by Norman Williamson from Bath, Ontario
I came to Canada from Ireland in 1960. I came to build ships for Mr. K. C. Irving and when I landed in Stain John, New Brunswick on June 6th I didn’t know a single sole in this country.
As the weeks passed I got to know my fellow workers and they me. Friendships were formed and invitations to go the movies or to dances at the pavilion were extended. Anyone knowing the Maritimes knows, the folks there are very friendly. If you can’t fit in there then it is YOU who is the problem
That said, as a newcomer I was, of course, fair game for local pranks. As you know, New Brunswick is a bilingual province and they are proud of it. Language is strong there. I worked with a number of the North Shore French speaking lads and we struck up a good friendship. Me being Irish appeared to help.
We would often attend the Saturday night Lily Lake Pavillion Dances. There was a beautiful young woman, a regular at the dance and I fell instantly in love with her the first time I saw here. Her name was Dorren and I had the opportunity to hold her in my arms more times than I could count as we danced around the floor together over the following weeks.
Ozzie Jimmo, one of the lads I worked with, noticed the frequency with which I danced with Doreen and remarked on it. He guessed right that I was eager to make a good impression on this young woman…anything which might lead to a relationship.
Ozzie was fluent in both French and English, which greatly impressed me. And, being a new friend, he suggested I learn a French phrase which I could whisper into her ear during one of those romantic dances.
The next week at work he instructed me to say what he called “a common French courting phrase”.
“All the French girls fall for it”, he said
I couldn’t wait for the dance that Saturday.
I had no idea what the phrase meant but I practiced it over and over again all week.
When the night finally came I was very patient with Doreen. Finally, near the end of the night, the band started playing “Some Enchanted Evening”. I asked Doreen to dance with me. I got up my courage and whispered the French phrase I had been practicing into her ear:
“Voulez-vous cochez avec moi ce soir?”
There was a sudden change in her step.
Her face turned to face mine and she had a strange look in her eye and then she started to speak French to me. She might as well have been speaking Greek. When she finally finished there was a prolonged silence. Doreen broke the silence when she asked me, in English, if I had any idea what I had said to her. When I told her I thought I’d asked her to go steady with me. She smiled and said “Of course I will.”
That night I drover her home and kissed her good night for the first time, but not the last. We spent the summer together insuperable and it was a marvelous summer.
Ozzie came up to me first thing Monday morning and asked me how Doreen had answered my French question. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I told him she had said “Of course I will.”
Doreen waited many weeks to translate that phrase for me into English. Regrettably we parted late in the fall of 1960. But Stuart, if you don’t mind, I’d like to say hi to Doreen to La Blanc today and tell her that I remember her with fondness.