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Friday, November 3, 2017

The Brookfield Drive-In: Corn dogs & popcorn – It is the end of an era


The old ticket booth barely stands
My sister and her husband had a car. This was rare in my family. My Mother didn’t drive so we depended on buses, taxis or walking. Back then, the bigger the car the cooler you were. I can’t remember what she drove but I know it had to be as big as a dory to fit our family. On the weekend, my sister, her husband, their three boys, my mother and I piled into that car and went to the Brookfield Drive-In to see a movie.

It was a real treat! I was ten years old when it opened in 1973. The parking lot could hold over 600 cars and many nights it was filled to capacity.
The cash register has rusted in the weather.
The cost of a movie was $1.75 - $3.50 a person and many will tell you they hid in the trunk of their friend’s car to avoid the cost of a ticket. The drive-in management also had $5.00 a car load night. Which was probably when we went with our boat load of people.

When they stopped using the hook-on window speaker in the 80s and switched to a radio dial, the cheap people would park outside the drive-in fence and tune in, peering through the trees and fence to see the screen. 

I remember driving up to the speaker
A speak pole still stands surrounded by garbage.
pole and pulling the old-fashioned speaker head inside the widow. We watched movies dressed in our pajamas, cuddled under a big old blanket while gnawing on hot buttered popcorn and corn dogs.
The canteen was the hub of excitement at the drive-in. You would never know who you would see there. It really was the place for families to see and be seen. They served popcorn in huge buckets, delicious corn dogs, cotton candy and pop. The food was the best part.

Debbie Abbott was 16 years old when she started working at the drive-in and Karen (Bishop) Murphy was 15. They both worked at the drive-in
The field has now become a place for dumping
garbage. The back seat of a car rusts in the
open air.
canteen and various other duties.

Karen reminisced about the intermission when people would pile out of the cars and pour into the lobby of the cafeteria. “Pogo sticks was the big seller on the list” she laughed. “I remember one guy came in with two broken arms holding his money in his hand. He placed a big order then loaded it up on each of his casts. I tired to hand him back his change and he just looked down at his casts and said, ‘no thanks.’ I hoped he wasn’t the driver!”

Debbie Abbott remembers how the staff went all out for kids. At the end of the
The canteen was burned and the debris of
the drive- is all around it.  
school year if a kid brought their report card in they would get a free drink for one “A”, a hot dog for two “A’s and so on.  Her favourite memory was when Herbie the Love Bug played at the drive-in.  Debbie and a few of the other employees decided to surprise the kids during the matinee performance of Herbie. They dressed up as clowns and found an old Volkswagen bug but it wasn’t in great working condition. One of the employees, who was dressed up as a clown, was driving the Volkswagen bug to the drive-in when it broke down on Topsail road. Debbie laughs, “So here he was in a clown’s costume, with a broken-down Volkswagen bug and had to walk to the nearest gas station to get a tow truck!" They had to get it towed right in to the front of the drive-in screen. Once it arrived the kids went crazy thinking it was the real Herbie the Love Bug!”

A speaker pole lays on the ground.
Abbott recalls how they would greet the cars that had kids and hand out candy to them. “The police would come and direct traffic because it would be so busy on those nights.”

Those days are gone now. Buried under Alder Bushes and abandoned in a large field, the Brookfield Drive-in is no more. The large screen blew down during a major winter storm in 1992. By that time every family had a VCR and a video store membership.

The remains are still behind the Old Mill Night Club on Brookfield Road. You turn onto Tobin’s Road and drive to the top. You’ll see big boulders to stop you from driving in. Look for the old road and you will have to walk a short distance to see the remains of the ticket booth. Once inside you’ll have to use your imagination or your memories to put everything back in place.

Debbie Abbott was sad when the drive-in closed. “I often say to my husband, I
wish there was a drive-in to take the kids to.” Karen Murphy agreed “It was the end of an era.”

An electrical panel from the main
building
The day I explored the old Brookfield Drive-In, I stood on the concrete platform that was once the canteen and looked out over the overgrown field. When I closed my eyes I could still smell the hot buttered popcorn and corn dogs. I could hear my mother calling “Come on the movie is about to start.” We would run across the lot, in the cool night air, lost, looking for the car. My brother-in-law would flash the lights to remind us where we were parked and we would run towards it laughing, spilling popcorn all along the way.

The loss of the drive-in truly is the end of an era.
#drive-in #drivein #Brookfield #popcorn

Monday, October 30, 2017

Urban Exploring: Naval and Air Station Argentia, NL

Joyce and AG3 John Ehlich at the
American Naval and Air Station Argentia.
Joyce Ehlich was only 19 years old and newly married when she boarded a plane from New York and landed in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. With no idea what she was in for, she wore her prettiest beige mini-dress to impress her husband of two months, who was serving at the American Naval and Air Station Argentia. It was 1969, AG3 John Ehlich had been posted there a year earlier.

John picked her up at the airport in a Volkswagen and told her “It’s not far. It’s only 90 miles to the base and we’ll stay in the B.O.Q.” The B.O.Q. was a ten-story barracks for officers often referred to as the “Argentia Hilton” and was once the tallest building in the province.

