The smell of boot polish and 'Brasso' filled the house, as did an air of excitement and anticipation. Father was beaming, his uniform spotless, perfectly fitted and he looked wonderful. His boots shone as did his dark hair, his brass buttons glistened like jewels on his tunic. This was the big day, the day the road down the Northern Peninsula was to be completed. Of course in keeping with Fathers' ongoing education program, I had to go and see this because as he said 'Someday you will remember this history'.
I knew he was right!
On my way out the door to school he would say, "Now don't forget, they run the irrigation pipes horizontal to the lay of the land!" Yes, I remember, how could I ever forget? Such was the way my father taught us, and after his explanations the history and geography in school was dull in comparison.
Dad asked me to accompany him and witness a part of Newfoundland history that I would tell my children someday. How could I say no to that? How could I refuse a long bumpy ride in a Land Rover Jeep that almost tore every joint apart in my body, shook my brain like a coconut, and kept my glasses down on my lips. So off we went! Dad and me in the jeep, traveling down the dusty rough road, so dusty in fact that my hair felt like a helmet by the time we got home. But this was history!!
We arrived at the appointed place near River of Ponds; a crowd had already gathered. Dad was smiling, talking to heavy equipment operators and Premier J. R. Smallwood as if they were old friends. He was delighted that Port Saunders would be connected by road to the rest of the Island of Newfoundland.
Many politicians were at the site as well as people from nearby communities. The massive bulldozer was in place to fill in the last few feet of earth, connecting the Northern half of the Peninsula to the Southern half. We would no longer have to fly in the float planes every time we had to go somewhere. 'Finish the Drive in '65' was the political slogan of Premier J. R. Smallwood regarding the Trans Canada Highway. The first piece of equipment to work from the Northern end of the project arrived in Port Saunders on a barge in 1953. That raised hopes and was a big happening back then. Wm. J. Lundrigan was the contractor and they worked from both ends toward the middle. Now the day had arrived, in 1960, to hook up this last few feet of this gravel highway.
The 'Ode to Newfoundland' was sung, political speeches made, and then the big bulldozer started with a loud roar and the blade started filling in the two or three foot wide crevice to complete the road. The bulldozer ran over it to flatten it down, the dignitaries then drove their vehicles over it, then us in the 'Mountie' Land Rover followed by a stream of other vehicles. It truly was exciting! On the other side everyone had a few more words and the realization hit me that life as we knew it in our tiny Port Saunders was changed forever. People from anywhere could drive right to our house now. I wasn't too sure about this. But one thing was sure, the people were delighted. We could drive to Corner Brook, still having to take the ferry at Woody Point and Norris Point, but in effect the road was finished.
A different phase of life had begun for us all. My father wanted me to see it, and I am so very pleased that he did. In my memory of that day I can still see that big bulldozer blade filling the earth in and connecting a road, a connection to the outside world for those North of the site. How could I ever forget it? I never will!
Dad was so delighted that he was not totally isolated on his detachment anymore, and could use his car that he had stored on the other side of where we had just been. Life would certainly be different now. We arrived home to tell my siblings and mother our story. The jeep was covered in mud, Dads' boots were no longer shiny, my hair was a clump of dust, but the excitement in the air was the best of all. We could actually get in a vehicle and drive to Corner Brook, and we did do that, many times.
Next to Irrigation in Egypt 101, I now had Connecting the Highway 101, and many more lessons followed. The memories stayed with me just as Dad said they would. I think I have a lot to be grateful for in being given special opportunities, to witness special events to store away to tell my children, and to write about to tell you.
It was an awesome experience that I still cherish in my heart and memory.
Dad was right-as always!