LUSHES BIGHT-BEAUMONT-BEAUMONT NORTH, NL — Sterling Morgan cherished his upbringing on Long Island so much, he raised his own family there too.
A native of Lushes Bight — the first of the now-amalgamated communities on Long Island in Notre Dame Bay — he moved for the riches of Toronto 1988.
That lasted eight and a half years before the longing for home became too great.
“I missed it that much that I had to move back here,” he said of life on the island. “I had to. I was homesick every day in Toronto.”
There were more than 200 students at the school when Morgan started there in 1972.
Taking a drive through the town on a late weekday morning these days, there is little sign of life anywhere.
When his daughter was old enough to start school, Long Island Academy was the educational facility she would enroll in. Their son and daughter would go on to graduate from the school on the island, which now has no students inside its doors.
There are no school-aged children left on Long Island.
The many scenic coves throughout the island have boats tied up in them and lobster pots line the wharves, showing fishing is still a major part of life here.
On this November day, no fishermen are manning their vessels. Later in the afternoon, one man is aboard his boat — seemingly preparing for the long winter that waits.
The only activity visible along the winding roads on that morning was one man working on some landscaping. As the day passed, it was obvious he was in no hurry to complete the job. He took his time as he worked a shovel over the grass and ground on his property.
“There was lots to do,” Morgan said about his childhood on Long Island. “There was never a boring moment. You made your own entertainment. You either played ball hockey on the road or the ice, stuff like that. There was always lots to do at school.”
Morgan didn’t come from a fishing family like many natives of Long Island communities. His father worked for the Department of Transportation, and his parents would later in life relocate to the mainland — which for residents of Lushes Bight-Beaumont-Beaumont North means one of the nearby communities of Robert’s Arm, Triton or Pilley’s Island.
In their case, it was Robert’s Arm. They now live in cottages in Springdale.
But Morgan and his wife Jacqueline still live on Long Island. He is the only one of the four siblings in his immediate family who stayed, and he raised his family in the home he grew up in.
“Kids (in Toronto) to me didn’t have freedom,” he said. “If my young fellow wanted to walk in the woods, he can do it here, and he did it here. He was free. We didn’t have to worry about them, losing them.”
He currently travels back and forth to the Baie Verte Peninsula, where he is employed with Rambler Metals and Mining. Travelling for work is not ideal he says, but it is far better than what he had to do to earn a living to keep his young family home on Long Island.
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Always something to do
His daughter is now attending university in Corner Brook and his son is working in Cape Breton. Morgan said he wished there could have been more athletic opportunities for them growing up, but certainly not enough to have any regrets about their decision to live on the island.
Returning to Lushes Bight, where Jacqueline is town clerk, he said they got involved in the community, volunteering with the fire department, school community, church and town.
“There is always something to do,” he said. “Volunteering is really important here.”
Morgan worked with a fish buyer on the island for more than a decade, but later would have to make a living in the mining industry up north. He also worked the Alberta oil sands for some time.
Flying in and out was not the life he wanted, but he made it work.
Life on the island now is very much different than it was in his and his children’s generations. The streets are void of trick-or-treaters on Halloween and he says Christmas has a different atmosphere without young spirits around to celebrate with.
“It’s different, it’s different, it’s different,” he said, seemingly taking some time to think about the old days. “But, you adapt.”
Morgan believes Long Island is still filled with potential. Tourism could be a major draw, he says. There is no way the people on the island are going to give up, he said, but he does worry about its future.
“You worry about it,” he said. “You think about it all the time. Everybody is getting older.”
Mayor Daniel Veilleux has made it a goal to re-ignite discussions on a causeway linking the island. It is only just over 500 metres across “The Tickle.”
Morgan believes there are many people living in communities nearby who would return if there were a causeway. Some of those are families, he said, and maybe someday kids would run the streets of Long Island again.
“I think it is a necessity,” he said of the causeway. “I think we need it here. And, I think it is going to happen. I have always said that.”