AG3 John Ehlich catching fish in Argentia
Ehlich had already taken a ten-hour plane ride from New York to Montreal in a jet and from Montreal to St. John’s in a prop plane that had eight stops along the way. A good portion of the ride to Argentia was on a bumpy dirt road and the Volkswagen began to fill with dust. By the time they arrived she had been travelling for almost 14 hours. She laughs remembering, “I went into the B.O.Q. washroom to freshen up only to discover my face was covered in dust and dirt from her bumpy ride down the Argentia Access Road.” It was a hard introduction to military life for a 19-year-old, newly married wife of a soldier.

AG3 Ehlich was an aerographer with the United States Navy. He was a member of the Atlantic Weather and Ice patrols at the base. His unit updated weather conditions on the North Atlantic, while the Ice Patrols reported on the position of icebergs.

Naval and Air Station Argentia was a former base of the United States Navy, it
The barracks - Photographer Joyce Ehlich
operated from 1941-1994 in the community of Argentia which today, would be about an hour drive from St. John’s. The United States government spent approximately $53 million dollars on building the base. A staggering amount for 1940. In 2017, that amount would equal $926,689,857. At the time of its construction it brought welcomed economic prosperity to the area but it also brought immense hardship and resentment for the residents of Argentia and Marquise.

These families were ordered to hand their land and homes over to the Americans. Eviction notices were delivered and many residents were only given a month to leave. They received as little as $3,000 and $6,000 in compensation. Keep in mind these families had to walk away from the homes they grew up in, farmland that was their livelihoods and that had been passed down through generations.

The abandoned school as it stands today
In 1940 when the deal to build Argentia was done Newfoundland was not part of Canada and was still a British colony.  The land was given as part of the “Destroyers for Bases Agreement” between the United States and the United Kingdom which was signed on September 2, 1940. In the agreement fifty mothballed Caldwell, Wickes, and Clemson class US Navy destroyers were transferred to the Royal Navy from the United States Navy in exchange for land rights on British possessions. Newfoundlanders were told to move starting in December 1940. They did not blame the
Tiny footprints lead to the front door of the school
Americans and welcomed the much-needed work. They did blame the non-elected Commission of Government who consisted of seven people appointed by the British government. Locals accused them of not representing the residents properly in the deal. In the end, about 200 properties were burnt or torn down to make way for the base.

An abandoned building on base
The American service men and their families knew very little about the homes and history that were lost. Ehlich and her husband were housed off base in Freshwater at Kelly’s Alley. They lived in a small, very rugged house and at one point the landlord wanted to rent the space next to theirs to another military family. He asked if they would mind sharing a bathroom. Ehlich said “Absolutely not” and the landlord turned a small woodpile room into a bathroom for them.

She recalls with fondness how they would go to the base and pay a quarter to play ten-pin bowling and go to the B.O.Q. Mess once a month to dine at the beefeater’s carving station.  At 19 she was one of the youngest military wives and found the move from her home town of Long Island to Argentia like going back in time. “We couldn’t buy bread so I
The doors to the abandoned gymnasium
had to make my own” she recollected “There was no ice cream and we could only get powdered milk.”

At one point, approximately 12,000 American military personnel were stationed at the Argentia base. It closed in 1994. There is rumoured to be an active submarine base still there today and urban explorers have great fun trying to find it. Urban explorers like to seek out abandoned man-made structures or ruins to photograph and document it as a hobby.  Nowadays the base has been taken over as an industrial site. Many of the original buildings are still standing but abandoned. Most of the housing and the main hall have been demolished. You can drive or walk around the base, look through the windows and imagine its former glory. There is also a walking trail that takes you through the wooded area
The anchor is still there
around the base.

February 1942 saw the Argentia base at the centre of one of the worst disasters in the US Navy's history when USS Pollux and USS Truxtun were wrecked 75 mi (121 km) southwest of the base. Over 100 victims are buried in Argentia's military cemetery.

First World War, World War two and Cold war sites are popular with tourists and lots of them have been turned into museums. For example, the “Diefenbunker” formally known as Canadian Forces Station Carp is an underground complex that was built during the Cold War. Its main purpose was to be an emergency shelter for government officials including the Prime Minister of Canada, John Diefenbaker, in the event of a
The buildings are left to decay
nuclear attack. Now it is a museum offering tours to visitors.

Ehlich says it is a crime that the once glorious 53 million-dollar U.S. Naval and Air Station has been left to decay. Her and John left Argentia in 1970 and shortly afterwards John left the Navy to join the Nassau County Police Department. They have been married for 49 years and reside in Islip, Long Island, New York. She did leave with the best souvenir “I was pregnant with my first daughter when we left” she laughed “I would love to go back and see the base again.”

Naval and Air Station Argentia can be easily found on Google maps and is free to explore. Keep in mind that urban exploring has risks. Due to the dilapidation of the base exploring can be dangerous. The buildings are owned privately and entering them is illegal. If caught you may face arrest and punishment. There are also areas that are restricted by government and trespassing in those may violate Federal laws.

If you like exploring military history, you must visit Navel and Air Base
The windows have long been broken out
Argentia.

