Allain, Alyre

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                                 ALYRE ALLAIN
                                 By Gail Savoy


Allyre Allain was sitting looking out at the pouring rain the morning a visitor came to call. His flashed a huge smile, one he shares with everyone who comes to visit him at Mount St. Joseph’s. And he has had time to meet more than a few people over the years. Allain is 101, and will see his third century, the 21st, in a few weeks.

Allain was born on August 8, 1898 in St. Charles (Kent County). His parents, Joe and Henrietta Caissie, lived on a farm and eked out a meager living. Alyre was the fourth child born in a family of 13 – six girls and seven boys. Longevity runs in the family. Of the 13, Allain still has two brothers and two sisters living. Antoine is 97, Lorraine is 86, Herculine is 85 and Joseph is 83.

Allain’s father made his living by working in the woods as did many others at that time.

Allain’s childhood was not rich in material things. School was not something the family attended on a regular basis.

Allain, joined by his son Alcide Allain for an interview, said he went to school for three years, but only in the fall and the spring. Asked why he replied, “Because we had no shoes. We could not go after the frost was in the ground.”

He went to school to try to learn, but he never acquired the skills to read or write. His son said all his father learned to write was his name to sign a cheque.

In the winter the young family stuck close to home. Allain got his first pair of gumboots when he went to work in the woods.

Allain moved to the Miramichi area in the 1920’s with two of his brothers, Edgar and Levi. He worked on a farm owned by the Hogan family on land where the Kingsway restaurant stands today.

The brothers loved to bicycle and often left on Sunday morning to bike to St. Charles to visit their parents, returning the same night. “The roads were not paved and my father often laughed about the amount of flat tires they would have. How long it took them to make the journey depended on that equipment holding up,” Alcide said.

Bill Sinclair owned a mill where the pulp mill is now and Alyre Allain went to work for him as a lumber man. He spent the winter in the woods at a logging camp.


                                   Fled killer flu

Alcide related a story his father often told the family of an experience he lived through at one of the camps. “My father was in the camp when the Spanish flu hit. He said there was so many sick men in the camp that they had to cut a hole in the roof to let the fever out. Men were dying all around him. He said they were dropping like flies. My father decided to leave before he got sick. He left the camp walking with a lunch. He walked all night to the hallway house, but they would not let him in. They were scared that he would pass the sickness onto them. They gave him more food and he kept walking to Sinclair’s Mill and when he arrived he had to sleep in the barn because they would not let him in the cookhouse. The next morning he collected his pay and got on the train to St. Charles. He spent three weeks at his parents’ home until the danger passed.” Allain said no one in his family caught the flu and died from it, although other families were not so lucky.

Allain married Marceline Ploudre on Sept. 24, 1930. She was from Fairisle. She was working for Eddy Dalton at the time. The couple moved into a home on King George Highway that was across from where Journey’s End is now.

By this time Allain was working for Sinclair on his farm as the barn man. He was responsible for the animals, garden, hay, and served as Sinclair’s chauffeur. “My father drove Mr. Sinclair to the bank, on errands, etc.,” Alcide said. Allain left Sinclair’s employment in 1942 or 1943.

He began to work at the Domtar plant in Newcastle where railroad ties and telephone poles were treated with creosote. “My Dad’s job was to take the railway ties from the creosote ponds with a pickeroon. The ties had to be loaded into box cars,” Alcide said. Alcide said he can remember his father coming home with blisters on his face from the heat of the tar ponds. Allain was paid piece work. Three men would share the wage of loading the box car. The ties and poles would be shipped all over Canada. “I know that my father broke his legs at least three times during the time he worked there. The piles would roll and pin the men,” Alcide said.

During this time Allain and his wife built a home on the corner of Sweeney Lane and Petrie Street and began to raise a family. The Allains had two sons, Alcide and Raymond and two daughters Marie and Jacqueline. Allain has 17 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren (with two more on the way), and five great-great grandchildren.

The Allains were married for 55 years. On their 50th anniversary they renewed their vows at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church. It was the same church they were married in. The couple that stood with them on their wedding day was Alyre’s sister Yvonisse and her husband Narcisse Johnson.

                   Sweeney Lane lacked lights, water in his time

Alyre Allain has seen his share of changes over the years. When he first built his house on Sweeney Lane, there were no more than half a dozen houses on the street. Electricity came late in the 1940s and water in the 1950’s. When asked when the first telephone was installed in his home, Allain’s son Alcide was quick to relate that his father never did like talking on the phone or watching television. “He always said that the two were nothing but bad news.” Allain gave his TV set to his grandson after his wife passed away.

Hard times as a child taught Allain to be very money conscious. He said he had learned from his parents who had to be thrifty during their lifetime.

During the Second World War Allain remembers them building the wireless field in Newcastle. It was a field full of radio towers that were used during the war years. The field ran from Sweeney Lane over to Radio Street. At the time there were only a few houses on these streets. Allain added they were two buildings that were used by whoever operated the towers. The buildings are now used by the Morris Wholesalers Ltd. and Castle Machines Works.

Alcide laughingly told a story of taking his father to the new Sobey’s in Douglastown when it first opened. “He asked if he coule come shopping with us so that he could see the store. He was amazed at the sheer size of it. All he could do was shake his head and remember the general store in St. Charles with its barrels and long counter. He never went back to Sobey’s again.”

                         Alyre Allain drove his car until he was 95

The first car brand new car he owned was a ’53 Chev he bought at Lounsbury’s for $2,700.

“My father loves people and loves to be around them,” his son Alcide said. Allain remembers the building of the Morrisy Bridge and the day it opened. “I seem to remember a man from Red Bank being drowned when it was being built,” he said.


Source: Miramichi Leader – December 14, 1999

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