My lobster trap from Newfoundland

A good friend of mine is about to head out to Newfoundland for a road trip of the province.  She and her husband always come up with incredibly adventurous and creative ways to experience their destination and her upcoming trip had me waxing nostaligic for the family cross-country trips we took.   One of those trips was to the East Coast of Canada — through the gorgeous Quebec coastline, called the Gaspe, through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Anne of Green Gables’ Prince Edward Islands, and finally, across the ocean by ferry to Newfoundland.  I was very young…a tween…but there were so many things we saw and did that captured my imagination and impressed nature’s beauty upon me, that it influenced many of my choices later on in life.  Seeing my country by road trip, the love of travel that my parents instilled in me, and the value of taking the time to breathe in local flavor, shaped the way I travel and see the world today.  On that trip, there were two very bizarre episodes that have stayed with me for the last almost 40 years.

The first was driving up the Gaspe coast.  And it wasn’t the coastline.  It was the Phentex.  Back in the ’70’s, there was a knitting phenomenon in Quebec, due to the creation of a polyster yarn called Phentex.  It was a brightly colored, never-fade yarn that was all the rage.  Women (mostly) knitted scarves, hats, mittens and the ubiquitous Phentex “slipper”.   There were Phentex ponchos, covered hangers, pot holders, baby bibs.  If it could be knit, it was.  The other beauty of Phentex was that you could get multi-colored yarn, so that you’d have a color pattern in your knit, without having to cut and tie off from different balls of yarn.

And all up and down the coast, as far as the eye could see, in every town, Gaspe women were selling their Phentex crafts.  We knew that because the vendors put out signs that read “Phentex”, to ensure that tourists wouldn’t miss their wares.  I bought some Phentex yarn and knitting needles and knitted my way across the eastern coast of Canada. 

That winter, my aunt, my grandmother, and a family friend all gave me Phentex slippers. 

My grandmother gave me two pair.  One was blue and white, the other green and white.  I had them for 15 years.  Finally tossed them when I moved from Montreal to Toronto.   They were still in good shape and I’m sure still sitting intact in a landfill somewhere in Quebec, along with tons of other discarded Phentex slippers.  In fact, when Quebec is rediscovered in 1,000 years, archeologists will marvel at the sheer quantity of Phentex slippers in Quebec landfills.  I’m sure they will determine that some sort of religious ritual required the crafting and wearing of Phentex slippers!

The OTHER bizarre episode was during our visit to Newfoundland.  The Eastern coast of Canada boasts a very robust fishing industry, with extremely poor fisherman.  From Nova Scotia to Newfoundland, fishermen spend their summers catching fish and trapping lobster (kids at school knew you were poor if you showed up to school with a lobster sandwich for lunch) and winters on unemployment and restringing their lobster traps and fishing nets.  In Newfoundland, we saw so many lobster traps, with their ingenious entrance to the hold and we were captivated.  Eventually my dad bought a trap for one dollar, along with netting and colored glass floats.  We strapped the trap to the roof of the car , reboarded the ferry to the mainland, and drove back to our home in Montreal.  The lobster trap lived in our themed basement for many years.  Nets and glass floats hung from the ceiling and the lobster trap held a place of honor hung on the wall.    When I moved to Toronto in 1982, I took the lobster trap with me and it has lived with me ever since.  It probably cost $40 or $50 to pay for the moving of the trap from Eastern Canada to the Western United States, but I couldn’t leave it behind.

Right now it is holding a new place of honor next to my vegetable garden where it proudly holds my gardening tools.  Unlike the Phentex slippers, I’m allowing it to gracefully rejoin the earth and nature, but should it still be undisintegrated by 2020, when it will officially be considered and “antique”, I may consider selling it to the highest bidder.

3 thoughts on “My lobster trap from Newfoundland

  1. Loved your comments about the Phentex slippers. I live in California make them as gifts sometimes, and from now on add a note related to phentex and the Quebecois landfills, just for fun! Thank you.

  2. Please, do you have a pattern for the slippers that you entioned. When my husband and I took my Mother back to St. John Newfoundland I met those slippers. I am really wanting to make them. My Mom died in my arms 9 years ago, and along with that went the patten. She never wrote anything down. Thank you so much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *