Can you imagine what it was like when my family decided to take permanent residence in Beaurepaire in 1929? This busy little town was then nearly all fields with a few houses scattered around.
The only highway to Montreal was Beaconsfield Boulevard, and the only streets between St. Charles Road and the border of Baie d’Urfé were St. Louis, Fieldfare, Woodland and Lakeview, where I lived with my family.
For transportation, one took the railway, bicycled (no ten-speeds!) or walked. We had no regular buses till the late ‘40s and no grocery stores, but both Pointe Claire and Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue had general stores. They would take your order one day and deliver your groceries two days later.
Bread was delivered from Ste-Anne by horse and wagon in summer and by sleigh in winter. Fathers returning from Montreal would carry home large parcels of clothes, footwear, furniture, etc. bought in the city or from Eaton’s catalogue!
The red brick building — still on the corner of Fieldfare and Church — was our English school. The French school was on Neveu. We had two classrooms and three grades in each room — one teacher for each room and no strikes! Grades 7 to 10 went to Cedar Park by bus. After grade 10, students went to school in Montreal. Our school was also used for Girl Guides and Scouts meetings, dances, bazaars, Church events and Sunday School. We shared our minister with Pointe Claire. He travelled by taxi in winter and sometimes bicycled in summer.
We had no organized sports, but there were quite a few children around so we made our own fun. In winter we skated on the lake or made our own rinks and cleared them, too. We skied on Allen’s Hill and on Maple Crescent where there was a beautiful maple grove. We would often have picnics in the summer there when the cows and horses weren’t about the fields. Families spent most winter evenings together. After homework we listened to the radio, read books, played games or did handiwork.
It was a great thrill to go to the railway station to meet the 6 pm mail train and get a ride on the horse and sleight with the mailman! The Post Office was a private house on Woodland where we picked up our own mail. Another house on Woodland had a telephone that we could use for emergencies.
In the summer we swam in Lake St. Louis – unpolluted then – and some of us had small boats. In the evenings we would have great games of baseball and other group games before bedtime. Occasionally, we had a community sing-song. A great event was to get a group together on a Saturday and walk to Ste- Anne for a movie. If the movie was too long, we missed the train and had to walk home as well.
We made spending money by delivering mail to our neighbors, or perhaps by picking raspberries and selling heaping boxes for 2¢ per pints and 5¢ per quart. Some of the boys carried golf bags in the summer.
In 1939, the war began and suddenly we were all grown up. Everyone began to work for the war effort. Some of the boys went overseas and a few did not return.
When the war ended in 1945, things began to change. Highway 2-20 was completed, transportation improved and people bought cars. Then it seemed as if everyone began moving to the beautiful lakeshore. Stores appeared, then schools, churches, banks, shopping centers, libraries, arenas, doctors, the hospital, and organized sports. Next, the TransCanada Highway was built to get us from here to there faster.
In 1947, I married and we decided to live in Beaurepaire because we could not find a more beautiful place. Never in our wildest dreams did we picture the changes that would come about!
We think we are still fortunate to live in Beaurepaire among our family and we would be very unhappy to have to leave. Changes are all about us, but the memories of the days I spent growing up here are happy ones. To my mind, and I hope our readers will agree, this town was most suitably named Beaurepaire or “beautiful retreat”.
Written by P. Hammond