The Quint Question

Why did the Quints refuse to speak English on the air? Here’s the lowdown on the strike at Callander


The Quint Question

Why did the Quints refuse to speak English on the air? Here’s the lowdown on the strike at Callander


The Quint Question


ON THE afternoon of Saturday May 10, a little six-year-old girl living in an Ontario hamlet had a fit of tantrums. She set her rosy lips in an obstinate pout, stamped her tiny slippered foot and cried: “Non, non, NON!” in a shrill piercing treble.

From this seemingly insignificant incident many unexpected happenings eventuated, including this article. The revolt of Yvonne Dionne may not have possessed the international importance of the Riel rebellion, but it got a lot more immediate publicity.

The circumstances surrounding and leading up to the outbreak of temperament among the Dionne quintuplets were these: It had been planned to feature the Quints on a Sunday-afternoon radio show sponsored by the Ontario government, designed to promote tourist business within the province and addressed chiefly to residents of the United States. The May 11, broadcast was the third of a series of thirteen half-hour programs transmitted over the Columbia Broadcasting System through fifty-two radio stations covering eighteen states. The originating station was CFRB, Toronto. The programs were produced and directed by Rai Purdy, a Toronto radio impresario in collaboration with Phil Cohan of Columbia’s New York staff. Altogether, for time, production, musicians, singers and guest stars the series cost the Ontario government’s tourist bureau a little under $150,000; but not much under.

Personal appearance of the Quints on the May 11, show had been pledged at the close of the May 4, program, a week earlier. At that time listeners were told that the famous Dionne sisters would have a special message for them. Everybody seems to have taken it for granted

that the message would be delivered in English. The program was planned and the original script written with that idea in mind, and no other. Two simple English sentences, each of nine words, had been prepared. Yvonne was to have said: “Won’t you come up and see us this summer?” And, because the broadcast date fell on Mother’s Day, the message given to Marie was; “We hope that all mothers are very happy today.”

There was no reason to anticipate trouble. The Callander babies had made previous radio appearances on behalf of the Red Cross and other war efforts. Each time they had spoken a few words of English. They had even sung a verse or two of “There’ll Always Be An England.” They were by no means mike shy. Instead they had enjoyed broadcasting. They were nearly seven years old and they had been taking kindergarten lessons in their own classroom for a year or more.

When Rai Purdy drove to Callander he was feeling pretty happy about the whole thing. The program had already received good listener response from the United States. Letters were pouring into Queen’s Park by every mail asking for information about Ontario’s tourist attractions. This appearance of the Quints he figured, should be the peak spot of the first half of the series.

At first everything went fine. Assisted by the nursing staff at Dafoe Hospital—Head Nurse Chaput, and Nurses Provencher and Vezina; all of them bilingual—producer Purdy quickly taught Yvonne and Marie to repeat the short phrases assigned to them. After two or three repetitions both children were letter perfect.

This was on Saturday morning before the broadcast date. Between that first rehearsal and Saturday afternoon

something happened to change Yvonne’s precocious and stubborn mind. She told the nurses, in French; “I don’t want to speak English.” She would give no reason for her refusal, but she couldn’t be budged from the position she had taken, either by coaxing, command, or threats of an early bedtime for a whole week. Yvonne said: “Non!” and stuck to it.

There was no time to waste arguing with a wilful little girl. Rai Purdy eliminated Yvonne from his plans and concentrated on teaching her lines to Cecile. By noon on Sunday Marie and Cecile were thoroughly rehearsed and apparently willing to go through with the assignment.

Then, in mid-afternoon, and with zero hour approaching, Marie and Cecile joined Yvonne’s insurrection. They didn’t want to speak English. They wouldn’t speak English. “Non!”

Nobody spoke English. Producer Purdy made last minute revisions in his script. All five Quints chorused the invitation and the Mother’s Day greeting in French, Purdy supplied a rough English translation—and that was that.

A Nation Aroused

"DEPERCUSSIONS of this sudden exposure of the angelic quintuplets in the horrible disguise of problem children were immediate and numerous. In three days 4,000 communications were dumped from mail bags into Provincial Tourist and Travel Bureau headquarters. In the office of Douglas R. Oliver, the bureau director, telephone service was swamped with calls, local and long distance. The purport of correspondence and phone

Why did the Quints refuse to speak English on the air? Here’s the lowdown on the strike at Callander

messages was the same: “Don’t the Quints speak English? And if not, why not?” The only difference wras that some enquirers were angrier than others.

