Pearl Harbor – Memoirs of a Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

HEARTLAND VERSES is a collection of WWII memoirs, stories, and poems from the heart of Clara Bastien Treat, one of America’s Rosie-the-Riveters.   About the author – Clara Treat was a wife, mother, and grandmother. She was a well-known antique dealer, inventor, and WWII Rosie-the-Riveter.   Her writing was inspired by love of family, freedom, and country. She passed away in 2010.

An excerpt from HEARTLAND VERSES:

Memoirs of a Rosie the Riveter

Chapter One

North Tonawanda, New York

December 4, 1941

A few days before the Pearl Harbor attack

            The days before Pearl Harbor were some of the happiest in my life.  The gang met at my house two or three evenings a week to play cards, listen to the player piano, talk, and eat a wonderful snack that my mother provided.  The house had been built around the turn of the century and had a long room in the front with a lovely front porch.  A gas log fireplace provided a cozy and warm place for us to meet.

Three tables were set up for pinochle and the front parlor served as a dance floor.  There were fourteen young men and four young women in our group.  Some families wouldn’t allow their daughters to participate because they thought we were too wild, but it wasn’t true.  We were as innocent and pure as the driven snow.  After a while, we would roll up the rugs and dance to the player piano or a lively tune on the radio.

Most of the guys were like brothers to us, except for a few.  I was regarded as Chester’s girl and my sister Julie, who was younger, was unattached.  She did however take the time to flirt with each and every one of them.

We were coming out of the depression, which had held us down for so long. Some of our friends joined the army and navy to get a job and joined us on furlough.  To survive tough times my widowed mother ran a boarding house, providing two meals a day, a packed lunch, and a place to sleep for seven men.  My sister and I helped out; keeping busy with laundry, ironing, and housework and my brother Jim kept the lawn and maintained the house.

On top of that, Julie and I worked as usherettes at the Riviera Theatre several evenings a week.  It was a busy life, but we enjoyed ourselves.  There was no time to get into trouble.

Then, everything changed…

Julie and Clara Bastien (top) with friends

Julie and Clara Bastien (top) with friends

**********

Want to read more?  Today, through DEC 31st, 2016 you can download a free copy of her book by using coupon code HG85A at the checkout.

Use this link:

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Clara Treat

Clara Treat

Love you always, Mom.

Jeanne

My Mother’s Day Gift to You – in memory of my mother

Heartland Verses

My mother was an author, too.  Download her eBook FREE using coupon code FM36P at checkout.  Good until May 31, 2015

Download link:   https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54111

Book description: Memoirs, stories, and poems from the heart of Clara A. Bastien Treat, one of America’s Rosie-the-Riveters.  About the author – Clara Treat was a wife, mother, and grandmother.  She was a well-known antique dealer, inventor, and WWII Rosie-the-Riveter.  Her writing was inspired by love of family, freedom, and country.

Excerpt:

Rosie the Riveter

MEMOIRS OF A ROSIE THE RIVETER

Chapter One

North Tonawanda, New York

December 4, 1941

A few days before the Pearl Harbor attack

            The days before Pearl Harbor were some of the happiest in my life.  The gang met at my house two or three evenings a week to play cards, listen to the player piano, talk, and eat a wonderful snack that my mother provided.  The house had been built around the turn of the century and had a long room in the front with a lovely front porch.  A gas log fireplace provided a cozy and warm place for us to meet.

Three tables were set up for pinochle and the front parlor served as a dance floor.  There were fourteen young men and four young women in our group.  Some families wouldn’t allow their daughters to participate because they thought we were too wild, but it wasn’t true.  We were as innocent and pure as the driven snow.  After a while, we would roll up the rugs and dance to the player piano or a lively tune on the radio.

Most of the guys were like brothers to us, except for a few.  I was regarded as Chester’s girl and my sister Julie, who was younger, was unattached.  She did however take the time to flirt with each and every one of them.

We were coming out of the depression, which had held us down for so long. Some of our friends joined the army and navy to get a job and joined us on furlough.  To survive tough times my widowed mother ran a boarding house, providing two meals a day, a packed lunch, and a place to sleep for seven men.  My sister and I helped out; keeping busy with laundry, ironing, and housework and my brother Jim kept the lawn and maintained the house.

On top of that, Julie and I worked as usherettes at the Riviera Theatre several evenings a week.  It was a busy life, but we enjoyed ourselves.  There was no time to get into trouble.

Then, everything changed…

.

.

A DAY OF INFAMY

Chapter Two 

North Tonawanda, New York

December 7, 1941

“We have witnessed this morning the attack of Pearl Harbor and a severe bombing of Pearl Harbor by army planes, undoubtedly Japanese. The city of Honolulu has also been attacked and considerable damage done. This battle has been going on for nearly three hours…It’s no joke. It’s a real war.”

—    News bulletin from Honolulu, heard over WCAE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I shall never forget that day.  My sister and I were on our way to work as usherettes at the Riviera Theatre in North   Tonawanda, New York.  We noticed people gathering on street corners, alerting us to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The attack had come in the morning hours on the Hawaiian Islands.  With wire delays and the speed of relay, the news did not reach us until well into mid-afternoon.  My first feeling was disbelief, which turned quickly to horror at the thought that anyone would attack the United   States like that.  It occurred to my sister, Juliette, and I that this day would forever change our country and us.  We would have to pitch in and help our country to defend itself in any way we could.

After work, the gang gathered at my house to discuss the attack and make plans to assist our country.  We wondered what happened to two of our friends, who were stationed on the Arizona.  One was a flyer and the other was a sailor.  We would wait patiently for news of their fate.

