Teaching in Long Beach, 1936-1937

by Signe (Mills) Green
Submitted by her daughter, Daphne (Green) Choquette

Long Beach School Students-1937

FRONT ROW (left to right): Robert Vey, Eric Vey, Gordon Vey, Cyril Vey, Ivy Avery, Elsie Myrtle Avery, Emma Avery, Annie Blanche BarfItt, Mary Gladysis Avery MIDDLE ROW: Lloyd BarfItt, Jehu Avery, Petley Vey, Doris Vey, Ronald Vey, Gertie Gladysis Vey, Jean Vey, George Vey, Hilda Vey, Reginald Vey BACK ROW: Hazel (Queen) BarfItt, Clarence Vey, Mary Alice BarfItt, Garfield Vey, George BarfItt, Lucy Smith, Douglas Vey, Selina Vey and Signe Mills (Teacher), 1937. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

My next school was at Long Beach, a small village halfway up the Random South West Arm. There are many little settlements around this inlet, beginning with Southport and the south eastern tip and going all around to ‘St.  Jones Within’ where the roads end. In my day there was a small community below ‘St. Jones Within called Loreburn but I think that no one lives there now.

Again, I came by boat from Thoroughfare, covering nearly the same route which I had traveled on my way to St. Jones Without. As we entered the arm, we passed Southport, Little Heart’s Ease, Hodge’s Cove and Caplin Cove before coming to Long Beach. Long Beach is so called because of a long stretch of sand, above which the houses are built on a graduated slope. Both the Anglican and United Church schools were built on the beach, at sea level, when the tide was in. They were side by side and identical.

Anglican school beside the brook Long Beach

Anglican school

Schools in Newfoundland at that time were denominational but at Long Beach, they were a step ahead of that system, and the United Church teacher alternated each year with an Anglican one in operating the schools. Regardless of denomination, all children attended which ever one was open. We didn’t think of it at the time, but it was a beginning towards a final merging.

I boarded with a Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Vey and their family of two boys and three girls. I became close friends with Violetta, the oldest girl, with whom I shared a bedroom. The two younger girls I had as pupils.

Vey Family aboard Fishing Schooner -1935

Onboard the vessel Exotic. At the wheel is William James Vey (son of James Vey and Rachel Smith). Standing Herbert John, Hayward and Harold Vey. Seated Simeon Vey and Norman Peddle

Mr. Vey, was skipper of his own schooner, and together with his two boys and additional men to make up a crew, went to the Labrador fishing grounds each summer. Some years later, I was to hear of the tragic drowning death of the older son, Hayward, during a heavy storm on the Labrador coast.

The classroom here was pretty well filled. Nearly all the children of school age attended and that meant every grade. “All the big boys will attend when the fishing season is over” they told me.

Every now and then, I had moments of panic. To begin with, I didn’t know where they could sit but I suppose room would be made from them somewhere. When they finally turned up, their attendance was so sporadic, that I really had not much to worry about. Their parents kept them out for the least reason, running errands, chopping wood, or even tending the baby. Unless a boy or girl went though with teaching in mind, formal educations were not taken all that seriously. One ‘big block of a chap’ was only there at his parent’s insistence. He never could get “the hang of learning” and I expect that was his last year of school. One especially impish lad (around fifteen) took great delight in getting something going, (nothing criminal about him, just a plain mischievous boy!) I was somewhat relieved when he left before the year was too far advanced.

One quiet chap was deeply studious and bent on getting through his first C.H.E. exams (Grade six). It was a joy to work with George Barrett [Barfitt] and when we got the results at the end of August, I was as please as he was. He became a teacher.

Douglas Vey

Douglas Vey

A lad that I remember quite well at Long Beach, was Douglas Vey, quite small for his age and so attentive to his lessons that he rarely raised his eyes, except when spoken to. He seemed to be plodding along well enough, but his mother, who was a former teacher, took me to task, because she felt that I wasn’t giving him the attention that she thought I should. I felt sorry for the little chap so I made a special effort after that to help him more.  His mother was probably right.  They say “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease!”

Soon after my arrival in September, I discovered that it was my “duty” to organize the Sunday school Rally Day service. (I have wondered since, how they managed the year they had an Anglican teacher.) Anyway, I loved doing this sort of thing and followed right along in the footsteps of Uncle Silas.  By this time, I had accumulated a great deal of program material, so with the help of one or two Sunday school teachers, I put together a good “show” for Sunday afternoon in late September. I think we completely ignored the set Rally Day sheet sent out by the church. We had a full house, as people from both congregations turned out.

This was the time, though, where I had a “run in” with the Sunday school superintendent over the burning of candles in the church, because it smacked too much of popery. I had drilled the ‘small fry’ in and exercise, where they sang “Jesus Bids Us Shine” while holding a small candle. The superintendent absolutely forbade it, and won.

I also played the organ at church services. When I returned there in 1975, I visited the same little church, and played the same reed organ that I had played nearly forty years before. It sounded just as nice. I don’t think that reed organs ever go out of tune.

Just before Christmas of that year, I developed the measles and during the holiday season, I was feeling very sorry for myself. I had planned to go home but couldn’t now. It was a long distance and who knows what “knocking around” I would have to do before I got back, and all this, in winter weather. Neither could I take part in much of the local festivities.

