Joan Rusted says that researching her new book, St. John’s; A Brief History (Breakwater Books / 141 pp / $14.95) was a labour of love.
“I have a background in History and Political Science and drew much of the historical information and analysis from my studies, the fantastic library and the Centre for Newfoundland Studies at Memorial University, public archives and private collections.”
Despite her extensive expertise on all matters pertaining to the capital city, the scribe was surprised at how much more she learned about her subject during the process.
“I gained a much better background knowledge of the province, its culture, the fishery, oil exploration and production, points of interest in St John’s and much more. I found it fascinating to learn that it was due to international wars in Europe that Newfoundland became settled, and also that fortifications were built in St John’s harbour more for the protection of the fishery than that of the town or people!”
Her hometown, she notes candidly, has undergone a massive transformation in recent years.
“I can’t say that St John's is a better place than it was a generation ago, but it is certainly very different. It has become modernized in outlook and infrastructure, but still retains much of its unspoiled charm and atmosphere. Oil and gas exploration has brought more prosperity and skilled workers, and spin off industries have created more jobs. Memorial University has expanded to include the Marine Institute and research facilities, and more people have access to higher academic and technical education. The cost of living has increased and the price of housing quadrupled however.”
Rusted was sure to pepper the new book with a variety of images.
“I’m a keen amateur photographer and used many of my own photographs of contemporary buildings,” she explains, “and I searched archives and private photographic collections for illustrations. The City of St John’s engineering department even produced maps of the old downtown core and the extended city.”
So far, reaction to the work has been extremely positive.
“The response and the reviews have been wonderful! People visiting and planning to stay find it a good primer and introduction to many aspects of this fascinating place. Some local businesses and local governments are giving them as gifts to visitors, special guests and customers, and people have contacted me to sign books for relatives in Newfoundland and other parts of Canada.”