Years vanish during Pouch Cove reunion

Former teachers, students remember old three-room school

Published on August 4, 2014

Across the road Saturday from where the old three-room school had been in Pouch Cove, Susie Noseworthy-Matthews, 88, spoke with two former students she had taught nearly 70 years ago.

I taught grades five, six and seven,” Noseworthy-Matthews said. “I can’t remember the numbers of students, but I remember some of the names. I’m seeing a lot of my former students this weekend. There’s a lot of memories. It’s just wonderful.”

Marjorie Gruchy-Bragg and her sister Lucy Cole-Bragg said one thing they remember about their teacher was her patience in having to contend with many students at different grade levels.

“She never gave me the strap,” laughed Marjorie. “If she did I wouldn’t play cards with her twice a week like I do now.”

Noseworthy-Matthews said she never used the strap because she knew what it felt like from her young days attending school on Silver Fox Island in Bonavista Bay, a small-island community where she grew up that was later resettled.

“I got strapped once when I was nine years old and I never forgot it from that day to this … just because I laughed out loud in school,” she said laughing, but not loudly.

“I was so embarrassed because I was a good little girl in school.”

About 150 people attended the All Saints School of Pouch Cove reunion in the town just outside of St. John’s on the weekend. In addition to the locals, they came mostly from Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces.

Under hot, sunny skies and warm, sticky nights old acquaintances were renewed, and laughter, hugs and tears carried through events that brought former residents back together. There was a church service, an old-fashion concert, Jigg’s dinner and gatherings at the parish hall where old artifacts — including the old school’s hand bell — and old photos were on display.

The three-room school in Pouch Cove closed in 1962 in favour of a new, larger school and the old building was eventually torn down.

However, if there was ever a way memories could rebuild the old school from the sod, it was certainly sitting in its old spot across from All Saints Anglican Church and parish hall in the town this past weekend.

From the excited chatter inside the hall as people ran their fingers along old photos and displays, you could imagine the teachers clinking the hand bell, hear the creaking of the old floor boards, smell the scent of the old pot-bellied stove as it warmed the rooms, and feel the lumps of chewing gum pressed under the seat of the old chairs.

Though there was no gymnasium in those days, physical activity at recess time took form outside in games of hopscotch and skipping rope, climbing the nearby high rocks, or playing “old man” running around a large rock.

And no one forgot the scrambling in the rain or through the high drifts of snow to the old outhouses — one for boys and one for girls — or being asked on bitter cold winter days to take the large kettle to a nearby house for water in order to make hot coco malt.

Shirley Bragg’s house was one of those the students came to on the quest for water. At 90 years of age, she still lives in the two-storey, yellow house nearby and remembers those days well.

“I’ve been in that house 70 years,” she said. “I’m the oldest person at this reunion. Those in there now were only children to me.

“I went to school up here, too, and my father he went to the old-three room school. Can’t say for sure if my grandparents did, but my father did and I did, and my children.”

Her son, Kermit Bragg, who jokingly introduced his wife Patricia first as “Miss Piggy,” said he left Pouch Cove as a young man for Ontario to return to Newfoundland when he retired. They now live in Victoria, near Carbonear.

“It’s been a wonderful three days for all of us,” he said. “I’ve met up with some of my old pals I haven’t seen in 50 years. I’ve been away 55 years.”

With so many years to catch up on, it’s no wonder the church service on Friday turned into a meet and greet event in itself. An event following the church service — the actual meet and greet — extended well beyond the time alloted for it.

“I met a lady I hadn’t seen since Grade 5 and that was a good many years ago,” Eugene Castella said.

“It was so nice, such a wonderful experience to meet somebody, you know, after such a long, long time, to renew the acquaintance. This is probably one of the finest gatherings in the history of this community.”

Edgar Williams, a member of the steering committee, said in 2013 when they first floated the idea of having a reunion, the response was enthusiastic. He said now that the event is a reality, the emotions are overwhelming.

“I think you see a lot of interaction between people, a lot of greetings and I think a lot of nostalgia because they are talking about their youth going back to when they were young in that school,” said Williams. “And I think the memories that they shared this weekend are just incredible.”

At one point in the afternoon Saturday, a Mustang convertible with the top down pulled out of the parish parking lot, two couples on board, grey hair ruffling in the wind, smiles as broad as the mouth of the bay, and hands waving to passers-by. It summed up the mood — there was nothing but youthful joy in Pouch Cove on this weekend.