Theresa’s Stories

These are the stories of Theresa Anne (Dundon) Mangan, as told to her daughter, Lori vanWynsberghe. 

1.Theresa was the first caesarian baby born at a Kingston Hotel Dieu Hospital on December 29, 1927.  After a long labour, the midwife knew the delivery was in difficulty and called the family doctor in Gananoque. The doctor arrived at the farm, coming 10 miles on snowmobile. It was the middle of a snowstorm and the roads were impossible to travel. The doctor then took Theresa’s mother to Highway #15, a 3-mile drive and met the ambulance. The caesarian was performed by Dr. Boucher.  Baby Theresa and her mom were in the hospital for 20 days.

2. In 1939, Theresa’s father (who was lovingly called “Dad Dundon”) sold a portion of his property, and an airport for a British Air Force training center was later built.  The pilots flew through all-weather, night and day, and when the training was completed, the pilots returned home to Britain to begin the “true” air battles.   Theresa remembers one crash in their apple orchard, where both the pilot and co-pilot did not survive.  Although the sale of the land helped the family survive the depression and during the war years, Theresa’s mother was never happy with the sale, as the war took her oldest son who was killed in action.

3. In 1941/1942, Theresa’s brother Hubert enlisted in the Army. After many months of training, he was sent overseas in 1943. The family went to say their goodbyes at the old Kingston train station.  As the family was nearing the crossing on highway #15, they saw the red lights and heard the train whistle. They stopped before they got to the tracks and knew it was the military train, on route for Halifax, with soldiers leaving for active duty.  They never knew if the train left early or if the Military had given them the wrong time.  They were not able to say goodbye – it would have been the last time to see him alive.  Theresa says a part of her mother died that day.   In 1944, the military chaplain came up their long driveway in a black car with the news of Hubert’s death on active duty in Caen, France.  Families knew what it meant if the chaplain came to visit the family.  Theresa says she can still hear her mother’s high-pitched cry and wail to this day, 77 years later.

4. In 1944, families mourned openly for one year after a death, and Theresa and her sisters wore black for almost the year.  Being in high school, the black clothing was a symbol of pride for her brother’s service, but she said it became too much and for too long for teenage girls.  They asked their older brother’s wife, Marion, if it would be okay if they changed the colour of their clothing and if they could begin dancing again (which was also restricted).  Marion told the girls to just quietly begin living a normal life and not make a big deal of it.  Needless to say, they were very happy.

5. Theresa and her sister Alice began high school in Gananoque at the ages of 12 and 14.  There were no buses so they had to leave the farm and live with their older sister Eileen, who was 18 and working at “The Corset factory” in Gananoque.  No one knew at the time, but the workers at the “corset factory” were actually doing quality control on hand grenades prior to shipping them to the war.  The family only learned this after the war was over.  The ladies who were doing this around the country are now known as “bomb girls”.  Theresa and Alice worked at a meat shop on Wednesdays after school and Saturdays.  They enjoyed hanging out at the ice cream parlor and dancing to the juke box. They only saw their parents on Sundays, which was very difficult for such young girls.

6. Theresa has fond memories of VE Day – Victory in Europe, May 7, 1945 – the day WWII ended.  The streets of Gananoque were filled with people laughing and crying.  Theresa, her sister and friends laughed, sang, and danced.  A few of them decided to drive to the US border only 15 minutes away to celebrate at the Borderline – a pub at the crossing.  The customs agent asked everyone in the car for their ID’s.  Theresa and her sister were underage, and the officer asked if their parents knew they were going, and if he could call them to be sure.  Of course, their parents did not know, so the customs agent sent the carload home.  Theresa said no one minded, and continued to celebrate back in Canada.

7. Theresa remembers the years after the end of the war with much happiness. She talks about high school graduation, getting a good job at a bank in Kingston, and meeting the love of her life, Arnold.  After their wedding in 1948, they went on a 20-day honeymoon to the United States. Arnold wanted to show Theresa where he bought and sold cattle as a livestock dealer.  They drove his new 1948 Pontiac car.  Since there were very few motels or hotels, they stayed at small cabins along Highway #301 which is now Highway #95 for about $5.00/night.  Their destination was Daytona Beach, Florida.  She said when they arrived, all dressed up with their new car and new monogrammed luggage, they were asked how many nights they were staying.  Arnold asked the price of the hotel room and the reply was $50.00/night.  He said “Okay one night will be enough”!!  Theresa says she will never forget the view of the Atlantic Ocean and walking on the beach for the first time. 

8. Theresa and Arnold bought their first house in 1948, just before they were married.  Arnold had looked for houses and farms in the area but nothing was for sale. Then one day, two spinsters called him and asked if he would be interested in their farm – 100 acres, a red brick house and an old barn. It was 1 mile from his parents and 3 miles from Theresa’s parents. They bought the farm for $3,600.  They tore down the barn and built many more over the years. The house was renovated and Theresa continues to live there today, 73 years later.

9. At the birth of her sixth child, Nicki, Theresa was informed that her baby needed an emergency blood transfusion. Nicki quickly recovered and was a happy and healthy baby and toddler. A few years later when Theresa was pregnant with her seventh child, a daughter named Lori, there was great concern Lori would also require an emergency blood transfusion. In preparation, Theresa and Arnold asked several family and friends to be “on call” to give blood, as there was no blood bank at the time. To ensure baby Lori was well, the doctor requested an infant blood test, which much to Theresa’s relief, was fine. Theresa fondly remembers the Sisters (nuns), who were her nurses and brought her a steak and green peas for supper. She said that was the best meal she ever had.

10. Theresa often talks about her religion and her faith in God. She tells of how she thanks the Lord every night for her happy and long life of 70 years with Arnold , and she thanks him for her 7 children.  She loves to talk about the Church and her time with the Catholic Women’s League. In the 1960’s, Theresa was the local CWL president, and then became Diocesan president for Kingston & Eastern Ontario.  She was involved with the Status of Women change in the Church. Women could now go on the altar, clean the alter and participate in the mass as lectors.  The main change that she is most proud of is being involved in the name change for married women in the Church. A woman became addressed as Mrs. Theresa Mangan rather than using her husband’s name, Mrs. Arnold Mangan for married women in the Church. 

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