A few tidbits on the history of Naval and Air Station Argentia:
On August 7, 1941 the heavy cruiser USS Augusta carrying U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in the anchorage at Little Placentia Bay off the base. Roosevelt inspected the construction progress and did some fishing from the Augusta over the next two days. The Augusta was joined by the British warship HMS Prince of Wales carrying British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 9, 1941. While in the Argentia anchorage from August 9–12, the chiefs of staff of Britain and the U.S. met to discuss war strategies and logistics once the U.S.
The doors are locked. You can only photograph
from the window
joined in the war. The two leaders and their aides also negotiated the wording of a press release that they called a "joint statement". That press release was issued on August 14, 1941 in Washington, D.C. and simultaneously in London, England. Several days later the Daily Herald would characterize the public statement as being the Atlantic Charter. However, there never was a signed, legal document called the "Atlantic Charter". Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill signed it. The conference concluded the evening of August 12, 1941 with the British and American warships and their escorts passing in review before departing the area for their home ports. The joint declaration was publicly announced on August 14, presumably after Prince of Wales had returned to UK waters.
AG3 John Ehlich's Argentia troup

An ex-marine claims nuclear weapons were stored at the Argentia Base in the 1960s according to a CBC story. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ex-marine-claims-nuclear-weapons-stored-at-nfld-base-1.519885



Combined Bachelor Quarters Implosion https://www.youtube.com/watch? v=082XIVIlro
#NavalandAirStationArgentia #urbanexploring #NewfoundlandandLabrador #Argentia

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Dancing in the Fairy Circle of Harbour Grace

I was blueberry picking around Tors Cove with my mother when I was a small child. The bushes had been picked over by people who were there before us so we had to wade deep into the brush to find the good ones. With a bucket each, our nimble fingers would pluck the berries from their stems. She noticed me wondering off toward a wooded area and yelled, “Don’t go near the woods, the fairies will take you away.”

Those horrible little fairies ruled my childhood.

“Put a crust of bread in your coat pocket” my mother advised another time when I told her I was walking to my friend’s house near a big field, “The fairies will leave you alone that way.”  It wasn’t unusual to find a religious medal pinned to my night dress to ward off the fairies while I slept. My mother was big into the fairies

Why were the fairies afraid of bread? No one seems to know.

Recently I heard of a Fairy Circle located somewhere in Harbour Grace. My husband and I made the hour-long drive one Saturday afternoon. I was able to find a few pictures on the internet but no one was saying exactly where the fairies kept their circle.

We stopped so I could ask a gentleman walking on Water Street. He told me the circle is unlucky and wouldn’t tell me where it was. “If you find it, get out before it’s dark and don’t dare bring any children near it. You don’t want the fairies to take them.” I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg or not. So, we stopped into a bed and breakfast in the area and asked the owner if he knew where the Fairy Circle was. “It’s in a big field behind a farm. If you can’t find it, follow the music” he whispered. “The fairy music that supposedly lures children in to the woods?” I chuckled. “No, the Irish music from the band playing in the soccer field.” Apparently, there was a music festival on that day.


We found the edge of a big wooded field and decided to start walking until we found the circle or the fairies took us away. We ran into a group of three young girls and I asked them if they knew where the Fairy Circle was. “No” said one, “I wouldn’t look for that.” Her friend said, “Be careful you can only find it if the fairies allow you to see it.” Looking back I think these were teenaged fairies sent to scare us away.

But I was even more intrigued. About twenty minutes later hubby says, “Look on top of those tall trees over there. They are beech trees!” We started to run and to my utter joy we stumbled upon where the fairies dance.  It was a circle of extremely tall beech trees. I didn’t know trees grew that tall in Newfoundland.

The ground surrounding it was baron as nothing can grow on fairy ground and the branches stretched out like thick arms with smaller branches with boney fingers reaching out and touching the ground forming a protective cage all around the circle. No one knows where the Fairy Circle came from, who planted it or how long it has been there. Locals believe it is where fairies have their meetings and dance in the pale moonlight. I was told by one elder the reason some people can’t find it is because it disappears from time
to time. I could go back next week and it will be gone.

Someone else told me the trees were planted in a circle to protect the grave of a powerful witch. Stepping into the circle and carefully walking on the eerie ground that covers the witch’s bones sent shivers down my spine. I could feel her cold, boney fingers reaching up from the grave and pulling me down with her.

Now I had wished I put my underwear on backwards to ward the fairies and witches off. When I stood in the center of the circle my first instinct was to dance. Not the Hokey Pokey but a Gaelic Irish river dance. The urge was uncontrollable and I could feel a strange energy coming over me like a soft fog lifting from the dirt. The wind picked up and blew the fallen leaves on the ground into a small tornado around my body. I closed my eyes and it felt like I
was lifting off the ground. I tried to walk outside the circle to see it from a distance but there was a small gravitational pull keeping me in the centre. It wasn’t a feeling of fear or dread but peace and joy. Maybe this was why the people never came back once the fairies took them. My friend Dee warned me to “Keep some pages from the bible and coins in your pocket so the little people don't get you!” I wished I had listened. Hearing the faint trace of Irish music playing in the distance made it all the creepier. Or was it a concert? Maybe the inn keeper himself was a fairy and pointing me towards the woods because he knew my mother saved me years before and now they were getting their revenge! These are not Disney fairies.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don’t fool around when it comes to fairies. ALL of our grandparents know someone who was taken away by fairies never to return again. It’s nothing to laugh at! They all know someone who had been exchanged for a changeling too. That is when fairies might swap a perfectly good baby for a changeling, which is a sickly being, not entirely human. I am pretty sure my first child was a changeling.

