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Massey Drive had its beginning as a Bowaters’ woods road known as Ski Cabin Road. It was called this because Bowaters built a ski club in Massey Drive in 1936. It was the first ski club in Western Newfoundland and some believe it was the first one in Newfoundland. Residents of Corner Brook would ski in to the club and back again.
The Stratton’s family had a cabin in Massey Drive; they would come here after school closed in June and didn’t go back to their home in Corner Brook until after Bonfire night. There were very few vehicles at the time so the children mostly walked out to Corner Brook to go to school.
Mrs. Ester Dawe moved in to Ski Cabin Road in November 1937 and changed the name from Ski Cabin Road to Massey Drive after Vincent Massey, Governor General of Canada. Mrs. Dawe had the first Polling Station in Massey Drive in her home in 1949 and every election through until 1965 when she moved out of Massey Drive. Mrs. Dawe carried her groceries from Corner Brook to Massey Drive on her back during the early years that she was in Massey Drive.
There wasn’t much of anything in Massey Drive in the early years; electricity, water and sewerage, school or telephone. When Massey Drive got the telephone, people had a Party Line; sometimes up to four people on the one telephone line.
Residents had wells for their water and used outhouses. In the later years they put in septic tanks and indoor plumbing. Kerosene lamps were used for lights until the late 40’s when the men in the community dug holes and cut the poles for the wires.
There was a Mink Farm in Massey Drive for about 18 to 20 years. It employed some of the local teenagers. In the early years there were three stores in Massey Drive; owned by Mr. Jack Gosse, Mrs. Mary Chaulk and Mr. Harold Rose. Mr. Gerry Myrden owned Bonnex Farm where you could ride horses or go on sleigh rides; there were also rabbits on the farm.
There was a need for a school with so many young children living in the community. St. Lukes, a one-room school, was built in 1950 for children of all religious denominations in the area. The school was also used as a Church; Rev. Laing would bring in a small organ from St. John the Evangelist Church on Main Street, Corner Brook, to have Sunday Services. In 1954 another room was added to the building to make it a two-room school. At first a wood stove and outhouses were used. When the extra room was built on an oil furnace was installed, washrooms and cloak rooms were also put in the school.
The School Board was in the process of having meetings to discuss the possibility of sending the children to school in Corner Brook. It was thought that the children would have more advantages in a bigger school, but some of the parents were against it. In 1969 the inside of St. Luke’s School burned, mostly smoke damage, so there wasn’t any choice but to send the children to school in Corner Brook. Soon after this time, the children were bussed to school in Corner Brook, no more walking. The school was later brought back to life and turned into a Community Hall.
In 1969 Massey Drive was under the jurisdiction of the City of Corner Brook without the city benefits. Some residents were concerned about the poor state of the roads, garbage collection, etc. They went from door to door trying to get residents interested in their community. A committee was formed to approach the City Council to see if they would put street lights, water and sewerage and have garbage collection in Massey Drive. The council said “no”.
The Massey Drive Council got right to work; the first order of business was to have garbage collection in Massey Drive. The first regular garbage collection started on Monday, November 15, 1971. Corner Brook had a garbage dump in Wild Cove; it was used for the garbage from Massey Drive at a cost of $1.00 per household per year. Street lights were added in the same year. It made quite a difference to the area.
In the early years, it was very difficult driving up the hill in the winter. There would be a line up of cars on the bottom of the road waiting their turn to make a run for the hill. Chains on the tires were quite common then. The Provincial Department of Highways looked after our roads at that time. In the summer the roads was a mass of dust, even in the homes everything was covered with dust, you couldn’t leave a window open facing the road. The Highways Department put calcium on the road to keep the dust down, but it didn’t help much, so some residents would get barrels of oil from a service station, put it in the back of their truck, then go up and down the road sprinkling the oil on the road to keep the dust down. Then we got pavement and the council did their own snow clearing and things really changed. There isn’t any trouble getting up the hill now in the winter.
Mr. William Earle had a store in Massey Drive for approximately twenty years. He also did some vegetable farming. In the summer most of the children and some adults, sometimes as many as fifteen to eighteen people, would work in the fields and others in Mr. Earle’s shed packing greens. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and joking around. My Aunt Kathy was called “Beet” because her cheeks would turn very red when she was being tormented while packing greens. My mother and grandmother also worked for Mr. Earle packing greens and pulling turnips out of the ground.
Pavement was put in the town in 1974 and was recapped again in 1988 and water and sewerage was installed in 1976 to 1978. The hill part of the road in Massey Drive was washed out on Boxing Day, December 26, 1977.
There was a need for a new Community Hall as the one being used, the former St. Lukes School, didn’t meet the needs of our growing community. A new Community Hall was built in 1977. It was officially opened on Saturday, August 13, 1977.
In the old Community Hall (the present Town Hall), many activities took place besides darts and dances. There were Guides and Brownies, TOPS, Senior Citizens Club, knitting classes, puppet shows, movies, Neighborhood Watch Program, 4-H Club (for approximately 12 years), talent shows, etc. Practically everyone in the community took part in something.