The boys reacted in different ways.  Some were angry, while others were committed to defending this country.  They discussed the branches of the military and decided on the ones to join.

Julie and I had a sinking feeling.  We knew that things were changing forever and that some of these boys would never come back.  We swore that we would do everything in our power to assist the war effort and write to each and every one of them.  The night ended on a somber note.  Due to the war, our gang was breaking up forever.

Over the next few weeks, most able-bodied young men joined the service and left for their destinations.  Because of this, the factories were left short-staffed and many of them were being converted to manufacture war goods and supplies to support the troops.  The radio and newspapers were calling for workers for these factories and asking the women to participate.  Shortages were expected, so Julie and I joined drives to collect paper, glass, tin, iron, and other materials.  It wasn’t enough.  We decided to leave our jobs as usherettes and work in the factories.

We were very close, so we always worked at the same place.  The first place that we went to work for was the Van Rault Mills on Sweeney  Street in North  Tonawanda.  The factory that had once made nylon lingerie and undergarments for women had transformed—virtually overnight—to making nylon for parachutes.  Julie was assigned to the rollers.  She had to wrap the giant rolls of nylon, package them and put them on a hand truck destined for the shipping department.  I was assigned to the spinner department, where cones of nylon thread were being spun into rolls.  I couldn’t let the cones run out, or the rolls would be faulty.

After three months, we’d had enough and sought employment at Remington Rand, Co. in Tonawanda.  This company had been involved in manufacturing office equipment, but had now geared-up to make parts for the airplanes being built by Buffalo-based Curtis-Wright.  At Remington Rand I learned how to drill and handle tools, something that I never thought I would be doing.  Julie was a driller as well, something that was out of character for her.  We were working on parts that were used to put airplane wings together.  Once, I got my drill caught in Julie’s hair, an act that led to a rule about hairnets.

After eighteen months, my sister and I passed security checks and accepted positions at Curtis-Wright to work directly on transport planes as riveters, drillers, and buckers.

Julie got lucky and became a bond-girl, selling war bonds at the factory as her regular job.  I was assigned to riveting and bucking on the C47 Transport Plane.  The noise in the plane was deafening and many of us lost some of our hearing.  The riveter and the bucker communicated by taps.  The riveter was outside tapping on the place where they wanted to rivet, while the bucker was inside tapping with a bucking bar.  When the two met, the riveting began.  The bucker’s job was uncomfortable and a bit dangerous.  Crouching in spaces where you couldn’t stand, you didn’t dare sit down for fear of getting a drill in your behind.  Each night, my ears rang for hours after I left the plant.

In addition to this, I received training and volunteered as a nurse’s aide at Degraff Memorial Hospital.  Julie and I volunteered at the local U.S.O., spending many nights dancing with young navy men and flyboys who would soon be shipped overseas.

My family, my friends, and I continued to contribute in other ways by collecting glass, paper, and anything that could be recycled for the war effort, in addition to planting “Victory gardens.”  Everyone was subject to rationing, so anything that we could grow was appreciated.

It was a time of uncertainty.  We did not know if, when, or how we would be attacked again.

.

.

A PATRIOTIC ENGAGEMENT

Chapter Three 

North Tonawanda, New York

It was the summer of 1943.  Two young sailors, temporarily stationed in our area, rented an apartment from my mother.  The Richardson Boat Company that manufactured Chris-Craft pleasure boats had been refitted to make landing craft for the US Navy.  Ray Nobes and Jimmy Cavey had been tasked with shepherding the finished boats down the Erie Canal to Albany and points beyond, where they were loaded onto large ships.

Ray Nobes was a tall, slim, dark-haired young man from the state of Maine.  Reserved and soft spoken, he was a sweet man with a beautiful smile.

Jimmy Cavey, a New Englander as well, was tall and muscular and handsome in his uniform.  Outspoken and quick-witted, he enjoyed dancing the jitterbug and the waltz.

They rented a car and asked us to show them around.  Ray and Jimmy took Julie and me to Niagara Falls, the local Canteen, and on rides through the countryside.

One day, they came to us with sad news.  Their time in our area was almost up and they’d received orders to leave the next day for a European tour of duty.  The boys had a request.  If they could tell their officers that they were getting engaged to two sisters, they would be granted an extra day with us.  Would we be willing to say that we were engaged to them?

Julie and I saw no harm in it.  We liked these men and wanted to help them.  We agreed to meet them later on the bridge that crossed the Erie Canal to have one last evening together.

After dinner, we walked with the boys to the canal.  We were sad that they were leaving but flattered that they wanted to pretend to be engaged to us, even for a few hours.  We didn’t know if we’d ever see them again, yet we promised that we’d write faithfully.

On the bridge, we got a big surprise.  Both men presented us with diamond engagement rings and asked us to wait for them.  Julie was flattered and remarked that the rings were absolutely beautiful.  With tears streaming down her face, she promised Jimmy that she would think about it seriously.  I was shocked and had not considered marriage at that point.  How could I say no?  Ray was heading off to war and he might never return.  Reluctantly, I accepted the ring and agreed to think about it.

They left early the next day.  We had really enjoyed their company and life seemed empty without them.  Unwilling to tell our mother about this, we stashed the rings in a drawer.

Months later, I told Ray in a letter that I wasn’t ready for marriage.  I’m not sure what Julie did about Jimmy.

We busied ourselves working for the war effort and helping our mother with her boarding house.

.

.

Want to read more?

