Bessie Hart was ready to see her family split to win it a foothold in Toronto, the place where she believes the Good Life can be found. She went there with seven children and six grandchildren, leaving her husband fishing in Newfoundland. Now she's asking if she did the right thing

MARGARET PENMAN November 1 1968


Bessie Hart was ready to see her family split to win it a foothold in Toronto, the place where she believes the Good Life can be found. She went there with seven children and six grandchildren, leaving her husband fishing in Newfoundland. Now she's asking if she did the right thing

MARGARET PENMAN November 1 1968


Bessie Hart was ready to see her family split to win it a foothold in Toronto, the place where she believes the Good Life can be found. She went there with seven children and six grandchildren, leaving her husband fishing in Newfoundland. Now she's asking if she did the right thing


THE DREAMER’S URGE to pull up and move to Toronto can grip all social classes in English Canada. Sometimes the move can be an appallingly difficult decision. Sometimes it splits families. It split that of Mrs. Bessie Hart from Lady Cove, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, a large, comfortable but determined woman with clear blue eyes and a soft voice. She has a husband, 12 children and nine grandchildren — a family divided by the pull of Toronto. Mrs. Hart wants desperately to live in Toronto — she moved there in June and rented the ground floor of a grey brick house on the fringe of Chinatown. At 51, she’s finding it hard to find her first factory work and for the last month she’s been on welfare. Her husband Otto — a carpenter in the winter, fisherman in the summer — is still in Newfoundland and reluctant to move. Her children Shirley, 32, Archie, 23, Yvonne, 21, Ed, 19, Max, 17, Bernice, 14, Leroy, 9, and six of her grandchildren are also in Toronto — and still divided about the wisdom of their move from Lady Cove, its 129 people and its neighborliness. The Harts — cheerful, resourceful people ready to take what jobs they can — live in four family groups in Toronto, three in the central downtown. Four children live on Bald-

win Street with Mrs. Hart. Shirley lives on nearby McCaul Street with her French-Canadian husband, Raymond Archambault, and their three daughters. Archie, his wife Shirley and son Derek live in the east end. Yvonne, also married to a French Canadian, Ivan Jubinville, and their 11-month-old baby Dean live on Howland Avenue. When Mrs. Hart and her transplanted family foregather, the conversation turns to their dilemma as a divided family — should they stay in Toronto and work for success? Should they bow before their many tribulations and go home to the safety of Trinity Bay? Many things influence them: comparisons of jobs, wages, prices, schools, the friendliness of neighbors, even “the girls.” Maclean’s recorded one such recent conversation. Here it is: Shirley (32, married, with three children, a waitress): I’m the oldest and left first. There were no wages in Newfoundland. I was doing housework for other people, getting $ 15 a month and my room and board with it. There wasn’t enough money to buy clothes or anything. I got fed up, so I went to Halifax. I spent about a year and a half there as a waitress. Then I got married. We lived around in northern Ontario, then back in Newfoundland for / continued on page 71

“There’s a better life for us all here”...And “more girls”

10 months. We’ve been in Toronto about three years. We came here because there’s more work here for my husband, and the rents are better. We have a nine-room house. We pay $177 a month for it. We rent rooms, which pays the rent on the house, and we are both working. Wages look after other things.

Ed (19. unmarried, out of work, he lives with Shirley and her husband): I’ve been here about two years. I had a job in Newfoundland but got laid off. So I came here. I got work right away, then I got laid off. I worked at one job and another. The longest job I had was one year. I'm off work now. I don't mind Toronto. There

are more girls. But I’d go back tomorrow to Newfoundland if I had a job. But there's no work there. Archie (23, married, one child, employed as a truck driver): I was working on construction in Newfoundland. I got laid off. Some guys got me a job on a farm near Oshawa, Ontario. I worked there for a few weeks. I used

to get up at six in the morning, five sometimes, milk cows, work on the farm. Then I said. I’m quitting. The farmer gave me $10 for one week! So I hitchhiked up to Oshawa and got a bus to Toronto. Since then I’ve been working around, keeping going. I got married here. My wife's a Newfoundlander. I knew her back home. We sort of got settled down here. I work for Chester Cleaners as a truck driver. I worked as a press operator for three years, changed jobs about six months ago. I’ve never been out of work. I've had no trouble with people in Toronto.

