Saturday, February 12, 2011

Memories From Fern

..and a few ramblings from yours truly.

Rec'd from a childhood friend of my father's and shared with his permission.
Michelle,
   I was cruising your site and was delighted to find not only the information on the Chandonnets (which you had previously discussed with my wife, Ann, I think), but also the photos of the Robillard family reunion -- which evoked a lot of memories about your family.
   I was friends with your father, Jerry, when he lived on West 6th St.
   Did he ever tell you about the brand-new (VERY unusual among us street kids) Shelby bicycle his parents gave him? It had a Donald Duck head sitting on the fender in front of the fork. I gave him much grief about that. Another fond memory (though not one of HIS favorites) was when a bunch of us were playing in the "sand bank" that was then behind the Greenhalge school. Jerry volunteered to be buried, pirate-victim-like, in the sand up to his neck. So we buried him. After a time, he started shouting that something was biting him, though he didn't really seem all that concerned. So we let him stay buried. But then his yells became very loud (Jerry could really yell -- I estimate they could hear him in Billerica) and we dug him out. It seems some little red ants had found him and attempted to eat him. We all agreed -- except for Jerry -- that it had been a fine experiment indeed.
  As I looked over the photos, I was amazed at the uncanny resemblance there was (is?) between Joanie Robillard and my cousin Claire -- Leonce's daughter. (I don't have any symbol insertion with this Wild Blue mail service. If I did, I'd put the acute accent over the "e" in Leonce.)
   Thanks again for the memories.
Fernand Leonce Chandonnet, godson of my uncle Leonce -- and a GREAT fan of my Aunt Rose (I'll tell you some memories about her sometime) -- and greatgrandson of Pierre Zotique and Sephora (also in need of an acute accent).
Michelle,
   Good to hear from you.
   I believe your father left West 6th at about the time he entered high school. I remember he moved far, far away. So it might have been to South Lowell? I was sorry to see him go because of all the urchins in our surroundings I thought him one of the most intelligent and enterprising. Did he ever tell you about his appearance on television? (I believe it might have been on WBUR, out of Manchester, N.H.?) His school had gathered a few students together with a skit that included singing, as I remember, and square-dancing.
   Our gang did NOT square dance, so I thought it brave and independent of him even to consider doing it.
   Other snippets of memory are starting to pop up. Jerry and I spent a lot of time at a pool room in the Rosemont -- just over Beaver Brook on Beaver Street. The place had been a failing variety store, which the creative owner turned into a "club" for which he charged dues. Jerry was a pretty good player, as I remember.
   Also, he liked to sing, and it was not unusual to hear him singing some currently popular tune. I have a sound picture in my mind of him singing a tune that was on the juke box at the "club" that was by a duo named Patience and Prudence.
   Jeez-muh-neez!
   Here's another snippet. On hot summer days, we'd walk up to the Christian Hill area to the McPherson Playstead -- what we used to refer to as the Mayflower. There was a baseball diamond and bleachers there, tennis courts, and a large though shallow "swimming" pool made of concrete. We kids used to array ourselves around the pool on blankets when we weren't splashing around. I remember one time when Jerry was changing from his swim suit back into his clothes while under his blanket. His older brother "Richie," as we called him, tore the blanket from him and left him to writhe and scream, naked on the grass.
  Richie could be a plague, not only to us smaller kids, but to Jerry as well.
   I must say, though, that I found the other brothers that I met -- Bob and Frank in particular -- some of the friendliest and nicest folks I'd ever known.

So, Uncle Richard was the neighborhood bully <3 Ha ha, just kidding Uncle Richard.

When my father was dying we talked a lot when we were alone, and I'd like to share the bits and pieces of what he told me.

It was Fern's mother, nee Blanche Duchesne, that taught him how to play cribbage, she must have been really good, cause my Dad sure was. He remembered her fondly. He said she would place him on her knee while she was playing and that is how he learned. He told me about her part of her lung being removed and how Fern had to go into the orphanage because she was in the hospital for a long time. He said she was always really nice to him. Always.

Living in a tenement block around where Vic's parking lot is now, he also told me that he had to take baths in the kitchen in an old wash tub, because there wasn't a bathtub in the room where the toilet was, and when his sister Rose moved into the house with her kids, he and all his male Chandonnet nephews (who were abt. his age, if not a bit older) shared a bed.

Another time, he told me that he was sent to live in Alabama with his sister Rose and her husband. He said his sister worked, so he was sent to an old woman's house every morning before school. He said it was this woman who would give him a peanut butter and mayo sandwich everyday for lunch... Now, I think that's just gross, and I believe he did too because the expression on his face while he was telling me this story was one of pure disgust... But it's funny in a way, as all of this all came up in conversation one day when I was making his lunch. I can't remember exactly what I said, I think I jokingly offered to make him a peanut butter and banana sandwich (he used to love peanut butter before he got sick), and just the suggestion of it triggered this memory.

He also told me about how he met my mother, but I'll get to that later.

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