French Canadian Interview Project

The following interview was conducted with Anne (Raymond) Richard at her home in Bourbonnais, Illinois on November 20, 2000.  The Western Civilization course student interviewers wereDebra Lynch and Amy Henson.

The video tape and audiotape that correlate with this transcript are available in the Kankakee Community College Learning Resource Center. The videotape #V-RH 16 is on reserve.  The audiotape "HIST INT #4 can be checked out of the LRC for one week. 

The interviewers' were Debra Lynch and Amy Henson, on audio was Andy Hutton and on video was Aaron Wise.
Mrs. Richard is of French-Canadian decent

Interviewer: Mrs. Richard could you please tell us "When and where you were born?"

Mrs. Richard: Well, I was born in the St. George area and on a farm; we were all very French and spoke French. My Mother and Dad did not speak English, I think they understood and there were a few words and my Grandfather did not speak any and in fact could not even write his name.

Interviewer: What brought your family to this area?

Mrs. Richard: Well its like everything else, this was a good area for farming and my grandfather Longtin came to this area in the 1800's or 1900 I would say and then from there raised his family and then my mother and dad stayed in the same area because this is a very good farm area and you made a good living.

Interviewer: Now can you tell us from what area in France?

Mrs. Richard: Well, I always understood that my father's family came from Toulouse, France. That is in the southern part of France and just went to Canada and from Canada came in this area. In those days, you know they had to come down the St. Lawrence into the lake and then from there a lot of them just had to travel from the lake to this area. In fact, that is the way Adrien's grandmother came in. She came from St. Lawrence, on the lake, and then from here she came in with oxen.

Interviewer: Oh, Could you please tell us more about your family life and how your French Canadian heritage influenced your family life?

Mrs. Richard: Well, my family life was a very happy one. There were no worries like today, and we all spoke French. I could not speak English when I went to school, which was very hard, but with time you learn and you find out that it is best you learn the English language. Which took me a long time, but if you have the English language you can make a living, otherwise you don't.

Interviewer: I have this photo here that you had. Could you tell us the French names for your family?

Mrs. Richard: That's ma mere (my mother), mon pere (my father), Josephine, Rene, Homer, Eugene, Xavier...........

M Interviewer: This is Richard in the center? Mrs. Richard: and me, so silly.

F Interviewer: What was some of the French Canadian traditions that your family had?

Mrs. Richard: Well, our food was very French, you know.

M Interviewer: What kind of food did you have that was French food?

F Interviewer: You talked about those crumble things.

Mrs. Richard: Well, we had cracklings, which we called groutons. In French that is made from the renderings of the lard after you butcher; you grind that up, very fine, then put onions or anything else you wanted, spice in it. We were very strong on spice. Then that becomes like a gelatin in there and you can eat it on crackers or toast, which is very good. Then of course, the dressing we made, this is an all meat dressing. I still make it. I'll make it for Thanksgiving, my grandson he insists I have it.

F Interviewer: (chuckling) Family tradition.

Mrs. Richard: It is all meat; they used to make it all pork. I make it 1/2 beef and 1/2 pork and you bring that to a boil, then all you do is add the bread crumbs to it and then from there I put cinnamon and cloves in there and salt and pepper and that's it. No onions, no celery, nothing. It is just meat. Then we have the blood sausage...

F Interviewer: I was going to say that is what you were talking about the other day.

Mrs. Richard: That is what we call boudin. That's made from the blood of when we butchered the hog, and its very good. You make it in a loaf pan or you  make into sausage and then there were many other things that probably I don't remember, right off. Mother made her own bread, which was always very good, and then in the morning she would slice some of that and fry it in the frying pan and we would have that with small pork sausage. It was very good.

F Interviewer: Tell us a little bit about your life on the farm when you were growing up.

Mrs. Richard: Well, my life on the farm was very happy. I had cats and dogs, chickens, baby calves, and everything else you would want, guinea hens, chickens, ducks, geese anything and everything.

