The Rouselle Store was the place to be for teens in the late 1930s who lived around Edward and Duncan Street in Cornwall. The store sold items like chocolate bars, ice cream, and cigarettes from a counter and the rest of the space was a big open dancefloor with a jukebox by the door. Teenagers would meet up at the store to hang out and dance every afternoon and used it as a meeting place to lace up their skates in the wintertime.
The store was an addition to the house, which was originally built in 1844. The Rouselles purchased the house from the builder and seven generations of their family have lived in it. Today, the house is a duplex occupied by Shirley Brisson (née Rouselle) on one side and her daughter and husband live next door. Shirley’s grandfather built the small addition on the house to open the store, which he ran until his passing in 1940.
“When World War II started, these guys who were around 17 and 18 all had to go to war. When they left all the girls were sorry to see them go and they missed going to the store every day. That’s why they wrote to my parents,” Shirley, 87, told Seaway News.
By the time the war ended, Shirley’s parents were taking care of the store. In 1945 they had to close their doors because of the post-war recession; they could no longer get things like chocolate bars and cigarettes.
“My mother kept all these letters that these guys would send her. Not too long ago, my daughter gave me a big box of things [she found in the house] and inside were all these letters from these guys. I remember a lot of these guys because I am 87 years old. I was often in the store with them and so I knew some of them.”
One of the men whose letters were discovered was Eugene Leroux, who lived across the street from Shirley growing up. When she found the letters, Shirley reached out to Eugene’s son, John, who she has known her whole life, and returned the letters to him.
“When she gave me those letters from my dad, it was like he had come back to life for a minute,” John said about the experience.
Together, John and Shirley have been searching for the families of the men who wrote the rest of the letters. There were at least six men who wrote to Shirley’s parents, Dalton and Beatrice Rouselle (who was known as Aunt B), regularly. There are two men remaining who they are having a hard time identifying: Rene Carrière and Dennis Sauvé.
Anyone with information on these veterans can reach out to John Leroux at firstname.lastname@example.org. He would very much like to help pass these amazing 80-year-old letters to the families of the men that wrote them.