Now on Belanger street we are much closer to the school and the church, Notre Dame de la Defense. During the summer there were four feasts with processions, la Fete Dieu, (Corpus Domini), St Antoine, San Salvatore and Madonna de la Difesa. There would be a High Mass at eleven in the morning with a procession with all the decorum, a marching band or two, the children from both the boys' and girls' school, the ladies' and the men's choirs. The young girls who had made their first communion that year would wear their white long dresses. The other girls would wear their school dresses and a white veil.. At the Corpus Domini procession the young girls in white would throw flowers in front of the passage of the Eucharist and those dressed like angels would ornate the altar.
At the feast of St Anthony there were young boys dressed has monks and with hair tonsured (a round circle was cut in the hair at the back of the head). The whole procession would move forward, some praying and some singing. People would stand on the sidewalk or join at the end of the cortege. Donations would be made by pinning dollar bills on streamers attached to the statue of the Saint. After the procession we would go home for lunch and after lunch there were activities in the front of the church. Dante street would be closed to traffic from Henri Julien to St Laurent. There were kiosks selling balloons, ice cream, pizza, soft drinks, etc. There were games of many types such as ringing the bell by striking a lever at ground level with a heavy mallet, darts, and the most daring of all a greased pole, about forty feet high, at the top of which had been suspended, salami, cheese, ham, bottles of wine and an envelope containing fifty dollars. Two or three contestants dressed in old shabby clothes would start attacking the pole by scooping away the grease until it was clean enough that the top would be reached and bring down the spoils. Generally they would share the winnings. It would take them about a full hour or more of strenuous climbing to reach the top.
During the day and in the evening there was always some music. A band stand was built for the special occasion and people would walk around until dark awaiting the fireworks.
When darkness appeared, the band preceded by a trumpetist would lead the revelers to Jarry park where the fireworks equipment had been installed and with band playing the display would start and last until eleven o'clock. At the end people would march home still singing and in a very joyful mood. At earlier dates the fireworks were held at the Shamrock park, where the Marche Jean Talon is now located.
Then the war started in 1939. Litio was then 21 years old and was drafted in this first group that was called for military service. There was a big change at home. Everything was now somber. Mother was always crying and I cannot forget dad sitting at the kitchen table, crying and saying " I have been at war and I know what a hardship it is and now my sons are exposed to the same ordeal." It was the first time I saw dad crying, he, who was always happy and full of life and courage and sang all the time. Now dad sang no more.
When we came home from school we did our home work and studies and after supper we would listen to the radio, mostly the news about the war hoping to have a glimmer of its end, but it lasted a long time. Litio wrote often and when he came home on weekends we were all happy and mom would make some of the special dishes that he liked.. We would ask many questions, was it a hard life, was the treatment good. He always replied in a positive way, he saw a lot of the country, he met a lot of people and he made friends everywhere. But the joy we had on his visits was always tinted with sorrow because we knew he had to leave again.
Later Aurelio also had to leave for military service. I was working in a clothing factory called Hyde Park making men's clothes and slowly we changed from civilian clothing to military uniforms. Life was very monotonous, with very short period of joy. There were many Christmases, New Years and Easter feasts when the family was not complete.
We prayed and hoped that the war would soon come to an end. But, it took a long time.
The following are excerpts of letters received from Eleanor.
I am sure that if Litio had been feeling better when you came up with this idea , he would have been very pleased to tell you his anecdotes and antics. He was very proud of his family and when he spoke of Italy I could almost visualized it. My big regret is that we never visited "the home land". A fear of flying never left him. Sometimes my mind wanders and I think that if Via Rail could have taken us to Caserta we would have gone.
Regarding Litio's army days out west, I know he came to Nanaimo from port Alberni but, unfortunately I don't know the date. As I told you we met in 1943, April 17 to be exact. A group of girls from our YWCA was invited to a dance in Litio's Sergeants' Mess, so my girl friend Marge who lived next door and I, said we would go , --and the rest is history.
Litio left Nanaimo for Prince George on May 17, so we promised to write one another. On June 25th he returned for another month. Somehow he managed to attend a one-month course in Small Arms. I think it was a matter of favoritism on the part of his Commanding Officer, because I know he was well-respected by his superiors. But to get back to Nanaimo and Litio's second month there, the weather was lovely and we spent nearly all his free time bicycling, usually to Departure Bay. At that time summer cottagers lived there and it was a lovely resort spot. At that time, when Nanaimo's population was about 8,000, Departure Bay was not part of the City. I have several photos taken at "The Bay", including one which Litio had in his wallet, inscribed "Departure Bay, Vancouver Island, B.C." And then he left. We kept all our letters, of which there were many, as you know. Shortly after moving into 1970 Sauriol we decided that we should destroy them. They were ours, and only ours, so we went down to the basement one night when Judy was in bed, and, a few at a time burned them in the furnace. If only I had known that forty years later even one or two of Litio's letters would be such a comfort to me, but at that time we felt we were invincible --- nothing was going to destroy our life together!
One thing I would like to mention (which is not relative to your project, but which I'm proud to tell you) concerns Litio's "1991 and1992 Handy Pocket Minders". He realized the severity of his illness and yet never lost faith. He had "Register for BB2" written for June 10 and a doctor's visit for June 11th. While I was falling to pieces, he was carrying on at the Senior's Center as usual. His strength certainly made it easier for the girls - especially Gloria. Judy is like her father - strong and capable.