F Interviewer: Did everyone in the family help with the farm? Work on the farm?

Mrs. Richard: Oh yes, we each had our own work and there was no argument about that. We had to get it done. I had to bring in the baskets of cobs every night, so they could light the stove in the morning, to do the cooking.

F Interviewer: How big was your farm? How many acres?

Mrs. Richard: At that time, my dad died and we had seven hundred acres of land

F Interviewer: Wow! Ok, that's a very big farm for today, so you know that was a very big farm then.

F Interviewer: Mrs. Richard, could you tell us about some of your family traditions and growing up, like how you celebrated holidays?

Mrs. Richard: Well Christmas was never celebrated, it was New Years. Of course, all the cousins and everybody came and there was a lot of kissing and hugging, I hated it. And then we had a big, big meal and they stayed all evening singing and playing cards or whatever they wanted to do.

F Interviewer: So on Christmas eve?

Mrs. Richard: Christmas was no Christmas, only on New Years. I would put my shoe by the bedroom door and I'd have an orange and an apple. That was Christmas.

F Interviewer: What were some other French Canadian traditions, now we read in the historical book about Corpus Christie?

Mrs. Richard: Oh, Corpus Christi was a big celebration here. They had a big procession from the church and of course we had the convent at that time and that was all decorated and even after my girl was in school they'd put her up on a pedestal with wings on her and everything, on each side of the altar and then besides that every home was decorated with flowers and waved the American flag was out a lot.

F Interviewer: Was that basically kind of a French tradition?

Mrs. Richard: I think it is, if you go to Canadian French, if you go to Canada and see the churches they are all built like this one, almost with the balcony you know.

F Interviewer: And that was during [when] St. Viator's [College] was here?

Mrs. Richard: Yes, St. Viators was still here, and they would own the house next door here and we would go there and of course when we stopped there was a lot of prayer and the blessed sacrament, which, I don't know if you know anything about that was exposed and prayers and more prayers.

F Interviewer: Thank you!

F Interviewer: What was life like when you were little, before you moved into Bourbonnais?

Mrs. Richard: My life as a child?

F Interviewer: Uh huh, yeah!

Mrs. Richard: I was very happy, I went to school of course; the little school was just about two blocks from our house was a little farm school.

F Interviewer: How many people went to school with you?

Mrs. Richard: Oh, sometimes there were ten and sometimes there were only three. And we had all the grades; you know when you got too tired you just laid on the big bench and sleep awhile, while the others were having their grade, you learn a lot from each other and of course, when we had recess everything went French. Everything that was speaking went French. The teachers did not like it, but we had teachers that did speak French and English so that was a big help.

F Interviewer: And then you moved here?

Mrs. Richard: Yes, well I stayed on the farm until my sister got married, and moved with her and lived in Bourbonnais, but most after that I didn't stay in Bourbonnais. I lived in Kankakee most of the time.

F Interviewer: How did you say they pronounced Bourbonnais then?

Mrs. Richard: Bour-bonn-ais

F Interviewer: So, how did you meet your husband?

Mrs. Richard: Well, I was living with my sister and a friend of mine came over and there was a dance at the town hall and so she said why don't you come and we went, and I was dancing with another boy. They had what they call a tag dance and he came and tagged me (laughter). I danced with him and that was it. He was you know, I was probably; we didn't get married until I was 25.

M Interviewer: Is there a photo of him on the wall anywhere?

F Interviewer: There is a picture of them over there. Right there.

M Interviewer: Go ahead and get that on tape. That would be great.

F Interviewer: This isn't their wedding picture?

Mrs. Richard: No, this is our 60th wedding anniversary picture.

M Interviewer: You want to just hold this and I can get it? That would be great. Hold on.

Mrs. Richard: We did that in July and he died in January.

M Interviewer: This is a nice picture.

F Interviewer: Their 60th anniversary.

Mrs. Richard: And the two girls.

