Monday, October 11, 2010

Matilda Georgiana Valpy-McNulty






My dear Nanna was born Matilda Georgiana Valpy on September 8th , 1874 Rocher Percé , Québec .... at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula. She shows up in Saint John sometime around 1894 at age 20 with her "Aunt Minnie" in tow. In reality though , "Aunt Minnie" was Matilda's true biological mother. However , neither woman would ever reveal her mother-daughter relationship with the other and both would carry the secret to their graves in 1933 and 1954 respectively . It was only by pure luck that I found out the truth around 1980 when a distant , until then unbeknownst-to-me , relative contacted me in Québec City with his story of a long-lost great aunt of his who had , in the course of time , strayed far from the family tree ...... and he was hopeful that I might help him locate her. His name was Aldo Brochet and he was writing his Masters' thesis on his family history at the University of Ottawa ...... and desperately looking for a missing link , a great aunt named Mary Rachelle Brochet from Gaspé .... and had heard through the family grapevine that almost 90 years earlier she , with her daughter Matilda in tow , had " run off with and married one John McNulty of Saint John , New Brunswick" !

I immediately let Aldo know that he was certainly not only in the right church ( the McNultys of Saint John) but most probably in the right pew as well ( our McNulty family in particular)....... setting things straight about who had married whom and ´that his "Aunt Mary Rachelle" was known as "Aunt Minnie" in our own family circle. I informed him also that both women were buried in St Joe's Cemetery beside my grandfather , John Joseph .... adding that he might learn more by interviewing my Dad ..... which he did soon after. I have no idea how this get-together unfolded nor how my father reacted to the news that his revered and beloved "Aunt Minnie" with whom he had been reared was , in reality , his biological grandmother and not his mother's old aunt !!! I never questioned him about it and he died shortly afterwards. 

Nanna lived on and off with us in Pokiok during my early youth and would finally move in on a more permanent basis when I went away to the Redemptorist Farhers' seminary in Brockville , Ontario in September , 1950. Back in the 1930s while my father was building the house times were tough enough on my Mom without having a cantankerous , highly critical mother-in-law riding shotgun on her every move. Imagine having a disgruntled old lady under your feet all day long in an unfinished house , with little revenue , no running water , an outdoor toilet ......... and the frosting on the cake ...... being constantly told that her son could have done better in choosing a wife !! Nowadays looking back I believe my Mom was a saint to have endured this abuse. However and on a more positive note , I was Nanna's fair-haired child and could do no wrong and was totally oblivious to all this.. Although she found most of my playmates "cheeky" and bold the old gal took a liking to my best friend , Tommy MacDonald , who had fetched her a dipper of cold water from the well one hot summer day when I was away. She would even slip him a nickel or a dime now and then.

We all got a break .... poor Nanna included ...... in 1943 when she moved back into town to take care of her old , almost-blind boyfriend , "Dada" O'Brien at his home on Sommerset Street. Now and then Dad would get his buddy , Bill Tighe , to drive them up to Pokiok for the afternoon with his horse and buggy and they would sit out on the hill behind the house in the sun  ....... groping around in the grass trying to find four-leaf clovers and sometimes , according to family folklore , they even got lucky !! On one such sunny afternoon the above photo was snapped in our backyard. In the early 1950s before her death when I was old enough to kid her a bit and get away with it I would remind her of the years she had been "shacked up" with Dada ... even drawing a chuckle or two from her. 

One thing I shall never forget about Nanna was her great cooking abilities. She was one hell of a cordon bleu ! She could whip up pigs' hocks , dumplings , cabbage , sweet potatoes , beets and squash into a feast fit for a king in no time flat. No wonder she was in great demand by many prominent people in town looking to hire her as cook shortly after she was widowed. Tilly , as her girlfriends called her , loved to do up berries in season so often Tommy and I would walk her out to the blueberry hills behind his house or up to the hill behind the Little Millionaires Club for cranberries ........ leave her alone for a couple of hours .... and then go fetch her back home. She would have picked the patches clean and usually handed us two or three small pails of berries to carry back.

