(World War I)
On the evening of Saturday, 11 November 1918, all the houses in West Pubnico were fully illuminated. At the beginning of the war, the authorities of the country had ordered everyone to keep their houses as dark as possible, especially to keep the curtains lowered, to give the least advantage possible to enemy planes if they should cross the maritime border of Canada. People were also asked to blacken the top half of their car headlights for this same reason. However, German planes neither disturbed the skies above Pubnico nor anywhere else in Canada.
At that time, before the commodity of radio and television, Europe seemed even farther away. As such, the transmission of news was much slower than it is today. The Halifax newspapers were particularly informative, keeping us updated on the War overseas. It was sometimes difficult to discriminate between what was actual news or just rumours. For this reason, when we received word announcing the war’s end there was a little confusion as to whether this was really the case. (There had been similar rumours in the days leading up to 11 November 1918.) Nevertheless, people in our humble villages rejoiced. Moreover, the news was confirmed the following day.
I was still attending school at this time. Our teacher was Miss Clémente d’Entremont, daughter of Joseph Rémi d’Entremont. On Monday morning she explained what the signature of the armistice meant, while reminding us to give thanks to the Almighty for the end of this tragic war. To fulfill our duty, she added that we were going to walk to the church and offer our prayers. For the rest of that day, to our extreme delight, there was no school; the following day school was cancelled again as there was to be a large parade to commemorate the war’s end.
A parade held in West Pubnico to celebrate the end of World War I.They began in the north of the village. Octave d’Eon was sitting at the head, mounted on Pierre d’Entremont’s horse. Following him was Antoine d’Eon representing the French Marshal Foch. At that time, cars were scarce in the area but a certain number of them took part. A horse-drawn carriage carried five or six young girls dressed up in Red Cross nurses uniforms. The parade threaded the entire village and turned around in front of Vincent à Sissime d’Entremont’s house. The reason they stopped here was to honour the only young man of the parish who had lost his life at war: he came from this family. Octave addressed a few words to the family at this time.
Yes, the war was over, but our soldiers were not to arrive until the following year. The first to arrive was Alcide Amirault, son of Cyrien Amirault. He was arriving on the Halifax train, which was always late, and was met by a group of friends and neighbours at the Pubnico station soon after supper. When he arrived home half of the village was there to greet him. It was a beautiful evening for the end of the winter and the ground was covered with a fine layer of snow. On the land where Sylvester Amirault later built his house was a fence that bordered the lot. Someone had the idea of attaching a long pole to this fence and surrounding it by old bags treated with a thick layer of tar. Once lit it burned thoughout the evening: a true bonfire to greet the one who travelled so far to protect our country and return home to us.
The second soldier to arrive was Hilaire Pothier, son of Henri Pothier. It was 3 March 1919 and this date remains clear in my memory. The Pothiers were our neighbours and each time they would receive news from Hilaire they would share it with us. Now, on this beautiful date of 3 March 1919 (it was however very cold for the time of year) Henri and Hermance learned that their son was going to take the train in Halifax that morning to arrive in Pubnico late in the afternoon. When I returned home from school, around 3:30 pm, Hermance called me over to ask if I would make ice cream to serve at the reception that evening. Hilaire Henri Pothier.She didn’t have to ask me twice. To help speed up the task, I invited Eddie à Vincent and Leonard Doucet to lend me a hand. With a wheelbarrow and an axe, we went to “the edge of the woods” at Gori’s pond where there was still a little ice. We brought it into the adjoining building to Henri Pothier’s barn and we started turning the old freezer, each taking our turn. Our efforts soon gave us about a gallon of ice cream that was served at the reunion that night. Thankfully, nobody complained of stomach pains the following day. It should be said in passing that this adventure had excited me so much that I had even forgotten to go home for supper.
As the roads were not yet paved, when the first spring thaws arrived, transportation was not easy. Octave d’Eon had offered to go meet Hilaire at the station with his Ford. He took along a few companions and once Hilaire descended from the train they all got in the car to come home. With the road a muddy mess, the poor machine trudged along slowly. We managed to get as far as what we always called “Le Grand Ruisseau” (the great brook) where we abandoned the car and planned to return for it in the evening when the road would begin to freeze. Before we left we had to empty the radiator.
Like Alcide, when Hilaire arrived at home a huge crowd awaited him. Goodies were served during the evening, including ice cream. A little later, judging that the road was sufficiently strong, Octave asked Henri Pothier to pass him some kind of container to bring water to his car. The latter being well aware of the plan they had hatched (which we will explain shortly) found the largest bucket he could and filled it with water. Octave remarked that a smaller container would have been sufficent but, nevertheless, left with his large bucket accompanied by three or four others. When the group arrived at “Le Grand Ruisseau”, no vehicle was to be found. Octave realized that a joke had been played at his expense. During the evening someone had suggested to Louis à Charles to take his oxen and tow the car without telling Octave. Everyone had gotten wind of the gag except him.
Joseph Octave d’Eon.Hilaire and Alcide had enlisted in the military in the spring of 1916. They did their first training in Meteghan and from there they went to Val Cartier, Quebec, and spent the winter in Saint-Jean, New Brunswick. The regiment was ready to leave the following spring. This regiment was the 165th, called the Acadian regiment, and was commanded by Major Émile Sthélin from Church Point. After spending some time in England, our two soldiers were sent to France, in the region of the Jura Mountains, where both companies that formed this contingent were employed to work in the forest (mills). Two more companies of the same regiment were posted farther in the south of France. The soldiers that belonged to this regiment were never called to fight.
As mentioned above, Hilaire and Alcide were the first soldiers of our village to return from Europe. The others arrived in the following months. Évangéliste d’Eon, son of Joseph à Philippe, and Robert Amirault, son of Actime Amirault, had trained in Siberia with other allied soldiers after the end of the war and were the last to return to Canada.
On the monument erected in 1951 in memory of the war veterans who died during the first World War, you will find the name of Willie d’Entremont. There were four others that were from the Immaculate Conception parish in East Pubnico: Ernest Amirault, son of Théodore Amirault and brother of Miss Anita Amirault; Léo d’Entremont, son of George à David d’Entremont; Landry Amirault, son of Bill à Rémi Amirault, this family left to live in Yarmouth after the death of their father; Alfred Johnson, son of Thomas Johnson.
(Thomas Johnson and his twin brother Georgie, born in Woods Harbour, had been adopted by John Belliveau of East Pubnico. Georgie was a bachelor; Thomas married and had at least five children: Alfred, Roy, Edith, Emily and Eldora. The Belliveau household was located a little to the north of the new school that was built in the middle of the village. This house has since been demolished.)