I once wrote a story about writing letters as a child to the media and it got me thinking.The first TV program I remember watching as a child was the Mantovani Show, and not only was it boring, but it was in black and white. But then exciting things came to television like Coca Cola and Dick Clark. Here were some of my favourites:
Cartoon Corner and Howdy Doody
Cartoon Corner, Friendly Giant and Howdy Doody were daily favourites of mine in black and white on CBC. I also remembered having to unplug the TV when a thunderstorm occurred in the afternoon as my Mother said it was “going to blow the house up if one of those bolts wrapped around the venetian blinds”.
Every night at 5 in 1961 I would watch the CBC- TV show Razzle Dazzle hosted by Suzanne Somers’ husband, Alan Hamel. I had entered a writing contest and was eagerly waiting to hear if I won a pen with my “meatless meat pie” essay. A few weeks later I found out that I had indeed won a Razzle Dazzle pen for my story along with a photo of Howard the Turtle.
Hockey Night in Canada
In 1967 the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup and I was a member of the Dave Keon fan club who scored the winning goal that year for the last game. I was a proud card carrying member, and for 25 cents you got a signed glossy photo of him and a membership card.
The day after the playoffs I brought in that black and white 8 by 10 photo of him and taped it to the classroom blackboard. My teacher Mrs. Shufelt, who was not a fan of Dave Keon or said team, had an upset look on her face when she saw it. Yes, it was worth the 25 cents I had spent on it. I can still see the frown on her face like it was yesterday.
Hello Boys and Girls, it’s time for Magic Tom!
Every afternoon as a child, I was glued to the TV set awaiting my beloved Magic Tom Auburn on CFCF TV out of Montreal. Tom once described himself as a “man who played with silk hankies” but to me and every child he was a man with something new up his sleeve every single day. Canada’s Man of Magic was never fully appreciated by my Father as he constantly said Magic Tom needed to polish his act up.
Magic Tom once said that little girls only wanted to be three things in life: a Mommy, a Nurse, and an Airline Stewardess. It was the same thing I heard a few years later in the Cowansville High School Vice Principal’s office when I told him I wanted to be a fashion designer. I often wondered if they were related.
Tom began his career at age 13 with a bout of scarlet fever, a magic book and a lot of time on his hands just outside Cornwall. It is the unspoken ethic of all magicians to not reveal the secrets, and once in a blue moon Tom did. Sometimes the kids thought he was cheating and expressed their sentiments– but the next time you saw the same trick, maybe you didn’t see that glass of milk sinking under the red cloth– and wondered if you had been right the first time.
Each day I waited until the end of the show to see the empty silver dish suddenly become full of candy for the kids with a simple mere tap of his magician’s wand. No matter how hard I looked I could not find out how Magic Tom did this trick.
I later found out however that this same trick was performed in WW11 by a small group of French Patriots who were being held prisoner by the Germans. They made a deal with their captors that if they performed this trick they would be let go. There was a happy ending and they were freed.
Magic Tom and his wife Dolores have long passed and are buried in the Cornwall region at the St. Lawrence Valley Cemetery near Long Sault/Cornwall. I hope people remember Magic Tom as a kind man who brought magic to the people as he pushed the boundaries of wonder for all of us.
Some people say there isn’t magic. Some people say there is. I say there always will be— as in a way, we are all magicians, and so was television when I grew up in the 50s and 60s. They provided a wonderful open door to the everyday pleasures when life was just a simpler world.
Between 1869 and 1932, over 100,000 children were sent from Britain to Canada through assisted juvenile emigration. These migrants are called “home children” because most went from an emigration agency’s home for children in Britain to its Canadian receiving home. The children were placed with families in rural Canada.
Douglas G Barbour of Brockville who was sent out in 1927 on the very day he turned 16 recalled being very sick on the voyage. The journey which took seven days “wasn’t a bad crossing” he said, “but the first day out was rough. All the children were put down below to get out of the way of the waves which were just swishing over the deck.
Another lad and myself just had to see the waves so we walked out on deck. A big wave came along and swept over us and we were washed overboard. I grabbed the rail so hard I think the marks are still there on my hands and I saved myself.
His companion was washed overboard but was rescued. On the same ship was his friend John Thomson now of Gananoque who had been in a home for five years. His father was killed in an accident at the creamery where he worked and he and his four younger brothers had all been sent to live at Quarrier’s Home. He also was 16 years old.
Both boys along with the 40 or 50 others in their group were sent to receiving homes in Brockville. From there Thomson was sent to the market garden farm of Howard Keyes in Cataraqui which then was well outside the city of Kingston.
“It was all right” he said “but it was all work. If you want to eat you’ve got to work they say.”
He worked on the farm from 1927 to 1931 when he married and rented the farm next to Keyes and set up market gardening with his wife. “It turned out OK” he said with a smile, But a lot weren’t as lucky as I was to get a good home.”
