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jimbo rambles: April 2006

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Robert A. Bouchard memoirs continue...

I am back on my task of putting up my father's memoirs here on my blog. My father died on Good Friday, April 14, 2006, peacefully at home. He had a good long life, and grew up in the small rural town in upstate New York, Clayton, the home of the 1000 Islands, on the St. Lawrence River on the border between New York State and Ontario, Canada. I think it is an interesting story and as he took the time to write it up and he was a pretty good storyteller, I thought it would be a good idea to just put it up here as he wrote it. At the turn of the 1900s, Clayton was quite a resort town, a playground for the rich wasily accessible from Montreal and New York City and in the summers there was plenty to do with the tourism industry. The winters were and continue to be quite hard, with temperatures often below 0° Farenheit. I learned much from my father, and I will miss him much, but the things I learned from him will always stay with me.

But continuing his story that you can read in my last blog posting below, here we go:

"My birthplace was in a house owned by the Peoples Oil and Fuel Company located just off Franklin Street in Clayton, NY near the railroad tracks and near the storage tanks of the company. I know that as I have a picture of my grandmother Bouchard and my mother at that house when I was a baby. Mother said that, when grandmother Bouchard came to help her out, she was so depressed that the tears would run down her face into the wash water when they were washing diapers. She had lost her father, mother and brother Theodore (Ted) at about the time of the 1918 influenza epidemic. I guess that is why her mother-in-law came to help her. The Yott grandparents were originally from Clayton and moved back to Clayton from Eastwood in Syracuse where grandfather had not only a boarding house but a job as a blacksmith in a moldboard plow factory. They owned a house in the town of Clayton on top of the bluff that overlooks the village of Clayton from the west. The only paternal grandparent I knew was my father's mother, Grandma Mary Tubbs Bouchard, widow of Joseph Bouchard. My grandfather Bouchard died in Canestota, NY when my dad was about 16 years old. That was the village where dad was born and lived most of the time prior to his marriage to my mother.

I knew my mother's grandparents on her mother's side as her mother's father was Joseph Lonsway who received the Congressional Medal of honor for valor in the Civil War. He died when I was 6 years old. His death occurred on the day after our family went to visit him in his house on the corner of State and Theresa Street in the village of Clayton. Until I was in my teens, his widow lived with her daughter, aunt Josephine and her husband, Uncle Frank Leavery on Theresa Street. I used to deliver the Sunday paper to their house and would sometimes visit with her there. Another of my Sunday paper customers was aunt Sophia Carter, another daughter of Grandpa and Grandma Yott. She was in good health and loved to tell stories about her Father and his adventures in the Civil War. My grandparents lived on the bluff overlooking Clayton village. Dad built the first house that he and Mom owned when they moved to Clayton. It was a little small bungalow and was about 100 yards away from my grandparents' house towards Clayton. When we went on a Sunday drive up the Cape Vincent road, we children used to point it out as Mom and Dad's fist home. My grandparents' names were Mary and Alexander Yott. He came to Clayton from either Wolfe or Howe Island which is across from Kingston, Ontario and met Mary Lonsway, the daughter of the Civil War hero. The name Alexander was given to me as my middle name. I have no idea where the name Robert came from unless it was Robert Mosier who was the husband of my cousin Jenny Mosier, She was the daughter of my Dad's sister and had a way of flattering the Bouchard kids when she visited us by saying, "My, you are handsome. You look just like a movie star." I always thought that remark was pretty funny.

My father worked for the Peoples Oil and Fuel Company. He got the job when our next door neighbor, Harold Petrie, was drafted and had to enter the armed forces during World War I. When he returned, dad offered him his old job back but he decided to pursue other interests. The house where I was born was later converted to an office and storage place for trucks. At first dad originally delivered kerosene to various homes with a team of horses and a wagon with a big tank on the back from which he would carry the kerosene in a pair of five gallon buckets with pouring spouts on them. Some people had 50 gallon drums at their homes; he would fill the drum and they would use the kerosene for cooking and/or heating. Corner grocers often had a larger size tank and a hand operated pump where the people in the neighborhood would bring their glass gallon jugs that sat on the end of the kerosene cook stoves. Often the stores would be supplied by my dad also. His horses were one white one named Mary and the other, a black one named Duke.

Eventually they replaced the horses with a motorized truck which he drove to supply gasoline to gas stations when cars became plentiful. The first truck I remember had chain drives connected to the big solid rubber tire back wheels and was quite noisy. When I was young I used to ride with my dad in the truck in the summer when he went on his route. We were quite close to the children of my Aunt Cecilia and Uncle Harry "Dick" Monroe. They used to visit us quite often even though they moved from Clayton to Syracuse when their children were young. It seems that we were often traveling to see them at 237 Evaleen Avenue in Syracuse or they would be visiting us at 610 Merrick St. in Clayton. The Merrick Street address was acquired when my mother bought the lot and had a house moved there from the southeast corner of Huginin and James Street to the 610 address. I say that mother bought the lot as she was the one that handled the money in my parents' family just as my wife handles the money in our family. It seems to last longer that way. The Monroe family consisted of four boys and four girls and the Bouchard family consisted of five girls and two boys and our ages generally coincided. Except for Gladys, the Monroes were of fair complexion and resembled their father. In our family only my sisters Betty and Patricia had the blue eyes and complexion of my father. The rest of us had the darker skin and brown eyes that favored out mother. We all had pretty good health and a stable and happy childhood. I remember a fightening incident when my dad was driving the family car, a model T Ford touring four door model on an errand downtown and he rounded the corner of State and Webb streets and Joe and I were in the rear seat. I was standing and Joe was seated and Dad said, "Sit down" Well, I didn't right away and when Dad rounded the corner I grabbed the door latch which protruded up from the door to steady myself and since the door opened towards the rear it pulled me out onto the street and I landed on my stomach and face. I got up from the crushed stones that the street was paved with and ran after the car crying, "Wait for me, Daddy!" I learned a good lesson from that event. Dad took me home and I remember Mom washing the stones out of my forehead and face."