So much to learn about ‘The Rock’

Marnie and I believed it was important for our sons to see and experience all the provinces in Canada, and we travelled to all of them except for Newfoundland.
Well, last week Marnie and I travelled across Newfoundland—from Corner Brook to St. John’s and part of the Avalon Peninsula.
We stayed at B&Bs, where we met interesting travellers along the route. The B&B hosts also are a trove of information about the communities they live in.
From Cox’s Cove I went fishing out in the Bay of Islands with long-time resident Darren Park. I learned from him of the sacrifices families made with the collapse of the cod fishery.
I can’t imagine being offered the choice of abandoning your home at a remote fishing village or putting the home and fishing stage into the sea, floating them down to a community closer to a larger centre, and then pulling the home up the hill and beginning anew.
Similar stories are told on the Prairies, where families put their home up on blocks, then put wheels under them and pulled them down the rural roads to larger centres as the small communities no longer were viable.
The first “livers” must have been the hardiest people in the world. Most coming from Ireland chose to face the tough cold winter life on the shores of the North Atlantic instead of returning home at the end of the fishing season.
It must have been a subsistence life, forcing the men to go into the bush to hunt caribou as the main food source for the winter.
The families would have some cod for the winter while the women would have made jams from the partridgeberries and blueberries picked during the summer.
Pictures in many museums in the small communities show the acres of “fish flakes” that were used to dry cod in the summer months.
Each fisherman had their own “stage” to clean, gut, and take the bones from the cod. It then was salted and put out on the drying racks to be dried by the combination of wind and sun.
The families were paid for the quality of the product. As such, the women worked hard to make sure the drying fish did not become wet from the rain or burned by the sun that would destroy its value.
Many almost were indentured to the merchants, borrowing money in the spring to buy fishing gear and then selling the dried cod to the merchants—hoping to have enough money to buy flour and provisions for the winter.
I have learned about different kinds of plantations in my travels. In the southern U.S., we hear of cotton and tobacco plantations, often seeing them associated historically with slaves.
Here in Northern Ontario, logging and paper companies often refer to the replanted forests that they manage as plantations.
In Newfoundland, a plantation was operated by the merchant and included a blacksmith shop with a forger, a cooperage manned by many men making barrels, a fish-packing plant, a merchant store, and the merchant’s home.
There also were the docks for ocean boats to tie up and deliver their goods from Europe, then take on packed cod to ship off to England, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and South America.
Every fishing community lays claim to having the best fish and chips on the island. We tried them everywhere and fresh cod coated in a light batter and deep-fried is tough to beat (the portions were huge).
And I have to admit that by the end of the trip, I had to agree that every restaurant we entered always produced the most delightful meals.
There is much to see and learn about the history of Newfoundland.

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