I was working in the newsroom at NTV one morning some years ago when the phone rang. On the line was an irate woman who without introduction launched into an attack on two pieces that I had written for presentation on the Reflections segment of the news.
One was about the divisions in hockey back in the 1950’s along sectarian lines. St. Bon’s against the Guards. Catholic against Protestant.
It was a favourite theme of mine because I had lived through that period where how a person worshiped was somehow important to other people.
How important was it? Well there were half a dozen different religious denominations in Newfoundland, each running their own school boards at the time. There were also divisions like having St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital, which was Catholic, on LeMarchant Road in St. John’s and the Grace General , which was Protestant, about three hundred yards away on the same road.
The battle for Confederation had also split along sectarian lines. There were sectarian aspects to education, health care, politics, and sport. My thoughts on the subject of religion particularly as they related to hockey were, I thought, legitimate. The caller obviously didn’t agree.
The other piece that enraged her had to do with me writing about how dirty the City of St. John’s was in what people call “the good old days.”
I had said the city was filthy, violent and full of disease. I had said it because it was true and we have developed a penchant for romanticizing the past to make St. John’s something it never was.
Slums of old St. John’s
I had written in the Reflections piece about the dirt of Victoria Park and the filthy river (since buried) that ran through it. The woman obviously had more pleasant memories of the park. Last week I was lifted in spirit by a positive reception to a piece in The Herald about the slums of old St. John’s. I don’t think the woman who called the newsroom some years ago would have liked that piece.
My wife says that I have an affliction and it is that I often say exactly what is on my mind even if it isn’t in my best interests to say something. She says most people have a little switch that keeps them from saying things like that but I was hardwired without the switch. Anyway the caller to the newsroom didn’t know she was talking to me because I hadn’t identified myself when I answered the phone.
She launched into her tirade and about who she called; “that Furlong fellow.” She finished it by saying; “There is something wrong with that boy.” There is some evidence that the notion is correct. I certainly hope so.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: email@example.com