Interview Transcription of Bowater Oral History Project
Compact Disc # B-15
Interviewee: Elward Pear, 145 Humber Road, Corner Brook, Newfoundland Labrador.
Interviewer: Peter Brake
Transcription by: Travis Sheppard
Interview Date: May 23, 1980
Transcription Date: October 12, 2008
Topic: Recollections of the railway in Corner Brook and the West Coast from the 1920's to the 1940's.
Time Interview Comments
Interviewer: Now Mr. Pear how old are you right now?
Interviewee: Seventy-Four, June 9th
Interviewer: Now where were you born?
Interviewee: Ah...I was born on Belle Island...Conception Bay
Interviewer: And when did you move to Corner Brook”
Interviewee: I was brought to Corner Brook as a very small baby
Interviewer: Did you come with your family?
Interviewee: Ah oh yeah, the family moved here yeah...that’s my father’s family now,
brought me with him of course
Interviewer: Now why did your family move to Corner Brook?
Interviewee: Well, Ah he ah he was a miner on Belle Island and ah he changed his course
to railroad....he preferred railroad instead of working in mines you know
Interviewer: And he came to work here on the railroad?
Interviewee: And he came and worked his way through to the Bay of Islands
Interviewer: What do you me he had to work his way through?
2 Interviewee: You see there was divisions (interviewer: divisions) there
were divisions first you know like ah from St. Johns to Clarenville would be
one division, then from Clarenville to Bishops Falls would be another
(interviewer: I see) like that you know, and then from Bishops Falls to
Interviewer: How did he...did he graduate from one division to another?
Interviewee: He didn’t graduate...sometimes through building doing big jobs you know ah
like there was a vacancy for an....
Interviewer: Was it by building seniority?
Interviewee: It was by seniority yeah
Interviewer: Why did your father change from mining to railroading, he didn’t like
3 Interviewee: He did like mining as well as he liked the railroad job (I see)
Interviewer: Did he face any health hazards?
Interviewee: No, no there was nothing like that
Interviewee: He had three trades
Interviewer: He had three trades...
Interviewee: He was a man of three trades
Interviewer: And what were...
Interviewee: He was a miner, leading miner hand, and ah he was a shoemaker, and his last
one was engineering.
Interviewer: Where did he pick up the art of making shoes?
Interviewee: He served his time as a boy
Interviewer: I see so he was an apprentice...
Interviewee: Yeah he went through an apprenticeship
Interviewer: Did he every make any shoes in... (get cut off)
4 Interviewee: Oh yes...I remember seeing things hanging on the basement
Interviewer: I am really interested in this. Where did he learn this?
Interviewee: He learned it in St. John’s
Interviewer: He had to go to St. John’s
Interviewer: Did he have to go to St. John’s to learn it?
Interviewee: He wasn’t on Belle Island to learn it
Interviewer: How old was he when he went to St. John’s then? (Bad Question)
5 Interviewee: He was only a young man (very low voice indicating
uncertainty) I can’t recall age because it was too long ago, but in apprentice
Interviewer: He was probably a young teenager
Interviewee: I would say, I would say
Interviewer: When he moved to the Corner Brook area what part of the Belle of Islands
areas did you live in?
Interviewer: Did you consider this Humber Road a part of Humber Mouth?
6 Interviewee: Oh yes...the only thing is they changed it because it was much
narrower and wasn’t paved. They used a horse and carriage at that time.
Interviewer: But there was a road here?
Interviewee: Oh yeah...there was one main road
7 Interviewee: They use to use a ferry boat to go around the harbor.
Interviewer: Who ran the ferry boat?
Interviewee: Davis...Mr. Davis use to run the boat. It made two trips a day.
Interviewer: Now (pause)
Interviewer: What area did he cover?
8 Interviewee: He began in Curling, his home, and go across to Summerside.
Interviewer: Do you know the name of the government ferry boat?
9 Interviewee: No, I don’t believe she had a name...she might have had a
name, but I didn’t hear of it. She could hold a capacity of 12 people I guess.
On a fine day she would take some on deck.
Interviewer: Was this the only ferry boat?
Interviewee: Oh yes...
Interviewer: Where there any boats that would just run between Curling and Summerside?
10 Interviewee: Ah...no, only that one I know of. He would make a trip in the
morning or more if he had two or three hours. That was his regular hours.
Interviewer: Do you remember when this ferry ended?
Interviewee: No. The bus service from Corner Brook opened up and took the passengers
Interviewer: So you don’t remember exactly when the ferry service ended?
11 Interviewee: No. Frank may be able to tell you that. They opened up the
Mush Shore road and there was no need for a road. That served the people on
that side of the harbor see.
Interviewer: What school did you go to in Humber Mouth?
