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Learner story archives

December 15, 1997

The following story was written by Maxine Steel, from Newfoundland. At the age of 16, Maxine dropped out of school and got married. With two children and no education, Maxine worked in the fish plant in Musgrave Harbour for eight years until the fishery failed. With this, Maxine went back to school and received her high school diploma. She advanced even further by taking a course at Centrac College.

My Growing Up Days

By Maxine Steel

My name is Rosie Wellon. I will be 78 years this coming February (1997). I am from Ladle Cove, Bonavista Bay. I can remember when I was two years old in my little, white painted crib. I used to be sick then. My mom died with T.B. when I was 14 months old. My aunt and uncle had no children so they raised me as their own. As I grew in years, my health improved.

At eight years I started school. We had no nice warm clothes like they do today. In winter we wore a long coat, a wool tassel cap and sheep's wool knitted stocking and mittens, and a wool scarf if we were lucky. We wore laced up boots with short, rubber boots to wear over them to keep out the water (these days they would be called 'ducky boots'). We used to have some real stormy weather back then.

I can remember my school days. I think it's the best days of one's life-even though we only had a one room school, a pot belly stove and had to carry two bundles of wood under our arm three times a day. Some kids would throw their wood on the beach and it would never reach the pot belly stove.

We used slates in a wooden frame and a slate pencil to do our work. We cleaned them with water. It used to be some cold, more than once it froze on my slate like ice. My first book was called a Primer; we had to spell words like cat, dog, fly, tub, hen, etc. I would like to have my slate, pencil and Primer to keep as a souvenir. I only got grade nine and I never went to a two room school. My first teacher's name was Miss Nancy Halfyard.

In our teen years we sure had to work. We sawed wood with a cross cut saw, then it got more modern and we used a buck saw. We'd split the wood into four pieces. I used to split it into smaller pieces and dry it in the oven to kindle the fire in the morning.

Everyone was scared of fire in them days. When we'd go to bed in the winter time we would douse the fire in the old Waterloo stove; the water would freeze in the kettle in the stove.

We never smoked tobacco, but we did have several smokes in the winter time. I know I did in my bedroom on a cold frosty morning with my breath, when my uncle was lighting the fire to warm up the kitchen.

In our teen years we had to respect the Sabbath. On Sunday we'd go to church in the morning, to Sunday School in the afternoon, and to the Church Service at night. We all had special clothes to wear. We weren't allowed to wear them during the week. I hung up each garment as soon as I took it off.

One thing I can remember quite well is that we were taught to respect old people. We would have to call them aunts or uncles if they were related to us or not.

We sure did enjoy Christmas, even though the presents in our stockings were very small. We'd get a hankie, a hair buckle, an apple and maybe a few candles. But how our little hearts would leap for joy on Christmas morning.

Next, there was mummering. Oh, what fun that was! The next thing was Valentine's Night. That was spent with every kid making their Valentine cards and coloring them brightly. When it got dark, we would get together and go to the neighbour's porch door, throw the Valentines inside, make a loud noise and then hide outside, under the window. We'd listen to them reading the Valentines and have the big hearty laughs. What fun!

We did not have everything like the teens do now, but we had a lot of happiness. We spent a lot of hours weeding our parent's vegetable garden and picking berries. There was always plenty of jam in the house and sometimes we sold a few berries.

I remember one time I sold enough partridge berries to buy a hat. It was red. I sold enough bakeapples one summer to buy a red coat. We did work hard but enjoyed it and had lots of fun and laughs.

I fell in love and married at the age of 23. We had seven children who are all married now and between them have 17 children.

[This story was taken with permission, from From Me...To You, p. 49, a collection of stories by adult learners, published by the Newfoundland & Labrador Rural Development Council.]

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