promoted the conservation of Newfoundland and Labrador’s sports fisheries by utilizing the “catch and release” method. He also established angling schools in conjunction with his wife Joan Wulff.

Wulff made twenty films about fishing and hunting in Newfoundland. His articles and photography were published in numerous magazines including Maclean’s, Outdoor Magazine, Field and Stream, American Sportsman, Atlantic Salmon Journal, and the Atlantic Advocate. His autobiography, Bush Pilot Angler: A Memoir was published in 2000.

The Rooms is now making available on line  GN 186   a series of 741 aerial views of Newfoundland and Labrador communities photographed by Wulff. The community photographs were taken by Wulff in the 1940’s from his own plane; the photographs are arranged alphabetically.

Find an aerial view of your community here:

http://gencat.eloquent-systems.com/therooms_permalink.html?key=32152

Was that a hoar frost last night?

Archival Moment

Was that a hoar frost last night? Enough to “barber” a person !

June 6, 1890

 1 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John's (The Observatory) was equipped as a weather Observatory

1 Bonaventure Avenue, St. John’s (The Observatory) was equipped as a weather Observatory

Many Newfoundland weather sayings are the traditional weather sayings of the British Isles and Ireland from which much of ancestral folk heritage arises. Newfoundland weather is unpredictable and changes quickly. Therefore, many weather sayings are locally based, derived from years of weather observations from the land and the sea.

One such expression is “hoar frost in autumn is a sign of south wind and rain.”

There was a time when meteorologists reported without any blush such descriptions as:

“At four o’clock this morning the hoar frost stood thick as snow on the roof.”  

It “hoar frost” is not a phrase that is often used by our weathermen today but it is a meteorological phenomenon that technically means “a white coating of ice crystals formed by sublimation of atmospheric water vapor on a surface. Also called white frost.

In Newfoundland and Labrador it is also known as “barber frost.”  The Evening Telegram reported on May 10, 1881   that “the temperature fell to seven degrees below zero’ and the cold was aggravated by piercing winds and the dense hoar frost, or “barber” as the seamen aptly term it. Seeing it cuts them like a razor. “

On June 6, 1890 the local “The official meteorological report stated that there were ten degrees of frost last night. At four o’clock this morning the hoar frost stood thick as snow on the roof.”

The name hoar comes from an Old English adjective that means “showing signs of old age”; in this context it refers to the frost that makes trees and bushes look like white hair.

A little known fact is that in the shadow of The Rooms at 1 Bonaventure Avenue is the building known locally as “The Observatory”, it was originally owned by John Delaney, (1811-1883). His interest in meteorology led to the development of a local meteorological service under the aegis of the Meteorological Service of Canada. A regular informant of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society in 1873.

1 Bonaventure Avenue was equipped with an Observatory when it was constructed. It was a two-storey structure attached to the rear addition but has since been demolished. It was from this structure, and the attached house that Delaney studied meteorology as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Was that a hoar frost last night? Will this be a summer of “south wind and rain” ? Your weatherman knows the answer. Give him a call.

Archival Collection: At the Rooms an excellent source for studying weather are the Telegraph Office News Ledgers (GN 18) and the Reports of Light house Keepers about the province. Series consists of photocopied reproductions of handwritten news books kept by staff of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs reporting daily on local and international events, viewed as of interest to the local audience. Subjects included are sealing reports, shipwrecks, local disasters and aviation reports. The daily news reports also included a brief synopsis of the local weather.