Everyone in the province has roots going back to Ireland, England or Scotland and with Gaelic roots come leprechauns and little people.  My mother warned me they come in different shapes and are not always little cherub children. Some are adults, glowing lights and even animals.

If you dare to head out to Harbour Grace to find the Fairy Circle remember you can’t tell anyone where it is or the fairies will come get your children. If you do decide to take your life in your own hands, remember to keep a crust of bread in you pocket, your underwear on backwards, and make sure you have a few coins in your pocket or pin a silver coin to your clothing or a religious medal and if your taking infants put coins inside their baby carriage.

Don’t talk to the locals as they could be adult fairies who are trying to point you
in the direction of the wrong woods just so they can take you away. (No one seems to know where they take you to.) It must be like some big fairy Bermuda Triangle.

I will tell you that when we were leaving I could still hear the Irish music coming down over the hill and a few times I caught something out of the corner of my eye. 

It was just a glimpse of something traveling quickly through the woods. Hiding in shadows.  

I turned back toward the fairy Circle but it was gone. We could no longer see the tall beech trees towering above the forest. The fairies had closed it down.  

Do you believe in fairies?

*** Update: I never gave out the location of the Fairy Circle but thought this was just a field. I was contacted by the owner of the land and he says: "The land is all private property, and we are trying to keep it that way. We have had multiple breakens and damage to the property. We have to lock the front entrance and now people are entering through the back. Your story is written, but could you pass on that it is private property and not a abandoned farm, if anyone asks."


Monday, October 23, 2017

Woody Island: A party like no other


Early in September, my husband and I, joined by some close friends, decided to take a romantic getaway to Woody Island. We had never been there before and had said for years we wanted to go. 

We booked on line at http://www.woodyi.com  and headed out on our journey.

It is about a two-hour drive from St. John’s to Garden Cove where you board the Merasheen for a 40-minute cruise to Woody Island. The island was resettled in the early 1970's. Located in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, this quiet outport community, which once boasted a population of 400, is one of hundreds of fishing villages that were relocated under the government resettlement program. Today it is home to mainly summer visitors. The owners of the resort and residents have done an extraordinary job preserving much of its original heritage.

A two day/ one-night accommodation costs $165 plus HST per person. That includes the boat tour, food and lodging. It does not include alcohol. That is bought at the main lodge. Keep in mind, they don’t give refunds so once you book, you must go. They will change the date of your reservation if time permits.
The resort consists of four lodges that can hold up to 60 people based on double occupancy (30 bedrooms with 2 double beds in each room). There are private and shared bathrooms, showers, baths, a dining room/common room with a fireplace. Each of the lodges has a large patio and deck that overlooks beautiful scenery and the ocean.

The accommodations are equal to a cabin not a hotel. The rooms are small and
hold two very basic double beds (no pillow top mattress). The bed was uncomfortable for two full size adults to sleep in.  The rooms are basic: no TV, clocks, phones, anyway to contact the main house or hair dryer. The shower is smaller than a cruise ships. A full-size man would have a hard time getting washed in it. There is a huge common room in each lodge with tables and chairs. Keep that in mind if you’re travelling with kids and want to put them to bed. The walls are paper thin and the party continues into the night until the electricity is turned off around 3 AM. The resort is on a generator so the electricity is turned off around 3 AM and comes back on around 7 AM.

I found the little things to be an unexpected inconvenience. Trip Advisor rated
Woody Island number one out of 92 hotels in Newfoundland and Labrador according to their web site. So, I expected them to be on par with other hotels. I didn’t bring a hair dryer and when I couldn’t find one in the room, hubby went to the front desk to see if we could borrow one. He was told they didn’t have one. Not having a clock in the room was odd. Realizing they couldn’t have digital clocks because they shut the power off, but they could have the battery operated or old-fashioned wind up type that would fit in with their old-fashioned style. It would have been nice to have the option of a queen size bed also. It’s hard to have a romantic get away when you have to sleep in separate beds! The furniture throughout the lodges was old, worn and in some cases, broken. Keep in mind cell phone coverage is also very limited and that’s just to do with the remoteness of the island.

The one thing you won’t complain about is the food and staff! Woody Island Resort gets five stars when it comes to the cooking and service.  It’s better than the home cooked meals your grandmother used to make. After our boat trip to the island, we were served a lunch of thick bowls of pea soup, homemade bread and toutons. They also offer a gluten-free option but you must put the request in with your reservation. That night, our supper was fresh pan fried cod, oven roasted vegetables, more homemade bread, cottage pudding for dessert and a complimentary glass of wine. You can ask for another plate of supper and they are only more than happy to bring it to you. The next morning you could smell breakfast cooking a mile away. We pulled up a chair to a delicious feed of bacon and eggs with homemade toast, juice, tea and coffee. I believe over the two days I ate about two loafs of homemade bread! Guests can take a little snack in between meals too. You are most welcome to go in the kitchen and help yourself or ask the staff to fix you something. You’re not going to go hungry.