In 1982 a Fire Hall was built. The Fire Hall was officially opened on Saturday, December 4, 1982. A resident’s garage was formerly used as a place to park the fire truck for a rental fee of $100.00 a year.
In the fall of 1972 the first Recreation Committee was formed. The first election was held in January 1973 with Mr. Edgar Stratton elected as Chairman, a position he held for ten years. The Women’s Community Organization donated $50.00 to the Recreation Committee to get them started. The committee operated a small canteen from one of the cloakrooms in the Community Hall (former St. Lukes School).
The Recreation Committee obtained a ten year lease from the Anglican Church for the land which is now the Mama Dawe Recreation Park. A small building was obtained to be used as a canteen.
In March 1974 the first annual Winter Sports Weekend was held, the committee purchased four or five pairs of children’s snowshoes to be used in the races. Ribbons or medals were given to the winners in all the different events. The first weekend was a success and is still held each year. Snowshoes, snowball soccer and ice fishing were quite popular.
The Mama Dawe Recreation Park was officially opened on August 14, 1976. The park consisted of a softball diamond, soccer field and a playground. A contest was held to get a name for the park. It was named in honour of Mrs. Ester Dawe, a longtime resident of Massey Drive. Ball teams from other areas were invited in, children’s races took place and booths of chance were set up on the field; therefore, the annual Summer Sports and Fun Festival began and was held for about ten years.
In the 70’s and 80’s Massey Drive was a community buzzing with activity. The Recreation Committee started Junior Darts, the first league in the Bay of Islands. There were also Mens, Ladies and Mixed Darts; Mens, Ladies, Junior and Pee Wee Softball; and Junior and Pee Wee Soccer. In 1978 and 1979 the committee entered the kids in the Regional Summer Games in Pasadena. The committee’s events were mostly sports events and their teams didn’t win much, but the community gained. They learned leadership, friendship, and the true meaning of sportsmanship.
On June 6, 1978, after a year of negotiating by Kitty and Edgar Stratton, a deed for 18½ acres of land was received from Bowaters Ltd. for the Twin Lakes Park. In 2004 the present council put a walking trail with benches and garbage containers around Twin Lakes.
On October 20, 1981, the Town Council formed the Massey Drive Ladies Auxiliary, which consisted of two ladies from each of the Town Hall committees; Recreation Committee, Fire Department, Senior Citizens Club and Council along with ladies from the community. The Auxiliary did the catering to weddings, banquets, etc., along with holding other fund raising events. They presented the Recreation Committee with a merry-go-round for the playground and a set of 2-way radios to the Fire Department. The Auxiliary was a great asset to help purchase things for the Town Hall and Fire Department.
Anglican Church Services were held in the Town Hall during Lent. The World Wide Church of God rented the hall for many years for their services. Mr. and Mrs. Don Bilisoly held Sunday School in the Town Hall for about six years. The Bilisoly’s also bought the land which the first Rod and Gun Club (burned on January 25, 1974) was on, then built a Sunday School camp in Massey Drive. The Sunday School Camp operated for twenty-eight years until Mr. Bilisoly passed away three years ago. The camp was sold in 2005.
The Humber Log carried the Massey Drive notes for many years, first written by Mrs. Sarah Howe for a few months, and then written by my grandmother, Kitty Stratton, for fifteen years. All the news of who won at darts, what resident had a birthday or anniversary, who was visiting the town, who won in the different sports weekend events, etc. was sure to be found in the Massey Drive notes. The town also had its own monthly newsletter for many years, also written by my grandmother. The newsletter let the residents know of upcoming events, such as council meetings, dances, fundraising events and so on.
In 1984 the council was looking for a town crest and in April the design drawn by Mr. Rodney Stratton Sr. was chosen as the official town crest. The crest was then put on the town and fire department equipment. The Ladies Auxiliary put the town crest on souvenir spoons and pins.
There are three businesses in Massey Drive now. The only convenience store in Massey Drive now is owned and operated by Mrs. Barbara Chubbs; Mrs. Cindy Taylor operates a beauty salon from her house; and TNT Garage owned by Mr. Jerry Trask started in the community in 1997.
The first Bay of Islands Rod and Gun Club was the former Ski Club which burned on January 25, 1974, and then a new one was built at the end of Massey Drive which was opened in 1976 and remained in use until the winter of 2005. The building was sold recently to house a family restaurant called “Higher Ground” and the land will be put to use with tourism in mind.
Massey Drive continuously grew from 400 residents in 1976 to 736 residents in 1996 and while the population in other Newfoundland communities was decreasing, Massey Drive increased to 1,424 residents in 2005. As of 2020, Massey Drive has over 1,700 residents. We are one of Newfoundland’s largest growing communities.
Massey Drive is a wonderful place to live, where else can you leave on snowmobile form the back of your home to wherever you want to go; Gallants, Stephenville, Deer Lake, Howley, Bonne Bay, etc. Hunting has been prohibited within the boundaries of Massey Drive since 1978; therefore, there are many ducks that can be seen in the ponds in the community. You can fish here in the community. There are plenty of places for sliding, snowshoeing and snowboarding. In the summer, swimming in Twin Lakes or bike riding are favorite past-times.