Most people who have done any camping in Newfoundland are familiar with Beothuck Park just outside Grand Falls.  Today it is  privately owned and has  a logging museum and numerous camping sites.  And it overlooks Rushy Pond.  In the 50’s there was no park on this spot but it was a familiar swimming area for the children of Grand Falls and Windsor .

To get there we drove west on Badger Road  the Trans Canada highway not having been built.  About two miles from the town we exited right onto an unpaved road.  This road was narrow  and bumpy , a mere path through bushes that scraped against the side of the car.  It seemed to take a long time to get to the water.   But once we broke through the brush   a clearing  gave you  full view of the pond.  It seemed immense to us as children but today my adult perception is that  it is modest in size.

There were always boats on the water because this was the boating club.  The club itself was a bungalow that stood to the right of the roadway .  It had a long verandah running across the front and it was on a higher piece of land about 500 feet up from the water.  There were  several large windows that provided a view of the beach and the wharf which was just ahead and down from the road.

The water was quite shallow near the shoreline and you’d see children with arm floats, duck floats , life rings and all sorts of water toys.  Their parents sat on rocks near the shore and kept close watch over  their little darlings.  There wasn’t much comfort for them since there was no sand  or soft seating to be found.  Years later in the late sixties when it became a provincial park sand was brought in to make a beach.  That was a big event with CKCM sending a crew up to interview people about their reaction to the new camping area and beach. I remember being there and giving my opinion .

But when we swam there as children it was still very much in its natural state , the only man made things being the clubhouse , wharf , access road and small area of cleared brush .  There were no picnic benches, garbage cans , bathroom facilities that are there today.

It was our third favourite spot to swim; the first being Leech Brook and  the second being the town swimming pool.  One reason we were not as fond of it as the Brook was that there were leeches in the pond.  We would see them in the mud near the shoreline and although no leech ever fastened itself to me there were ocassions when some unfortunate child would come out of the water screaming with a little sucker attached to a leg or foot.  We all believed they were akin to vampires.  And all kinds of methods of removal were entertained from burning them off to rubbing them off with a handful of sand.  I never did see anyone actually remove one probably because the horror of it was too much for me. I preferred to search for the wee fish that we called sparney tickles.  There are a number of different names I’ve heard over the years such as spiney tickles, pricklies but to us they were sparney tickles.  We would catch them and put them in a coke bottle or some other container and bring them home.  We thought they would be good pets but no one ever raised one for more than a couple of hours.  But it was fun trying.  Today we’d probably get a prison sentence for animal cruelty. But that was the way it was back then.   And we remained children for much longer then than children do today.

Also the pond was full of mud trout and German browns.  This attracted many peoplewho wanted to cast their rods  in the early morning and at dusk .  It was one of my favourite activities as a young adult and  I can still smell the aroma of  the  catch cooking over an open fire.

Apart from the nostalgia of the pleasant memories surrounding Rush Pond,it had its  tragedies. Over the years there were several drownings .  I never knew who died there but our parents  warnings to stay near the shore were usually accompanied by a story of some poor soul who did go  out too far.   We were frightened enough that  we heeded them .  And though some older kids would jump off the end of the wharf  we, young kids,  kept close at hand.

If you drive west on the Trans Canada Highway from Grand Falls and pass the entrance to Beothuck  Park you will come to a bridge and a railway bed just before the golf club.  Look to the right and you will  get a view  of Rushy Pond  and that part has not changed .  But if you turn in to the park itself , you will be hard pressed to recognise the swimming area that was our domain as children.

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5 responses »

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nice writing,Judith!

  2. Now this is something I remember. Loved those sparny tickles too!

  3. roder51 says:

    First time I’ve heard of sparney tickles in years. As a boy growing up in Gambo it was a favourite pastime to go down by the ol brook and catch them. The goal was to see who caught the most. We would get an old carnation milk can and drive holes through the bottom with a nail and a hole through either side of the can. Once that was done you’d pull some line / string through the holes and then drag the can for 2 or 3 feet catching as many sparney tickles as you could and then empty those into a bucket. As you say though they never lived long out of the brook.

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