Good thing there are lots ways to work this homemade food off. There is a very easy trail that goes around the island and lots of stuff to explore from abandoned grave yards, the “Rock house”, to the sandy and rocky beaches. There are lots of treasures to find. You can take a rowboat out for a spin around the harbour and cast a line to get your own fish. Guided kayaking tours are also available.

After supper the kitchen party starts in the main lodge. The entertainment was excellent. They had one performer with a keyboard but he was as good as a whole band. We danced and sang the whole night. It was one of the best kitchen parties we have ever been to.

 On the second day, after our hardy breakfast, we packed up and headed back to
the boat.  We sailed around the northern areas of Placentia Bay. We watched a bald eagle soar through the tree tops and kept a keen eye out for whales and dolphins. The boat docked at a beach for a boil up where we were fed homemade stew and sandwiches on what else, but of course, homemade bread.  The live music continued as our performer switched to a guitar and kept the party going.
With bellies full we boarded the Merasheen again for the trip back to Garden Cove.

When packing for Woody Island, keep in mind this is “Glam-ping.” Or glamorized camping. Bring jeans, sneakers, hiking boots and a warm jacket for the evening and boat trips. You’ll also need a hair dryer.

It is quite rugged and there’s a steep hill from the boat dock to the main lodge. Then stairs and small hills to the other lodges. So, if you have mobility issues you should keep that in mind.

I loved our stay at Woody Island and would highly recommend it. We were expecting to be the only Newfoundlanders there but the entire resort was filled with Newfoundlanders. There
was neither mainlander to be seen! 

I think they do need to make a few small inexpensive changes; update the furniture with some new items, including queen sized beds, put a clock in each room and for God sakes buy a hair dryer!

To book a Woody Island vacation go to: http://www.woodyi.com

#woodyisland #newfoundlandandlabrador #urbanexploring #travel #adbandoned  #abandonedisland


Friday, September 8, 2017

Why are people afraid to say the word suicide?

Why are people afraid to say the word suicide? 
My brother Jim and I doing homework.
He was always making people laugh,

They act like they are going to catch it if they say the word out loud. I have actually heard someone say “Don't tell anyone it was suicide. Tell them it was a heart attack because if you say suicide it becomes an option for other people in the family who are seeking attention.”

This past March, a week after his 56 birthday, my brother came home, put out the garbage, went to the shed in his back yard and hung himself. I asked my husband, a retired police officer, why he would put the garbage out. He simply said, “Tomorrow is garbage day.”

Looking back there were signs. Nothing big. Just little things. Nothing that would send up a suicide red flag. He suffered from anxiety and depression then medicated with alcohol and drugs. I thought once we got through Christmas he would be OK. I always thought if he was going to commit suicide it would be around Christmas.

Over the last two years I spent more time with my brother than I have in the past 20 because of a financial issue he had gotten himself into. I have learned when a person suffers from depression and anxiety, and medicates with alcohol and drugs, they become an easy target for those who want to take advantage of them.

There was no shortage of people who wanted to take advantage of him.

I've had people say to me “Tell him to get his arse out of bed, get showered and shaved, get dressed and get himself together.” My God, don't you think if a shower to shave could have eased his pain he would do it ten times a day? Depression and anxiety can't be cured with a shower and shave. It's only lipstick on a pig.

During the funeral, a friend dropped in on her way home from work to offer her condolences. She asked “He was only 56 years old. Was it a heart attack?” I said, “No it was suicide.” She looked at me and explained the parking lot was extremely busy and she was double parked. She basically ran out of the funeral home. I thought, “That was odd.”

Then another friend came by to offer her condolences. Once again, I was asked “He was only 56 years old did he have cancer?” “No” I said, “It was suicide.” She said she was sorry. Then turned around and left the funeral home.

It felt like because I said “suicide” his death wasn't good enough for everybody. If I had said “Heart attack or “Cancer” I would have received more sympathy. I think some people still have the mindset that if a person commits suicide they should be buried outside the graveyard fence.

I decided to take a different approach. The next time somebody offered their condolences and asked if he was sick? I said, “Yes, he suffered for a long time.” Then they would ask “Was it cancer?” I would reply “No, anxiety and depression.” They would look at me very funny and say, “Oh.” Not wanting to ask the next question. So, I would follow up with “He died of suicide.” Then they would look at me with wide eyes and a mouth open not knowing what to say. 

Everyone is obviously uncomfortable or too embarrassed to say the word… suicide. You can’t catch it if you say the word. No one asks me how I am dealing with the loss like they ask other people who have lost loved ones to other diseases. 

After my experience at the funeral home I decided I would change my approach to how I treated people who lost a loved one to suicide. I would treat them like their loved one had suffered from a disease and died from it. Because they did! I would not turn on my heels and say I'm double parked I must go. I will take their hand and say, “Would you like to talk?” It is like anything I suppose, if you haven't gone through it, you don't know how to react to it.

