Freshwater Carbonear Newfoundland Canada
School And Community Reunion

On Friday, August 4th, 2000, as the sun was rising over Conception Bay, the citizens of a small scenic community on the rock-bound coast of Newfoundland met dawn’s first light with exuberance and fanfare. It was the first day of the Freshwater School and Community Reunion 2000; a day we had all been looking forward to for over a year. It was a day of remembrance for those of us who left our homes many tides ago and now had returned for the momentous event.

Many a sun had risen and many shadows of evening had faded since some of us had last seen each other and now we were given this opportunity to see, talk, and walk with one other once again. It was a time as the poet once said to – “Turn backward, turn Backward, O’ Time in its flight and make me a boy again just for tonight.” Turn backward is just what we did, back to the days of our childhood, back to the memories of a time past when we played Hopscotch, Kick the Stone, Wheel the Hoop, Whip the Top, swam, rode our bikes, played ball and went to school.  It was here on winter evenings we went nansarying sliding, skating, played hockey, and walked the streets with our girl- and boyfriends, when the only sounds to be heard were the tolling of the bell buoy near Carbonear Island, warning the mariners of treacherous shoals, and the scrunching of the frozen snow beneath our feet. We all remembered the Christmases of our youth when we went partying, dancing and Janneying.  These were the memories we all relived in a space of a three-day period in this small picturesquehistoric community.

The celebrations began with registration at the church school hall where we were entertained by local community bands throughout the day. At the Orange Lodge a Museum was set up.  A display was arranged of old pictures of Freshwater, Flatrock, Blow Me Down and Otterbury and many interesting relics of a gone by era. The local craftsmen proudly presented their model boats and houses and others told their stories of what life was like growing up in this community seventy or eighty years ago. It was a time to listen and a time to remember, for it will soon be our time to pass those stories on to our children and to our children’s children, for there can be no future without a past and there can be no past without a future.

As that first day faded into evening, we were served hot delicious homemade soup followed by the opening ceremonies where we were presented a colour guard made up of the Canadian, United States and Newfoundland flags. Local singers sang the national anthems: O Canada, Star Spangler Banner and the Ode to Newfoundland.  Two citations were presented to the town from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: one from the Governor, which reads in part, TO THE TOWN OF FRESHWATER CARBONEAR NEWFOUNDLAND – In recognition of your history and altruistic contributions to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.; and a second from the House of Representatives along with a state flag which reads in part, TO THE TOWN OF FRESHWATER CARBONEAR NEWFOUNDLAND – In recognition of the strength and heart of the community in this outstanding town, and its extended and enduring relationship with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is the first time in recorded Newfoundland history that a Citation was received from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and presented to the citizens of a town in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Local community bands, concerts and comedies followed late into the night.

Saturday morning, as the sun shone brightly on this quaint seacoast community, many of us were back in the church hall being served a Fish and Brewis breakfast. Mmm, Mmm, was it ever good. The rest of the day was much like Friday. We listened to local community bands and a variety of entertainment and much time was spent conversing with old and new friends. Early Saturday evening we were served a hot roast beef dinner and later in the evening, on Clowns Cove Beach where an estimated fifteen hundred people had gathered, we were presented with a night to remember.  It was Dance Time.  We danced all night as the bands played on into the wee hours of the morning. It was a night when the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies all the way to the millennium came alive in the cool night air. If you were standing, you were dancing. The beach was electrified with the sound of music as it ricocheted off the surrounding hills and echoed across the waters.  The Jannies were there, the local community bands, singers and comedians and jokers were there along with the Mr. and Mrs. Freshwater Pageant. The young and the old, the locals and the visitors alike enjoyed sound and sights that night on Clowns Cove Beach. Just hours before the dawn we departed to our places of rest.

As Saturdays cool dark night faded into the warmth of a Sunday morning sunrise, we rose early finding our selves once again in the church hall, this time being served a hot breakfast of bacon eggs, tea, coffee and toast. After breakfast the church bell rang out its call to the people to come and worship. It was like a time past as three hundred or more filled the church pews and when the congregation rose to sing, one could only think back to the time when our forefathers sang their praises. It was like an answer to the echo from their songs of long ago and one could only be moved when the choir sang  – “My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord – He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” I can still hear the low flowing music and the soft synchronized voices of the choir and the muffled thump, thump foot beat of the congregation, as they sang with feeling far beyond description.  In the afternoon we gathered at the Freshwater Cemetery on McCanister’s Hills, one of Newfoundland’s best-manicured cemeteries, where we paid our respects to those who had gone before. The members of the Royal Canadian Legion were in attendance and performed a remembrance ceremonial. Wreaths were laid in memory of the Freshwater servicemen who paid the supreme sacrifice in time of war. When the bugler played the last post we stood in silence for a moment of reverence and reflection. As its lingering notes echoed in the hills we parted ways once again. We said our goodbyes and we all agreed a good time was had by all. Sometime down life’s road may we all meet again?

We know that fifty years from now, Saturday, August 6, 2050, there will be another gathering at the Freshwater Cemetery on McCanister’s Hills; it will be for recovery of the time capsule that was placed there during the School and Community Reunion 2000.

To those who will be in attendance fifty years from now I ask you to never forget the past. In that capsule are many items of historical and personal reflection.  This information has been placed there so you may pass it on to your children and your children’s children. For all of us who have walked these hills and down these valleys – strolled along these beaches in the cool night air and watched the sunrise as a new day dawns – we can feel the bonds of our birth to  – A Place Called Home – Freshwater Carbonear.

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