“We were fairly well isolated in Herring Neck. We thought this was the world here when we were growing up. Twillingate was big- you know, to make a trip to Twillingate would take a day almost to get there,” Max Hussey recalled.
Located on the northeastern side of New World Island in Notre Dame Bay, Herring Neck is composed of a number of communities including Ship Island, where Max was raised in the 1950s.
“We had a rodney and a motor boat with a four horsepower Atlantic,” he said. “During the winter when it froze up, ya know, you could walk then, or I had a team of dogs that I used to use going back and forth on the ice. I would go to school on dogs sometimes and tie them onto the school bridge. In the evening when I got out of school, I would take the dogs and go for a ride.”
“We had a one-room school on Ship Island,” said Max. “All grades, from kindergarten to grade eleven all in the one classroom. About 30-35 students.”
Following Confederation in 1949, the government began to focus on improving the quality and accessible of education. By the late 1950s, a bursary program was set up to offer qualifying students the opportunity to move away from home to attend a regional high school. Max passed the qualifying test and left his one-room schoolhouse on Ship Island to attend grade nine in Buchans, a mining town in central Newfoundland with a population of more than two thousand people at that time.
Max talks about going to school
“I was very happy to go. Until I got in there and it was a different story altogether. I was homesick, I would say, for three or four months. You know now, taking me out of Herring Neck and putting me in Buchans. We never saw electricity [in Herring Neck]. I didn’t know how to flush a toilet! I was in there a week before I done anything because I didn’t want to do anything in the house.”
After completing high school Max spent one year as principal at St. Peter’s School, a three-room schoolhouse once located beside St. Peter’s Church in Twillingate, before going on to attend Memorial University in 1964.
During the summer, Max would return to Herring Neck where he spent his summers fishing to pay his way through school. At twelve dollars per quintal (one hundred and twelve pounds), “you’d have to handle a lot of fish to get $1,000,” said Max. Following university, Max became a teacher at Twillingate Central High (renamed J.M. Olds Collegiate in 1980).
Max’s interest in boat building was sparked when a colleague took on a boat building project. The following winter, Max decided to build one for himself. Learning as he went, Max turned to other boat builders in the area for guidance. He noted his wife’s uncle, Walter Cooper, as a particularly strong influence. “He was a great boat builder, he was. Very particular fellow.”
“My first boat was a sixteen foot speed boat. And every year after that I built one, I would say, during the whole thirty years I was teaching. Some years I built two.” Max estimates he’s built about forty boats, all speed boats aside from a handful of rowboats he built in the later years.
“I don’t think there was ever one built the same. I always change it, try to make it better. Sometimes it made it worse…” Max laughed.
Max talks about building speed boats