Monday, July 15, 2019

Memories of Pack's Harbour

By: Flora Elson

Pack's Harbour of Days Gone By
Pack's Harbor was a busy fishing community about 9 miles north of Cartwright, Labrador. 'Tis where we lived every summer up until I was 15 - that's when my dad joined the R.C.M.P. Pack's Harbor was made up of two rocky, hilly islands. The bigger of the two was Henrietta Island. The smaller was Pack's Harbor Island and the way it was located created a safe harbor for boats. There were a lot of families living in Pack's Harbor in summer and more moved out after the salmon fishery to prepare for the cod fishery.
The first part of the summer was busy with the salmon fishery. Dad was employed by S.B. Fequet and Sons; they had a lot of men working for them. Dad was a salmon collector but he did a bit of everything. All the men helped with pretty much anything that needed doing - getting the homes ready, painting, tarring roofs, barking nets, repairing nets, things like that. Some of the men went around to all the smaller fishing places to collect the salmon and keep it on ice in cold storage until a schooner came from Newfoundland to pick it up. It was brought to Pack's Harbor and kept in the cold storage building until then. Then when the salmon fishery was over, it was time for the cod fishery.
We would be one of the first families to move out there in summer. Dad not only collected salmon but did maintenance on the boats etc. so he had to be there early to help get things ready for the summer ahead.
We would move out to Pack's Harbor in the 6-hp motor boat - my parents, two older sisters and myself. The bed clothes would all be done up in bundles in the bed spread and pots and pans were in the washing tub in the middle of the boat. We'd go on a nice sunny day; the trip took around 45 minutes or so. I remember when I was very little, I would get up in the cuddy of the boat and suck my thumb all the way out there. As I got older I would curl up there with a book.
The company Dad worked for had a main house where the boss lived with the housekeeper / cook and a select few of the men. They also provided housing for my family and a few others. There was also a bunk house for the guys who came without families, most of whom were from Newfoundland. They also owned the store and a few other buildings in Pack's Harbor.
Being one of the first families on the scene, there weren't many children to play with. One of my cousins from Paradise River was out there early as well so we would keep ourselves entertained. One thing we used to do was catch mice for pets. We would get a glass bowl, prop it up with a stick with a string on it, put some lassey bread or a piece of cheese in it and then wait for the mouse to come. You see, catching them that way didn't hurt them and we kept them for a few days in an old wash tub, then let them go and got "fresh" ones as we didn't want them to die although we did have a few funerals.
We would spend hours looking for bird nests as well. We would carefully check them every day, impatiently waiting to see the eggs hatched. We would also guard them from some of the not-so-nice kids who liked to break the eggs.
We also liked to get baby sculpins from the tide pools and baby lump fish off the kelp and keep them in a jar for a few days, then we would let them go and get some more.
Pack's Harbour Today
The collector men were also our mail men. There were a lot of different little fishing spots a fair distance from each other. My friends and I would send letters back and forth to each other. Sometimes when we got our letters, they would be rather dirty and not without a few salmon scales. Sutton's Island is where my best friend lived. They were the only family on this small island just across the run from Pack's Harbor. I would go there for a night or two sometimes. For such a small island there were lots of bird nests to check out. We also did some trout fishing.
I remember one day we had lots of fun catching sculpins and putting them in a tide pool. They were so stunned you could catch them on anything. I think we had 80 or more. We caught the scullies on a safety pint with bait on it.
Then when the salmon fishery was over my friend would move to Pack's Harbor for the rest of the summer. Her family's house was across the harbor from us. After lunch my dad would bring me across the harbor and drop me off for the afternoon. My friend and her family lived under a hill and we would play with our dolls and dishes there for hours. There would be dolls beds all over the side of the hill.
There were lots of berries to pick. First there were blackberries. Pack's Harbor blackberries were very special - they taste like none other I have ever eaten. I could sit for hours and just eat blackberries. Then sometimes on Sunday we would go get a cupful for blackberry pudding. I didn't much care for picking bakeapples but sure did love eating them. More went in my mouth. My family went to several places to pick berries, usually on Sundays as the men were working all week. One of the places I enjoyed going out to berry pick was the islands as there were always baby gulls there.
Then around mid-August we would pick wild mushrooms. Yummy. They were such a treat. We'd bring them home, fry them up and everyone would enjoy this special treat.
There is a hill in Pack's Harbor that we call The Lookout. You can sit up there and look out over the smaller island. It was a place I liked to sit alone and just enjoy the peace and beauty, especially on a nice hot, windy day when there weren't any flies. I'd watch the sea wash over the rocks and smell the salt water.
Another fascinating thing about living in Pack's Harbor was watching the jellyfish. There was a sorta clear one with sparkles around the edges. There were little round black ones with wings that we called blackberries. The fisherman hated to see them because when the cod ate them they were not fit to eat. They called them blackberry fish.
There was another amazing one we called mermaids as they were shaped exactly like mermaids and had lil wings. So pretty they were. Those are the three main ones that come to mind but there were more of different sizes and shapes including a cute yellowish orange one we call the sun.
Another big thing those summers was when the caplin would "land". Wow, what fun that was. I remember one time I had a blue plastic doll's bathtub and was using it to scoop up caplin and it started to float away on me. Someone got a long pole and rescued it for me. Then it was soon time for spreading the caplin on the rocks to dry. There were beetles we used to call "skin eaters" that grossed us out.
Some of the memories I have of my childhood in Pack's Harbor are:
* Sitting on the lookout on a hot windy day just looking around and dreaming.
* Walking in the cold mud and feeling it squish up between my toes.
* Watching the jellyfish.
* Sitting on a rock listening to the waves beat up on the shore.
* Sniffing the salt air and feeling the spray on my face.
* Eating fresh blackberry buns out of the oven.
* Watching the boats come in the harbour loaded down to the gunnels with fish.
* Going to Shelly Cove on a Sunday afternoon to find some pretty shells.
* Lying in bed reading on a Sunday morning listening to the pot bubbling on the stove.
* Going sailing with Granda.
* Going to Smokers Cove to catch a few trout.
Nowadays the fishery is gone away. Pack's Harbor is very quiet but a lot of people have kept up their summer homes and there are still a few who spend most of the summer there. I haven't been there for five years now and even if 'tis twenty years before I get back there, it will still have the same smells, sounds and be the most beautiful place in the world to me.

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