In On This Day: 365 Tales of History, Mystery, and More, author Dale Jarvis offers a veritable buffet of factoids and history pertinent to Newfoundland and Labrador. Self-described as “weird little pieces of half-forgotten history and folklore from all over Newfoundland and Labrador, one for every day of the year,” (p. 2) the book is structured by calendar date, starting January 1 and running through to December 31.
Nautical disasters, youthful hijinks, mysterious explosions, community events, and “modern” (for the time) inventions are just a few of the subjects dealt with in the day-by-day snippets. The installation of a new curling and skating rink on Circular Road in St. John’s in 1883, the startup of the Blue Ribbon Coin-operated laundry on Pine Tree Road in Gander in 1962, and the establishment of night school for logging camp workers are among the entries, each allocated to the appropriate date.
Jarvis periodically includes visuals to liven the text, including an image of Lady Baden-Powell, a photo from the Royal Visit of Queen Elizabeth and King George V in St. John’s in 1939, and a picture of Bouncer, a Newfoundland dog presented to the Prince of Wales in 1901.
The bulk of the stories are drawn from the time period 1851-1950, although there are some events as early as 1503 and an entry as late as 2013. At the back of the book, Jarvis provides a comprehensive list of his sources.
As provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, Jarvis is eminently suited to pen a volume of this sort. Jarvis, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in anthropology/archaeology from Trent University and a Master of Arts in folklore from Memorial University, has written other books about Newfoundland and Labrador ghost stories and folklore.
Variety in the length of articles, the themes and subjects covered, and the time frames from which the stories stem keeps the book from getting monotonous. Jarvis also changes up the style of his delivery, opting at times to quote directly from the source and at other times describing the event of the day in his own words, often adding additional historical context.
Though not all of the subject matter is inherently humourous, the book contains a generous amount of levity due to the nature of the events as well as Jarvis’ descriptions. Examples include the February 14th entry, which contains the details surrounding a “weighing party” held by the St. Andrew’s Church Aid Committee in St. John’s in 1899, and the June 3rd entry, titled “Larceny of Cod Oil—St. John’s, 1890” (p. 96):
Henry Taylor, an employee of A. Goodridge & Sons, was arrested for larceny of cod oil. Taylor had made away with several casks of cod-liver oil belonging to his employer, and then was brazen enough to sell the same casks back to the same company. The master cooper became suspicious when he recognized the cask as his handiwork, and the police were called in . . .
The book also includes touching episodes, such as the letter from an Australian soldier, thanking a St. John’s woman “for the pair of socks she had knitted.” (p. 25)
On This Day is a book that is perhaps best enjoyed spread over several sittings, or even, as the title suggests, one day at a time. Packed history and whimsy, this volume holds interest for readers well beyond the geographic region of its focus.
About the author: Dale Jarvis is the provincial folklorist for Newfoundland and Labrador, helping communities to safeguard traditional culture, the first full-time provincially funded folklorist position in Canada. He holds a B.Sc. in anthropology/archaeology from Trent University and an M.A. in folklore from Memorial University. Dale is a past president of the Newfoundland Historic Trust and has contributed as a board member and volunteer to many local arts and heritage organizations. He regularly teaches workshops on oral history, cultural documentation, public folklore, and intangible cultural heritage.
- Publisher : Flanker Press Ltd. (Aug. 5 2020)
- Language: : English
- Paperback : 265 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1771178132
- ISBN-13 : 978-1771178136
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