It is always good to “go home.” It awakens you and reminds you of who you are. I was down for a walk through my old neighbourhood last week.
I walked down through what used to be a warren of little St. John’s streets that led down to New Gower and then on to Water Street. It is where I grew up and when I see the little Jellybean pictures and things that are used to market us to the “touristas,” I am reminded of the way it really was.
The bottom of my street was a slum basically. The houses weren’t painted in bright cheery colours. They weren’t painted at all. It was just weather-beaten dull grey clapboard on the houses. It is not until you got up higher towards LeMarchant that paint showed up. It was invariably a brown or in the case of our own place, Indian Red.
We were in a borderline area between poor and less poor. There were, in the west end area, some water tanks. I think Sheehan Shute had one and there was one on the street up behind where the Delta Hotel is now. That was for a few houses without running water.
The Honey Wagon
In case you have forgotten the “night soil” truck still visited a couple of houses in that area. We called it “the honey wagon.” We always did have the souls of poets. John Street, David Street, Haggerty Street and many of the rest are torn down now. They made way for a City Hall and a convention centre and a stadium.
Where we grew up the area on New Gower between Springdale and on up past Brazil Square was home to the first of the “bootleggers.” There were many. They were the days of liquor books when government tried to control supply. Good luck with that.
On the other side of New Gower was Princess Street which was the bootleg capital of St. John’s. Loads of places where you could get a bottle there after hours or without a liquor book. That little bit of history is lost.
Apart from being poor my old neighbourhood was alive and busy. In my immediate area of Pleasant, Springdale and New Gower there were at least three whore houses. Do they still call them that?
There were also several places where you could buy or sell stolen goods. One of those businesses was quite famous. It is not for me to name it now. Places dealing in stolen goods were known as “fences.”
Like prostitution and bootlegging it was a profession driven by supply and demand. Remember St. John’s was a busy transhipment port. If you couldn’t get a pair of boots stolen from cargo on the waterfront or the railway freight yard, you just weren’t trying.
Filth and Garbage
That was my neighbourhood. There was an atmosphere to it. The good parts I remember. The filth and the garbage in the streets and the beer parlours and all the rest I tend to forget, but not to the point of thinking of jellybeans when I wander down there.
NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]