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Letter: Many of us were uprooted

I read with interest The Telegram’s front-page article Dec. 16, “Resettlement a historic injustice” and the accompanying article by the Blake brothers, one currently at Memorial University and the other a professor at the University of Regina.

Their family, from Pushthrough on the south coast, was resettled to Hermitage (20 kilometres away) in 1969. They argue that as a result of the move, brought about by government policy, they faced dire circumstances including family upheaval, economic hardship, being forced to attend bigger, better schools, along with indignities such as being the objects of bullying and derision. In tune with the spirit of the times, they argue that families uprooted under the voluntary Resettlement Program should get an apology and financial remuneration from government who enacted the scheme. Should none come forth they threaten legal action.

Their forlorn tale put me in a reflective mood and before long I was thinking of my own gloomy circumstance upon moving to St. John’s from a similar size community around this same time.

Arriving in the illustrious capital city, my first boarding house included a double bed shared with a stranger from distant shores.

Enticed not by a resettlement cheque but by the equally inadequate and perpetually late student loan, combined with the promise of free tuition, I also felt that I had no choice but to push on.

Arriving in the illustrious capital city, my first boarding house included a double bed shared with a stranger from distant shores. In another abode I was confined to a dark, dank basement where a leaky concrete foundation constituted one wall and two pieces of panel board made up the rest of the so called “room.” Supper was a scant offering with no second helping and only one teaspoon of sugar permitted with your tea. The proprietor placed a hot tea bag on your bare arm if you placed it on the kitchen table.

In another place where four of us were accommodated in a bunk bed-filled room we were given a bowl of canned tomato soup and crackers one Sunday for dinner.

Meanwhile, up at the university, there were the rigours of an academic education to contend with — for instance, Math 100, Physics 105, and a vague English course attempting to explain to teenagers the relevance and importance of T.S. Elliott’s “The Wasteland” and Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”

And there were countless distractions such as bowling, movies at the newly opened Avalon Mall (where you had to pay a dime to pee), rock bands and that sweet-smelling illegal fragrance perpetually emanating from the Spanish Cafe.

And then there were the townies! They, who often reminded you that you belonged to a lower social class. They ran the Student Union, MUN Radio and the Muse as their own personal fiefdoms. They also had enviable advantage in obtaining the few coveted part-time jobs available, not to mention access to generally stuck-up townie girls, the latter only dropping their guard when us “baymen” learned to stop dropping our Hs.

And don’t get me going about the student residences. Two to a room with the addition of every friend or cousin coming to St. John’s for a visit. Meanwhile over at the cafeteria, the stew had the consistency of reinforced concrete.

And there were constant protests, including on occasion, the necessity to occupy the President’s Office. This normally took place as a result of some emerging social issue in the U.S.A. usually at some avant-garde university such as Berkeley.

Those were indeed challenging times. So, in keeping with the litigative spirit inspired by the brothers from Pushthrough, I am taking the liberty to represent all baymen in this matter. Nothing less than an apology from the university itself, all boarding house matrons and the mayor of St. John’s (or Snook, in his absence) will do. And a few dollars thrown our way will not go unappreciated.

Yours in recovery,

 

Tom Hawco
St. John’s

 

 

 

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