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The Evening Telegram - IN FOCUS
Lovely, quaint, fascinating - many adjectives come to mind as you visit the tiny fishing community of McCallum.
Located in Hermitage Bay, and not accessible by road, McCallum is, without doubt, one of the most intriguing places in all of Newfoundland.
Where else could you find a wooden boardwalk that stretches the length and width of the community?
The boardwalk is how everyone in McCallum gets around. It goes up and down hilly inclines. It starts at the wharf where the coastal ferry from Hermitage and Gaultois arrives once a day, and goes past Riggs & Son Ltd., the only shop in the community. It winds its way to St. Peter's Anglican Church, to the school of the same name, and past the homes of all of McCallum's 123 residents.
In winter, people take responsibility for clearing their section of the boardwalk. Every summer, the provincial government provides money for repairs. The boardwalk is in excellent shape, and it's also spotless. Residents are proud of their walkway's cleanliness.
"You can walk the island in your socks, the boardwalk is so clean," boasts McCallum native Nina (Chapman) Crant.
There are no roads, no driveways, no motor vehicles. There are, however, four ATVs. One is privately owned, the three others have a specific purpose. One is used for garbage pick-up, one hauls freight from the coastal boat, and the third is used for bringing groceries from the boat to the shop.
In the 1960s, residents of nearby Pushthrough chose to accept the Newfoundland government's offer of resettlement. They moved to Hermitage, Gaultois, Bay d'Espoir and Fortune, but people in McCallum decided to stay put.
The community's population of 123 may be half what it was a dozen years ago. But with its boardwalk, and neatly kept houses - most with picket fences enclosing small gardens filled with vegetables and flowers - it's like a tiny, perfect magical kingdom. It reminds you of a Brigadoon come miraculously to life.
We arrive aboard the passenger boat Terra Nova. The trip, one way from Hermitage, takes 1-1/2 hours and costs $3.50 per person, half price for seniors and students. Approaching McCallum, we see a community built around a harbour lined with wharves and stages, and filled with fishing boats.
When we come ashore, we're met by Herman Fudge, the unofficial community greeter. We shake hands, he asks where we're from and accompanies us as far as the shop of Riggs & Son. From here, we can walk to either end of the island or up the hill that leads to St. Peter's Anglican Church. McCallum's only church is a wooden structure, plain and simple.
The graveyard behind the church ends at the edge of a cliff which falls sharply away to the ocean. The view from the graveyard is superb. Among those buried in the graveyard are Chapmans, Pierceys, Buffetts, Riggs, Durnfords, Wellmans, Feavers, Blakes, Pooles, Childs, Richardsons and Hoopers.
Walking along the boardwalk, we are greeted with nods or hellos by everyone we pass. Children run and skip along the boardwalk. Babies are wheeled along in strollers. Some people are carrying home bags of groceries from the shop. People pause to lean against the railing along the sides of the boardwalk and have a chat. A man and a woman walking hand in hand with a small child smile as they walk by. Fishermen in cut-off rubber boots and brimmed hats clump along the boardwalk and acknowledge us with a nod and a grin.
Outside a two-storey house, an elderly woman wearing a navy skirt and a pink blouse is busily tending her garden. A little further on, one can't help noticing the garden outside Nina Crant's house. Crant's small, terraced garden is a riot of flowers, real and artificial, and also contains figures of animals, including a cow that moos.
Crant operates McCallum's only bed and breakfast. The Seaside Bed and Breakfast, which can accommodate up to six people, consists of two guest bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living room with a pull-out couch. Crant provides breakfast and will serve other meals on request.
The Seaside Bed and Breakfast is a new building erected over the water. Outside the door, there's a deck with a seat overlooking the harbour. Next to the deck, dozens of lobster pots belonging to a nearby fisherman are piled high on the rocky beach.
Crant's father, James Chapman, was a fisherman. Like most of the men in McCallum did, and still do, he made his living from the sea.
"He died in a dory, fishing," Crant says sadly.
One morning in 1980, she explains, her 67-year-old father went out to check his lobster pots. Later that day he was found dead in the bottom of his boat. He'd suffered a fatal stroke.
Crant herself was born and raised here, the third in a family of 11. Four of her sisters and two of her brothers still live here. When she finished school, Crant and her McCallum sweetheart moved to Montreal in search of work. They got jobs, got married and had a son. When the marriage ended after six years, Crant became a single, working mom.
Her grown-up son and his family still live in Montreal, but Nina, after 28 years away, is back in McCallum. On one of her regular visits home, she met schoolteacher David Crant. They married in 1989. David, from Harbour Breton, is one of four teachers - three full-time, one part-time - who teach the local school population of 17, up from 15 a year ago.
Strolling along the boardwalk, we observe that aside from dogs and cats, there don't appear to be any other animals in McCallum. Crant says when she was a child, most people had sheep and chickens. The animals are gone, but the gardens, where everyone grew cabbages, turnip and carrots, continue to thrive.
Before we leave, there is one final thing to check out.
A number of different sources have suggested McCallum is full of handsome fishermen who own their own homes, make good money and are on the lookout for wives.
In a place as small and secluded as this, it seems that unattached women are at a premium.
Crant is reluctant to get into a conversation about the supposed glut of bachelors, but later, going back to Hermitage on the Terra Nova, we end up chatting to Deanna Lace, who has just spent the weekend in McCallum.
Lace, from Harbour Breton, is married to a man from McCallum and is well versed on what goes on there.
She confirms that the community has plenty of eligible bachelors, aged from early 20s to 50-something. Counting quickly in her head, she comes up with close to a dozen men she suspects are wannabe husbands.
In their quest to find a wife, some of the men in McCallum have placed discreet advertisements in local papers, seeking companions or housekeepers. Over the years, a number have apparently found wives in this fashion. Others are still looking.
McCallum is a place that has a unique, and very definite, charm. Where
else would people prop a broom outside their door to indicate no one
This page transcribed by Barbara McGrath (October 2000)
REVISED: August 2002 (Terry Piercey)
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