Download her eBook FREE using coupon code FM36P at checkout.  Good until May 31, 2015

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The Lost Spirit – a Christmas poem by my mother, Clara Treat

Meaning of Christmas

The Lost Spirit

I searched for the spirit of Christmas

In a silent, white starlit night,

And then on the city sidewalks

With store windows gay and bright.

I visited Toyland and found there

Happiness and real joy,

In the picture of children with Santa

As he promised each one a toy.

Then I took my babes to the manger

To wish the Christ Child well,

And there by the candle-lit crib

I captured the magic spell.

In the eyes of my own little children

The spirit of Christmas shone,

With love for the child who lay there

He was truly one of their own.

Author’s note:

Our home was the gathering place for our friends and relatives on Christmas Eve.  We exchanged gifts and enjoyed a great buffet luncheon.  With all the work of decorating and cooking and the kids getting restless, I’d lost my Christmas spirit.  I gathered my brood together and headed for the manger in our church.  It was there that I captured the lost spirit that inspired me to write this poem.

~ Clara Treat

Download Clara’s book “Heartland Verses” free at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54111

Use coupon code  UD26F at checkout to get it free – until 01/15/15

In Search of a Grandmother

Granny - Clara Crate

Granny – Clara Crate

My search for my great-grandmother, a native American medicine woman, takes me to the north woods of Canada.

I have always been the family historian, researching genealogy, recording the stories of elders, and tracking births and deaths.  I had been successful with my father’s side of the family, documenting our history back to the 1500’s in England and Scotland.

My mother’s side was another matter.  There was a story told that her grandmother had been a native American medicine woman before she married a Hudson Bay man, moved to Saskatchewan, and founded the town of Rocanville.  They said that she practiced hands on healing and herbal medicine, delivered babies, treated wounds, and set fractures.  Known as “Granny”, she was the only midwife for miles around.

In 1994, my seventy-three year old mother found a tin-type picture of her grandmother and expressed a desire to learn about her heritage.  There was very little to go on.  We knew that her Christian name was Clara Crate and she’d married a Hudson Bay man named Auguste Rocan Bastien.

I sent out letters of inquiry to research societies, churches, and government agencies in Canada.  We were able to find information on Auguste in the Hudson Bay profiles, but nothing on Clara.  The town of Rocanville acknowledged that she had lived there, was buried there, and had been an important part of the town.  But they claimed that no one asked about her tribe because it wasn’t proper.

Early in 1995, my uncle offered me some engineering diaries that his father James (Clara’s son) had kept after he moved his family from Canada to Niagara Falls.  They were faded texts with crumbling covers, written partly in French and partly in English.  Drawing on my high school French skills, I spent months translating these work diaries, which contained personal information as well.

Towards the very end of the last book, I translated an entry that was to be a clue to finding Clara.

11/06/1933
“Sister Eveline’s 65th birthday.  Oh how I think of when we were little tots.  Don’t seem so long ago but what changes since.  Our mode of travel from Norway House northern Manitoba was by York Boats, 8 oared and helmsman.  There were 5 of these boats about 6 tons each fitted for the Hudson Bay Company.  We went from Norway House to Fort Carlton on the Saskatchewan River in the year 1875.   I believe it took us 4 weeks to make the trip.  I was baptized at Pas (or Ross) Mission, close to Norway House.”

I studied a tribal map of Canada with great expectation.  There was a reservation at Norway House and the tribe was the Woodland Cree.

An inner voice told me loud and clear “YES, YOU ARE CREE.”

I switched my focus from Saskatchewan to Manitoba and wrote to the pastor of the church at Norway House.  We sent him our information and hoped to get a speedy reply.  But months went by without a word.

My inner voice told me to travel to Saskatchewan and visit the reservation in Manitoba.  Logic told me to wait until we had more information; but the voice was persistent and won out.

I began the process of booking a trip.  It was easy to get transportation and accommodations in Saskatchewan but getting to the reservation was another matter.

I wanted to rent a truck in Winnipeg and drive north to the reservation at Norway House, but there were no real roads going up there.  A man at Travel Canada told me that the roads were dotted lines on the map, which meant that they were dirt roads at best.  Once we left Winnipeg to travel around the lake, there would be no place to refuel, buy food or water, sleep, or pee along the way.  Not real friendly for me and a seventy-three year old woman.  In closing, he said that they’d been fighting forest fires up there but that they would probably be out in a week.

Forest fires?  I asked the logical question.  Was there any other way to get there?  I was told that Perimeter Airlines flew out of a small airfield in Winnipeg.

Later that day, I sat across from a confused AAA agent, insisting that this airline existed.  Not referenced in any books or computers, she called dozens of contacts at Winnipeg airport before anyone would acknowledge it.

With phone number in hand, she called Perimeter Airlines for reservations.  The girl on the other end said just bring cash, we will get you on.  When the agent demanded a reservation number, the girl gave her the name ‘Gertrude’.

We had no set itinerary, yet my inner voice was insisting that we go.  It was telling me that, “ALL YOU SHALL NEED WILL BE PROVIDED.”

It was two days before the trip and we still had no definite plans.  Then a miracle occurred.  I received a phone call from a historian in Winnipeg, who said that a letter I wrote to the pastor at Norway House had been sent to him.  Ray Beaumont had our entire history for us in written form.  There was so much information on Clara’s mother Sarah Nekahwiw that they’d made a school project about her.  The school district had always wondered where the medicine woman, Clara, had gone and who her descendants were.  He was eager to talk to us.

We juggled our trip so that we could meet with him for an entire day before we left for Norway House.  Two days later, my mother and I flew out of Toronto for Regina, Saskatchewan.  Traversing that province, the ground appeared below us like a patchwork quilt, blanketed with squares of bright green canola and purple-blue flax, and adorned with miniature oil wells.

