While I was growing up, the Trade in Hermitage was an icon of a business that thrived. The large structure stood out in the harbour where its many shoars licked the salt water below.
It was a place where mother and father often dealt and father bought his fishing supplies. It was also a place where father and all of the other fishermen lined up and waited patiently to sell their day’s catch.
I spent hours down around the trade in my old khaki pants, wind breaker and rubber boats just waiting to see what the day would bring. Maybe I would hook a ride on the running board or grab unto the tailgate of the trade truck. Maybe I would get a chance to bag coal or fork fish. Whatever it was, it would always make for an interesting day because any day down around trade wharf was good and often made for a fond memory.
During wet foggy days of summer when father often told us to get out doors and blow the stink out of ourselves, some of us would go and hang out around the trade. Sometimes if we had a nickel to spare, we would climb the lot of stairs to the entrance.
Once inside we bought a few candy, took a look around the islands inside the store, and a few minutes to watch in awe as two men pulled down hard on a rope that was connected to a block and tackle. They were hoisting goods through a hatch in the floor. We stood around there until the man from the office in the corner gave us the nod to stay out of the way so our stay inside was often short.
But it was a different story on the outside. The wharf was a busy place. Sometimes the fish collector, the Bowring one, I believe she was called, was busy taking fish aboard to take across the bay to Gaultois.
Her gunwales were close to the water’s edge as she made her way out of the harbour. The sound of her engines could be heard long after she had left trade wharf and a line of thick smoke trailed behind her. She seemed to labour with her cargo of fish. Some more times the Theresa G brought goods or passengers to the trade. It was often a busy spot and we stuck around to see it all.
On many wet days I found myself in the middle of what was a very slubby and slippery wharf. All week long boats that fished inshore landed fish there.
In addition to that, Cyril would bring the landings of fish from nearby Sandyville. When there was a spare fish fork around I often helped to fork the fish into the nearby bins where they would be covered with ice. Sometimes Uncle Marg sent us on our way because we were too careless with the forks.
The wharf was often left with a layer of slub that had that snotty, gooey texture. Sometimes walking around was a bit tricky until someone hauled up a few draw-buckets of water and washed the wharf down. Fish hearts often got caught between the longers. They were good bait and we often salvaged them to hook onto our bamboo lines to try and catch tomcods that hung around the edge of the wharf.
On windy days when there was sometimes not much doing around the trade, we stood on the outer edge of the wharf so that the strong wind that was blowing in harbour would strike our wind jacks and spin them around.
I remember taking a good bit of time carving a piece of pine that I had salvaged from Frank Rose’s store, carving it to make that perfect blade. I attached the blade with a nail and felt tin and stood with my arm stretched out over trade wharf. It was funny how we took so much pleasure in watching that blade spin with the wind.
But in time, the winds of change had come. The Trade would be boarded up. There would be no more business here. The boats would not tie up here any more, the fish forks had stuck their last fish, the wharf had lost its slippery touch and fish hearts beat their last elsewhere.
But the trade had not seen the last of me. While it was being torn down, my buddy and I discovered a way inside. The islands had been emptied and the shelves cleaned of their goods. It was funny how such a vibrant place could be so still and quiet.
But that all changed when my buddy and I discovered that one of the long bins behind the counter was still quite full of round beans. In no time at all we had pounds of beans thrown over the top floor. The slubby trade wharf was nothing compared to how slippery this floor was. The hundreds of beans were like ball bearings. We floated on them as we ran and skated from one end of the trade to the other being careful to stay away from the hatch in the floor. It was a balancing act at times as we laughed and enjoyed the thrill of the ride. It was another time that mother would not have been proud of me.
And so it is, that place that was an icon of good business, where father and mother dealt, where fishermen patiently waited to land their fish, where wind jacks spun crazy into a brisk westerly wind, and where I wore out the best part of my Khaki pants, wind breaker and rubber boots, is now no more than a fond memory.