By Wednesday the newspapers had it. Interviews and editorials burgeoned all over the province. It was reported that the Quints had been forbidden to speak English by their parents, a statement instantly denied—in excellent English—by Oliva Dionne, the father of the five. There was a rumor that the Ontario government was going to cancel the guardianship legislation passed in 1935. That one was denied too. Hon. H. C. Nixon, Acting Minister of Education told reporters that he knew nothing about the Quints. Premier Hepburn was asked to guarantee that on future programs broadcast in the United States the Quints would speak English. Mitch promised to do his best. For the most part the editorials deplored the incident as damaging to cordial relations between Canada and the United States. Some of the more sombre disquisitions hinted strongly that the Quints were attempting to sabotage the national war effort.

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In conversation over the bridge tables and elsewhere the Quints were roundly scolded by thousands. Indignant citizens told one another that steps should be taken, apparently under the impression that the Dionne sisters are subject to governmental discipline, which is not the case at all. As an inspirer of miscellaneous debate the Callander controversy ran neck and neck with the antic enterprise of Rudolf Hess, another bizarre happening of the same period.

That is the story of incident number one in the Quints’ insurrection. Incident number two bobbed up a little more than two weeks later, on Wednesday May 28. The occasion this time was the famous five’s seventh birthday. News commentator Lowell Thomas had planned to make his daily broadcast for that date from the Dafoe Hospital. Mr. Thomas, a prudent man, attempted to duck the language issue by rehearsing the Quints in two short French sentences. He was to ask them to help him in his broadcast. They were to reply: “Oui, oui, Monsieur Thomas.” Then they were to send a messsage, in French, to Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, at that time recuperating from an operation in Toronto General Hospital.

Spectators at this broadcast included Oliva and Elzire Dionne, the Quints’ parents, and the parish priest of Corbeil, who administers their religious observances. The five sisters, now seven years old, sat on five small chairs around the microphone. Lowell Thomas told his listeners that he was in Callander with the Quints. He asked them if they would help him. Silence. He repeated the request. More silence. He switched to the message for Dr. Dafoe. Utter silence. Nurse

Doreen Chaput. who is in charge of Dafoe Hospital, knelt beside the children, whispered encouragement, smiled coaxingh/. Still only silence. The commentator assured his unseen audience a bit plaintively that he really was at Callander and that the Quints were there with him, then moved into a routine discussion of the news cf the day. At the end of the program the Quints, relenting slightly under pressure of repeated urgings by Nurse Chaput, onsented to sing together one verse of a French-Canadian folk song; and the broadcast was finished. The public discussions broke out all over again.

Between the time of the first frustrated broadcast and the Lowell Thomas affair, this reporter journeyed to Callander in an endeavor to make a first hand examination of the circumstances of the original explosion, the events preceding it and it’s probable effect upon the subsequent lives of the world’s most celebrated infants. These are the main points developed from our enquiries.

Until this summer the Quints have received no instruction whatever in the English language. Critics who detect some sinister significance in this are reminded that these French-Canadian children, now only just turned seven years old, are not in the same position as children attending public school, or a separate school supported by the taxpayers. Their status is exactly the same as that of any other \oung child receiving instruction from a private tutor. The cost of the Quints’ spooling is met from the Quints’ income, and they are being privately taught in their own home.

Arrangements have been made during the past few weeks for the Quints to receive regular lessons in English reading, writing and conversation. English instruction will probably have begun by the time this is printed.

No evidence exists that their parents have ever directly opposed the teaching of English to the quintuplets, or have ever told them not to speak English.

On the other hand, there is a great deal of evidence that both Mr. and Mrs. Dionne are almost constantly at variance with Judge J. A. Valin, of North Bay, who is cotrustee with Oliva Dionne in the administration of the Quints’ affairs; with P. D. Wilson, of Toronto, who represents the Ontario government as official guardian; and with Keith Munro, of North Bay, business manager for the Quints.

Anti-English Influences?