In Regina, we visited a local museum and spent time at a library researching birth and death records on microfiche.  Then we got some sleep and the next morning headed east across a desolate prairie to the town that her grandparents founded.

Downtown Rocanville had been a hub along the Canadian Pacific Railway in years past, but no more.  What remained was a wide street with tiny stores, a post office, a bar, and a dreary-looking Chinese restaurant.  A sign claimed that the population was 918, but even that looked outdated.  The townspeople were nice and showed us the cemetery where Clara and her husband were buried.  Tombstones claimed that many had been lost in the 1916-1917 world flu epidemics.  We toured a little museum where my mother saw a chair that her grandfather had made.

Such a tiny community!  We left that place thinking that if we ever needed to be in the Federal Witness Protection Program, here was a place that no one would ever find us.

We stayed the night in a motel and in the morning we were off for Manitoba!

In Winnipeg, we spent the day with the historian, who provided us with a complete family tree from my great-grandmother back five generations.  We received information on the Cree syllabic language, the Hudson Bay settlement, and Clara’s mother Sarah.  We learned about her marriage, her children, what jobs she held, ceremonies she attended, and what she bought and sold.  We found out why we had trouble locating information on Clara Crate.  She had been born Clara St Germain.  When her father died, her mother remarried a man named Crate and Clara took his last name.

The historian asked us if we had a guide once we got to Norway House.  We told him that we weren’t sure what we were going to do once we got there.  He made a call and arranged for us to have a guide meet us when we arrived.

He also offered to connect us with a distant cousin of ours, a full-blooded Cree living in Winnipeg.  When we returned to the hotel, our cousin Ken called and asked if he could come over to meet us, so we gave him our room number.  In the meantime, we went down to the lobby to have coffee.

Fifteen minutes later, a man came into the hotel, looked us over, and walked to my mother.  He touched her cheek tenderly with the back of his hand and held it there.  It was Ken.

He said “You don’t even have to tell me who you are.  I know who you are.  You look just like my grandmother.”

We spent an evening with him looking over the genealogy, discovering how we were related, and talking about Norway House.

Early the next morning, we arrived at a small airport and boarded a Perimeter flight for Norway House.  The aircraft was so tiny that you had to stoop to enter it and keep your head low as you walked the narrow aisle.  We were separated from the cockpit by a drape and the pilots looked like they were nineteen years old.  We sat down and looked around.  The plane carried ten people, all native Americans, who promptly put earplugs in their ears.  I remember having a ridiculous thought that we wouldn’t get breakfast on this flight.

The noise level was deafening and without earplugs you could hear the pilots fighting over the gauge alarms going off.  This was quite an unnerving feeling as we were flying over the waters of Lake Winnipeg.  Because of a lightning storm, we were diverted to Cross Lake where we landed hard on a dirt runway.

The pilots collected money from a rider and we waited an hour for the weather to break.  Then it cleared and we continued on to Norway House, where we landed on a rough gravel road.  Disembarking the plane, we learned that the airport terminal was a 20×40 deserted shack with a telephone inside.

I called our hotel and said, “This is Ms. Treat.  My mother and I are expected as guests.  Will you send a shuttle to the airport to pick us up?”

This evidently was not something anyone had asked for before, as it caused a stir on the other end of the phone.  They agreed to send someone and fifteen minutes later we noticed a vehicle approaching in a cloud of dust.  Soon, an old man covered with plaster arrived in a beat up pick up truck.  Without a word, he tossed our bags into the back of the truck, nodded, and helped us up onto the bench seat.

The hotel turned out to be the local greasy spoon with a couple of rooms above it, vintage 1950’s with dark furniture and chenille bedspreads.  We were informed that for the most part only Hydro engineers stayed there.  My mother and I settled into our room and went down to the restaurant.

While we were having a late breakfast, a man appeared at our table, who stood silently for what seemed like five minutes.  My inner voice was telling me to “BE STILL AND LISTEN”.

At last he spoke, “I am Byron and I will be your guide.”

Byron drove us around the reserve, then to the old Hudson Bay cemetery, where Sarah Nekahwiw was buried.  He introduced us to his people and showed us their community center.

Norway House was beautiful!  We saw shimmering lakes and fast-moving rivers, with little islands in the middle of them.  Byron then took us to Rossville, where we went to the church on the point and met the Reverend John Crate.  If you ever needed a beautiful setting to believe in God, this was the place.

Our guide took us to see the York boats up close and a team of women rowing one in preparation for York Boat Days.  What more could we want from a genealogy trip?  We thanked him and returned to our hotel with a sense of satisfaction.  Our trip seemed to be over.

The plane was scheduled to leave the next day at 4:45pm.  At this point we didn’t expect anything else to happen.  The next morning, we were having breakfast in the restaurant.

Byron appeared, sat at our table, and lowered his head.  He sighed and said that this is a very small place.  Everyone wanted to know about the two new women and what their story is.  The tribal council wanted to meet with us.

First he took us to the school, where he gave us books on the Cree and videos of the history of Norway House.  Then Byron took us to the longhouse to meet the elders.  More modern than I expected, we sat around a conference table and listened to the sounds of a fax machine.

I had photocopied my family tree and gave each man a copy.  Talk was friendly and we soon found that we were related to three of the men on the council.

My mother spoke at length about her father’s diary so we gave them a copy as well.   When she told them about James’ account of his trip on a York boat, they presented us with a three foot replica of the boat to take back with us.  I wondered how I would get it on the plane.