Interviewee: The United Church school
Interviewer: Oh awesome. The United Church School. How many grade would that school
Interviewee: Had up to junior
Interviewer: What would that be the equivalent of today?
12 Interviewee: Grade ten today I would say
(Background: “I shut off the stove for you.” He is talking to a women would is at the house)
Interviewer: Did you go to school til grade ten?
Interviewee: I went to that school...ah I forget... (pause) I went to work with the railway.
Interviewer: You went to work with the railway.
13 Interviewee: I went to work as an apprentice
Interviewer: What were you an apprentice for?
Interviewee: I was being an apprentice for engineering.
Interviewer: What time would this be by the way...before or after the war?
14 Interviewee: After the war. I’ll tell you a little about that. After I worked for
a year and a half in the shop I decided to go back to school again and went to
St. John’s. I went to Prince of Whales college in St. John’s and had another
year of school there.
Interviewer: Why did you want to go back to get some more schooling?
Interviewee: I thought it necessary in order to do engineering.
Interviewer: Did many of the other apprentices do that?
Interviewee: Well, yes, there was one fellow. There was one fellow there when I was there.
15 Interviewer: Now did you do this on your own or did the railway...
Interviewee: No it was on my own
Interviewer: What would the problems have been if you continued as an apprentice
without upgrading your education?
Interviewee: Well I would come out advance, maybe as a apprentice fireman, and be able
to understand orders. Some orders were hard to understand as a greenhorn.
16 Interviewer: Do you remember what year it was when you went to Prince
of Whales College in St. John’s?
Interviewee: No. I don’t know what year. However, after returning from that I picked up
my job again.
Interviewer: And you went right back to being an apprentice again?
17 Interviewee: And I wasn’t no time then tell I was back working on the
road...the railroad. Then I had to do more studies to work my way up.
Interviewer: When you were working as an apprentice was the railroad very busy?
Interviewee: Yeah quite busy
Interviewer: Was it busier than today
Interviewee: Yeah twice as busy. Eight to ten trains a day sometimes
18 Interviewer: What would these trains mostly be doing?
Interviewee: Some of them were work trains and building the tracks you know. Then there
was vegetable trains too. Then we use to have two freight trains from Port
Aux Basque to St. John’s.
19 Interviewer: Now were there many passenger trains?
Interviewee: Yeah I was going to mention that next now. Yeah one from each direction
Interviewer: Were there many people on them?
Interviewee: Yeah there was lot of people traveling on them
Interviewer: What were most people traveling for? Were there mostly visitors?
20 Interviewee: It took everybody. For instance; any one working somewhere
like Deer Lake depended on the train you know. There was no Trans Canada,
it was railroad. Had to go by train or by boat on the island.
Interviewer: Who ran the railway?
Interviewee: It was the Reid Newfoundland company first. They put the railway through.
Then it was taken over by the Newfoundland government.
Interviewer: Do you know what year that was?
Interviewee: No, but you might find that out and put that in.
21 Interviewer: How did Reid run the railway?
Interviewee: With a very small engine, small rails, and small engines; only two or three
Interviewer: Why the slow speed?
Interviewee: Because there was small rails.
Interviewer: And they couldn’t support it?
Interviewee: No. They had to re-rail it twice or three times I believe during its lifetime.
22 Interviewer: Was this smaller track cheaper to produce?
Interviewee: It was much cheaper than it is today. An apprentice would get ten cents and
Interviewer: I was wondering was it cheaper for the Reid company to run a small track
than it was to run a large track.
23 Interviewee: Yes cheaper. Much cheaper. Everything was
much cheaper than it is today. Just
for fun I’ll show you a piece of the rail. Downstairs I’ll show
you a piece of it.
(Pause to go downstairs)
Interviewer: When the government took over the railway was there any change?
24 Interviewee: Yes. They trains use to have coal run engines and then they
got larger and heavier engines.
Interviewer: What did they burn?
Interviewee: They still burnt coal. They converted there coal burning engines to oil
Interviewer: Why was this?
Interviewee: The idea was to try and prevent forest fires through the country.
25 Interviewer: What was the problem with the coal burning?
Interviewee: It would shoot sparks through the stack. It would cause fires you know.
Interviewer: These oil burning did not cause sparks?
Interviewee: No not like the others.
26 Interviewer: Was the track ever enlarged?
Interviewee: Yes, it was enlarged with heavier rails.
Interviewer: Were the trains larger and longer.
Interviewer: Would it pull more than two or three cars?
Interviewee: Yeah when they started pulling like that they would pull between 17 to 20
Interviewer: Was this the reason they made a track every year?
27 Interviewee: They did it as it prospered. And we had another change.
Interviewer: What was that?
