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Maxime Nicholas Fidao's Life Story (Written in 1947)
(Page 4 of 8)
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I was interested in metaphysics in a more or less academic way and off hand way. I attended several seances of spiritual mediums in New York. One of these seances, which I saw advertised in a morning paper, was to take place that evening. I had never before been to any of her seances. I was a complete stranger there, and had not given my name neither there nor at any other seance I had attended. I simply went in, paid fifty cents, and took a seat at a long table. There were about a dozen people there, mostly women, and the medium told each one in turn, something about a dead friend or relative whom she could see in her trance.

When my turn came, she spelled my name slowly and with hesitation: FIDAU, making a mistake of only one letter. Then she proceeded to describe a tall, old man with white hair and a white beard, who stood beside me with his hand on my shoulder, who she said was showing fondness for me and was protecting me. His name - Sam....Samuel. At the moment I could not place the old man with the white hair. I dismissed this matter from my mind, and listened to her visions concerning the rest of the people. Just as I was leaving the meeting, it dawned on me, that Samuel, that she had described, was none other than our utility man back home. Her description of him was perfect, and indeed he was very fond of us twins. I was dumfounded.

My English had improved and I could converse understandably with some confidence, but I was lagging in slang and swearing. One evening, George and I were visiting Evelyn. A spirited conversation ensued, with quick repartees, and Evelyn came back at me with "You are a son of a gun". With much zest, I countered with "You are a son of a bitch".

Her mother, who was sitting in the next room, heard me and ran into the parlor. George, who had understood my ignorance of the expression, was trying to defend me. In vain did I try to explain and to apologize, both to Evelyn and to her mother. They would have none of it. I left and went upstairs to my room leaving it to George to plead my case. Reason prevailed, and I was again received downstairs with friendliness.

Coincidently with my joining the Royal Bank of Canada, I received some money from my father, and he kept sending me a monthly remittance when he heard that my job was worth only $6 a week. I had, thus, money to spare for I was living very economically.

In a short time, I was promoted at the Bank and my salary was doubled. About six months later, I was promoted again with another raise. As soon as I was earning enough to support myself decently, I asked my father to discontinue his remittances.

It was at this time that a friend of mine, John, had decided to get married. He was earning a very small salary and I had advised him, on several occasions, to defer his wedding till he was well able to support a wife. But, love would have its way and he decided to take the plunge.

He asked me to be his best man, to which I agreed, reluctantly. It was to be a stylish wedding, the parents of the bride being well to do. It meant I had to buy a silk hat, a cutaway coat, striped trousers, and shoes; besides giving a present to the bride. That set me back quite a little.

The wedding was a swell affair and the couple left on their honeymoon after the reception. A week later, I received a long distance call from John, asking me to lend him some money to help pay his hotel bills. I felt very sorry for the foolish fellow, but I had to refuse because I could not really afford it. I saw very little of him after that.

Our agency of the Royal Bank of Canada was very active in the foreign exchange market. We made many shipments of gold to Europe as a result of arbitrage transactions with London and Paris. I was one of the clerks chosen to represent the bank at the Assay Office, and to go along on the truck which took it to the steamer, docked at the Hudson River.

The kegs were placed, uncovered, on an open flat truck without sides, and I sat on a keg while the driver was occupied with his horses. We carried no guns and had no police protection. The kegs were in full view of the public, who seemed to know what was being transported from the remarks heard as we trotted along. There was no fear of a holdup in anyone's mind, and none ever occurred. Times have changed. The automobile now makes holdups and getaways possible.

On the Current Accounts ledger at the bank, we had a young Central American, we will call Alfred. He was very serious, very conscientious, but unusually proud and sensitive. Although careful in his work, he was not too accurate. On one occasion, he had difficulty balancing his ledger and worked many extra hours on it. When he finally gave me his figures, they were the same as before, and did not agree with the General Ledger. But he insisted that it was alright; "There was nothing that could be done about it". He had checked all his postings, and extensions, "Everything was correct but the books just did not balance, that was all". With some assistance, he found his errors.

