Saturday, October 3, 2009


This is a story about my mom. Although parts of this story may seem sad it is actually isn't. I learned a lot from my mom. She died when I was 25, before my kids were born. She had always had a pretty rough life and seemed beaten down a good portion of the time. We will go back to the year 1969, Christmas time. I was 13.

One of my sisters and my brother chipped in their money to send my mom and me from British Columbia back to Ontario to visit our eldest sister who lived there with her husband and kids. They didn't have enough money for a plane so we were traveling by train. They also didn't have enough money for a berth so we were going to sleep in our seats. For 3 nights. 
The food at the diner counter was pretty rough looking. The only thing they had that seemed decent was some pea soup. Breakfast, pea soup. Lunch, pea soup. Dinner, pea soup. My mother finally had enough of this but had such a tight budget I didn't know what she could do. 
She brought me through the train cars, past the luncheon counter further and further until we got to the dining car. Train travel back in those days, when you had the money was very elegant. The tables were set in a fashion that would give Bill or Susan a run for their money on Tablescape Thursday for sure. 
She hustled me over to one of the beautifully set tables. The table was set with icy cold water filled crystal glasses, crystal dishes filled with olives and celery and other tidbits to nibble on. White linen napkins starched into perfect folds.  A silver basket lined with a white napkin held some yeasty warm breads and the butter pats were close by molded into shells on their silver plates.

"Quickly" she said. "have some bread and butter" She tore some bread and managed to get the crumbs on the tablecloth. On purpose. 
"Have some olives and celery" she said while drinking from the crystal glass. 
Slowly down the aisle way came the conductor. He was chatting with the patrons. I ate some olives. Closer he comes, I drink some water. Finally he reaches our table. He asks my mother to see her ticket expecting (or not) to see a first class ticket which would entitle us to be in the elegant dining car. 
She hands him our tickets and he says, of course, that we are not supposed to be in the dining car.

Really? she asks. Oh my I didn't realize that. The conductor eyes the table in front of us. They would have to completely redo the table if we left. He decided that we could stay and we ordered our dinner. I think the only thing I recognized on the menu was a steak so that is what I had. I don't remember what my mother had but she enjoyed every bite of it.

Well this story almost has a happy ending. Remember this was the first solid food I had eaten in a couple of days. The train was shaking back and forth. I could feel it slowly coming back up and I excused myself quickly from the table. I raced out of the dining car and into the first bathroom I could find. I threw up my entire dinner as the train jolted me from side to side. It was a colossal mess and I took off back to our car as fast as I could. I was so embarrassed. 
The next morning I went to get some pea soup from the luncheonette and they were all out.

(I have also posted this on my other site:Family Trees May Contain Nuts)

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I have always said it is easier to get information on my family members back in the 1700's than it has been for the 1900's.

My grandfather, Ziphirin Champagne was born July 28, 1876 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He married Octavie Carriere on May 21, 1907. He was 30 years old and she was 18, having been born February 12, 1889 in DeSalaberry, Manitoba. I have his date of death as September 11, 1944 in Ontario. This was before I was born. I cannot find a death date for her.

I have no recollection of my grandmother but I have a vague recollection of my mom and my aunt cleaning out her suite in an old house. I could be mistaken about that. I would have been about 4 or 5 years old. I recall hardwood floors and a bunch of 78 rpm records in an empty closet.

I have few stories about them. My grandfather worked on the railway for a time. He was known for his big hands and was a bit of a security guard on the trains tossing people off. Though not an educated man Ziphirin could speak English, French and Cree being of Metis heritage. My grandmother was apparently a rather unhappy woman but with 12 children that lived, at least for a while, and many more who didn't I think I would be miserable too. Too many mouths and too little food. It was a very hard life. One that was shared with many others.

My grandparents family lines crossed in many areas. They were first cousins once removed through Emmanuel Beaugrand dit Champagne, grandfather to Ziphirin and great grandfather to Octavie. They were also second cousins through two different lines. In total they are related 16 different ways that I won't go into here. It is a wonder that my entire family doesn't have two heads or something. 


Hi out there to Sandy who has left a couple of comments on my Picasa web album in reference to Alida Pickle. I can't leave a reply comment for some reason so how about you email me directly and we can see if I can come up with some info for you. I don't have your email address either.