Growing Up in Old St. John’s

By Harold Horwood

Newfoundland’s capital in the 1920s and 1930s bore little resemblance to the urban metropolis that it is today. St. John’s was a small city of some 30,000 to 40,000, but it had a great opinion of itself: gateway to the New World, center of international trade long before the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America, the capital of Britain’s oldest colony, and also a modern trading center of some consequence.

Though its people were almost fiercely loyal to Britain, they were international in outlook, traders above all, with a close affinity to the people of Boston and New England. The water-front docks were the center of everything and were expected to remain so throughout lifetimes yet to come.

The city rose in a semicircle above the harbor, everything facing the sea, some of its streets so steep that they had concrete steps instead of sidewalks. Water Street was paved with stone over which iron-rimmed cartwheels clattered with perpetual din, punctuated by the cracking of whips. Flocks of house sparrows scavenged undigested oats from the piles of horse manure.

This was the world in which Harold Horwood was nurtured, grew to manhood and developed as a political activist and writer.

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