Growing up in Long Beach

by Gertie Vey Soper


Gertie G Vey - 13 yrs old

Gertie Vey, 13 years old

I would like to begin by saying that part of my life of growing up was that, at some age, I decided that I was very tired of having to chop wood and bring it to the one-room school and take my turn to light the fire for that week. How I wished I had a younger brother, and I would make him do some of the things I had to do. No such luck – I had to do this unpleasant work myself.

My father and two brothers would haul the wood, which they had cut, and bring it to the wood- shed. Then it was my job to saw it to the size to fit the stove. That was only part of the process. I had to “cleave it” or as they say now “split it,” and carry it by armload to the home. I had to also make sure that the dry wood was for splits only (kindling). The only thing I did not have to do was to get out of bed on a very cold morning and light the fire in the kitchen stove. My father did that.

There were many other tasks that were required of me.


Caring for the Animals

My second older sister had a variety of duties. One of them was to  keep the animals’ area in the barn clean and dry. To do this, she had to go to the woods, and with the help of one of our pet dogs, haul enough boughs to lay on the barn floor so that the animals would have a clean bed to lie on, after she had cleaned out their pens.


Household Duties

We did not have running water and my two older sisters were required to bring a barrel of water each morning from the brook, before going to school.


Leisure Time

We still had time to frolic in the snow. We all had a special sleigh and we spent some of our leisure time doing just that. (My older sister remarked to me “What leisure time?!!”)


Seasonal Work

Winter and Logging

During the winter months most of the men in the community were logging. They did not have the equipment that is available today, but they worked long hours. I never knew my father and brothers to miss a day in the woods, unless it was too stormy. The logs they cut in the winter were sawn into lumber of different sizes and lengths.


Spring and Logging

When the spring came, there were many days when you would hear the sawmills humming. Another of my duties was to bring “lunch” to my father and brothers at the saw mill. My bundle was tied up and I could swing it back and forth. I don’t think, as a small child, that I realized I could have broken the dinner plates and spilled the food. As I grew older, I watched more closely to what I had to do.

After the lumber was ready to be shipped to St. John’s, it was loaded aboard their schooners  for sale. The result would be their winter earnings.

The people in the community would be logging in winter and would always be involved in the fishery in the spring and summer season. My father was most always the owner of a schooner and had his hired men ready for the summer voyage to the Labrador.


Barking of  Cod Traps and Getting Ready for the Summer Voyage to the Labrador

Cousin Wilson Vey and sons, 1957

Cousin Wilson Vey and sons, 1957

This was the time to begin the process of barking the cod traps and with the hired help, this procedure followed. A large barking pot (approximately 6 ft. in diameter) was placed over an open fire and water, bark and ochre were added. As the boiling of this mixture was taking place, the cod traps were hauled through and the whole part of the traps had to pass through this mixture. In the next step, the cod traps had to be dried, and this required fine weather. The traps were repeatedly spread on the (bawn) ground during  the day and removed at night until they were completely dry and ready to be placed onboard the schooner.

The crew members, after getting the cod traps ready, had to make sure that the schooner was ready for the voyage to the Labrador fishery, as well. To do this, the boat was placed on its side and the barnacles and kelp were scraped from the bottom of the boat. To finish the task, the boat was painted, using copper paint.


June Month

When June month came, and sometimes in May, there were many jobs for the family – big and small. The vegetables had to be put in the ground – seed sowing time. The male members of the family were required to do certain chores before heading for the Labrador. The barn had to be cleaned, and manure spread on the gardens. The horse was put to work for this task.

Then came the time for the men to leave home for the summer fishery in Labrador. That was really sad for us children – we shed a few tears. We would not see them again until September.


Summer Time

During the summer at our house, it was just us girls and there was a lot of hard work to be done.

Catching Caplin

We had to secure enough caplin to feed six dogs, for their winter food. To do that we had to use our small boat and cast off the net . After the caplin was salted and had been in the barrels for a day, they were spread on the flake, dried, and eventually put aside for the winter food. There would be approximately 30 or more barrels of caplin.

Harvesting the Hay

Cousin Wilson Vey cutting hay, 1965

Cousin Wilson Vey cutting hay, c1965

When August month came, it was time to cut the grass. My mother, not a very strong woman, spent many hours mowing the grass with a scythe. She did get help from a person in another community who appreciated a day’s work. I don’t think he was always paid in cash, but he did receive a day’s pay in supplies, food and clothing.

After the grass or hay was cut, it had to be dried and this took time. The hay was spread out on a sunny day and by midday it had to be turned over so that it was completely dry. This probably took more than one day.

The next step was to carry the hay by bundles, usually wrapped in grass cloths or old bed spreads, to the barn loft and stored for the animals’ winter food.



