Heron Island's Last Human Birth
The Legend Of The Phantom Ship Of The Baie
Some LaPointe Ancestry
The Mercier Connection
Beginning A New Life
Some Strange Occurances
The Day To Day Realities
The Five Dresses
The Family Grows Larger
The LeBlanc Fortune
The Last Son
The War Ends It All
Heron Island Today - a footnote
Last Word - The Legacy
Another Update On The Island and Some Photos
Heron Island's Last Human Birth
It was a bright, warm August 4th, and the year was 1938. Adolf Hitler
and his troops had advanced into Austria and the Sudetenland and, with
Munich behind him, was about to take the rest of Czechoslovakia.
Mussolini, with his conquest of Ethiopia, would make a swift lunge into
Albania. All of Europe was on the edge of war, while Canadians were lulling
themselves into the belief that if they thought the world was getting
to be a better and safer place, and they believed it strongly enough,
it would then be so.
The Canadian economy was just beginning to enjoy a moderate upturn after
years of depression and heavy unemployment. MacKenzie King was once more
the Prime Minister of the country after a five year absence from that
role. He would continue to run the country until November of 1948, when
he would resign his post.
George VI was the King of England, and he, and his Queen, Elizabeth, made
a tour of the country that summer, much to the delight of the entire population.
The residents of Heron Island, unable to go to a town or city to see the
Royals in person, nevertheless enquired about the time that the train
carrying them through to the east coast would be passing by New Mills
on the mainland.
Stella scrubbed the children until they shone, and dressed them in their
Sunday best. After all, the entire population of the island would be there,
about twenty-five people in all. Stella would never allow her family to
be at a gathering and not looking their absolute best, no matter that
this was merely an informal gathering, it would still have neighbours
present, and that was enough to bring out the "best". There were few "occasions"
on Heron Island, and each one was treated as special, with at least some
preparation. They all went down to the beach, and there in the distance,
they could see the silver train gleaming in the sunlight as it sped by.
Just by this simple far-off view, they felt that they, too, were a part
of the Royal Tour.
MacKenzie King had met Hitler when he took the opportunity to visit
with him while attending the King's coronation the previous year.The impression
he came away with was that the Furer was no more than a simple peasant
and could be no threat to anyone. More than that, he was certain that
Hitler was a man with whom he could work with trust and confidence.
Finding out that Hitler was a teetotaller, a vegetarian and deeply religious
by nature, King felt that this virtuous man could not possibly be anyone's
enemy. After his visit with Hitler, he had written in his diary "... I
am convinced that he is a spiritualist - his going to his parent's grave
at the time of his great victory - (the annexation of Austria) - his devotion
to his mother - that Mother's spirit is I am certain his guide and no
one who does not understand this relationship - the worship of the highest
purity in a mother can understand the power to be derived there from -
or the guidance. I believe the world will yet come to see a very great
man-mystic in Hitler. His simple origin and being true to it in his life,
not caring for pomp or titles, clothes - but reality...Hitler, the peasant,
will one day rank with Joan of Arc among the deliverers of his people....".
People were listening to "Amos and Andy" and "Main Street Jamboree"
with Gordie Tapp as "Cousin Clem" on the radio. Later in the year, at
Halloween, Orsen Wells would drastically shock North America with his
radio broadcast, "The War of the Worlds".The Dionne quintuplet's parents,
Oliva and Elzire, were beginning their long fight to have their family
reunited. The quints had not as yet lived with their parents, who were
seldom allowed to even see them. The Quints were now four years old. Their
contribution to the economy of the Northern Ontario area where they were
born and still lived, was the best thing that could have happened to the
people of that area during those times, when the rest of Canada was deeply
entrenched in the Great Depression. The people of Callander and Corbeil
were renting out rooms to tourists, concession stands were prospering,
and everyone wanted to see the Quints. Although they were kept virtual
prisoners in the Dafoe Hospital, named after the doctor who delivered
them, when they were grown, they would write in their book, "We Are Five",
that these were the happiest days of their lives. The government had full
authority over their lives, much to the dismay of their parents. Many
large companies were using their image to promote their products. A cereal
company was giving out little chromed bowls, with their names and five
little girl's faces stamped around the rim, with every purchase of a box
of their cereal. (I have one of these precious bowls in my possession.
I picked it up at a garage sale in Niagara Falls in 1976 for fifty cents.
It's a a bit corroded, but the little faces and the names are still there.)
There was hardly a magazine that didn't regularly carry pictures of the
five beautiful little four-year olds. They could be seen in short movies
at the theatres. They were heard on radio. They were definitely the glue
that held the country together in a strange sort of way. They made people
forget their daily problems just by existing. They were a fantasy, and
Canada was, at that particular time, greatly in need of a fantasy.
But on this day, the residents of Heron Island have only one thing
on their minds.
A child is about to be born.
Stella, the tiny, blond, blue-eyed woman, who is soon to be my mother,
is keeping a sharp eye on the little boat that is making its way across
to the island from New Mills. In it is her husband, George, and riding
in the back with his little black bag is the doctor who has been summoned
to help me into the world.
She watches as she stands over the heavy washtub full of steaming water
which she has heated over the open fire in the yard. It's too hot to heat
water in the house today. She leans heavily over the scrub board and rubs
the clothes with the lye soap, stopping to breathe slowly with each pain.
She wants to finish the wash before the doctor sets foot on the dock.
It wouldn't do for him to catch her scrubbing clothes while in labour.
The boat gets closer. She hangs the last of the sparkling wash on the
line and enters the house. She climbs the stairs to the tiny front bedroom
with the little gable window. A warm breeze is blowing in from the Bay.
She knows exactly how many squares there are in the screen in that window.
She has counted them during this pregnancy because the doctor has told
her that she has little chance of surviving this delivery, her thirteenth.
He recommends an abortion, saying that she must abort this baby or she
will almost surely die.
There are ten other children and a husband to consider. She tells him
that she will decide and let him know. To avoid thinking of it when she
is not doing things that keep her mind off this decision, she sits in
the little bedroom and she counts the squares in the screen.
Now the time is here. She gets into the fresh, cheerful bed with it's
handmade quilt and waits. A neighbour has come down to collect the other
ten. They hear her cries as they walk away. The doctor enters the room
and with little help, and no health hazard to Stella, I'm here.
They name me Estelle Georgette, after both George and Stella. I am to
be their last child and the last human being to be born on Heron Island,
just off the coast of New Brunswick in the Baie des Chaleurs.
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