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INTERVIEW EUCLIDE BONNEAU (1922-2016)*



Interview with Euclide Bonneau

July 5, 2015

 

 Many thanks to Diane Beaudette Bonneau for this share. Euclide was Diane’s father in law, wife of Roland Bonneau his sun. 

Interviewer: Diane Bonneau  (DB)  Also present: Irene, Roland, Donald, Dawna and Mark.

 

DB:  When did your family immigrate to the US?

EB:  I was four years old (1928).

DB:  How many siblings immigrated with you?

EB:  Edgar, Cecile, Noema, Armand, Leona.  The oldest ones were already in the states, Donat, Lucien, Arthur and Victor.

DB:  Where did you establish residence in Lewiston?

EB:  57 Maple Street, 4th floor where Mom was living before I came.  (Mom) I was born in this apartment building.  EB: It was the scent of a woman.

DB:  When did you first become aware of Mom?

EB:  We were next door neighbors on Bates Street, I was 305 and Mom was 301.  There was about 15 feet between each building.  We use to talk at night.  She was on the third floor and I was on the second floor.  Our bedrooms were facing each other.

DB:  How old were you at that time?

EB:  About sixteen.  (Mom)  We knew each other since we were 11 but only started noticing each other around 15-16.

DB:  When you first moved here, were any of your brothers working in a grocery store?

EB:  Five brothers, Lucien, Victor, Armand, Edgar and myself worked at the store on Blake Street and Arthur and Donat worked at F.X. Marcotte.  They never worked at the grocery store.

DB:  Did you work at the grocery store before or after you left for the war?

EB:  I worked at the store before I left for the war.  It was a candy store with only one room in the front.  A woman and her husband sold penny candy.  As a young boy, I would go to the end of the street and buy penny candy.  My brothers then bought the store and made a room for a walk-in refrigerator.  This is when Bonneau Bros store started.

DB:  Is it after this that you went to war?

EB: Yes, I was gone for 33 months along with Edgar, Armand and Arthur.  Arthur didn’t qualify because he was too old and he had a family.  He returned after two weeks.

DB:  Who was left at home?

EB:  Arthur, Lucien, Donat and Victor.

DB:  I meant who was left at the grocery store?

EB:  Only Lucien and Victor at the grocery store.  Victor use to work for Malenfant Dairy on a milk route and he would see different people and go to different stores. In conversation with a Mrs. Gagne who owned a store at 248 Blake St., she told him that the store was for sale. Victor approached Lucien who was working for a Mr. Couture as a meat cutter about purchasing the store.  He could take care of the meat and handling the groceries would be easy.   That’s how it started.  Subsequently, they bought the building that housed the candy store from Ernest Paradis by the barter system.  He ran a tab for groceries for a year of “free” food.  The store was a small house and upstairs there was a gym.  Giggs Giguere would go upstairs and hit a punching bag and work out his boxing moves.

DB:  So when you had a break, you went upstairs to work out?

EB:  Yes, they would come looking for me.

DB:  You were gone for 33 months?

EB:  Yes, 17 months in the states and 16 months overseas.

DB:  When you returned, did Edgar and Armand return with you?

EB:  We all came back about the same time.  I returned around Christmas time.  Armand was a First Sargent in the Army and I can’t remember when he returned home.  I was drafted December 29 between Christmas and New Year’s.  I left New Year’s Eve.

DB:  Did you return to the store when you were discharged from the Army?

EB:  Yes and besides this,  Lucien and Arthur use to put aside $5 a week for Armand, Edgar and I so that when we returned we’d have a little money to buy into the store. 

DB: How long were you on Blake Street? 

EB:  Oh, I can’t remember. (About 12 years) The store became too small to support our families so we needed to do something different.  There was a piece of land next to Ste. Croix church and we bought that land for practically nothing.  We had to spend big money to develop it because it was an apple orchard in a valley and we had to fill it up with a thousand yards of sand and after two or three years, we paved it.  The Lisbon Street store opened in December 1954.

