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Bits and Butt's

To brighten up the blahs of February, take a look at the following excerpts from The Twillingate Sun (some of which you may have seen before - but bear with me). The Sun, for those few who may not know, was (to quote their masthead) "the only paper on the North Coast, published at Twillingate, Nfld., on Saturday from the office on the North Side." The first edition arrived with the pea soup on June 24, 1880, and the final edition came on Jan. 31, 1953.

Twillingate - There are times that I recall - among other things - what it was like when our roads here in Twillingate were unpaved. O, how we longed for pavement!

And I can hear some readers saying, "So what? There's no difference from what we have now in a good many places. Potholes are just as bad as dirt roads."

But you're so wrong! I remember distinctly on still summer evenings looking across the harbour and seeing that long, low cloud of dust that hung along the hills, a veritable cloud that didn't have time to dissipate because vehicles were constantly on the move. At the same time, there were doubtless those on the North Side who were looking over at our shore and expressing similar opinions - and frustrations.

How we longed for pavement!

That longing came to mind again just recently when a neighbour handed me a poem written many years ago by a resident of North Side. Titled "Who seconds the motion?" the poem, written sometime in the late 1950's, was a plea to women in the community to make their voices known in no uncertain manner in an effort to get a town council organized for it was only through that avenue that ever pavement could be accessed.

The writer was the late Elsie Hodge, who was married to Arthur Hodge, also deceased, one of the two brothers who owned and operated Hodge Brothers business at Path End. Arthur looked after the office and as well served as the Express agent. His brother Bertie was the shop boss. They were two solid pillars of the community and of their church. Originally they came from Fogo where their father had established a fish business. He was from England and the boys came to Twillingate to set up a branch store that eventually became an entity on its own. However, Ms. Hodge was not involved with the business but was engrossed in the welfare of the community.

Ms. Hodge (nee Wood) was born in the U.S. and came to Twillingate as a graduate nurse because her Uncle Bert (Dr. Wood) was a practicing physician with a home and surgery on the street that now bears his name - Wood Street. She worked for a considerable period on a volunteer basis at the hospital where she met Arthur Hodge, a member of the original Board of Directors with the hospital - soon they were married. In her new role as a wife and eventually the mother of two daughters she focused on the community. A staunch member of St. Peter's Anglican, she was also one of those responsible for bringing the public library to Twillingate and remained on the library board for many years, she was heavily involved in the guiding movement, with the Red Cross and was responsible for establishing the Well Baby Clinic at the hospital in the 1940's at a time when economic conditions in the area were anything but prosperous.

When efforts to form a town council (the only hope of getting pavement) were showing little signs of success, it was Elsie Hodge who decided to encourage the ladies of the community to apply pressure wherever needed to accomplish that end. Her poem to that effect, it is suggested, was written in the late 1950's. She called it "Who seconds the motion?"

Who seconds the motion?

There is a ladies' magazine of considerable renown,

I know 'tis read o'er most the world as well as in our town.

"Do not underestimate the power of women"- its motto plainly cries!

I wish the women folk of Twillingate would open wide their eyes!

We have a bonny, homely town, our skies are fresh and pure,

There's not much man-made soot and smog for us folks to endure.

Our hills rise round with berries crowned, the ocean laps our shore,

And visitors, vacationing, enjoy it all the more.

'Twould seem to be a Paradise! What's wrong? What is't that goads?

Just cast your eyes down to the ground! Look you, my dears, our ROADS!

Now some may ride in cars, at ease, and worry 'bout their springs,

But more must trudge thru mud and sludge with arms piled high - with things!

While sand and stones fill up their shoes, some cuss and others mutter.

Cars - flying by - make dust rise high, then do these ladies sputter!

When to the wharf there comes a ship and trucks begin to speed,

Stirred from the ground the germs spread 'round - TWO hospitals we need!

So - what's to do? - new roads we need - sans mud and germs and dust.

The time has come to organize, Town Council get - or bust.

We should have had one years ago, cry "Shame" that we're so late.

Rise, women all, both large and small, good roads for Twillingate!

And now we've come full circle!

We're now at the point where we have had town council for a considerable time and have pavement, but are unable to access funding to carry out major repairs or repaving that cannot be done without capital funding. We just can't get the money. Government tells us so. Government has brought in a ruling that is dubbed the "debt ratio." What that tells us is that when a municipality's annual payment on long term debt (amassed mainly through accessing capital funding in the past on a share basis) reaches or exceeds 30 per cent of the total expenses then the municipality is no longer permitted to access funding - and no good to ask. The debt ratio for Twillingate is 43 per cent (see the related article on Twillingate's 2008 budget). More funding? No way, Oza!

Who is responsible for the situation? We all are. The former councils must share the blame for it was they who applied and received capital funding for roads and water/sewer projects over the years and thus created the immense long term debt; and the provincial governments of the past encouraged the municipalities to have the work done - and it could only be done by accessing the money that was virtually placed on a platter for the grabbing - but at a cost on a share basis that had to be repaid; and the people themselves demanded the services because other communities were getting their allotments and we felt we should have what we deserved. And we got what we deserved! Now we have long-term debt that is weighing us down. We have become, as the town manager phrased it recently, a "sopping wet sponge that just can't absorb any more."

But I don't long for those bygone days - not with those dusty, miserable roads that I still remember!

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