8 juin 1964 – John writes home to his mother, Amabilis

jean to amabilis 8jun64_Page_1a

My father knew when he left Quebec in April 1964 that he would never see his father, Delphis, again. He didn’t expect Delphis to die this soon when he wrote this letter to his mother and family back in Sainte Croix.

You can read the letter in French and its English translation by clicking on this link.

“Everyone lives to hope. When there is no hope the desire to live is pretty much done.” John Bedard, 8 juin 1964, Orange, California

ste croix john and therese

Beyond flailing to find a travel agent on a Sunday morning for a last minute roundtrip ticket to Montreal, there was little he could do. It was economically impractical, and probably thus impossible.

John dreamt in 1964. He had big plans – a three bedroom house, a swimming pool, and Catholic school for Pierre. But to get there, he struggled, working at the ultimate Al Bundy job, selling shoes at the Broadway department store on Euclid Avenue. Working at the MCP juice factory with Uncle Roland. 


10 avril 1964 – Thérèse moves to California and writes home about it

You can read the letter in French and my shoddy English translation by clicking on this link.

On a bright Friday afternoon in April, probably right after lunch, my mother waited for me to come home from Kindergarten at Palmyra School.

To pass the time and to reach out to those she left in Québec, Thérèse sat down and wrote this letter in the backyard of 340 Olive Street, a house built in 1923, which still stands in the City of Orange, California. She sat writing in the sun while Céline Corriveau, her sister, ironed clothes.

I was five about to turn six; Marc, my brother, had just turned two in January. My father was turning 40 in December. We had all just driven from Montréal Èst to Orange on Route 66.

Mom at 340 Olive Street

Mom at 340 Olive Street. We lived in back with the Corriveaus. You can fit eight people in a one bedroom cottage!

Thérèse passed away earlier this year just a few miles from where we first settled, from the backyard where she wrote this letter.

Thérèse’s handwriting is precise, almost technical, Tektonish. She was naturally left-handed, and like so many others, was forced to be right-handed by nuns. This probably explains her professional-grade manual dexterity, a must for pediatric nursing. She was resourceful, quick on her feet, and had the amazing ability to keep her head while all around were losing theirs.

As a Registered Nurse, she was the one brought in for the difficult cases, starting IVs on suffering, crying, and (usually) thrashing children. She was not a creative seamstress, but she was technical enough to thread IVs into an infant’s vein.

On Olive Street in Orange, we lived eight in a one-bedroom coach house, but none of us cared, we had made it to California. Blue was my favorite color, and the sky that April was bluer than I had ever seen a sky. It was as if we could finally see color in the world, after living in black and white forever. There was neither cold nor snow.

As Thérèse writes, a day or so our arrival in California, I was enrolled in “Kyddy Garden” the day after we arrived. She did not dawdle nor play around when it came to education. I did not complain. I was likely too stunned, and anything was better than the backseat of the 1963 Rambler American monitoring the imaginary line between Marc and I, trapped together for the seven-day trek.

It was time to get immersed in America.