The leg brace and her drag-kick-and-hop walk were playground novelties when she entered St. Andrew's Catholic schoolyard just days before her seventh birthday. Few kids had seen leg braces before, although they would appear more and more over the years.
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Andrew's was downtown, part of the Catholic institutional complex that covered most of the area bounded by Arthur, Court, Algoma, and Camelot streets. The school fronted Arthur Street, Port Arthur's main drag at the time, along with the church hall, rectory, and church. Behind them facing Algoma Street were St.
Joseph's Hospital and the convent of the Sisters of St. The extended block was a one-stop destination — schooling, health care, spiritual life, and social activities for the many Catholics who occupied the houses on the neighbourhood just above downtown. The school was a two-storey, free-standing, red-brick block with a bell tower on the four-slope roof.
It was a centre hall plan with front and rear double doorways where the kids lined up when one of the nuns in black-and-white habits appeared and clanged a heavy brass hand bell. The junior grades spilled into the lower classrooms while the older kids climbed the stairs.
The classrooms occupied corners, each side of which had large rectangle windows through which outside light could spill. It was walking distance for a kid with a leg brace and, although the LaFrances would change houses over the years, they stayed within the hillside neighbourhood bounded by Algoma, College, Arthur, and Dawson streets. The disability did little to hold Veronica back.
She was naturally gregarious, an expressive child. She wore her emotions on her face, with the expression of her big eyes, the shapes of her mouth, even the wrinkles of her nose transmitting her feelings. She loved to tell stories to the other kids and did so with the flourishes of a child actor. Other kids liked her because she was fun-loving and liked to laugh. Asked to describe her most memorable trait, most of her playmates would say her infectious laugh. Outgoing as she was, she liked to keep secrets. She teased friends about knowing something they didn't know while they pestered her to tell them.
As an only child, Veronica got the best of everything, including attention. Most of her friends were from large families and had to share everything with their siblings. Her best friend Doris Shaw often came to the house for sleepovers, and they would stay up late giggling and laughing and playing with Veronica's little white Pomeranian. After she recovered from polio, her childhood years took flight and soared to heights that every child should be so lucky to enjoy. Friends were numerous, money was not a problem even in the Depression years because locomotive engineers continued to work.
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Life at the LaFrance house was secure, warm, and comfortable. Isidore made his regular runs east to Capreol and as far west as Edmonton, suffering the stress of delays, bad weather, and accidents. When he would return from a run depressed, Louise would know immediately what was wrong — his engine had hit a moose on the tracks. He always felt sorry for the animals, and he fretted that they would stand staring at his headlight while he wrangled to stop tons of locomotive pulling tons of cars. Louise devoted her time to the church and politics.
Joseph's Hospital auxiliary. Church was a central part of her life, as it had been at Sacred Heart in Chapleau and briefly at St. George's in Hanna. She could often be found changing altar cloths on the ornate altar at St. Sometimes when an altar boy didn't show for an early weekday Mass, she filled in even though it was not a woman's place to be on the altar during Mass. Girls were not allowed to serve on the altar then, but either Louise LaFrance's strong will or a progressive priest broke the rule on occasion. On Sundays, Veronica would stand beside her father in their favourite pew and stare up at her mother, framed by the impressive St.
Andrew's Church pipe organ, filling the small cathedral with the soaring notes of a soprano soloist. Isidore's rail pass allowed the family to travel to Sudbury and Chapleau to visit family. The LaFrances and the Aquins were large growing families in the s and reunions were happy and hectic. Veronica grew to love visiting her cousins' homes in Chapleau and Sudbury. Uncle Adelard, whose fur trading business flourished and expanded into actual manufacturing of fur garments, built a cottage on Lake Panache west of Sudbury, and it became the site of many family reunions.
The Port Arthur LaFrances visited frequently and Veronica once confessed to a younger cousin that she loved the cottage during the day, but it frightened her at night. Because she was an only child, Veronica loved these visits among her cousins.
Her cousins also enjoyed her visits because she was lively and told outrageous stories and was quick to lead the others in singing. Her cousin Simone, Adelard's youngest daughter, recalled watching her older cousin with wonderment, admiring how good looking she was. Decades later, she still remembers Veronica's fine dark features and terrific smile.
Veronica's lame leg strengthened, and soon she was almost indistinguishable among the other kids in the schoolyard. The brace was gone and the drag-and-kick step faded into a limp that one had to watch for to notice. When the leg brace disappeared so did the long black ringlets, replaced by a shorter, big girl cut. She grew it back during her teens, letting it hang just above her shoulders or folding and tying it into a bun.
By the time she finished Grade 8 at St. Andrew's and began to hike the Van Norman Street hill to the Port Arthur Technical School, the dark hair was longer and pushed back behind her ears. She favoured pants because anyone who looked closely below her skirt or dress could notice the thinness of her left calf and ankle — the only visible trace of the polio.
Her teen years were not exciting times in the early s. Young women went to school and returned home promptly. Dating was not allowed during the early teen years. Entertainment was going to a movie in a group on a Friday night or attending the young people's club at St. Andrew's Hall on Sunday evenings.
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Veronica reunited with friends from the Cornwall Street neighbourhood when the Chester family moved onto Van Norman Street below Peter Street and just around the corner from the LaFrances. Audrey Chester and Veronica walked up to Tech School every day. After the high school years, they both went to work for the Port Arthur Public Utilities Veronica at 19 looks pensive and reserved.
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In fact, she usually was the centre of attention with her hearty laugh and impish sense of humour. They became operators, a job that perfectly suited Veronica's happy disposition and voice. You needed a sunny disposition to work as a Port Arthur telephone operator in the late s. The work week was forty-five and a half hours and each of the thirty-nine operators handled calls an hour during the busiest times. Port Arthur had roughly thirty-five hundred subscribers at the time, a drop from pre-Depression years when people had more money to spend. The girls sat at a long switchboard panel plugging and unplugging cords and asking: "Number, please.
They had to deal with all sorts of people and had serious responsibilities. Telephone operators took fire calls and reported them to the fire department.
https://rikonn.biz/wp-content/2020-05-30/come-spiare-un-iphone-da-un-altro-iphone.php After alerting the firemen, the operator then called the pumping station nearest the fire to alert them to increase water pressure to the hydrant. They had to be coolheaded and precise. For all of this, they received roughly five hundred dollars a year wages for starting operators and eight hundred dollars a year after three years. Despite the responsibilities, long hours, irritations, and low pay, they were not easy jobs to get.
The telephone company had strict requirements, physical and moral. Candidate operators had to be eighteen to twenty-four years old, stand at least five foot five inches, and have a reach of three feet six inches. Veronica, at five foot two inches, seemed to have slipped past the height requirement.