Adam Chapter Twelve

Kingwell By Kingwell, 11th Mar 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Fictional Narrative

Here we take a look at health and educational conditions as experienced in much of Newfoundland And Labrador in the 1940's and earlier.

Growing Up

Eli and Mary no longer worried about their youngest son, in fact they now wondered if he might not surpass anything they had imagined. As for Adam, he was taking it all in stride and delved even more deeply into his books. His focus now was on passing grade nine and the thought that he still had more than two years at home was in some ways comforting. Despite what Dr. Adams had said Adam knew that he had more growing up to do and wasn’t yet ready to face the outside world.
Adam liked listening to stories of bygone days and soon found that even Ghost stories didn’t frighten him anymore. He now saw that such stories were added to, each time they were told, and the telling of them was more of a pastime than anything else, in communities starved for any kind of entertainment.

Health Care In The Area

Dr. Adams had settled in Petersview some fifty-three years earlier and was the only doctor serving more than eighty communities. During these years there were also three nurses stationed along the coast but often two of these clinics were vacant, sometimes for months at a time.
Only one nurse, a Mrs. Deering, appeared as determined as Dr. Adams himself, in fact traveled much more than the doctor, who in recent years worked almost entirely from the government operated clinic. Mrs. Deering or Nurse Deering, as the local people called her, had done her training in London before setting out for Newfoundland as a young woman of just twenty-one years. It was the same year that Dr. Adams took up residence in Petersview and neither showed any sign of wanting to retire.
The nurse had fallen in love with and married a young fisherman from Herring Cove and had remained to serve these gentle people, whom she had also come to love like family. The Commission of Government however, who had already built ten Cottage hospitals in rural Newfoundland were now planning three more, including one in the area of Petersview.

Education.

Life had always been uncertain here and little had changed over the years. Tuberculosis was rampant, as it was in most of the island. Almost every community along the coast had at least one person in the Sanatorium, or “the San” as many called the hospital in St. John’s, that housed those suffering from TB.
There was rarely any contact between those patents and their families at home as few could read and write. It was not compulsory for children to attend school, although recently the government had been trying to enforce a law that children must remain in school until they were fourteen years of age. This wasn’t easy to do however as many parents still felt that a girl didn’t need an education, and boys were often needed in the fishing boats.
To his credit, Father Ryan, during the nine years that he had served the parish, had done his best to discourage this attitude, consequently most children of both sexes, who were under his care, had at least the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic.

A Sad Homecoming.

One April evening, in the spring of 1945, the coastal boat, “The Home” silently entered the harbour at Little Valley. On board, besides the usual mail, freight, and passengers was the body of old Jonathon Sparks, who had died after spending more than seven years in the Sanatorium. Try as he might Adam could not seem to picture the man who had left the community when he was just seven years old.
The family had been told of his death by telegram, just three days earlier. They had not however been able to notify his eldest daughter Doreen, who was working as a housekeeper for the merchant’s family in Gillingham’s Landing, some sixty miles down the coast.
Unbeknown to the family, Doreen was coming home after three years, to spend a week with her family. Shortly after getting on the boat, she had heard some men saying that there was a corpse on board and wondering who it might be, she moved closer to where the men sat talking. When she heard someone say “that’s old Jonathon Sparks from Little Valley”, she let out a gasp that sent one of the men running to catch her as she paled and fainted!

The Earlier Years.

“Old” Jonathan Sparks, as Adam was soon to discover was just fifty-six years old! Even as an adolescent, Adam knew that people died far too young in outport Newfoundland. For someone to reach the age of seventy was very rare and those who did were crippled with arthritis, from years spent fishing the cold Atlantic waters.

Diet too, left much to be desired and was probably the reason that women fared little better than men in the realm of longevity. Most people, with few if any teeth and shoulders bent from hard physical labour, looked much older than their years. He had seen a toothbrush in Dr. Adams office and wished he’d had one before his teeth had begun to decay and ache. Dr. Adams noticed and asked if he’d seen one before, he hadn’t.
The good doctor chuckled as he spoke of when he’d first arrived in Petersview as a young doctor in 1892. Like so many young men of his calling, he was determined to change the world around him. Shortly after arriving he’d called a group of men and women together to talk about hygiene and had spent almost ten minute speaking about caring for the teeth, when one man spoke up and said, “All that’s fine doctor, but no one here got one o’ them”. Looking around the room he saw toothless grins everywhere. He didn’t have much better luck in getting people to take baths either. If cleanliness was next to Godliness, someone had forgotten to tell these people!

