Thursday, October 7, 2010

Putting Names To Faces In Pokiok !


Both sawmills and limekilns played equally important roles in the early history of Pokiok by providing an important source of livlihood for "its own" as well as for those of the immediately surrounding area ....... and in future posts I hope to elaborate on and do justice to both in more detail ..... out of respect and admiration for those who have lived and toiled in Pokiok in our lifetimes or gone before us. In the meantime though , I'm going to let our readers in on some "sleuthing" that my friend , Art McGuire , and myself have been doing  these last couple of months.

When I moved back to Saint John almost two years ago I began an in depth study of my family history and spent many hours at both branches of the New Brunswick Museum here in the city. It was at the North End branch that I met Chris Webber-Little , Dave Webber's daughter , of Belleview Avenue fame. Back in the late 1940s I had been their paperboy so I remember well both her grandmother and her Dad. I told Chris  of my project to write up a " folksy" yet well-grounded and popular history of Pokiok ........ making use of both the written word as well as oral tradition whenever possible......... and mentioned that I was on the lookout for old pictures or snapshots of Pokiok and the people who lived there. So Chris brought in her old family album and most graciously gave me access to this priceless goldmine and it is here that I found the subject of today's post ....... a family portrait type picture of some 50 Snow Flake Lime workers of the mid 1930s .... most probably taken inside the Belleview Avenue quarry. On the back of the photo there were only four names written by hand ....... Jimmy Webber , James Webber (son), Dave McGlone , Mr McElwaine.

And now back to the sleuthing. We've all watched TV crime programmes where the police have the DNA of the killer but lack his photo and name. In our case we have superb pictures of all the workers .... especially when I had the photo enlarged ..... but very few names to hang around the necks of the dusty  yet clearly- featured faces staring back at us. At first glance I could only identify a couple of men but Art made a field day of it naming at least 18 people in one fell swoop ....... including his very own Dad kneeling there in the front row plus two uncles on his Mom's side , Oscar and Ralph Estey. Since that first day we have recognized and named almost a dozen more men in the photo and have started to enlist a few old friends from Pokiok to help us in our quest. The first one we called on was Bunker Wallace , a childhood buddy of long standing , who graciously agreed to meet us at the local Juan Valdez Cantina , Tim Horton's , for coffee and a "long chat" ! Although we made very little progress in assigning names to people that morning from the blown up photo on the table before us ..... we did , however , have one hell of a good time rehashing old stories from our childhood and school days at Saint Peter's .... Jenny Dever included !! And we hope to contact other possible infomants in the near future.

P.S. 1)  I had three copies of the original photo enlarged to 16" x20" format , one for Chris to thank her for her kindness , one for Art and one for yours truly. A short time after this Art , the master artist and woodworker , crafted two superb oak frames to enclose our chefs d'oeuvres ....... which are presently hanging proudly in our respective living rooms.
2) Art and I have great love and respect for those who have gone before us and share the common axiom that every man has the right to be remembered ...... and so be it for the men in our picture. And since we are the last generation of those able to identify them it is our "privileged duty" , so to speak , to make every effort to do so. Searching for roots and geneology have become everyday pursuits these last few years ..... so someone looking for his great-grandfather , Myles Hovey for example , might have heard that he once worked for the Snow Flake Líme in Pokiok where he lived. Well , our wee contribution to knowledge will not only confirm what he already knows but will show him a rather good shot of the old fellow himself ... all dolled up in his workclothes ........ standing there in the back row (number 35). In above snapshot I'm on the left , Art in centre with Bunker playing right wing !     

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