Now did I tell you how I got to Canada? I didn’t tell you about Newfoundland.
We stayed in a little boarding house in a little tiny town. And it was three days ’til the boat came because it was across an inlet. Three days ’til the boat came, and three more days where the boat took us to – and then three days there ’til the ferry came to take us to the mainland. It was quite a journey. It was fun.
There was a guy called…the guy who brought Newfoundland into Confederation, Smallwood his name was, Joey. And everybody was talking about Joey Smallwood. Now remember this, because this is actually quite interesting history. They were Joey this and Joey that. He was their friend. He was their buddy. He was going to make them rich because they’d get unemployment insurance after the fishing season ended because they were going to join Canada and that was the main thing. We didn’t have medical yet, but we had unemployment insurance and when you lived in Newfoundland you worked three months in the summer and maybe another two in the winter and there was no other work except fish. But that’s all Newfoundland stuff.
I went back there, though. Immigrants always want to go back to the place they first came to. Usually it’s to that dock in Nova Scotia. It’s got a number. It was an old CPR dock and it was where the immigrant boats came in, in the years after the war. So most people of my age, that was the place they went back to – but I had to make it all the way to Newfoundland.
I’ve got a crazy cousin, a crazy fun cousin, who’s into engines – and did you know you can run a diesel engine on vegetable oil? Actually, Rudolf Diesel invented the engine because he knew it would work, and he bought huge amounts of land to grow the best thing for oil, which I don’t know. You can look up Rudolf Diesel easily enough and find out more, but he died mysteriously – nobody says so, but they all think so, that he got done in by the gas companies who didn’t want any competition from Mr. Diesel, thank you very much. So he died when he was barely 40 years old, of some stupid accident.
My cousin, who had a bus with a diesel engine, wanted to see if he could drive across Canada on leftover stuff, recyclable, reusable. So we set off from Sooke where he had this bus and off we went. We weren’t in a hurry. His brother came along, thank goodness. And there was a girl. There were four of us on the bus. And we drove the whole way across the country and a lot of our food came out of dumpsters and you wouldn’t believe what you get out of dumpsters! Like, six blocks of cheese with a corner of the plastic broken. You could see they’d fallen, bang, and cracked the corner. In the dumpster they’d go. Five dozen eggs into the dumpster. So you look in the dumpster and find one that somebody’s… Or maybe their fridge died. Then you’d get a real haul. They came back with 48 butter tarts one day and the boys ate all 48 butter tarts.
So, then we pumped the oil out of dumpsters and it was my job to go ask the restaurant owners if we could pump their vegetable oil. It took them a while to understand what we were talking about. Most of them argued about whether you could use it in an engine, and I would explain that we’d already got this far. And he’d pump and pump and endlessly pump, endlessly pump, bless his heart, and we got all the way there and it was the greatest trip I ever took. That was the best fun. My trip to Newfoundland. It was 11 years ago, so it must have been 2002.
Just to clarify, are you talking about Hal Hewett?
Yes. Who else could I be talking about? My mother was a Hewett. How do you know Hal?
He wanted to start a marching band.
That’s just like Hal. I’ve got some pictures of him playing instruments in Newfoundland which are quite a hoot. His brother’s on a skateboard playing the banjo like crazy, skateboarding, wiggle-woggle, wiggle-woggle, diddly-diddly…. They’re all nuts, those cousins!
I’m a second cousin to Hal. His dad was my first cousin. Or does that make me first cousin once removed. Who knows? Who cares? Not me.
Did that adventure have a name?
Well, I called it “Grime, Grease and Glory” when I put my photographs together. Second shelf down, there’s two scrapbooks. Do you want to go through these, just for the hell of it? (opening the scrapbooks) This shed was rented off some Vietnamese people and they lived in a little apartment in this huge shed, and she had a shrine out of junk she’d found. Isn’t that something? And it’s all junk, even the Jesus in the middle was something that somebody had thrown away.
The bus is big. I was picturing something much smaller than that.
No, it’s a real bus. That’s Hal.
You didn’t feel any trepidation about getting on this bus?
Oh no, no. They’re pretty competent. It was pretty exciting though, really seeing. When you’re not in a hurry and you drove across the country you have a pretty interesting time. That’s the Montreal skyline. That’s a corner of Newfoundland. Heaven knows what that is. That’s down in the Fraser Valley looking towards the island. We were parked down there for a couple of days while the boys said goodbye to their Vancouver friends. And there we are heading out. Flat tire. Dumpster diving. We ate like pigs, let me tell you.