Diana Thompson of Huntsville had a sizable display of family photos and documents detailing the experiences of her grandmother Margaret Watt who was with her twin sister Sarah and was sent over in 1890 when they were 14.
Their mother had died when they were three and their father, a joiner, remarried. When he was killed in an accident on a ship his wife gave the girls to their uncle to care for. However one day when he was at work his wife and her sister took the girls to the Quarrier’s Home and left them there.
Their crossing took 21 days and after landing at Quebec the twins were separated and sent to farms in the Brockville area “My grandmother wouldn’t talk about her life story” Thompson said, “She had left two older sisters and a brother behind.”
Beth Bruder, chair of the Canadian organizing committee, also touched on the theme of separation and loss – loss these children suffered going into the home loss when they came to Canada and especially loss of innocence. Many she said were shocked to find that they were viewed only as workers, not as equals in their new country.
Bruder recalled her own mother telling her of overhearing someone ask who she was on her first Sunday in church. “Oh she’s just a Home girl” came the reply- a reply whose sting was never forgotten “Today however” Bruder said “I want to focus on the success that many of these children had in a country that gave them a chance to grow and prosper.”
I stood along the 417 in Ottawa with my family and waved my Canadian flag for four & a half hours today. I hadn’t seen that much highway action since Ryan Hawkins and I played ‘follow the Good Housekeeping’ on highway 29 back in grade 6 (his grandmother, Isabelle, put an end to that pretty quickly).
It is incredible to think of how divided we’ve become as a country, a country that was once a benchmark for unity. Yes, I agree, it starts at the top. It’s hard to think of a leader in the history of this country who has divided so many Canadians. Blame it on whoever you want, though. At the end of the day we all control ourselves. We control our thoughts and how we express them.
I’m always reminded of the days when my Nonna would tell me to SHHHHH!! Or, even my dad’s advice that he would instill in me as a kid: “Keep your mouth shut!”They were right. If I didn’t have something nice to say, I shouldn’t say it at all.
It’s hard to hold back though, and for everyone that is true, especially in the situation we find ourselves in. We’ve all had our fair share of COVID discussions with one another. We’ve been heated. We’ve been keyboard warriors. Even if we disagree though, for the most part, we listen. It’s been frustrating, lonely, and hopeless. We’re struggling, especially our kids. In what was supposed to be “2 weeks to flatten the curve” almost two years ago, we seem to have arrived at a crossroads.
Everyone has an opinion on how and when we should move on from this pandemic. Some folks are already done with it, while some are still isolating themselves from the rest of the world. Opinions are so far entrenched in some that they are determined to stay in their narrative, regardless of the facts.
We have politicians, national/independent news outlets and social media all telling us different things.We aren’t all going to agree on the right time to move on, but we should respect each other. We should respect everyone’s choices, regardless of how they makes us feel. After all, we are all going to get out of this at once, together.
“When I could not go to school my stipend from the Home was stopped. Mr. Bradley was supposed to pay $125 over three years into a fund controlled by the Home. I am supposed to receive this money after I reached the age of 21. One thing that bothers me is Mr. Bradley had a son and a daughter–why did they want me?
I worked all day for the man while his children went to school, and I was younger than them. The only time I got to go to school was when the weather was too cold to work outside! I fell out of favour with the life I had and left.”
Linda, my Great Aunt Rose Quinn is in this picture , I think 5th from rt. In back row. Not sure what occasion this was. I know she was a teacher and taught locally and further away. She later went into Convent. Her name is on back of this old group photo. I googled Canada Character Civilization for late 1800’s to early 1900’s and lots of old historic group photos came up. Still no idea what it stands for unless it’s a group of graduating teachers. Do you have any idea? Picture was taken at “McIntyres Can.”
Doris, I had a question like this a few years ago. It was similar to a good citizen award that was presented to good community citizens.
I think I have been fascinated by soap since my younger years. I watched my late grandmother try every single new soap made to mindkind through the years. Mary Louise Deller Knight was not a fastidious cleaner, much like her granddaughter, but she loved new things and soap was one of them. For years I watched the old MIR soap stand by the kitchen sink gathering gobs of hard residue knowing that frolicing bacteria was gathering on that yellow plastic bottle. She always went back to MIR or her Sunlight Soap after she tired of a new soap and I often wondered why she bothered. But seeing that her grandaughter bowled over with a great smile when the Mr. Clean Freak showed up at the door yesterday, I guess the apple does not fall far from the tree.
The Factory who was owned by the Ganong Brothers ( yes the chocolatey ones) closed in 1946 and the real surprise is the factory disappeared into the earth and was not found untila collection of milling stones was unearthed this month at the construction site of St. Stephen’s new civic centre. See video below.
