Conception Bay in Newfoundland was a large part of my childhood, especially Chamberlains and Manuels. A large part of this experience were my grandparents on my father’s side. My maternal grandparents had passed away by the time I was 6, and I only have vague memories of them. Nanny and Poppy Mercer were important in our family. They were busy and active almost until they died, and we saw a lot of them.
My grandparents lived on Chamberlains Road, and my Uncle Fred owned some land along the beach. We visited almost every Sunday afternoon; the ride was boring, but when we arrived there was always something to do.
We spent a lot of time on Chamberlains Beach. There was a small pond behind a barachois that was great for pond hockey and skating. The entrance to the beach was about 500 metres from where the Manuels River opened into the bay, and there was always driftwood and interesting castaways. The beach was a typical cobblestone beach, and running along it was always challenging and fun. The best part of the beach was a ledge that extended from the point out into the bay. It was full of little rock pools, and there was always something interesting to find. We also tried swimming there, with the usual amount of success.
If you really wanted to swim, all you had to do was to go the the back of Poppy’s farm, climb down the bluff to The Flats, and swim in the Manuels river. The current was imperceptible, and there was a good diving rock and deep water.
Finally, there was Poppy’s farm itself. The house was old, and in the kitchen there was an old wood-fired Enterprise Stove. My favourite Toutons and Raisin Pudding came from that stove, through Nanny’s masterful hands. You could always smell the yeasty smell of bread dough rising. There was an old wood stove in the living room, and it was really cosy. All the kids would get in front of the black and white TV in the evening to watch the Wonderful World of Disney. Also, there were there neat rooms with drawers filled with strange and interesting things. You could also hide out and read if you wanted a little privacy; if Nanny wanted to find you, she’d always find you amazingly fast.
Then there was the barn. It wasn’t too large, but it had a hayloft with a lot of old junk and treasures. I particularly remember looking into a crate and finding a complete set of green bound encyclopedia volumes. Under Submarines was a state-of-the-art 1912 U-boat! The encyclopedia was published just before the Great War. There was also plenty of hay for fun in the loft, and a fun and forbidden way to the first floor though a hatch in the loft floor. You could also sit with your legs hanging out of the loft doorway, and have a grand view of the farm and other houses.
There was also a chopping block and plenty of wood to cut. We’d often cut an amazing amount of chips and splinters, and occasionally split a useful amount of wood. This was okay, though, since you always needed a little kindling. No child was ever hurt during the performance of these acts. There was also a hunting beagle, a root cellar in a hill, a grove of spruce and a row of maples and crab-apple trees. Life was good.
Here are some pictures of what Conception Bay is like now.
The new bandstand at Topsail Pond Beach Park, before they added the roof. I called it Concretehenge.
Bell Island’s northern end.
Near Ochre Pit
My father built a small dory with a sail, and used to take sheep out to Kelly’s Island so they could graze. Once the boat swamped, and dad frantically tried to get it empty enough so that he could get the sheep back on board without swamping again. You see, the sheep start by floating well, but as the wool gradually gets saturated, they sink lower and lower into the water…
a quickr pickr post