Rural Newfoundlanders are legendary for their attachment to home, but few hold a candle to Stan Deering.
Upon visiting the painstakingly crafted, ever-expanding Shades of the Past Museum in Flat Rocks (near Carbonear) that he and his wife Loretta operate from early summer through fall, I felt motivated by his obvious passion for the area’s past to ask him a few questions about how the museum began.
He told me the story of moving at age 10 from the community, which was resettled in 1966. His talk of longing to return made me feel he must have left for the mainland. Lo and behold, he had gone no farther than neighbouring Carbonear. Yet still there was something missing. Carbonear provided him a good place to marry and raise a family, but was never home.
So almost 2 decades ago, children grown and moved on, he moved back full time. He and Loretta joined a few others, enough at least to split the cost of a plow for the unmaintained road that was a major reason people left in the first place.
He’d dealt with his homesickness over the years through amassing an amazing collection of photos and memorabilia from Flatrocks’ past, so now that he was back, what to do with it? The answer was to start building.
It is rare to visit Shades of The Past and not find Stan working on a new attraction. A second demonstration root cellar, complete with items that would have been kept there, was recently completed, along with a building displaying the history of sealing.
It joins a one room school house, general store, blacksmith and hardware store, another root cellar and outdoor work area with many old tools on display, and one of the largest collections of photos of life in Newfoundlands past century.
The photos are a treasure, and a discovery of interest to downtown denizens is that the merchant family of the area were the Pottles, ancestors of none other than Bar None’s Neil Pottle. Wonders never cease.
Photos of school classes, hockey teams, church groups and the like give a tangible image to the rich lives lead in the outport in its day. Set amongst stunning cliffs and vistas it is now the site of its own photos, having become a popular place for wedding pictures.
Stan says he has a “little bit of a passion” for recording the past. His passion for sharing it and educating younger Newfoundlanders about the amazing skills their ancestors had and the hard life they endured with dignity and joy makes him an important part of the Flatrocks’ story as it evolves.
Evelys Cabins just down the road are an affordable lodging option if a visit to Shades of the Past leaves you wanting more of the magic Stan and Loretta have created.