As they say SURPRISE!!!
So what was Surprise Soap?
I thought that it had some sort of surprise inside, but there was none. Instead the surprise was that you were supposed to get your clothes cleaner.
Canadian grocer January-June 1908. If your customers say SURPRISE Soap is thebest Soap, the most economical to use, and want it,you give it to them of course—its business to do so.A satisfied customer brings you more money thanone whose wants are ignored and overlooked.. Made by The St. Croix Soap Manufacturing Company BRANCHES—Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver,West Indies. Factory at St. Stephen, N.B-
In 1896 at the Toronto Fair look there was a huge Surprise soap exhibit. There was a big cake of Surprise soap stationed at the Heintzman piano on exhibition. Some one would end up having that piano for nothing if a guess won it– free of charge. The object of this guessing contest was to promote Surprise soap; and to know its good qualities, you will then use it. That’s what we We are satisfied to give this handsome present and get nothing in return but have you interested in Surprise soap. It is the best soap. THE SURPRISE SOAP MFG. CO., St. Stephen, N. B.
Crews at a worksite in the New Brunswick town of St. Stephen have found the remains of a long forgotten soap factory – once a big industry in the U.S. border area.
A collection of milling stones was unearthed this month at the construction site of St. Stephen’s new civic centre.
“We got down to…about eight metres in the ground when we got the last ones out. They were way down. They’d been there for some time,” says project manager Kingsley Bailey. “They were in the heavy compacted clay at the bottom.”
Bailey says the area was once home to the St. Croix Soap Manufacturing Company, which was founded in the 1880s by the Ganong Brothers – the same brothers who went into the candy-making business a few years earlier.
The company made Surprise Soap which was marketed across Canada and in the United States and was a big seller for decades. The plant closed in 1946.
I try to lay low on weekends, but once again Ben Weiss’s posting made me think of that era– so here is a piece I wrote years ago and seldom share.
I was Part of the French Revolution and I Forgot Linda Knight Seccaspina
Last year I wrote a blog on French Canada, and it seemed to rip open a box of memories that had been filed away in my mind for many years. I had actually lived through an important part of Canadian history and forgot all about it.
When Pierre Elliot Trudeau became Prime Minister in April of 1968 it changed Canadian history. The night he won I was at the Cowansville, Quebec Hotel with my friends and my father, who was a campaign manager for Jean Jacques Bertrand.
My French Canadian friends ran in and grabbed my arm for a night of celebrating. The feelings in the air were the same as when Barack Obama won in a 99% African-American neighborhood forty years later. My friends were thrilled that hopefully help was on the way for French Canadians.
My best friend kept teasing me, asking me if I was angry that a French Canadian man had won the election. Being Sally Sunshine all my life, I never take sides. Life should be about people working together, and not against each other. But, I was thrilled he had won, as I really liked him and hoped there would be no more taking sides. Even my stepmother and father were taking sides as she loved Trudeau also, and the conversation had gotten so unpleasant in my home that she had taped a giant poster of Pierre Trudeau to the living room wall. Sadly at one point, the people of French and English Quebec did take sides, and a revolution was born. Out of this unrest came the notorious FLQ (Quebec Liberation Front).
There were bombings, and declarations from them that called for a socialist uprising against those considered Anglo-Saxon imperialist oppressors. Yes, it felt just like the ‘play wars’ we always had in the lumber yard with my French friends as children, only on a bigger scale, and very real. They called for the overthrow of the Quebec government and the independence of Quebec from Canada.
At age 16, I started dating a French Canadian boy whom I will call Yves. His father had completely radical opinions about the English and did not mince words when his son brought home an English girl. It turned out that he had known my grandfather, and considered him one of the Anglo-Saxon imperialists, as he had money and what he considered “British airs”.
My father was equally concerned. Not that Yves might have some radical tendencies, but the fact that his hair looked a little long. This was typical of my father. Never worry about the important stuff, just make sure he cuts his hair. It certainly would be a travesty if people talked about it. It was all around town anyways that Arthur Knight had trouble with his oldest daughter.
He also did not like the fact that his daughter was not dating a nice Anglican boy, and he told me to “kiss him goodbye”. In Quebec, the age of consent to marry was 21 and he would not allow me to marry Yves until I reached that age. Maybe he had the right idea as the marriage only lasted a year and a half, but I knew the only reason was because he had long hair and worked at Vilas in Cowansville. Not good enough for his daughter.
On October 15, 1970, more than 3,000 students attended a protest rally in favor of the FLQ. The FLQ then kidnapped James Cross, the British High Trade Commissioner, and when their demands were not met they kidnapped the Minister of Labour and Vice Premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte.
When a CBC reporter asked Prime Minister Trudeau how far he was going to go to stop the FLQ he said,
“Just watch me!”