Folks around Pokiok more than likely knew who Nanna was ....... seeing this old woman in ankle-length dresses and hair done up in a bun ....... but few knew her well enough to talk to except for those living nearest to us. Agnes and Stan Johnston were regulars in our house ....... and Nanna and Agnes could spend hours talking recipes and quilting....... even going at it in French every now and then ! According to my Mom Nanna mellowed as time flowed by and they both got along quite well together during the five last years of her life. In March , 1954 I received a telegram at the seminary informing me that Nanna had passed away..... at age 80. Requiescat in pace Nanna !    

    

   

48 comments:

  1. Hello Gerry:
    Your postings are most interesting. It's wonderful that you have been able to reach back that far to recall the history of Pokiok.....and so many of the people there.

    Andrea and I have talked to Geraldine Berry about getting together with you sometime to re-connect. I think I could only recognize you in a couple of the pictures as I remember you. You were just a young teen. Isn't it amazing how God has led each of us over the years and now brought us 'Back to the River St. John'.

    My email is barbday2005@yahoo.ca We would love to see you.... and to meet your family.

    Barbara Campbell-Day

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  2. Greetings Barbara ...
    What a delightful surprise after all these years ... and thank you for the warm comments... I would love to have coffee with you , Andrea and Geraldine. Maybe some day soon at Saint John's answer to Colombia's Juan Valdez Cantina ... our very own Tim Horton's or Robin's.... or any other place of your choice. With three lovely ladies I find myself thrice blessed.
    Strange coincidence , Barb .... while going through Mom's old letters last night I came across one , dated 1954 I believe ... where she mentions you saying that you gave her a lift home from near Saint Peter's church.
    I'll send you an e-mail so that we might set up our little rendez-vous some time soon. Thanks for the encouraging words , Barbara , and I am most certainly looking forward to our getting together. Please come back again...

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  3. Barbara Campbell DayDecember 11, 2010 at 9:15 PM

    Gerry:
    It was rather surreal seeing you after so many years. Did you notice when Andrea and I first came in Robin's coffee shop that we had asked several men if they were Gerry? I would not have recognized you! I was surprised that you were able to call me by name. What a pleasure for Andrea, Geraldine and I to have had time to sit over coffee and recount our childhood stories. There is so much more to share. Hope we can rally many more of our friends (from the past) together this summer, as was suggested.
    Barb

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  4. Dear Barb ,
    What a joy it was for myself likewise , Barb ,, to see you all once again after so many moons and rehash and reminisce about our shared childhood .... especially in the company of three such lovely and distinguished ladies as yourselves... I'll bet I was the envy of all the men " who weren't Gerry" the other morning at Robin's. Thank you so much for setting up our wee get-together ..... and as you say in closing , maybe something a bit bigger for next summer.

    We met Geraldine at the Super Store this afternoon and wished her a Merry Christmas... you don't see someone for over 60 years and meet up with them twice in four days ?????? So I would take advantage of the present moment , dear Barb , to wish you and everyone in your family the holiest of Christmasses and peace and happiness in the New Year.
    Gerry

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  5. hi gerry,
    is there any chance that you are related to the
    country singer and personality, buck mcnulty?

    i am told that buck used to hang his hat in the pokiok hills when down east on holiday.

    buck was also a linguist and could swear in many
    languages and dialects!

    slainte!

    dickie.

