Newfoundlanders love to hop in their cars and go for a drive out around the bay. Just try navigating the Conception Bay Highway after lunch on a Sunday. There is no point in being in a hurry because there will always be a ” sunday driver”. The road has no double lanes from around Upper Gullies to Bay Roberts. So unless the tortoise in front of you pulls off to the side or finishes his route at some earlier point than you, you are forced to cover 40 km in an hour.And even if you did rid yourself of one tardy driver there would be another dozen to replace him. But who really cares. Sunday afternoon has leisure as its motto.
This highlight of the week was a part of growing up in central Newfoundland too.And on Sunday no stores or businesses were open so often families would take a drive. There were two directions to travel to get out of the town. So you made your choice and generally it was east because the nearest community to the west was Badger and that was twenty miles up the road. Of course there used to be a little place called the Watering Shute a mere seven miles away and just before Leach Brook our swimming hole . The Watering Shute was a train stop where the old steam engines would quench their thirst. There were only a handful of houses there . Today there is not a trace of any of them . The highway has obliterated all signs of the lives that once called the place home.
But travel east from Grand Falls and there were a number of options. One was Bishop’s Falls. And the big attraction there was Lindgards. That was a little drive-in that sold the best soft serve ice cream , we called “twirlies”, that I have ever tasted. It was deliciously creamy with none of the crystals of ice you sometimes see. And on a hot day we would pull up to buy a cone for everyone in the car; chocolate or chocolate dipped for my sister and me and vanilla for my parents. The trip to Bishops Falls was a short one so we might just continue on past the fox farm road through the single long street that made up practically the entire town, to the Exploits River.
When we were very young probably before Lindgards we would cross the river on a ferry. And travel on to Gander. That would be a long excursion and last for the entire day. First we would have to line up to get on the raft that was the ferry . From there we travelled a dirt road that brought us a couple of hours later to Gander.
We could barely contain our excitement. And when we saw the field of communication poles to our left we knew we were almost there. The destination was the International airport. There we would go and wait for the planes to come in. We weren’t there to meet anyone. We were there to see foreign people disembark for brief stopovers before continuing their trips to places that seemed as far away as the moon back then. And how beautifully the ladies dressed! Hats , dresses, seamed nylons and high heeled shoes were common place. No jeans , running shoes, or God forbid, sweat pants! But the stewardesses took the prize. They were nothing short of glamorous, with their fashionable hairdos, made up faces and brilliant smiles. They were the envy of every young girl who saw them.
Once there was a break in the flight arrivals and things quieted down we would have lunch in the airport cafeteria. Unlike airports today there were no choices of eating venues. There was the one cafeteria where you picked up your tray and made your selection of potatoes , french fries, vegetables, meat, chicken, gravy, soup, rolls or crackers and a variety of jellos, puddings, or pies. The menu varied from one visit to the next.
When we finished we might meander through the airport for a while and then we’d head back to Grand Falls.
By the time we reached the Exploits River, it was usually dark. While we waited in a lineup for the ferry we would either amuse ourselves singing, playing I spy, or we would nap. The only things we could see around us were inside of the car because outside there was only a narrow dirt road with trees that constantly encroached on it. Ahead of us the only visible thing was the bumper of a car and behind us the hood of another. It made playing I Spy easy. We would wait possibly for a half an hour or more before we got on the ferry and covered the last lap. The arrival in our driveway brought to a close another fantastic adventure.