Marius Barbeau A glimpse of Canadian Culture (1883-1969)
Introduction Objects Photos & Papers Themes Barbeau's Story Kids & Teachers

Barbeau's Story

Business College

It was a joy for me to enter class and be in the company of young boys my own age. The teacher was Brother Odouin, a large person, heavy-set, good spirited and likeable. One day our homework was not done well. Brother Odouin called us one by one to his desk. Why this? Why that? And gave huge slaps on the back of the hand. The others, used to the treatment, suffered without wincing. I ended up crying. Brother Odouin, tender hearted as he was, would slap me on the wrist like the others, there were no exceptions - but he slapped himself on the hand, slightly concealed behind the desk.

I found that funny and returned to my seat, dying with laughter. I started to learn design on a large piece of paper at a large bench. I liked doing it and I was very successful. During my years at the college, an evening event was once organized. I was sent on stage to sing "À la claire fontaine". I was very intimidated. But I sang, I cannot hide the fear that I had when I saw a Native when I got backstage. It was a priest. Abbe Prosper Vincent was a Huron from Lorette, near the city of Québec. He did not work in a parish because he always remained a bohemian. His role led him to travel from village to village, from one parish to another and in the schools like mine, and there to give a show: to dance like a Native. His presence on stage really impressed me.

Before going to college, I was an altar boy at church. Because of that, I would go to church well dressed every day to serve two masses, one from Father Chaperon and the other from Vicar Godbout, whom I liked. Vicar Eugène Pelletier came over to my parents' to ask them what they intended for me, for my future. It was my last year of college. They had to think about it. My father showed the vicar a (green) railway ticket that was for me. It was from my aunt Elina Nash (nee Barbeau, my father's sister) from Omaha, Nebraska. She was to adopt me as her own son, since she did not have any children of her own. My parents had decided, since they had other children, to give me to her. And I did not dislike the idea.

The dream of the West and its riches were still in the thoughts of my family. And there was no great future in bookkeeping. It would have been necessary to go to the city of Québec. Learning about this, the vicar was astounded. He told my parents that they should not hand me over to the Americans, a protestant country, of Canadian turncoats who abandoned their nationality. In his view, I should be sent to classical college so that I could become a priest - I was so pious, such a good altar boy at church! I sang songs very well. My mother was touched much more than my father. The idea that I become a priest in my country fascinated them. New period in my life. New orientation. After my six-year programme was finished, I was going to become a priest.

« Previous | Next  »