'Imagine, this survived in this old house'

Barb
Barb Sweet
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Woman discovers newspapers more than a century old

Squabbles at council over a rink. Complaints to government about vessels that can't keep on schedule.

Are we referring to yet another story in the ongoing saga of Mile One Centre and the latest headline news about people disgruntled with the Bell Island ferry service?

No. But some themes have barely changed in a century or more.

In 1891, the Newfoundland legislature received a petition from the people of Greenspond over the irregular schedule of the steamer Conscript.

Christine Fowler of Conception Bay South found old newspapers, some more than a century old, used as insulation when she did renovations on her 90-year-old house. - Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Squabbles at council over a rink. Complaints to government about vessels that can't keep on schedule.

Are we referring to yet another story in the ongoing saga of Mile One Centre and the latest headline news about people disgruntled with the Bell Island ferry service?

No. But some themes have barely changed in a century or more.

In 1891, the Newfoundland legislature received a petition from the people of Greenspond over the irregular schedule of the steamer Conscript.

And in a news report on St. John's city council, the crowd in charge was arguing about the bill to supply the city rink with water.

The stories are from the yellowed pages of the May 1911 editions of The Evening Herald, and a copy of The Colonist from March 1891, found inside the walls of a 90-year-old home owned by Christine Fowler of Conception Bay South.

"Imagine, this survived in this old house," Fowler said, holding a copy of the 1891 paper.

Some are complete pages, some of the fragments are tattered, but most are still legible.

Fowler discovered them during renovations to an upstairs bedroom. Newspapers were routinely used in years gone by for insulation.

Stories of yesteryear that were recounted to Fowler by her grandmother leapt off the pages of the old papers.

"The first person I thought about when I seen this is my grandmother, because she'd be telling me stuff when she was alive," Fowler says.

"Look at that - 33 cents a gallon for molassses. I remember my grandmother telling stories about this stuff. With the cart and the horse, they used to go into town and buy up for the winter sacks of this and sacks of that, and it's here. It seems so cheap, but obviously it wasn't back then. And she told me they would bring in stuff to trade."

This was back in the day when, according to the newspapers, having a few too many drinks landed you in the news, but not for impaired driving.

A 22-year-old labourer from Signal Hill Road found drunk for the second time was fined $1 or three days' jail, while a 54-year-old labourer drunk in public for the fifth time was ordered to produce $20 in bonds or serve 60 days.

Also in the news: the Central Fire Station got a new ladder truck that would require five or six men and a pair of horses.

Corsets could be had for 75 cents a pair, and men's or ladies' garters for 12 cents.

You could get 14 pounds of table salt for 12 cents, and rice was three cents a pound.

People were asked to prepare for the "great event" - a May 1911 municipal cleanup day - by using Standard Disinfectant.

Then there was this traffic mishap on Duckworth Street: " A horse owned by cabman Horwood took fright on Duckworth Street opposite the Singer Sewing Machine office this morning. A milk cart was near and the frightened animal jumped into the wagon. A little difficulty was experienced in getting the horse from its high perch, but this was accomplished. No damage was done."

And there was a "maddened" bull that escaped from Pitts' wharf in 1911 and dashed up Water Street.

The Colonist, a St. John's paper, advertised kids' gloves for six cents, and Ayres and Sons had shirts for $1.40.

The first excursion train to Kelligrews for the season was due to leave May 28, 1911 at 2:30 p.m.

The motorboat Elsie, which John Taylor recently built, "was launched today (and) during the last few days it was used by a number of nautical men and others who have pronounced her the slickest boat they ever saw."

"This was very simple times. This is what I like about it," Fowler says of her find.

It wasn't a simple time for N. Ohman, a jeweller at the Atlantic Hotel Building in St. John's.

In one paper was the colourful ad, "wedding rings from $2 to $10 each made to order at short notice."

But Ohman couldn't have lured enough clients down the aisle, because in another newspaper fragment there's a notice of his insolvency.

And if soaring real estate prices in St. John's leave house hunters feeling faint these days, perhaps they can dream of a time - 1891 - when a local agent advertised the huge sum of $16,000, from which he would parcel out loans.

And who wouldn't jump - if they could now - on the ad that offered for sale a property with frontage on a public street for $100.

"We will give you eight years and four months in which to pay that amount. Pay in instalments of $1 a month until the whole amount is paid, no interest charged."

Or the potential in the 80 acres of land on Major's Path, "six miles from town."

Anyone craving fresh seafood could contemplate going down to the Battery to round up supper.

"A couple of men in the west end, acting on the suggestions given in The Colonist some time ago, made a trial of gathering mussels at the north Battery yesterday afternoon. Mussels being a novelty in the market, they will readily sell at 20 cents per bucket."

Fowler intends to hold on to the old papers.

"It's amazing to me," she says. "Somebody might say, 'You're cracked keeping that.'"

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: The Evening Herald, Central Fire Station, Standard Disinfectant Atlantic Hotel Building

Geographic location: St. John's, Bell Island, Newfoundland Greenspond Duckworth Street Signal Hill Road Water Street Kelligrews

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  • Debbie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:30

    I know the feeling, my husband found a paper the other day from April 2, 1949. the day after we joined Confederation.

  • K
    July 02, 2010 - 13:26

    We own an older home in the CBS area as well and discovered 75 year old newspapers when doing renovations. The papers were in very good condition as well. An add for Bugdens Taxi, 0.50 anywhere in the city, an article on the railway opening to the public and census stats for that year. Pretty amazing.

  • Joey
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Wow. As soon as I entered the page there was an Atlantic Lotto ad obscuring the picture with broken glass over the woman's face. Have newspapers really become so desperate for revenue they have to deface their own pictures with ads for legalized gambling? If so, better let the ship sink with dignity than keep it propped with tacky ads.

  • mark
    July 02, 2010 - 13:16

    I'm really impressed with how well those papers have lasted over the years. br br It's like a window back to a time when things were simpler, and I have to say I'm blad she shared this discovery with us all. br br If I were her I'd try to find a way to scan the papers she has so she can put those in a safe place for her.

  • Debbie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:18

    I know the feeling, my husband found a paper the other day from April 2, 1949. the day after we joined Confederation.

  • K
    July 01, 2010 - 20:13

    We own an older home in the CBS area as well and discovered 75 year old newspapers when doing renovations. The papers were in very good condition as well. An add for Bugdens Taxi, 0.50 anywhere in the city, an article on the railway opening to the public and census stats for that year. Pretty amazing.

  • Joey
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Wow. As soon as I entered the page there was an Atlantic Lotto ad obscuring the picture with broken glass over the woman's face. Have newspapers really become so desperate for revenue they have to deface their own pictures with ads for legalized gambling? If so, better let the ship sink with dignity than keep it propped with tacky ads.

  • mark
    July 01, 2010 - 19:56

    I'm really impressed with how well those papers have lasted over the years. br br It's like a window back to a time when things were simpler, and I have to say I'm blad she shared this discovery with us all. br br If I were her I'd try to find a way to scan the papers she has so she can put those in a safe place for her.