Monday, February 10, 2014

Joanne (Amirault) Sweeney (52 Ancestors - #5)

Aunt Joanne (Amirault) Sweeney was my maternal grandfather, Harry Amirault's, sister. I remember her fondly from the visits she made to Nana Amirault's home each summer). She was always happy to chat with us young ones as we passed through Nana's home on our way to play with our friends on Bartlett Street. We were glad she visited us all the way from New Hampshire! Again, family jumped in and wrote this wonderful story that we will be preserving for future generations. Let's read what my cousin, Pat (Sweeney) Cloutier has to say about her mom Joanne who was born to Laurence and Mary Alice (Boudreau) Amirault in Middle East Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1903.

In my mother's immediate family, there were eleven children. These children were parents to fifteen children and those children had thirty seven grandchildren. My mother, Joanne, shortened from Johanna, grew up in a tiny Acadian fishing village on a beautiful deep harbor in Nova Scotia. Her father was a poor farmer and sometimes he worked on the fishing boats.
Joanne is front left (with all the hair!)
The roads were dirt and most families only owned a bicycle. There was an enterprising young man who owned a truck that was fitted with benches on either side of the covered truck bed. For ten cents he would pick up anyone needing a ride to Church. They got a ride to Church and didn't have to walk the two miles for only a dime! In my first visit to the old home in 1950 they still had those wonderful big oak telephones on the wall that had a 12 party line. They could tell by the ring who it was for and if it was a long-distance call!

Several of her siblings moved away once they were old enough. Joanne and three of her sisters became nurses. Three of them trained in NH and one in Nova Scotia. They all paid their own way through school.

Mom graduated in 1925 and continued working at the same hospital she trained in. She met her future husband there when she was taking care of his brother. They were engaged for several years due to the depression. They couldn't afford to get married. They finally did marry in 1934 and became proud parents to a little daughter in 1936. Mom stopped working and was a stay-at-home mom only that designation had not yet been used. She was always there when I walked home from school for lunch. I started school the same year that the US entered WWII. I remember going with her to get coupons for food and permits for a month's supply of sugar, five pounds. Mom was a good homemaker and managed well through the rationing.
Joanne and Ed Sweeney about 1930s
The Americans at home found that as the war progressed, more and more things were rationed. Not only did we have to make our food budget stretch, automobiles were no longer being built; gas was rationed anyway, and very difficult to find. I remember the kids who lived out in the country were asked to pick milkweed pods and bring them in to school. That was for the flyers' jackets. We didn't have butter readily available. One could buy a new substitute called margarine. I had the job of trying to mix it up. It came in a large white blob and had a little packet of powdered yellow "stuff". You mixed that into the white blob and pretended you were eating butter! They survived the war years by working hard and being creative for the products that you couldn't have.

Mom went back to nursing when I was in my teens. She hadn't been home to Nova Scotia for many years; It was at least twenty five. In those years she got married, had a baby and once the war came there were no boats from Boston any more, heading for Nova Scotia. Finally, I was working and able to "keep the home fires burning" for my father and me while she enjoyed many trips to Nova Scotia. After the boats began sailing to Nova Scotia, and airlines made trips down east, she traveled "home" every summer.
Aunt Joanne (front left) with all her siblings
In essence, my mother and her siblings had very happy growing up years on the farm. They remained close all their lives as have all the next generation. Mostly, the siblings lived a long life. My mother was 89. She had one sister who lived to 106!! One of her brothers died very young due to cancer, the other lived to almost 80 and at least three lived into their nineties. I am so happy that I had the chance to visit the old homestead and to get to know so many of my relatives. I only regret that I never knew my maternal grandparents.
Ed and Joanne on their wedding day, 4/19/34.  Because it was during the depression Joanne didn't wear a wedding gown.

Note: Pat's comment about the family is so true. Family values were instilled in me due to knowing all my great Aunts! To this day I keep in touch with many of their children, including Pat! If Aunt Joanne were alive today I would ask her what her nursing training involved back in the early 1900s. All my great Aunts who left home from their tiny village to become nurses...they were really pioneers in their own way!

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