Starting a New Life
Kayward Hibbs finished high school in Triton in 1984. He worked on a government project cutting trails before going to work in the fish plant. He was also accepted for a course in civil engineering in St. John's. Kayward says, "I was faced with the decision of going to school, or buying a $2,000 car."
Kayward bought the car and was making $5 an hour when he went to work in the fish plant. Changes were made at the plant and Kayward's wage went up to $9 an hour. But this wasn't the only change at the plant. A new machine was brought in that could cut the same amount of fish as 25 men. Kayward trained to work on this machine. He stayed at the fish plant until 1993.
Kayward says, "We were getting 25 weeks of work a year and there wasn't any problem to get a loan at the bank." Kayward bought a house and decided to raise a family in Triton.
By 1990, plant workers began talking about problems in the fishery. Kayward says, "It wasn't a serious thing. There was some talk of the fishery dying but it didn't seem real."
Kayward used to keep count of the number of fish he cleaned during his shift. He says, "It used to take about 15 cod fish to get 75 pounds. Each fish would weigh about five pounds. I remember the first time it took 25 fish to get 75 pounds. That meant each fish weighed about three pounds. It also meant the fish were getting smaller."
It took more and more fish to get 75 pounds. Kayward says, "We were used to big size cod coming off the trawlers. By 1993, it often took 60 fish to get 75 pounds."
One day after work, Kayward was helping his friend fix up his house. Several other friends had gathered and they were listening to the radio. "We heard about a program that would allow us to stay home and do nothing," Kayward says. "We couldn't imagine getting paid to stay home."
John Crosbie was the Minister of Fisheries with the federal government at that time. He said the fishery would close and they would pay the workers to stay home.
Kayward says, "I thought this was my chance to get out. I met with the counsellors and they told me I could go back to school. This was right up my alley. I didn't want to be part of a package or a make-work project."
Kayward went to school in Triton to take some math and physics courses. He wanted to study electronics, but the plant soon opened to process other types of fish. Kayward left school and returned to work. Kayward says, "I knew I would have to cut my ties with the fish plant if I wanted to move on. Things got harder for the Hibbs family. Kayward went six months with no work. He says, "It rained every day that summer. I decided to sell my house and move my young son and wife to Grand Falls-Windsor. Many people kept their homes and travelled back and forth. I didn't want to make a half-hearted move. I wanted to cut the ties."
"The move to Grand Falls-Windsor was a new beginning, but it was depressing for my wife Brenda. Brenda had given up a part-time job, and had to leave family behind. We moved from a big house with a full basement and a lame piece of land to a small basement apartment. But we had to do what was best for our son Thomas, who was 20 months old."
Kayward started an electrical course in September. He planned to take an electronics course the next year, but the college program had changed. He thought about moving to Gander, but Brenda had found a job and they needed the money.
Kayward says, "It would have been harder to move from Grand Falls-Windsor to Gander than moving from Triton to Grand Falls-Windsor. I didn't do anything from September 1994 to September 1995. I sat at home waiting for a program to start. During this time there wasn't any work on the go. I even had the jobline entered on my telephone. I didn't know what I was going to do. I was living day by day. It got so bad that I put the car up for sale. We would have been worse off than we ever were in Triton if we had sold the car. I guess we would have gone back home."
Kayward was determined to find a course. A year passed before he was accepted in a computer program. "That was a wonderful day," says Kayward. "It didn't mean more money in my pocket, but I was back on track."
Kayward graduated at the top of his class, but is still looking for work. Kayward says, "We struggled so much in Grand Falls-Windsor. Brenda has found a better job and Thomas is now six. This is home. We made the sacrifice and fought the uphill battles to make this our home. No matter what, I'm getting a job here and making this our home."
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