by Carl Rose
Excerpt from The Southern Gazette
(photo: Carl Rose)
Ewart (Huey) Vallis is a household name around the island of Newfoundland, remembered by many for his golden voice and his clean dry sense of humour.
Starting in 1949, he toured the coast of Newfoundland for many years, singing songs and telling stories, providing the only source of entertainment for many coastal communities. He did this mainly in the winter when he wasn’t going to sea. And people still remember how he started every show, his masterful rendition of popular country songs, and his sidesplitting stories about things that happened to him when he was growing up in Grand Bank.
Huey explained how his singing career began.
“I was on a cargo boat, the ‘Linda May’, in Bay de Verde with Captain Beaton Winsor. Sometimes, I would go out on deck with my guitar and the wharf would block full. I thought to myself, ‘if I went up to the parish hall, people could probably come out to hear me.’ “I tried it and I made $143 in an hour – not bad when you consider I was making $92.50 a month on the boat. I said to the skipper, ‘I’ll have to pay off.’ “He replied ‘if you don’t, I’ll have to fire you; you shouldn’t be here anyway making that kind of money in an hour. ‘”Huey got off the boat, and began touring the island. “I would sing a song and then relate a little story, something you could tell in Sunday school.” PEOPLE WERE SPECIAL
Huey, now 75 and still performing recalled it was the people, and their hospitality that made it all worthwhile. With 25-cent admission for children and 50-cents for adults, it certainly wasn’t a get rich scheme. “People took me in and treated me like one of the family.” He recalled one instance when he was performing in Gaultois. “People called me from Dawson’s Cove to come up there and play. When I said it wouldn’t be worth my while, they offered to send a boat for me, and said I could have the parish hall for nothing. “Shortly after I got there, the church bell started to ring. I said to one of the ladies, ‘I’ll never do anything here tonight with church service on.’ “Oh, that bell is for you – that’s what we do to welcome guest to our community.” Mr. Vallis never performed on Sundays. Often he would visit the sick with the minister. “He would pray and I would sing hymns.” As well as entertaining in parish halls around the province, Huey has performed with Harry Hibbs at the Newfoundland Club, and on Newfoundland radio stations – VOCM (the Big 6), CBY in Corner Brook and CKYQ in Grand Bank. For many years, he had a weekly two-hour program, but gave it up in 1965 to move his family to St. Catherines, Ontario, to be closer to where he worked on the Lake boats.
Huey Vallis still plays his guitar and sings every day.