SO FAR as money is concerned the Quints owe the province of Ontario nothing. They pay their own way. They have never been a public charge. Rather, the shoe is on the other foot Citizens of Ontario owe the Dionne sisters a debt that cannot accurately be measured in currency. Their presence in the province, their good looks, their amiability, their gay reaction to public showings, have brought many thousands of visitors into Ontario during the past seven years, and many thousands of dollars into Ontario cash registers. The marvel of their birth and the even greater wonder of their survival and normal development have advertised the province as no other single idiosyncrasy identified with Ontario could have done. Incidentally, the May broadcast that blew up was a gift from the Quints to their government, not a paid appearance. The children’s estate charged a fee for the Lowell Thomas show.

This is not to deny the justice of the claim that, because of their unique position in the public eye, the doings of the Dionnes, their behavior and the circumstances of their upbringing are of public interest, in the same way that the doings, behavior and upbringing of a child movie star may be of public interest. But public interest does not necessarily imply the right of public interference.

There is every indication that somewhere, somehow, in the past year or so

the Quints have been exposed to antiEnglish influences. Just what these influences are, or where the exposure has taken place is not yet clear. They might stem from casual and innocent contacts. They might have their origins in deliberate planning. Opportunities exist for both.

Consider that for some time past Cecile. Emilie, Marie, Yvonne and Annette have been in daily touch with other members of their family. They see their mother and father every day. They play every day with their brother Daniel and their sister Pauline, the two other Dionnes nearest to their own age. They often see their brother Oliva, jr., and Victor Rene, the baby, both born since the Quints. Tuition fees of their eldest brother, Ernest, now fifteen, and of their sisters Rose, fourteen, and Therese, twelve, are being paid from the Quints’ income. Ernest is attending a Roman Catholic college near Ottawa. Rose and Therese are at a convent near Quebec.

Their mother does not speak English. In their day by day communications all the Dionnes talk French. Oliva Dionne himself speaks excellent English, but uses his native tongue in conversation with his family.

At the time of the May broadcast Yvonne was overheard by one of the nurses telling lier sisters not to speak English because: “It is not nice.” One sees that this might conceivably have come about because all the Quints’ talk is in French; but one sees too, that somebody might have delibeiately planted that idea in the child’s mind.

A design of clearer intent is discernible in the discovery of a message written inside the cover of a schoolbook used in the Quints’ classroom. Written in French, of course, and in a fine, educated script. The general purport of the message was this: “On May 28, the Quints will be seven years old. So, on May 27 the Quints will say to everyone that they wish to return to their dear papa and mama.” A nurse saw the writing, read the message and promptly burned the volume. Nobody knows whether any of the children saw it. They might not have been able to master its meaning if they had. But someone else could have read it to them. Who smuggled that injunction into the Dafoe Hospital? And for what reason?

As matters stood at the time of Yvonne’s refusal to speak English only three people outside the Dionne family were constantly in personal contact with the quintuplets. These were the nurses; Miss Chaput, whose home is in Quebec; Miss Vezina, from Ottawa and Miss Provencher, of Montreal. Miss Chaput, although younger than nurses Vezina and Provencher, held the position of supervisor because of her special training in hospital administration. Miss Provencher was in charge of the children’s physical well-being and Miss Vezina was their governess. Judge Valin, the senior trustee, visits them from time to time at irregular intervals. Keith Munro, their business manager does not speak French and sees the five personally only at odd moments.

Dr. Dafoe, who during their earlier years was their constant companion and playmate, entered Toronto General Hospital for an operation last April. He had not seen the Quints since that time. Even before the Little Doc’s illness his influence over the children, once powerful, was showing signs of fading under pressure of the continued and determined opposition of Oliva Dionne and the other members of the family.

The Quints’ father distrusts the Quints’ physician, has often attacked him publicly, once went so far as to express a belief that Dr. Dafoe’s ministrations were actually detrimental to the babies’ health.

The mother of the five, Mrs. Elzire Dionne seldom appears in the public view in connection with the Quints, but she is a potent factor in the situation. Mrs. Dionne’s attitude reflects her husband’s dissatisfaction. She feels that the rightful privileges of her motherhood are denied

her by the Crown’s guardianship. She ’ questions the authority of the nurses and opposes all efforts to modernize the little girls. She has forbidden Munro to bring world-famous hairdressers and fashion designers to Dafoe Hospital to plan coiffures and wardrobes for the Quints. Instead, Mrs. Dionne insists that she alone I has the right to say how her daughters ; shall style their hair, and to select the colors and designs of dresses they wear.