On October 16th, at 8 am I stepped out of my apartment building on Pine Ave. in Montreal what I saw was unbelievable. Prime Minister Trudeau had invoked the War Measures Act at 4 am, and military forces lined my street like there was a war going on. That’s when all hell broke loose.
The next day, October 17th, 1970, Pierre Laporte was found dead in the trunk of a car, strangled to death.
Living in Montreal during the time of the War Measures act was like living in a war zone. Soldiers halted anyone they felt was suspicious, and I was even stopped at the Greyhound Bus Terminal and asked for my passport. All they said was that I looked like someone who was on a list.
Of course I have been on lists all my life. For years, I was considered a threat to the Canadian population because of “those” Viet Nam War protests and I sold subversive literature in my store. Subversive literature would be the alternative music and radical fashion magazines that I sold in my store Flash Cadilac in the 70’s and 80’s. Thankfully, things have changed.
In the end of all this chaos: 453 people were rounded up, and some were given asylum in Cuba. The five flown to Cuba were jailed when they returned to Canada years later. Yves and I split up, and I have not seen him in 47 years. Most of my generation moved out of Quebec and went to Ontario after they graduated. They sadly left because of too many rules and regulations about language and cultural issues. I often wonder what could have been, I really do. I will always miss ‘Ma Belle Province’ –language issues or not.
Shivering in the snow near Chester Basin, N.S. a mother stood above the unmarked grave and watched the two men dig. For hours they scooped the soil with trowels, creating a two-foot trench in the ground. In the gray half-light of a December dusk, they handed the old lady the bones. The fragments were paper-thin, stained dark brown by the earth. The biggest piece, about 1-inch round, only remotely resembled eyes and a whiff of curly black hair. a baby’s skull. Gently, the archaeologist placed the remains in plastic bags, along with shreds of wood from the coffin, and a button. The mother didn’t cry. She didn’t say a word. But as friends clustered around her for support Violet Eisenhauer wondered, as she had wondered for more than half a century.
Just who, was buried in the butterbox on the hill beneath the birch tree? Are the remains those of a baby? Her baby girl? The grave was opened more than a year ago, and still no one knows for sure. Scientists couldn’t extract enough DNA to test against Violet’s blood. The uncertainty has given the 78-year-old mother new hope. Nearly 60 years after giving birth, she is determined to find the dark-haired daughter she nursed for 14 days. Now, more than ever, she is convinced that all those nagging suspicions, all those awful rumors, must have been true. “My baby is alive. She didn’t die,” Violet says. “She was stolen.”
Faith Lu Tanya was born July 7, 1940. She was 8 pounds, 6 ounces, with deep brownBut what her mother remembers most are her daughter’s hands: They had strange unbroken lifelines that curved down her tiny palms. “She was all rosy, not wrinkled like other babies,” says Violet, who named the child on a whim, after two of the girls she befriended at the maternity home.
“Everyone said she was the prettiest baby there.” – When Violet became pregnant, the Ideal Maternity Home in Nova Scotia was the obvious place to go. Although mainly a refuge for unmarried mothers, it was considered one of the biggest, most modern maternity facilities in Canada. For Violet, who was married, the home was also convenient, located in the nearby town of East Chester, one of a string of picturesque fishing towns that dot Nova Scotia’s south shore. But even by the time Faith was born, the home and its owners, Lila and William Young, were being investigated by child welfare officials.
There were rumors of a baby-selling business that drew prospective parents from all over Canada and the United States, of fees amounting to thousands of dollars. Babies who couldn’t be placed for adoption were said to have died of neglect. They were buried in 22-inch pine boxes, the kind that held the butter in the home’s weekly grocery order.
Eventually the charges would close the home. But that was years later, long after the summer morning when Violet was told a few hours before she was due to go home that her 2-week-old daughter had died. The baby had become ill during the night, Mrs. Young said, had turned black and stopped breathing. The body wasn’t fit to be seen.
“I didn’t think to question it,” Violet says. “Why should I think anyone would take my baby?” But others were suspicious. One mother told Violet that a couple had come to the home in search of a baby girl. Faith Lu Tanya was the only girl in the nursery at the time. And there were lingering doubts about the body that no one saw. Violet doesn’t remember the funeral. She was too sick to go. But in her mind, she can still hear her father and husband arguing that night, threatening to dig up the grave themselves.
“I don’t care if the baby is as black as coal tar,” her father cried. “I want to see for myself.” ‘ Her mother pleaded with them to leave things be. The baby is gone, she said. Digging up the grave would only land them both in jail. Violet was too numb to care. She never had another child. She never stopped mourning for the one she lost. When her husband, Sterling, was alive, they rarely talked about their daughter. Times were lean, money was tight and getting on with living was all a young couple could do. So they forgot.
