Tuesday, August 30, 2011


High time I got back to blogging!  There's always a lot to catch up on when you've been a while, and this was no exception.  Most of the catching up had to do with the garden, although I've been so blessed this year that S. took care of everything while we were gone, even picking, blanching and freezing whatever came ripe.

This profusion of roses is what we see out our back door, just the other side of the driveway.  There's lots blooming all over the landscape, but there's also a definite feeling of "end of season."  Things are starting to look a little droopy, so S. and Jim are starting the fall cleanup of the landscape.  Our tractor is being repaired just now, so that will make carting away all the cuttings quite a job for them.  The vegetable garden is also coming to an end, although we are still picking buckets full of wonderful, big strawberries.

Now, back to a week ago Saturday when we had checked into the Clarenville Inn, had a nice meal of tortellini in the restaurant late in the afternoon, and settled in for a restful evening.  Jim usually channel surfs pretty regularly, but came upon a really interesting program on CBC entitled, "Regarding our Father," an hour long film about a certain Gerald S. Doyle, born in King's Cove, Newfoundland early in the 1900's.  When he graduated from high school he moved to St. John's a worked in a pharmacy.  A company which manufactured a "patent medicine" asked him to be their representative, and he found he had a real flare for selling.  Soon he was representing several companies, selling such things as Dr. Doan's Little Liver Pills, Cod Liver Oil, etc.  He had a yacht built which he named Miss Newfoundland and began to make the rounds of all the little "outports" every summer.  People waited for his visit, and came thronging down to the dock where he would pass out samples to one and all.  The patent medicines were important to them, because they didn't have access to doctors or pharmacies.

As he made his rounds, and became friends with so many of these isolated families, he became interested in the profusion of folk songs by which they entertained themselves.  He began collecting the words to the songs and published them in a book which he distributed free of charge.  Along with the songs, the books contained advertisements for the products he sold.

He married, built a large house in Saint John's and had seven sons and finally one daughter.

When radio came along in the 1930's he had a program called The Doyle Bulletin on which families could pass along messages, a unique service for the isolated outports.  For thirty-three years this program, which was a free service, was a community lifeline for the families who lived in the little fishing ports along the coastline.  He also published "Family Friends," a free newspaper.  He was always interested in what kept these communities going.

In 1940 he published a new edition of his songbook, this time with the music in addition to the words.  Newfoundlanders began to realize the treasure they had in this body of folk music.  A third edition came out on 1954.

It was a very interesting program, especially since it incorporated a lot of film that he had shot over the years with a movie camera he bought in the 1930's.  I always enjoy watching film like that: it's as close as we can come to time travel.

The next morning, Sunday, we set out on the way to Bonavista.  One of the tiny towns we drove through was King's Cove.  In fact, that was the spot of the missed photo op--an attractive view of a typical fishing village, but I was unable to snap the picture because there was no place to stop the car--narrow road, no shoulders, and another vehicle behind us.  But kind of neat to learn all that about Gerald Doyle, and then the next morning to see the small village he came from.

As we visited the Ryan Premises in Bonavista we came into the "Fish Store" where there is a display about the history of the cod fishery.  One of the first scenes featured a model of John Cabot, who landed there sometime in the 1490's.  The mannikin representing John Cabot was dressed in a dark cloak with a snug black cap on his head.  He was the spitting image of M.G., the Arab leader who is currently the object of a search.  (I don't want to mention his name and risk being noticed by a Google search!)  Jim and I both had a laugh over this, but had a bigger laugh when we returned to our hotel that evening, and the situation in Libya was all over the news.  We thought we could let them know where he's hiding out: in the fish store in Bonavista.  After the fact, I wished I had snapped a picture of that particular display!

So that was the second coincidence of that day.

A third amusing thing: I had put the remains of a litre of milk into my insulated travel mug, as I hadn't found the refrigerator in the hotel room (because it was hiding behind a door disguised as a set of drawers.)  I figured the milk would keep cool in the mug.  But it did get pretty hot in the parked car that afternoon.  The next morning when I went to pour out the milk, I found it had clabbered clear down to the bottom!  It was only later when we were packing up that I found the hidden fridge which would have kept the milk good.  I've made yogurt in the past that didn't clabber as well as that mug of milk!

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