Enter Politics

' I TIERE IS a political tinge in the situation. An Ontario French organization, L’Association Canadien-Française d’Educalion d'Ontario, usually called by English newspapers the FrenchCanadian Education Association has been ¡ active and articulate in its attempts to I direct the course of education to be followed by the Quints, always with the emphasis on their continued instruction in the French language. The French-language newspaper published nearest to North Bay, and therefore the one most widely read in the district is Le Droit, of Ottawa, a : vehemently nationalistic paper. Le Droit has placed itself on record many times as considering the Crown guardianship of the Quints unjust, and an insult to French Canada. It has repeatedly demanded that the children should be returned to their parents, and that no English speaking I person should be permitted to have anyj thing to do with the management of their j affairs. Undoubtedly some of this bitter 1 political brew has been carried into the i Dionne nursery.

At about mid-June it began to appear that the embarrassing complexities of the I Callander situation might be solved by the I intervention of high authorities of the Roman Catholic church. The Quints live in the parish of Corbeil, and Corbeil is a part of the diocese of Pembroke. The Most Reverend C. L. Nelligan, a prelate of Irish descent is Bishop of Pembroke. On the day after the breakdown of the May broadcast Bishop Nelligan talked with H. lí. Amos, of the provincial Department of Education about the future course of the Quints’ education. From their conversations a plan was evolved providing for the services of two teachers of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Assumption, one English and one French, to take charge of the Quints instruction.

This program calls for the two teachers I selected to be engaged for three-year terms at salaries of $900 a year each. The agreements are subject to renewal with the con! currence of the parties concerned; but one or both teachers may be changed on the request of the provincial Minister of Education made to the Superior General of the Congregation.

The qualifications required of the j teachers are that one or the other must be proficient in music, art, and rythmics; that both must have had a minimum of three years successful teaching experience in the primary grades; that they should be between the ages of twenty-five and thirty years.

Other details of the arrangement provide for two weeks vacation annually for both { teachers, suitable private quarters on the ! premises, a noon lunch and on special i occasions dinner. Otherwise board, lodging and transportation is the responsibility of the Congregation. Final choice of the I Sisters assigned to this duty to be made by j Bishop Nelligan, Dr. Lamoureux, principal of the University of Ottawa Normal School, and the Superior General of the Congregation. The new educational plan was to go into effect between July 7, and July 14.

This arrangement, giving the quintuplets the equivalent of a convent-school education in their own home was approved by Judge Valin and official guardian P. D. Wilson. Oliva Dionne objected to details of the plan. He said it would be ideal to have the nuns take over the Quints’ education, but again insisted that the

entire family should be united under one roof.

Unquestionably the deeply set roots of the Callander quandary are to be found in the resentment of Oliva Dionne and his wife against what they feel is the unjustified usurpation of their parental authority by the provincial government through the board of trustees. This is a grievance of long standing, dating back almost to the eventful day in May 1934, when the five were born in the old Dionne homestead. It has led to smouldering antagonisms and to open public quarrels. The fierce hostilities it has aroused certainly have been used by politicians to further their own ends. There seem always to have been jealousy and intrigue surrounding the Quints. The number of nurses and governesses engaged, resigned and dismissed runs into a score of changes in seven years.

Immediately after word of the Callander miracle got around a large number of perfect strangers suddenly developed an intense interest in the Dionne family. One enterprising Bamum wanted to exhibit them in incubators at the Chicago Century of Progress. There were others with equally fantastic schemes. Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, a brusque individual vigorously opposed all attempts to exploit the tiny infants. Dr. Dafoe and the nurses he engaged brought the five prematurelyborn babies through their first perilous yfear, up to the time in 1935 when the Ontario parliament passed the Quintuplet Guardianship Act, making the five, wards of the Crown.

This act set up a board of trustees to protect the Quints’ interests and supervise their upbringing until their eighteenth birthday, with the reservation that the legislation might be cancelled before that time by proclamation of the LieutenantGovernor.

