Living in Dunrea should have provided an excellent opportunity for us to learn French, and Harold did chum with many of the French boys and picked up some of the language while I smugly thought that everyone should speak English and I had no French girl friends. I think now that if all Canadians began bilingual training in Grade one that we would never have the alienation in Quebec today that is tearing our country apart.
The French people, though many of them were close friends, resented the English presence in what had become a predominantly French town, and they wanted to get rid of any English-speaking person who had a business. Mr. Smith was the postmaster and a target for abuse. He had a beautiful little black spaniel beloved by all the family, but one night it disappeared and when he went down to work in the morning he found the dog hanging from the telephone pole in front of the post office. This was a terrible tragedy for him but more was to follow. It was not too long before his Conservative politics lost him his job in a French Liberal town. Those were days when I wondered if the French were Christians. Their racial prejudices were much stronger than their religion.
Much the same thing divided the town of Somerset a few years ago and the wounds there have never healed. Some of the men organized a phone campaign against an English-speaking elevator operator, and took turns phoning him in the middle of the night to tell him to get out of town. He ended up with a nervous breakdown and was forced to find employment elsewhere. One store was boycotted, the owner went broke and moved to Winnipeg. All this cruelty went on for the preservation of French culture! Forgive me if I am not impressed.
When we had finished our Grade VIII
in Dunrea, school learning ended for most of the class and the
rest were scattered. Harold left for Glenavon to help out on the
farm, and I took my Grades IX and X by correspondence from the
Dep't of Education. Aside from geometry I did very well, but I
just couldn't understand it and there was no help available. Two
years later I was asked to tutor a student who was having the
same problems, and in explaining it to her I learned it myself
- and she passed.
During this time Reg Brannan came to town, working as a laborer on the railroad. His father had worked on the CNR all his life and had become a roadmaster, so when Reg finished high school his dad found a job for him as an express messenger on the train. It was a well paying job for an 18 or 19 year old and he did well for some time. However, youth and high spirits and alcohol did him in! One night he was supposed to unload a casket for a funeral the following day but he had imbibed a little too freely, fell asleep on the roughbox, and never wakened until the train was long past the station. Needless to say, the CNR dispensed with his services immediately and he took what was supposed to be a temporary job on the section. It was in that capacity he was transferred to Dunrea.
Reg started coming to the house quite frequently and we thought it was because we were one of the few English families in town. It never occurred to us that he was interested in Mom, but one day they announced that they were being married in March and we would be moving to Rivers. Marrying Reg was fine with us but moving to Rivers was asking a bit much. We didn't want to leave Mr. Smith and our friends but we accepted the inevitable. Mom and Reg went to Rivers to find a house to rent and Mom told us on their return that the road from Brandon to Rivers was so bad that once we got there we would never get out. That was 1935 and in 1997 I am still here even though the roads have improved greatly.
Mom and Reg were married in the priest's home in Dunrea with only the family and Mr. Smith present. No church wedding was allowed as Reg was an Anglican. We had brunch in a restaurant after the service and Harold and I were taken to Brandon while Mom and Reg and Jackie went directly to Rivers. There was not enough money in the family for both of us to take the bus to Brandon North to take the train to Rivers, so I went by bus and Harold walked the twelve miles. It didn't seem fair but life is inclined to be that way. Mr. Smith moved to BC after we left and we never saw him again though my memories of that wonderful man are still very clear.