A Newfoundland fishing village similar to
the ones where Leonard taught school.
I was born in Long Pond, Newfoundland, which was one of the villages that make up the town
of Conception Bay South. The village was named for the nearby lake. I had two brothers and
one sister. It was an area of small farms. My father was a butcher, and had his own
slaughterhouse next to our house. He raised some animals, but bought most from cattle
auctions. You had to have a license to have a slaughterhouse then, but there was little or no
regulation on them. I’d help out around the place, especially during summer vacation.
Our kitchen was our one room that had heat. The stove burned both wood and coal. Our
water had to be brought in from the well in buckets. On cold mornings, I’d use a knife to
break the ice on the top. To do the laundry, my mother had to heat the water on the stove
and wash the clothes using a scrub board. She baked all our bread. For better or worse, we
had lots of meat. There was no refrigeration, so when my father had meat that hadn’t sold,
my mother would cook it for us. It was during the Depression, but we were lucky. We always
had enough and didn’t need government assistance.
There weren’t any organized sports then, in or out of school. In the winter some of us would
clear an area on the pond and have a game of hockey. For Christmas, we’d get a few
presents, usually including clothes, such as sweaters, socks and mittens, and a toy or two.
Very few people in Canada drank coffee back then. Tea was the drink that was the choice of
most people. Actually, I wasn’t really Canadian. Newfoundland was a British dominion,
separate from Canada in those days. I came here in 1948. Newfoundland became part of
Canada in 1949. I became an American citizen in 1962.
In 1940, many of the men were going off to war, and that included many of the teachers. To
make up for the shortage, there was a special program by which you could go to college for
one year and do a little teacher training to become a teacher. I went into the program and
became a teacher for seven years. I taught in various small fishing villages. The schools
were generally first through eleventh grade and I taught all grades. I taught in one, two and
three-room schools. The first year I taught all grades in a one-room first through eighth
school. After that I taught the upper grades. I’d board with a family in the village. The first
year I earned twenty-four dollars a month. Twelve dollars went for room and board. The
villages were quite isolated and there was no transportation available.
The schools in the villages were all church schools. Most villages had an Anglican, and
Catholic and a Salvation Army school. Some also had a Methodist school. I taught in Anglican
schools. The minister, who was usually the chairman of the school board would be in charge
of and travel to many villages. As a teacher in the church’s school, I was an assistant to the
minister. Since he couldn’t get to all of the churches each Sunday, the teacher would conduct
the church service. We just followed the regular procedure as the minister would, but we
couldn’t write our own sermons. We’d preach from a book of sermons. There would be a
morning and an evening service each Sunday.
I came to Hopedale in 1948. I was sponsored by Ben Dawe, who was my great-uncle. I lived
with the Dawes for a short while and then moved in to the Brae Burn Inn. It was run by the
Caron’s, Hilda Hammond’s parents. Bob (Zeke) Hammond wasn’t married to Hilda then, but
he had most of his meals at the Brae Burn. I lived on the third floor for a while, and then got a
nicer room on the second floor of the Brae Burn Annex, across the street, where the post
office is now.
Room and board at the Brae Burn was fourteen dollars a week. I was surprised they could do
it for that little. The Carons and some hired help made the meals, although they bought the
desserts from a bakery. One of my favorites was the Boston cream pie. Tony Perry lived
there for a while. In addition to Zeke, some other people who didn’t live there would get their
meals there now and then. Leland Whiting and his son, Dexter, would usually have Sunday
dinner at the Brae Burn. Twenty meals a week were served there. We were on our own for
Sunday night supper.
I was a member of the Masons, as was Donald Miller of Prospect Street. One night in 1950,
Donald took me to an event at the Congregational Church in Milford and introduced me to
Helen Gaskill. Shortly after, Helen and I started dating. On a typical date, I’d take the bus to
Milford and we’d go to a movie at the State Theater and then to the Brass Rail for spaghetti
and meatballs. We were married in 1952. Our wedding rings were made by Scottie Davie,
who lived and had his place of business at the corner of Freedom and Oak streets. We lived
in Milford for about a year. I worked at Draper Corporation. I was on the shuttle job for a while
and then moved to payroll at the Main Office. Cliff Smith, who was in payroll also, told me
about a house on Inman Street that was available. I put in for it and was very fortunate to get
it. About a year later, Drapers sold the houses. The couple on the other side had been there
longer than us, so they could have bought it if they wanted it. They didn’t, so we bought it.
In my first years in payroll, workers were paid in cash. The Brinks truck would come in for the
figures on Wednesdays. On Fridays, they’d return with the envelopes filled with each
employee’s pay. There’d always be police around when they delivered the cash. Once there
was an attempted robbery. I don’t remember much about it, because I was away at the time.
After that, they started paying by check.
In 1967, Drapers was taken over by Rockwell. As things changed over the years, I eventually
became the head of the Billing Department. In 1976, the department was moved to the
Draper plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We moved to Spartanburg, and I set up the
department there and trained the new people. In 1981, the department was moved to
Greensboro, North Carolina, so we moved there.
The Spartanburg plant was closed in 1982, and Rockwell sold it to a group that included the
president of the Draper Division and other executives. They named their company Draper
Corporation. Greensboro was where the main office and the shipping department were. The
foundry and the sales department were in Spartanburg. Rockwell also sold their Beebe River,
New Hampshire operation and the shuttle plant in Marion, South Carolina. About a year later
they let some of us go. The new Draper Corporation lasted until the early nineties
We found a big difference between life in Spartanburg and in Greensboro. We preferred
Greensboro and considered staying there. When we left Hopedale in 1976, we didn’t sell our
house. Our daughter stayed here. In 1988, and we decided to move back. Some others who
had sold their Hopedale homes found they couldn’t afford to move back.
In 1991, we started going to Clearwater, Florida for the winter. We enjoyed that and
continued doing it up until 1999 when my wife got sick. She passed away in 2010. We had
been married for fifty-eight years. Our marriage was blessed by three children, and I have
four grandchildren and one great—grandchild. I've been here on Inman Street since 1953,
and now I’m the oldest resident of the street. Interview with Leonard Baird, April 2011
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A QSL card showing a somewhat similar scene.