Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A big man with a small name

Terra Nova National Park, NL – Need to cool down? C’mon over to New-foundland! An ice cream shop in St John’s says this is their worst summer for business in twenty odd years, accor-ding to the local news. At least we aren’t getting rained on, though people are saying there’s a great need for it here. I must say it has sometimes occurred to me that, if something did fall out of all those grey clouds, it could be snow.

We’re settled in a lovely campsite at Terra Nova Park, after a fairly short travel day on the TransCanada Highway. We had a leisurely start to the day, arriving in the small town of Gambo just before lunchtime. On the TCH before the turnoff, we stopped at Joey’s Lookout, a viewing station that gave a marvellous vista of Fresh-water Bay, an inlet of Bonavista Bay. Then we drove in to the Smallwood Interpretation Centre.
The sign on the door, to our dismay, said “Closed daily from 12:00 to 1:00 pm”, and it was five minutes before noon! Still, we went inside, and the two young women inside said it would be no problem; we could go ahead and visit. When I signed the guest book and saw we were the first visitors of the day, their decision made sense.

The bilingual display panels described, in great detail, the life and times of Joseph R. Smallwood, first premier of Newfoundland, who was born in Gambo on Christmas Eve in 1900. He was the first of 13 children born to David Smallwood, an entrepreneur from PEI who built the first sawmill here, and when it burned down, the second one – this time powered by steam.
As we worked our way through the panels about Joey, we learned of a man who had enormous determination and drive, starting out as a newspaper reporter, branching into radio, traveling to Great Britain and New York to learn more about how Newfoundland could fit into the world of the ‘30s and ‘40s. At one point, he walked 700 miles from Port-aux-Basques to St John’s along the new railway bed, meeting rail workers all along the way and discussing the important changes he felt Newfoundland needed.

Joey Smallwood wanted to see an end to self-serving, corrupt practices that kept the people of Newfoundland from fulfilling their potential. He had a vision for his homeland that he shared tirelessly with anyone who would listen, and he overcame setbacks and defeats along the way. It was inspiring to see how devoted he was to making a better life for Newfoundlanders, and in making many of the hard decisions he had to make as premier – such as the resettlement of 30,000 people from isolated fishing villages to larger centres – he made enemies as well as friends.
We had a look at the statue of Joey Small-wood in the park across from the centre after we ate our lunch in the RV, and then headed out to Terra Nova Park.
The visitor centre of the park had some great displays of marine life, including a touch table – a shallow box filled with water and loaded with dozens of sea stars and crabs that people were invited to touch or pick up. There were also tanks with other sea creatures, and staff members had lots of little kids crowded around them as they presented their nature talks.

We have a full day here at Terra Nova tomorrow to explore some of its trails and sites of interest. We are hoping, as we are every day, for good weather.

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