He arrived at the office one morning with a cane, which he put away behind the door of the coat room. One of the young clerks noticed it, and while Alfred was not looking, he held and examined it. It was a stiletto cane. The Agent of the bank was informed and he notified the police. During the lunch hour an officer came and took the cane. Nothing was ever said to Alfred, and he never spoke about the lost cane.

One of my fellow workers was a young man, Leroy, from Brooklyn, who loved to play pranks and tell off-color stories. He mostly picked on a young Englishman, John, a very nice, very correct and dignified fellow. Leroy would plant stick bombs under his chair, or would approach him quietly and very confidentially, and reel off one of his stories. John would invariably remonstrate at such doings with the same remark, "You are exceedingly vulgar and not at all funny".

Living in New York on my own resources did not allow me to indulge often in the sports I liked. But there were numerous baseball and football games, tennis matches, boxing bouts, bicycle races and others that I attended. The upper end of Manhattan was relatively open country, and the easily accessible shores of the Hudson River provided opportunity for agreeable outings.

I longed to sail up the Hudson. During my first vacation, I arranged with Charles Rodriguez and another friend to take a week's sail up the river in an open cat boat. We slept on the floor under an open sky. It took us four days to reach Poughkeepsie. The current was against us and the winds unfavorable. But on the return trip, it was all to our advantage.

On the second night of the return trip, however, in the neighborhood of Newburgh, the sky became cloudy and very dark, and no wind filled our sail. We decided to try and paddle to shore and tie up there. We had no anchor. The single oar we possessed slipped from the hands of Charles and floated in the river. It was nine o'clock at night. I jumped after it, grabbed it and started to swim back to the boat. My progress was slow, and hard as I tried, I could not reach it. It was carried by the current and a very slight breeze, which had just begun to blow. I was thrown a tow line, once, twice, but it was off mark. Then I saw myself alone, floating in the middle of that immense river in a black night, the boat moving away from me with my friends in it. They tried to come about, but were unable on account of the strong current, and no anchor to throw over. I yelled for one more try, and luckily this time the rope hit the water in front of me. I reached for it in a big sweep and grabbed the very tip of it. I was pulled in, but I will admit that I had a terrible scare.

With a friend, Frank, I occasionally dined at Mouquin's. We relished their tasty French dishes. One evening, after a copious and delicious dinner with a bottle of wine, we were strolling along in the vicinity, when we were accosted by two young women who induced us to join them. They took us to a house nearby.

I followed my new acquaintance into a room, where she immediately stretched herself on the bed. Still wearing her bonnet, and between mastications of her gum, peremptorily said to me "Hurry up".

It hit me like a cold shower. I donned my hat and left the house. She did not follow me, for she had collected her stipend before hand and banked it in her stocking.

I thought of the American adage: Time if money.

When young, and until actually involved, one does not think of the inevitable attraction that finally binds one to the other sex. This usually interferes with one's outlook and plans. Like with everyone else, my turn came and the idea that I had been nursing to move further west, gradually lost its intensity, until it faded out.

I had made the acquaintance of Josephine Lennon of Albany, N.Y., and became very much attached to her. Jo lived on 128th Street and had been teaching school in the neighborhood. She was a girl of high intelligence and fine character, ambitious, and with an unusual sense of humor.

We were married in 1909. We had been planning our marriage, but had set no definite date. It was on the spur of the moment that we took the ferry (to) Hoboken and were married by a Lutheran minister. We had no wedding. Jo had no relatives in New York, neither did I. Besides, we needed all the money we could spare to furnish a home.

We took an apartment on 172nd Street in Washington Heights, and started our housekeeping. On our first Sunday there, we decided to have a goose dinner. We slid the stuffed bird into the oven, set the heat register, and went for a walk. On our way back, we could smell a roast burning, quite a distance from home, and in growing potency as we approached it. We laughed and felt sorry for the poor family whose roast was being ruined. We walked up the stairs of our apartment house. Black smoke was filling the hall. We rang the bell of our only neighbor on the floor, the Howard Williams, to offer our assistance, but they were not home. We opened our door, and there we were stopped at the threshold. Thick black smoke choked us.

