Between the end of our studies and ordination the United Church of Canada gave each of we ordinands $1,000.00 to go towards the purchase of a newer car. Since I knew that this was in the offing, I had been scouting around and opted on a Ford/Mercury dealership in North Vancouver. On a Saturday before my ordination I purchased a Mercury Cougar demo which was being sold at a reduced price. This was the car that I was driving when I took Mom and the nuns to Penticton, Kamloops and the Cariboo.
During my first year at UBC I met Rob Watt and we became friends. After that year he decided to transfer to Carleton University in Ottawa. There he met a young woman, fell in love and was about to marry her. While Rob's family were United Church of Canada folk, Rob's fiancee was Roman Catholic and the wedding was to be held in her family church. However, Rob asked me if I could be present to assist in the nuptials. I agreed.
I drove up the Trans Canada Highway through Kamloops, the Shuswap and over the mountains to Banff and Calgary. Then northeast through the Badlands and Drumheller (where I viewed the dinosaur digs and the attached museum - the Badlands are rather ugly) , Saskatoon and on to Minitonas. I visited there for a number of days seeing as many of the folk whom I had met two years before - and, especially, the Ames family. Leaving there I drove east through Dauphin and down to Winnipeg. From there the route was all new to me - and I was very impressed.
Sure, the Trans Canada Highway can seem tedious - especially in the northwest of Ontario where there are long stretches of forest, lakes, bogs, rivers and streams between centers of civilization. However, growing up with a love for geography, it was great to finally see Kenora, Dryden, Thunder Bay, Wawa, and Sault Ste Marie. Sudbury was another matter - the mines were still under operation and the terrain was horribly ugly. An 'Urban Legend' was that the Americans sent the astronauts up to Sudbury so they could have a sense of what the moon would look like when they landed there!
The Reverend Jim Liles and his family had moved from Bowsman to South River, Ontario which is south of North Bay on Highway 11. I visited with them for a couple of days and then continued on. South River is one of the turnoffs for the highway through the Muskoka District and Algonquin Park. It was still spring so the frost boils in the highways were a nuisance but, aside from that, the drive was wonderful. I entered the Ottawa River Valley near Renfrew and drove from there southeast to Ottawa.
Rob Watt was living in downtown Ottawa - Cooper Street - and the address of his home was easy to find. The next few days were occupied by wedding preparations and meeting the other members of the wedding party. I was quite nervous at the church but my part in the ceremony went off without a hitch so I could then relax. Rob's family are wonderful people and they made me feel right at home.
The wedding - on the following Saturday afternoon - was beautiful with the reception following at the Hunt Club. I had to borrow a 'preaching gown' from Dominion-Chalmers United Church - the 'Capital United Church' - so I attended worship there on the following morning in order to return the borrowed gown. I was made to feel welcome there too.
With the wedding behind me my next task was to find Dad's half-sister and her family. Dad was born in the village of Billings Bridge - which is now a part of Ottawa - and, according to Ma Tante Mouisa, that was where the Brules still lived. I drove out to the address that I had been given only to find a boarded up house. I inquired at the neighbors and was directed to a newer house in the same area.
Aunt Bea and Uncle Edgar had parented ten children - eight boys and two girls. Except for one son who lived in an outer suburb of Toronto, all of the others lived near their parent's home. I met all of these cousins but, thankfully, not all at the same time! All of them received me warmly. One of my cousins was the bartender at the Hunt Club and his sisters gave him a hard time because he had not realized on the Saturday afternoon that I was his cousin who was expected!
In conversation with Uncle Edgar I learned that they owned a summer cottage on a lake. Innocently I asked if it was over in Gatineau in Quebec? "QUEBEC?" responded my very French uncle, "NON! White Lake which is here in Ontario!" This was during the height of the Parti Quebecois' movement and I erred in thinking that all French speaking people in Eastern Canada wanted to be separate from the rest of Canada. Not my Uncle Edgar Brule - nor many other French-Canadians.
After a beautiful visit with another part of Dad's family - and my friend, Rob Watt's Mom - I began to drive the long route home. This time the route I took was more direct so not as long as the outward trip had been