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  6. Sláinte duit , a Dickie. A big thanks for dropping by .... and yes , that "Buck" was simply my true alter ego on holidays. Buck was my nickname throughout my seminary days and has stuck to me through my buddy , Bill Donnelly , in Quebec City. Yes , I used to hang my hat in Pokiok.... but , if my memory is still worth its weight in salt , so did you , if only for a brief period , hang your hat in Pokiok as well.....up over Nanny Caddell's at the foot of Big Hill. You were quite young back then so your diapers more than likely also "hung" out on the clothesline in Pokiok. Do you recall that fancy British coach with plush interior upholstery Mrs Caddell had up on blocks in her backyard ?
    Slán go fóill !
    Buck

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  7. hi gerry,

    a fancy british coach with plush interior upholstery? actually, no.

    but I do recall our st. mary's days when you asked me to only photograph you in action shots.

    by action shots you meant diving, running, skating, swimming and performing in stage productions.

    to help keep you famous, I complied!

    but what an athlete you were.

    cheers!

    dickie.

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  8. Oh shucks , Dickie .. you're just saying that because it's true ! Thanks for the words of praise but tell me , please .... did I really have a swollen ego when I was young ? If so , I might add that the old pigskin has somewhat deflated over the years and the slapshot doesn't have as much "whack" as it used to but I still have a sense of humour and that's what keeps me afloat ! And you too , Dickie.. with your melodious voice and perfect diction have always managed to cut an elegant swathe wherever you've lived and worked.

    Great to see you again , my friend , after all these years in between ..... and it feels just good and right to be home ..... a great place to hang up my boxing gloves when the fight's over !

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  9. hi gerry,

    and many thanks re the "melodious voice & perfect diction" but you are much too kind.

    as alma said to me the other day, isn't it just grand to have gerry home ... won't josie and tanker be happy.

    please don't even consider hanging up the gloves yet ... you've got too many pieces to write and too many special stories to tell.

    yours in JMJA ...

    dickie.

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  10. who was it that said/wrote: "you can never go back home again" ... well, you doctor, have proven this guy totally wrong!

    I see a real smile across the old face of pokiok ... that smile was missing for a lot of years.

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  11. hi gerry,

    'delighted to know you are now pursuing "the glories of saint peter's boys' school". as a real son of the old green & white there is no one more qualified than you!

    continue to work your magic my old friend!

    slainte!

    dickie.

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  12. hi gerry,

    if you are still looking for "pics from the past", especially your grades 1-8 from saint peter's, you might try reaching ex-new freeman editor, bob merzetti.

    bob, during his new freeman tenure, ran a highly popular pictorial series called "The Golden Oldies". this feature ran for years, and quite possibly could be your solution?

    the series included: grad classes, sports teams, theatre casts, and great old grade school photos. the mcnulty saga could be in the series.

    dickie.

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  13. Great idea , Dickie ... that's what Marie Corkery and Mary McDevitt told me too over at the Cathedral archives where I do a lot of "snooping" or "sleuthing" .. take your pick ! One of these days I'll take about three or four hours and go through the New Freeman oldies at the library .... Market Slip. I'm already getting feed-back from the ones I've posted on the Saint Pete's site.

    Thanks for your input , Dickie ... and may the Butler-Scott saga appear one day soon in writing !

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  14. hi gerry,

    the Butler-Scott saga indeed!

    did you know of the title, Times & Tides (seven decades of life and events, 1911-1984)?

    this hand-written book was produced by a w.f. scott, well known to you, josie & tanker, as "scotty".

    scotty's post-retirement work of love is over 200 pages of personal history, anecdotes, observations and local human-interest pieces.

    scotty wrote with a keen sense of story-telling and a great affection for his family & friends.

    of course, it's a family treasure.

    dickie.

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  15. hi gerry,

    'just another thought re the old north end, st. peters, and related memoirs - do you know paul james, the son of our old friend jackie james?

    paul has co-authored a book (with harold wright) on the north end as we knew and loved it!

    a tete-a-tete with paul, a retired teacher and historian, could be interesting.

    cheers!

    dickie

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  16. hi gerry,

    another personality from the past - billy dowd until recently from 49 adelaide street - wants to hear from you!

    bill didn't know you were back in town, so I briefly brought him up to date re your return and the pokiok & personal memoirs.

    how about the three of us for coffee (irish?) at a place of your choosing?

    slainte!

    dickie.

