Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - What Did Your Mother Love To Do?

Randy at Genea-Musings has issued his weekly Saturday challenge to his readers.

Today’s mission is to write about what “your mother really like to do in her work or spare time? Did she have hobbies, or a workshop, or did she like cooking, or reading, or watching TV?”.


Mom was a young teenager when she started working in the late 1940s. After attending high school for a few weeks, she realized it would be too difficult for her recently widowed father (who was out-of-work at the time) to pay for her expenses, like clothes, supplies, and bus fare. Her elder sister Madeleine helped her get her first job working in the cafeteria of the Polymer Plant in Blue Water, near Sarnia, Ontario. She eventually moved up to waitress in the Plant’s restaurant and even worked banquets there on occasion.

A couple of years later, Mom and her friend Irene (sister of her future brother-in-law) moved to London, Ontario. They rented a small apartment and found work as waitresses. Mom doesn’t remember the name of the restaurant, but told me it was classy and on one of the main streets in London.

As an adult, Mom enjoyed being a waitress and was good at it. She was proud of how many plates of food she could balance on her arms as she brought orders to customers’ tables. She used to tell me that a good waitress always knew what the soup of the day was and what the specials were. She was trained to never return to the kitchen empty-handed. In later years, as a customer, she would always tut-tut whenever she noticed a waitress walk past a table that needed attention.

Mom was mostly at home in the 1960s when my sister and I were younger. But when I was about 10 or 11, Mom decided to work. Dad didn't make big wages (“des grandes gages”, as Mom used to say in French) as a welder, so it was a way for her to make some money and to keep busy during the day when my sister and I were in school. She walked in at the A&P grocery store in town and asked if there was an opening. She didn't have experience, but wanted to try working in the meat department. She was just an assistant to the butcher, but found she liked learning about different cuts of meat and other similar details. I liked that Mom worked, because it meant that I ate my lunch at school (I brown-paper bagged it), instead of having to trek to and from home and back to school in less than an hour.

Around the time my brother Raymond was born in 1970, Mom sold Avon products door-to-door. I’m not sure how she got into that, but my Aunt Joan (Dad’s sister) also sold Avon. I remember keeping Mom company once or twice on her rounds. It was fun to see (and try out) all the beauty products that were stored in her blue sales rep bag. As a pre-teen, I especially liked the mini lipsticks and perfumes.


Jacqueline Belair playing cards

Mom’s favorite activity was (and is) playing cards with friends and family. She was about 12 years old when her new brother-in-law Jack (her sister Mariette’s husband) taught her to play poker for pennies.

Her two favorite games are Poker and “May I”, a variation of rummy. When the family gets together for cards, we seem to talk as much as we play. If we chat too much, though, Mom taps the table with a coin and tells us to get back to the cards, saying, “Are we here to talk or to play cards?”

Jacqueline Belair playing cards

When Mom was in her 60s, she suffered two strokes. In time, she recovered and after a few months, resumed her favorite pastime of playing cards, which she did with barely any cognitive difficulty.

After we moved to British Columbia in 1979, Mom and Dad started going to bingo games in Washington State, about 2 hours south of where we live in Canada. They typically drove to Lynden, Ferndale, or Bellingham on Friday nights. Mom had to watch Dad’s bingo cards as well as her own, because he tended to nod off. I don’t think Mom ever won much at bingo, but Dad won about $2300 one year.

I almost forgot to mention that Mom also loved to go to casinos in Reno and Las Vegas. She and Dad would drive there or she and her sisters Madeleine and Simone would fly or take a bingo bus to Nevada.

Mom turns 85 this summer and doesn’t show any sign of slowing down at cards. She’s a real trouper!

Copyright © 2018, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sentimental Sunday: Missing you, Dad

Maurice Belair in 1981

Remembering my late father Maurice on the twenty-second anniversary of his passing.

Love you and miss you, Dad.

Copyright © 2018, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun -- Recall a Summer Day When You Were 12

It’s Saturday and Randy at Genea-Musings has issued his weekly challenge to his readers.

Randy asks, “Remember when you were 12 years old? On a summer day out of school? What memory do you have of fun activities?”

What fun memories do I have of the summer I was 12 years old?

Let’s see… 

It’s hard to remember one day in particular, but I recall some events of the summer of 1970.

I had just finished Grade 6 at St-Charles elementary school. I was glad to be on vacation for the next two months, but felt a little sad knowing that I wouldn’t return there in September. (St-Charles was a Grades 2-6 school, so those of us moving up to grade 7 would be assigned to a new school that accommodated grades 7 and 8.)

My brother Raymond was 2-3 months old (he was born earlier in May). The whole family was still getting used to this new addition and my sister Marianne and I loved having a brother after being the only girls in the family.

At the end of July, I celebrated my 12th birthday. Marianne and our cousin Pauline spent the day with me. Mom made a chocolate birthday cake (my absolute favorite) and I got a few gifts, including a drawing set (I think it was called “Fashion Plates”), a fiction book (probably a Nancy Drew), and some money. The next day, I opened my first bank account with that money.

In July and August, I anxiously waited for a letter from the school board that would let me know which school I would attend that September. I can still see myself checking the front door every day to make sure I’d see the postal carrier as soon as he stepped up to our house. When the letter finally arrived (I think it was mid-August), I was shocked to read that my new school was not St-Gérard like I expected, but Don Bosco. I was really disappointed, because not only would I be going to a school located in the northwest part of town far from where I lived, I also wouldn’t be with my friends, who were going to St-Gérard in the southeast end of town. I begged Mom to call the school board and make them change schools, which it did, to my great relief.

About the same time I got the school board letter, my family (including baby Raymond), my cousin Pauline (she often came with us on outings), and a few others spent an afternoon at Green Lake, one of the many lakes that make up Kettle Lakes Provincial Park, about 40 minutes east of Timmins. I don’t recall that day, but I know it was special, because my Mom and Dad rarely took us to the lake.

That’s about all I remember of the summer of 1970, but it was good to get those memories down on paper, so to speak. Thanks for another great mission, Randy!

Copyright © 2018, Yvonne Demoskoff.