CHARLES DOBIE : LOCAL HISTORY
KEARNS & VIRGINIATOWN, ONTARIO

My Trip Down Memory Lane.

By

Lorraine, Jacqueline, Mance Potvin, Enid Durham, Joan Rebelski
Top: Lorraine Potvin, Jacqueline Potvin.
Bottom L-R: Mance Potvin, Enid Durham,
Joan Rebelski.

Our surname was Potvin (children of Eva & Medard Potvin), and I was the youngest of four -- three girls (Mance, Lorraine, Jacque­line), and one boy, Gerry, who was the eldest. We moved from Sudbury to Vir­gin­ia­town sometime between 1938-40, and I started Grade 1 in 1941 at the V-Town Public School, which means my older siblings would already have been students there, till completing Grade 8. All of the teachers shown in your 1945 photo taught us at some time, and I believe Mrs. Stratford was a favourite of mine. I recall transfer­ring to St Louis Separate School for Grades 7 and 8, (1947 & 1948). We four were shipped off to boarding schools (much to my chagrin) to complete our secondary school education, and did not attend KLCVI. This might be why we are not remembered by many people. Each summer while home on vacation I would plead with my parents to allow me to attend high school in Kirkland Lake where I would have much more freedom, which, at the time, equated to more fun! They never yielded, and so we girls completed high school at a very strict convent in Haileybury, Ont. -- St Mary's Academy. My brother was sent to Ottawa University (which offered high school curriculum at that time, and tons of freedom, from my perspective), and I recall during vacations at home (Christmas, Easter & summer) literally sitting at his feet and listening to stories about all the fun he was having at Ottawa U. I felt very deprived! We three girls all became nurses and practised as RN's for many wonderful years. My brother joined the Air Force, and remained there for 30 years.

Our home in V-Town, was on Waite Avenue, a two-story white house on the corner, with the back yard facing the lake. It was the first house on the left as you came out of the gates from the director's lodge, and from our front window we looked all the way down Cockeram Street to the corner of Connel Avenue. Mom grew dahlias and peonies in the front garden, and also had several wild rose bushes here and there. Dad was in diamond drilling, and besides working at Kerr Addison he had drills located in distant wilderness areas. I recall taking the train to visit those camps, and sampling some of the best pies ever in their kitchens. In early 1953 my father suffered a stroke and was transported to Kirkland Lake by ambulance. He lingered for several months (Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal), and died in May, 1953. We left V-Town that summer, and I have sad recollections of our furniture being removed from the house, as my mom chose to sell everything including our beloved piano, and move to Sudbury. I entered nursing school that fall.

Potvin kids 1943-44

Taken in Mom's Sweet William patch in the back yard on Waite Ave. See lane and Larder Lake in behind.
L-R: Mance, Lorraine, Jacqueline and Gerald (Gerry) Potvin.
Photo taken circa 1943-45.


Some of my best memories of growing up in V-Town:

1. Summers were never boring -- swimming, tennis, rowing across the lake in our small row boat which Dad had provided for us, and in the evenings, bonfires in the back lane, where we would roast potatoes. It seems that at least once each summer, someone's child would drown in that lake. Amazing how little parental supervision there was in those days. I learned to swim without ever having someone nearby to assure my safety. I recall pulling a young boy from the water, at The Rocks, a swimming area adjacent to the beach, where you went only if you knew how to swim. I recall his name: John Porter, and I believe his father was our mayor at the time. Sometimes we would go into the lake right behind our house, and swim over to the director's lodge to use their diving board. Not allowed, but we did it anyway! I recall swimming before the ice was gone from the lake -- without my parents' permission, of course.

2. We often would play tennis at night under the lights at the courts near the highway, and during the day often at the court connected to the lodge. The ritual was, after our match, we would go to Hubbard's Grill (downstairs from Nugent's Drug Store) for a banana split, and to meet with friends.

3. Going to ball games in the evening, at the ball diamond near McGarry School. Track & Field, Halloween parties in the school basement. My mother made me a Statue of Liberty costume one year, and I won first prize -- war stamps!

4. In winter we skated on an outdoor rink, and would warm up in a shack which had a potbellied, wood-burning stove. We watched hockey games on this same rink. I remember hockey players Phil Golden and Ken Perron. Also, skiing across the lake was another favourite activity -- no special ski boots or bindings in those days!

5. Waiting for the bread man to arrive (yes, door to door delivery, as there was for milk) -- he carried a huge basket with all kinds of yummy treats. Glazed donuts were my favourite.

6. Brownies, Girl Guides, our meeting held in town hall, our leader Laura Durham who lived next door to us on Waite, her daughter Enid and I were good friends. One year we went to summer camp (in Swastika I think) and took the bus home the very next day. Enid and I decided we were home-sick.

7. Dr. Hagerman, who set my broken leg, and then sent me to Toronto for surgery.

Mary Philips, Doris Greer, Dorothy Bury, Patsy McCann (her dad owned the local taxi), Pidie Malane, Ron Weiler, Austin twins, Jean Austin who became my sister-in-law but has since passed, Enid Durham (with whom I am still in touch), Joan Rebelski, Julie Golden, Ken Perron, Ardith & Bernice Muck, Sheila Neville -- I haven't come across any of these names in your website, but they lived there in "my time".

And many, many more -- there is something about that town that will always be with me in a special way. All of those boarded up buildings have a story to tell also.

Mrs.Potvin and sister 1942

The photo above, with my mother on the left, was taken in our driveway on Waite Avenue the summer of 1942. That stoop in the background brings back so many memories. I recall visiting with my friends while sitting on it, and sometimes having my lunch there (if it was portable), and every Sunday after mass, my mother would march us out to the stoop to fine comb our hair, to ensure that we started a new week without head lice!!!! Lice were quite prevalent back then, and most kids had them sooner or later, including the Potvin girls. Times have changed!

Each time I fly home to visit my family (North Bay & Sudbury), I ask my brother to take me on a trip into the past, and we drive through Haileybury, New Liskard, Cobalt, Larder Lake, (must also stop at Bear Lake -- we used to cycle there and share our picnic lunches with the bugs -- V-Town and Kearns, and lastly, Cheminis Mountain. We climbed Cheminis many times. The last time I visited the area was only three years ago, and that time my brother said to me "OK Sis . . . this is the last time." Looks like I might have to rent a car and do it on my own when I go home next Spring!!!!!

Mance (Potvin) Delahunt,
Calgary, AB.,
October, 2011.

Mrs. Potvin and three daughters, 1949-50

This photo was taken on our front lawn on Waite Ave.
L-R: Rosalie St Aubin (a friend of Lorraine's from Sudbury), Mom (Eva), Jacqueline, Lorraine, Mance. Probably closer to 1950.


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