People think suicide is a cowardly act. They couldn't be further from the truth. It takes an enormous amount of courage to put a rope around your neck and jump off a bucket. I couldn't do it. At least I hope I could never do it. But then again, I'm not going through the kind of anxiety and depression that my brother suffered from.

I wish I could answer the question; How do we stop people from committing suicide? I don't know.

I know over the past two years I did everything I possible could to help him. Sometimes he welcomed the help, sometimes he didn't.

I asked Father Mark Nichols, my parish priest at St. Mark's to give the sermon. He had never met my brother and asked to meet with me before the service. We talked about my brother’s life for two hours and I told him the truth. I told him about the alcohol and drugs. I told him about the anxiety and depression. I told him about my frustration when I had to deal with him and the times I walked away because I couldn’t take it anymore. There was no sense in lying to a priest.

During the sermon, he told the story of a friend of his who boarded a plane with his young child. During the flight, they experienced severe turbulence. The child became very frightened and started to cry. The father comforted the child until the turbulence stopped and then the child went back to playing. On the flight back from their vacation the child became very anxious when he had to board the plane and began to cry. People around them started looking. There were comments of “What a spoiled child!” “Why can't you get him under control?” And of course, the angry stares and judgement.

The father just sat there with the child and rocked him, comforting him. Father Mark said, “The child’s father knew how he got that way.” The father knew it was a past experience that created the anxiety and made the child cry. He knew the best thing he could do for his son was ignore everyone around them, and sit and comfort his child until he stopped crying. He then said, “God the Father knew how my brother got that way. And he was now in his arms being comforted without judgement.”

The story really stuck with me.

I knew it was true. Only God knew how he got that way. Only God could comfort him through his turbulent times. I will forever carry the loss of my brother in my heart but I do take comfort knowing that he is in the arms of God being comforted without judgement.


Even after going through the suicide of my brother, I still don't know why people do it. I guess it's the only way they can stop the pain. 

I wish there was some enlightening advice I could pass on. But I learned nothing. Other than, if you have a loved one who suffers from anxiety and depression, remind yourself “God knows how he got that way” and comfort him without judgement.

Friday, June 30, 2017

The abandon La Manche Village

There’s nothing more eerie than walking through the abandon skeleton of what once was a thriving village.  
The footprint of a house

La Manche Village was a community on the east coast of the Avalon Peninsula between Cape Broyle and Tors Cove in a small inlet surrounded by steep hills. It is about a 45-minute hike from La Manche Provincial Park.

The area is now more famous for the LaManche suspension bridge. 

The village and bridge have two access points. The easiest access point is to park at the end of the La Manche Road, off highway 10 past the entrance to La Manche Provincial park, and walk for less than 2 km to the bridge. This trail is easy but hard at times so be prepared. 

La Manche Suspension Bridge
You can also hike 2.7 km along the East Coast Trail from Bauline East. You can park at the designated East Coast Trail parking place at the harbour and hike south from there. Be sure to make a pit stop at the beautiful and hidden Doctor’s Cove beach.

In French "La Manche" means "the sleeve". The area is named for the shape of the harbour, which is long and narrow with high sides. This harbour was probably first used by the French because of its seclusion which offered cover between raids on Ferryland and St. John's.

The remains of a house
The community was first settled in the 1840s, apparently by a George Melvin from nearby Burnt Cove. La Manche had been used as a fishing harbour for many years and was known as one of the best fishing coves on the southern shore.

La Manche Village was one of Newfoundland's most picturesque communities. Limited by the amount of land available in the area, the community remained small, its population peaking at about 54 around the time of Confederation. 

Although a majority of residents were apparently opposed to resettlement, the closure of the school and the continuing isolation of the community prompted some to leave.

Stairway to the past
By 1961 the population had fallen to 25. Others continued to reject the notion of resettlement, but their resolve gave way in 1966 when a severe storm demolished the community's extensive network of stages and wharves.

Today, its stages, flakes and wharves have disappeared into the ocean and thick brush. The concrete remains of houses and rock walls have been destroyed by spray paint vandals, drunken campers and mother nature.

It is such a shame to see this small hard-working community sink into the past. It is only a matter of time before even the concrete basements and lone standing chimney fall to rubble.

The inside of a abandon house
Throughout what is left of this small village you will see: concrete stairs to houses that no longer exist, frames to basements with window holes still intact but glass long gone, carefully built rock walls and fences that still withstand the harsh Newfoundland weather.

Standing inside the remains of a house I wonder: Who were they? Do they ever come back? What is their story?

The area surrounding La Manche Village is absolutely beautiful. You can set up camp there and I have on two occasions. If you do, please be respectful and don’t leave your garbage behind.
The basement of an old house

Visit but don’t destroy. 

Think of the fisherman and their families who built this community and the history that is hidden in its high hills.

If you love the outdoors put La Manche Village and the suspension bridge on your list of things to visit in Newfoundland and Labrador.

