Ernest Cecil Busson Born February 19, 1913 Left for Canada on 12th of May, 1923
This story has been taken from the Memoirs written by Ernest Cecil Busson in 1996.
Cecil compiled “The Narrative from Two Countries” for the benefit of his family and it is with their consent that we can all cherish and remember this wonderful man.
“ I, Ernest Cecil Busson, was born in Farindon, South of England, Glousestershire County on February 19, 1913…. So my birth certificate informs me. My first recollection is of a place called Windrush, a small village in the South of England. There I spent my boyhood, up until the age of nine, living with my grandparents George and Elizabeth Busson. My mother’s name was Minnie and I had three aunts and three uncles. My mother worked in an old folks home as a cook, I believe, and didn’t get home very often. I seldom saw her. During the last two years of my stay in my grandparents’ home, she came to Windrush to keep house for my uncle Fred, who had lost his wife. Fred’s three children were all about my age and I have lots of memories of the times we spent together”
“My first memory of school was a fight with the teacher. I was left handed, and in England, the law was that you wrote with your right hand. But I wasn’t going to. The teacher, a woman, slapped me in the face and I jumped up and ran home. My grandfather walked me right back to school and guess what? I am right handed.”
“My grandmother—I can still see her, a very kind and quiet lady—never seemed out of sorts. The day she took the heart attack, just about noon, she was standing between the fireplace and the table when she grabbed her chest and the table and said something to me—I can’t remember what. I guess I must have gone to get my aunt who lived next door. Then I was sent to get Gramps. My grandmother was up and down for about a year before she passed away. The day she was buried, my cousins and I were sent down to another house. I can still see the men putting the casket on their shoulders and walking up over the hill to the Church of England. This seemed to be the first break in my life. When you’re young, death is a stranger to you. You just don’t quite understand it.”
“The next experience I remember was with my grandfather. We were living alone. It must have been summer holidays. My cousins and I were playing in some big old tree stumps that were full of wood fleas. I never heard of them. As it turned out, when Gramps and I went to bed that night ( we slept together to save housework), the fleas started to jump. Gramps jumps up in his nightie with the lamp, checking out the fleas. That’s the only time he ever licked me.”
About a year later- “Gramps was going to be out of a job since the man he worked for had broken his leg and since he was quite old, gave up farming. Not long after that he got a job farther away from home and he was going to have to move. The next problem was what to do with Ernest. Aunt Kitty had an old lady staying in her house and was also expecting her first child. My mother was keeping house for Uncle Fred so that was out. One day I saw Gramps talking to a couple of strangers, and when they were gone, he told me I would be going away from there before long. The next I recall was a morning in August when a man appeared at the door “looking to take you away” as the song goes. Gramps got me ready and then disappeared and I never saw him or heard from him for years. I heard in later years that he couldn’t stay and watch me go.”
Mr. Busson's recollection of his time in the Middlemore Home were very vivid. He mentions that all the boys wore the same clothing like a uniform which would distinguish them from ‘other boys on the streets or private schools’.
“The Middlemore Home was a lot like the army—you did everything by rank and file. You lined up for breakfast, for dinner, for supper. You got up at a certain time, you went to bed at a certain time, you were paraded to the medical room to be checked for all sorts of ailments. There were different types of sores from everybody using the same towels. They were always kept clean but take a hundred boys, more or less, hard not to pick up sores on your hands and face. The matron and the maid did the ‘doctoring”….the matron and I never did see eye to eye. One day I made the mistake of getting in her line for treatment of those damn sores and she said to me ‘why don’t you smile Busson?’ Slap slap on both sides of my face. “Yes” I told her “that should help”. It wasn’t all bad there. We had a work time and a play time, went to Church and public schools.”
“On the 12th of May, 1923, we set sail for land beyond the sea—60 boys and 12 girls between four and eighteen years old, accompanied by the matron and a superintendent. About the third day out I was up on deck digging away at the sores between my fingers. They were very itchy. A sailor happened along and took me below deck to the ship’s medical doctor. That caused some smoke!. He wanted to know if there were other children with sores and who was in charge of the Middlemore group. He said I had impetigo— if he had told me I had measles, I would have known what he was talking about. The long and the short of it was the matron nearly got kicked off the ship. We were just about clear of the sores thanks to the ship’s doctor”.
“I’m about to start a new life in Nova Scotia, Canada. It would be around May 22, 1923. When I got off the train (Westchester, Lower Greenville) a man came up to me and asked if I was Ernest Busson. I followed him over to what I later learned was called a buck board. The man told me his name. I climbed up into the vehicle. My eyes were getting bigger and bigger. I remember people were standing around looking at me (couldn’t blame them, it wasn’t everyday they got to see a good-looking Englishman)”
“Life in Canada started from there on. I had never done such a thing as work outdoors in my life before. That was going to change—gardens to hoe, chickens, pigs, calves, and horses to feed and take care of– especially with the help of a strap. Spare the rod and spoil the child was their motto. If you didn’t do things just the right way, you got the strap…..My school life in Canada was very pleasant and if my home life had been the same, things would likely have been different. Still I had a good bed, good food and they really seemed to want me to learn. But the continual use of the strap was starting to get to me….”