The 1992 book, “Butterbox Babies: Baby sales was written by Bette Cahill.The scandalous story of the Ideal Maternity Home created a sensation. It was written by Bette along with hundreds of people connected with the home. She found a woman who had lined butterbox coffins with satin, and a man who said he buried dozens of babies in a field about 12 miles from the home. She found “survivors” in New York and New Jersey. She talked to a mother who was told her baby had died, only to be reunited with her daughter years later. She talked to Violet and wrote about Faith in a chapter titled, “Stolen Baby.” Today Cahill says she believes Faith was sold into adoption.
The advertisements offered “charming babies for adoption … free of social disease.” From the late 1920s to the late 1940s, as many as 80 infants filled the cribs of the Ideal Maternity Home. Prospective parents flocked from all over Canada and the United States to a remote seaside village in Nova Scotia to pick one. In an age when contraception and abortion were illegal in Canada and the stigma of having a child out of wedlock was enormous, the home sold secrecy to unmarried mothers. For couples wanting a child, the home offered quick, easy adoptions with few questions. Owners Lila and William Young built a niche market among prominent families in New York and New Jersey, in particular. Some, couples said they paid thousands of dollars to the home’s lawyers. Others made substantial donations to the home, although officials who spent years trying to shut it down, had difficulty tracing exact figures.
Adoptive parents were reluctant to admit paying for a baby. Each birth mother was charged a $25 delivery fee, plus several dollars a day for room and board. For another $300 she was told she could leave the newborn for adoption if it was white and, according to the contract not “birthmarked, crippled or deformed. Up to 1,500 children are believed to have been adopted from the home over two decades. The revenue for the home is said to have been $60,000, for the Youngs in the mid-40s, excluding the baby sales. They approximately sold 700 children, and even if the average cost for one was $5000, they made a total of $3.5 million.
There are no numbers for those who died, but suspected neglect was long an issue with Canadian health and welfare officials. “My chief concern at the moment is this wretched Ideal Maternity Home,” Nora Lea, acting executive director of the Canadian Welfare Council, wrote in 1945. “I wish a tidal wave would come in from the Atlantic and engulf it” The problem was not that the home was operating outside the law, but that there were no laws to control it. Legislation overhauled the adoption and welfare system by requiring stricter licensing of maternity homes, tougher monitoring of adoptive parents and tighter control of immigration. The Ideal Maternity Home closed in 1948. ,
First Nations children were once living in residential schools under the thumb of priests, nuns and staff charged with purging these children of their culture and traditions and replacing them with their own. Several of the churches were engaged in the management of day and residential schools. This co-operation of the churches in the case of residential schools was as follows: Roman Catholic, 44; Church of England, 21; United Church, 13; Presbyterian Church, 2, making a total of 80. I have never understood why people try to hide history–great nations should never hide their history– but we did.
Today I discovered my truth in this matter by having a flashback and putting two and two together. Funny how that works- and after I had a good cry- I realized that all truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.
Years ago in the 1950s and 1960s I used to help my Grandmother with her Anglican church groups preparing “the bales” to go north as they told me. The bales were actually handmade quilts rolled up with warm mittens and scarves, along with books and treats. We made a lot of them each year, and in my young heart I envisioned they were being transported to the North Pole. Every year I saved up my allowance to buy treats for the families that I thought lived in igloos, wore snowsuits and had big smiles like in the books I read. I was wrong – they were being sent to residential schools.
“As early as 1921, one official report described living conditions in residential schools as “a national crime.” When children wet their beds, the nuns at the Sturgeon Lake residential school would wrap the soiled sheets around their heads. If they tried to run away from the school where they were forced to live until they were 16, their heads were shaved. If they dared to speak Cree, their hands were rapped with a ruler. But the thing that hurts the most is they forced their religion on the children day in and day out.”
As I type the above words I wondered if my grandmother’s church group should have sent boxes of hymn books like they used too. I was always told the children loved getting these books– and now I can see that they did not. We have rules now that the government can’t penalize you because of your religious beliefs– so why were these children forced with this injustice. The residential schools were conducted by church authorities, with financial assistance from the Dominion Government and supervised by the Indian affairs section of the Department of the Interior. Half these schools were under Roman Catholic control and they remain divided among the other denominations. An Anglican bishop in Alberta told the media churches must stop “beating themselves up” over the question of abuse at Indian residential schools and should return to the basics of preaching Christianity. Unfortunately, I can’t tell whether the bishop was being purposefully ironic, or he really couldn’t see the contradictions of his statements.
In the larger residential schools in the 1930s daily duties were allotted to the pupils, who took turns:
Set staff table. Clear away all staff dishes. Wait on the staff table. Dry staff dishes. Help to put dishes away In pantry. Sweep kitchen and dust. Clean kitchen stove and kettles.
