POIRIERVILLE: A general store which was a fixture on the north side of Isle Madame for decades had its origins in the Second World War.
More than a million Canadians served in the Armed Forces during World War II and Air Force veteran Omer G. LeBlanc was one of them.
In 1944, the Department of Veterans Affairs was created to help veterans make the transition from fighting a war, to becoming productive members of a country finally at peace.
To aid the brave men and women who did so much for their country – and the world – with their service, many benefits were created to help veterans re-adjust to civilian life. One financial incentive was the Veterans Business and Professional Loans Act which granted 6,902 loans to veterans totalling $11 million.
LeBlanc received a loan of $5,000 to build O.G. LeBlanc’s General Store in D’Escousse.
“The government really helped the economy, and that’s why it was so prosperous around here at that time, because a lot of these people came back from the war and they had purpose, they had jobs,” LeBlanc’s daughter Maxine David noted. “I think it was very successful. They came back, they found work, they did stuff, they had kids. There was so much going on.”
In 1946, construction started on the store which offered groceries, building supplies, guns and ammunition, clothes, treats, and a cafe.
David said the location for the business was ideal as it was next to the main road from Arichat, directly in front of the post office and stood across from the wharf.
Over the years, the business expanded to include a hotel. Eventually, the LeBlanc family also expanded.
“It was like the beginning of the family,” David remarked of the store. “After the war, mom and dad got married.
“And what a perfect spot it was.”
The family’s links to armed conflict extend beyond the middle of the 20th century to World War I. David noted that her grandfather, James Bonaventure Landry, and his brothers Napolean and Gustave, all saw combat during the Great War.
“He was in the midst of all of it,” David noted of her grandfather’s distinguished service record, which extended to her great uncles as well.
In the heat of the Cold War, David recalls that she joined the Ground Observers Corps at a young age.
“I was like 4 or 5 and when a plane went by, I would have to tell my dad,” David recalled. “I got a letter thanking me for my service.
“It was a real worry. It was the Cold War.”
David added that when she grew up, military service was a very real part of their lives.
“I think there so many people that were in the service, that when we were growing up, that it was very real to many of us,” David said. “Most of my friends, their fathers had been in the war. It was real.”