Stan White was born March 4, 1914, in Kippens, to Luke and Florence
(Gallant) White. His forebears, Whites (LeBlancs), Gallants, Benoits and
Blanchards were all Acadian/Mi’kmaq residents of the Stephenville
area. He was the third of thirteen children of a typical family of that
era. His father fished and did enough farming to feed the family. Later,
when the paper mill in opened in Corner Brook in the 1920’s, there was
seasonal but back-breaking work in the lumber woods.
Stan’s family was largely self-sufficient and Stan, early in life, acquired
essential survival skills and a strong work ethic. He was known as a
man who could turn his hand to anything, even becoming a tolerable
good cook. They grew vegetables and had a large strawberry garden,
raised cattle, sheep, pigs and hens, and made all their own clothing.
The family was well known in the area for their plum orchard, which
Stan’s brother, Gilbert, maintained for many years. They sheared the
sheep, carded and spun the wool, and wove cloth. Practically
everything was homemade. Stan said he got his first pair of new store-
bought shoes at fourteen.
Stan had very little formal schooling, but learned to read and write on
his own. Like most people in the area, Stan spoke only French as a child
and started learning English when he went to work. He said he always
thought in French and translated into English. He and his wife
continued to converse with each other in French throughout their long
Stan started snaring rabbits at the age of nine, selling the meat for ten
cents and the skins for five. At ten he learned from his grandfather how
to trap and dress skins (or fix them, as Stan said) and the first year
caught thirteen weasels and sixty-nine muskrats. He and his father
travelled to Stephenville Crossing by horse and cart to trade the fur for
a cart load of flour, sugar, tea and other food for the family. Stan said
he felt as proud as if he were twenty years old instead of ten.
Stan went to work in the lumber woods at the age of fifteen, first as a
cookee and, after a couple of years, as a lumberjack. Early in his career
as a lumberjack Stan became very ill, the result of working too hard in
the hot sun. He was very weak and lost his eyesight. A doctor in Corner
Brook told him he would be dead in three months but Stan proved him
wrong. It took him over a year to recuperate but the first season after
returning to the woods Stan cut two hundred sixty-seven cords of
pulpwood in one hundred days, beating eleven hundred other men.
Stan said that the experience of being sick taught him that you have to
pace yourself at hard work and develop a rhythm, letting your tools do
the cutting. That philosophy worked well for Stan who continued to
work hard for the rest of his life.
Stan married Geraldine Gaudon and the couple had five children,
Harvey, Everett, Cecilia, Neil and Conrad.
At the age of twenty-three Stan, newly married, took on a contract to
clear a roadway for thirty cents a hundred feet. On his best day he
made three dollars at that job, and eight and a half cents on the worst
He and two brothers in 1937 walked to Corner Brook looking for work.
All the jobs in the camps were taken but they secured a contract to cut
three hundred cords of wood in a rough area where no one else
wanted to cut. They walked another seventeen miles to a remote
location and built a camp out of sticks caulked with moss and hay, after
first digging down through four feet of snow. They found an old stove,
beat it apart with a hammer, and built a small stove out of some of the
parts held together with wire. They cut and piled wood all day, cooked
and ate supper in the evening, made bread for the next day, and got up
before daylight to do it all again. It was so cold that the bread wouldn’t
rise so they took the bread pan to their shared bunk and kept it warm
by keeping it between them. There was so much snow that year that
by the end of the winter they had to climb ten steps to get up out of
Stan and his young family lived in Kippens for some years but moved to
Stephenville about the time the American base started and he and his
wife kept boarders. He worked for a while as a labourer on the base
and later he worked on the boilers.
In the mid-fifties he decided to build a hotel and sold his car for three
hundred dollars to get money to start. Stan cut all the logs for the
lumber with a bucksaw and did a lot of the construction himself. The
hotel had thirteen rooms and three baths, which he later expanded into
White’s Hotel and Motel. Rooms cost three dollars a night at first and
one American customer complained, when presented with a bill for six
dollars, that he didn’t want to buy the place, just rent a room.
Stan expanded the hotel and added the motel with efficiency units as
time went on. He continued to cut all the logs for lumber and used
hand cut pine for panelling. He cut the pine with a bucksaw, hauled the
eight foot logs out of the woods with a hand sleigh, and loaded them
aboard his pick-up truck. Three logs of twenty or more inches in
diameter made a load.
The original building was heated by a wood furnace for which Stan
supplied all the fuel. He also grew practically all the vegetables that
were used in the dining room. Stan grew what he could on his own
property but there wasn’t nearly enough room so, using only a shovel,
rake and hoe, he planted, cultivated and harvested carrots, turnips,
cabbages and strawberries in small plots in the woods where he had
felled the trees and removed the stumps. Stan was proud of his
success at growing vegetables and was generous with them if you
happened to meet him coming out of the woods.
Stan opened a bar, Stan’s Place, which became one of the most popular
watering spots in town. He featured traditional musicians who played
the music that he loved. There were always instruments available so
that local players could have lively jam sessions. Stan could often be
found there, relaxing after a hard day’s work, chatting with his friends,
and, of course, telling stories in his colourful way.
The Homemade Kitchen, a restaurant next to the bar, was one of the
Stephenville’s best places to eat.
Stan was known for honesty and square dealing. He couldn’t
understand why people would not pay their bills and he felt hurt when
people cheated him. A friend of Stan’s, a man who had been a logger
like Stan, had sold some logs to a local sawmill, but never got paid.
Every time they met Stan would ask his friend if he had been paid for
his logs and Stan would shake his head in wonderment or disgust when
he said no. Just days before Stan’s death his friend went to visit him
and the first thing Stan asked was if he ever got paid for his logs. This
was years after the sawmill had closed and the owner had passed away.
Stan lived a productive eighty-seven years, continuing his labours until
just a few years before his death in January, 2001. Stan spent his last
couple of years at the Bay St. George Long Term Care facility.
To use one of Stan’s favourite expressions, “I mean to say, hard work
was no stranger to me.”