The Way It Was

by Elsie Norman

In June of 1952, not yet seventeen,
I was excited as could be and happy as a queen.
I had just finished high school but my schooling was incomplete
And suddenly I realized that leaving home was not a treat.

To face the great big outside world was more than what I planned,
Having spent all my years in Lumsden on the sand.
I had to get things ready to go to St. John's town,
So I applied for teachers training, after a boarding house I found.

Being a fisherman's daughter, money was hard to find,
I was given $100 and had to walk a very fine line.
$60 for my boarding and $40 to spend,
Not much for excitement and surely none to lend.

The highway had not yet reached us, so I had to find a way
To meet the taxi that arrived about a mile away.
After saying goodbye to my family,
My brother took my suitcase in a wheelbarrow for me.

I boarded the taxi for Wesleyville, where I would spend the night,
Then on to Gambo by boat I went and things weren't looking bright.
The boat trip was nothing to be desired, for I was homesick as could be
And added was seasickness and a rough and stormy sea.

At Gambo we boarded the St. John's train, an experience I'll never forget,
The first time away from home and not even a place to sit.
I placed my suitcase and the floor and tried to set a while,
Sleepy, tired and homesick, "What a lonely child."

After many hours of travel, we arrived in St. John's town,
I had never seen anything like this, as I stared down on the ground.
Pavement was something new that I never saw before,
What should I do, Should I walk on it? At first I was not sure.

After watching other people, I stepped down from the train,
Then a taxi driver grabbed my bag, "Come with me and I'll explain."
I thought I was kidnapped and was as scared as could be,
Until he asked where I wanted to go, then I knew he would care for me.

I never saw such tall buildings or even a winding street,
The speed that we were traveling, I thought my friends I'd never meet.
It wasn't long before I saw my friend standing on the street,
I was so glad to see him, it really was a treat.

Now how would I get to school tomorrow? I was so scared of what to do,
But my friend at the boarding house said, "I'll go along with you."
He walked to Prince of Wales with me and showed me marks along the way,
So I would be able to go on my own and find my way each day.

It wasn't easy to be on my own, in a big city and so far from home,
No matter how many people I met, I still felt so alone.
I soon made friends and time went fast, and now I would decide,
Where I would like to teach this year, my choice was open wide.

At the Department of Education, I was given the map of Newfoundland,
I picked the place I wanted to teach and was ready to make my plan.
I chose to go to Cape Freels North a place that was near my home,
For I wanted to be back there and never more to roam.

I was placed in a sole charge school with grades Primer to grade eleven,
A hardy bunch of boys and girls, numbering ten plus seven.
Imagine just leaving school in June and now to teach that grade,
I sometimes wondered if it was a good choice that I had made.

Some of the students were repeaters and older and bigger than me,
So I expected a problem with discipline you see.
So the easiest way was to ignore what I could and to be as friendly as could be,
This worked fine for most of the time and everyone did agree.

Everyone brought a junk of woods to feed the pot belly stove,
And when it was cold, we did exercises to keep us on the move.
The girls swept the floor at the end of the day and the boys kept the fire burning bright,
If we were late practicing a concert or play, the old kerosene lamp burned bright.

Remember that old hectograph, we used to copy a test,
After one copy when the gel had melted, we were in for quite a mess.
No copiers or computers or much technology back then,
To communicate with friends back home a letter we had to send.

At my boarding home I was respected and given a special place
To sit at a well spread table and be asked to say the Grace.
No indoor plumbing or central heat, but warm and lots to eat,
The old wood stove in the kitchen, at night a birch junk at your feet.

A page in history, that first year I taught, but look back with pride and respect,
At the good friends I made and the lessons I learned, I'm sure I will never forget.
"Our life is a tapestry woven by those people we've met on the way,
And the events that we have experienced, make us who we are today".