Albert Hillier and Our Town

I’ve been going through a lot of old newspapers lately. I mean A LOT of newspapers. Grand Falls Advertisers from the late 1960s and 1970s. Each one is a time capsule of news, sports, community matters, and appropriately-advertising. On the surface it looks like Riff’s must have bankrolled Robinson Blackmore, no wonder they set up shop opposite each other! Each issue has a homegrown cartoon courtesy of Albert Hiller; it was called “Our Town.”

Born in 1916, Hillier was a World War Two Navy Veteran, photographer, and photo engraver. A lot of the pictures you see of Central Newfoundland from the 1950s-1980s were taken by him. He first got involved in photography before World War Two, and worked with E.I Bishop. Sometime after the War, Hillier went to work with Robinson Blackmore.

Albert Hillier (Grand Falls Advertiser, September 1973)
Profile of Albert Hillier (Grand Falls Advertiser)

“Our Town” was a one cell commentary that chronicled the lives of Grandpa and Grandma, LONG time fictions residents of Grand Falls. Grandpa, at the time was up there in his seventies or eighties, bald, with no teeth. He’d served in World War One, presumably as a member of the Newfoundland Regiment, then presumably had worked in the mill for all of his working life (also presumably took off up to Lemotts fishing to avoid picket duty during the Strike of 1921). He had been a member of the Grand Falls Legion since its inception; and much to the chagrin of Grandma, he enjoyed having a drink. Grandpa’s imbibing was often used as a comedic foil.

Grandpa was in World War One.
Grandpa liked to drink, much to the chagrin of Grandma.

Now Grandma, well she was Edith Bunker, before there was an Edith Bunker. Safe to say, Grandma seems a bit stunned, though she can sometimes provide some profound insight. A bit stunned, and she loves Joey Smallwood. The thing is about Smallwood, well? Grandpa hates Smallwood (or at least he did in the 1970s).

Then there is Willie. Willie is their grandson. I don’t know if Willie lives with them, or if he has parents, but he’s with his grandparents a lot. Willie is studious and bespectacled. I’m not sure of what grade he’s in, the algebra of other characters suggests either grade 4 or grade 8, this is partly based on what I know from my favorite character in “Our Town”-Clarence.

Willie and Grandpa

Clarence is a product of the 1960s. He has a long mop top hair cut which covers his eyes completely (except for the time he burned off all of his hair on Bonfire Night and went around with a paper bag on his head); and all he ever says is “Duh!” This is because Clarence is stupid, there are no bones about how stupid Clarence is, right from Willie explaining how Clarence does not understand things because he is so stupid. Clarence has failed Grade Four a total of four times (don’t feel bad Clarence we had a guy in grade 8 with a driver’s license). Chances are, Clarence probably sniffs glue at night down at one of the ballfields. Clarence has an older brother and sister who both look exactly like him; I’m not sure if they are as stupid as he is, I seem to recall that they might actually be in university, I guess they only had so much brain to dole out in his family. Did I mention all Clarence ever says is “Duh.” Actually, this is not 100% true; because once when it was mentioned that a school burned down in Corner Brook in one comic Clarence exclaims “Hurrah!”

Proof that Clarence might have had a more extensive vocabulary. (Grand Falls Advertiser)

I haven’t been far enough to find out when Grandpa and Grandpa faded from the pages of the Advertiser; but I do know Albert Hillier passed away in 2003. I guess Willie went to university, got a real good job and moved away; though I did hear that Clarence stayed in town and eventually retired with the biggest kind of a pension!

Clarence is even stupid at Christmas (Grand Falls Advertiser)
But he did well in the Advertiser fishing contest
In the early 70s Albert Hillier wrote a play, “Ashes to Ashes” which was performed a the Arts and Culture Center. Here Hillier pokes a little fun at himself.

3 comments

  1. Thank you Bryan for your new post. I grew up in Grand Falls before moving in 1998. Are the old copies of the Advertiser available online? If you can point me in the right direction that would be appreciated. I await your response. Thanks Again

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