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Reproduced with permission from The Beacon Supplement July 29, 1987

 

Ed Pittman & His Historical House

Thanks to his own ingenuity, Edmund Pittman has a constant living link with the past.  His home has precious historic value, it being a leftover from oldtime Gander.  It went up in 1942 as the last home built at the old town site.house

Just to view the home, which is left intact with the same charming appearance and layout, is an experience.  Though it takes the observer back it also does something as a contribution to the new town.  For many it bridges a noted gap in living memory.

Ed Pittman, as he is commonly known, who is still spry at 77, is an apt host.  He, too, speaks for the past at Gander, having raised a family there.

Mr. Pittman, a native of Sop’s Island, White Bay, had his initial contact with airports in 1940 when he found employment at Harmonfield, Stephenville.  From there he was transferred to Fort Pepperell, St. John’s, another USAF base, then later, found work at Torbay, as a heavy equipment mechanic.

The officer in charge knew Bob Bradley, the chief engineer at Gander and it was through this officer that Mr. Pittman was offered a job as a stationery engineer at Gander. 

He didn’t take the position immediately, instead, he went to sea on a boat owned by Crosbie and Co. but advised Bradley that if the position was available later in the year he would probably take it.  This he did on returning from the sea.  It was late in 1946.  His family, wife, Carmen; sons, Bud (Walter) (still at Gander); Eddie and daughters, Rubie and Eileen, followed him to Gander in 1947.

He admitted that his heart was really in going to sea but there wasn’t much choice in the matter, since, like any breadwinner, he was compelled to go where opportunity offered the most for living. 

On arriving at Gander, the family took up residence in an apartment located on Foss Ave – Building 198.  There were 18 families living in the building and relationships were good.

“Those were the best of days.  I loved living in the old townsite.  We were all together.  We knew everybody.  We lived like one big family.  Someone would say come in for coffee or come in for a beer!  It was great!  As far as I’m concerned it was the best of Gander,” was the way Mr. Pittman summed it up.

Eventually a part of this apartment building would be needed as an expansion to a school so the Pittman family moved across the street to 110, a same kind of an apartment.  Mr. Pittman said these apartments were steam heated, comfortable and he considered the rent to be cheap.

With time came changes and the start in construction of a new town site, so, as was the case with other families, the Pittman family had to vacate, as well.  The new town was already taking shape and they moved to an apartment on Elizabeth Drive,  they were one of the last families to move from the RCAF side. 

In 1960 Mr. Pittman and his wife just happened to be out for a drive when they noticed a “For Sale” sign on a remaining home in the old town site.  They knew the home was the property of Imperial Oil and Mr. Pittman decided to inquire of the sale, because he was impressed by the home.

He was advised that tenders were being called for the purchase of the home, which had to be removed, and that these tenders were due to close the next day.  When Imperial Oil learned of his interest in buying the home they allowed him time to look into any obstacles that would block removal of the home to the new town site but first Mr. Pittman had to consult with Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, to determine whether there was a building lot available that he could purchase to put the home on.

What he needed, basically, was a lot near the outskirts of town, so as to avoid most moving obstructions in regard to overhead wires, streets and construction, located elsewhere in town, and a clear route to that location from where the house stood.

Fortunately, he was able to come up with all of the requirements.  The home is located at 2 Blackwood Drive about as near to the old town site that a home at the new Gander can be, and to this outskirt position he was able to move the home, using a flatbed trailer, along a route that offered no interference.

It was still no easy chore, however.  Tediously, and with much endurance and patience, he was able to slip the home from its original concrete foundation to the truck, using railway iron tracts.  Also, a three-flue brick chimney was dismantled piece by piece, cleaned and later, once the home was moved to the new location and basement, he had this chimney placed back into a two-flue arrangement, because he felt the third one was not necessary.

He said the home was removed without any damage, whatsoever, and with the home a garage was removed, as well, which he has since enlarged at Blackwood.

Today, the three-bedroom, two storey home at Blackwood Drive which had been built at the end of Foss Avenue in the old town site 45 years ago, with the same siding, stands out as a vivid reminder of what things used to be like. 

Mr. Pittman, an informed all round handyman, spoke well of the building quality of the home, saying how it had oak floors and was sheeted inside and out with matched lumber.  “They don’t build them like that anymore,” he remarked of the solid quality of the house.  Mr. Pittman himself has a special quality too, one which represents an era, when the jack-of-all trades prevailed, doing just about everything necessary for the survival of the home and family, be it in carpentry, mechanics or what have you.  pittman

He retired 12 years ago from Transport Canada, after serving 28 years and three months as a heavy equipment mechanic.  “I learned to like Gander once I settled into a job,” he recalled. 

Now with his memories and retirement he does a little backyard vegetable farming besides having a few fruit trees and, in a concrete way, literally, he is at home with the past and the present.

Researched by Carol Walsh

 

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