Couple celebrates marriage milestone
Jane and Earnest Seward celebrate their 65th anniversary this week. Photo by Gavin Simms/The Packet
Gooseberry Cove - "Someone's here from The Packet in Clarenville. …
"Cus it's our anniversary, as you know. …
"You knows that sure. …
"Well you should. …
"Yes, this Sunday comin'."
Jane Seward hangs up the phone. She's shaking her head, eyes rolling.
That was Wanda, her youngest, calling.
Wanda is one of 10 children belonging to Jane and husband, Ernest. It's not easy to keep all of them in the loop.
In two days it'll be 65 years together for the two. But then again, they say they've known each other all their lives anyways. Make that 90 for him and 88 for her.
Coming from neighbouring coves, they practically watched each other grow up. They may have missed a chapter here and there, but they still know the story well. Ernest's home is Gooseberry Cove, where they now live. Jane came from down in Butter Cove.
Both towns are little cuts in the coastline where the cliffs and rocks take a small step back and allow for more than gulls to pitch.
For their anniversary they have an open house planned for the weekend. They'll have their children over. And their children's children. And their children's children's children.
The Sewards don't drink on Sundays, but they'll come up with something.
They've come a long, hard ways and what was once a houseful of feet and racket has become a gathering of shadows, where empty chairs and frames on the wall fail to fill the space freed by the years.
"I don't have too many stories. I'm not a storyteller. I'm quite forgetful these days," Ernest says honestly.
"I don't forget, of course. I don't forget nothing. I don't forget, but he forgets," Jane counters.
The way they tell it, being born in the '20's was like born in a box of nails. They had to be hard and half sharp just to get through.
Ernest has his Grade 11 diploma. These days that might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but back then it was surely something to be proud of.
In fact, while Ernest was going to school in Gooseberry Cove, the only one he saw graduate high school was himself. He was the first of his generation. While most all his friends dropped out along the way, he finished in 1936, at the age of 17.
"I had to be smart because there were 55 kids in the one room with one teacher. With one teacher you didn't get much attention," Ernest recalls.
"It was pretty hard times, we couldn't pick and choose. I couldn't pick and choose what I wanted to do."
But boats were always his thing anyhow. So despite the schooling and his mother's blessing, he took to the water with his father.
He kept good grades and had potential to be whatever he wanted, but the man just wanted to fish. Ernest admits there weren't many opportunities for a bayman like himself - education or not - back then, when the war was on.
The first year he and Jane were married, Ernest, with the help of his brother and father, built a schooner.
"I wanted a boat, and then a bigger boat and a bigger boat. I built around a dozen boats over the years," Ernest says.
When the fishery took a turn for the worse he used his boat to run freight. He'd steam to St. John's, stock up on groceries and deliver it to the communities along the coast where there were no roads.
All the while Ernest was on the water, his wife would be left alone at home with the youngsters. All 10 of them.
"Toughy I used to call her. And she's tough b'y, she's still tough. I tell you, b'y, she ain't had n'ar sickness in all this time. It's unbelievable. Unbelievable," Ernest sits amazed.
Jane only had two kids at the hospital. The rest were born at home. She's a strong one.
She says they managed 10 children back then easier than most do with two today.
"Oh, it made life work. It made me work. My hands wore out."
She did all she could to keep all her kids in school, and most all of them did graduate Grade 11 like their dad.
To this day it's tough for her to keep meals portioned for less than 12 people.
"I tell you I made some big meals in my time, and I'm still cooking them now," she laughs.
"Me, I just do everything. I always did. I make bread, I cook, I clean - what I can do."
"I don't do too much because I don't have to. Fifty years ago I worked like a slave - gettin' wood, gettin' fish, gettin' oil … you name it," Ernest says.
"I got it just as good now as ever I had it, I think."
The modern way of living may be a little too automatic for their liking, but they're owed a little comfort.
Their five boys are still in the cove and fishing for a living. The girls aren't too far from home either.
The house may not shake at the beams with weight like it used to, but they still get their visitors. They come to yarn.
Jane still gets around quick enough, but Ernest stumbles sideways when he walks. She keeps him from falling.
Sometimes he asks her what day it is, and she brings him up to date. When he forgets, she's there to remind.
"It's kinda remarkable for a man and his wife to be up to 90 years old, isn't it?" Ernest stares from his hands to hers.
There's a plain gold ring on her finger, tight in her fist.
"65 years he's been on my finger. This one never comes off.
"How much was that ring?" she asks. "12 dollars?"
"Twenty, at least," Ernest smirks.