Land & Sea: Them Days Magazine - Part 1
A magazine full of stories about sled dogs, trapping, fishing, whaling and long lost traditions
Them Days Magazine was founded to preserve the stories of Labradorians. At a time when survival took up a lot of time and effort and very few were able to attend school, history was largely recorded orally.
In this 1981 episode, directed and hosted by Dave Quinton, the Land & Sea crew follows editor Doris Saunders as she sets out with her tape recorder to gather those stories for a magazine about Labrador life called "Them Days."
Doris interviews Willis Bird about how he bought the wheelhouse of the schooner A.E. Frampton and turned it into a workshop. The interview takes place outside the former wheelhouse, which cost Willis only $15. He says the schooner was run aground during a high tide when the skipper sailed it up over the beach and almost into the woods.
Marion Bird talks about the loneliness of life on the trap line and the winter that their sled dogs died leaving them with no way to get back to Cartwright. They were saved when another trapper showed up unexpectedly and they were able to use his dogs to make a food run.
In another segment, Saunders interviews John and Hilda Decker at their kitchen table. John Decker describes the busy summer fishing seasons when up to a thousand schooners would sail "down the Labrador" from Newfoundland and bring news, trade and excitement.
Hilda would sew seal skin boots all summer long, working on up to two pairs a day until she had 50 pairs. At $2 a pair, 50 pairs could be bartered for a punt when the Newfoundland schooners were going back in the fall loaded down with salt fish.
Leo O'Brien of the Straits talks about the bad years when people would get only $2 per quintal (112 pounds) of dried fish. Many families starved to death in those years. Government assistance could not keep large families going as it consisted only of a monthly barrel of flour, some tea and a small bucket of black molasses.
Home cures and the lack of formal health care is also discussed in this episode. John Edmunds grimaces at the memory of the kerosene and molasses candies his mother would make to treat sore throats. Betty Shepherd's cure for a fisherman's gangrenous arm is remembered by the daughter of the young nurse who was present. She was ordered to go to the fish flakes and gather up a handful of maggots to apply to the wound.
The next day, the maggots were removed and the wound was cleaned and then treated with a boiled juniper poultice. The man was back at the fish within a week.
Settlements that are no longer on the map are remembered — places like Grady, the site of a prosperous whaling station that, in its heyday, processed up to five sperm, fin or blue whales a day.
Finally, Doris takes the Land & Sea crew, along with her daughter and nephew, to her family's summer fishing station on an island near Cartwright called Dumplin. Next weekend, we'll post part 2 of the Land & Sea episode about "Them Days from 1981."