Tag Archives: Pleasantville

“The soldiers paired off and waltzed around the field …”

Archival Moment

September 21, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-69; Payday 1st N.F.L.D. Reg. [Regiment][Pleasantville] Note the Greatcoats.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-69; Payday 1st N.F.L.D. Reg. [Regiment][Pleasantville]
Note the Greatcoats.

There was quite the party at Pleasantville, St. John’s on September 20, 1914  the local papers reported  that:

“A large number of citizens visited Pleasantville where an enjoyable concert was given by the Catholic Cadet Corps (C.C.C. ) Band. The programme was an excellent one, and as the band played the “Pink Lady” waltz, several of the soldiers paired off and waltzed around the field. They wore their military great coats and as they moved to the strains of the waltz, the sight was a novel and attractive one.”

The men were no doubt proud of their new greatcoats that had just arrived from Halifax. Why not show the off! A greatcoat, also known as a watchcoat, is a large overcoat typically made of wool designed for warmth and protection against the weather. Its collar and cuffs can be turned out to protect the face and hands from cold and rain, and the short cape around the shoulders provides extra warmth.

It was also recounted that a young boy from the city wanted to entertain the soldiers. The newspapers reported:

 

“During the intervals the small boy with the mouth organ entertained a number of lads and lasses to a programme of quadrilles, which were danced in fine style on the bridge.”

 

This was one of the last concert events at Pleasantville that was scheduled before the Newfoundland Regiment departed Newfoundland to fight for King and Country, on October 4, 1914.

The St. John’s Evening Telegram reported that many of the young soldiers were very conscious of their responsibilities.

“The scene at the camp was military in every particular, and amid the joviality that prevailed, the guards slowly paced their grounds apparently unconscious of aught but duty. Patriotism was everywhere resplendent amongst those that visited the scene and the beautiful blending of duty and pleasure in the soldier’s life was manifested in a marked degree.”

One of the privileges that a soldier of the Great War was entitled to upon his return home was the “privilege of retaining his uniform including great coat”  (Department of Militia, The Sailor and Soldiers Handbook Published by the Civil Re-Establishment Committee, January, 1919).

Recommended Archival Collection: Great War service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available on line, those not on line are available at the The Rooms Provincial Archives on microfilm.  Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Exhibit: 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. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.lv9JmCbn.dpuf

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium   Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

A ‘Smoking Concert’ at Quidi Vidi Lake

Archival Moment

September 14, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: A 58-52; N.F.L.D. 1st Regiment Camp [Pleasantville], St. John’s, NL. In September 1914 Pleasantville was the site of a number of ‘Smoking Concerts’.

One of the entertainments that was held for the young men in the camps at Pleasantville, near Quidi Vidi Lake, St. John’s in September 1914 were the ‘Smoking Concerts’. The young men in the camps at Pleasantville were the first recruits for the Newfoundland Regiment. They were training to prepare to fight for ‘King and Country’.

Originally the term ‘Smoking Concert’   referred to live performances, usually of music, before an audience of men only; popular during the Victorian period. At these functions men would smoke and speak of politics while listening to live music.

In Newfoundland and other places by 1914 the smoking concerts were much less formal; they were not so much about discussions about politics but evenings of song and recitations.

In St. John’s, one of the locations for the ‘Smoking Concerts’ was at the ‘mess tent’ on the Pleasantville grounds. There are reports that as many as 400 men would gather under the tent for the entertainment.

One of the local celebrities that could be found, on a very regular basis at the camp, playing the piano for the ‘Smoking Concerts’ was Charles Hutton. Hutton was a leading figure in Newfoundland musical activities, he was the owner of Hutton’ Music Store (that was later taken over by his sons) and his wife was a celebrated classically trained singer.

Hutton would play for many of the men who would come forward to sing their ‘party pieces’. The evening would include solos, storytelling, musical recitations, and instrumental numbers. The evening would always close with the singing of the National Anthem by the entire gathering.

Typically alcohol was involved. ‘Smoking Concerts’ were referred to by some by the much more indelicate term, ‘Piss Ups.”

Imagine, going down to Quidi Vidi for a ‘Piss up’, I mean “Smoking Concert.”

