French Canadian Interview Project

Ambrose Ned Dyon was born in St. Anne, lllinois on March 11, 1910 the son of Clarence William and Edna Allain Dyon. Clarence was the son of William Richard Dyon and Jane Stallwood Dyon. Edna was the daughter of Leonie Faucher Allain and Ambrose Allain, Jr. the first white child born in the village of St. Anne in 1852. He was the son of Aurelie Chayer Allain and Ambrose Allain, Sr. the first settler in St. Anne. He built his log cabin there in 1850. ..

Edna Allain Dyon died in February 1918 of pneumonia during the flu epidemic leaving Clarence with 5 children. Flora Belle was 12, Mabeleen was 10, Ambrose was almost 8, Lavern was 6, and Russell was 2. Ambrose and Lavern lived in St. Anne and went to school there. Flora Belle and Mabeleen went to live with their aunt Cora Dyon Loucado and Henry Loucado in Kankakee. Russell was raised by Ethel Dyon Hollenbeck and Arthur Hollenbeck and took the name Hollenbeck. When Ambrose was about twelve, Clarence traded his house in St. Anne for his father and mother's 40 acre farm east of Wichert. Ambrose and Lavern lived there alone and attended the Koster one room school about 2 miles from their home. Clarence lived with his parents in St. Anne where he worked at Eastern Illinois Clay Company ("the tile yard").

Life on that farm was very difficult living alone except when Clarence came on weekends to bring them bread, bananas, but very little else. With no refrigeration the bread would be molding within a few days. They ate sparrows, squirrels, rabbits, berries, or whatever they could catch or find. They chopped wood for cooking and heat, and water was from a hand pump in the yard. The only lighting in the house was provided by a kerosene lamp. They wore hand-me-down clothes and often shoes were so big they would step out of them. Ambrose stoked the fire, cleaned the blackboards, and brought in water at Koster School for $1.50 per month. The teacher, Lester DuMontelle, Sr., earned $37.50 per month and paid Ambrose from his wages. Ambrose began to work weeding onions for farmers at age 11 for 50 cents a day for 10 hours, or a nickel an hour. He never graduated from 8th grade.

He began working at Eastern Illinois Clay Company in St. Anne at age 15. His wages were about $15/week. His first car was a 1929 Ford Roadster that he purchased for $421. He met Cleva Hubert in 1935, and they eloped to Crown Point, Indiana on March 18, 1936. His dad and her cousin Bernice Legris were their witnesses. They lived on Guertin Street in St. Anne with Ambrose's grandmother Jane Dyon. Their first child William Richard Dyon was born January 13, 1938. Ambrose has an innate ability to solve problems, which led him to study to become a tool and die maker. He began working as an apprentice in 1940 and continued in that trade at Kennedy Otto. Their second child Betty Jean was born February 7, 1943 in Chicago Heights where they lived during World War II. Ambrose was working at Press Steel Car Company where they produced army tanks. After the war, he worked at Mall Tool Company before moving back to St. Anne in 1949 to work at A.O. Smith until he retired in 1972.

Ambrose repaired clocks from the time he was about 12 or 14 to make extra money. He also repaired toasters, vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, blenders, and other small appliances. He also played the banjo and took up the guitar at age 70. He and Cleva (who played the piano) along with her father (who played the violin)—and after his death John Weber, and then Jim O'Malley—played music for parties, dances, and nursing homes, until retiring from that at age 92. He is known for the parodies he sings for some old songs and his quick wit. Ambrose attended the First Baptist Church in St. Anne as a child, belongs to the St, Anne Masonic Lodge, and has always been an avid fisherman, hunter, and conservationist focusing his attention entirely in Kankakee and Iroquois Counties.