The House at Pete Corner….

Today’s column is about an unsung hero of my childhood. Charles and Helen Montreuil had moved their steadily growing brood to Orillia. I was an infant when the move was made, hence I had about as much say in the final decision as I remember having in every decision made in my two marriages. My feeling is that it was to allow Mum to live in the same town as her widowed mother and her only sibling, Aunt Pat. You will hear more about these great women in future columns, but for now, please note that Aunt Pat had a Pekingese named “Boony” (As he never gave me his autograph, spelling is approximate.)

328 Franklin Street is a 3 bedroom yellow brick bungalow, located at the corner of Franklin Street and Bayview Parkway. It was one of about 23 homes on the block. While there were a few that seemed to change hands often, most of the neighbours did not change during my childhood.

There were some bittersweet times. My father spent the latter part of his life fighting inoperable brain cancer there, before being transferred to Soldier’s Memorial Hospital where he later passed. My grandmother died in one of the bedrooms, with much of the family around her. Part of the natural flow of life yes, but that stark fact doesn’t render them any less painful or any more palatable.

There were good times as well, though! My sister Pat and my brother Paul both got married out of Franklin Street. There were birthday parties, Christmas celebrations, announcements of engagements and many more joyous events. Here are just a few memories, albeit not in chronological order.

-During the Royal Tour of Canada in 1959, Mum shepherded her crew to the railroad tracks to watch the Queen’s train pass. We waited for hours, I finally glimpsed a woman wearing an ugly hat as the train raced past us.

-One day in April 1964, an R.C.A.F. Lancaster flew past on its way to Downsview, where a sort of retirement ceremony took place later that week. This was the only time I ever saw an operational R.C.A.F. Lancaster fly.

-Lying on the couch in the living room in summertime, drapes closed against the heat, classical music playing on the stereo.

-My Great Uncle Norm surrounded by a gaggle of male relatives at a reunion at our house, talking about his beloved Detroit Tigers and basking in the attention he was receiving.

-Dad looking at Mum at the dinner table and announcing that “Louise and Doug” or “Marie and Lawrence” were coming the next week. We all cheered, because we always had a great time with our cousins.

-Normally the front door of the house spit Montreuil kids out like pumpkin seeds during the school year. However, someone once brought the mumps home. On her doctor’s advice, Mum gave us ginger ale and became very busy going from bed to bed as we all imitated Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”. Mum never complained during that dreadful time, but I’m sure glad I wasn’t there when we had all recovered and the doctor called to apologize, as he had meant to tell her to make sure that the ginger ale was flat before she gave it to us!

-That same woman did not kill me violently when I casually mentioned as I was going out the door to school after lunch that I had invited 33 of my classmates and my teacher to stop by our house at about 3:00 P.M., (in two hours time) for cookies and Freshie. She was her usual gracious self when they arrived. My classmates even complimented me on the warm cookies 😉! Counting my blessings, I didn’t do anything else really stupid for almost 3 months.

-The pride I felt when I treated Mum to a movie, “My Fair Lady”, with money I had earned on my paper route. Dad would have gone too, but he wasn’t feeling well.

-Mid September, 1979. My wife and I drove up to Orillia with our newborn daughter Nicole. After breakfast, my parents would go to the living room, Mum would sit on the sofa, Dad would stand facing her, they would drink coffee and undoubtedly relish the silence of the house. We arrived at about 10:00 A.M. I crossed the lawn unseen, came into Dad’s field of view and waved through the window. I could read his lips. He said “Peter”. Then he repeated “Peter!!!” They both jumped up and went to the door. Imagine the Three Stooges going through a door at once and you get the picture!  My wife and I hardly saw Nicole for the rest of the day.

-When they were redoing the kitchen floor, conscripts were directed to walk on the wooden floor so that any squeaks could be located and fixed before the new flooring went down. We looked a strange sight indeed, repeatedly hopping up and down in various spots around the floor.Mum said “Anyone walking by and looking in would say ‘There go those crazy Montreuils again!'”

-Central air having been installed and running, we were all sitting and talking about how much cooler it would make the house. Thing is, we were all sitting outside in lawnchairs during this discussion!

-The side yard was big enough that you could, and we did, play baseball in it. The corner of the house was first, second was a tree, third was a pipe and home was a rock. I remember the day someone hit a long home run. This feat was only tarnished by the fact that the ball landed across the street…

…In the neighbour’s pool…

…During a pool party.

-I remember my friend Gordie hitting a foul ball that went right down our chimney.  The adults who had been sitting in the living room quietly talking were not as impressed as we were.

-The phone rang one evening, it was Aunt Pat. We heard Mum agree to Aunt Pat’s mysterious request, and about 20 minutes later, a taxi, with a very bored looking driver at the wheel, pulled up to the house with Boony the Peke in the back seat. As soon as he saw the kids, he went bananas, barking and wagging his tail. Grandma and Aunt Pat had gone out of town overnight. We kept him until the next day and played with him so much that he probably slept for 3 days when he got back to Grandma’s. (Thinking back now, this may have been a watershed moment, influencing our parents to get us a pet.)

-A Kentucky Fried Chicken store opened on Atherley Road, which was behind our house. When you got off the bus at the stop in front of our house, if the wind was in the right direction, all that you could smell was that smell. It was five years after I moved to Toronto before I could stomach KFC again!

Even when you had set course on your adult life, could make love if it was mutually agreeable if your partner was available or drink beer at 9:00 A.M. if your partner was not available, there was always a feeling of comfort when you walked through that particular front door, like an extra blanket on your bed on a cold evening.

So thank you, our old, unappreciated friend. You keep us warm during the winter, kept us dry when it rained, gave us our first sense of ownership (“Get out of MY room!” though at our house it was more like “Get out of MY third of our room!”). You gave us a refuge when the world was closing in as well as a base of operations. You were always there, adapting to our needs. The basement was finished, adding two more bedrooms and another bathroom (finally!), and of course you did sit about half a kilometre from “Moose Beach“, an excellent swimming spot.

My older sister purchased the house after my Mum died, but sold it off sometime later. I try to live my life with few regrets, but I do regret that you are no longer in our family.

Epilogue….

I was last in the house about 5 years ago. The couple who owned it were more than happy to let me revisit the scene of so many of my childhood memories. I am certain that the current owners are making their own great memories at 328 Franklin. Vale atque, old friend!

See you soon

Peter and Aunt Louise

=PJM=

6 Responses to “The House at Pete Corner….”

  1. Well done! Made me laugh. Fond memories indeed.

  2. Marlene Schuler Says:

    Sounds like you had a loving and warm childhood!

  3. Thanks for writing this Peter. I have fond memories of your house on Franklin and our trips there in the summers growing up. Never a dull moment! We loved visiting our cousins and Aunt Helen and Uncle Charlie. You always made us feel special and welcome and that has not changed. I am very lucky to be a Montreuil! The pictures are great too. I love the one of you and my mom.

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