The Guardianship Act established a trustee board of three members, plus the Ontario Guardian of Minor Children, a permanent official of the government. The original board was made up of David Croll, then provincial Minister of Health and Public Welfare, Dr. A. R. Dafoe, and Judge J. A. Valin of North Bay, who had shortly before retired from the county judgeship of Nipissing that he had held for upward of forty years. Judge Valin was named chairman of the board

Dave Croll resigned in March, 1937 because he did not have the time to give to the Quints affairs. Oliva Dionne, their father was appointed in Croll’s place. From the beginning Oliva Dionne did not get along well either with Dr. Dafoe or Judge Valin. After a long series of disputes Dionne hired an Ottawa lawyer and asked the federal government for a judicial enquiry into Dr. Dafoe’s guardianship, charging the Little Doc with acting in a manner detrimental to the well-being of the babies and injurious to Dionne himself. This was in April, 1938. The action was later dropped, but Dr. Dafoe resigned from the board at the end of 1939. He remained the Quints’ official physician.

No appointment has been made to fill the place on the Board left vacant by Dr. Dafoe’s resignation. The board therefore now consists of Judge Valin and Oliva Dionne. P. D. Wilson the provincial Guardian of Minor Children attends meetings of the Board as representative of the government, but he can act only in an advisory capacity. The board of trustees meets at North Bay once a month, usually in the first week of the month.

Five Worth a Million

THE QUINTS are big business. Their income is derived from the sale of various advertising privileges and movie and pictorial rights. They now have a combined estate of $1,000,000. Their earnings in one year have run as high as 8200,000. They must have a business manager to represent them in dealings with industrial executives, motion-picture producers, advertising agencies, radio spon-

sors, newspaper reporters, feature writers and all the rest of the motley crew who have business, or think they have business, or would like to have business at Dafoe Hospital. Four years ago, Keith Munro, a Toronto newspaper man was appointed business manager for the Quints.

Keith Munro was a reporter on the Toronto Daily Star when the Dionne story broke. He was one of the fitst news hawks to reach Callander from the outside and he stayed with the story all through its exciting early stages. Afterward he was frequently in the village keeping in touch with developments. He came to know Dr. Dafoe intimately, and his appointment was made largely on the physician’s recommendation. His salary is paid by the board of trustees from the Quints earnings. He is directly responsible to Judge Valin, the senior trustee.

I called on Judge Valin at his summer home near North Bay, overlooking Trout Lake. A short, sturdy figure, with grey hair and a close-cropped grey moustache, the eighty-three year old, Ottawa born Judge is a perfect example of the cultured French-Canadian. Judge Valin’s English is scholarly, accentless. He has spoken English as easily as French since he was a boy. It is a fact that conversation in the Valin family is usually carried on in English. This has been the basis for accusations of disloyalty toward his race made publicly against the Judge.

Judge Valin’s special function as senior trustee is to guara the Quints’ fortune. He invests their earnings, sujxTvises and audits expenditures made on their behalf, approves or negatives proposed contracts or undertakings suggested by their business manager. He talks regularly with Oliva Dionne, and he makes no secret of the fact that the Quints’ father and he find themselves very often in opposition.

“Certainly the babies must learn English,” Judge Valin said. In conversation the Judge invariably refers to the Dionne five as “the Dabies.” He never calls them “Quints.”

“In round figures,” the Judge went on in answer to a question, “the babies are now worth a million dollars. Most of their money is invested in Ontario government bonds. Of all the securities purchased for them by the trustees only one bond has failed to realize our expectations. That one issue is quoted today below the price we bought it at, because of the abnormal conditions now prevailing. I have every confidence that it will come back.

“Go and see the babies. By all means see them. It is an experience you will never forget. I do not know what got into them on that Sunday. They have never made any trouble befoie about shaking English. Perhaps it was just a whim. Or, it is possible that something they have heard caused them to act as they did. Remember they are only five very little girls. But they are bright, quick-thinking little girls. They respond immediately to suggestions made to them. It may be that someone has been making suggestions to them that should not have been made.”

We left Judge Valin on his porch going over his correspondence, with two golden cocker spaniels lying at his feet to keep him company, and drove to Callander to see the Quints.