Berry Picking Time

The berry picking season began in August and continued into September. Members of the family (including children) would be expected to go in the woods on fine days and gather enough berries for the winter supply. These included partridgeberries, blueberries, etc. Raspberries could be harvested earlier. Some of the people who went to the Labrador usually brought home a barrel of bakeapples and some partridgeberries.


September Month and Early Fall

Vey Family aboard Fishing Schooner -1935

Onboard the vessel the Exotic. At the wheel is William James Vey, standing Hayward, Harold and Fred Vey. Seated in back Simeon Vey and Norman Peddle, 1935. (Note: click on photo to enlarge)

Returning from the Labrador Fishery

Around September, the men in their boats arrived from the Labrador with a load of fish (sometimes not a full load), and by then school had re-opened and most children were in school.

Washing and Procuring Fish

The men and women now began the process of washing the fish that had been salted aboard their boats. This project took at least two months to complete. Once it was washed it was spread on the flake and dried, and sometimes when a shower of rain fell, some of the children would be summoned to leave school and help remove the fish from the flake. When the work of securing the fish was finished, it was ready for shipment to the merchants (wherever that might be), usually in St. John’s or Trinity.

All the men, in their boats, would arrive back in their communities by late October or early November, and their boats would be moored for the winter (usually in a small cove).  And as the song says “ We would all get a brand new pair of shoes —–“.


Harvesting the Vegetables

All vegetables that were planted in the spring were harvested now and each member of the family took part in this project as well.


In those years, most households had a root cellar and the vegetables were stored there. Usually most people had grown enough vegetables to last until spring.


Building the Schooner

The year my father built the schooner Audrey Diane Crosbie I was nine years old. I do remember there were some men staying at our house and others in a work house built especially for this project.

I remember going to the dock where the boat was being built and, as a child, I could see that Uncle John was having his lunch that consisted of “Molasses Fat Pork Buns”. They looked delicious. I think I might have wanted one.

I also remember the launching of that boat. It was all decorated in ribbons- all colours. Everyone had a great time.


Shearing Sheep

There were many chores always waiting to be done. My mother took care of this one. The wool had to be washed, carded and spun. I did not do any of this, but my sisters were involved (much to their distaste). From the wool that was prepared, socks and mittens were made for the children and men.


Special Celebrations

King George V Coronation Day in Long Beach.

King George VI Coronation Day in Long Beach, May 12, 1937. (Note: click on photo to enlarge)

Christmas Time

Christmas was a good time and some of the socials that were held were called  a “TIME.” Many soup suppers were held. There would also be dances and items auctioned off.

Some of the young people would go by horse and sleigh to other communities to celebrate. Also, some of them would stay overnight, probably in a relative’s home. There were some moments while traveling, I remember, by horse and sleigh, when the horse would move at a faster pace than normal and eventually (out of the three people on the sleigh), only one would remain holding the reins, while the others were all out in the snow banks! (In other words, the sleigh tipped over). I was one of the ones in the snow bank.

We all knew when Christmas came. Someone in the community would fire a gun – and that was to be the beginning of the Christmas celebrations (4 p.m. exactly).

People were busy collecting Christmas trees.

We children would hang up our stockings and there would be an apple, orange, candy and cake waiting for us in the morning. There would also be a small toy in the stocking.


Yes, that was really something to remember now that I am grown up. Men and women, old and young, would dress up in odd outfits and knock on doors saying “Any mummers allowed in?” The point was to try to guess who they were. I remember I went to this particular house and the husband thought I was his wife. After so much enjoyment there and after the drinks had been passed around, usually syrup and cake, he said to me “It’s time to come in now and put the children to bed.” He thought I was his wife!

I don’t think he ever knew who I was and our group continued on. We visited other homes after that one.

Easter Time

At Easter time there would be many church pageants. Easter was celebrated in the community, not as it is in the city today. I never heard of the Easter egg hunt.

There were more religious celebrations.


With regard to  Halloween, we did not recognize this. There was no knocking on doors and asking “Trick or Treat.” I don’t remember ever hearing of such events.


Being the youngest member of the family, I did not have the freedom that my sisters had. It was always “You can’t come with us; I am not taking you; no- no-.” I still resent my sisters to this day.

I don’t remember being excited about going door to door and knocking and then running away, but that is what they had me do to excite them. –“Pass the Valentine” and “Guess Who”.

It seems the older girls had cut-out Valentines and made exchanges. I only did what I was told.



Long Beach school students, c1937

Long Beach school students and teacher, 1937 (Note: click on photo to enlarge)

We had a one-room school with all grades from Kindergarten to Grade X1. There were approximately 25 students – two denominations, U.C. and Anglican. One year in the early years  the U.C. School  would be open, and the next year it would be the Anglican school. In later years both schools were open.

The U.C. teacher stayed at our house. The Minister also stayed at our house but usually every fourth Sunday.