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  17. hi gerry,

    thank you for your recent 'phone call.

    in passing however, I have come across a lovely print of a painting showing the river, and the unmistakable pokiok hills in the backround. it is very similar to your photo on this page.

    this and other prints, are in the gift shop of the nb museum in the uptown. immediately, I thought of you and your quest.

    you just might check it out?

    cheers!

    dickie.

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  18. Thanks for the heads up , Dickie... I'll drop by that hallowed spot and check things out.! Have a look at the post I just put up this evening about my MOm's birthday.... mentioned your Mom ... you too !! Take care now....

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  19. hi gerry,

    our mums were/are wonderful women. I well remember some of their times together, especially at your pokiok home.

    mum loved the "old days" when she and josie were girls. she loved the stories, the humor, and the grand old faith they deeply shared and held onto.

    al has always thought of you as a son.

    with special thanks, gerry.

    dickie.

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  20. Hi Dickie ,
    I've taken the liberty to copy and transfer your last comment to my latest post re Mom's birthday. I have left you a long comment there in response to your most kind message above. Thanks , oldtimer !

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  21. hi gerry,

    the recent get-together with billy h. dowd was fun. we both enjoyed seeing you "close up" after lo these many years.

    'saw billy today and he wants to do it again ... this time, he says, he'll talk more!

    billy arrived at brockville in 1951 but left within days. 'thought you knew this.

    cheers!

    dickie.

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  22. Hi Dickie,
    Thanks for setting up our get-together with Billy .... truly enjoyed every minute of it.You guys caught my memory off guard as I had completely forgotten Billy's short "sojourn" among us at Brockville. Mea culpa ! I'd love to do it again soon ... maybe during St Patty's week. Keep me in the loop .... or , if you wish , I'll lasso you both over the phone ????? Slainte mhaith !

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  23. hi gerry,

    and touche to you re my momentary memory loss on the famous home town (Minnow Lake, ON) of eddie, the great Bat of Belfry!

    as per your wish, "we" are on for tuesday, march 15, 10 a.m., at the same venue.

    the old north end and the green & white live again.

    slainte!

    dickie.

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  24. Hey Dickie,
    Huge affirmative to next Tuesday morning at 10 bells .... might bring a few old photos as well ... kep the peace until then ... and no unnecessary loitering outside Sobeys !!
    Slan go fóill ! So long for now !

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  25. hi gerry,

    'so we're all "good to go" next tuesday at 10.

    and oh yes, that "unnecessary loitering outside Sobey's" might seem that to the untrained eye, however, I'm posted there to fight crime in all of its many forms.

    kudos to you for spotting me in spite of my wandering street musician's costume. but, pray tell, what gave me away?

    cheers!

    dickie.

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  26. Hi Dickie,

    If you wear your busker uniform tomorrow morning , I'll "muzzle up" since , as you mention , Billy's going to talk more ! See you guys at 10 o'clock at the local speak-easy.
    Slan go fóill,
    Gerry

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  27. hi gerry,

    your photocopies are amazing - better than the originals!

    glad you liked the 1938 snap of josie, yourself and that young wannabe pokioker ... I'll check for more.

    frankly, I think billy is amazed at what you have unearthed. perhaps having always lived here, the lure of old times, friends & neighbors, was not as imporant?

    I know he likes the new experience.

    slainte!

    dickie.

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  28. hi gerry,

    'just an update re a couple of "voices from the past": jack evans and john eldridge.

    as he revealed to you, jack & his younger brother bob did attend st. peter's. bob was in my class. however, I think they both were later sent to silver falls (the orphanage) thru grade school. I also remember jack attending the camp at chapel grove. they were great boys.

    john eldridge, (peter's younger brother) I got to know quite well, in fact we kept in touch by letter thru the 1980s. john, at that time, was on the vancouver police force.

