Above: Four Drew boys: Floyd, Raymond, Emery & Dick on Babe, the wonder horse, with their uncle Ivan Gibeault holding. The photo was taken in 1940
by Dick Drew
In 1939 I was 5-years-old, sent from Edmonton with my three older brothers to live on a farm near Morinville owned by my widowed Grandmother Ida Gibeault and managed by her 17-year-old son, our Uncle Peter Gibeault. It was depression and wartime.
Every Sunday, our deeply religious Catholic Grandmother would hitch the wagon or sleigh, and we would travel, regardless of weather, two miles to Morinville, Alberta, to attend mass at St. Jean Baptiste. Granny would give each of us two 5 cent nickels. One nickel for the collection plate, one nickel to spend in the store after mass.
Back in those days, you could buy an ice cream cone for a nickel.
The sidewalk in front of the church was made of wooden slats, with a space between each to allow rain to drain through. Years later, it became a solid cement sidewalk.
One Sunday, as I approached the church, clutching my two nickels in a death grip, excited because I was mentally tasting the ice cream cone I would devour after mass. I stumbled, fell foreword, releasing my precious nickels and watched them both roll towards a space in the sidewalk. I panicked as one nickel disappeared down a space while the other nickel was preparing to disappear; I lunged and rescued it, clinging to it mightily.
During mass, I kept asking myself, “Which nickel disappeared? Was it my ice cream cone nickel, or was it God’s collection play nickel?” I kept asking myself as the collection plate began its tortuous advance up the aisle. I kept looking for a sign from God. Please tell me whose nickel disappeared under the sidewalk. Was it mine or God’s?
Fifty years later, I was visiting my Uncle Peter Gibeault in Morinville. For years he had been caretaker of the St. Jean Baptiste church. He took me on a tour of the church and introduced me to Father Primeau. I said, “Father Primeau, I have a confession to make,” and told him the dilemma of the five-year-old and two nickels. “Father Primeau,” I said.
“If you get a jackhammer and tear up the sidewalk in front of the church, you will find God’s nickel.”
We all laughed. My Uncle Peter, not one to let a good story end without a punchline, added, “Well Dick, that nickel, invested, would be worth much more today. I suggest you place a five-dollar bill in the poor box.”
Dick Drew, Maple Ridge, B.C