Progress has changed what was once rolling farmland made for boyhood adventure
Shamrock farm in the early 1950s. Submitted photo above colourized by Robert Simon/The Telegram
By Darrin McGrath
Special to The Telegram
St. Johns resident Ches Atkins recalls times in the late 1930s when Long Pond was rolling farmland, countryside and the site of many boyhood adventures. xxx xxMany people know the northern part of St. Johns as the home of the Fluvarium, the Health Sciences Centre, MUN campus and the Confederation Building.
While the banks of the pond are heavily developed today, there was a time when the area was on the very fringe of the city.
Atkins grew up on Merrymeeting Road near the present site of the HUB. He often walked the dirt track to Long Pond to swim in the summer, or skate in the winter.
I remember that Kellys owned Shamrock Farms, which is where the Autism Society has recently built a new centre. Mr. Maurice Kelly used to deliver milk on a horse and cart from his farm to Merrymeeting Road-Scott Street-Field Street area. I got to know Mr. Kelly and I used to get a ride back to Long Pond with him on the horse and cart. One of his sons was Pat Kelly, the famous distance runner, Atkins says.
On the trip in to Long Pond, Atkins recalls, Jimmy Weir had a farm near St. Augustines Church on Elizabeth Avenue. There was a bridge across the brook into Long Pond, near the sandpits. This is around the current site of the Health Sciences Centre.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary had a shack in the sandpits and it also had a rifle range for target practice.
According to Paul ONeills book The Oldest City, the area comprisingxCanada Games Park, a portion of the MUN campus and a portion of the Health Sciences site was a farm run by Harold MacPherson and was known as Westerland. Today, this farm is remembered by the street name Westerland Road.
Another structure on Long Pond that Atkins remembers from the late 1930s is an icehouse owned by a Mr. Parrell. Atkins thinks this was in the area where St. Johns College is today.
Mr. Parrell, who lived on Allandale Road, would cut blocks of ice out of Long Pond in the winter and save it in his ice house packed in sawdust. Of course back then many people did not have fridges, they had ice-boxes and so bought the ice from Parrell, Atkins says.
Ches Atkins recalls that he and the Kelly boys used to take a boat and paddle around the pond. But they never did much trouting there, he says, because they werent fussy about the introduced brown trout.
However, lots of people swam in Long Pond in the 30s, well before the City constructed a pool at the pond.
There were three popular swimming holes on the brook entering Long Pond, Atkins remembers. MacPhersons Pool was a shallow pool and younger children went there. No doubt this was named for MacPherson the farmer.
Another swimming hole was called twinkle-eye, like MacPhersons, a shallow hole for younger children.
Sandy bottom was near the site of Kellys farm and was a deeper pool used by older children and adults.
At the time, Atkins says, you could get in a boat near Kellys farm and take it all the way down the river to Long Pond. Long Pond, he adds, has been filled in over the years and that tons and tons of fill have been dumped into the head of the pond near the current site of the Health Sciences Centre.
Tragedy sometimes intervenes when young people gather to swim, and Atkins remembers a young boy of about 14 who hit his head while diving and died.
I was about 16 or 17 at the time, and I can remember we got the boy up out of the water and called the police. But he was dead when we got him in.
Not only was Long Pond a popular summer swimming hole, it was also a winter wonderland for St. Johns children in the age long before satellite TV and computer games.
We used to go skiing down over Mealeys Field and go right out across Long Pond. Mealeys Field was on the north shore of Long Pond and there is a house there now that Premier Frank Moores lived in. We used to have to put our skis on our back and walk right up the hill, there was no lift, so you didnt make too many runs in a day. But it was fun, Atkins says.
Of course, the frozen pond was also the site of many pick-up hockey games and skating sessions. And in December, Atkins and his family would cut a Christmas tree on the banks of the pond.
Today, as busy commuters speed by Long Pond on the Prince Phillip Parkway they may think little of the sites history. But Ches Atkins is one St. Johns resident who remembers when Long Pond was countryside on the outskirts of the city.