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Monday, January 23, 2006

My Grandfather was a Homeboy

A little family history. What a Homeboy really is (old school).

Thomas Curtis was born 31 March 1891 in England. His father and stepmother ( reports called her drunken and worthless) gave him up to the Hightown Truant School in 1902, then he was admitted to the Liverpool Sheltering Home in 1905. He was 14 at the time. The Sheltering Home with the consent of Thomas' father sent him to Canada one month later. They called those boys, 'Homeboys or Home Children." For more information go to

Many orphaned and poor children were sent to Canada to work on farms or in family homes. My grandfather was judged on the amount of work he could do. He was small for his age and some 'caregivers' complained about this. He started out his Canadian life in Knowlton Quebec and was sent to towns in Quebec and Ontario from anywhere like Sutton to Ottawa. From the reports he rebelled at first with Mr McMay calling him a 'useless lazy and not truthful boy" but later reports from other 'caregivers' said "he is undersized but is doing well." Reading those lines and between the lines breaks your heart.
He had a sister in Yorkshire England he sent half his wages to in 1915. His training for life was harsh more than anyone can imagine. He joined the Canadian army to fight for his country in world war I. He was wounded fighting in France.
When he had finished his war service, he visited his sister in England. He had the chance to stay in the country of his birth if he wished but he chose Canada. He lived in Montreal. He worked at odd jobs until the depression hit.
He met my grandmother who was also from England, visiting Montreal at the time. They got married had two girls, then a boy. In 1940 (WWII), Montreal's mayor, Camillien Houde was arrested for telling people not to join the army. One of my Grandfathers jobs included guarding that famous prisoner. Camillien Houde was later released and became mayor once more.

Thomas had many skills, he was good with horses, as he proved one day on Mount Royal as he saved his child's life when a run away horse came bounding down the hill. He caught and controlled the horse before it ran over my mother. He was also skilled in playing harmonica for a little drink money. In that sense, he was a participant in Montreal's joie de vivre. I wish I had more stories of him.
Sadly, when my mother was 14, she found out her father was hit by a truck and later died from his injuries. He was 55 years old. Despite his service to Canada he was buried in an unmarked grave in Hawthorndale cemetery. There is no known picture of him. I have never met him, but I won't forget him.

Be reminded (or remembered)


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