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Living in Colour, Cathy Bluteau

About my father


My father was born to a poor family in Cookshire, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.  He had a French-speaking mother and an English-speaking father.  The two divorced when my grandfather decided to move to Massachusetts, where he could earn a living.  He could not find work in Canada.  That period in Canadian history is called l’Exode.  Nearly a million French-Canadians and Acadians moved to the United States.

During that same period in the history of Quebec, the Church was very powerful.  It made sure gifted children were educated, but not the son of a divorcée.  So my father was entirely self-taught.  He started working in a restaurant as cook and factotum at an early age.


When he reached adulthood, my father left his village to find employment in Sherbrooke, the nearest city.  He was hired by the radio stations: the French radio station and its English-language counterpart.  My mother, a singer, had her own radio programme.  She presented the music of famous composers.  At first, my father was her assistant.  He chose records for her and returned them to the proper shelf.

The Lake & Opening Soon, Cathy Bluteau


World War II

However, my father was soon needed elsewhere.  World War II had begun and he had been studying intensively and extensively.  He was named chief engineer for both radio stations.  They were understaffed, so father was also a speaker and he wrote radio dramas.  He loved it.

Love & Marriage

Meanwhile, my mother had fallen in love with the young man from Cookshire.  Some members of her family opposed their marriage.  He was the son of a divorcée and had been raised in poverty.  But my maternal grandmother had liked my father from the moment she met him.  She was a strong woman, a widow.  After her husband’s premature death, she had run the family business, flour mills, with my grandfather’s partner.  She sold her shares when she realized she and her children were financially secure.

When my father’s employers learned that he was marrying into my mother’s family, they raised his salary substantially and housed the young couple where the transmitters were located.  We lived in a large brick house.  It was a very old house, but it was home.  It was destroyed after we left Quebec.


Comfort, Cathy Bluteau

The Children Died

My parents wanted children, but my father was diagnosed with a congenital blood disease.  A few of their children were born healthy, but most died.  A cure was found so my father’s life was saved, as well as my sister Thérèse’s life.  She is now deceased.  Every year, we were burying yet another brother or sister.  These were the bad old days when one had to buy health-insurance from an insurance company.  The company soon refused to pay our medical bills, but my father’s employers were very generous.  So life was nevertheless good.

Home Sweet Home, Cathy Bluteau

file.11The 1950s

We had dear friends: a Belgian couple, in particular.  We shared a summer home with them near the Benedictine monastery at Saint-Benoît-du-Lac.  The arrival in Quebec of a large number of Europeans, French Jews, members of the Vichy government and people who wanted to live in a peaceful country, changed Quebec for the better.

As a sound engineer, my father had built a high fidelity system and aficionados gathered at our house.  He also built systems for friends, but he was not comfortable with the latest technologies.  He therefore went to visit a friend in Victoria, British Columbia, loved Victoria, found employment, and the family moved.

But that’s another chapter.


Sweet, Cathy Bluteau

My father died as he wished to die, peacefully and painlessly.   He had left precise instructions as to how he wanted to die and had paid his final expenses, including a fine dinner.  I saw cousins I had not seen in decades.

I hope my father is in a better world.  I’ll miss him.

I will conclude here.

Cathy Bluteau
Berceuses françaises, Colette Magny (French Lullabies)
1 (0:00) Toutouic 2’40
2 (2:42) Le Grand Lustukru (Théodore Botrel) 3’13
3 (5:57) Le P’tit Quinquin (Alexandre Desrousseaux) 3’06
4 (9:05) Le Pardon de Ploërmel (Meyerbeer) 0’54
.4© Micheline Walker
24 November 2013