Around Mill Wood (with apologies to Dylan Thomas)

July 5, 2011

To begin near the beginning:

It is summer, moon-lit night in the small town which will soon become a collection of four smaller towns. It is late night, early morning – a time when most respectable people are sleeping, or trying to, tossing and turning as they might. Over on the Westside shop keepers dream in rooms above their shops, dream of money and goods from overseas and the millworker wives. The wives of company men who will arrive to spend money. They will outfit this company town, extend credit to the company men. In their rooms above shops they can look down on the black sea, white moonlight swimming on the surface. They dream of ships tying up in the Harbour, weighted down with goods from England, with goods that become money.


Early Broadway, 1928

Further down the bay there are other dreams of ships and water, but these are in the minds of fisherman in Curling who must soon get up, greet a pink sky and prepare for a day on the water. Their money is just as silver, shaped like cod scales, translucent and ethereal. They dream of full nets, empty nets. They dream of Boston and other harbours to sail into, just to visit, just to see. Their wives sleep soundly beside them, dreaming or not, but sleeping well because they know where their husbands are. Storms do not trouble their sleep nor swells of the sea.


Men in Dory Hauling in Fishing Net, 1900.

In Humbermouth the residents sleep through the industrial roar of the Mill and the rumble of trains. Their houses teeter on the sides of steep hills that dip to the harbour. In one tiled kitchen a housewife is packing her husband’s lunch in a wooden basket with a hinged top. She listens to the mill, the train, and thinks the clickity clack and sway of a car would be heaven right now as she assembles sandwiches. She stops to touch the decorative tiles of grapes, newly installed and smiles, tired as she is by his job, the one that brings her these things.


Mill Worker Lunch Basket, 1970

In Townsite the company men are sleeping as soundly as the other men. They have worries and concerns, but none of them are winds whistling through their homes. Their homes are solidly built. Some have rooms for the nannies or housekeepers at the bottom of the stairs. These men dream of keeping other men in line, of meeting quotas. Their wives, most English born, dreaming of the High Street and missing the cobblestone clip clop of hooves. Another Ball at Glynmill Inn soon. Another night of fun to remember the earliest days when they all lived there, a jumble of orphans in a new land.

In 1956 these disparate neighbourhoods would amalgamate to form Corner Brook. Decrees, however, cannot erase what was, cannot erase identities. The company men did not move out of townsite, the fishermen did not move into Westside.  Still today there is some neighbourhood rivalry, however subtle. Yet they all dream on moon-lit summer nights of their jobs and their passions. They toss and turn. They wander their kitchens, look out windows down to the mill or the night black sea, heads full of thoughts and dreaming.


The City of Corner Brook at Night, 2001

All photos from Corner Brook Museum and Archives via VirtualMuseum.ca

  • Bruce2233

    A very nicely written  piece which catches the historical character of the 4 sections of  Corner Brook and the rivalries that existed so much years ago and still do to a much lesser extent.

    A  slightly related aside here….being from Curling, born and raised, it bothers me how much is not happening there compared to the rest of the city.  I’m at a loss to think of much development, other than new homes being constructed, which has occurred in Curling.  The only fairly decent sized one that I can think of is the Lohans seniors home years ago.  Griffin Drive kinda qualifies but not really. I guess that being around the “bend” (Quarry Hill) means out of sight, out of mind, but that’s a story for another time however…..great work Helen.

  • http://twitter.com/jordanstringer Jordan

    I don’t know how I missed this earlier. Great little piece, Helen! Thanks for sharing.

  • Angela

    Beautiful beautiful beautiful!!