Early Years at Benson
Years at the Benson House
were very happy years. This was a large Victorian house belonging at one time to a Dr. Benson. The house had many beautiful
big rooms. My Duplessis grandparents had rooms upstairs. Their kitchen was at the end of a long hall where the servant's quarters
used to be. They also had a bedroom and parlour in the main house. Many families lived in this house over the years. Four
families could be here at one time.
While my grandparents were here, my friend Dolores Deredine got married and she and her husband had an upstairs
apartment. Dolores's mother had the main downstairs apartment. Another friend also married and they had a downstairs apartment.
I could go to any of these apartments and always feel welcome. Christmas was a joyous time as my friend's mother would play
the piano and we would sing. The place would be decorated lovely, and the fireplace would be lit.
Upstairs there was a closet filled with old coloured nylons, clothes and other belongings of Dr. Benson's sister. We had
many happy days trying these on. The people were long gone, but things had stayed in the house. Downstairs one large room
was filled with cupboards and large bins. We would play hide and seek in here. The house had all the modern conveniences-electricity,
running water, a beautiful marble tiled room with a bathtub, and a separate room with a toilet. The house has since been torn
down and the fire hall was built on the site.
I always looked forward to the weekends while living there. Friday night Papa always took me to a movie. He got me popcorn
and on the way home a hamburger at Jack's. Saturday we would take a trip uptown to get a colouring book or cut-outs. Sunday
we went to mass. In the winter, by the time we got to church, Papa's ears had always froze, at least that's what it looked
like to me. His ears would be white. After mass Papa would get me a book called "The Treasure Chest." When we got home he
read it to me and said, "Someday you will be able to read it for Papa." That day did come.
Papa was a very clean man. Even after a hard days work he would fill a galvanized tub to take his bath. He was a mason
and would be pretty dusty and dirty after working all day. (He helped with building St. Michael's Basilica, as did his father.)
After his bath, he would put on a clean white shirt and tie. Every night we said the rosary. After this he would sit and look
out the window till his bedtime. Nana loved her cards and bingo so he would walk the floor worrying and saying, "That woman
could be lying in a ditch somewhere." When he would see her coming he would get in bed. She never knew he worried about her.
Papa loved to tease. After a meal he would take his spoon and taste everything on the table-butter, sugar, mustard etc.
Then he'd look at me and wink.
Papa had two sisters, Barb and Jen, who lived on Hill Street. ( My granddaughter Ronda and her husband Kevin live
there now.) Every Sunday he and I would visit them. We always stopped in at Grant's store to get them an ice cream. After
we visited we would stop at a house on the corner and Papa would have a bottle of beer. When I got older I realized this was
a bootlegger's house. The people who lived there were always so kind to me. This was our regular Sunday routine for years.
Nana never came with us.
Papa died while cutting down a tree in the field by the Benson house. He was 66 years old. I remember my grandmother
coming to tell me he was lying outside on the ground. I ran out to him and called him, but he wasn't moving. He looked very
peaceful. I ran to the road and got some men to carry him in the house. They told me to get a mirror. They put this by his
mouth. There was no vapour, so they knew he was dead. Papa was waked at home. I slept on the couch. The head of the couch
touched the foot of his coffin. I loved him. There was no fear. After people left at night I would straighten his glasses
and fix his hair.
Nana was a Quinn from St. Margarets. There is a story of her father that was told to me. Seems he used to bring the Bishop
for a drive in the evening. (The Bishop used to be in Chatham at one time.) Often times the Bishop would fall asleep and Nana's
father would tip the bottle. He would say to the Bishop, "Lovely evening your Honour," and if he didn't get a response he
would tip the bottle. One night after a pause and no answer from the Bishop he took a drink, and then the Bishop said, "Yes,
it is a lovely evening." The Bishop knew what he was up to.
Papa and Nana were two lovely people in my life.