The Big Dig: 100 Found Photos of Water Street, St. John’s Circa 1984

While digging through files and photos and archives and collections to gather valuable volumes of information for our ongoing Secret East archival series, we started to find a lot of street photography from around St. John’s, Newfoundland that we had never seen before. St. John’s has always had an appetite for nostalgia, so it is rare to find such comprehensive collections of photos that haven’t already been widely circulated.

As Newfoundlanders, we’ve gotten great at remembering and memorializing historic and culturally significant events. However, it is the everyday lives of Newfoundlanders that we at Secret East have been most interested in exploring in our throwback series. While major political events and news-worthy headlines are ultimately important for the history books, we like to makes things a bit more personal. We want to know the people: where did St. John’s townies shop? Where did they eat? What records were they buying and where were they buying them? Where did they hang out? What live entertainment were they taking in? These details are what contextualize our culture and make up the fibres of our history.

Fitting to our cause, we came across these pages of an old black and white photo magazine put together at MUN in 1984. In the project entitled Street Scapes, a series of photos from east to west of Water Street were profiled, titled only by address and occupancy name. We clipped roughly 100 photos of businesses and buildings that comprise a pretty amazing walk through the downtown district of St. John’s in 1984.

Since we began sharing these photos, we have received a lot of great information and feedback from various parties who were involved with the original project. Street Scapes was an endeavour by CameraMUN supervised by Lynn Byrnes. The project was implemented to train new photographers, and we love that we are now able to give proper credit to the photographers and darkroom technicians: Garry Burry,  Louise Kearney, Russell Kelland, David Maher, Tony Norman, Brian Rideout and Geoff Whelan, as well as to researchers: Regina Abbott, Michelle Bennett, Doug Lacey, Scott Powers.

Take a step back 35 years and experience Water Street in St. John’s, Newfoundland circa 1984:

Happy Gardens, 165 Water Street

Want to see more throwback gems from Secret East? Follow us on Instagram.

Water Street Continued:

Funland Games Arcade, 201 Water Street

The Hair Factory, 216 Water Street

For more found photos, follow Secret East on Instagram.

Mary Brown’s Fried Chicken, 260-268 Water Street

O’Brien’s Music, 278 Water Street

Woolworth, 351-355 Water Street

Lucky’s Chop Suey House, 364 Water Street

Since we began sharing these photos, we have received a lot of great information and feedback from various parties who were involved with the original project. Street Scapes was an endeavour by CameraMUN supervised by Lynn Byrnes. The project was implemented to train new photographers, and we love that we are now able to give proper credit to the photographers and darkroom technicians: Garry Burry,  Louise Kearney, Russell Kelland, David Maher, Tony Norman, Brian Rideout and Geoff Whelan, as well as to researchers: Regina Abbott, Michelle Bennett, Doug Lacey, Scott Powers. 

View this post on Instagram

After breaking down racial barriers in the world of pro wrestling, Texas-born Sweet Daddy Siki built much of his acclaimed career in Canada. From 1961-1963, Siki spent many summer nights in St. John’s, Newfoundland grappling at the Memorial Stadium. Physical abilities in tow, Siki put thousands of asses in seats with a colourful and charismatic persona unlike anything Newfoundland had ever seen. Siki eventually settled in Toronto and made a life from his passion of wrestling and music, even releasing country records in the 1970s. At the age of 78, Siki still resides in Toronto where he is known to host karaoke at The Duke on Queen Street East. . These photos were found in the pages of The Daily News 1961-1963 . . #newfoundland #sweetdaddysiki #toronto #wrestling #wrestlinghistory #stjohns #memorialstadium #yyt #wrasslin #canadianwrestling #newfoundlandia #secreteast #wrestlinglegends

A post shared by Secret East (@thesecreteast) on

3 thoughts on “The Big Dig: 100 Found Photos of Water Street, St. John’s Circa 1984”

  1. Gerald penney says:

    This project was undertaken by cameraMUN led by manager Lynn Burns to train photographers-5 vols were published

  2. Colleen Quigley says:

    The Streetscape photographs can be found at as Coll-168 at Memorial Libraries’ Archives & Special Collections which has been digitized and is keyword searchable here http://collections.mun.ca/cdm/landingpage/collection/archives#C50. This collection consists of photographs of St. John’s buildings, both houses and commercial properties, mainly in the older, downtown portion of the city, together with a brief historical note on each building. It was created as a student summer project sponsored by the Council of the Students Union, Memorial University of Newfoundland, over several summers between 1983 and 1987, to photographically document St. John’s buildings. Lynn Byrnes was the Project Co-ordinator with the Council of the Students Union.

  3. John Jarvis says:

    OMG! the memories!!! Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!! I left in 1984, I grew up in St. John’s, I loved that city! But not anymore! I ‘ve been back a number of times over the last 30 years to visit family and I have to say it is not the city I left! The drugs, the crime. the disgusting people! I have little or no time for St. John’s and it breaks my heart to say it! I’ve lived in Ontario now for 35 years and have met a number of Newfoundlanders up here as well and many have said the same things about St. John’s and how its changed because of the money from the oil. I once told a fella from down home that I hoped Newfoundland never prospered! and he asked why would I say something like that and I told him straight up that the only good thing that comes from sudden prosperity is jobs, but the list of bad things is the length of your arm….. I guess I was right! I know it sounds awful, buts its how I feel. One of the most saddest days of my life was when it was announced that the constabulary where going to start carrying guns! I was a matter of great pride for me to tell people here in Ontario that our police never carried side arms, we were the only major police force in North America that out police force didn’t need to carry firearms…. what a great sense of pride that gave me and a lot of other Newfoundlanders as well…so sad that its not that way anymore.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: