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Memorial University gets a taste of Bay Roberts

Students will use the information they gather within the next three weeks to put together a small booklet filled with photos and stories from the locals.
Students will use the information they gather within the next three weeks to put together a small booklet filled with photos and stories from the locals.

BAY ROBERTS, NL — Memorial University graduate students in folklore are getting the chance to experience Newfoundland culture in Bay Roberts.

The nine students are currently spending three weeks in the community, exposing themselves to the culture and traditions of the province, while also learning about the history of Bay Roberts – straight from the mouths of people who have spent nearly their entire lives living there.

Alongside MUN faculty members Diane Tye, Jillian Gould and Dale Jarvis, the students are putting their classroom teachings to the test, with the ultimate goal of creating a booklet detailing the stories and findings they make during their time in Bay Roberts.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, students who came to MUN from places such as the United States, Italy and Israel, joined together in a circle in the SUF Lodge in Bay Roberts with several members of the community. The Bay Roberts natives shared stories from their own personal pasts, folklore tales from their childhoods, and reflections on the changes they’ve seen in the community by comparing modern-day Bay Roberts to the Bay Roberts of the 50s and 60s.

“Bay Roberts has been such a wonderful place so far,” said Tye, a faculty member in the folklore department at MUN. “Already, the students are getting a taste – both figuratively and literally – of both Bay Roberts, and Newfoundland in general. Just recently we’ve had big meals with traditional foods like toutons and crab, and the students got the chance to explore the community and see various places that were special to residents.
“Those kinds of things are really important to the students, especially when it comes to putting together the final project.”

During their time in the community, the students will also be learning to properly gather and present the information and stories they collect. Tye explained proper interviewing strategies, photography, videography, and audio-storytelling are all techniques the students will be utilizing.

The group session at the SUF Lodge played a major role in the students’ information-gathering process. Here, they listened in on various interesting stories, while Jarvis asked questions to keep the conversation going.

Residents of Bay Roberts and folklore students from Memorial University got together to share stories from the community’s past.

Popular stories told by residents included memories from the local snack bars and jukebox joints that once existed in the community. Some stories went into a different territory, however, and students were introduced to the idea of fairies and graveyard spirits – topics that almost all residents related with.

“I remember being a youngster, and seeing people that my parents would say the fairies had gotten a hold of,” said one woman. “It would give me a good fright, but now I know the difference. Sometimes, I think there might have been some truth to it, though. You never know, do you?”

Another popular subject was how much the town has changed over the years. Residents regaled the students with stories about specialized shops in Bay Roberts, such as hat stores or meat shops. However, as the community grew and technology evolved, such places became a thing of the past – something the community members were a little disappointed about, but still plenty thankful for.

“(The students) are going to do plenty of interviews, and put together everything they learn during their time here,” Tye explained. “At the end of the day, we’ll hopefully have a little booklet about the area and the folklore, which will be accessible by the residents, so they can see the end result of all of this. That’s the main goal here.”

After the storytelling session, which lasted about an hour, students got the chance to converse with the residents with hopes of setting up interviews in the near future to further collect stories for the booklet, which will be put together with the help of the Bay Roberts Heritage Society. The gathered stories will be available in the MUN folklore archive, as well as the Bay Roberts archive at the museum, accessible by residents.

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