The village of Callander is nine miles south of North Bay. Dafoe Hospital, the home of the quintuplets, is two miles east of Callander, about halfway between that village and Corbeil. A broad paved highway connects Callander with Corbeil, running past the hospital. Before the Quints arrived this road was hardly more than a cow path, deeply rutted in summer, hub deep in mud when it rained, and a snow-covered trail in winter.

Dafoe Hospital proved a disappointment. The house itself is attractive enough, designed as an outsize in log cabins, neat and painted ; but its surroundings are bleak and starkly exposed. No attempt has been made at landscaping the grounds. There is a wide expanse of wellkept lawn, but no trees and no garden save

for a narrow strip along one side. The entire property is enclosed by a seven-foothigh naked wire fence, with strands of in ward-sloping barbed wire at the top. Inside the gate a uniformed guard keeps watch from a tiny hut, supported by a morose and unamiable Great Dane. The effect is that of a minor correctional institution rather than of a country home for five charming children.

A gravel driveway leads to the main entrance, located on the west side of the house. The rooms are all on one floor, and all are air-conditioned. This latter is a recent innovation installed because mosquitoes breeding in a near-by swamp infested the place when the windows were oixined, even though they were tightly screened.

Miss Chaput, the head nurse, turned out to be a smartly-modern young lady, good looking and alert. When we arrived she was hanging pictures; or rather trying to figure out where would be the best locations for the pictures she intended to hang. They were nice, ordinary pictures; landscapes in water color and one rather good etching of a scene in a small fishing jx>rt that might have been somewhere in Brittany. She showed us the Quints’ bedroom and the five cots, each bearing an engraved name plate, that were gifts from Lady Eaton. The children are rapidly outgrowing the cots. By now they probably sleep in beds of adult design.

“Les Quints”

■V7V0NNE, Emilie, Cecile, Annette and Marie were having an afternoon lesson in their classroom. Nurse Vezina was teaching them. On the wall blackboard were several drawings of simple objects and a number of four and five-letter French nouns. There was a chatter of shrill voices as Nurse Chaput opened the door and whatever discipline had existed until then vanished at the sight of a stranger. The quintuplets scrambled around their small desks and clustered about Nurse Chaput. Nurse Vezina lined them up for formal introductions.

It was “Bo’ jou’ M’sieu;” then, from Yvonne, Cecile, Marie, Emilie and Annette, and a tiny soft handshake accompanied by a neat small bow. Except from Marie, who, for some reason of her own accorded us the great honor of a deep curtsy.

Introductions were not yet complete. Two other children were in the room; Daniel, a brother of the famous five and Pauline, an older sister. Daniel and Pauline are the nearest of the other Dionne children to the quintuplets’ age. They share the Dafoe Hospital schoolroom and playground every day with the babies. All members of the Dionne family have free access to the Quints, but Daniel and Pauline are their regular playmates.

Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie and Yvonne were dressed alike in long dresses reaching their insteps, cut along the lines of a house coat or a hostess gown, made of a printed material gaily patterned. Their raven’s wing black hair hung loose to their tiny waists. “They just had their hair washed,” Nurse Chaput told us, explaining the absence of hair ribbons.

The Quints’ best features are their eyes and their smiles. Their large dark eyes are intelligent and sparkling. At any moment they are likely to break out with a unanimous fivefold chuckle at some small diversion. They seem to be laughing most of the time. As this observer saw them they were five mannered, poised, bright and merry little girls, possessing rather more than average good looks. Not raving beauties. Undoubtedly precocious. Very definitely individuals. Endowed with a great deal of charm when they choose to turn it on. But one sees also that, in rebellion, they would be five little furies on wheels.

Keith Munro showed us the estate. The Quints have two playgrounds. In the public one they slide down chutes, build castles in a sand pile and keep house in a

doll’s mansion as tall as they are, while their unseen visitors watch from behind glass screens in a raised gallery surroundir^ three sides of the space. The private playground is a pleasantly sloping grass pbt inaccessible from the street. Here string hammocks have been slung, the gift of an American admirer, each bearing the name of one of the children on a brass plate. They bring their own toys to this secluded nook and play games of their own devising.