Recommended Archival Collection: Great War service records of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment are available on line, those not on line are available at the The Rooms Provincial Archives on microfilm.  Search the Archives: https://www.therooms.ca/collections-research/our-collections

Recommended Exhibit: 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. – See more at: https://www.therooms.ca/exhibits/always/beaumont-hamel-and-the-trail-of-the-caribou#sthash.lv9JmCbn.dpuf

 

 

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The first of the volunteers to be married

Archival Moment

28 September 1914

Caught at the OutpostWith the declaration of war in August 1914 many young men and women in Newfoundland and Labrador began to reexamine their relationships. Maud Hollett of Spencer’s Cove, Placentia Bay and William Manston of Manchester, England decided it was time to marry.

William had originally come to Newfoundland two years previous “in the employ of Mr. Reid as chauffeur.” With the declaration of war he was determined to return to his home country to fight for King and Empire.   On September 9, 1914 he left the Reid property to sign up.   Within days he was living in the training camp at Pleasantville with all of the other recruits.

Rumors in camp were that the newly formed Newfoundland Regiment would be departing at any time for the trenches of Europe; many of the young men in the camp were looking forward to getting a taste of battle. William realized that his time was short; if he was to marry he would have to do it quickly. On September 28 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church, South Side, St. John’s he waited for his bride. It was “the scene of a quiet wedding.”

The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Henry Uphill, Rector of the parish. The bride was given away by her cousin Charles Rodway and was attended by Miss Brace and Mr. PaveI. Immediately following the ceremony the young couple were  received by Mr. and Mrs. R.G. Reid. Mr. Reid kindly placed his automobile at the service of the wedding party. A considerable gesture in the day given that this particular motor vehicle was one of the few in the country.
The local newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported “He is the first of the volunteers to be married and we trust that he will return from the front in good time and that in his domestic life he will find that happiness which he deserves.”

It was not a long honeymoon. Just five days later (October 3, 1914) the newly married Lance Corporal William Manston marched with the Newfoundland Regiment (the First 500) to the S.S. Florizel that had been converted into a troopship and would take him home.

Maud packed her bags to return home to Spencers Cove to await the outcome of the war.

Recommended Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all ) are on line at http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium

Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Military training exercises taking place in Pleasantville

Archival Moment

September 23, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Training grounds at Pleasantville, St. John’s, ca. 1914. E-22-44), St. John’s, Newfoundland. Holloway Photograph.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives: Training grounds at Pleasantville, St. John’s, ca. 1914. E-22-44), St. John’s, Newfoundland. Holloway Photograph.

In St. John’s and the surrounding area in September 1914 residents were very aware of the military training exercises taking place in Pleasantville in order to prepare the volunteers of the Newfoundland Regiment for Foreign Service.

Young men had gathered from all over the colony, at Pleasantville on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake, in a hastily constructed tent city to train to fight for “King and Country’. The public was fascinated by what was happing at the camp and the local media were only too happy to report on the smallest details.

The Pleasantville camp had been established on September 2 with government, businesses, and private citizens donating the tents. Other shelters for the men of the Newfoundland Regiment were made from sails taken from vessels in St. John’s harbour.

On September 23, 1914 the St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram reported:

“Yesterday afternoon (September 22, 1914) a squad of the Volunteers went country wards and engaged in skirmishing and marching in double quick time. The lads, who had their rifles with them, covered the different hills and woods from Virginia to the top of Signal Hill.”

There were in the hills and woods about St. John’s approximately 600 volunteers. The young men were all determined that they would be chosen for Foreign Service. They were also aware that the work of selecting would begin in the following week.

The reporter also noted that: “While the Volunteers were going through some various evolutions yesterday at the camp grounds some excellent photos of them were taken.” 100 years later, many of these photographs that were taken by (Lieut.) R.P Holloway are on exhibit at The Rooms. (see “From Recreation to Military Installation”. Level 2 Atrium, The Rooms.)  Lieut. R. P. Holloway was later named the official photographer for the First Newfoundland Regiment.

After a month of training, the First Five Hundred (537 soldiers), also known as the Blue Puttees, were ready to head overseas. On October 3, 1914, they marched from their training camp to board the SS Florizel, a steamer and sealing vessel that had been converted into a troopship. They were cheered on by a large gathering of citizens. The next day, the troops began their journey overseas.

Recommended Archival Collection: “Distinguished Service: the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in the Great War”, this on line exhibition documents the lives and experiences of the province’s soldiers and aims to encourage interest in research on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. The service records of the First 500 and others are available at the Provincial Archives at The Rooms. Many of the service records (but not all) are on line at http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium  Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.