Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tommy MacDonald: My Best Childhood Friend , His Kith and Kin !!

Tommy MacDonald and I most probably became best  friends out of necessity...... or maybe through osmosis ! For me Tommy's house was the first one out the road..... and for him , mine was the first one down the road. .......only a swampy hollow , Glad Hill and a big old wild apple tree full of green apples to get sick on lie between us. Our friendship was surely very simple at the beginning..... I can't remember now. . Anyways Tommy and I played together and grew up side by side..... and the 1940s were ours !!

Tommy lived with his Mom , Kay , on top of MacDonald Mountain ... as he called it... with a panoramic view ether looking back toward Saint John or westwards to South Bay. His Dad, Ernie , was a provost in the Army and would not be home until the end of the war. He had two sets of grandparents living in Pokiok ....the MacDonalds out the road right beside the community well and the Baileys down on Spar Cove Road ...... halfway between Art McGuire's store and Tess Kiley's place at the end of River Street. Tommy's three Bailey uncles ......Kingsley , Walter and Tommy..... were away at war  leaving his two aunts , Marie and Margy, at home to spoil us rotten. I have such fond memories of them both as they were frequent visitors to MacDonald Mountain during those days. I thought Tommy was very lucky to have such a roster of relatives all of whom were most pleasant and especially kind to me. I was an only child and knew next to nothing about my kinfolk except maybe for my grandmother , Mathilda Georgiana .... my Dad's mother.... who lived with us from 1939 until 1947....... and whose room .... just across from mine..... reeked of musty camphor and musterole odours 24/24. She always found my friends to be too "cheeky" or "bold" , as she called them........ remarks which often lead to certain verbal exchanges between her and my Mom who loved all my little playmates and who was quick to defend them all.'

Anyways the 1940s were indeed ours and we played , roamed the back woods and hills as far as Robertson's Lake and beyond.... scrambled over rocky ledges and cliffs between Robertson's Point and Boar's Head ...... and all the while learning to be somewhat responsible young boys making sure the wood-boxes , coal-bins and water buckets at home were always full........ much to our mothers' delight I would imagine. After all Ernie was away at war and my own Dad worked from early morn until late at night loading ships for the war effort as he was a longshoreman ..... and someone had to take care of the household chores. 

Tommy and I loved to go fishing so we would dig up some worms and head for the Twin Ponds where we simply used some old string and a stick ..... no hook.... with the worm tied in the middle with both ends writhing and squirming wildly... then drop it into the water just off the rocky ledge we always stood on and watch the "pinfish" crowd around the worm. Our game was to let two pinfish start swallowing the two ends and then yank both out together. More than often these same pinfish or minnows would serve as bait when fishing tomacod or smelt either at nearby Eldon Ferris' place or down at " The Crick" . Or we might use a real line  with a hook to catch an eel or two since Eldon had stocked the pond with quite a few .... however , once caught we would usually put them back in again as noone in our families ate the slimy beasts. We likewise loved to watch the majestic sturgeon swim by our vantage point. We always assumed the Eldon had put them there as well.

Tommy and I were little boys so we often played cowboys and Indians with toy guns....... and then Ernie came back from the war with real guns and we were in awe. I remember one gun in particular that he let us play with..... a huge flare gun and we vied with each other to see who would get it. However , one of our favourite nights of the year was Hallowe'en. After school we would meet at his place or mine and start piecing together our costumes. We always wore the same outfit .... pirate garb....... rubber boots turned down with pantlegs stuffed down inside them, our fathers' old vests , red sash around our waists , black facemask and bandana ...... then we would fashion a couple of old lathes into blunt-edged swords with hilt to dangle from our sashes. We started tricking and treating at his grandparents' home on Spar Cove Road and called it quits at McCoys.......... both our huge bags of goodies loaded for bear !! 

Another passtime we enjoyed immensly was sleeping out in the woods behind our house in our camp......  small lean-to with spruce boughs for the floor to protect us from the damp ground , a huge piece of canvas for a roof and my dog , Mike standing guard at the entrance. I vividly remember one night when we mistakenly tied Mike to the main upright pole which supported the lean-to roof ..... and when the chug-a-lugs from the Millionaires' Club started up their cars and rumbled down the Clubhouse Road in the middle of the night not twenty feet from where we were sleeping....... good old Mike took off barking and running after the cars....... with our tent in tow , especially the pole and tarpaulin roof. Since our night was already shot to pieces we gathered up our blankets and went to sleep on the woodshed floor where my parents found our sorry butts the following morning.

