Academic journal article Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

"Pigs Is My Business": Joe Smallwood on Himself, 1945

Academic journal article Newfoundland and Labrador Studies

"Pigs Is My Business": Joe Smallwood on Himself, 1945

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Following its establishment, in 1944, by an Act of the Commission of Government, the St. John's Housing Corporation began assembling land to carry out its extensive plans for the beautification and improvement of Newfoundland's capital) The corporation had expropriation authority and one of the landowners affected thereby was Joe Smallwood, who owned a farm on Kenmount Road, northwest of St. John's proper. Part of this farm was taken by the corporation for its long-term development purposes, whereupon Smallwood appealed the valuation put on the property to be thus transferred to the public body. On 13 June 1945 he made his case before the Board of Assessors assigned to hear such appeals. Smallwood was represented on this occasion by his future political ally, Leslie R. Curtis, (2) and the St. John's Housing Corporation by G.G. Tessier. Questions were put to him by both the lawyers and by board members J.A. Winter and EW. Bradshaw. The transcript of the hearing is printed below, with minor editorial adjustments; the original is filed in Smallwood's papers at the Archives and Special Collections (COLL-285, 1.05.003), Memorial University Libraries, St. John's. The spirited exchange between the claimant and the lawyers and assessors offers insight not only into Smallwood's past and present but into the future he then imagined for himself. As such, the document is a valuable source for Smallwood biography.

Born in Gambo, Bonavista Bay, on 24 December 1900, Joseph Roberts Smallwood grew up in St. John's. In the 1920s he worked as journalist, travelled to Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, and was active in union affairs. In the 1932 general election he ran in Bonavista South for Sir Richard Squires's Liberal Party but was defeated. In the depths of the Great Depression of the 1930s he and his family lived at The Scrapes, Bonavista, while he organized an abortive fishermen's co-operative union. In 1937 he published The Book of Newfoundland, an ambitious compendium, in two volumes, of Newfoundland history and lore. The same year he began broadcasting a popular radio program, The Barrelman, over VONF, St. John's. Thanks to the Barrelman series, which he kept going until November 1943, when he again left St. John's, he had one of the best-known radio voices in Newfoundland. In 1941 he edited the weekly The Express, which lambasted the British-appointed Commission of Government but lasted for only a few issues. (3)

By this time he was also farming, having acquired the Kenmount Road property (which included a house, barn, small work building, and well house) from the Giannou family of St. John's. According to his own account, this happened in 1939, but the land transaction (with Frieda H. Giannou) was not formalized until 2 January 1943 and not registered until October 1945. (4) He paid $3,250 for the farm. On 7 January 1942 he obtained a mortgage (registered two days later) of $9,000 (5) on the property from Leslie R. Curtis. The mortgage covered land, buildings, and all "farm equipment, Machinery, and animals,' with the last mentioned being listed as follows (with editorial adjustments): "1 Slaughter House; 970 White Leghorn Pullets; 138 Young Pigs; 15 old Pigs; 1 Horse; 1 Pony; 11 Geese; 1 Tractor; 1 Plough; 1 Harrow; 1 Spike Harrow; 1 Long Cart; 1 Catamaran (horse); 1 Catamaran. (Pony); 1 Buggy; 1 Side Sleigh; 1 Horse harness; 1 Dodge car; 1 Dodge Pick-up; 1 Ford Van; 1 Sawmill (saw, Mandrel, Belt); 1 Cow; 1 Car trailer; 1 Wheelbarrow; 5 Pick-axes; 4 Hand Hoes; 3 Shovels; 4 Axes; 2 Buck-Saws; Quantity Poultry equipment; [and] 2 Electric brooders." (6) To get the farm going, Joe persuaded his younger brother Reg and his family to move there, eventually joining them with his own family. In his 1995 book My Brother Joe, (7) Reg Smallwood gives a vivid account of the Kenmount Road venture, which raised poultry and pigs and grew a variety of crops. Joey (as he came to be often called) likewise gives an account of his farming days in his 1973 memoir I Chose Canada? …

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