Reproduced with permission from The Beacon Supplement July 29, 1987


Fond Memories of a 'Special Upbringing' – Sandra (West) Kelly

For most of us, thoughts of childhood bring back happy memories of carefree existence, happiness without reservations and the innocence that only a child can revel in.  We raced through time playing and laughing, without worry or care.  Our lives were being shaped and the surroundings and atmosphere we dwelt in played a large role in that shaping.

Many of us can boast of a unique and exciting childhood.  Such is the case of Sandra Kelly, wife of Dr. Ron Kelly, who was born on the old townsite of Gander and has fond memories of what she terms “a special upbringing.”

Many of her happy memories revolve around life on the section of old townsite known as the Repeater’s Station.  Sandra, her father, Hardy west, mother, Doris and a brother and sister, were one of two families living at the Repeaters Station, next to a group of American soldiers stationed there.

The Americans, Sandra recalls, “did not have families there and made quite a fuss over us kids.  They showed movies for us on Saturday nights and even threw parties for us on special holidays and birthdays.  They played a big part in our lives, entertaining and fussing over us as if we were their own kids.

Back then, pleasure was taken in simple forms of recreation like skating and sliding.  Kids learned to skate with the aid of chairs, she remembers.

Close to the duplex where the West family lived there was a large pond which provided many long hours of entertainment and amusement.  Occasionally though, says Sandra, it was the cause of disputes.  The older boys living on the Army Side would clear off the rink to play hockey and arguments would sometimes start with the younger kids who wanted to skate.  The disputes usually ended with the little kids being made to play in the net in the rough and tumble hockey game of the older children.

Sandra attended a “little brown schoolhouse on Chestnut Street” and has many a fond memory of her favorite teacher, Shirley Martin, now Mrs. Shirley Bailey.

She remembers school as being stricter than it is today, although it was fund, especially Friday afternoons when spelling bees were held.  “Us kids would work hard all week,” says Sandra, “so that we would be able to have that spelling bee on Friday.

Church played a larger role in people’s lives back then.  Church groups were very important and everyone dressed up in their finest to attend church on Sundays.  For the kids, it meant the big bathtub in the middle of the kitchen floor Saturday night.

The highlight of the week, says Sandra, was all the kids going to the Globe Theatre Saturday afternoon to watch cartoons.  A big outing for her, however, was when her mother would take her to the Star theatre to view evening movies.

Hockey games were also an important social activity.  All the employees of Goodyears, where her father worked, would head out for the game Friday night after the store closed.

Looking back on her childhood, she remembers more adults than children in her life.  Children kept coming and going as Armed Forces families moved in and out.  Her class in school kept continually changing through the years.  A lot of the kids still kept in contact with children that had left.

When Sandra was eight, the family moved to Balbo Street on the new townsite.  She remembers getting up at 4 a.m. Saturday mornings to walk to the stadium on the old townsite for figure skating.  Sunny Sunday afternoons were reserved for a walk to the airport for ice cream and to watch the airplanes.  The old townsite still played an important role in her life.  It may again play an active role in her life because as present deputy mayor of Gander, she will doubtless take an active role in a proposal which would see the reconstruction of parts of the former townsite in a bid to preserve our unique heritage for the benefit of future generations – including her own children, Ronnie and Sean.


Contributed by Carol (Mercer) Walsh




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