Interviewee: Deby Nash
Interviewer: Dr. Mary Louise McCarthy-Brandt
Location: Fredericton, NB
Courtesy of Fredericton Region Museum, 2020.
Deby Nash talks about her parents Dorrit and Hedley Nash of Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The two are seated beside the river Saint John, Deby Nash on the left and Mary Louise on the right, a bouquet of flowers on the table between them.
[Mary Louise McCarthy-Brandt (MLMcC-B)] What did your father do for a living? And I think you did say he was a tradesman or…
[Deby Nash (DN)] Yes! Worked with his hands. He worked at what was once world famous, now defunct, the Chestnut Canoe Factory
[DN] As, as a hand, I don’t know how to put it, [Closeup of Deby’s face, speaking to to Mary Louise] as a piece-labourer. So he wouldn’t… be a manager. He would make parts for… boats.
[DN] World famous boats, yes!
[MLMcC-B] Okay and…
[Camera changes to Mary Louise, reading her notes] so your father grew up, I think you said around the Grand Lake area?
[DN] Yes, Ripples.
[MLMcC-B] Can you tell us about your father’s childhood? Did he ever talk about that to his daughters?
[DN] [Closeup of Deby’s face, speaking to to Mary Louise] No, he… the best that dad would do, in terms of giving us history lessons, was to take us on the weekends to Grand Lake.
[DN] To his parents’ home while his parents were still alive, which was not a very big house but dad was one of 12 children, so there were always aunts and uncles and cousins around, and my grandparents on my father’s side, and as far as he was concerned, that was the history that I needed to know about. These were my people.
[DN] And so it didn’t have anything to do with schooling, it had to do with cooking, it had to do with who was related to who, and who… who I was related to, and… that was about as historical as our family ever got.
[MLMcC-B] As your family got.
[DN] Yes. [Camera returns to a view of Deby (on the left) and Mary Louise (on right) seated together by the river]
[MLMcC-B] So the next question is again on your father, is… and maybe you don’t… have this from his words, but maybe from your own research… tell us about your father’s service in the Second World War overseas.
[Close-up of Deby’s face, speaking to Mary Louise]
[DN] Dad was a private.
[DN] He… he joined quite late, he was almost 30 when he joined the army.
[DN] It was just I think 1942 thereabouts… Dad was desperate to get an education, he was a field labourer around Grand Lake, worked on farms, and had heard that anybody who joins the Canadian army gets a free education or learns a free trade. And can build a house! And can build a house! And so, even though he was late… joining, and he probably fudged his credentials, which is a lot of what a lot of army people did in those days… it was enough to get him… trained in Gagetown, and then sent to London. That was his first and only posting abroad.
[DN] And this was just after the time of the Blitz.
[DN] And it was there that he met my mom!
[MLMcC-B] [Camera stitches to a close-up of Mary Louise] Tell us about your mom’s life and experiences as a Jew in Austria, if if… if you’re able to, and then as a… I believe she was part of the Kindertransport children before she came to Canada?
[DN] She was.
[MLMcC-B] So can we talk about… does she remember much in Austria? Like how old would she have been when she left Austria?
[DN] [Close-up of Deby’s face, speaking to Mary Louise] Mom was I believe, just almost 12 years old, because there was an age limit on the number of… on the age of children that were allowed to participate in the Kindertransport.
[DN] So she was just almost that age, when my grandmother spirited her on the kindertransport to London. My mother’s strongest memory about growing up, for herself, as a kid, was being one of the top students in the, in the school that she went to… the primary school that she went to… and every day was wonderful, she loved math, she loved the arts, her father was an accountant, and she remembers going to school one day, and then the next day not being allowed to go to school. And she never attended school again for the rest of her life, and that was one of her huge regrets. That’s her memory of.. of her life in Vienna, which is where she was born. That is a tragic memory, but there you have it.
[Camera pans out to show a wider view of Deby seated by the river] In London my mother worked in the war effort. She was what we would call a “Rosie the Riveter”. She worked on machines, on airplanes… doing the nuts and bolts to put machinery together. She also had a part-time job in a… in a Officer’s Mess. She still didn’t know her English very well, but she had learned her math pretty well, enough to use the cash register. You have to be able to take money, and to make change. And that’s where she met my dad one day!
[MLMcC-B] Oh wow!
[DN] At the officer… at the… at the Officer’s Mess. [Camera returns to a view of Deby (on the left) and Mary Louise (on right) seated together by the river]
[MLMcC-B] Tell us the circumstances of your parents meeting in London at the Trocadero Club?
[DN] At the club called Club Trocadero.
[MLMcC-B] Club Trocodero.
[DN] Trocodero. Yes.
[MLMcC-B] Oh lovely!
[DN] [Close-up of Deby’s face, speaking to Mary Louise] It was the one nightclub in London that was mixed race…
[DN] That you could go, whatever color of the world you came from, and so dad and all of the Black soldiers would go to that club, where the dancing and the music was excellent… and… so did any smart people who enjoyed good dance music. And my mother loved to dance. She had already participated at that club, and had met a few very interesting nice men, but did not want to date them, because her English wasn’t good, and all the men she was seeing in England were English speaking. And so… I clearly remember this, because my parents loved to tell this story… that mom was working at the cash one day, it was a Friday night… Dad said there’s a dance competition at the Trocadero, would you like to go with me? Dad thought he was good-looking, and that he was sexy, and that that was the reason that she said yes. But my mother always said, that was not the reason that she accepted. She was starving, she was very poor, she was working as a maid, as well as being “Rosie the Riveter”, and this part-time cashier. She was trying to help support her mother, who was posing as her sister, and also was a maid. They were refugees of course. Dad was a Canadian soldier, who had a bed to sleep in, had food every day, had all of that. But at these dance competitions at the Trocadero on Friday nights, the prize for the best couple, the dancing couple who would win, was a chicken! And my mother wanted a chicken!
[DN] And so she accepted that date with my dad, and on their first date they won.
[MLMcC-B] Oh wow!
[DN] And so, needless to say, dad was an easy date after that. He knew that he could take her every, every, Friday night to the Club Trocadero, and he did, and eventually it got to be about more than the dancing, and they wed a couple of years later!
[MLMcC-B] Wow what a beautiful story.
[DN] Yes, it’s a funny story.