I grew up on Midland Row and I’m proud to say that my grandparents Andrew and Elizabeth Whiffin were one of the first twenty-five families to settle in Midland, so named because it was mid way between Corner Brook and Deer Lake. The families were relocated because of the fishery that was declining(sound familiar?) and it was in the Depression. People were starving and the government at the time decided to move people from Clarke’s Beach, Bell Island, Red Island, Argentia and other communities. So my grandparents came to one of the houses that was built and ready in September of 1936. These houses were all built alike and were easy to mix up as they were all painted the same colour. I don’t know if any photos are around of the first settlers’ homes. There was no electricity or running water and the outhouses were 20 feet back behind the houses. I didn’t know any of this history when I was a little girl growing up on Midland Row. I’ve since learned that Mr. William Bonia’s and Mr. Gerry Bennett’s houses are the only two remaining houses(these have been changed/renovated, of course).
My father Albert Joseph Finlay married Joan Marie Whiffin in 1954 and I was born in April of 1955. My parents had six girls which included Rosalie, Elizabeth, Carolann, Theresa and Helen and three boys which included Thomas, Andrew and Albert. I know when they got four girls before a boy, Dad was mighty anxious to get a son. He had come from a large family of boys with only one sister Theresa. He had left his hometown of St.Shotts at the early age of fifteen, with all he owned in a flour sack. This was told to me by Mary Chris Molloy, as she is known, and she remembered the day that he left St.Shotts. She said it was so sad to see him leave, still a boy, and not knowing anything about what his future held. He used to visit her in the years leading up to his departure and she would iron his shirts for him, if he was going to a wedding or another event. My mother Joan was one of a twin(her brother was Andrew) and she had been a serving girl in Deer Lake prior to marrying my father. She loved to wear nice clothes and she was a gentle soul. She was very soft spoken and she adored my father.
The families I remember from my childhood were : the Whelan’s, the Whiffin’s, Walsh’s, Dyke’s, Bishop’s, Carroll’s, Hounsell’s, Bonia’s, French’s, White’s, Foote’s, Pike’s, Butt’s, Caines’, Bennett’s. These were the people we grew up with, learned our lessons from, and often dated and married. Most people of my childhood stayed home, with the exception of those just finished school who travelled to college or university and then went to Toronto to get a job. The men worked in the woods, down at Bowaters Paper Mill, at Stan Dawe’s in Riverside Drive, at the quarry and travelled for construction jobs or short term jobs. I don’t remember too many women working outside of the home, except my friend Lorraine Martin’s mom who was a nurse, or Elizabeth Whelan and Sylvia Bonia who were teachers. Women worked at Pike’s, a grocery store which was about half way up the road between our house and the Co-op Store, where were were sent each day to pick up anything needed for Mom to feed us. Credit was given and our items were written in a special book and paid when Dad came back from cutting wood or working in other places. There was always a fear that there would not be enough money to pay the bill! My mother worried more than anyone as she always wanted to pay our bills.
Midland Row provided our social setting as well. We skated on our two bladed skates on the road, and later at the outdoor skating rink. We played ball in White’s field and tiddley in any field around the place. Hopscotch and marbles were favorites. Building treehouses in behind our land was a great pasttime. I was considered to be a tomboy, but mostly it was because most of the girls around were older than me. Geraldine would play with me when Ellen wasn’t around and the same when Geraldine was gone somewhere Ellen would be happy to play. After being a teacher for so long I know about friendship triangles and how one is often feeling left out.
This street was the one that took us to our school, which we had only to cross it and White’s field, the TCH and then take a short cut through the woods past the post office. Later we waited on the corner of Midland Row and Fourth Ave. for the bus to St.Francis Xavier in Deer Lake. We walked on it to get to our favorite swimming pools, Concrete and Rocky Bottoms, to Harry’s Pool Hall, to Hi Way Diner and to Mitchell’s Movie Theatre. And of course, to church. The Catholic church was in the basement of Holy Rosary School. There were other united and anglican churches, a pentecostal church and a Jehovah’s Witness church.
So many walks on that road to be remembered, so many friends met along the way! It was truly the hub of my childhood memories when little feet were allowed to walk around so freely to explore and to treasure the moments of each day, living in Midland back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.
Note: Midland Row had previously been named Midland Road. It was renamed by Nelson Bennett who was mayor of the community for a while.