‘Cross the Bay With Their Houses in Tow: Stories of Resettlement Festival Re-enacts the Days of Centralization

The festival has so far showcased the opening night of the March Hare, the Ray Guy literary festival, documentary screenings, as well as evenings of art, poetry and monologues showcasing the influence of this significant part of our history.

Al Pittman once wrote,  “They said our poor lives would ne’er be the same, once we took part in the government game.” He was describing the controversial and defining period of our history, the resettlement of the outports. 

As part of the 2016 “Stories of Resettlement”  festival in Arnold’s Cove, Placentia Bay, a house was floated  to nearby Spencers Cove; one of the many abandoned communities  from the 1960s. It took 3 hours in total to tow down the bay to  its new home.

With today’s machinery of course, the tow went much smoother than it would have during the resettlement years. The festival continues throughout the rest of 2016, commemorating 50 years since over a hundred families settled into the area.

While many chose to abandon their home and rent in their new community, some chose to pack everything, including the house itself, and moved it across the bay by boat. By far the most visually powerful image that comes to mind when us Newfoundlanders think of resettlement,  the towing of houses by boat has been captured by some of the provinces best artists throughout the years.  Because of this festival, it could once again be seen from a new generation’s point of view.

Arnold’s Cove was one of many  communities  designated as a primary growth area, equipped with a would-be fish plant facility and nearby oil refinery, which is still a major source of employment today.

The festival has so far showcased the opening night of the March Hare, the Ray Guy literary festival, documentary screenings, as well as evenings of art, poetry and monologues showcasing the influence of this significant part of our  history.

By the 1960s, the centralization program was into its second chapter, and became joint federal and provincial initiative, with close to 300 communities abandoned as a result. At the helm of this initiative and continuing  his performance as Newfoundland’s First Premier, was the long standing, loved or loathed,  Mr. Joey Smallwood.

His goal  being  to propel us forward to a province of industrialization, with less reliance on the cyclical, small scale fishery, which had been dying in the outport communities. Most of the younger families found success with the move to a new town,  while others  left the province for work.

For most that were over the age of 50, learning a new trade was impossible when all they’ve known was the life of the salt cod fishery.  Instead of using all their government cash incentives for the move and rent in a new town, some chose to move the house across the bay, a feat that undoubtedly helped define the quintessential, tough and proud Newfoundlander.

The Stories of Resettlement festival will be continuing events with a quilt show on September 24th & 25th, and the Placentia Bay music festival on October 15th.  For more information on the event schedule, visit www.resettlementnl.ca.

Article by Overcast Intern Kayla Noseworthy

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