Cooking with us, like with many new couples, was an uncertain experiment at the beginning.

In 1911 Jo gave birth to twin boys. When I called in the evening, at the Sanitarium in New York City where Jo was confined, a nurse rushed up to me and said "You are the father of twin boys". Rather calmly, I said' "Oh: Two of them. How is my wife. She said she was fine and so were the babies, but she added, .You don't seem at all excited". I answered that we had been expecting twins, and besides that, I had been a twin myself for 29 years.

The next day at the Bank, I was telling the girls about our twins, and with some pride of my distinction, for a twin never before had had twin children. "Bah", said one of the girls, My mother is a twin and she had twins twice''. My originality, my uniqueness, went out the window.

We named the boys, Lloyd and Maxime.

Real life began for us in earnest. No one realizes, I believe, on getting married what life with a baby, or two, is going to mean. It is something one has not experienced before, and knowledge comes with experience.

I would often come home from work and find my wife asleep from exhaustion, a boy in each arm, also asleep.

For six months, I waked at two in the morning to give them their bottle, and attend to the needed changing. Our life, like that of all devoted parents, was just filled with our care for the boys. We could not afford any help, and we had been blessed with two babies at once.

The following year, we moved to a bungalow at Sea Gate on the Ocean. There, we could breathe the pure sea air, bathe and dive through the surf daily. The boys waddled in the sand, waded on all fours, and thrived. Jo and I gained some serenity and peace of mind.

The boys grew healthy and strong, and at about two years of age, it was difficult to keep them quiet in the small apartment we had taken after our return from Sea Gate. The tenants below complained constantly, for the boys would chase each other on the floor for hours.

Jo was looking for Maxime, one morning, and could not find him. Suddenly she heard him crying near the window and rushed there, in the nick of time. He had climbed to the sill, thrust his body out of the window, and hung there by his hands, holding the window frame. He surely would have fallen to the pavement two stories below.

It was then that we hired a girl to help Jo with the house work, so that she could give the boys all the attention they needed. Her name was Sophis, and she said she was Rushki Polski. She could not speak a word of English, and we could not speak Rushki Polski. But, she was a good cook. One day, however, the gravy she made for a pot roast did not turn out good. She agreed, and said "Sauce bad boy". -That was one expression in English she had picked up from Jo, when she had reprimanded one of the boys.

It was late spring when we decided to move to the country. We found a furnished bungalow in Riverside, Conn., on Chapel Lane, and moved there in 1914 for the summer. After one week there, we knew that we would never return to live in the City again, and we have lived in that vicinity ever since.

The boys were then three years old, and were able to live in the open air most of the day. My wife found it most agreeable, and housekeeping, in more spacious quarters, became an easier task.

We found it difficult, however, to get around without a car. We managed to scrape enough money together and bought a Ford. Jo and I took driving lessons, but we often had trouble starting it. We would call a nearby garage and a nice young fellow would come, always equipped with one tool only, a hammer. He believed he could fix anything with it, but the results were seldom satisfactory.

The first time Jo took the car out alone, she wrecked the horse-drawn cart of the newspaper man. His papers were strewn all over the road, and one of the wheels of the cart rolled down to the railroad station, 150 yards away. It was an expensive initiation for her, but after a few dents in the mudguards, we both managed to keep on the right side of the road, and off the side walks.

I hired a row boat, bought a shotgun, a .22 rifle, and a racket. My wife did not engage in sports. A few minutes walk from home, I could reach the woods, where squirrels, quail and rabbits could be found. I fished in the river and harbor, and resumed playing tennis again in the neighborhood.

Two local young fellows and I took several hunting trips. The most memorable ones were at the Henry Clews farm in Hamburg, Conn., where a Riverside fellow, Elmer Marshall, was the caretaker. He lived there with his wife and two little boys, and we were always welcome. Elmer knew wild life and he served as our guide on the 550 acre property. He could relate the most extraordinary hunting stories, which he insisted were out of his own experience. One morning, he led me to a deer by sniffing the air and following the scent, just-as a dog would.

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