Sunday, August 26, 2007
Revisiting “The Republic”: Snuffy’s Gold
(A little break from all the talk about oil from newfoundland-labrador.net)
The mark of a great marketing campaign is one that so entrenches itself into our society that we assume it into the local vernacular. Such is the case with our colloquial use of the term Ski-Doo to mean anything that rides across the snow, or a Coke is anything that is carbonated. And such is true for the concept of the Republic of Newfoundland; was there ever a time that we did not refer to the republic? As a matter of fact there was…
In 1980 a Texan had made St. John’s his home. Pursuing the love of a local girl he very quickly found his place in Newfoundland and Labrador. The gentleman’s name is David Jackson, but he is known widely as “Snuffy”. Some may remember a man with a Texas accent and cowboy hat who worked at CKIX-FM (KIXX) Country, who hung out and played with local bands like “The Living Room Band” in the downtown pubs. Mr. Jackson describes a fond memory of descending the narrow stairs leading between Duckworth and Water near the Courthouse to find the reclusive little spot for his gig. It was among these narrow side streets in downtown St. John’s that Mr. Jackson opened a small apparel shop to showcase his particular brand of graphics arts style.
From Kerrville, Texas just outside San Antonio he says his connection to Newfoundland and Labrador is very strong. From the time he first landed at the St. John’s airport and was greeted with a sign reading “It’s about time you got your TexAss up here” and was presented with a promised bottle of “Tucker’s Gold Cap” homebrew, presented to him by Wayne Tucker and the boys, he had an instant connection to the people.
The Harbour City General Store was a showcase of love for his adopted home, and it was here the first “Republic of Newfoundland” concept was born. Printed on shirts and caps it quietly became a staple of the youth and artsy set and may have inadvertently spawned a renewed sense of pride of place on this peninsula that reaches for Europe while maintaining the Canadian name. The “Republic of Newfoundland” would bring him both fame and controversy.
The inspiration for his creation came from the stories that sparked his interest as a youth. He became a great student of Texas history…with stories of Davy Crocket and the Alamo. The fact that Texas was for a short time a country – a republic – and was for the years between 1836- 1845. In fact he says Texas was the only country to ever join the United States, "Isn't it ironic that Newfoundland and Labrador almost was to?" When Newfoundland and Labrador became his new home he saw so many comparisons with the province and the history of his home state. With great modesty he says “I’m not a brilliant man, the concept of the Newfoundland Republic came from this recognition of the similarities in the history of Texas with the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Jackson says that the brief history that Texans were a Republic, that was a defining moment for Texas, and that strength and recognition of who they are was what he saw in Newfoundland and Labradorians. The Newfoundland Republic concept just seemed to make perfect sense. “It didn’t take me long to figure out that Newfoundland has always been its own place.” He emphasizes “its own place” with a quiver of pride in his voice. He adds “No matter what’s written on a piece of paper somewhere as to its status – it doesn’t make a difference – the Newfoundland that I saw was, in and of itself, its own entity.”
When he researched the old Newfoundland Tri-Colour it seemed the perfect addition to the Republic graphic... and so the Republic of Newfoundland and accompanying Pink White and Green quietly entered the Newfoundland and Labrador psyche.
Mr. Jackson thinks that it was his unique perspective of seeing Newfoundland and Labrador with fresh eyes that inspires his Newfoundland and Labrador concept art. He also alludes to the fact that because he was American he did not carry any of the preconceived biases about Newfoundland and Labrador that a mainland Canadian might have.
He recalls the reaction to his logo first when it was introduced, “The newspaper headline read Pro-Separatist T-Shirt but they were just trying to sell papers with sensational headlines. I was celebrating basically what I was seeing which was just a wonderful independent, self-reliance that I saw in my Newfoundland and Labrador friends, not separatism.”
“The other thing they got wrong in that article was that the logo was created because of so many requests – there were never any requests – that didn’t happen. It was only after I created the T-Shirt that a certain element seemed to have embraced it and taken it into their own agenda. Whatever that agenda was, I couldn't help, but, my intension, with my heart on my sleeve, was producing a product that explained the Newfoundland spirit; a wonderfully independent spirit. The whole attitude, Newfoundlanders are wonderful, they just take absolutely take my breath away, the whole atmosphere and self-reliance.”
The Harbour City General Store exists now only in the virtual world at harbourcitygeneralstore.com where the original Republic of Newfoundland concept has been given new life. About the web store Mr. Jackson exclaims proudly that the Harbour City General Store has the “real deal” with it comes to the Republic of Newfoundland.
Mr. Jackson was quite surprised when a friend from St. John’s told him of the enormous success of the Newfoundland Republic in recent years. “They told me Snuffy by’ you really blew it – you could have been a millionaire by now!” He laughs adding that he was told “that history professors are upset because people are calling the old tri-colour the ‘Republic Flag’!”
“Newfoundland and Labrador has more on the go than even they give themselves credit for. I’m seeing a new generation, the young ones who hear the newfie jokes and they are saying – you know this is Bull Shit... I read an article online the other day which described the word Newfie as Canada’s “N” word [I recall being on the mainland and] the things they were saying there and the things I was experiencing as a non-Canadian on the rock were completely different. Newfoundland and Labrador for Canada is like a family taking in a step child in... and the worst of all is not that they regard Newfoundland and Labrador badly but that they don’t regard it at all!”
When suggested that he is a great ambassador for Newfoundland and Labrador and should be on the provincial payroll he laughs saying “I even wrote a song I call I Miss the Rock. Two of my three kids were born in St. Clares. My son James and my daughter Nichole are genuine Newfoundlanders with a Texas accent, my Newfoundtexlanders! My love affair with Newfoundland and Labrador will never die, and when I look back on it – probably one of my biggest regrets is that [I left].”
He hints that he is not finished with Newfoundland and Labrador and hopes to continue to build on the designs that have given him a place in the history of our province. Reflecting on his feelings for Newfoundland and Labrador he sighs over the phone: “Newfoundland had me from, Whadda-ya-at, b'y - from the moment I got off the airplane and drank that “Tucker’s Gold Cap” homebrew.”