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The Search

The Outline Story

by admin on August 6, 2012

In every family’s history, there is generally, somewhere along the line, a dramatic tale. Sometimes it is of love lost or found. Other times it includes a grand journey from a far away land to a new frontier. They all have adversity and love at the centre of them…and, usually, a happy ending. Of sorts. I mean if there is a family that continued on to tell the story, chances are the ending wasn’t all bad.

In my father’s rather large and rather loud French Canadian family, he was rather reluctantly at the centre of that story. He was not alone, of course…as he was one of a pair. A pair of twins born out of wedlock during the second world war. A boy and a girl. Paul and Pauline.

When retelling this story, it is important to remember that in 1944, an unmarried woman who finds herself about to have a baby(or two as was the case here) really had limited options as to where to turn. It is also important to note how hard it would be for any family–no matter how close or how openminded–to be accepting of any children born in such a situation. You can imagine that a story such as this is not one that older generations thought appropriate for ears as young as mine. So, over the years, through school projects designed to map out our family tree and discussions born out of my natural curiosity, I have pieced together the bits and pieces that have been offered up to me to map out a sort of ‘outline story’. As an adult, I have pressed some of the older generations for more details to help flesh it out so that it could become more than just an outline, but that was always met with hesitation. Why would I want to know about such things? What does it help to hear this story? Who cares if we are here and all happy and healthy?

So, this is what I know for sure…I’ll go into more detail about how I have come to these solid conclusions later on down the road, but I hope to find out more from the few remaining family members so that the puzzle is more fully explained.

There once was a young lady named Lou. She grew up on a farm near Regina, Saskatchewan. The eldest child in a very large and very French family. As a young woman, she moved out to Vancouver Island where she was a waitress often serving the many troops. She found herself pregnant and would eventually give birth to twins(my dad and his sister). She made rather detailed claims to the Australian government that their father was a member of the Australian military. Within these claims, she was looking for chid support for her children so that she could keep them with her. The man whom she claimed to be the father, denied paternity…in fact, denied even knowing her…and the military informed Lou that the man she thought was the father was married to someone else. In fact, had been married when he was deployed to Canada.

Lou then had little options. The twins were given up for adoption. She handpicked the couple(at least this is my understanding). She chose a wealthy American, Peter Barnes, and his wife, Treva. They then took the twins to America. This is where things start to get sketchy. I know that things were rocky between Peter and Treva…and that, eventually, lead to their separation. My understanding was that custody of the toddler twins was at the heart of the divorce proceedings. Before any sort of settlement could be reached, Peter died rather suddenly and his family cut Treva off of all support…due in part at least because of how difficult she had made it for Peter to see the children. Treva then became the secretary or personal assistant to Gene Autry(this I would LOVE to have proof of). She even boasted once or twice that the twins had gone up on stage with him.

Eventually, Treva would lose custody of the twins and they would be placed in foster care. I believe that their foster family was the Johnson’s. I guess I’ll find out for sure at some point during this journey. When she lost custody, she sent notice to Lou…I think because she felt she owed it to her. Lou then contacted her family back in Saskatchewan. Her very French Canadian(read: stubborn and determined and Catholic) mother sent two of her boys, my Great Uncle Ray and my Great Uncle Joe, to Oregan on the railway to essentially kidnap the twins and bring them home to the farm in Saskatchewan where she would raise them with their aunts and uncles.

And, my dad, for the record, went on to have a happy ending. His family in Saskatchewan raised him with love. Everytime we visited the farm in Wolseley while my great grandmother was alive, she would have made at least 3 blueberry pies that were sitting on a counter in her summer kitchen reserved especially for Paul. With their help, he would graduate from high school at 16 years of age and go on to finish at the top of his class in university. When he wrote his commerce exams, his marks were one of the top 3 in the nation at the time. He would be the youngest partner ever at Clarks and Gordon. He would fall in love with the most amazing woman(my mom) with whom he shared 45 years together. When he died, he was the CEO of a company of his own making. He gave chances to young people he believed in. Most of all, he was a happy Papa to 4 beautiful grandchildren…and for them, I am going to learn his story. Because, they deserve to know it.

~ Dana


A Beginning…

by admin on August 3, 2012

Recently, there was in my life an ending. And, this ending, though somewhat expected, still seemed rather sudden and abrupt. My mother and I sat beside my father while he had his last moments and tried to remember the life we had shared with him. Recalling moments long forgotten…laughing, yes laughing, as we told favourite family stories to pass the time. And, then, as his last moments passed, I realized it was not only an ending, but it was also a beginning.

While coordinating all of the details of that ending, I realized a few things. Like sometimes images can remind you of why you are awesome. I was struck when looking at the images of my father’s life how much I had forgotten about who he used to be. As a child, I thought he was simply the greatest man on earth…I see that look in Georgia’s eyes when she looks at Bob, but I had forgotten that I once used to look at my own dad that way. As we age, our relationships shift and change, but more importantly PEOPLE shift and change. Part of me wishes that we had sat down with him more often and looked at these photographs and super 8 movies to remind us all of where we came from and who we used to be so that we could grab the good parts and try to embrace them more. About ourselves and about each other. Nowadays, we all spend a great deal of time documenting our lives so that we can share it on social media, but THAT documentation feels so different to me…it feels so superficial in a ‘look at how awesome I am’ kind of way. The beautiful thing about photographs and movies from before the digital and social media age is that there is an innocence in them. An excitement that it is even possible–this documentation. And, an honesty that is often lacking in today’s over documented digital histories. I am going to make a commitment right here and now to look back on these old pictures and movies once a year…maybe on my birthday…to spend a whole day looking at all of the documentation of my life. So that I don’t forget who I am and where I have come from.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned is that at the end, all there is is love. Everything that you worried about, stressed over, bickered about…all of that is set aside as you realize how utterly unimportant it all is. The one and only thing you want to express is love. And that goes for everyone who is there…of course, we have all heard that to be true, but now I KNOW it and that is an entirely different thing.

The last thing I want to share with you today is about a beginning…a beginning that grew out of the ending. Sort of. I might have begun it awhile ago and then put it aside for any number of reasons, but I am picking it back up today. In a different world than when I last begun 10 years ago…a world where I might actually find what I am looking for. But, before I get into all of that…there is a story to be told. It’s a family story…I know that all families have them, but this is a big one and I have always thought that it was just screaming to be told. So, I am going to tell it…right here on my own family’s blog. I would love it if you followed along. I would especially love it if you asked questions so that I may go out and find the answers. I will put all of the posts in the category called ‘The Search’. Hopefully, I find what I’m looking for :)


Dana Pugh