DB:  How long were you in that location?

EB:  Until 1969. 

DB:  I read a write-up in the Lewiston Sun-Journal that the store was innovative because it had an automatic door and bundle pick up.  Who’s idea was it to have these features?

EB:  We were looking for something different.  Armand had all kinds of ideas.  He said we’ll have bundle pick up so that people don’t have to carry their bags outside. They were given a number that corresponded to the box that held their grocery bags.  Customers would hand the number over to the bundle boy who placed the bags in their car.   When the box(es) was/were empty, the bundle boy would place the box(es) on a lower conveyor and the box(es) were rolled back into the store.

DB:  Were there any other supermarkets around that had this?

EB: No.  A & P had something similar like a tube but it didn’t work out.   It was a backbreaking job.  You could put three bags in our boxes.  When we were at the bigger supermarket out back, customers were given their box number and then they would go to the coffee shop.  The boxes would back up outside on the conveyor belt sometimes for half an hour.  (Don) We’d have to put them aside.  It was OK in the winter but not so great in the summer.  If we made any mistakes with box numbers, we’d give the customers a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates.

DB:  What made you decide to move from the Lisbon Street side to further back?

EB:  We still had families with kids (about 20) going off to college to support.

DB:  That was a huge supermarket.

EB:  Yes, we were competing with First National Store, A&P, Sampsons and Mohegan Market. In order to survive, we had to go big.   Going back to the store on Blake Street, we built it ourselves with Lionel Renaud who was working for Charles Bellegarde.   The store was 32’X17’ and we would work Sundays framing it and had someone else put up the roof.  We did some of the work ourselves so we could save some money so we could buy some food.  We always started with nothing.  Edgar, Donat, Lucien and I wanted to buy the apartment house on Sabattus Street.  The seller was asking  $33000 and $3000 down, so Edgar said he would go to the bank and ask Mr. Poliquin to borrow it.   He told him that he and his brother wanted to borrow $3000 to buy an apartment building.  Mr. Poliquin asked how much the seller was asking for it and he said $33000. Eight rents and four garages is a good price.  He said how much do you need to borrow and he said $33000.  Donat lent us $3000 and we paid him back.  Irene, the kids and I would clean the yard and do the painting.

DB:  So on top of owning a store and an apartment building, you decided to buy a camp?

EB:  We had nothing to do.

DB:  In your spare time, you would take turns with Edgar and his family and use the company truck/van to go to camp. 

EB:  We put wooden boxes in the back of the truck for the kids to sit on. Normand would sit on Pepere Desjardin's lap who would wrap his arms around him like a seatbelt.  The only windows they could see out of was the back doors.  It was a long winding road.  (Irene)  It took us a long time to get to the camp.  We couldn’t go every week because we didn’t have transportation.

DB:  That was your escape because you didn’t go very far other than that.

IRENE:  No, we didn’t go anywhere.  We had the camp for 23-24 years.

ROLAND:  We’re lucky we had the camp because a lot of relatives would come over on Sundays. 

IRENE:  They didn’t have any place to go either.

EB:  We had such a group that would come on Sundays there would be 3-5 cars parked on the grounds.  The public would stop in with their beach gear asking where the beach was.  We had to tell them this was private property.

DB:  They thought it was a public beach?

DONALD:  There were people in the water next to us that we didn’t know.

EB:  Mom loved to sleep at the camp.

IRENE: I NEVER slept at the camp.  I stayed awake all night because it was too dark

EB:  After we sold the camp in 1975, we started going to Old Orchard.

IRENE:  We sold the apartment building in 1974 and bought the house on Manning Ave.


Edgar, Armand and Clyde retired around 1981 and sold the store to another company.  The store went out of business in 1985.

 

 

 

 

 






Recherches : Louise Bonneau (1969

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