Attending Church

Long Beach UC

United Church, Long Beach

Parents in those days, in my opinion, adhered to the religious traditions. For instance, when Sunday came, there was no manner of work being done. Everything was prepared on Saturday. Plenty of wood ( my job) had to be  in the house until Monday morning. Shoes and all footwear were polished. All the vegetables were made ready for the Sunday dinner, which was always at midday, after church service.

We attended church services three times a day, and Sunday school in the afternoon. Since the minister was staying at our house on the weekend for those services, prayers for the family took place each night.

I would like to mention that all the dishes that were used on Sunday were put aside, and  washed on Monday morning before going to school. We were even restricted from picking berries on Sundays.


Milking the Cow

My experience with milking the cow was a chore I thought would be the most exciting event, over all others, but it turned into a frightening experience for a young girl. As I made the attempt to squeeze the milk from the cow, she did manage to swing one of her big hoofs toward me and hit the milk pail, sending me sprawling, milk pail and all over the ground, even though she was tied securely to the fence.

I fell off the stool, and stumbling back up, I glanced to see if the cow was still there. That’s when my sister came to my rescue.



I used to go to meet my father coming home from the country to get a ride on the horse along with a load of logs. The horse which had come from PEI seemed to be a race horse. He must have run marathons. My father would have the reins held very tight, trying to slow him down, but no – he was a very fast runner. By the time we reached home, I was exhausted. Of course, my father was used to that pace or routine.

That same horse slid over the bank and cliff twice. The first time was with a load of logs, and men from the community had to help my father upright this load of logs and the horse. Another time, this same horse, having been set free for the summer, grazing, was found by the seashore in Long Beach  at the bottom of a 300 ft. cliff – unharmed. After being discovered by a passenger traveling on the mail boat, my father was notified and the horse was rescued by boat.

In the end, that horse spent his last remaining days in Avondale. The journey that horse, and my father, made to get to Avondale was about a 10 mile walk to Northern Bight Station and from there by train to Avondale ( no easy task for my father).

Some of you may want to know what happened to all the animals after we moved to St. John’s. I just mentioned the journey of the horse. The others I am not too sure of. I think most were given to the neighbours.


Sister in Labrador

My older sister, Vie, tells me of her experience as a cook, with her father and a crew of seven men on the Labrador fishing area of Batteau, at age sixteen. She would have to get up at 6 a.m., and have breakfast ready for the men when they came in from hauling their cod traps. The breakfast meal would consist of homemade bread and fresh fish (not always, I hope!). She tells me that at 16 years of age, cooking and baking on a wood stove was a real chore for her. Lunch and the main meal continued (I assume with a different menu).

For entertainment, she tells me that if it was known that a storm was coming, the people in the fishing boats would take shelter in Batteau Harbour, where there were many fishing families. Someone in the group (from the fishing boats) would have an accordion, and from there a dance would take place. Many of the natives (or locals) participated in these events as well.

In her group there were six girls and roughly thirty men at the dance. (Other girls from NL were also there, as cooks). The brothers of these girls watched and took extra care of their sisters and saw that the girls arrived home safely.

At the end of the voyage (or their stay in Batteau) the steamer Kyle, with my father and sister on board, left Batteau for St. John’s, and from there to Northern Bight Station. Then home to Long Beach.

Vie attended school that winter and the following spring. When  school closed, and her boyfriend had joined the navy, she left for St. John’s.

My second older sister, Selena, now decided that she would leave home too, since Vie had left, and shortly thereafter she was in St. John’s. Her stay was cut short at this time since she developed diphtheria, and after spending sometime in the Fever Hospital (located on the old General Hospital property on Forest Road), she returned home for rest and care.



During my younger years my older sisters and brothers would have their friends around and there would be lots of amusement (especially sing-songs). Our organ was always in use. There would be bonfires on Guy Fawke’s Night. On Pancake Night, there would be lots of people around and a sing-song to end the celebrations.



When we joined Confederation some of the people moved away, some to St. John’s (as our family did), and others to Ontario and other parts of the world. With our family grown and I, being the youngest and finished school, and after a death in the family, my parents decided to move from Long Beach and begin a new life in St. John’s.

The death in our family was very tragic. My older brother, Hayward, age 28, lost his life by drowning, during the month of July in 1945, while he was in Batteau, Labrador.


Family of Edna and Herbert John Vey, 1952

Family photo taken January 1952 – Back Row (from left) Victor and Selena (Vey) Lundrigan, Annie (Stoyles) Vey (Hayward’s wife), Gertie Vey, Vie (Vey) and her husband Andrew Hudson. Front: Harold and his wife Ivy (Adey) Vey, Edna (Goobie) and Herbert Vey and the little girl is Elaine Vey (Hayward and Annie’s daughter).