Yvette hadn't felt very strong since Alan was born and finally her doctor sent her for tests on her lungs. He diagnosed Incipient TB and said she must get complete rest for at least a year to give her lungs a chance to heal. She would have to go to bed and stay there. She had decided what she would do even before she told me about it. She would go back to Ottawa and take a room with her old friend Yvonne Lee and her mother. Old Mrs. Lee would take care of the children when Yvonne was at work.
All of this must have been decided before school started in the fall, or shortly after, as the MacEldownies had not yet found a house and their furniture was still in Iowa. They agreed to take over the house we had rented and buy most of the furniture. I would rent the upstairs room from them. I wasn't very happy the day I took them to the Grand Trunk station - it was not far from the house - and carried Alan in his clothes basket onto the train and left the three of them installed in a seat where Yolande could see out the window.
I don't know just was occurred in Ottawa but in two or three weeks Yvette was back with the two children. We doubled up with the MacEldownies until I could make arrangements for them to go on to Peoria. My mother had agreed to take care of them until Yvette got her health back. My sister Florence was the only one of my brothers or sisters who still lived with my parents. She was teaching in one of the Peoria high schools, commercial subjects, and was able to help at home in the evenings and on Saturdays and Sundays.
Except for occasional visits to her doctor in downtown Peoria, Yvette remained in bed in the northwest bedroom on the second floor. It was very confusing for Yolande at first as she still spoke mostly French and had to call on her mother when she wanted to communicate with her grandmother. Luckily Alan, or Skeezix as we called him then, was a very healthy baby and needed little care beyond the routine things that all babies have to have.
The first chance I had to see my wife and family was at Christmas when I had the chance to drive down with one of the new teachers hired that year, Charles Griffen, who had a girlfriend he wanted to visit in a town just south of Peoria; they were married next summer. He wasn't long out of college but he owned on old open car, one with side curtains that could be put up in bad weather. Enclosed cars were being produced but few people owned them yet.
We were both too impatient to wait 'til morning to start south and left the Heights about three in the afternoon, skipping the Christmas exercises in the auditorium. Everything went fine until we got beyond Joliet, Ill., southwest of Chicago when it got very cold and started to snow. The car had no heater, of course, and I became stiff and cold. We were following a road along the Illinois River. About eleven PM the car began to sputter and cough and Charles suddenly realized we were out of gas. He had planned to fill the tank in Joliet but had forgotten it. The road was absolutely deserted and not a house in sight as we came to a stop. Drivers prepared for such emergencies in those days and Charley had a two gallon gasoline can in the back seat. It had stopped snowing but it was still bitter cold. There was a full moon and we could see the river shining in the moonlight about a half mile to our left. It was a beautiful night with the sparkling snow and we started walking south at a good clip to keep warm. We both wore heavy overcoats, thick gloves and galoshes and I was soon comfortable except for my finger tips and the end of my nose. I had a wool cap on that came down over my ears.
We must have walked at least two miles before we came to a small farm implement store that had a gas pump out in front. Behind the store was a big, two story frame house where we assumed the owner of the store lived. We knocked on the door, yelled and even threw small pebbles against the windows on the second floor. Either everybody was away from home of they didn't want to get up. We debated what to do; we had no desire to walk another two miles or maybe more. There was a tractor parked at the side of the store and we checked to see if it had gas in the tank; it had. And not only that there was a length of rubber tubing fastened to the seat which we could use to siphon out enough gas to fill our can. We took no precautions to conceal what we were doing but no one appeared and no cars went by.
When we got back to the car and poured the gas in the tank it started like a charm. In another hour we were on the outskirts of Peoria. We had passed a few gas stations but they were closed; it was well after one in the morning by that time. We were sure that we had enough gas in the tank anyway to reach downtown Peoria. However, that was when I had one of my bright ideas. My parent's home was northwest of downtown and we were coming in from the northeast. Why not cut across the north part of the city without going downtown! So I kept a lookout for streets running west from the river road. There were not many as there is a bluff above the river valley there but I finally saw one and told Charlie to turn right. There were a few houses at the point where we turned but as we drove on farther west the street became narrower and narrower and finally turned into a single lane cut thru the woods. About the time that Charlie said "I think we're lost," the engine coughed and died. We were out of gas again. One of us would have to hike back to the road into town with the gas can and try to catch a ride to a gas station. Charlie was younger and he thought I should stay with the car though I don't think anyone would come along to steal it. He was gone a long time but it was still dark when he got back with a full can of gas. We took no more chances with shortcuts and drove to downtown and then back north on Elizabeth Street, reaching our house just [as] a little light was showing along the horizon in the east. Charlie slept about two hours without undressing, had a bite to eat and drove on south. I stayed in bed until noon.
I remember only one episode during that trip to Peoria. We were all sitting around the table in the dining room watching "Skeezix" in his high chair playing with some toys on his tray. Mother was reminiscing about the way I had done the same. I would pick objects from my tray and hold them out at arm's length trying to figure out how to let go so they would drop to the floor. As we watched Alan we all realized at the same time that that was exactly what he was doing. The idea seemed so ludicrous that we all burst out laughing together scaring Alan out of his wits. He started to cry but we all reassured him and the tears turned to laughter in a second.
I went to Peoria again during spring vacation, taking the train this time. The weather was warm and dry there and Alan was beginning to walk. I spent a lot of time with him walking to the corner and back in each direction. Yvette still had to remain in bed most of the time but she was feeling much stronger during the summer. I believe it must have been near the start of school in September when Yvette wrote that she planned to take the train to Chicago and then cross the lake to Muskegon on the Alabama during the night. She had always thought she would like to travel by boat and here was her opportunity to try it. I met them at the Muskegon dock. Alan had on a blue suit Yvette had made for him and was already walking with assurance and both Yolande and Yvette were wearing new blue outfits in the latest style. I was proud of them.
Last modified on 27 November 2017 @ 19:31