** Details found at Maritime History Achieve https://www.mun.ca/mha/resettlement/lamanche_1.php
Newfoundland and Labrador Government web site: http://www.tcii.gov.nl.ca/parks/p_lm/
The remains of a hand built rock wall
A chimney that looks a grave stone

The remains of a rock wall
A window to a basement





















Friday, April 28, 2017

Monkey Business- Watch them. They steal!

I love cruises. It’s such an easy way to travel and relax. Your every whim is
catered to from delicious meals to tropical drinks and 24 hour a day fun. You can’t have a bad time on a cruise unless you’re just a miserable person who finds fault with everything. In that case, you should just stay home and stay away from me.

It’s so exciting to stop in different countries and spend the day experiencing their culture and doing excursions to see what life is really like for the locals. Or just lay on a beach, drink bear and make fun of people who wear thongs. We took a seven-day cruise to the Western Caribbean and one of the countries we stopped in was Mahogany Bay, Honduras.

We took the opportunity to tour this beautiful Island and visit a monkey sanctuary. We were told in this sanctuary you don’t have to stand outside a fence and look at the monkeys like in a zoo, you could go inside this huge cage where monkeys roamed free and interact with them.

Well, who wouldn’t want to interact with monkeys? Right?

What they don’t tell you in the brochure is these monkeys are trained jewel thieves and members of a notorious gang. I was traveling with hubby and our two teenaged kids at the time. My son decided to stay outside the cage because basically it was dirty and smelled like these animals couldn’t use a toilet properly. So much for animals who have a thumb like us. Monkeys go when mother nature calls and sometimes that’s when they are in a tree above your head. It’s not like a bird dropping either. It’s more like some perverted old man giving you a golden shower without your consent.

Myself, hubby and our daughter along with other tourists went inside the cage. We were surprised and delighted to see that the monkeys immediately started interacting with us by jumping on our shoulders, putting their arms around our necks or jumping into our arms for what we thought was a cuddle.

Now the first thing you need to know about monkeys is they have no acceptable social boundaries. The first thing you need to know about me is I don’t like being groped because I will punch you in the face if you grab my breast. Their leathery, hairy human like hands were all over me and it felt like I was at happy hour on George Street. These monkeys are seriously going down your top and in your pockets at the same time.

It became too overwhelming for my daughter and hubby so they got out of the cage and went for a walk around the sanctuary while I stayed in the cage determined to get a selfie these furry primates. I am willing to suffer for my art… or a great selfie.

It was as if the monkeys knew my family was out of site. Suddenly, they began to pounce! Then I realized what they were doing was robbing me! I was wearing a backpack and one monkey climbed on top of it. Another tourist told me the monkey was unzipping the backpack. Then we all realized they were stealing things from the pockets and purses of everyone in the cage. He was joined by a second monkey and they were putting their hands in the backpack taking things like my sunglasses and lip balm then scooting to the top of the cage and hiding the items in the trees. While I was trying to get these monkeys off my back another one was hanging on to my belt and putting his hands in the front pocket of my shorts. The pockets were empty but I got the feeling that this little Trump supporting monkey wasn’t looking for coins. He was getting his kicks.

Other tourists clued in and realized we weren’t visiting monkeys as much as we were being mugged by monkeys! Our tour guides were no where to be seen, on purpose I would imagine. We were all laughing in the confusion of the moment until it hit me that if they took my passport or wallet I would have to explain to authorities that I had become the victim of a Honduras monkey gang and would end up in some immigrant jail cell while the head monkey used my MasterCard to buy bananas and Michael Jackson paraphernalia on eBay.

A nice fellow tourist was able to scare the monkeys of my backpack but the little Trump monkey was holding on to my belt for dear life and determined to get to know me better. I decided then and there that I was not going die in a caged being raped to death by monkeys. I did lean off and punch this monkey in the face.
It was like the whole tour group decided at once to leave the cage and we all ran towards to door. Keep in mind that there were children of all ages, seniors as well as able bodied people. Now I know, that a group should only move as fast as the slowest person but I was wearing shorts and this greasy monkey was grinning his big yellow teeth at me while acting like an animal. I ran like a little bitch through the group. There was a local guarding the door to the cage and helped pull Trump off me. He says, “You’ve met Frisky.” To which I responded, “Yes we’re quite intimate now.”

Outside we assessed the damage. Several people had lost sunglasses, one guy lost his house keys, lots of change had been stolen from pockets and my innocence was gone.

The whole experience hasn’t changed my mind about taking cruises. I have done several since then. Except now I don’t get into a fight cage with monkeys. If you do happen to take a cruise in the Western Caribbean and land in Honduras. I do recommend the monkey sanctuary but bring some mace. Oh, and tell Trump I said hello.  


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Misguided Messages

I really do have a medical condition that causes memory loss. I can’t blame it all on menopause. This condition creates daily hurdles for me to jump over so I came up with a few coping strategies to help me remember things. One of those strategies is to email myself.  This is normally done on the fly using the mic on my iPhone. For example, when I am getting out of the shower and remember I need to pick up milk or when I am just about to start a yoga class and remember I need to sew the hole in the fork of my yoga pants. I’ll just send myself a quick email using the phone’s mic so when I look at my phone later I will remember to buy milk and wear underwear to yoga.

