LABRADOR WEST, N.L.
Labrador West has without any doubt, a wonderful cross section of folks who are clearly eligible to be included in any conversation that would be recognizing our long and storied list of Pioneers.
There is no one who qualifies as a Labrador West Pioneer, a Wabush Pioneer, more than Fay Abercrombie.
She lives on her own in Wabush. Faye is in her 80th year and has a memory that would easily overshadow many folks half her age.
Fay was born in Quebec and came from a family whose Dad worked as a forestry engineer and found themselves moving on the average, every five years or so. When she was 22 years old she moved from Trenton, Ontario with three children in tow to be with her husband in Wabush, in October of 1961. Her husband Richard had come to Wabush as an exploration rock driller a few months earlier for an opportunity for steady work.
When she arrived at the Airport with the children the only road only went from the airport to the Wabush mine site where there was 15 trailers set up for workers and their families for accommodations as the workers performed the preliminary work to determine if there was enough ore in the ground to actually push the green light on a fully operational mine. As it turned out there was, and as the old saying goes, for the Abercrombie family, the rest was history.
The 15 families had accommodation’s in their trailer on the mine site, and they picked up their groceries at the cafeteria where the rest of the workers who were staying in the bunk houses had their meals, that was at the present day site of Fitz’s store.
Slowly but surely, a working campsite was turning into a town. Streets were constructed, homes were constructed and before long Wabush became a town.
Fay was quick to say it became a great little town, a close-knit community that was full of pride. The children all went to school together, younger ones and older ones all together. When they got the Rec Centre built it was home for Sunday school for all the kids no matter the denomination. There was yet to be any churches constructed — they came later.
For the adults, they only had each other, a tight knit group of folks who worked together and socialized together. She emphasized the fact that it was a community of all the folks who were joined together and supported each other as one.
Fay spoke with pride as she described how the community grew and with the passage of a bit of time, and hard work, they had it all. Progress and the growth that came with it, saw a new Dominion Grocery Store, a pharmacy ran by Joe Dicks, a doctor’s office with Dr. McCarthy attending, and with the new streets, a taxi ran by Manuel Dove and a town policeman, Steve Arsenault. Fay not only smiled with pride but said that they had everything that anyone would need.
Fay and Richard added a fourth child to their family 10 years after their arrival in Wabush. They lived their lives working away and raising their family in Wabush for all of these years.
Fay has a collection of photographs on the walls of her home, which she has been alone in, since the passing of Richard in 1999. The photographs that she has on her walls, are her greatest pride and joy. They contain her family that includes her and Richard’s four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, with number five on the way.
As always, the question comes up, any regrets in finding yourself as a true Wabush Pioneer? She only laughed.
“Not a single one, it has been a wonderful place to raise our children, only some snow and cold and some extra flies in the summer to manage, a lot better than many places in the world,” she said. “We as a family and as a community always felt safe and always had each other to count on when we needed a hand, who could ask for more. I’m not going anywhere, this is my home.”