    I met john thru our mutual friend greg bonner who was close to the eldridge family.

    may st, patrick guide & protect you. slainte!

    dickie.

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  29. hi again gerry,

    'just a thought. have you ever considered researching & writing a history of chapel grove?

    obvious, there are still lots of family members in the saint john area who summered and spent decades in and around the grove!

    the tolans, hansens, mcnultys, mclaughlins, let alone the foleys, whites & bonners, would be loaded with fact, ficton and anecdotes.

    the CSsR founding fathers & their history there could well be the linchpin. and who better to put this on paper but you?

    what do you think, doctor?

    slainte!

    dickie.

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  30. Hi Dickie,
    A bit late in answering but procrastination often bears enlightenment .... like hell it does !! I truly love that picture of Mom , myself and the kid in the basket.Thanks a million. You mention the Evans boys ,John Eldridge ... the names ring bells but the faces are fuzzy .... but Greg Bonner and the Grove toll bells loud and clear. I did a week in St Joe's hospital with Greg as "cellmate" ... he taught me how to "harass" nurses .....many stories likewise at the GRove ... Urban Bollard's place ... with Greg and Kenny POrter , etc
    Are we still on for Tuesday ?

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  31. hi gerry,

    re tuesday: yes we are ... I'll let billy know.

    the john eldridge reference comes from his query on your st. peter's page. john has retired from the van police force as an inspector.

    greg worked with me at chsj before I left for the "big time" in ontario. but we remained close friends until his death in 1989. his nephew kevin (son of greg's brother jimmy) is also a good friend. kevin is head of stud svcs at unbsj.

    but, what about the "grove idea"? would it be something you could get your teeth into?

    see you soon!

    dickie.

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  32. correction gerry, re greg's passing.

    he "went to god" in 1987 NOT 1989. greg was only 60 years of age.

    dickie.

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  33. hi gerry & rebekah,

    your piece and shots of McGillicudy are exceptional! what a team you two make ... gerry with his pen & rebekah with her Pentax(?).

    in spite of all his glory, however, "ole mac" has a "lean and hungry look" about him, don't you think?

    'told mum about Mac and she said gerard always had a special way with God's creatures.

    again, super shooting rebekah!

    cheers!

    dickie.

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  34. hi gerry,

    we note with pride that your new "fine-feathered friend" McGillicudy, is well named and the perfect mascot for Pokiok!

    but, were you aware of the strong Irish connection?

    within the Ring of Kerry is a string of mountains called "the MACGILLYCUDDY'S". I note the spelling difference but the pronunciation is the same, right?

    slainte to you & "ole Mac",

    dickie.

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  35. hi gerry, 'just a quick aside ...

    'don't know for sure, but on closer examination, isn't there just a touch of the Presbyterian Scot in your friend and mascot, McGillicudy?

    I think this bears an investigation.

    at any rate, he's a brother Celt!

    slainte!

    dickie.

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  36. er, you're right gerry, that's spelt McGillicuddy (with two Ds) ... how careless of me.

    the first rule in news/journalism: accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!

    cheers!

    dickie.

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  37. No way , my son.... Mac Giolla Cudh is as Irish as Mrs Murphy's chowder or Tullamore Dew !!The bloody Brit abensentee landlords anglicized the old Gaelic names so badly before "shipping" our forebears to the Promised Land on the ghost-phantom barques that they are barely recognizable. I'll give you a very brief crash course as to how they screwed up on Tuesday. My own name was slaughtered !! What do you think names such as McAloon , McIntire , McElwaine , etc looked like in Gaelic before the Sasannaí made the big muddle up !!
    Sláinte , Dickie

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  38. hi gerry,

    hey! that's the gerry I well remember from sainted school yards and the playing fields of our youth'

    with that kind of fervour, I call sill recall you (shillelagh in hand) belting out "Mistress Murphy's Chowder". (I could lick the mick that threw ... )

    nobody pushed our Gerard around! then & now!

    slainte, to you and Mac Giolla Cudh & confusion to the Sasannai!

    dickie.