Pack up and wash staff dishes while staff girl dries. Wash all pot and tea towel. Help with up school meal. Clean both kitchen table before meal.
Wash all tables. Sweep room after all meals. Dust the dining-room thoroughly. Sweep and tidy the lobby after breakfast and dinner. Take wood to the sitting–room when required. Keep the dining-room shelf tidy. Put all Bible and prayer books away tidily.
Dormitory Girl Every day, clean wash stands In both dormitories. Dust. Clean lamp globe.
Monday, prepare for school wash.
Tuesday, sweep and dust boys’ dormitory.
Wednesday, sort and put away clothes. Fill all lamps, also table lamp.
Thursday, sweep and dust girls’ dormitory.
Friday, sweep and dust top bedrooms.
Saturday, sweep both dormitories. Sweep sewing room. Fill all lamps.
After we packed the bales I went home to loving parents. I had a warm meal, watched television and slept in a cozy bed.The next morning I got up for school without having to do the above chores with a full breakfast in my stomach. I told all my friends how we had sent the bales to happy people in the north, not knowing it was all a lie. One hundred and forty articles knitted by the church group members, as well as cash and other things were being shipped to the residential schools. As well, I remember that our church help donate money for an organ so the children could be forced to sing hymns that were not part of their own religion. Why did this all seem so right to everyone when it was all so wrong?
So what should we do now? In a world of TV soap operas an apology is always followed by acceptance, and the story moves on after the required tears and hugs. But, it just doesn’t work quite that way in real life– and especially in this case. More than one in five former school pupils have applied for compensation for living in residential schools have been turned down. Thousands of children that were taken from their families filed claims stating they were sexually and physically abused and forced to learn English. It’s not like we can just turn a page and everything is good. We have to realize that this is not just a dark chapter in our country’s history, it’s something we as a country need to come to terms with when it comes to making decisions about everyones future. We all are connected in a circle of life that is far deeper than any of us can truly understand– and today my realized participation and ignorance came full circle. Apologies are not just enough– it’s a start– but we have to do more than that.
“In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.”
To my Mom@Dad—This Residential School news has been really hard on me. And I bet some of you know that.Typing this out it will make it easier for me to tell you what I went through as a kid in the Orphanages I stayed at. If I tell you in person, I will fall apart because it’s so hard. I keep thinking of what those kids went through. It just breaks my heart.
At this one I really don’t remember much. But I can see the floor plan of this place in my mind. It was a small one. There weren’t many kids at this one. I can remember that kids were crying and the people that ran the place wanted to calm the kids down. I can remember myself playing with toys in this place. The bedrooms were along the right side. There was a hallway where we played. And on the other side of that was the kitchen and the place where we sat and ate our breakfast, lunch, and dinners. They moved me out of that place to the next Orphanage.
Now the painful memories – the hardest to write, but I will do it because I would like you to know the stories. Several times I needed a kleenex to write this, it is just so painful. One of the memories that I have was– I was dragged on the floor into the bedroom where I was locked up. I could remember myself banging on the door screaming because I was scared. So, then I heard the door unlock and it was the person that had a belt. She hit me several times, really hard. And I can remember is standing up to her and yelling at her and she continued with the belt 20-30 times. She left the room and locked it after she finished hitting me. I went back to the door and I could hear the kids screaming. I had no idea what was going on in the hallway. I can remember that night I cried myself to sleep after I had been beaten with the belt.
One night I sleep walked to the living room area. I don’t know how I got there. I woke up on one of the couches. It was still middle of the night. One of the other memories I have was they also knew how to push you if you didn’t behave during the day. I did something during that day that I don’t remember, but the teacher was selfish. We were going to go have our dinner and when I got up there to get my plate, she gave it to me. I had to walk with her to a table. She sat me down and she sat at the other end of the table eating my plate of dinner. In my mind I was just so angry with her and she was so proud of what she was doing.
This one brings back a lot of painful memories that I endured during my stay as a kid. I can see the floor plan of this placed still in my mind. The way it was set up. It was a bigger one with more kids in it. The main floor was where the bedrooms were and the sitting area, but it only had two couches at each end of it, and a big wide space where we would gather together to play. Keep going down the stairs and this was where we ate our meals. Go back up to the main floor and go up the stairs there was a gym and place where they did concerts. Go back down the stairs back on to the main floor. Go toward the rooms where we sleep, but before you get to that part there was a hallway where the classrooms were. I can remember me and my friends running down those hallways up and down till we got so tired. We were having so much fun!