Interviewee: They had to study on these diesel motors. Diesel-electric motors.
Interviewer: When did the engines change to Diesel-electric?
Interviewee: Say around 6 or 8 years ago.
28 Interviewer: 1973 or 1974. So that is a recent one.
Interviewee: Yeah that is the most recent one.
You probably have seen a Diesel anyway.
Interviewer: I have from a distance.
When you work on the train, how did the mill effect the railway? Did it
Interviewee: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: What types of things would the train have carried?
29 Interviewee: It took what the mill needed because that was the only
Interviewer: Did the train carry very many people coming in to work at the mill?
Interviewee: Oh yeah. That’s the way many of them came. We also had a coastal boat.
Interviewer: How many times a year would this coastal boat have run?
30 Interviewee: From the time the ice cleared in the Spring until it would
affect here in the fall, in the Winter you know. Some years freight would be
left over and wouldn’t be able take it to get here.
31 Interviewer: In the early days was the railway station in Humber Mouth
built before you started to work as an apprentice?
Interviewee: Oh yeah, there was a station.
Interviewer: Why did they decide to build it there, instead of Corner Brook or Curling?
Interviewee: When business started to boom it was disqualified and built in Corner Brook.
32 Interviewer: But, why did they build it in Humber Mouth when there were
more people in Curling?
33 Interviewee: When the traffic expanded it needed a lot of room. But, when
the gypsine son and cement plant took up so much of the yard that their only
move was to move to Corner Brook.
34 Interviewer: What I am wondering is, the original machine shop that was
constructed before the mill was constructed in the early 1900s why was it
built in Humber Mouth?
Interviewee: That was the only shop because the other shop was owned by Bowater. They
needed to build a shop of there own.
35 Interviewer: Did the depression in Newfoundland in the 1930s affect the
Interviewee: Yeah I think it did.
Interviewer: In what way, what types of things were cut back?
Interviewee: There was a cut back in handling of local freight.
Interviewer: What type of things?
Interviewee: I would say that the man that suffered the most were the farmers on the west
Interviewer: They suffer the most during the depression?
36 Interviewee: Yes, see because they sold their produce for so little. And then
they couldn’t afford to ship it and the railway felt it as well.
Interviewer: So the traffic decreased because the farmer could not afford to ship their
Interviewee: Yeah, they brought them down. The railway lost that depression amount.
Interviewer: Did the railway decrease in it fees?
Interviewee: They ran less trains for one thing.
37 Interviewer: What I mean is did they charge less for transporting good to
build up traffic, did they ever do that?
Interviewee: No, they were not that kind of people. No, they don’t do that stuff. There was
no deduction in price. The deduction they made would be less trains and not
to carry so much.
38 Interviewer: What about War. America build their bases in Stephenville.
Did this result in much more business for the railway business?
Interviewee: Yes, it stepped up the railway business yes.
Interviewer: What types of things would they have carried for the Americans?
Interviewee: There was the transportation of lumber, cement, stone, and a lot of steel
structure came in as well.
39 Interviewer: Was there much traffic of good from Corner Brook to
Interviewee: Oh yeah quite a bit.
Interviewer: Would Corner Brook as served as the main supply area?
Interviewee: They did the lumber. They did their best to supply the need for lumber as
much as possible.
Interviewer: And the railway carried this lumber to Stephenville?
Interviewee: By car, by train yeah.
Interviewer: Did Luncheon’s, have a mill of his own?
40 Interviewee: Yeah he had a big mill out on the west side they and he still
Interviewer: And he supplied most of the lumber to Stephenville?
Interviewee: Yeah as much as he could get.
Interviewer: Do you remember any other business men?
41 Interviewee: I don’t know...
Interviewer: So did many of the Americans come here to buy stuff?
42 Interviewee: Yeah, the railway had a coach that use to carry what... carry 50
people and every Saturday they use to send one of us over and then Sunday
night it would go back to the base again.
Interviewer: And where would the American service men go in Corner Brook for
Interviewee: They would go to the hotels in Port aux Port.
Interviewer: There was no special club?
43 Interviewee: No, they just came in for the weekend you know.
Interviewer: Did you hear of many Corner Brook girls marry American service men?
Interviewee: Some of them. I don’t now how many now, but some got married.
44 Interviewer: When the war officially began did Corner Brook seem like a
more prosperous place?
Interviewee: Oh yeah, it stepped up the speed of things and you were seeing more
American personal you know.
Interviewer: At this point in 1939-40 the Americans were not in war, but from talking to
the American service men did you get the idea that they thought they would
eventually go into the war against the Germans?
45 Interviewee: Well no, I didn’t have that much dealings with them.
46 Interviewer: My tape is nearly over now and I’d like to thank-you very