WWII Letter from Pres. Truman

My pepere (French-Canadian for "grandfather"), Raymond Beaudette, proudly served as an U.S. Army medic in WWII, spending active duty in Germany and France 1942-45. He used the money he made in the army support his six younger siblings, sending a generous portion of his salary home to his widowed father. As immigrants from Quebec, my family trickled into America starting at the turn of the twentieth century, looking for work in the textile mills that dot the Androscoggin River in central Maine. Although very industrious, assimilation was difficult for the French-speaking foreigners, and for generations, Quebecoise Mainers were looked down upon for our strange accents and working class lifestyles that starkly contrasted to the culture and traditions of Puritanical New England. When many people think of New England, they conjure images Pilgrims and Nathaniel Hawthorne novels - this was not the reality of existence of the Franco-American inhabitants of the rickety wooden Lewiston tenements - built in the 1900s and still standing today, inhabited, despite being named one of the most dangerous housing structures still in use in the country. However, the War brought an opportunity for my hardworking grandfather - and he used it to support his family, going on the raise a first generation of college students who would become homeowners and part of a burgeoning French-Canadian middle class in central Maine. My pepere did not often speak of the horrors he saw in combat, but he instilled in his children and grandchildren integrity, and the drive to be selfless and self-sufficient. 

Place(s): Lewiston, Maine

– Melanie Gottdenger

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant