Joe Goudie

Joe Goudie at his canoe shop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Joe Goudie at his canoe shop in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

“I can’t remember not using them,” said Joe about canoes, “either being a little passenger in them or paddling them myself.” Born in 1939 into a family of trappers in Mud Lake, Labrador, Joseph Goudie grew up around canoes. His father, Jim, and brother, Horace, would paddle for five weeks each fall to reach their trap line. Leaving the canoe behind, they would snowshoe for twenty-two days home to Mud Lake, towing a toboggan of pelts.

Family of Trappers…

“He had to build a canoe every year, as did a lot of other trappers,” said Joe, “They used mostly white spruce and covered it with canvas and then painted it… They were probably not as fussy as I am because it was only going to be one trip right? Paddle it in the country and leave it.”

In 1941, Jim and his wife Elizabeth moved their family to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. With a decline in the fur trade industry, Jim found work building the Goose Air Base and continued to work as a carpenter once the base was constructed.

Joe attended the first school in Happy Valley, completed high school and went on to postsecondary education. His varied career included working as a broadcaster with CBC, sitting in NL House of Assembly and working for the Department of National Defence.

Joe’s Ferry Service

Ferry Service

“I guess you could say I operated a ferry service here for one summer. We lived right out here on the bank, just behind where this house is now, and there was a canoe there. There was no road there, no Hamilton River Road, just here in town and it didn’t even have a name then.

So if you came down from the base or you were going to base, you have to get across this creek out here and walk up Birch Island up as far as the boat club, it used to be called. Then there was a road down to the river from the base. That was about five kilometres or more.

We’d get visitors, some of the military guys on their days off would be down around town… I’d be out on the bank here watching and see them show up on the island. If there was no other canoe there, I’d paddle across and paddle them back for twenty-five cents a person…

I made big bucks when I was ten or twelve years old. When you consider at the time, you could go to the Astro Theatre on the ‘Canadian side’ we called it (the ‘north side’ they call it now) and  for twenty five cents you could see a movie, buy a coke and a little paper plate full of chips and gravy. Man, what a treat for twenty-five cents! Of course, you had to walk there six or seven miles to get it, but hey, we were running all over the country anyways.”

“Before the base came, we lived by the season. A lot of fish in the summer, meat in the fall, and so on,” Joe said. “When I was growing up, if you got aboard a canoe and paddled for fifteen minutes you would be out in what would refer to as the wilderness – you were out in the country,” he described. “We hunted ducks and geese from the canoe in the spring and used them for trapping until freeze up.”

In the spring, migratory birds would arrive on Grand River (also known as Churchill River or Mishtashipu) before the ice had broken up, so hunters would paint their canoes white, dress in white, and put a white “fly” in front of them across the gunnels of the canoe to camouflage themselves.

“That one on the right, the short white one,” said Joe pointing to a paddle hung in his shop, “that’s used for duck hunting.” Joe explains that in order to get to the ducks, they had to have a paddle that was short enough that your hand wouldn’t reach up over the fly and silent enough that it would not startle them. “That’s why the wool is on her, so if she touched the gunnels it wouldn’t make any noise.”

Joe learned how to build canoes in 1996 and started the Grand River Canoe Company the following year. “This was more of hobby for me than a business. It was a business, I made them commercially, and they were a custom build, but it was also a hobby.” After taking a break from building for almost three years, Joe returned to his craft in 2014.

Read more about Joe Goudie’s canoes in our next post.

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7 thoughts on “Joe Goudie

  • June 29, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    We are so very proud of you Joe. In all that you have done for the Labrador region.

  • June 29, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Congrats “unk” in that you done. My friend

  • June 29, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Hi joe nice to see what u are up to I have bounced off a guy you mite have met bill Miller he builds beautiful canoes too

  • June 30, 2016 at 10:20 am

    So good to hear Joe’s voice again! When I worked for the IGA in 1968 and 1969, Joe invited me to do a ten week series of folk music on CFGB; “Hank Mixsell Sings.” I remember fondly the hours we spent in the studio and Joe’s gentle, friendly personality. Although I knew he was a native Labradorian, I had no idea he was a master canoe builder!

    Please give him my very best regards. Those two years spent in North West River remain some of the best days of my life.

  • July 2, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    Very nice, Joe.

  • July 18, 2016 at 9:57 pm

    hi joe so nice to remiss my days in happy valley i lived across from horace hope to make one more trip back to the goose hi to all
    cheers john j metcalfe

  • March 20, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    In the mid 1960’s both Joe and I were single guys in Goose Bay and saw each other frequently. When the marriage bug struck me Joe sang at our wedding – a great baritone voice. On one occasion Joe and I flew to Cartwright in an RCMP aircraft, so he could interview a man by the name of Mickey Bird for a CBC program. At that time with CBC Goose Bay, there was a Saturday afternoon program called The Mokamee Mountaineers, with Gord and Unk. Joe was Unk and obviously he changed his radio voice to suit the new character. When he asked Mickey Bird for an interview, he was turned down due to apparent shyness. But when he found out that Joe was Unk, from his favourite radio program, Mickey was not short of words at that time – Joe got the interview he sought. I was transfered to various points in Newfoundland and Labrador in the ensuing years, but would give him a phone call on occasion, just to keep in touch. You will not meet a nicer man than Joe Goudie and I am happy to call him a friend.


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