The problem with this strategy is I don’t always take the time to make sure I have selected MY email address or that autocorrect understands my Newfoundland accent.  

A few days ago, I received an email from a friend who had typed, “Stay strong. I am surprised, but I’ll support you no matter what you decide.” I was confused at first. Then I scrolled down through her message and discovered the email I thought I sent to myself earlier that day had been sent to her by mistake. The email I sent to me was “To do today: Clean out hubby and my closet. Bag and bring to goodwill.” The email SHE received said “Today told hubby I am out of the closet. Sad to tell him I am Bill.”

Well, as you can imagine I had to make a quick phone call and go into damage control mode before word got around. I thanked her for the support but assured her  the occasional facial hair was from menopause not hormones. We had a good laugh and I made a mental note to read emails before I sent them.

Of course, I forgot that note five minutes after I hung up the phone.

A good friend of mine is a Priest. Last year I accidentally sent him an email that said, “Why do I sweat more under my boobs that my armpits?” I had met with my doctor a month before about controlling some annoying menopause symptoms. She had put me on a new drug but told me to keep track of the symptoms and any questions I had for my next appointment. That morning the annoying symptom was boob sweat. My Priest friend emailed me back with, “I don’t know but I’ll pray for you.” Can you just picture this poor man on his knees hold Rosary beads chanting “Please Lord Jesus give us world peace, stop the suffering of little children and cure Helen’s boob sweat.”

This morning was the worst. I can no longer leave my house. I have also banned myself from email. I woke up to an email from my former boss who is a high-ranking officer in the RCMP.” All the email said was “???? Did you mean to send this to me?” I jumped out of bed and scrolled down through the message. Last night, before I fell a sleep I sent myself an email that said, “How do you cure vaginal dryness?”

Oh, sweet hearted, jumping in the garden Jesus!!! I can’t believe I did that!!!
I had to send him back an email that said, “Sorry. That was meant for me only. (P.S. was asking for a friend).”


Moral of the story is; if you ever get an email from me that seems a little weird or embarrassing. Please delete it and don’t answer it. Or, if someone tells you I am a lesbian with boob sweat and a dry vagina please tell them you have it from a good source that rumour is not true.  

Monday, April 10, 2017

Exploring abandon places: Naval and Air Station Argentia, NL

Footprints to the daycare & school. How many American children grew up here?
Footprints to the daycare & school.
How many American children
grew up here?
Years ago, when I was a member of the OZFM/ NTV media, we had a soft ball team. We were often invited to the Naval Base in Argentia to play the American team. It was always a great weekend. They welcomed us like celebrities and we loved going to visit. Naval and Air Station Argentia is a former base of the United States Navy, it operated from 1941-1994 and was established in the community of Argentia, NL about an hour drive from St. John’s.

Peeking through the school gymnasium door.
After an afternoon game of soft-ball we would dine like Royalty at the main building. The Americans sure did know how to feed people well. Then we would go to the ten-pin bowling alley for a game and few drinks. It was always a grand time. At one point, approximately 12,000 American military personnel were stationed at the Argentia base. We made some great friends and I often wondered what happened to them after they left.

The eerie school hallway is quite now.
The base closed in 1994. There is rumoured to be an active submarine base still there. Today, the base has been taken over as an industrial site. Many of the original buildings are still standing but abandoned. Most of the housing and the main hall have been demolished. You can drive or walk around the base and look through the windows and imagine its former glory. There is also a walking trail that takes you through the wooded area around the base.

Can you see the ghost on the wall?
According to Wikipedia, on August 7, 1941 the heavy cruiser USS Augusta
carrying U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in the anchorage at Little Placentia Bay off the base. Roosevelt inspected the base construction progress and did some fishing from Augusta over the next two days. Augusta was joined by the British warship HMS Prince of Wales carrying British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 9, 1941. While in the Argentia anchorage from August 9–12, the chiefs of staff of Britain and the U.S. met to discuss war strategies and logistics once the U.S. joined in the war. The two leaders and their aides also negotiated the wording of a press release that they called a "joint statement". That press release was issued on August 14, 1941 in Washington, D.C. and was issued simultaneously in London, England. Several days later the Daily Herald would characterize the public statement as being the Atlantic Charter. However, there never was a signed, legal
document called the "Atlantic Charter". Neither Roosevelt nor Churchill signed it. The conference concluded the evening of August 12, 1941 with the British and American warships and their escorts passing in review before departing the area for their home ports. The joint declaration was publicly announced on August 14, presumably after Prince of Wales had returned to UK waters.

February, 1942 saw the Argentia base at the centre of one of the worst disasters in the US Navy's history when USS Pollux and USS Truxtun were wrecked 75 mi (121 km) southwest of the base. Over 100 victims were buried in Argentia's military cemetery.

were stored at the Argentia Base in the 1960s according to a CBC story. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ex-marine-claims-nuclear-weapons-stored-at-nfld-base-1.519885

See the full story here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Station_Argentiahttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Station_Argentia

History on the area can be found here: 
http://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/politics/argentia-base.phphttp://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/politics/argentia-base.php


If you like exploring and military history, you must visit Navel and Air Base Argentia.