At this orphanage, we went outside the next day after we had breakfast. I was hungry that I picked up rocks and ate them just so I could fill my stomach. They also used a long stick to discipline. I watched one of my friends being beaten with this big stick. He was trying to cover himself up so it would hurt as much, but they would pull the blanket off him so he would feel the pain. I wanted to do something to help him but I knew that, if I did, I would be also be beaten with this long stick. And then one day a person came and got me out of that orphanage and we drove and I had absolutely no clue where I was going. We went on a bus, a taxi, and a truck, I couldn’t understand why this person was taking me to all of these places. She bought me candy and we got back into a taxi, driving again. I had no clue where or why we were going. I sat in the back of the taxi and ate the candy that she bought me – and I ate every single one. We got to a spot there was a bus waiting she was putting me on this bus but I still had no clue about where we were going on this bus with all of these kids. We drove for a very long time. I got sick and we had to keep pulling over – and all the kids would go to one side of the bus to watch it which I didn’t like.
We finally pulled over to the side of the road and the bus driver said, “Ok, we are taking a rest for the night.” The next morning, we drove up to the airport and at that point I couldn’t believe that we were going to go flying! I looked at the person who was responsible for all of the kids and I said to her, “Where are we going?” She didn’t really explain to me where were going. We got on the plane. It was a long flight and then we landed in Canada, in Montreal. Then from there we got on to another bus I still had no idea to where we were going! It felt like forever on this bus. And then we got to the place where the kids were getting off the bus.
I still didn’t understand what was happening. After spending the summer in Canada, it didn’t hit me until we got back to Moscow that I was going back to the worst place of my life to deal with the same garbage. The way they treated kids was sickening. I watched one of the kids being thrown around like a rag doll. It just made me sick and I was scared of what was coming next. In that Orphanage, we got to go to a church to be baptized. And all I can remember is that when we got back to the orphanage, they took our crosses and they put them in our files still don’t understand to this day why they did that.
Orphanage Minsk 3
There was a person who came to the Orphanage to pick me up. They put me into a van. I was scared because I had no clue where I was going this time either. They never told me where they were taking me. I got to Minsk 3. That’s where I met Vladimir Alexanderavich. He took he into his office and explained to me that he was going to look out for me and protect me. I can still see the Orphanage layout. I know where everything is. Vladimir told me, “If anything happens, come and tell me. I will deal with them.” In my mind I thought that finally I came to a good Orphanage. It’s great and it won’t be as bad. Well, I was wrong.
Here are some memories From Orphanage Minsk 3:
We sat in a classroom and the teacher asked me to go to the board and answer a math question. I stood there thinking of the answer. The teacher lost her patience. She took my head and drilled it against the blackboard and I fell to the ground. Then she kicked me to get up off the floor. When we did our reading, we had to have a ruler to follow on the page and if you didn’t do that you would be punished. I got to see the way one kid was punished for not following. It was pretty ugly.
We started school at 8 am till noon and we did homework from 5-9 pm. I can remember one night. We went to do our homework. I have no idea how this started. I must not have done something right. The person at night told me to go stand in the corner of the class and turn around. From there it didn’t go very well. She pulled out the belt and started hitting me with it hard. Well, I stood up to her in front of my classmates as they all watched it. It went on for 20 mins and I ended up with marks for couple of weeks. Another time, I didn’t answer the question right. She took the ruler and broke the big ruler over my head. Then she told me I had to buy her a new one. I looked at her and said, “Give me the money if you want me to buy you the ruler.”
I can remember one morning I wasn’t feeling very good. I felt like someone had lit a match. I was on fire. I went into the room were we all sat before we went to have breakfast. I looked at the person that was in charge of us and said to her, “I don’t feel very good.” She just looked at me like I was a stupid kid making it up so I didn’t have to go to class. I collapsed. The last thing I could remember is that I was put in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital. I stayed for couple of days in hospital and came back to the Orphanage when I felt better.
In gym class, we were standing in a long row of all the students and the gym teacher was walking back and forth, giving students a task of an exercise. I didn’t do it right, so the gym teacher grabbed me. We wore our school uniform in gym class. He grabbed me by the top of the dress shirt, nearly choking me. Then he threw me on the ground and all the buttons on my shirt were gone. I can still see my classmates looking scared. Some of them were in tears because it just scared the crap out of them what they had just seen.
At night time when we had to get ready to go to bed, we had to wash our socks to have them ready for the next day. We also had to iron our dress shirts and pants. And then we would head to bed. I can remember that we were not allowed to talk. If you did, there was going to be punishment. My best friend, Igor, said something and the person that was walking the hallway heard him. She came in, turned on the light and it started. She had a belt. She told Igor to get out of bed and stand there. Igor refused a couple of times. She grabbed him, threw him to the ground and hit him with the belt several times. All I can remember is that I was so scared for him. Imagine watching one of your best friends being thrown around. He was crying and he went to bed crying himself to sleep. I felt horrible for him.
We only got to go out once a week to a movie, usually on Sunday. We got to go on the underground train and I always wanted to be on the last car. That’s the one where we could watch the train move at the back door as we went through dark tunnel. Me and Igor always loved doing that.
