I dropped off some books at a second-hand bookstore. The owner promised to pay me, but not right then. “Come back later,” he said. I did, but received nothing. I could have taken my books back, but I tend to trust people until that trust is broken. So I patiently waited for a few dollars. One day, he said, “Take an armload of whatever I got on my shelves.” I didn’t need to be told twice.
Among what I brought home that day was an 80-page, handwritten journal, the dimensions of a legal size folder. I have derived hours of pleasure from reading what can best be described as a collection of “this ’n that.”
I often wonder about the original owner of this journal. Many questions arise in my mind: Why did he (or she) maintain a journal? Where did the writer live? Puddesters and Taylors are mentioned – do these names indicate a Cupids connection? I may never know the answers to my questions.
There are prayers, including Hank Snow’s “Prayer of a Horse,” which ends this way: “And finally, dear master, when my useful strength is gone, don’t turn me out to starve or freeze, or sell me to some cruel owner who will slowly starve and torture me to death. But do thou, my master, take my life in the kindest way you can, and your God will reward you here and after.”
For some reason, the year 1936 figures prominently in the journal, with lists of deaths, events, weather, disasters and fatalities in Newfoundland and elsewhere.
The reader learns how “Joyce’s sweater” and nine-year-old “Carson’s socks” were knit. There are instructions on how to make the popcorn, block, cable and lace point stitches.
Another entry records the sum of $7 being “paid to Doctor Cluny Macpherson per Miss White” on May 11, 1943. I wonder what service was rendered by this physician who, was born in St. John’s in 1879 and died in 1966.
Samuel Taylor, who serves with “Brother Churchill” on the Grand Lodge visiting committee, writes a Mr. Knight on March 19, 1944: “you can see by the dates of which we visited the hospitals that we didn’t have many calls, but we feel sure there were brothers of whom we weren’t notified of, but that’s not our fault.”
Robert E. Kelloway of the Carbonear Lodge is at the Grace Hospital in St. John’s. From April 26 to July 3, Taylor and Churchill bring him three dozen oranges.
Then Taylor and Churchill ask “to be relieved of this particular duty, as Brother Churchill isn’t able to get about very well and myself likewise.”
There are poems, plenty of them. Fully one half of the journal is given over to a cornucopia of poetry, including “Abdulla Bulbul Ameer,” “Marian Parker,” “Red River Valley,” and “Wise May Bring Their Learning.”
One poem begins: “He came to my desk with quivering lip; the lesson was done. ‘May I have a new sheet, dear teacher? I’ve spoiled this one.’ So I took his sheet all spoiled and blotted, and gave him a new one – all unspotted, then into his sad eyes smiled, ‘Do better now, my child.’ ”
Whoever maintained the journal obviously has a sense of humour, as is evident from the following story, “House Hunting in Ireland.”
“A couple, about to be married, were looking for a cottage and, after a lot of trouble, found one to suit them.
“On returning home, they were very quiet for a time, then the bride-to-be suddenly asked the prospective groom if he had noticed if there was a ‘W.C.’ to the house.
“He could not say so, so it was decided to write and ask the landlord.
“The landlord did not understand the term ‘W.C.’ and, after thinking a while, came to the conclusion that ‘W.C.’ meant ‘Wesley Chapel.’ So he answered as follows:
“ ‘Dear Sir:
“ ‘Very much regret the delay in the matter, but have much pleasure in informing you that the W.C. is situated nine miles from the house and is capable of seating 350 persons. This is very unfortunate if you are in the habit of going regularly, but no doubt you will be glad to know that a great number of people take their lunch and make a day of it, while others, who cannot spare the time, go by car and arrive just in time and are generally in too great a hurry to wait. The last time my wife and I were there was three years ago, and we had to stand all the time.
“ ‘Hoping this information will be of interest to you.
“ ‘I remain,
“ ‘Yours faithfully.’ ”
So perhaps the solemn days of yore weren’t all that mirthless after all.