In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “West End Girls.”
I grew up in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, a first generation Canadian of Ukrainian parents. My parents came over in 1947, and I came along in 51… I was the younger of two daughters. We lived in the French district of Rosemount on 42nd Avenue between Beaubien and Bellechase. My parents had purchased a triplex and we occupied the main floor. It was a Blue collar neighborhood and I remember that beside us lived a police man and his family. The strongest recall regarding the neighbor was the sadness when we learned of his passing through gunfire. I was perhaps 5 years old and when I was older it was puzzling to me that his death felt like some sort of deja vu memory. This family also had an above ground pool that was very big, it covered almost their entire yard… that too will not be forgotten. I guess my father had had enough of our pining over their pool during those hot and humid Montreal summers, so one day he hauled out an old claw foot bathtub that we had in the basement and filled it with water… yes, that was humiliating… we still have photos of my sister and I in the bathtub outside in our back yard.
Our neighborhood was quite multicultural; mostly French, but lots of Italians, there was a Lithuanian girl in my class named Ruth. The problem was that we lived in a French district and went to an English school. I was often afraid and had to be very watchful on my way to school to get past several large apartment buildings at the end of my street where a group of French kids would gather with stones in their hands which they threw at me while I passed and they hollered “Modis Englaise” This meant rotten English or something of the sort. I became a good runner, but often twisted my ankle, I was just prone that way.
My early years in Rosemount were very ethnic. I was raised on chicken soup, borscht, (beet soup) perogies, cabbage rolls and stuffed peppers. No roast beef and Yorkshire pudding at my house. My father was Ukrainian to the bone and wanted to pass on his culture and language on to his Canadian born daughters.
I was 6 years old and it was the first time that I had gone to a friends house after school. There were 4 of us and, as kids do we crowded into Diane’s pantry in search of an after school snack. I picked up a curious red and white tin, and asked “What’s this ?”…..I had never seen a can before. I felt embarrassed when Diane snapped back with bite…”It’s chicken soup”. I said nothing. I thought to myself.. how many times I had gone with my father to the Bonsecours Market to buy a chicken.. We were never allowed in the basement when my father killed the chicken neither were we told why. My mother would boil water and the next task was to remove the feathers…Boy, did that smell bad. Once it was feathered, I would often stand by my mother while she cut the bird open and removed the inerds. What the finished product looked like was a chicken cut up in parts floating about in a big pot of water with an onion, carrots, celery, the chicken liver, the gizzard and heart, and yes even the chicken feet. I was no stranger to chicken soup. It was Diane that was confused, but I was not the one to set her straight.
Thank you for the stroll down memory lane, and now you have a glimpse of what was going on in my house in my neighborhood in Montreal way back in the 50’s.