Russ visits the ancestral site . . .

[click on the pictures for enlargements, and occasionally further pictures].

So I arrived at the Memorial campus, checked in, and started toward  the residence complex. The residences turned out to be among the most, um, Spartan  I've stayed in. The theory that was developed among the resident conference participants was that if you come to university from Joe Batt's Arm or Big Bottom you probably aren't all that demanding. The campus itself is impressively large, and the buildings are somewhat more architecturally adventurous than the neo-Georgian straitjacket the residences suggested. The best thing is the almos total lack of signs.  Except for the occasional cute street sign , things are completely unmarked.  If you're a CFA you're supposed to ask a livyer, and probably she'll not only tell you where it is, but take you there.

After the conference ended, on Saturday afternoon, I took the bus to the end of the line, down to the foot of Water Street. The map told me that LaMarchant Road was up from the harbour a few blocks. Walking up the hill you can see the contrast between the new and old  St. John's. Up a few blocks I came to LaMarchant  , where I took a guess, turned left and walked a few blocks to find St. Michael and All Angels Anglican Church, where Wally lived in the  rectory when he was studying in St. John's. I called him from a phone booth in a Shopper's Drug Mart down the street. It took about three turnarounds before he figured out who it was -- at first he thought it was Russ Millar -- and a couple more before he figured out why I was calling and where I was. Then things got pretty voluble. It was a kind of weird feeling standing in the lobby of the pharmacy speaking in a loud and clear voice that I suspect everybody in the store could hear, but I got used to it -- and got lots of tips about where to go next and questions about how things looked. Mainly, he told me how to get to Bishop Field College, which, he said, was way down east on Lamarchant Road, past St. Boniface RC church. So I said I was on my way down to look for it.and he told me that he'd walked every morning the length of LaMarchant Road down to Bishop Field College. I tried to retrace his steps, but found nothing that looked even a little like a college building. The only people out on the street to ask were obviously tourists, and the people in the couple of shops I went in were 15 years old and knew from nothing (one had moved her from Toronto this spring) I knew it was another good 35 minutes back down to the bus station, and I'd told the Carleton folks I'd meet them at the Holiday Inn to go out for dinner, so I gave up. Well, I thought, I gave it my best shot. It's probably been torn down. I did find quite a lot  to look at, though. So I made my way back to the bus stop. I'd asked, and it was the 10 that would go out Portugal Cove Road to the Holiday Inn, and the last one on Saturday left at 5:35.

Here's where it gets good. I got on the bus (there were two people on it, in the very back). When I asked if he was going by the Holiday Inn, the driver said, "Gettin' lots of tourists going out that way. Convention in town? Been on the 10 before? Lots of stuff to be seen out this way. That restaurant over there, I told some folks last night it was the best fish and chips in town and this morning they stopped the bus to thank me. Up there there was a fire, just before Christmas in '93 [I think he said]; took out the whole block. See all the windows across the street there? Had to replace em all." The conversation went on from there, pretty much nonstop. I told him I'd just walked the length of LaMarchant road, and then the whole story came out. "Now just a second," he said, and rang up his dispatcher. "Hey, Garge, Bishop Fields College. Know where that is? Is it down below Military? Can you see it from this route?"

Turns out "this route" is the most serpentine snarl of tight turns and loops you can imagine, including at one point a four-minute delay ("Can't leave this corner till 4:45") and it's a good ten minutes before we make our way to Military (imagine Stephen Jay Gould's diagram of the drunk getting farther and farther from the wall). By this time -- actually, quite a lot earlier -- an old couple had got on, greeting the driver by name (I didn't catch it, nor 85% of what else they had to say). They pitched in. "Oh, yes, it's that brick building; you can see the back of it from Military, just before you get to Rawlins Cross." (Yes, that's right. In fact, we'd walked through Rawlins Cross the night before -- and, as it happens, I'd walked across one corner of it again an hour or so before.)

We get close. "You know," the driver says, "I'd like to take you round the block, but I can't do that."

Finally, there it is, the top of an old brick building below the road (this place is steep). There's a bus stop behind it. I turn around to take a picture of what I can see -- the top of a building cleverly concealed behind a Holstein-painted shop (click the picture for what it really looked like).  "Okay," says the driver, "I've got a three minute delay here. You've got three minutes."

So I jumped off the bus and ran down the block (actually, across a little vacant grass plot, over a concrete retaining wall, and down the middle of the street) and snapped off a couple of pictures, hoping one of them might just show the front facade, and was back on the bus . . . well, before he left, anyway. The old folks cheered. The driver said, "You get the front?" As you can imagine I was fairly effusive about the joys of riding buses in Newfoundland as I got off down the street from the Holiday Inn at 6:04.

Back to News page