We had friends come from Germany with 2 big trucks and a small van. This happened around Christmas time. The two big trucks were full of shoe boxes – a gift for each kid in Orphanage Minsk 3. The kids’ faces lit up because it was something very special! They gave out these shoe boxes to all the kids and the smiles on kids’ faces were some cool. After that we went back to our area where we hung out as a class and the person who was looking after us went through all the boxes and took the stuff that she wanted and took it home to her kids. I could hear kids crying because they were not happy someone was stealing their things. They didn’t belong to these people who were supposed to be looking after us!I got so mad I stood up and said, “This is not right to take things out of people’s boxes!” I still remember her saying to me, “Give me your box!” I kept refusing. Well, she thought I would give in but I kept holding it. She got angry and went to get the belt and started beating me with it thinking that would give her leverage and grabbed the box out of my hand. She went through it and gave me back an empty box. She took everything that was in there. I got to go to places with Vladimir when the German friends came. I can remember very well Vladimir asking me if I wanted to go with him on a trip. I said, “Sure!” We went to McDonalds for dinner with our German friends and after dinner we got to go to A CIRCUS! I was so amazed that Vladimir took me with him that night with the German friends.
This was as I was being adopted by you Mom and Dad. One of the tests I had to have was the scope that went down my throat with a camera That just traumatized me in a big way! I can still remember the doctor telling me to breathe. All I wanted was this stupid thing out of me. I can remember that I took my hand and started pulling the tube, and then there was another doctor that had to hold my hands so I couldn’t that again. I had several different tests I had to do every couple of weeks and I can still remember every test. I was scared every time we had to go to the hospital to do the tests.
A couple of weeks went by and I was sitting in class. Vladimir knocked on the door of the classroom the teacher walked over they had chat and Vladimir look at me and said, “Come with me.” He had a doctor with him. We went down the stairs there was an ambulance at the front waiting for me. They told me to go in it. I was just so scared! I had no idea what was happening. Vladimir went with me to the hospital and he tried to explain to me what was going on. I just couldn’t understand why I was going there. He left me at the hospital and told me he would come back and get me. I spent a month and a half in the hospital.
I can remember the letter you guys sent me from Canada. I can remember it said, “We are coming to get you soon!” It said Katie’s 18th birthday was coming up. I kept that letter near me during my hospital stay. I just had no idea what was happening. I was scared that I wouldn’t get out of that hospital. For the first couple of weeks, I stayed in a room with about 8 patients. We had so much fun. I hated needles at first. I needed them 3 times a day. I sure didn’t look forward to that at all! Every morning I never knew what was coming so I just did what I was told.
Eventually I was moved into my own private room. I couldn’t understand why. It was a small room with a bed, a window, and a bathroom. I sure didn’t like it at all. Then there was another kid that got moved into the room I was in. It was very tight. I kept telling myself, “Soon I will be out of this hospital.” At one point I went and asked the doctors “How much longer will I be in this hospital?” The doctor said one more week. Well, that was a lie. I spent another 4 weeks there. I spent Christmas in the hospital. The entire Hospital only had 2 kids in it – me and another kid – while every other patient got to go home for Christmas. But the nurses were very nice. One nurse spent her own money to buy gifts for me and the other kid what was on the same floor as me and gave us a Christmas that I will never forget.
I remember I had to go down to the basement of the hospital to do some kind of treatment and I didn’t like the smell of the chemical of medicine that I needed to take, but I did it anyways because the doctor said “You need this.” I still remember asking one doctor if I needed surgery and the doctor said no. I said “Phew!” in my mind. Well again the doctor lied to me. I needed surgery. It had something to do with my liver. They were taking a piece of it for examination. I can still remember that one kid who was in that operating room looked at me and said, “I got to see what they did to you.” In my mind I was shocked that someone was watching me get this surgery done. When I was young, I was frightened about going to the hospital because I was never sure what was happening.
I hope you find this helpful to both of you. Mom and Dad, I have kept this in me for a long time and I thought finally maybe it is time I tell my side of the story to you both so you can see for yourself what I went through before you guys adopted me.
This was not easy to write. It was hard so I thought it would be better to type it out. It would be really hard to tell you this in person.
You are amazing parents to me I am sorry that I have kept this from you. I kept it hidden in me for a long time. So why now tell you this? Because the Residential School thing finally got me. The first week was so hard for me. I just kept it to myself that week. If you want you can definitely share this story with people. You don’t need to ask me I am giving my permission.Love you both I hope you understand this.
Your son Petya Lowes
The night when we went to see the movie Indian Horse, after the movie you guys started asking me questions. I was saddened by what I saw. It was really hard on me. I can still remember both of you being very quiet. I knew you guys were feeling my pain.