Yvonne (21, married, two children, a waitress): My husband and I would never go back. I was a waitress back home, making $15 a week. Six and a half days a week, 12 hours a day. It took me a full year to save to come up here and then 1 had to have some help from Shirley. That was three years ago. I had a baby then, too — Donald, he’s three now — and I wasn’t married then and I couldn’t look after him. My mother took him. She still has him. He doesn’t seem like my baby any longer. And Dad would never let him go now. I don’t want to get too attached to him while he’s here with Mom. I’m married now to a French Canadian. We have a ninemonth-old baby. I sent money to my sister Bernice, to come down and take care of the baby. I thought she could go to night school here. But she’s only 14 and has to be 15 for that.

Max (17, just out of school, born with a club foot, now partially corrected by a series of operations): I like it here. I like the girls, and I want to go back to school. I’ve been up here five months but I’ve made a lot of friends. I will have to get some job for the time being. I delivered handbills for a while last week. Now I have a job working nights in the bakery across the street.

Mrs. Hart: I think there's a better life for them all here. I like city life. It's cheaper living — for one thing, groceries are cheaper — and if you’re out of work, if you’ve got to go on the government, you get a better living than in Newfoundland. But I’m going back again in a couple of weeks. I know my husband won’t come up. He doesn’t like city life, and he won’t come up if I can’t get work for him or me. I’ve just got to go back — until next summer. Then maybe I’ll try again.

Yvonne: Lots of people don’t like Newfoundlanders. I’ve met lots in the restaurant. They don’t know I’m from Newfoundland. They start talking about it. I feel so awful. They tell Newfoundland jokes to each other. It bothers me.

Shirley: There are only 129 people in our hometown. It’s frightening in Toronto at first. But you get used to it fast. You meet people, and every Newfoundlander who comes up has a relative here or a friend. Most of my friends here are from Toronto. I don’t go to the Newfoundland Club but my brother does.

Ed: I’ve been to the Matador Club. There are a lot of Newfoundlanders there.

Shirley: I don’t think people would help you in a city. In any city, people mind their own business. I don’t mind that. I’m like that, too. In case of

“In Newfoundland, Toronto is the place everybody thinks of”

sickness or an accident, maybe they would help. But not in a fight. But my neighbors have been friendly. We’re not real good friends, but if I wanted to borrow something, or needed help, I know it would be okay. Archie: We’re going back shortly to Newfoundland for a couple of months. If 1 get a job there I might

stay. We had a better life back there. I always had work. I just wanted to come up to see what it’s like up here. I don’t like city living. That’s the big reason. The only thing that keeps me going here is I drink a lot to keep my nerve up. It’s an outdoors life back there, with lots of fishing and lots of hunting. Every Saturday night you can

get a house party going someplace. Shirley: Up here if you make too much noise, sing, have a real old time, the police come. The neighbors don’t like it. You feel freer back there. We used to have some good times in Newfoundland. Take the boat and go the other side on the ocean. Used to have a real ball. But

half the people there have nothing. Nowhere to go. Nothing to do.

Mrs. Hart: You’ve got your own home back there, that’s why you feel freer. But I prefer it here. It’s all right in Newfoundland, but there’s not much to do, nowhere to go.

Shirley: Outside of breaking the law, I'd do anything to stay here. I like it. Archie: Life is what you make it. If you want to get out and have fun, you can. I like it here, but back there it's home. If I made the same amount of money there as here I’d only work a year, or half the year, and take a holiday.

Yvonne: I’d go back for a holiday, but not to live. When we buy a house, we’ll want to go somewhere else — a small town in Ontario. I don’t like the city life for always. But Toronto is the place everybody in Newfoundland thinks of. It’s the place you have to come to.

Shirley: Everyone thinks Toronto is wonderful. That’s why they all come here. I like it because you can get your clothes and groceries cheaper. You can live better. In Newfoundland you can make about 75 cents an hour for what you get $1.50 here.

Archie: People don’t actually have to leave — they just get the theory maybe this time they should leave. Some guy comes up here and he’s making about $80, $90 or $100 a week. He goes back on his holidays and tells them what he’s making. All of a sudden they all think they’ll go up where the big money is, too. But they don’t realize the expenses coming out of the big money. If everybody were to go back to Newfoundland, there wouldn’t be enough work now . .. Well, maybe there would be. People make work. Take Toronto. Take the Italians and the Newfies out of the city and somebody more and you’d have nothing left, not enough for a city any more. So if there were more people moving into Newfoundland, there would be more industry. Shirley: What do you get from welfare in Newfoundland? Here, if you go on welfare, you get a cheque and you can buy your groceries, clothes or whatever you want. Back home you can’t even buy cigarettes on it. You’ve got to get a note to go to the grocery store. And everyone knows you’re on welfare and everyone talks about you. Up here you don’t have to worry about that. If you’re on the welfare, that’s your business. What has Joey Smallwood done for Newfoundland? When I went home they were just paving the road. Potholes all over the place.