F Interviewer: And the two girls.

M Interviewer: And the two girls,

Mrs. Richard: Yes, that is my family.

M Interviewer: And who is on the left? You want to just go ahead and.

Mrs. Richard: This is Stephanie and that's Marcia.

M Interviewer: Ok, so Stephanie is on the left?

F Interviewer: No, I think this is Stephanie, on the right and this is Adrien, Anne and Marcia. Un-huh.

Mrs. Richard: That's a good picture of us, for a change.

M Interviewer: Yeah, it is.

M Interviewer: If you want to go ahead and continue where you were I just wanted to make sure we had a picture of everybody.

Mrs. Richard: That picture was taken about, well going on five years now.

F Interviewer: Would you like to tell us, Mrs. Richard, about the work that you and your husband did helping to start the Bourbonnais
Historical Society?

Mrs. Richard: Oh, yes we worked hard on that. Of course, my husband when he retired, he didn't know what to do and he was always interested in writing. So, I said why don't you start writing? That's when he started writing on that book, "The Village". You know that took five years and then one thing lead to another and they started talking about the historical society and we didn't have a house so everything went up in my attic. We had an attic full, two truck loads when they got the house.

And him and Professor Marquart were the two that started it and Father Auger was very interested in that and one thing leads to another then they were able to get that house they have now. I forget who gave them the land for it, and they were able to get a little start on that and then they picked up everything that I had put over there and they have an awful lot of good antique stuff. They didn't even have a penny. When they started, my husband had to mail a letter you know, he took care of all that. He was the President of the Historical Society until he couldn't do it any more.

F Interviewer: You said that most of the people who lived around here were French?

Mrs. Richard: Oh yes, they were all French un-huh and in St. George too.

F Interviewer: Oh, really!

Mrs. Richard: Oh, yes! It was very French, we'd, well see everything, our sermons and everything were in French in the church. It was all French until they started you know half and half English and French and then of course Olivet moved in and we had more English people come in.

M Interviewer: How old were you when Olivet moved in?

Mrs. Richard: They moved in, let's see the college closed in see Stephanie was born in 38 and she was a baby and then it wasn't too much longer. Two, three years, I couldn't say exactly it was a long time for us. It wasn't the nicest thing to look at you know everything was, there was no care for it or anything, the grass was all.

F Interviewer: When did the Nazarenes come in?

Mrs. Richard: Well, they came in see, they had the, their place had burned down and they were going in to Chicago to work with their insurance I believe and when they went by here and they said "what is
this?" and they said St. Viator's [College] which is closed and they wanted to know more about it and then had the same insurance as they had so they made the connection and they were able to buy it and they started from there and that was during the war I believe. Because the GI's came in with their GI bills you know and that is when they started picking up. First they were different people, they were different people then a lot of people were scared and weren't happy about it, but it worked out. My husband had a lot to do with it. He brought them together.

F Interviewer: You said that you have lived in this home for sixty-three years?

Mrs. Richard: Stephanie's going to be sixty-three and we moved in here when she was a baby.

F Interviewer: Ok, did you live here when St. Viator's caught on fire?

Mrs. Richard: Oh no, no I was living in St. George in those days. Yeah, they had a big fire, I remember as a child they talked about it.

F Interviewer: So when you lived at St. George as a child, you did not get to come to Kankakee that often or to the Bourbonnais area?

Mrs. Richard: Oh no, you know we didn't go any place. In fact, you couldn't get out a lot of times; we had too much snow, too much mud.

M Interviewer: What was transportation like?

Mrs. Richard: Buggy, and oh the first Fords you know, "the Flivver".

M Interviewer: Do you remember what the going price on something like that was?

Mrs. Richard: Oh, weren't too much because after we were married and we inherited the farm, we made $600 and my husband said we're getting a new car, and that was how we got a new car. Do you know what we paid for this house?

M Interviewer: How much?

Mrs. Richard: $3000.

M Interviewer: Wow!