‘When I smell kerosene or jet fuel, I automatically think of home’

The Memory Mug Up offers a venue for Newfoundland seniors to reminisce and share.

Arthur Green

Storytelling is one of the most powerful and meaningful ways of communication.

The common stereotype is that young people no longer listen when their parents or grandparents talk about their own childhoods. They put in their earbuds and block out the world.

But a new initiative is hoping to preserve the stories of Newfoundland and Labrador’s seniors, even if it’s only amongst themselves.

The Memory Mug Up is an informal story-sharing session where people gather, sip cups of tea and share their memories. It is organized every Wednesday by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. The most recent Mug Up was held at the Majorie Mews Library in St. John’s.

Patricia E. Lacey attends Memory Mug Up to listen to the history of her peers. The Memory Mug Up is hosted every Wednesday by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Arthur Green/Kicker

Kent John Peyton ’s father served in the Royal Air Force’s 125 Newfoundland Night Fighter Squadron. He told the mild-mannered group of seniors in attendance he was named Kent in remembrance of his father’s war-time buddy.

Peyton was asked by event organizer Dale Jarvis to think back and remember a smell from his childhood.

“When I smell kerosene or jet fuel, I automatically think of home,” he said.

Peyton’s hometown is Gander. When he was young the town handled a high volume of the province’s aviation traffic and his father was an aircraft mechanic. Peyton brought two unique objects with him, a bottle of 1947 Chateau Gloria wine from St. Julien, with it’s withered cork, and an old flight menu.

In 1947, there was a Pan American World Airways flight going from New York to Paris catered by Maxim’s restaurant that landed in Gander. The flight featured a seven-course meal and needed to be heated in electrical ovens, that, from his father’s standpoint, was a nightmare. When  the ovens broke, his father leapt into action.

“My father managed to repair the ovens and the ecstatic flight attendant gave my dad the bottle as a memento to show her gratitude. I’ve had it ever since,” Payton said, as he carefully handed around the treasure.

Anne-Marie Moore from Corner Brook shared her story about her brother who was killed in the Second World War. She was five years old when the war ended. Arthur Green/Kicker

Anne-Marie Moore, from Corner Brook, was another participant at the Mug Up.

“I remember the day the war was over. I was 5 years old,” she said.

Moore’s brother Billy was killed overseas in the Second World War and found it difficult to talk about the memory. He had just turned 20 years old.

“When you talk about coincidence, my father’s only brother got killed in action Feb. 8, 1917, same day as Billy,” she said about her uncle who served in the First World War.

A day after the Second World War ended, she said there was a parade where all the kids were banging wooden spoons on pots and pans. Shouts of delight filled the air with song while children danced and played their makeshift instruments.

Even though her mother had lost one of her sons in the war, she still came out of the house and sat on the porch to watch the children celebrate.

“I was just a tot and I remember she was crying but still present and I began to cry, too. That’s very vivid.”

Organizer Terra Barrett says the Memory Mug Up is vital in preserving stories that are so often unheard.

“It’s really important to record and share these stories as they are an interesting but perhaps lesser known part of our history,” Barrett said.