The World of Work

This page is from a heritage partnered project. It was written in 1998 by students from Mount Pearl Junior High and edited by their teachers. It has not been vetted by the heritage website's academic editor.

In Newfoundland and Labrador the word work can come to mean several different things. It could mean the work that parents did to provide an income to the family. It could mean the work that was done to keep the house clean. It could also mean the chores that children had to do or the work that had to be done in the kitchen to provide food. So you can see that when it comes to work there was a variety to do and a lot to be done!

Work at Home by Children

Excerpt from an interview with Mr. Edgar Mudge.

"Getting the sheep--God, that was something--going to look for those sheep every evening in the fall, trying to get them in, because there is nothing more stubborn than a sheep. Two sheep, I suppose, are more stubborn but that's about all. And that I remember. I remember one evening--the snow had fallen, and I had looked everywhere for those half a dozen sheep or whatever that we had, and I couldn't find them anywhere. And I remember--and I've thought about it a hundred times after--just a kid, unable to find the sheep, praying to God to have those sheep home when I got home. By damn, when I got home they were there. And I've never forgotten that. I'm not much of a religious person, mind you, but I've never forgotten that God answered my prayer that evening. So He brought the sheep home instead of myself. I would spend most of Saturday mowing his (the old gentleman who owned the store) with a push mower for fifty cents. That was a lot of money. So that's the thing I remember especially."

Working in the Woods

Mr. Bert Vincent

In an interview with Mr. Bert Vincent, we learned about his job as "cookee" and later cook in a lumber camp in Central the important role of cook, Mr. Vincent was responsible for preparing hearty meals for up to 120 men at a time. Cooking six or seven fifteen-pound turkeys, "a sack and a half" of potatoes and 165 pieces of turnip at a time must have been quite a chore. Hear what he has to say about preparation of breakfast in the woods! You can almost smell the bacon, ham and sausage frying!

It was interesting to learn that in the spring of the year the cook followed the loggers with a portable kitchen as they moved downstream toward paper mill at Grand Falls. The "kitchen" was moved downstream in a dory by experienced river men. Listen as Mr. Vincent tells how he felt about the process of moving kitchen. With one at the bow and one at the stern, down the river they'd go.

Working on the Water

An Unusual Job for a Young Boy

An Interview with Mr. Brian Fitzgerald, aged 69, South River, Newfoundland

(as related to N. W. Sheppard, May 18th, 1997)

"As a young boy, I grew up on Bell Island. One job that many young boys would do would be to load or unload ballast from boats arriving with all sorts of cargo or preparing to take on iron ore. Ballast was usually large rocks that made an empty boat ride better on the water. The incident that I am thinking about took place in the late 30s or early 40s when I was around 14 years old. They could not get the regular men to do this task because they worked long hours Monday to Friday and didn't want to be bothered with this task. We had been working several hours on a certain ship unloading ballast. When we were given a break, another boy whose name was Mike, and I spread ourselves out on a grill to enjoy the good weather. Without notice, the grill gave way and both of us went thumbing into the engine room. I landed on a catwalk above the engine room. You know what a catwalk is. It is a kind of bridge with iron railings. I don't know how it happened but all the damage to me was to rub skin off the back of my neck. I must have hit the railings because I kept going in and out of conscience. Mike fell all the way to the engine room floor where there were all sorts of gauges. They had to get a skiff to take us to the pier and then carry us to the medical clinic. Like I said, I kept coming to and passing out, especially when the cold sea air hit me. Poor Mike, however, died that night."

Out of Work

Welfare is an organized social service set up by the government to assist those who have no means of income. People on welfare receive money to obtain essentials. Years ago in Newfoundland and Labrador, the welfare system was known by the slang term the "Dole". Those on the Dole did not receive money directly, but rather food stamps which they would use to purchase the items they needed from a neighborhood merchant. Most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians during the early 1900's would go on the Dole during the winter months for with the fishing industry halted these people had no means of earning a living. During the years of the Great Depression the average amount of money received per person per family was six cents a day.

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