Here’s one of Mammy’s answers: “Someone belonging to us had something to do with the Norma and Gladys.”
How’s that for a tenuous connection with the little schooner?
Nonetheless, it could be true.
Norma and Gladys was built in Monroe and launched in May of 1945.
A fellow with a strong arm could heave a rock across Smith Sound from Random Island where this scribbler, as part of a large extended Walters/March family, spent the first thirteen years of his earthly sojourn.
So, yes, it’s possible that someone belonging to us worked on the schooner during her construction across the Sound.
It is more likely that someone belonging to us worked on Norma and Gladys in 1972 during her refit in Clarenville, considering men from Random Island commuted to Clarenville to work in the dockyard.
One thing for sure, however, no one belonging to us had anything to do with installing the wrong mast in the schooner, eh b’ys?
Built for fishing, Norma and Gladys spent years knocking around down on the Labrador, involved in seasonal pursuit of codfish.
Incidentally, someone belonging to us had something to do with the Labrador fishery. My paternal granny cooked for a season down north, for the Burt family I believe [Mammy wasn’t sure].
I do know that Granny’s season as a cook was part of the reason I never had a dog when I was a boy.
Have I told you that before?
Granny took her youngest son — my Pappy — with her, and sometime during the summer a pack of savage Labrador dogs attacked little-boy Pappy, instilling in him a life-long fear of dogs, so …
“Harry my son, no pup for you.”
Sorry, my lack of a canine pet has nothing to do with Garry Cranford’s book; a book that originally took him a decade of researching and writing to produce; a book for which Newfoundlanders are in his debt.
Done with the Labrador fishery, Norma and Gladys became a freighter hauling supplies to coastal communities around the province for the most part.
As a fishing boat and a freighter Norma and Gladys added to her reputation as a jim-dandy schooner.
Good for her.
Then she got tangled up with The Government.
The Government, a mish-mash of provincial and federal politicos, in their perennially unbounded wisdom thought it would be a wonderful idea to have Norma and Gladys dressed-up as a floating museum of sorts and go sailing, sailing, off to Japan to promote Canadian off-shore interests and Newfoundland’s role in the North Atlantic fishery, or some such.
I didn’t pay much attention to the particulars of The Government’s self-lauded intentions. I was more interested in the misery that incompetence and skullduggery perpetrated on the already hard-worked schooner.
Norma and Gladys didn’t even reach Nova Scotia before that faulty mast installed in Clarenville — the mast no one belonging to us had anything to do with — twisted like a corkscrew and buggered up the riggings and sails and other nautical gear of which I have absolutely no understanding. I simply trust Garry Cranford’s research and writing.
Of course, Norma and Gladys didn’t get to Japan. She didn’t even cross the Panama Canal. She ended up in Kingston and sundry other Caribbean ports for a spell.
While in the Caribbean some of the crew behaved like…well, like drunken sailors. So much so that this refrain splashed in my noggin like bilge slop: “What shall we do with a drunken sailor?”
Forget heaving him in the longboat or the guardhouse till he’s sober, The Government had a different method of dealing with said hard ticket: give him a plane ticket home plus travelling money.
Eventually, Norma and Gladys — still in her role as a maritime museum — sailed to Europe, allowing tourists [?] from the Mediterranean Sea area and ports farther north to go onboard and view her displays.
And all the while this government minister and that department of tourism representative flew back and forth for promotional dinners and loonie-squandering fandangos of that ilk.
I know I might be bound in sailcloth and chains and hove overboard for saying this but I feel Norma and Gladys was mistreated. As if to satisfy partisan schemes, scalawags attempted to turn an admirable workhorse into a prancing pony.
Sadly, like an over-worked horse, after forty years or so, Norma and Gladys foundered.
Thank you for reading.
— Harold Walters lives Happily Ever After in Dunville, in the only Canadian province with its own time zone. How cool is that? Reach him at email@example.com