Pictured are parishioners in front of St. John the Baptist Church in River Bourgeois.

Ephrem Boudreau was born in River Bourgeois in 1905. He wrote Riviere Bourgeois from which this history is taken and translated.

All the families knew how to make the shoes which were popular at the time, the moccasin made from well-tanned cow hide. The various pieces were sewn with a very strong, waxed cotton thread. They used a punch to make the holes to pass the needles through. The sewing used a double thread and at least two needles to thread through the holes each in an opposite direction so as to make them waterproof.

To make moccasins one had to have good leather. The skin was pulled from the hair and immersed for a time in an appropriate solution and tanned inch by inch by hand. The moccasins had uppers which were designed to walk in snow in the winter. In summer the lower part was used without the upper; in the heat it became as hard as horn; if the hide was not sufficiently tanned, it took on the consistency of a shoe made of wood.

There was a large land area at River Bourgeois; the land at Bord-du-Nord began at the water and even if it was straight it was often only as wide as a chain (66 feet) but extended a couple of miles into the forests in the north. It was a large wooded piece with different types of wood and thus was used for heat and for construction using posts for building fences because at that time all the fields and all the properties were carefully fenced.

The more well-off families kept a horse to haul wood and for trips. It’s true that there were stores in the parish, but the bigger ones were in St. Peter’s six or seven miles to the east; it is there that people went often for groceries that were more varied and difficult to get in the small local shops.

People went to bed early and got up early always before the sun was up in winter, as well as summer. The father of the family began by lighting the stove and putting the kettle on to boil. There was no question of drinking coffee since it was unknown until the 30’s.

Isolated as they were in their little parish, the people of River Bourgeois, like others in the surrounding parishes, had abandoned certain traditions. For example it was Christmas that was the main celebration of the year, a tradition borrowed from the English. But their relative poverty and the scarcity of luxury foodstuffs, there was no display of pomp and ceremony at Christmas.

The biggest attraction of all was midnight mass in a church that looked completely different at night with relatively luxurious lighting by kerosene lamps aided by candles, many more than usual. There was also the singing of traditional Christmas hymns. On returning from midnight mass or on Christmas morning for the little ones, the children in their stockinged feet tucked in by the chimney, received some candies, an orange, an apple and perhaps other treats. It was one of the rare times when one bought an orange.

As to candies the children as well as the adults did not often get to consume them. The most popular candy at that time was peppermint. Most families had a paper bag hidden away in a secret place.