After failing to do well at school and not wanting to take those marks back to the house, Mr. Busson decided it was time to take leave. He had planned to spend the night with friends from school but later was found hiding under their bed by the farmer he worked for. He was drug out of the house with the friends screeching at the farmer that they would tell their father (who was away that evening). Arriving at the house he was met by the Mrs. with strap in hand. After avoiding a swipe at him, he told her “no you don’t lay a hand on me. I’m all done here. You call Mr. Ray at the Halifax home and get me out of here”. For the summer of 1925, Ernest C. Busson was to work at the Middlemore Home in Halifax. Gardening, preparing wood for winter, and tending to chickens was the main focus of the duties.
In late August 1925, he was sent to a farm in Lower Kars, NB. The couple were both in the 50’s. “ There’s one thing in my favor this time. I know how to work on a farm. I could milk the cows, knew how to feed the animals, harness the horse or drive them. So I thought, but different places are different. The home was not as good as the first home but all in all the atmosphere was better. The bedroom wasn’t really hotel style….an old slat bed with a straw tick, a couple of quilts and a blanket.” There were several ups and downs with his stay here. The lady died and now he had to take on cooking and housework along with his regular duties. Although his stay here started out with no strappings, things would eventually change. On one occasion after being late on a Sunday returning home with bread from their neighbors, he was met by the farmer standing in the middle of the floor with a buggy whip. “ that’s a whip they use to whip horses. It turned out I was the horse that got the whip that night…..those lashings happened every once in a while. He had a very uncontrollable temper.” By December of 1928, after being re-married for about a year, and even though conditions were improving, the farmer received a letter from the Middlemore home saying that they would be sending young Busson back to the Home. “Feb. 4th, 1929, my Middlemore canvass bag is packed and I’m heading for the train…” only to be sent out again from the Fairview Home, Halifax, NS, on Feb. 6th., back to Wickham, NB. Just four miles from his last home. Although he received three good meals a day, the work was long and hard. Tension grew between young Busson and the son of the family he worked for. Then in the middle of October, 1929, young Busson was pushed just too far. “ I’m all done being a home boy, as far as my thinking goes. I’m going to try my luck on my own. What is behind is gone, what’s ahead is to come. I’m young, only sixteen, I’m good looking, what more could I want? Maybe something to eat.”
Determined to make a go of it on his own, Ernest Cecil Busson took on the challenge. He spent the next few years working with lumbering camps from Chipman to Fredericton areas. He was still slight in stature, a mere ‘110 pounds soaking wet’ but all was not easy by any means. Once, he fell through a Dam in the Coy Brook area while fetching water to make tea for the work crews. “ I was on my way in, clothes frozen, steam flying from my body, when I met the boss and two scalars coming out the road. I was doing close to forty miles an hour. I didn’t stop for any long stories. They started to ask me what happened but I just whooped, ‘I fell in” and kept hiking”. There were many ups and downs, harsh winters, and several insulting remarks to his character. There were lucky breaks too. Often, just as things were looking grim, an old familiar friend for his earlier employments, seemed to happen along and help him get into much needed employments.
“Along in the summer of 1933, I started to take a shine to the boss’s daughter. As things turned out, we were married the day before Christmas 1934. Thelma Irene Chase would now be after Christmas eve 1934, Thelma Irene Busson”. The depression year were as difficult for the Busson’s as it was for so many others. Then war broke out and by 1940, Mr. Busson had his mind made up that he too would sign up for duty. By now they had three little children. In October 1942 he was among the 30,000 Canadians and 100,000 Americans to make their way to England.
“You can be sure that it got to be a busy time for us from then until June 6th, 1944, when the invasion of Normandy was pulled off. Now that was something I’ll never forget. That and up until May 8th, 1945 when the war ended. Hundreds of stories could be told, it would take more than one book to hold them…… One thing I was able to do while overseas with the army was to visit my old home I had left in August 1922”.
After Ernest Cecil Busson returned home, the struggle to make ends meet continued. It would even take him to Ontario to work. War nerves, as it was known then, made things hard to cope with for some time but again he would overcome. Through it all the Busson family would include five children.
A few words by Ernest Cecil Busson on the homes he resided in, both in Canada and England. “My own home in England, and what I have told of the people and places to the best of my memory, is all the truth. I could add a lot more but this should give a fair idea of my younger life. Today, I hold no hate or grudge against any party”.