Yvette had told me at the time we were in New York together that her parents were not living together tho they were not divorced. She hadn't said much about them but I had gathered that her mother was a domineering woman who wanted things to go her way. Yvette had clashed with her when her mother had picked out a husband for her and from then on she had sided with her father when there were family squabbles which became more and more frequent, I suppose, until there was an open break and her father left. Yvette's youngest sister, Mimi, remained with her mother but I believe all of the other children had left home by that time. Yvette's father, whose name was Theophile, had gone to St. Ann, Ill. To work, where there was a colony of French-Canadians, and was rooming with a man and his wife he had known in Quebec. He later went back to Trois Pistoles and lived with his sister Philomene and her husband Luc. Tante Philomene operated a small grocery in her house on the main street (there was really only one long street thru town). Every other house seemed to be a grocery, as people went into the business mainly to be able to buy their supplies wholesale. Yvette's mother and Mimi went to live on the north shore where Mimi finally married. Her father had been one of the well-to-do men of Trois Pistoles, owning a farm at the west edge of town and trading in horses caught in the western prairies and shipped to Montreal where they were tamed and sold to farmers. When his marriage broke up he took to drinking heavily and lost everything, then was struck down my meningitis which left him an invalid with his mind impaired. He died in a rest home maintained by a religious order in a small town near Quebec City.
St. Ann was almost directly east of Peoria, on the east side of the state a few miles south of Kankakee. The only way to get there from Peoria without going up to Chicago and then coming back south on the Illinois Central was to take a little two-car train which crossed the state from Peoria to Kankakee once a day. There were no bus lines. We left Peoria early in the morning one day before New Years and it proved to be the day of the worst blizzard that part of Illinois had had for 20 years.
In addition to the two passenger cars - one was half baggage car and half smoking car - there was a half dozen or more freight cars to be dropped off at small stations, which meant an all day trip although the distance was only about 80 miles. We were delayed time and again by the wind piling up snow drifts up on the tracks which the engine was unable to plow thru and also by the cold which cooled off the engine's boiler faster than the firemen could keep up steam by shoveling coal. When the pressure dropped the train stopped for a half hour or so until the firemen could get the pressure up again. The passenger coaches were supposed to be heated by steam from the engine but there wasn't enough to keep the train moving. However we didn't suffer from the cold as our car was provided with a coal burning stove set up in the middle of the aisle with the smoke pipe going up thru the roof. The brakeman was kept busy feeding it coal but the windows were all frosted over so we couldn't see out.
We got to Kankakee late at night, too late to go on to St. Ann, so we went to a big hotel near the station and got a room for the night, took hot baths and went to bed.
The next day was New Years and we spent most of it at the rooming house were Yvette's father was staying. I think he had the only spare room. I suppose we must have eaten our New Years dinner there but I have no recollection of it. All I remember of our visit is that Yvette and her dad sat in the living room and talked about things I knew nothing about and that the three of us went out on the front porch bundled up in our overcoats (Yvette in her furs) and Mr. Côté's landlord snapped our picture. Yolande may have the snapshot but it is probably lost.
The little house on Baker Street that we moved into when Yolande was born had a glassed-in porch on the front covered with climbing roses in the summer. It was fairly close to the sidewalk so there was not much lawn but we had to buy a lawnmower anyway. A narrow walk ran along the south side to a garage in the rear. The back yard was mostly bare sand with crab grass and sand burrs. It wasn't easy to build up a lawn in the sand. As soon as Yolande was able to play outdoors I built her a sandbox near the back door which attracted all of the neighbor children. This was how we met the Risk family who lived on the corner to the south of us with a vacant lot in between. Harriet Risk, whom I started on cello and who is now a teacher of cello in Ft. Worth, Texas, was then about three years old and she and her brother Jimmy spent hours playing with Yolande in the sandbox. Jane was the Risk's oldest child and Marjory, a very pretty girl, was about two years younger. I taught Jane the violin and Marjory the French horn when I took over the high school orchestra. Both girls acted as babysitters for Yolande and there was also a girl from across the street who did the same. Stanley Risk, the father, sold insurance but he was a strong Democrat and after the Democrats came to power during the depression of the thirties he was rewarded with the post-mastership of Muskegon, his sister-in-law taking over the insurance office.
We bought a good upholstered sofa and chair to match for the living room but to save money we purchased a round, unfinished dining table and Yvette painted it blue. She varnished the wooden floor and then got a lot of old worn-out clothes from the Risks and the Mortons, tore then into strips and died them two shades of blue and yellow. After that we spent evening after evening making a braided rug for the dining room floor. It went fairly fast, however, as Yvette had learned to braid with seven strands in school. When it was finally finished the rug was about nine feet in diameter. Besides varnishing the floors, Yvette decided to repaper the rooms as the old paper was getting dirty and was coming loose in spots. She did most of the work of removing the old paper during the day then I helped her put up the new paper in the evenings and Saturdays and Sundays. That was another trade she had learned in school in Trois Pistoles. It was simple after a little practice but at first I was likely to have the paper stick to me instead of to the wall. The trick was to get the paste on the reverse side of the paper without it getting over on the front.
Last modified on 27 November 2017 @ 19:31