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Happy birthday; Retired jeweller has seen a lot in past 98 years


Elias Tuma will celebrate his 98th birthday Sunday. The longtime city businessman now lives in Lark Harbour.

LARK HARBOUR - Elias Tuma has seen a lot of changes since he hauled water with a couple of buckets and hoop on the Green in Bell Island.

The long-time Corner Brook businessman was born on Bell Island 98 years ago Sunday. He currently lives in Lark Harbour, where he'll celebrate the occasion with friends.
He said when he was growing up on Bell Island, conditions were kind of rough, compared to modern times.

"There was no running water, no electricity and no lights," Tuma said. "Everything was done with kerosene lamps. I had to carry water. When I got to a certain age, I had to make sure the barrel we had was full of water ...I kept it full with two buckets and a hoop."

After spending the first part of his life on the province's east coast, his family moved to Corner Brook a couple of years after his father established a jewelry business on Broadway in 1921. He said Corner Brook was just beginning then with construction starting on the pulp and paper mill.

"I learned my trade from my father in the shop with him," he said. "I learned it pretty well, with jewelry especially."

In 1937, he struck out on his own and arrived in Bell Island with a sack with a few tools and $1.75 to set up his own shop. He stayed with his cousin Joe Basha for about three weeks before getting his business going.

Three years later, he moved his operation to Stephenville and in 1944, after his father died, he had to take over the Corner Brook business.

Tuma operated the shop on Broadway Monday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until February 2006 when he retired and moved to Lark Harbour.

Tuma said he loved the jewelry business and everything about it, but he had a special affinity for hand engraving.

It nearly broke his heart when he had to close the shop.

"The last 10 or 12 years I had my shop, I got robbed to death in my shop in Corner Brook," Tuma said. "You can't trust people anymore. You can't really trust them. I got to a point where I had to retire."

He was involved with hockey in Corner Brook, establishing the S.E. Tuma Memorial Trophy for the most prolific scorer in the Newfoundland Senior Hockey League in memory of his father Simon, who taught him the love of the sport.

"I was only 14 or 15 years old when my father said to me, 'we're making some presentations of trophies, do you want to go with me to the stadium?' " Tuma said. "I went with him and I'll always remember what he said. He said 'where else will you find a game with so much excitement and so much pleasure as the game of hockey?' That's what he said.

"He said, 'the game of hockey shows a man's true character,' and it does. You're under so much pressure trying to get a goal with speed and everything else."

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