Manuscripts/Mixed Material [French Canadian Textile Worker]
Once a week, sometimes twice, our women folks broke their backs over the washboard and wrung the family washing by hand, washing machines and wringers being unknown at the time. There was no hot water in large, convenient tanks, only the one you heated on the kitchen stove in the washboiler, pans and pots, or if you came to afford it, a tea-kettle. This hot water served for cooking, washing the dishes, clothes and floors and to take the weekly bath in the wash tub.
But we had big appetites and ate well and slept well, going to bed and getting up early every day in the week, except Sunday. Sunday nights, we had our veillees du bon vieux temps, as we had them in Canada. The younger folks enjoyed birthday parties, but early French Canadian textile workers, even in the 'Seventies, never thought of celebrating their golden or silver wedding anniversaries. In 1871, our first parish was established and our new church was opened in 1873. In the meantime, we worshipped in Smyth Hall and in the church located on the corner of Chestnut and Merrimack Streets. A few years later, we had two parishes, so we really could practice our religion as easily as we did in old Quebec. We said our morning prayer separately, but after supper, before the dishes were washed, we recited the beads and evening prayer en famille, father or mother alternating with the children and the boarders.
After a while, the children became young men and women. They had been earning money for a few years and, being prouder, thought of changing from homespuns, worn even on Sunday, to more fashionable store clothes. We saved pennies until they became dollars and when there was enough, we dressed up, you bet, paying in full for what we bought, not a little down and so much a week, as so many do today with the creation and the spread of the installment plan.
"You must have heard about the earliest French Canadian settlers in Manchester, M. Lemay," M. Pare inquired.