|Mrs. Cecile Dafour Pozzuto
by Mary J. Kelly
Monday, October 29, 2001 10:52:01 AM
This interview is part of my final project but I decided to use it for my interview assignment and use a interview I am doing with a younger person from Madawaska for the final project. Mrs. Cecile Dafour Pozzuto lives in the St. John Valley and has lived there all her life. She was a schoolteacher and wrote a book about her experiences growing up Acadian/French in the St. John valley. She is now eighty-two years old and recently fell and broke her arm. I work for her son; he is the District Ranger of the White Mountain National Forest. On a recent trip to Madawaska, he took up the question I had written and helped her to answer them. I have been speaking with her via e-mail (she types with one hand) and she has given me a couple of good recipes for ployes(buckwheat pancakes As you will be able to tell by her interview she is a very devout Catholic. The book she wrote is Aux Pieds du Mont Carmel and she believes there is a copy at the Acadian Center at Fort Kent. It is a wonderful book and tells stories of her ancestors and growing up on a farm with her sisters, brothers and many relatives.
It is located at the Acadian Archives:
1.know you consider yourself Acadian and most of the people in the area also do. Do you remember any stories you didn't include in the book involving the migration of your ancestors to Maine? I love the story about naming the animals English names. Also, what do you consider the difference between an Acadian and a Frenchmen?
I am a fifth generation from the original settlers
of the Madawaska area. The difference between Acadians and other
French people in this area is dependent on where their ancestors settled.
Acadians are from the area that used to be known as Acadia ( the Canadian
Maritimes and part of Maine) The other French people (French Canadians
or Francophones). After the Dispersion from Acadia (the
Evangeline story) many of the Acadians intermarried with other French people
and today it is very difficult to separate them.
2.In your introduction you said life prior to World War II was sheltered and content how did it change after the war. I know your son said you tried living in Pennsylvania for a while but didn't like it and returned to the St. John Valley, what makes life up there so much better for you.
You can take the girl out of the country but you can't take the country out of the girl!! That is how I felt but several of my sisters did move to other parts of the country and had rich lives. I loved my family and did not want to live apart from them. Pittsburgh was a very large city and the time we lived there was the height of the steel industry. I could not adjust to having my kids get filthy after being outside playing in our yard. It was very different from country life. Being a homebody, I did not want to live that far from my parents and family. The Madawaska area was much more secure. We did not lock our doors and we knew everyone. Life was not hectic and had a much slower pace
3. I grew up I a family of seven and also had "two families" I was in the older group. I remember sitting up at night feeding my baby brother his bottle when my parents were out. I am very close to him as I can see you were with Bernadette. I only have two children as most people today have small families. Do you feel this is a change for the better?
What life is now, it's impossible to have large families. Most mothers work outside the homes. Children are left in day care and miss out on bonding like we did. Children now spend so much time in front of television and video games instead of using their imagination to create their own entertainment. Families are too busy making money and don't take the time to spend with each other. I am an old fashioned girl and don't think this is a change for the better
4. My children's great grandmother had young children that died, as did your mother. When my daughter was born, she always would say Jenny reminded her so much of her little Annie that died. When she would talk about it her voice would still catch and you could hear the sorrow in her voice. It must have been so hard on your mother to lose her first three children. How do you think it affected her raising of the rest of her family? Especially since she only had two other sons.
My mother was a very religious person (so was
Dad) and losing babies meant having more angels in heaven watching over
us. After each loss of a child, her mother told her "Do not weep
for your little angels in heaven'. Boys grow up and have to go fight
wars." At the time, my mother had two brothers in the army during WWI.
Although they only had two other sons, we girls did as many of the chores
as other boys in the area. It wasn't that boys were more important
within a family than they are now. My parents were happy to have
healthy children and loved each of us.