Sometime during the early part of the winter, I began organizing a school concert. Night after night was spent in practicing the songs, marches, skits and whatever goes to make up an evening of fun. Local lads built a temporary stage and the girls pooled their talents and gathered old (and not so old) sheets from home. The variety and sizes of these sheets made an interesting curtain. Many a comment was heard on opening night. Some mothers, recognized parts of the curtain and probably after the night of fun, some girls may have been “skinned alive!” The curtain was stung along on a heavy wire to be pulled at a signal from the master of ceremonies. To our great dismay, it sometimes broke, showing embarrassed kids in various stages of undress, as they were preparing for the next item on the program.

One night, because of a heavy nosebleed, I held up the works for half an hour around the half way mark. There was no funny storyteller to tide us over this gap, so we had to put up with the restlessness of the audience. The nose eventually let up, so it was “on with the show!”

Later in the spring, I was approached by a board member from a nearby community. He wanted to know if I would consider taking the school there, for the coming year. I was naturally flattered, as schools were scarce, and I knew that I couldn’t come back to Long Beach, even if I wanted to. I did hear that my “drawing card” was in my ability to put on great concerts and church rallies. I didn’t go there, however. I felt that I would like to go farther afield, so before the end of June, I applied for a school on the Glovertown charge and was accepted.

Going back for a minute, to the variety concert, it must be remembered that it was almost the only form of entertainment in these isolated spots, so people eagerly looked forward to them. They came from all over the surrounding areas and we, in Long Beach, walked miles to attend one somewhere else. Folks were literally sitting on each other’s laps, but a good time was had by all. Once in Thoroughfare, I set up such a howl to go to a concert in Ireland’s Eye, along with a group of young people. My father laid down the law and said “no,” that the ice was unsafe to walk across. I nursed my grievance the whole night; such was the attraction of a concert!

In late years, I have noticed a return to the old time variety concert. It seems to attract more people than a slide show. It is a rare thing to be able to watch people make fools of themselves.

As in St. Jones Without, several teachers who came there married local chaps. There was always the eligible bachelor on the prowl for someone a bit more special than the local scene offered. These were the woman that I feared most of all. They were usually critical.

This Random Arm is a lovely inlet from Trinity Bay. Little and big coves run all around its shoreline. Diagonally across from Long Beach, is the cosy land locked harbour of St. Jones Within.  Directly across from us, was Hatchet Cove.  At the bottom of the Arm, was the little hamlet of North West Brook, where now stands the little church that had been dismantled and brought from St. Jones Without.

We didn’t travel very much to these places, as it took a long time to go by foot and the only alternative was by boat in fair and warm weather. If anything special cropped up, such as a concert or a funeral, we made the effort. To go to a funeral, whether we knew the person or not, was about as attractive as going to a concert. We never thought of it as being morbid.

A wide highway now runs around the whole arm, rough but navigable.  There are plans to pave it, so it should be a delightful drive. (As of 1977, it is now all paved.)

During the time that I spent on that charge, I became acquainted with several teachers, Woodrow Tucker, Sam Drover, Ike Newell, Hector Reid and Mable Thistle. A young student minister saw to the spiritual needs of the people, spread out over a length of coastline that included thirteen or fourteen preaching appointments. During my first two years there, the ministers were Tom Barbour and John Wareham. At Long Beach we had Ralph Ledrew.

During the Long Beach year, the Rev. Oliver Jackson was very active in Newfoundland. His specialty was organizing young peoples groups, and no doubt, he laid the foundation upon which a vital Christian Education movement has since been built in Newfoundland. A boatload of young people, including myself, from Long Beach, once accompanied him to St. Jones Within during the spring of 1937. His program included co-op movements, garden clubs, study groups, adult education, adult summer and vacation schools, camps and leadership training classes. I was very much enthused by the whole setup. Youth responded to his challenge. We were devastated when we heard the news over the radio, on the night of November 3rd, 1937 that he had lost his life. His boat had been dashed on the rocks by wild seas on the south coast of Newfoundland, bringing abruptly to an end, an active and dedicated life. (I was to hear, in later years, that the young chap Harris, who lost his life at the same time, was the student minister who had followed my husband on the Burgeo charge, when Bert left to go to Grand Bruit.)

When I left Long Beach at the end of June, I spent a week supervising the school at Southport for the C.H.E. exams. Teachers were always grateful for this extra bit of income, salaries being what they were.

The factory boat from Thoroughfare came to get me at the end of the week and thus ended my stay in that part of the country.

During the summers, I attended summer school at St. John’s to upgrade my qualifications. That last summer, I financed my sister Bessie’s term at summer school and we both stayed with Aunt Jennie and Uncle Mark on Golf Avenue. Bessie had graduated with honours that year, (under Uncle Silas). We didn’t know it at that time, as the results were never published until August, but we went on to St. John’s and enrolled in summer school anyway.

That year, in September, 1937, Bessie took her first school at Queen’s Cove (just above Long Beach) and I went to Saunders’s Cove in Glovertown.

When I revisited Long Beach in 1975, I was disappointed to find that both these schools were gone.  In the name of progress, the children now go by bus to a large central school at Hodge’s Cove.

Years later, when I was at a Newfoundland picnic in Florida, I met several of my former pupils and they told me how much they liked me and they kept coming around and putting their arms around me.  One girl remembered that she played “Robin Hood” in one of my concerts.


Special thanks to Daphne (Green) Choquette for sharing her Mother’s stories with the Southwest Arm Historical Society.