Never too old

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986
Photographs from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Howard and Theodore Martin

Theodore Martin, 70, has a workshop by a saltwater inlet at Little Hearts Ease. He is cutting parts for wooden roof trusses when we arrive, parts that his son Howard is nailing up. They hope to build another 14 by 24-ft. workshop, if they can get the land.

“My grandfather John Martin came here first from Grates Cove in the last century,” says Theodore. “My dad was born here in 1886.1 think the family was from the Channel Islands—Guernsey or Jersey. There was good fishing when they came, like in John Cabot’s time. The fish was eating rocks. It’s not like that now.”

Theodore has had two or three careers. It depends how you count.

“I spent 20 years in the bush as a lumberjack for the A.N.D. Company, places like Deer Lake and Terra Nova. I used to go in for five or six months, maybe make three trips in the run of a year. That’s how I raised my six children. We had three of each—some people can’t get it to work like that.”

Theodore had another career in construction which started with his building a house after his own was burned down in 1936. In 1949 he left Newfoundland and took his family to Montreal, built another house, and worked on big construction projects like the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.

“I learned some French, the names of tools, but if I went into a meat market I’d have a job to ask for a pound of beef.”

After 10 years Theodore returned to his birthplace and built his third home.

“Coming back took some getting used to, smaller pay and no electric lights. But this piece of land I have is the best around here. Fellows have often asked me, ‘Why have you got good land?’ I reply you would have taken the best too if you’d got here first.”

Now Theodore is retired yet he still manages to build a boat a year.

“This one’s 16 foot, all two-inch plank put together with 300 3-in. nails. It’s made with steamed laths from juniper—cutting timbers is too hard at my age— and spruce risers. But wooden boats are getting harder to sell, people are coming up with fiberglass boats that are more expensive but there’s no maintenance on them.”

At 70 Theodore looks spry. He credits his good health with daily walking.

“I went three miles up there this morning,” he says, pointing to a hill behind his home. “Last summer when I started walking I found it hard to get over the hill. I had to use the walking stick. But when I get a few trips I get my wind back—and I lose a bit of weight,” he adds brightly.

You’re never too old to get fit. Theodore cuts around seven cords of wood most years even though his house has electric heat.

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Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, May 2019

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.