Well, my name is Rita, and I don’t mind giving my age. I’m 90 years old, so I’m not very good at talking, but I will share my story if anyone wants to hear it.
My father always worked in New York in those days, as all the other men from this town I grew up in, Conception Harbour. The men would come to New York and work, and they would go home Christmas time. And they all had wives in Conception Harbour, the town I come from, and they would go home for Christmas. So mostly all the people in Conception Harbour that I grew up with, they were all born in September because their husbands all came on Christmas time!
But my mother had died. She had cancer of the stomach, and she had a tube in her stomach. And my older sister was taking care of her and feeding her through a tube in the stomach until she died. And my older sister got married. And of course, she was only a couple of years older than I was, she was only 18 or 19, and she stayed in Conception Harbor with her husband, and my father sent my older brother home.
My older brother was in Brooklyn also. And they all did ironwork. They put up all the buildings in New York in those days. My brother had bought a house, a two-family house, and he lived upstairs; he was married with a wife and three kids. And my father lived downstairs and my father took me and my two sisters back from Conception Harbor to live with him.
I think I was about 16 or 17 at the time, so not able to support myself. So naturally you did what your father told you to do. And my older brother flew to Conception Harbor to bring us back. When I left home, which was Newfoundland and is now a part of Canada, that was back in 1951.
My two younger sisters, one was 13 and one was 10, and I came to Brooklyn. And we came from that place in Conception Harbour and we had to go to Gander to get a BOAC plane to fly to Brooklyn. And when we got to Gander, it was 3:00 in the morning and the plane wasn’t due in until about 5:00am.
But when it did come in, there was a BOAC that came in from Europe. You know, in 1951, all the planes would come down in Gander to refuel. And a plane came in to refuel, which was not the one we were scheduled to leave on. It just came in to refuel. And the attendant at BOAC asked my brother if we would like to go on that plane – it had four vacant seats. And he said yes, even though we had to separate, we weren’t sitting together.
They sat me in a seat with another lady. And I felt comfortable on the plane, my very first time on a plane. How old was I, 16? I think I was 16 or 17, and I was tired. It was 4:00 in the morning and I felt kind of tired and sleepy, and I was dozing off to sleep, on and off.
And each time I woke up, the light was blinking on the plane’s wing, and I thought it was a light on the ground. And I said, “When are we going to leave?” I had no recollection of ever flying, moving from the airport. I thought we were still on the ground, and I would doze off to sleep again. And each time I would wake up, I would see this light at the end of the wing. And I thought, ‘My God, when are we ever going to get to New York?’
And I sat comfortably with this lady. She was a lady from Paris. She was from France. And I saw the light on the end of the plane, and I still thought we were on the ground.
And I asked her, “When are we going to take off? We’re still on the ground.”
And she said: “Oh, no, we’re going to land. That was not a light on the ground, that was a light on the wing of the plane!”
I had no recollection of any movement at all. I never knew the plane went up in the air. And when it landed on the ground, I had no feeling. I had no problem with my ears or anything, no trouble whatsoever. Since then, when I fly, I do sometimes have trouble with my ears, but I didn’t that one first flight, I never had any trouble with my ears.
That’s my story for today.