Sunday, December 30, 2007

Roots Beneath The Pavement

This book was written by M. Laurel Buck, It is a "memoir" of her growing up on Claude Street in Verdun in the 1930s. She has supplied the following excerpt to be posted here at Verdun Connections: 
from "Lost Home, Lost Child"            
    To the child in transition from farm to city, the hard compression of paved streets and sidewalks, and of people, pressed close in cage-like flats was a contrast, hardly to be borne. But, always, she kept close in her heart the first home she could remember. There, she had claimed the spacious farmhouse, bult over a stream in the Quebec Appalachians of Megantic County, a place of steep spring-filled hills, deep sugar-maple woods and the Bullard brook, meandering through the `flat'.
    Every nook and cranny of the rooms, every road leading to and from the neighbours was imprinted in her memory. Indeed, during the remaining years of her childhood and on into youth, she would mark the passing of Time by her return every summer to the farm.There she was welcomed HOME, as much by the very elements of familiar earth, water, air and fire (in the ever-burning wood-stove) as by her grandparents, her extended family, the neighbours and the animals. At every level she felt known.
    She first experienced the press of people when her family, before they moved to Claude Street beside that fenced field [of the Waterworks], lived briefly in a flat on one of the long, numbered avenues. In a grid of parallel lines, running from the Aquaduct down to the St. Lawrence, on each avenue, up to four  thousand people lived, `cheek by jowl'. "Who are all these people? Where do they all come from?" the child I was pondered gloomily.
    The '20s and `30s had forced many of my parents' generation to leave the 160-acre farms of Quebec, incompatible with advanced mechanization. In Verdun they joined others, for example, some from the Maritimes and Newfoundland and some from Europe, seeking to exchange versions of the "dark satanic mills", all of them in need of a second chance. In fact, between 1910 and 1930, the population of Verdun increased five times, from a little over, 11,000 to nearly 55,000, swelling the numbers of newly arrived English-speaking people to equal those of their French-speaking neighbours.
    Rental of Verdun's `cold- water flats' was relatively cheap. While Verdun was not industrialized, access to possible employment in Montreal could be handled by bus and streecar. However, the second chance was soon overwhelmed by the Great Depression, and the ensuing collapse of formerly buoyant industrialized cities, such as Montreal. What followed was the confinement of many to menial labour, at best, and long lines of the unemployed, at worst. Many workers, like my father would walk every day to and from work thereafter, seven days a week, twelve months a year. Ironically, no alleviation of the economy would surface until World War II broke out a decade later.
If you are interested in getting a copy of the book, contact me.

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