As kids Tommy knew that I was a Catholic and I knew he was a Protestant and that was good enough for both of us. He didn't like it when other kids from Alexandra School called me Mickey and told me so. He sensed it was not right. One day we were playing behind our house when a humdinger of a thunder and lightning storm broke loose on Pokiok.... so we ran for cover as the torrential rains beat down around us. Once safely inside out of the downpour I noticed my Dad battening down the hatches as he called it.... closing the windows ..... while my Mom and Grandmother were making the rounds of the house .. upstairs and downstairs.... carrying jars of holy water in the left hand and each wielding palm branches in the right hand .... dipping and sprinkling everything in sight as they scurried around .........  all the while murmuring some repetitive prayer in a low voice.....To me this was normal procedure so I hardly paid any attention to what was going on at all ... whereas Tommy was in pure shock. He told me in later years he thought it might have been some form of witchcraft.

My dear friend , Tommy , passed away some 12 years ago and I often think of how much fun it would have been for both of us now that I have moved back home to Saint John to sit around at Tim Hortons sipping a strong coffee while reminiscing about days and events when innocence and limitless time were ours to explore and exploit ....... long before life got complicated !! I wish to thank Tom's wife , Barb.... and son , Tom.... who graciously and generously opened their hearts and the family albums to me for this and any future post I plan on writing up within this whole Pokiok project.

First picture: Tommy , Aunt Margy Bailey, Gerry
Second picture: Kingsley Bailey , Kay Bailey-MacDonald , Tommy
Third picture: Aunt Marie Bailey , Tommy
Fourth picture:Grandmother Bailey Ernie , Margy, Kay on Spar Cove Road
Fifth picture:Margy , Marie , Kay and Tommy

P.S. Please feel free to comment on any text whether you be a Pokioker or simply a passer by.
Have you read the above link About Pokiok?


  1. Hi Gerry
    I just want to tell you how great it is to see the pics of you and my dad and the wonderful stories of the two of you as kids. Growing up on that hill was the best thing in the world for me. Dad was lucky to have a great friend like you.
    Thank You
    Lynn MacDonald Hamilton

  2. Dear Lynn.... thank you so much for your sweet words .... and yes , although I've been absent physically from " the hill " all these last years I have always felt bound in a very special way to all the folks living there... and more especially your Dad. I'll die a Pokioker ! I hope you don't mind if I put your warm comment at the end of your Dad's tribute as it might encourage others to follow suit. I feel that many read the post but are maybe a bit shy about leaving a comment below... so yours might get the ball rolling so to speak. Please come back again as I often speak of Tom in other posts as I go along. Bye for now

  3. "Hello gerry i am kathy (macdonald) ruttan. tom macdonald's daughter. mom was telling about your blog on pokiok just thought i send you a message to tell you i love the pics! hope you except my request i love the photo album you gave mom.".

  4. Hi Kathy.... what a surprise !! Of course I would love to have you as a contact , Kathy...... and please feel free to add any comment you might wish just below Tom's tribute blog. I shall be doing a few more on your Dad in the near future.... old memories and reminiscences that you might like to read. Once again , thank you for contacting me and being so positive. Gerry

  5. Bonjour, I've heard a great deal of stories about my grandfather, and even though I never got the chance to meet him I somehow feel as though I indeed have known him for my whole life. I hope to hear some more sotries one day, since I am very fascinated with the 1940's and I am constantly reminding everyone how much I adore learning about history, especially my family history.

    Sincerely, Emily Ruttan, granddaughter of your dear friend, Tommy MacDonald.

  6. Ma chère Emilie... merci de tes gentils mots et commentaires... I am sure that your grandfather Tom would be so proud of you and he would surely approve my telling you about him when he was your age and younger. And yes , the 1940s were the years of our youth ... on D-Day we were all gathered at the head of the Big Hill with a splendid view out over Saint John ... all the church bells chiming and all the fireworks that night. Tom and I as well as our families and other folks all celebrating the end of the war... Be proud of your past and those who have gone before you..... and please come back often , dear Emily.... à bientôt !