LITTLE CURRENT— In 1949 a strapping young bricklayer and aspiring musician by the name of Eddie Legére came up from Toronto to help build the Little Current Post Office. Late last month Mr. Legére and his wife Eunice (daughter of Harry and Ruby Leach) travelled with their grown children Brian Legére and Laurie Alderson to visit Little Current for Haweater Weekend.
“The place has changed a little bit since I was here, but the bricks are all still there so I guess you could say we did a good job,” laughed Mr. Legére, who is now 87.
Mr. Legére was originally born in Joggins, Nova Scotia, but like generations of maritimers he headed down the road seeking better economic opportunities and wound up working for Nick De Santi, a Toronto masonry firm contracted to complete the brickwork on the new federal building on the waterfront in downtown Little Current.
“I worked with Clive Ballantine and Fred Sagle,” recalled Mr. Legére. Like a lot of the construction crew, the young bricklayer wound up boarding at the Leach’s. The future Mrs. Legére was then working at the old post office, located across the street from the present one. “It’s all gone now,” she said. “Everything is different, it’s hard to tell where anything used to be. This (the Expositor offices) was a little shoe repair place and the telephone exchange was upstairs at Turners.”
“There were a lot of the construction people staying at our place,” recalled Ms. Legére. It wasn’t a case of sweeping the young woman off her feet though. “He had to work at it. It took a little time.”
“She heard my singing,” confided Mr. Legére. “Oh you think so,” she laughs. “But my family did all say it was his singing and his black curly hair I fell for,” she admits.
When the construction jobs on the Island were finished, the newlywed couple moved south, settling in Hamilton where they built their home. “I’m a bricklayer, of course I built my home,” laughed Mr. Legére.
The couple went on to have four children, three boys and a girl, and they all grew up in a house filled with music.
“There was always a big party going on,” said Mr. Legére’s son Brian. “Someone would drop by and dad would ask if they brought their violin, they would pull it out and dad would get his guitar and they would be off.”
Eddie Legére is likely a familiar name to many folks in Northern Ontario, having made quite a name for himself in the music scene, eventually producing four albums (well three and a compilation album with other artists). “My biggest song was ‘Rory Get Your Dorry’,” recalled Mr. Legére. “That went to number one and even into the States.” But he also penned a song about Manitoulin Island, which Mr. Legére sang for the Expositor, a video of which can be found online at manitoulin.ca.
Mr. Legére might be familiar to television viewers of the 1960s, as he performed on CKSO television as well as the Carl Smith Show in the US, with Connie Smith and the Diana Lee Show.
“I didn’t do much of the talking,” said Mr. Legére. “If you are a professional you do what you do well and if you can’t do it well you don’t do it. I let the other fellows do the talking.”
The Legéres don’t have a lot of family on the Island anymore, just one brother Morris and Carol Leach of Little Current, but the memories of Island life and people from the old days remain vivid.
“Clive (Ballantine) was a good guy,” recalled Mr. Legére. “He must have been a boxer and had his nose smashed pretty good.” Mr. Legére breaks into a boxer’s snort, weaving his head to demonstrate the effect. “He was a pretty tough guy and there was his mother Myrtle, she ran a taxi business here, she was pretty tough too.”
Mr. Legére puts his hand on the brickwork that he laid down over 60 years ago. “It’s still looking pretty good,” he smiles.
Eddie Legére’s music is still available in the SOCAN and Canadian archives. “The cheques don’t come very often anymore,” smiles Ms. Legére ruefully. “After so many years you don’t get the royalties anymore unless you renew them somehow, anyone can record his music now.”
The Legére family hopes to return for Haweater Weekend again next year. “We had a wonderful time,” said Brian Legére. “We will try to come back again.”