Other Voices


When we moved to Drolet street mother's health was much better, dad was working and the good days started. In winter the port of Montreal was closed to navigation because of the ice and dad did not work. He would get up very early in the morning to replenish the fire in the stove (coal and wood was used) and he would sing in a happy mood. I would wake up, the sun was shining, all that dad sang I saw in my imagination and in me it was like living it and it was complete joy. This joy and happiness is still in me and I always look for these songs. Pavarotti sings them today and they are as popular as they were during my childhood.

When we got up dad made toasts on the wood burning stove and mother prepared us for school. In winter there was much snow beautifully white and walking on it my feet would sing on the flaky texture. It was the continuity of dad's songs that accompanied me to school.

Often mother would give Litio five cents and when we reached the corner of Drolet and Jean Talon there was a grocery store and Litio would buy peanuts that we ate while going to school. At school Litio and Aurelio would take a handful of peanuts and put them in their pockets and would leave some for me in the bag for me to eat a recreation time.

There were many Italians on Drolet street and many children of our ages and we all went to the same parish school. I recall the Torelli family, Anna was in my class and her brother in the class with Aurelio and often he would say that Aurelio was very intelligent, serious and judicious and he admired him very much.

One day on our way to school with Aurelio, three boys who wanted to quarrel faced us and said to Aurelio to put his school bag down and fight. I was very scarred and said to Aurelio "Let's run and escape them." Aurelio signaled me with his hand not to move. He put his bag on the ground and looked at the boys in very decided, serious and stern manner. The boys looked at him and said "OK let's go that's enough." And left. Aurelio said to me "You see there was nothing to it. You just have to face them and show that you are not afraid."

At home there was a very strict rule never to fight or yell amongst ourselves. Mother used to say that there was a father and mother to guide us and if something went wrong we were to consult with them and never to touch each other in anger. I believe because of this, harmony has always reigned amongst us.

One of our neighbors was the Moroni Family. They were all older than me. This family had a great devotion to St Joseph. Every year a feast was prepared in his honor. The feast would begin by a novena in his honor and mother would take Elsie and me along with her. It was very beautiful. In one corner of the dining room there was a table with a statue of St Joseph with a religious image in the background and flowers on each side and a candle in the front. When it was time to start the prayers, Mr. Moroni always barefoot, would light up the candle and we prayed, Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Gloria Pater, Credo in Unum Deum and other prayers to St Joseph. After the nine days, on the 19th of March, the big feast would start.

Mr. Moroni asked mother that Elsie and I be seated at the large table. There were ten or twelve children, all under ten years of age seated at the table and one married couple. The children representing the angels and the married couple representing the older people. We were served 19 plates of different foods. We had to taste everyone but never to finish a plate completely. Mr. Moroni did all the serving, always barefoot and a white napkin on his left shoulder. The last plate was St Joseph's macaroni (a white spaghetti lightly oiled and dipped in bread crumbs and many herbs) and we had to eat it with our hands. After the first table the family and other guests would eat in turn. Any passerby could join in the festivities and many would come in and request a plate of St Josph's macaroni to take home to other members of the family that could not be present or for others who were sick at home. The feast continued all day and in the evening there was also singing and dancing. Their devotion to St Joseph was very great. (This is a ritual very common with Italians from the Campobasso region and was usually done as a promise that had been made for having received a grace through St Joseph for a serious illness or other misfortune. It is still done today by some Italian families.)

In the summer mother would take us to Jarry park for a few hours. There were games such as swings, slides, ladders and a wading pool for children. There was a music stand for evening concerts but most of the park was covered with enormously tall trees, wild flowers and and many butterflies and birds. I liked the park because we could run, jump, roll on the grass, play ball and on return we would pick flowers. The flowers were so delicate that they would start drooping as we walked home and we threw them out before reaching home.

There were concerts in the evening two or three times a week and mom and dad would take the whole family. It was very beautiful. The music was mostly from marching bands such as the firemens' band, the police, military, and the one that attracted most was the black watch with their short skirts and the dangling paint brush between their legs (spurrum). Their uniforms were very strange to us. But we liked the music very much and Elsie who was very young would get up on the benches and imitate the maestro and the people around us looked at her and were very amused. She has alway had the knack to attract attention.

In the fall we returned to school. About a month before Christmas dad would take the whole family to see Santa Claus at Eaton's. There was an escalator, again it was new to us, the steps were about 18 square inches and would accommodate one person per step. Dad would place us one at a time on the steps and place our hands on the movable railing and told us not to move. We would go up to the fourth floor and to me it seemed like a car ride. There were a lot of people and all I could see were legs. When we arrived at the electric train there was artificial snow that glowed like real snow. There rabbits, bears, and other little animals, a fairy queen and may, many toys between the decorations and Christmas trees. I looked at all that and marveled at all I saw. After the train ride the Fairy queen would give us a toy and a box to be opened only at home. Inside there were pictures of scenes and papers with cut outs of people outlines that were to be pasted on the cardboard scenes. Anna would help me to cut out the persons and place them on the scenes. Elsie received a doll like a mother holding a child in her arms, when we wound up the doll it would dance with the baby in her arms.

My sister Anna was for me the most beautiful young girl in the world. She had the most perfect oval face and normal face outline and she was always smiling as she does still today. I don't recall anytime that she scolded or disputed me. She always tried to help us or to please us. When she started working she bought us gifts and the first I received was a handkerchief with a picture and a song on it, "Mary Had a Little Lamb." I still have it for anyone to see.

When king George VI was crowned (1936?) she bought me a pin in the form of a crown with blue red and white diamonds on it. I liked it very much but one day I could not find it and I searched and searched for a long time but I never found it and it made me very sad to have lost it.

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