Everyone washed their face and hands of course, at least before meals, and every Saturday night a big tub, was brought into the kitchen, (the only room with any heat) and the children would get a good scrubbing. Men would also strip to the waist and wash. Women would have their turn later when the others were in bed. The one exception was the local Catholic Priest, who had come to Newfoundland from Italy. Every morning, winter and summer, he would run down to the salt water, jump in for a minute or two, and then run back to the house. In the forty-two years that he’d spent on that rocky and forlorn coast, he claimed never to have missed his morning swim!
TO BE CONTINUED - See Chapter Thirteen

Read from the beginning - See Chapter One

Tags

Commission Of Government, Cottage Hospitals, Doctor Shortages, Educational Misconceptions, Kingwell, Newfoundland And Labrador, Priest, Tuberculosis

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author avatar Kingwell
I am 75 years old and retired.I like writing short stories, poetry as well other articles of interest.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
12th Mar 2015 (#)

Another intriguing chapter! Blessings to you!

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author avatar Kingwell
12th Mar 2015 (#)

Thanks Jessica. Blessings.

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author avatar Carol Roach
12th Mar 2015 (#)

well they had to wash their nether parts at some point

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author avatar Kingwell
12th Mar 2015 (#)

Hi Carol, there were big families in these times, sometimes twelve or more children in a family. The only room in the house that had any heat during the winter was the kitchen where the wood stove was located. Mothers washed the children in a tub of water in the kitchen up until an age when the child became self conscious, after that you were on your own. Feet and arms and legs could be washed anytime but for the more intimate parts, there had to be some privacy and that was difficult but everyone managed somehow. I'm sure the body odor would seem terrible today but everyone was alike at the time lol! In the summertime boys (but usually not girls) went swimming either in the ocean or some nearby pond. It is hard to imagine living under such conditions today. If you can access some of my earlier Newfoundland stories you might find some of them interesting. Thank you for following and commenting. Blessings.

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author avatar M G Singh
13th Mar 2015 (#)

Wonderful post , I wonder how things are there now.

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author avatar Kingwell
13th Mar 2015 (#)

Thank Madan. In most cases the people who lived in those very small communities were resettled to larger centers in the 1960's. All have modern conveniences today and health care and education has greatly improved. Blessings.

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author avatar Utah Jay
13th Mar 2015 (#)

I remember the old wood stove in the kitchen and those cold winter days…Great story Kingwell.

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author avatar Kingwell
13th Mar 2015 (#)

Thank You Utah. Those were not easy times but we were young then and little daunted us. Blessings.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
14th Mar 2015 (#)

We were closer to nature in earlier times and that brought its own joy too. And more important, we had time for others and enjoyed their company. Olden days had their own charm to bring in nostalgic thoughts. Lovely share, thanks Kingwell - siva

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author avatar Kingwell
14th Mar 2015 (#)

Thank you Siva and you are right. As you say we enjoyed people and their company. Whither the times were better or not depends on the person

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author avatar Kingwell
14th Mar 2015 (#)

Blessings my friend.

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author avatar Retired
15th Mar 2015 (#)

Excellent story!

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author avatar Kingwell
15th Mar 2015 (#)

Thank you Carmen. Blessings.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
23rd Mar 2015 (#)

Kingwell, I absolutely loved this chapter. A long time ago back in the states when there were real cowboys and Indians people used to marry very young and from what I've read it was because they didn't live long. That seems so odd to me because of the way we live today. I had to smile about the baths because my little grandsons would probably be happy to skip a bath now and then but unfortunately for them grandma won't let them. LOL

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author avatar Kingwell
23rd Mar 2015 (#)

Thank you Nancy. Things have changed so much. In those days water had to be brought from a well in buckets and heated on the wood stove in the kitchen. Like now kids were happy to skip a bath lol! Blessings.

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