At last we stood.  The elders offered prayers about ancestors and family and held a ceremony to accept their lost sisters back into the tribe.

My inner voice came forth loud and clear “YES GRANDDAUGHTER, YOU ARE CREE”.

My great-grandmother followed me back that day.  From that time forward I felt unafraid to touch others who needed healing or reassurance.  I began to intuitively know about plants and to practice herbal medicine on myself and family members.   I sought out a local tribe, participated in rituals and drumming circles, and studied alternative therapies.

Many years have passed.  My mother died in 2010, but I shall always remember the times we spent reminiscing about the discovery of her grandmother.

“Granny” has been a dear companion to me, helping me to heal myself and others, and protecting me from those who would do me harm.

It was a worthwhile trip, a grand awakening, and I will always be grateful for her love.

***

About the author:

Jeanne Treat is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a saga that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  To research her books, she traveled to Scotland to visit castles, seaports, and stone circles, and talk to historians.  She has also published in local newspapers, magazines, and anthologies.  She lives with her husband Robert and two Scottish terriers, Maggie and Duff.

You can read  Jeanne’s stories, articles, and poetry at:

http://www.authorsden.com/jeannentreat

Read about the trilogy at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

The Lost Spirit – a Christmas poem by Clara Treat

Meaning of Christmas

The Lost Spirit

I searched for the spirit of Christmas

In a silent, white starlit night,

And then on the city sidewalks

With store windows gay and bright.

I visited Toyland and found there

Happiness and real joy,

In the picture of children with Santa

As he promised each one a toy.

Then I took my babes to the manger

To wish the Christ Child well,

And there by the candle-lit crib

I captured the magic spell.

In the eyes of my own little children

The spirit of Christmas shone,

With love for the child who lay there

He was truly one of their own.

Author’s note:

Our home was the gathering place for our friends and relatives on Christmas Eve.  We exchanged gifts and enjoyed a great buffet luncheon.  With all the work of decorating and cooking and the kids getting restless, I’d lost my Christmas spirit.  I gathered my brood together and headed for the manger in our church.  It was there that I captured the lost spirit that inspired me to write this poem.

~ Clara Treat

Download Clara’s book “Heartland Verses” free at:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54111

Use coupon code  RW69S at checkout to get it free – until 01/07/14

In Search of a Grandmother

Granny - Clara Crate

Granny – Clara Crate

My search for my great-grandmother, a native American medicine woman, takes me to the north woods of Canada.

I have always been the family historian, researching genealogy, recording the stories of elders, and tracking births and deaths.  I had been successful with my father’s side of the family, documenting our history back to the 1500’s in England and Scotland.

My mother’s side was another matter.  There was a story told that her grandmother had been a native American medicine woman before she married a Hudson Bay man, moved to Saskatchewan, and founded the town of Rocanville.  They said that she practiced hands on healing and herbal medicine, delivered babies, treated wounds, and set fractures.  Known as “Granny”, she was the only midwife for miles around.

In 1994, my seventy-three year old mother found a tin-type picture of her grandmother and expressed a desire to learn about her heritage.  There was very little to go on.  We knew that her Christian name was Clara Crate and she’d married a Hudson Bay man named Auguste Rocan Bastien.

I sent out letters of inquiry to research societies, churches, and government agencies in Canada.  We were able to find information on Auguste in the Hudson Bay profiles, but nothing on Clara.  The town of Rocanville acknowledged that she had lived there, was buried there, and had been an important part of the town.  But they claimed that no one asked about her tribe because it wasn’t proper.

Early in 1995, my uncle offered me some engineering diaries that his father James (Clara’s son) had kept after he moved his family from Canada to Niagara Falls.  They were faded texts with crumbling covers, written partly in French and partly in English.  Drawing on my high school French skills, I spent months translating these work diaries, which contained personal information as well.

Towards the very end of the last book, I translated an entry that was to be a clue to finding Clara.

11/06/1933
“Sister Eveline’s 65th birthday.  Oh how I think of when we were little tots.  Don’t seem so long ago but what changes since.  Our mode of travel from Norway House northern Manitoba was by York Boats, 8 oared and helmsman.  There were 5 of these boats about 6 tons each fitted for the Hudson Bay Company.  We went from Norway House to Fort Carlton on the Saskatchewan River in the year 1875.   I believe it took us 4 weeks to make the trip.  I was baptized at Pas (or Ross) Mission, close to Norway House.”

I studied a tribal map of Canada with great expectation.  There was a reservation at Norway House and the tribe was the Woodland Cree.

An inner voice told me loud and clear “YES, YOU ARE CREE.”

I switched my focus from Saskatchewan to Manitoba and wrote to the pastor of the church at Norway House.  We sent him our information and hoped to get a speedy reply.  But months went by without a word.

My inner voice told me to travel to Saskatchewan and visit the reservation in Manitoba.  Logic told me to wait until we had more information; but the voice was persistent and won out.

I began the process of booking a trip.  It was easy to get transportation and accommodations in Saskatchewan but getting to the reservation was another matter.

I wanted to rent a truck in Winnipeg and drive north to the reservation at Norway House, but there were no real roads going up there.  A man at Travel Canada told me that the roads were dotted lines on the map, which meant that they were dirt roads at best.  Once we left Winnipeg to travel around the lake, there would be no place to refuel, buy food or water, sleep, or pee along the way.  Not real friendly for me and a seventy-three year old woman.  In closing, he said that they’d been fighting forest fires up there but that they would probably be out in a week.

