LUSHES BIGHT-BEAUMONT-BEAUMONT NORTH, NL — Murray and Hilda Burton live in the renovated one-room schoolhouse Murray once attended in Beaumont South.
It says a lot about the lovely couple, who live in the town now called Lushes Bight-Beaumont-Beaumont North.
The Burtons are just two of many of Long Island’s 168 residents who would say the decision-makers butchered the name of their now-amalgamated community.
After the five-minute ferry ride to the isolated island in Notre Dame Bay, several residents – who are more than happy to welcome you into their homes for a friendly chat and to share their life stories – say the name of their town is too long. Most refer to it as Long Island rather than its official name.
Regardless of its name, Ontario and Manitoba paled in comparison to life on the island for the Burtons.
“It was a wonderful spot,” Murray said. “The best place in the world. It was freedom. You could do what you like — go around shore kicking rocks, ride your bike, chase horses, play hopscotch.”
Murray was born and raised across the street from the one-room schoolhouse he would years later purchase, renovate and call his home.
He lived “up the arm,” and would never break the rules as a young boy by hanging out with the kids from Lushes Bight, “down the arm,” or Ward’s Harbour, for instance. As he got older, he says he realized that was more the parents’ way of keeping them close to home and out of trouble.
Murray’s father was a fisherman. In 1949 at the age of 10, he became a fisherman too. He fished off the shores of Long Island for eight years before he left the island for work. He spent time in the mining and logging industries in central Newfoundland for more than a decade before leaving for Ontario to earn a better living.
Hilda was born in Ward’s Harbour, but her family moved to Robert’s Arm when she was just two years old. The family home was floated across to the mainland — what many of the islanders call the rest of the Notre Dame Bay area within clear eyesight across “the tickle.”
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The “other” mainland
The Burtons, who have two sons and have been married for 51 years, would spend some 40 years of their adult lives together on the “other” mainland.
They lived in different places in Ontario and Manitoba between 1969 and 1980. They returned to Long Island for eight years and then went back to Manitoba in 1988.
Eventually, it was retirement and home to stay in 2005.
In the early years in Ontario, Murray worked in a vehicle manufacturing plant. Hilda also worked in a factory making car parts. Later, Murray went into the mining industry.
It was very difficult to leave Newfoundland as a young couple looking to start a family. They had been married for three years, and Murray was working three months on and 10 days off in Churchill Falls at the time.
It just wasn’t the life they wanted.
“We were young and it was like going on an adventure,” Hilda said. “It seemed like it was great, but when we got to the city of Windsor, Ont. — five minutes from Detroit city — it wasn’t so great. I did a lot of crying.”
After growing up on Long Island and Robert’s Arm, city life was a big shock to the couple. They say it was always a dream to return home.
After Murray’s mother died in 1979, they decided it was time to come home and spend time with family. Making a living back on Long Island again proved difficult. Hilda would drive taxi for eight years.
Despite the challenges, life was good.
“It was a beautiful place to live,” Hilda said. “I think our kids really loved it here.”
The difficult decision of having to move to Ontario came again. The boys were 16 and eight years old at the time of the move, and it was difficult on them.
“I cried,” Hilda said, taking a moment to compose herself over the memory.
“I cried from here to the ferry … There were two little kids on the doorstep when we left, and they were crying and saying, ‘please don’t go.’ They didn’t want us to leave. That made it that much worse.”
They contemplated turning around when the boarded the ferry, but continued on.
“We should’ve turned around,” Murray said.
“He has said that many times,” Hilda said. “But, maybe it was meant to be. Our oldest son found his wife up there and we have two beautiful grandsons.”
Life in Ontario was good to them, but Long Island was home.
“This was more of a home than anywhere else ever was,” Hilda said.
Despite the many changes from their childhoods or their previous return, the past 12 years on Long Island have been everything they could ask for.
Hilda is part of a quilting group of 15 to 20 people who gather at Long Island Academy. There are no longer any school-aged children on the island, so the facility is free for such community activities. She is on the Come Home Year Committee making plans for 2018, and is a part of the 50-plus organization that meets on Wednesdays.
The Burtons get out to community events frequently planned to celebrate life in the island.
“I am never bored,” Hilda said. “I don’t have enough time to do what I want to do.”
Murray is a busy 78-year-old. He is currently lending a hand to a friend building a fishing stage. He is the go-to guy on Long Island if somebody needs a house or building torn down.
Despite a few warnings from the town council, his property slightly resembles a salvage yard. He loves to pick at old vehicles, scrapping them and hauling them to the dump.
“It’s the type of person I am, I guess,” he said. “I am like my old man like that I guess. He was never idle for five minutes, and I guess I must be the same thing.
“I have no time to go up in the living room and sit down and watch TV, until dark anyway.”
When Beaver Pond freezes over, Murray will be in cutting his own firewood.
“When I retired I wanted the life I now got,” he said.
“To me, this is the life of retirement,” Hilda added.
I wouldn't have it any other way," Murray finished off their thought.