Whenever the weather is reasonably good the Quints are on exhibition twice diilv, from nine to nine-thirty in the morning and from three to three-thirty in the afternoon. Large signs demand “SILENCE,” one of them adding a plea for public co-operation. The glass-gallery screens permit visitors to see the children plainly, but the Quints cannot see their admirers. At first the babies did not know they were being observed. They know now. 'Ihev have learned during the past year that they are the Quints, and that people are watching them as they play. They speak of themselves as “Les Quints,” and study audience reaction like motionpicture stars. On days in the slack season, or when visitors are few, the girls have been heard feeling sorry for themselves. “People did not come to see the Quints today.” “It was not good today. Itt will be better tomorrow.”

On rising ground west of the hospital, hit outside the fence is the duplex dwelling used as a staff house. The nurses live in one half, the guards in the other. All costs of maintaining Dafoe hospital; the fences, the grounds, the furniture, the air-conditioning, the heating, the salaries of the nurses and the guards, the bills for food and clothing; everything is paid for out of the income earned by the children.

The Ontario government does not contribute toward the Quints’ support. It is not necessary that it should. But the Ontario government has laid itself open to criticism in that, although it is spending large sums in advertising the Quints and urging people to visit Dafoe Hospital, it has done nothing to make them comfortable when they get there.

On the south side of the highway, directly opposite the hospital is the “souvenir and refreshment booth” operated by Oliva Dionne, where the Quints progenitor will sell you anything from a hot dog to a set of genuine Wedgwood china. A big sign above the counter advertises that this is the only Dionne concession not owned by the Quints. Behind the Dionne refreshment booth is a large open parking space. A couple of hundred yards away there are wooded areas but there is no shade at the road’s edge or along the hospital fence, and nothing for tourists to do while they are waiting to see the Quints but sit in their cars, walk around the dusty uninteresting countryside, or just wait. At midsummer, when the tide of visitors to the Quints is at its height, thousands of men and women and children stand patiently in line outside the wire fence, with the hot sun beating down on them as the long queue moves slowly around the gallery. This is a matter beyond the jurisdiction of the Quints’ trustees. The Provincial Tourist and Travel Bureau could do something about it, though.

Oliva Is Resentful

OLIVA Dionne and his family live in the house where the Quints were born, on the side of the highway opposite the hospital, about a quarter of a mile away in the direction of Callander. The house is a neat cottage. Dionne, whose income is said to be in the neighborhood of $16.000 a year, has made some improvements during the past year or so. He has covered the wooden side walls with asbestos shingles and put on a new roof of the same material ; but he hasn’t yet got round to installing inside toilets. The cottage has a grass plot around it, an acre of tilled land beside it and a bam. There are a couple of trees in the front yard. A sign has been nailed to one of the trees. It reads: “No admit-

tance.” When we passed through the front gate a black-and-tan dog of uncertain ancestry was chained to a kennel at the side of the house. As a watchdog he is a flop. He displayed no interest whatever in us, even when we knocked loudly on the front door.

Mrs. Dionne came from the bam to open the door. Her husband, she said was not at home. He had gone to North Bay.

We finally caught up with him at a garage between Callander and North Bay.

Mr. and Mrs. Oliva Dionne have been unfairly treated by news photographers. Both are much more youthful in appearance than most people imagine them to be. They are only in their thirties. Mrs. Dionne has retained her good looks and published pictures of her have done her an injustice. She is plump, but not fat. As for Oliva, he is a slender dark chap, a bit under average height, shy and suspicious of strangers, carrying around with him— whether with justification or not—an angry feeling that he has been badly done by. This seething resentment colors all his behavior. He avoids personal contacts save with a few long-standing intimates, dodges interviews, despises and fears reporters. But he is by no means the surly, ill-disposed figure many public stories have made him out to be. He speaks excellent English, obviously has long been familiar with that language. This is in marked contrast to Mrs. Dionne, who either cannot speak English at all, or refuses to do so.

Oliva Dionne’s response when we told him we were going to write an article about his family, and had already visited the quintuplets was indicative of his usual mood. He said: “If you are going to write anything about my family, then you should come and see me first.”

Fair enough. We explained that we had been looking for him all morning but without success. He shrugged his shoulders. We asked him about this business of teaching the Quints to speak English.