Forest fires?  I asked the logical question.  Was there any other way to get there?  I was told that Perimeter Airlines flew out of a small airfield in Winnipeg.

Later that day, I sat across from a confused AAA agent, insisting that this airline existed.  Not referenced in any books or computers, she called dozens of contacts at Winnipeg airport before anyone would acknowledge it.

With phone number in hand, she called Perimeter Airlines for reservations.  The girl on the other end said just bring cash, we will get you on.  When the agent demanded a reservation number, the girl gave her the name ‘Gertrude’.

We had no set itinerary, yet my inner voice was insisting that we go.  It was telling me that, “ALL YOU SHALL NEED WILL BE PROVIDED.”

It was two days before the trip and we still had no definite plans.  Then a miracle occurred.  I received a phone call from a historian in Winnipeg, who said that a letter I wrote to the pastor at Norway House had been sent to him.  Ray Beaumont had our entire history for us in written form.  There was so much information on Clara’s mother Sarah Nekahwiw that they’d made a school project about her.  The school district had always wondered where the medicine woman, Clara, had gone and who her descendants were.  He was eager to talk to us.

We juggled our trip so that we could meet with him for an entire day before we left for Norway House.  Two days later, my mother and I flew out of Toronto for Regina, Saskatchewan.  Traversing that province, the ground appeared below us like a patchwork quilt, blanketed with squares of bright green canola and purple-blue flax, and adorned with miniature oil wells.

In Regina, we visited a local museum and spent time at a library researching birth and death records on microfiche.  Then we got some sleep and the next morning headed east across a desolate prairie to the town that her grandparents founded.

Downtown Rocanville had been a hub along the Canadian Pacific Railway in years past, but no more.  What remained was a wide street with tiny stores, a post office, a bar, and a dreary-looking Chinese restaurant.  A sign claimed that the population was 918, but even that looked outdated.  The townspeople were nice and showed us the cemetery where Clara and her husband were buried.  Tombstones claimed that many had been lost in the 1916-1917 world flu epidemics.  We toured a little museum where my mother saw a chair that her grandfather had made.

Such a tiny community!  We left that place thinking that if we ever needed to be in the Federal Witness Protection Program, here was a place that no one would ever find us.

We stayed the night in a motel and in the morning we were off for Manitoba!

In Winnipeg, we spent the day with the historian, who provided us with a complete family tree from my great-grandmother back five generations.  We received information on the Cree syllabic language, the Hudson Bay settlement, and Clara’s mother Sarah.  We learned about her marriage, her children, what jobs she held, ceremonies she attended, and what she bought and sold.  We found out why we had trouble locating information on Clara Crate.  She had been born Clara St Germain.  When her father died, her mother remarried a man named Crate and Clara took his last name.

The historian asked us if we had a guide once we got to Norway House.  We told him that we weren’t sure what we were going to do once we got there.  He made a call and arranged for us to have a guide meet us when we arrived.

He also offered to connect us with a distant cousin of ours, a full-blooded Cree living in Winnipeg.  When we returned to the hotel, our cousin Ken called and asked if he could come over to meet us, so we gave him our room number.  In the meantime, we went down to the lobby to have coffee.

Fifteen minutes later, a man came into the hotel, looked us over, and walked to my mother.  He touched her cheek tenderly with the back of his hand and held it there.  It was Ken.

He said “You don’t even have to tell me who you are.  I know who you are.  You look just like my grandmother.”

We spent an evening with him looking over the genealogy, discovering how we were related, and talking about Norway House.

Early the next morning, we arrived at a small airport and boarded a Perimeter flight for Norway House.  The aircraft was so tiny that you had to stoop to enter it and keep your head low as you walked the narrow aisle.  We were separated from the cockpit by a drape and the pilots looked like they were nineteen years old.  We sat down and looked around.  The plane carried ten people, all native Americans, who promptly put earplugs in their ears.  I remember having a ridiculous thought that we wouldn’t get breakfast on this flight.

The noise level was deafening and without earplugs you could hear the pilots fighting over the gauge alarms going off.  This was quite an unnerving feeling as we were flying over the waters of Lake Winnipeg.  Because of a lightning storm, we were diverted to Cross Lake where we landed hard on a dirt runway.

The pilots collected money from a rider and we waited an hour for the weather to break.  Then it cleared and we continued on to Norway House, where we landed on a rough gravel road.  Disembarking the plane, we learned that the airport terminal was a 20×40 deserted shack with a telephone inside.

I called our hotel and said, “This is Ms. Treat.  My mother and I are expected as guests.  Will you send a shuttle to the airport to pick us up?”

This evidently was not something anyone had asked for before, as it caused a stir on the other end of the phone.  They agreed to send someone and fifteen minutes later we noticed a vehicle approaching in a cloud of dust.  Soon, an old man covered with plaster arrived in a beat up pick up truck.  Without a word, he tossed our bags into the back of the truck, nodded, and helped us up onto the bench seat.

The hotel turned out to be the local greasy spoon with a couple of rooms above it, vintage 1950’s with dark furniture and chenille bedspreads.  We were informed that for the most part only Hydro engineers stayed there.  My mother and I settled into our room and went down to the restaurant.

While we were having a late breakfast, a man appeared at our table, who stood silently for what seemed like five minutes.  My inner voice was telling me to “BE STILL AND LISTEN”.

At last he spoke, “I am Byron and I will be your guide.”

Byron drove us around the reserve, then to the old Hudson Bay cemetery, where Sarah Nekahwiw was buried.  He introduced us to his people and showed us their community center.

