In Gambo Newfoundland I held hands with Joey Smallwood, the first premier of the province and the man who was behind Newfoundland becoming a part of Canada in 1949.
I have been reading The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnson during our time in Newfoundland. It is a fictionalized account of Joey Smallwood’s life. The book makes me appreciate Joey Smallwood for the things he accomplished, how he survived through incredible hardship, and his dedication to his ideals. But there are some things about the way he is portrayed in the book that I don’t find appealing. I don’t like the way he treats women. I don’t like his single-mindedness and inability to consider other points of view. I felt sad about the seeming lack of real pleasure and personal joy in his life.
I have read that Joey Smallwood was a much more interesting and likeable figure in real life than he is portrayed in Johnson’s book. There are many people who admire the way he pulled Newfoundland into Canada and really into the modern world. But I also have talked to people here in Newfoundland who don’t like Joey Smallwood because he shut down many small communities where people had lived for hundreds of years and basically forced them to resettle in other places.
We decided to stop in Gambo on our way to Gross Morn National Park because I had read they had some nice hiking trails. Finding the Joey Smallwood statue and learning more about his story in Gambo, was one of those coincidental things that happens sometimes when you travel. And now I can say that I’ve held Joey Smallwood’s hand.