This is the story of my life so far: 67 years and counting.
Prequel: A Brief History of my Family in France
During my childhood and my youth, we went to my grandparents' house in Binic almost every summer. But we did not spend the whole summer there, as the house was not large enough for all the grandchildren of my grandparents.
For several years (1952, 1955-58 and 1960) we also went to my great grandmother's house in Poullaouen in central Brittany. The estate is named "La Salle". It is now owned by several of my first cousins.
La Salle, Poullaouen
source: Google Maps
My great grandmother was an old lady, born in 1859. She was living in this big house with her old maid, whose name was Fanny. Apparently Fanny had never married and she has been in service for most of her life. Although she was at least 70 years old, she was still cooking for my great grandmother, and for us when we were there. In particular, from time to time, she would make traditional wheat and buckweat crêpes and we would eat them outside in a covered area called the pergola. That was yummy!
The main house had not been remodeled for several dozens of years. There were no bathtubs, for example. There was only a "tub", that is a flat and shallow round container in zinc where we would be washed, standing up.
Woman standing in a tub, by Anders Zorn
Also, there were very few sinks. We would washed in a porcelain basin, similar to the one in the picture above, that we would fill with water from a porcelain jug. Let not speak of the toilets!
There was a very old telephone, that was rarely used for long distance, as it was very expensive at this time.
Electricity was produced by a saw-mill near by. I don't know what the exact voltage was, but according to my brother Philippe, it was "220 Volts sous-voltés" (200 Volts weak). In any case, the light bulbs were for 110 Volts and they needed to be replaced quit often, as the voltage was certainly way above 100 Volts.
In most of the bedrooms, there were dry flowers under glass similar to these:
There was a toy in La Salle that I remember: a steam-powered model train. It was difficult to make it work because it is not easy to produce steam and have a real steam engine at this scale.
Near the main house there was a small farm with a couple with no children: Jean and Marie.
There was also the larger farm of the family Lesouarn not far. When we were there is July, we would go there when everybody was listening to the Tour de France on the radio. They would be drinking cider with 5% alcohol and they would give us a small sip.
I remember that the Lesouarn had a German shepherd named "Sans Peur" (Without Fear) and I was absolutely not afraid of him.
In August 1958, I fell while riding a bicycle and I injured my right testicle. I took more than a month to heal. Not a pleasant memory!
But, over all, I have good memory of our stay in La Salle.
In 1959, my great grandmother was 90 years old and she passed away. The family gathered in Poullaouen for the funeral. As there was more than 50 people, we had to rent a big room for eating lunch. Nobody was really sad, and in fact that was a rather joyous family reunion.
We went to La Salle for the last time in 1960.
Continue to Part 12
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