Norway House was beautiful!  We saw shimmering lakes and fast-moving rivers, with little islands in the middle of them.  Byron then took us to Rossville, where we went to the church on the point and met the Reverend John Crate.  If you ever needed a beautiful setting to believe in God, this was the place.

Our guide took us to see the York boats up close and a team of women rowing one in preparation for York Boat Days.  What more could we want from a genealogy trip?  We thanked him and returned to our hotel with a sense of satisfaction.  Our trip seemed to be over.

The plane was scheduled to leave the next day at 4:45pm.  At this point we didn’t expect anything else to happen.  The next morning, we were having breakfast in the restaurant.

Byron appeared, sat at our table, and lowered his head.  He sighed and said that this is a very small place.  Everyone wanted to know about the two new women and what their story is.  The tribal council wanted to meet with us.

First he took us to the school, where he gave us books on the Cree and videos of the history of Norway House.  Then Byron took us to the longhouse to meet the elders.  More modern than I expected, we sat around a conference table and listened to the sounds of a fax machine.

I had photocopied my family tree and gave each man a copy.  Talk was friendly and we soon found that we were related to three of the men on the council.

My mother spoke at length about her father’s diary so we gave them a copy as well.   When she told them about James’ account of his trip on a York boat, they presented us with a three foot replica of the boat to take back with us.  I wondered how I would get it on the plane.

At last we stood.  The elders offered prayers about ancestors and family and held a ceremony to accept their lost sisters back into the tribe.

My inner voice came forth loud and clear “YES GRANDDAUGHTER, YOU ARE CREE”.

My great-grandmother followed me back that day.  From that time forward I felt unafraid to touch others who needed healing or reassurance.  I began to intuitively know about plants and to practice herbal medicine on myself and family members.   I sought out a local tribe, participated in rituals and drumming circles, and studied alternative therapies.

Many years have passed.  My mother died in 2010, but I shall always remember the times we spent reminiscing about the discovery of her grandmother.

“Granny” has been a dear companion to me, helping me to heal myself and others, and protecting me from those who would do me harm.

It was a worthwhile trip, a grand awakening, and I will always be grateful for her love.

***

About the author:

Jeanne Treat is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a saga that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  To research her books, she traveled to Scotland to visit castles, seaports, and stone circles, and talk to historians.  She has also published in local newspapers, magazines, and anthologies.  She lives with her husband Robert and two Scottish terriers, Maggie and Duff.

You can read  Jeanne’s stories, articles, and poetry at:

http://www.authorsden.com/jeannentreat

Read about the trilogy at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

My Mother’s Day Gift to You

Heartland Verses

My mother was an author, too.  Download her eBook FREE using coupon code TB35R at checkout.  Good until May 14th, 2013

Download link:   https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54111

Book description: Memoirs, stories, and poems from the heart of Clara A. Bastien Treat, one of America’s Rosie-the-Riveters.  About the author – Clara Treat was a wife, mother, and grandmother.  She was a well-known antique dealer, inventor, and WWII Rosie-the-Riveter.  Her writing was inspired by love of family, freedom, and country.

Excerpt:

Rosie the Riveter

MEMOIRS OF A ROSIE THE RIVETER

Chapter One

North Tonawanda, New York

December 4, 1941

A few days before the Pearl Harbor attack

            The days before Pearl Harbor were some of the happiest in my life.  The gang met at my house two or three evenings a week to play cards, listen to the player piano, talk, and eat a wonderful snack that my mother provided.  The house had been built around the turn of the century and had a long room in the front with a lovely front porch.  A gas log fireplace provided a cozy and warm place for us to meet.

Three tables were set up for pinochle and the front parlor served as a dance floor.  There were fourteen young men and four young women in our group.  Some families wouldn’t allow their daughters to participate because they thought we were too wild, but it wasn’t true.  We were as innocent and pure as the driven snow.  After a while, we would roll up the rugs and dance to the player piano or a lively tune on the radio.

Most of the guys were like brothers to us, except for a few.  I was regarded as Chester’s girl and my sister Julie, who was younger, was unattached.  She did however take the time to flirt with each and every one of them.

We were coming out of the depression, which had held us down for so long. Some of our friends joined the army and navy to get a job and joined us on furlough.  To survive tough times my widowed mother ran a boarding house, providing two meals a day, a packed lunch, and a place to sleep for seven men.  My sister and I helped out; keeping busy with laundry, ironing, and housework and my brother Jim kept the lawn and maintained the house.

On top of that, Julie and I worked as usherettes at the Riviera Theatre several evenings a week.  It was a busy life, but we enjoyed ourselves.  There was no time to get into trouble.

Then, everything changed…

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A DAY OF INFAMY

Chapter Two 

North Tonawanda, New York

December 7, 1941

“We have witnessed this morning the attack of Pearl Harbor and a severe bombing of Pearl Harbor by army planes, undoubtedly Japanese. The city of Honolulu has also been attacked and considerable damage done. This battle has been going on for nearly three hours…It’s no joke. It’s a real war.”

—    News bulletin from Honolulu, heard over WCAE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

I shall never forget that day.  My sister and I were on our way to work as usherettes at the Riviera Theatre in North   Tonawanda, New York.  We noticed people gathering on street corners, alerting us to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The attack had come in the morning hours on the Hawaiian Islands.  With wire delays and the speed of relay, the news did not reach us until well into mid-afternoon.  My first feeling was disbelief, which turned quickly to horror at the thought that anyone would attack the United   States like that.  It occurred to my sister, Juliette, and I that this day would forever change our country and us.  We would have to pitch in and help our country to defend itself in any way we could.