“I want them to learn English. It is important to them that they should learn English. I have never had any other idea; but I want them to learn English only at the proper time.”

And when did he think the proper time would be? At some certain age?

“No, it is not that. The age does not matter. The proper time for them to learn to speak English is after they have learned to speak French fluently.”

The Quints’ father does not consider that the children are able yet to speak French “fluently.”

“If you are going to write about my family, you should write the whole story. Both sides of it,” he went on. “My side has never been told. The reporters write things that are not true. They make me look like a fool. They are not fair. They do not want the truth.”

We asked him what was the truth.

“There are many things I could tell you, but your magazine would not print them. There are two sides to this story,” he repeated. Beyond that he would not commit himself.

One of Oliva Dionne’s most frequently voiced complaints is that he is not consulted about plans made for his daughters. Oliva j is a trustee. Yet, he is not always made aware of projects concerning the Quints.

He was not asked to consent to the May broadcast. There is sort of bilateral reason for this situation, a diamond-cut-diamond feud comjxmnded of Oliva’s resentment at other people’s interference in what he regards as strictly his own private affair, and the impatience of men familiar with modem business methods at Oliva s deliberate and sometimes obtuse reasoning.

Oliva Dionne distrusts Keith Munro.

He distrusts every English-speaking perj son who has ever been on the inside of the Callander situation, starting with Dr. j Dafoe. Even if he liked Munro personally Oliva would distrust him because he was recommended by the little Doc. This ¡ leads to stalemate. Every suggestion put '

forward by the Quints’ business manager is promptly vetoed by their father. To overcome the deep-rooted prejudice Oliva holds against him, Keith Munro often has to resort to guile.

The situation sometimes shows a ludicrous side. There was the time when Munro was in New York trying to close an imix>rtant contract for the Quints. The deal required Oliva Dionne’s consent. Munro telephoned the hospital— there is no phone in the Dionne home— and asked to have Oliva brought to take the call. Oliva disappeared. All day Munro waited in New York, calling Callander repeatedly; but no Oliva. Having persuaded the New York people to accept a later settlement by mail Munro returned'to North Bay and cornered Oliva Dionne. “Why, for Pete’s sake, didn’t you come to the phone?” stormed Munro. “I was killing a pig,” Oliva said, clearing everything up nicely.

Controversy Continues

T) Y WAY of getting around the father’s •*-' opposition, Keith Munro now puts his problems first before Judge Valin. The judge can be depended upon for a reasonable attitude and he is the senior trustee. If Judge Valin consents to a stated course of action Munro goes ahead with it, often without asking Oliva Dionne for his invariably dissenting opinion. When it was decided that the Quints should be initiated into the Brownies, junior division of the Girl Guides, on their birthday, the decision was made by Judge Valin before Oliva Dionne knew anything about it.

This may be unfair to the Quints’ father as he says it is. But his own unreasoning opposition to everything projxised by everyone except himself on behalf of the five sisters is largely to blame for the position he so fiercely resents.

From statements often publicly made by Oliva Dionne it may be concluded that his solution of the problem would be for the Trustees to build a new country home for the Quints large enough to house the parents and their twelve children all under one roof, continue their instruction by nuns as planned, but turn full control of their affairs over to Oliva and his wife. He would terminate the Crown guardianship, remove Keith Munro as business manager, and end all association of Judge Valin and Dr. Dafoe with the Quints.

There is sure to be a lot of argument about the feasibility of such a plan, if only from sordid causes. Something very similar has been discussed before, as far back as the summer of 1938, when it became obvious that the Quints’ sevenacre estate was. getting too small for them and the rest of the Dionnes. Two sites were considered then, beside Trout Lake a few miles farther from Callander than the present location. The projxisals fell through. Vigorous, even angry protests were made to Queen’s Park by Callander merchants, hotel keepers, cabin-camp owners and others who had invested their money in commercial enterprises that they saw ruined by the removal of the Quints, even a short distance away.

The Callander controversy, brought to a head by Yvonne’s revolt last May will continue. Turning the Quints’ education over to trained nuns will provide the answer to only a part of the complex situation, involving as it does racial prejudices, personal differences, and considerable money interests.

But the Quints will go on smiling.


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