Howard was born to John and Elizabeth Childs in Lark Harbour in 1950. During our 2016 interview, he recalled what the community was like when he was a boy, “We got the road through here when I was growing up,” he said, “Used to to have to go to Corner Brook by boat… That would take pretty much all day to go to Corner Brook and back again.”
His father fished in the Bay of Islands, mostly for herring and cod, before moving on to other jobs. “He fished for a while, he then he carried the mail back and forth to Corner Brook, and then he got into the bus service going back for to Corner Brook, and then he got into carpentry work,” Howard said. He remembers having horses, as well as sheeps and cows, when he was growing up. “He depended on the horses because he used to carry the mail… In the wintertime he’d go on the ice and in the summertime it’d be the motor boat. When they couldn’t use a motor boat, they’d have to walk along the shore as far as Frenchman’s Cove. He done more stuff in his days than I done.”
Howard worked in carpentry and learned how to build boats from being around his father while he built. “My father, it seemed like he had a gift for it. He was only, I think, seventeen or eighteen when he built his first motor boat, and went from there,” Howard said. He couldn’t say how many, but knows his father built dories, motor boats and six longliners. His last boat was a forty foot longliner built in 1981.
John Childs (Cape Island Boat)
“He learned on his own. Now let me tell you, the first boat he built, she wasn’t the prettiest boat around. But as they grew, he got it down, you know, pretty good…”
Howard starting building his own boats in the early 1990s, after his father passed away. “The last one he built… he said, ‘there’ll be no more boats built here,’ but a couple of years after he died, me and me brother [Eddie], we took it up to build one!” Howard estimates he’s built about twenty dories, but had to stop building due to health concerns. “I used to build a dory or two every winter, but this past three years I haven’t built neither one.” In addition to the dories, which he sold and traded, Howard has also built six longliners which were sold across the island.
Boat Building Lumber
“We use mostly plywood for the sides, and we use local plank from the building supplies. We used to cut years ago, go in the woods and get it ourselves, but we used to have a problem getting someone to saw it. Most all the mills were set up for 2″x4″s and 2″x6″s and they had to change everything to cut the plank for us. We go to the mills and by the 2″x10″ plank, sixteen feet long and put them through planners to make them our thickness.”