Growing up in Sherbrooke
by Jackie Smith Freedman
I was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, on May 28, 1934. On that very day the Dionne Quintuplets were born. My parents always told me that they received “the prize”. My father arrived in Sherbrooke around 1917 and my mother came there in August 1933 as a bride. Both were born in Ostropol my father on January 1900 and my mother June 1911. My mothers family was affluent and my father and his family worked for them.
Tragedy struck my mother early in her life when her mother contracted small pox from her and died from the disease when she was six years old. Her father was shot before her eyes when the Cossacks marched into her home. My mother and her older brother lived with relatives until they were sent to an uncle M. Kotliansky in Montreal. They were sponsored by his brother SS Kotliansky of London Bloomsbury fame. Unfortunately,a few days after arriving in Montreal,my mother’s brother was asphyxiated in a bath by carbon monoxide from a water heater.
My father, his parents, ( Joseph and Michili) and siblings ( Sam, Mendele and Shifcha) came to Sherbrooke to join their step siblings one of whom ( Leah) had married Moishe Echenberg.
My father had done peddling in the countryside and later opened a men’s clothing store on Wellington St. On an errant to my mother’s aunt and uncle’s home in Montreal he saw a beautiful, blond, blue eyed teenager who he waited six years to marry.
My father was very smart, industrious and creative. His business acumen led to success and he expanded his interest into the real- estate and mortgage areas.He spoke French well and was recognized as a leader in many communal organizations. He served as president of the synagogue Agudah Achim organization for almost thirty years.
My mother was a home maker and part time- helper in my father’s store.( Week-ends and busy times) We were four children, Marvin (July 7, 1935), Eric( August 28,1942- May 8,1991) and Sharon ( March 22 1951).
Growing up in Sherbrooke was idyllic. At five years of age I attended Miss Mc Craws kindergarden which in fact was Grade one. My family spent summers at Wright’s Beach and in 1942 built a cottage at Little Lake Magog. My brother Marvin and I attended Mitchell School, Sherbrooke High School and McGill University. Our two younger siblings did the same. I received a B.S.c and M.S.w McGill. Marvin- B.Com and MBA ( Indiana). Eric- B.A and BCL( McGill). And Sharon B.A (McGill) and BEd (Berkley) and BFA (Concordia).
We were all involved in winter sports and at an early age learned to skate and ski.During the summer we swam, fished, boated and lazed at the cottage. We all had piano lessons and the boys went to Hebrew school. Celebration of religious holidays were an important part of our families life.
Education was prime importance to our parents who recognized it as a passport to success. We were good students and accepted the fact that we would obtain university educations.
Our relationships with our non -Jewish peers were always positive ( only occasional anti- semitism). We all learned and spoke French with our pals “on the streets”.
We were educated in English in the Protestant School System. The Catholic Church and its followers were familiar to us. We lived next to a convent and the “ habits” of the nuns were familiar to us. So too, in the country were the neighbours the farmers ,their animals and gardens. A tolerance for others customs, cultures and believes were part of our up bringing. So too, was a love of the country and physical activity. Walking to school, playing out doors were part of an uncomplicated life style.
Growing up in Sherbrooke was easy and comfortable and well supported by immediate and extended family as well as an active Jewish communal life. We were raised to appreciate our parents hard work and sacrifices and were taught not to flash our possessions and to be respectful of those like and different from us.
We each left Sherbrooke at approximately sixteen years of age to pursue higher education. When our youngest sibling reached that milestone our parents relocated to Montreal. Unfortunately my father lived only a few years longer. He died in June 1969. My mother made a positive adjustment to her life as a widow and was closely attached to her three children living in Montreal. She had four married children, eight grandchildren and four great- grand children at the time of her death November 3,1997