This past spring Susan Pinette’s Franco-American history class at the University of Maine did a number of projects focused on cultural history with a Biddeford focus. The projects were unveiled at a really nice reception at the fab North Dam Mill (formerly Pepperell Mill Building #3), which I attended with my toddler in tow…luckily there were enough Memere’s in the room to keep her in cheese and grapes and it was a great gathering. There were a couple of web-based projects which I put links to on the library’s Local History & Genealogy webpage (still there, by the way), and the rest of the projects I hijacked to put out at the library’s opening for Dyke Hendricksen’s wonderful book The Franco-Americans of Maine . Last month we were lucky enough to host a book talk with Norman Beaupre discussing his newest novel, The Man with the Easel of Horn. All this plus Biddeford’s Maine Community Heritage Project team launched our awesome website in June…with lots of Franco coverage and more planned for the future.
You’d think that would be pretty good coverage for the Francos…no way, hombre! We got an email last week from Dr. Pinette with a link to this fantastic radio program (aired September 7, 2010) produced by Biddeford native Jane Martin–now a Fulbright Scholar at McGill University in Montreal, QC. It’s a wonderful look into Martin’s own journey as a Franco as she learns her family history by talking and interviewing her parents and other family members.
Her story is one which many of us can identify. As the last of la survivance generations are starting to leave us, with their fierce Franco-ness, the children and grandchildren may not realize until it is too late the stories and culture which we are losing. The other side is that so many of the younger generations may only have one grandparent of French-Canadian origin and perhaps have never had that experience of coming from a “really French” family.
Luckily, with folks like Pinette, Beaupre, Hendricksen, and Martin we continue to experience and learn about the rich French-Canadian culture – past and present – of Biddeford in particular and in Maine as a whole. I am 1/4 Franco and love experiencing and learning about this rich, vibrant heritage that I never knew I had until about 10 years ago. My generation may not totally understand la survivance, but I think we can all agree nous n’oublierons jamais.