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  39. hi gerry,

    further to the great old pictures you gave to me tuesday: 'think I may have the answer to your queries.

    the woman with mum, standing at the side of a house, is Helen Gibbons. she is also in the group shot of the girls taken at a summer camp. she's in the back row on the right.

    (helen gibbons was a close friend of mum's in those years. however, she passed away quite early in life.)

    also, the girl on the left (front row) with mum,is aggie mcelwaine (sister of gerry?)

    'will be forwarding the shot of al & josie on to rochelle thru lorna,

    'any truth to the rumour that you are also compiling a "rogues gallery" of ex-saint peter's boys who went on to fame in the penal system?

    it seems there is no end of material!

    regards & thanks!

    dickie.

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  40. gerry,

    re: Edmund McNulty honored by friends, 1933.

    the Fred Morris mentioned in the piece is NOT the fabled "Gadget" Morris: firefighter, umpire & north end boulevardier.

    Gadget's first name was Arthur.

    but, was this Fred Morris, the high school teacher & the father of Jimmy?

    dickie.

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  41. hi gerry,

    further to the above: Edmund McNulty (1933)

    indeed, the mentioned fred morris is the father of jimmy and (he) was a teacher here for many years. st. malachy's for sure!

    the sources for this are solid!

    cheers,

    dickie.

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  42. Hi Dickie ,
    You've done your homework on the Morris mystery so I'll chalk one up for you, my son..... however , you are way out in right field .... somewhat halfway down the slide into Marble Cove .... on the Helen Gibbons photos .... and I can prove it !! In fact , I think I'll quote you , " the sources for this are solid!"
    We shall discuss possible names for your suggested "rogues gallery" at the next board meeting ..... likewise the future site of proposed penal colony location.

    Slàn go fóill !
    Gerry

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  43. hi gerry,

    you're probably right doctor, but alma says she's sure about helen! her quote: "I was there, I should know!") ... this might sound more authentic in a latin phrase - is there one to cover?

    please advise soonest!

    cheers to you & Mac the Magnificent!

    dickie.

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  44. hi again gerry,

    re the "real" helen gibbons.

    just to be certain, I took the snaps for mum to view again today. without any coaching at all, she seemed totally sure of helen's identity.

    naturally, we want you to reveal your "solid sources" to end the mystery!

    as we say in showbiz: the plot thickens!

    write soon ...

    dickie & al.

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  45. dear gerard,

    I stand by my prima facie evidence and my 102+ memory.

    God love ya'

    al.

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  46. Dearest Alma .. bridesmaid to my sweet Mom... and your pride-n-joy son .... I recant my rant! Faced with first hand , eye-witness testimony my whole cookie "crumbleth". However , sometime in the very near future I shall lay before you the method in my madness ... my reasoning that the woman identified as Helen Gibbons in said photo could not have been she ..... God love us all .... Stay hale and hearty , dear Alma. I love you.

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  47. hi gerry,

    "we" may have solved the riddle of helen gibbons.

    there are two of them - both from the north end!

    one IS mum's friend as indicated in the old snaps. the other helen lived on main street and owned the property next to "taffy tom's". for many years, barber shops were on the street level of the building.

    mum's friend died early in life, the other lady lived up into the 1960s.

    how does the above compare with your findings, doctor?

    please advise soonest!

    dickie.

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  48. May I please butt in here. I was browsing and I don't know how I managed to find you but I did. I remember both Gerry and Dickie. My name is Celeste Gallant McGrath and my mother was Aggie McElwaine, well known to both your mothers. My mother's two sisters, Evelyn and Bridget, married Tom and Fred Clark and each had a son - Gerry Clark and Charles (Buddy) Clark. My sister, Dianne Gallant Hanlon went through school with Lorna and, a few years ago, attended a wonderful reunion of all their friends born in 1945.
    This was organized by Lorna.

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