Friday, February 20, 2009
LIFE OF MY FATHER - 10
KINUSO, LESSER SLAVE LAKE
My grandmother was very unhappy in Kinuso. She didn't like her sister-in-law and was unhappy about the growing debt the family owed at the general store. She thought my grandfather was capable of working in an office, but he didn't have confidence in his English which he had learned in Belgium (the family spoke French).
In 1919, when the children were five, six and seven years old, the parents were forced to take work at a lumber mill in Chisholm, northwest of Athabasca. My grandfather worked as a bookkeeper and my grandmother, a cook. Because the mill had no facilities for families, the children were taken to a convent in Grouard. My father never mentioned the convent. My aunt Jacqueline, however, has said it was quite horrific, obviously because of the separation from their parents, but also because of the unkind treatment they received from the nuns.
We don't know how long this period lasted. Finally, my grandmother decided to leave on her own or possibly with the children. She went to Lacombe near Red Deer to work as a maid. Fortunately, my grandfather went after her and agreed to move to Edmonton where he got a job as a writer for a small French language newspaper called La Survivance. I estimate that the move took place between 1922 and 1925.
In 1914, English was the fourth most common language in Edmonton, after French, Cree and Gaelic. Copies of La Survivance were digitized at the University of Alberta because of their importance as historical documents.
Pictured in the photos are my father in the front row bottom right with his Grade 8 Class; with friends at Moose Lake, his sister, Jacqueline, on the right; a copy of La Survivance; my father, his brother Albert and their dog.