Mrs. Hart: Not now; they’re good roads now.

Shirley: How long did it take? Newfoundland needs industry.

Archie: Most, it needs people. If you got 1,000 people coming in, that’s houses built, that’s construction work right there. Then something else is going to start. Factories. Everything we got in Newfoundland is imported. That’s why it’s so expensive. You've got to get the government coming in and backing up these people.

Shirley: They won’t do that in Newfoundland. But you can get everything you want here. Schools — back home we only have one little school. All the kids sitting in one room. Here

continued on page 74

“Back home, food prices are higher, there’s nothing to do”

at least they have different classes. Yvonne: Down home the nearest doctor is 19 miles away.

Shirley: I had a baby in hospital here. It was wonderful. I was never in hospital at home but from what I’ve heard I wouldn't like it much. Food prices are better here, too. It costs 90 cents for a pound of butter in Newfoundland.

Mrs. Hart: You get fish free.

Shirley: Hamburger costs a dollar a pound. Here you can get three pounds for that. And you make a lot more money. My husband makes $4.75 an hour; in Newfoundland he was making 75 cents. He’s a steelworker now. When lie was on the steel down there, he was making about two dollars — not half as much as here.

Archie: When I was in St. John’s, a guy would have made about $50 a week — that's not take-home, that’s just made. I used to go to the movies and go out all the time — and when I came up here I was making about $100 a week and I still do the same things. I had a car down there and I have one here. I would not make the same amount of money down there as here, but I would live as well. Because up here if I make $100 a week I’ve got rent coming off that. Back in Newfoundland, that’s one thing I don’t have — no rent coming off.

Mrs. Hart: Everybody has their own house down there.

Shirley: You build your own. Everyone helps you.

Archie: If we want to go back, we could do that.

Mrs. Hart: Yeah, you go back now, settle for a while, then you'll want to come back here in about a year or so. Shirley: I think you would, too. I spent 10 months there and I wanted to come back, and bad. I just felt there was nothing to do.

Archie: No, but the way I look at it, I can do the same things back there as I can up here.

Shirley: Yeah, but there's nowhere to go. No dances. Only one restaurant. Yvonne: Two now.

Shirley: When I was growing up, there was no restaurant. We had a movie maybe once every two weeks.


Getting drunk is not everything. If I go out I like to go to a club or something. It doesn't cost that much. When I was back home we only went to visit other people. That’s just not my kind of life. I don't want to have lots of money. I just want to have enough in the bank for a rainy day, to be comfortable, have the things I want, like a vacuum cleaner. I like having things. I’m lazy. I like having things to do my work with.

Mrs. Hart: I just want to live from day to day. What you got you can’t take it with you, sure.

Shirley: All I want, I’ve got here. Yvonne: Same with me. I want to keep on working for at least two years and then I’m planning to have another baby.

Archie: All I want right now is a house. I know I can get it back home lots faster than here, because Dad’s a carpenter. There’s a sawmill and lots of trees to cut. And you can just go and take a strip of land anywhere you want.

Shirley: It only costs you a dollar. It’s all Crown land.

Archie: The government pays you for clearing land. It’s good money.

Shirley: I still think if Dad would come, I'd like to see Mom living here because I know she’s wanted to all her life. But not if Dad won’t come. It’s no good for them to be separated like that.

Archie: I would not like Dad to come. He's 53. He’s going to come here with no money. What’s he going to do? In Toronto they retire them about 64, or 65, and that's it. No more work after that. I figure it's only a few more years and the Old Man and Mom should get their old-age pension. They can just sit back there. Shirley: How would Dad make out here? He can’t even go to St. John's because he’s scared of the traffic. His nerves are bad.

Mrs. Hart: He’d be a-scared to come up here.

Archie: Back home, he’s got no rent to pay. He's got his own house.

Mrs. Hart: If the father dies, then I'd leave. If I lived here and I didn’t have something. I'd go anywhere and get something to eat where he would not. He would sit here and starve. But I would go and ask anybody. The only way I would come up now is if he were dead. ★