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Comic strip 'Between Friends' creator Sandra Bell-Lundy often makes mention of this province, where her mother and grandmother were born
As a kid, Sandra Bell-Lundy loved getting leftover paper bundles from the local paper mill, where her uncle worked.
“Everyone in the family knew I was the one who liked to draw,” she said. “I was always doodling. It was a hobby… As I got older, I’d draw little cartoons about my friends just to lampoon them.”
It’s paid off for the 61-year-old, who went on to create the "Between Friends" cartoon strip, which was launched in 1990 and currently appears in 175 newspapers worldwide — from Canada and the United States to Australia, India and Trinidad.
In Canada, around 40 newspapers publish the cartoon, including the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald and The Telegram.
The strip features three middle-aged professional women — Susan, Maeve and Kim — who cope with life problems, from everything to family, marriage and work to aging and the changing world while all the while highlighting strong friendships.
Fans not only find it funny and entertaining, but also relatable.
“I found over the years, there’s a lot of commonality in the humour of women,” Bell-Lundy told The Telegram earlier this week during a phone interview from her home in Welland, Ont. “Everyone’s a little bit different, but there are some core things that seem to hit across the board.”
Bell-Lundy, who grew up in St. Catharines, Ont., has also tackled some serious topics in her cartoon — from fertility treatment and adoption to domestic violence, which earned her high acclaim and kudos internationally.
She’s also garnered attention in Newfoundland and Labrador, as her cartoon has made several mentions of this province.
It’s because Bell-Lundy has a strong connection — both her mother (Shirley Bell, nee Graham, age 85) and grandmother (Harriet Graham, nee Taylor, born 1900) were born here. Her mother is from Harbour Le Cou, while her grandmother was from Grand Bruit – both small outport towns on the southwest coast of the island.
“It only seemed natural for me to insert it (into the comic strip),” Bell-Lundy said.
Bell-Lundy has heard plenty about life in this province and visited Grand Bruit with her mother about 10 years ago.
“My mother had never been there before, so It was nice for her to see where her mother lived,” she said.
The stories she’s heard from her mother throughout the years affected Bell-Lundy so much, she’s been compiling them and doing research about life in outport Newfoundland years ago, with the hopes of putting it together for a graphic novel.
“I’m fascinated with it, because we used to visit my grandparents pretty much every other summer when we were kids,” she said. “My perspective as an adult, the things my mother told me when I was younger, now when I think about them, have had such a huge impact on me.”
One of the stories she recalls is how her grandmother, as an eight-year-old in the early 1900s, and her two siblings were sent away to Harbour Le Cou from Grand Bruit to live with other families because their parents were unable to provide for them.
“That really got to me because when my daughter was eight, my mother gave me this glass candy dish. It’s not crystal or valuable, but it was the same glass candy dish that her grandmother (my great-grandmother) had given to my grandmother when she had left home as an eight-year-old,” said Bell-Lundy, who has a daughter and son, both university graduates.
“So, when my mother gave it to me, it was just a real jolt. I looked at my eight-year-old daughter, who was in dance class at the time and thought, 'wow, what those small outport communities had to do to survive was incredible.' It made me realize how hard that must’ve been.
“That’s when I really started paying a little more attention to what I had heard over the years. It was around that time, I did that little story line about Newfoundland.”
Bell-Lundy took a second trip to this province with her daughter, “because I wanted my daughter to see where my mother and grandmother were brought up. The kids hear me talk about it all the time.”
Her mother moved out of Newfoundland when she was 17, but Bell-Lundy still loves to sit and listen her parents talk about their lives in Newfoundland.
“Once she starts and the longer we chat, the more comes out,” said Bell-Lundy, who plans to visit the province again, as she has relatives in Port aux Basque, Corner Brook and Paradise.
“As she talks, the more she remembers and I just love to hear it.”
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