Folklore Faith

This morning Andrea, Daisy and I went with Jerry, Ed and John back to Barry Norris’ house to finish our building plan. The three of us were fairly stressed about the state of our drawing (we had missed a day’s worth of work after not being able to access the house yesterday, so our plan was to get through our work as efficiently as possible). Though, as I’ve learned the past two weeks in Witless Bay, every day is filled with surprises when you’re a folklorist, and plans don’t always end up being what you expect. While this can be nerve-racking when trying to schedule interviews or finish site plans, this constant flux in agenda also quite often leads to unexpected, serendipitous adventures and discoveries.

Instead of heading inside when we arrived to the Norris house our first pit stop was Barry’s stable, the out-building that Daisy will be documenting in the coming days. There we found an eclectic mix of odds and ends, as is usually the case with old barns and sheds in Witless Bay (at least the ones we have been fortunate enough to see thus far). There were old wooden boat parts, a giant wooden sleigh, rusty tin tobacco cases and even a miniature plastic snoopy head stuck behind a stud in the wall.


Tobacco boxes from the stable.

We then went inside the house, but not to draw. We realized that it would be an opportune moment to discuss the history of the house with Barry since we had him there with us. He magically seemed to know this because before we even got the chance to begin asking him our questions he started giving us a background of his family’s house.

Part of our conversation about this history involved sorting through a collection of old family photos and certificates, postcards and maps. The six of us sat on the living room floor with hundreds of images spread out across the rug, while Ed searched about the premises, looking for hidden architectural clues. There were photos of Barry’s grandparents and great grand-parents, aunts and uncles, posters of Witless Bay from years past, and post cards sent from France during World War II. At one point Jerry and I found photographs of Barry’s family in Brooklyn, New York, where many of his relatives lived decades ago. Looking through all of these artifacts and asking questions about them helped us learn so much about Barry’s family and consequently the stories behind his home.


An early 20th century photograph of Witless Bay.


Original hand made nails from the Norris house.


Browsing through Barry’s collection this morning.

Even though we were initially anxiety-ridden about completing our building plan as soon as possible, we put our worries aside and let the day take us wherever it may, which ended up being the best thing we could have done. One of the greatest lessons I have learned thus far during our field school is that while some things may not work out as planned, they do work out the way they were meant to, eventually.


Daisy hard at work completing the last detail of our Norris house floor plan.

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