5.Growing up I attended Mass and Catechism; my grandmother had a farm where I remember priest and nun friends of the family visiting. . Many of your family joined the church as nuns and priests. What was it like to visit the cloistered nuns and to have relatives that were priests? Did it feel like you had lost a relative when they became cloistered?
The nuns on my father's side were cloistered,
but those on my mother's side belonged to different orders and were not.
The attitude was that if that is what they wanted, they went with everyone's
6.Do you have a recipe for ployes I could have?
7.My grandmother, Alice Schusler Remmey took care of her mother and mother-in-law for twenty years in her home. It was hard for her, I remember her mother in law did not like her because she was Catholic and my grandfather had become a Catholic to marry my grandmother. My great-grandmother Remmey was a Methodist. I can imagine how hard it was on your mother to have to take care of her mother in law. Do you think things are better the way they are now in terms of care for older people?
No, I don't think today's system of nursing homes is better. The "old way" was certainly a burden for the caregiver at times, but the elderly were taken care of and not neglected. They always had family. My grandmother used to spend months at the convent where her daughters were. That gave mother a break from the needs.
8. I noticed that all your children have higher education so education must be important to you. When you were teaching those 48 fourth graders all at once it must have been very hard. That is a lot of children to keep under control and teach at once. Did you teach in French or English? Did many of the children speak only French? Did your parents always speak French at home and throughout their lives? After the Mass switched to English from Latin, did the priest perform Mass in English or French?
Yes, teaching was hard and I didn't have a teacher's aide either. The children were well behaved and the parents backed up the teacher. The teachers were respected and the students had good manners from home. The teacher was always right!! I remember coming home after teaching the first day. I dropped into a chair exhausted and sighed, "Wow, I made three dollars today!" All classes were taught in English except one French class a day. Ninety-nine percent ft the children spoke only French, but at school if they were caught speaking French, they were punished. My parents always spoke French at home and throughout their lives. However, they both spoke English and were comfortable communicating with their non-French sons-in-laws. Education was important in my parent's life also. My mother was a teacher and my father came from a well-educated family. Most of his siblings graduated from St. Mary's College in Van Buren. After the mass switched form Latin, early on there was one English mass and the other two or three were French. Nowadays, it is the other way around: we have one French mass and the others are in English.
9.Your ancestors Joseph Daigle and Marguerite-Blanche Thibodeau, were they forced out of Nova Scotia by the English? Any information you might have about them that isn't in the book would be interesting. We are reading and discussing Evangeline by Longfellow.
The story of Evangeline is the story of my ancestors who were Acadian. I am a descendant of Rene LeBlanc who was memorialized in that story. Both the Daigles and Thibodeaus had brothers and sisters who were deported to Louisiana and other states. I have included two short excerpts of Joseph Daigle and Tante Blanche Thibodeau.
10.And last but not least, what did your parents think of you marrying an Italian from Pennsylvania? That must have been quite a change for your family and your husband. (Mrs. Pozutto's husband was stationed at Loring when she met him) Also, it is hard for me to picture our Ranger as anybody's son, but you should be proud of your son he is a very good District Ranger. He is very proud of you and his Acadian ancestry.
Before meeting my husband, my parent's only experience with Italians was when the railroad was built in the area. Many Italians from outside worked on the railroad and they were supposedly a rough bunch; but it didn't take my husband long to impress them and they liked him. He was a skilled mechanic and could fix any equipment on the farm. Dad always had some work for him when he came for a visit. My father's orders were "Marry who you want, but once you marry, stay with them" (There are no divorces in my generation of our family!) George ended up being a very good supporter. When my father was very sick, my parents lived with us and George welcomed them into our home. He even remodeled our home to make it more comfortable for my parents.
Thank-you for the kind words about my son.
Friday, December 28, 2001 9:48:17 AM
Thank-you, you have my permission to reprint it. I enjoyed your class very much. I am in Georgia right now so I am going to go down to St. Mary's to check out the graveyard with Acadians in it.