After work, the gang gathered at my house to discuss the attack and make plans to assist our country.  We wondered what happened to two of our friends, who were stationed on the Arizona.  One was a flyer and the other was a sailor.  We would wait patiently for news of their fate.

The boys reacted in different ways.  Some were angry, while others were committed to defending this country.  They discussed the branches of the military and decided on the ones to join.

Julie and I had a sinking feeling.  We knew that things were changing forever and that some of these boys would never come back.  We swore that we would do everything in our power to assist the war effort and write to each and every one of them.  The night ended on a somber note.  Due to the war, our gang was breaking up forever.

Over the next few weeks, most able-bodied young men joined the service and left for their destinations.  Because of this, the factories were left short-staffed and many of them were being converted to manufacture war goods and supplies to support the troops.  The radio and newspapers were calling for workers for these factories and asking the women to participate.  Shortages were expected, so Julie and I joined drives to collect paper, glass, tin, iron, and other materials.  It wasn’t enough.  We decided to leave our jobs as usherettes and work in the factories.

We were very close, so we always worked at the same place.  The first place that we went to work for was the Van Rault Mills on Sweeney  Street in North  Tonawanda.  The factory that had once made nylon lingerie and undergarments for women had transformed—virtually overnight—to making nylon for parachutes.  Julie was assigned to the rollers.  She had to wrap the giant rolls of nylon, package them and put them on a hand truck destined for the shipping department.  I was assigned to the spinner department, where cones of nylon thread were being spun into rolls.  I couldn’t let the cones run out, or the rolls would be faulty.

After three months, we’d had enough and sought employment at Remington Rand, Co. in Tonawanda.  This company had been involved in manufacturing office equipment, but had now geared-up to make parts for the airplanes being built by Buffalo-based Curtis-Wright.  At Remington Rand I learned how to drill and handle tools, something that I never thought I would be doing.  Julie was a driller as well, something that was out of character for her.  We were working on parts that were used to put airplane wings together.  Once, I got my drill caught in Julie’s hair, an act that led to a rule about hairnets.

After eighteen months, my sister and I passed security checks and accepted positions at Curtis-Wright to work directly on transport planes as riveters, drillers, and buckers.

Julie got lucky and became a bond-girl, selling war bonds at the factory as her regular job.  I was assigned to riveting and bucking on the C47 Transport Plane.  The noise in the plane was deafening and many of us lost some of our hearing.  The riveter and the bucker communicated by taps.  The riveter was outside tapping on the place where they wanted to rivet, while the bucker was inside tapping with a bucking bar.  When the two met, the riveting began.  The bucker’s job was uncomfortable and a bit dangerous.  Crouching in spaces where you couldn’t stand, you didn’t dare sit down for fear of getting a drill in your behind.  Each night, my ears rang for hours after I left the plant.

In addition to this, I received training and volunteered as a nurse’s aide at Degraff Memorial Hospital.  Julie and I volunteered at the local U.S.O., spending many nights dancing with young navy men and flyboys who would soon be shipped overseas.

My family, my friends, and I continued to contribute in other ways by collecting glass, paper, and anything that could be recycled for the war effort, in addition to planting “Victory gardens.”  Everyone was subject to rationing, so anything that we could grow was appreciated.

It was a time of uncertainty.  We did not know if, when, or how we would be attacked again.

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A PATRIOTIC ENGAGEMENT

Chapter Three 

North Tonawanda, New York

It was the summer of 1943.  Two young sailors, temporarily stationed in our area, rented an apartment from my mother.  The Richardson Boat Company that manufactured Chris-Craft pleasure boats had been refitted to make landing craft for the US Navy.  Ray Nobes and Jimmy Cavey had been tasked with shepherding the finished boats down the Erie Canal to Albany and points beyond, where they were loaded onto large ships.

Ray Nobes was a tall, slim, dark-haired young man from the state of Maine.  Reserved and soft spoken, he was a sweet man with a beautiful smile.

Jimmy Cavey, a New Englander as well, was tall and muscular and handsome in his uniform.  Outspoken and quick-witted, he enjoyed dancing the jitterbug and the waltz.

They rented a car and asked us to show them around.  Ray and Jimmy took Julie and me to Niagara Falls, the local Canteen, and on rides through the countryside.

One day, they came to us with sad news.  Their time in our area was almost up and they’d received orders to leave the next day for a European tour of duty.  The boys had a request.  If they could tell their officers that they were getting engaged to two sisters, they would be granted an extra day with us.  Would we be willing to say that we were engaged to them?

Julie and I saw no harm in it.  We liked these men and wanted to help them.  We agreed to meet them later on the bridge that crossed the Erie Canal to have one last evening together.

After dinner, we walked with the boys to the canal.  We were sad that they were leaving but flattered that they wanted to pretend to be engaged to us, even for a few hours.  We didn’t know if we’d ever see them again, yet we promised that we’d write faithfully.

On the bridge, we got a big surprise.  Both men presented us with diamond engagement rings and asked us to wait for them.  Julie was flattered and remarked that the rings were absolutely beautiful.  With tears streaming down her face, she promised Jimmy that she would think about it seriously.  I was shocked and had not considered marriage at that point.  How could I say no?  Ray was heading off to war and he might never return.  Reluctantly, I accepted the ring and agreed to think about it.

They left early the next day.  We had really enjoyed their company and life seemed empty without them.  Unwilling to tell our mother about this, we stashed the rings in a drawer.

Months later, I told Ray in a letter that I wasn’t ready for marriage.  I’m not sure what Julie did about Jimmy.

We busied ourselves working for the war effort and helping our mother with her boarding house.

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