Wednesday, February 5, 2014

from "Among the Deep Sea Fishers" | July 1912

St. Anthony, Newfoundland
April 20, 1912

Dear Mr. Editor,

The snow is still piled here around all our buildings. One of the cottages is absolutely shut in by a wall twenty feet high. All winter long it has been snowing and adding to our pile. The trees on the hill-top back of the Mission settlement are entirely buried and only here and there a green tip stand s out to modify the unrelieved whiteness of the whole landscape.

While the winter has not been as cold as last by the thermometer, it has been much more disagreeable. Three or four heavy snow storms with high winds and low temperature have made us realize what a northern winter really can be when it tries.

The month of February, however, was very mild, and during that time we were hauling out our firewood with the reindeer. Owing to the deep snow and the inaccessibility of the moss on which the deer feed, the have not been in the best of condition this winter and consequently could not pull as heavy loads as they sometimes do. They have however, pulled a creditable quantity of firewood for us.

The gasoline wood-saw given us last year by Mr. Rosenwald has proved one of the most useful of acquisitions. Last fall all the winter’s wood supply was sawed up during odd afternoons by some of the older boys, and as soon as the snow has gone the wood that has been hauled this winter will be sawed up and have a chance to season a little before it is needed for next winter’s firing. We really need a large woodshed in which we could store the firewood a year ahead; it would then be possible to burn seasoned instead of green and half-green wood during the winter.

The fuel question is one that is of grave importance, and we hope that the Geo. B. Cluett will make trips enough in the future to bring us a sufficient quantity of hard coal so that we shall not have the dread of fuel famine that we have always had formerly. We also need a sufficiently large quantity of soft coal from Sydney, which we may be able to sell to our employees. They find it very difficult to get firewood, and we might save much of their time by providing them with coal at cost.

We are expecting this summer to get down a large cargo of soft coal from Sydney for this purpose as well as for our own use. We find that hard coal is the most economical fuel for our use and it is absolutely necessary that we have enough coal to run the hospital and orphanage heaters. Wood is very expensive before it reaches our wood fire: hauling costs so much. In winter when it is necessary to give out work for poor relief we might cut wood here, but otherwise it would be much better and cheaper to rely on coal for fuel.

Doctor Little has been more than busy at the hospital all winter. Without the assistance of another doctor he has done all the travelling besides the regular hospital work. While he has been away, Miss Brown has been “doctor in charge” at the hospital. More patients than usual have spent the winter at the hospital. There have been a great many cases of tubercular bones, hip disease, etc., which are of a very discouraging nature, as it is rather depressing to doctor and nurses, day after day, to see the same faces without any improvement in condition.

The carpenter shop has been running full force all winter, making doors and sashes for the new buildings, the erection of which we are contemplating next summer. These will be a hostel or rest house where friends of patients who come here in the summer may be entertained at a moderate cost, or a house in a part of which we may be able to entertain friends of the Mission who come from the States or Canada, and who would come in increasing numbers if there were adequate accommodations for the entertainment in St. Anthony.

We also expect to build during the coming summer a small marine railway or slipway where our won boats and those of the fishermen may be dry docked for repairs. During the warmer days of the past month we have been finishing the upstairs hall or assembly room of the school house and the unfinished downstairs school room. The room upstairs is to have a large fireplace and will be fitted up with games and will be used as a reading and recreation room for the fishermen who call on us spring and fall, and for the use of the young people locally.

We also expect to have shower baths installed in the school house during the coming summer. The grounds will also be graded and fenced when our student volunteers visit us this summer.

Through the kindness of Mr. Stirling some changes have been made in the Guest House, which have made it much more comfortable during the past winter. Adequate heating facilities have been arranged; a bathroom is now being installed, and a new coal stove, several additional windows, and other minor changes are contemplated before our summer visitors arrive. Indeed, it would be difficult to overestimate the benefit of Mr. Stirlings’s visit to us last summer. We have felt since then that we had “at the other end” a friend who thoroughly understood conditions and needs here and who was intelligent and interested. We have never doubted the willingness of our friends, but naturally, when one has visited this coast he understands as never before the needs that we are seeking to meet. By his words of kindly encouragement and by his many generous gifts we shall long remember Mr. Stirling.

The night school has been carried on by Mr. Fallon, Mr. Blackburn, and myself, since the first of January. Three nights a week we have had serious study work and on Friday nights Mr. Fallon has given the boys some sort of an entertainment, either with phonograph, magic lantern, or games. Mr. Blackburn has conducted the book-keeping class for young men. The day school, under the charge of Miss Appleton with Miss Copping’s assistance, has prospered. During the coldest weather the school was divided, part meeting in one of the vacated wards of the hospital and part in the orphanage. When the weather made possible, school was held in the school house with a curtain drawn across the room as a partition.  Another winter adequate heating facilities will have been installed in the school house.

Mr. Forbes and Mr. Evans have given a recital at the church for the benefit of a new organ. The Methodist choir, under Mrs. Halsey’s direction, have given us special music at Christmas and Easter, with an excellent concert at the time of the sports.

As is our custom, the early part of March the sports were held for two days. People come for miles around to contest for the valuable and useful prizes that are offered. A spirit of real “sport” is growing, however, and there are some who contend for the joy of the contest rather than for the prize to be gained. This spirit is especially noticeable in our boys who have been at school in the States and have seen real sports in our schools.

If I may be allowed to make a request or two, I would suggest that some of our friends who send us magazines keep the files intact, tying a year’s subscription together, as so many people ask us for magazines that contain the other parts of continued stories.

Some kind friends of my own have been keeping files of McClure’s, Scribner’s, Century, Harper’s, and the World’s Work for several years and when the file is complete they tie them in one bundle and send them to us, and this winter I have had great pleasure in looking through these magazines, month by month. They happened to be two years old, but this did not matter greatly as to the interest with which I read them.

On the Strathcona people have asked me for the Youth’s Companion or the Ladies’ Home Journal of the week or month before that they might read the opening chapters of a continued story.

We are expecting a larger number of student volunteers than ever this summer and will have a very busy season no doubt with all the new work that we have in prospect. We are anxiously awaiting the snow to disappear that we may start our spring work.

Yours very truly,
Jesse Halsey

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