My mother would have been 99 years old today as she was born on 12 May 1910. She was born in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. Paris has 20 "arrondissements" which are municipal districts, as re-defined on 1 January 1860 under Napoleon III. The 14th district is called The Observatory district, and where I grew up, in the 9th district, it is called The Opera district as it includes the Opera area downtown all the way to the bottom of the Sacré-Coeur basilica in the area of Paris known as Montmartre.
It had been a hard year in Paris, in 1910 when she was born, as the town had sustained much flooding.
Mother, just before she passed away in a nursing home before Christmas 2002, at 92, wrote a short memoir, which was given to me afterwards by the nursing staff. It contained many new details of her life that were unknown to me. For example, when she was born, my grandparents sent her to a wet nurse in Normandy until she was 15 months old. I believe this type of child care was used by many families in those days. Until about 4 or 5 years of age she lived with her paternal grandparents, who were originally from Alsace, but had left the province of Alsace at the birth of my grandfather because it had become a part of Germany and they wanted to stay French citizens. Here is a picture of my great-grandparents, my mum's grandparents.
They then were retired and lived on a large estate in the country, the Crèvecœur estate. My mother's grandfather worked as manager of the estate and castle, and his brother-in-law (my mother's great uncle) worked next door, as the manager of a large farm called "Beauregard." Her aunt Blanche (her father's younger sister) also lived on the estate and spent a great deal of time with my mum until Blanche's marriage in 1914 with Antonin. Here is a picture of my mum and a picture of her Aunt Blanche's wedding day. Mother had bright red hair and pale blue green eyes, turquoise really, and they do not show well in photographs.
I just found a link to the castle where mother grew up, please click on it "Crèvecœur castle".
It appears that the owners at the time were also from Alsace, the Schlumberger brothers, who invented and tested, there on the estate, a method of searching for oil, which is still used worldwide. Click here to read about their invention. This castle, surrounded by trees and moats, was built in the 15th century. It is medieval in architecture and with out-buildings made in the Normandy style.
Her parents would visit on the week-ends. In the picture below, my grand-mother is the second from the right (with an "X" above her head) and mother is in front of her.
Mother was an only child and only grand-child, and was much cherished. She had full access to the large garden and woods on the estate and had a great time.
My grandmother owned a dry cleaning store in Paris, in the 14th arrondissement, and was very busy as my grandfather was working for the war effort and was away most of the time until 1919. Here is my mother in a cart built by her uncle, her mother's younger brother Louis. Her mother, my grandmother who I called Mémère, is standing behind him.
In 1916 after the battle of Verdun my grandmother moved to an apartment and brought my mother back to live with her in Paris where mother started primary school.
Finally the war ("to end all wars...") was over and her father worked closer to home. I have much more to tell about Mother, but that will be in future posts.