by Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe
One calm sunny morning in the mid-1950s, a small fishing boat’s motor was making its familiar sound as it left the harbour of Burgeo, Newfoundland, a small community we were living in at the time. The familiar “pick-a-putt, pick-a-putt” rhythm of the Make and Break engine added to the music of children’s voices, barking dogs, and squeaking clothes lines, as another day began. It was a time of innocence for us children. Our lives revolved around our friends, bicycles, ball games, skipping ropes, hopscotch, bamboo fishing poles, building camps, and beachcombing. There was never a whine of “I’m bored!” because you would very quickly be given a load of chores, so you darn well would NOT be bored. When the school year began we continued on, adding school activities to our already busy lives.
We were the kids of the baby boom and the impact of our place in the future as a massive labour force was totally alien to us, and in fact was, at that time, of little or no concern to society in general. We all heard the familiar refrain of our mothers telling us to “go out and play” and that is what we did. However there was always an undercurrent of mischief brewing in our collective minds. But on one particular morning we had a major distraction that came from an unlikely source and was one we would never forget.
Right next door to where my family lived there was a large house, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Budd. They had children, some of them close to our age, who were companions of ours in many activities. Nothing was unusual that morning until we heard a loud outcry coming from their house. Then we observed women streaming out of their houses and gardens, and running toward Mr. and Mrs. Budd’s home. Something was happening and we had to know what it was to satisfy our inquiring minds. We all headed in the direction of this peculiar activity.
We were dumbfounded at the spectacle! There were bubbles coming out the door of the house and women running in. We could see that the porch and beyond was filled with bubbles, foaming bubbles that were under attack as our mothers fought to get some sense of order out of this bubbling pandemonium. We had never seen so many bubbles floating upwards toward the fluffy white clouds on their carpet of blue. This really was odd, but great fun, and we could not leave in spite of our busy mothers telling us to “just go play!” Go play at what? We were not about to miss this great event!
Mr. and Mrs. Budd obviously had a major effervescent problem. The women were calling to each other, and occasionally a laugh would emanate from inside the house, which told us nobody was in danger—but what the heck was transpiring? Why were there so many seemingly endless bubbles? More children joined us to watch this sensational event, this was definitely a must-see as word spread around the harbour.
After an hour or so the women seemed to have the situation under control. Mr. and Mrs. Budd were at the door thanking everyone for their help in their time of crisis. But we still did not know the cause of this bizarre occurrence. However, like everything else in a small community, the news spread and we became aware of what caused the mysterious “bubble-gate.”
Mr. Budd had decided he wanted a meal of cooked cereal. Mrs. Budd was busy, so he proceeded to boil the water and add the dry cereal to cook. However, when he reached for the box of his favourite cereal to add to the water, trouble began!
During those years there was a laundry detergent named RINSO. The box was the exact same size and colour as the cereal box, and it was the RINSO that he poured into the pot of boiling water. RINSO was known for its delightful smell and frothy, fluffy wash water, so in one minute the bubbles started rising from the pot on the stove, and enveloped everything in their path. They filled the house until they managed to escape outside and rise toward the sky.
By then Mrs. Budd had arrived and the sight that confronted her was the cause of the loud yell for help we had heard.
Her husband, with his little mistake, had tried to cook a cup of RINSO, and consequently became totally engulfed by froth and bubbles. Mrs. Budd realized through the chaos that the pot was still boiling on the stove, and had the presence of mind to remove it, stopping the unending production of her husband’s bubble factory. Dear Mr. Budd was bewildered by it all, but in days to come he joined in the telling of his tale and the hilarious laughter.
The women helped them clean up, soothed their shattered psyches, and got life back to normal. Such was the way it was in our small out-port communities—neighbours helping neighbours and laughing together at each other’s foibles. The Budd children observed this with us and none of us ever forgot it. Their home was named the House of Bubbles, nobody was hurt, and we had a story to tell many times over the years that caused great laughs with each recounting.
So, all was well. That was until I referred to Mr. Budd as Mr. Bubbles in front of my parents, and got the biggest rant I had ever heard about “respecting your elders.” Clearly calling Mr. Budd by that name was not acceptable. After that I just used it around my friends and never ever said it around my parents again.
I continued to use the name, Mr. Bubbles, for years. I have even shared the story with his daughter, Audrey, who laughs at it with me. We have it tucked in our minds as a warm summer memory of her dear father who made the Bubble Blunder and gave us such an innocent, funny childhood event to share with others for the rest of our lives. Her father would be delighted to know we remember and share the tale of the bubbles.
We do remember Mr. Bubbles, the joy of childhood days, and marvel at men who become good fathers and friends to their children, often having to learn the trials of fatherhood with grace and humour, and learn to laugh at themselves!