Chub had completed more than three years of study in electrical engineering at the University of Missouri-Columbia, so the U.S. Coast Guard sent him to Hemphill School in New York City. He was assigned to Newfoundland for a rugged winter of roof-high snowdrifts and wind that stung the fellows’ eyeballs with frozen particles even in sunshine. They built a Loran station, which was important in attempts to locate unseen enemy intruders.
About 20 years later, we were four Gerards looking at the world globe and planning a summer trip to visit the new St. Lawrence Seaway.
Nancy remembered seeing a photo of cars driving on a highway that went under the seaway while ships were overhead! We all wanted to drive our big old station wagon under a ship at that special place on the seaway.
Young Walt, studying the globe, said, "Mom, it’s only an inch from there over to where Daddy went during the war."
Thus began our family’s love affair with Canada’s Maritime Provinces. That inch on the globe began with an overnight ferry trip to Port Aux Basque, Newfoundland, which natives pronounce "new-FOUND-land."
Nancy had been seasick all night, and a steward said, "Yep! She’s pitchin’ a bit," meaning the boat, of course.
We drove off on to solid rock on which most of the buildings looked like plain, white-frame barns. Solid rock was everywhere. Men were pounding caulking into cracks in their boats or painting them. Chub and Walt visited with them, but I couldn’t understand their choppy way of talking.
Chub soon called me: "Come to see this fellow’s fishing shack."
The man handed me "the fish" - a thin, dry flat fish that he took from a tackle shelf. I handed it back but then realized he was telling me how to soak it overnight to get the salt out. He insisted that I have four or five of these big flat, wafer-thin fish; I was not excited about having even one!
He was right, though.
We learned to soak and prepare his flat, dry fish several months later. "Fish" meant cod. We had seen them at every dwelling - pinned up on clotheslines, drying like hundreds of diapers on wash day. He had a winter’s supply of codfish stacked in various places in his fishing shack.
Fearing that Nancy and Walt wouldn’t enjoy the fishermen, the noisy saw mills and the barren campgrounds for a full week, we arranged for an earlier return reservation. In our first campground, Nancy and Walt learned to pump water out of the ground and pour it back "to try to fill up the lake." They met a couple of kids of other campers and taught them to pump, too.
Noisy saw mills at Bowater’s paper mill created mountains of sawdust while making paper from the endless logs they floated down the river. Men danced on the floating logs as they guided them with long poles with hooks to keep them from bunching up in the river. Native kids were picking berries along the roadside.
Our kids swam in the Bowater Lake, and they were just getting acquainted with others when we had to break camp. Their homes and tiny gardens were on side roads; one family had a brown-and-white spotted pony.
Too soon we had to catch that ferry back and head for home. Chub and I returned with friends and enjoyed two weeks in a rented housekeeping cabin.
During another visit, we went back to cycle from Corner Brook to St. Johns - 500 miles in 11 days.
Every visit brought more reasons to love Canada’s easternmost Maritime province: Newfoundland.