"They sent me on what in French we call the passe d’adieu, but in English they called it embarkation leave; leave before going to England."
So my father had fought in the first Great War and when I was told to present myself for the exam to join the Canadian Army in 1944, the people in my town here in the country wanted to avoid the war, so they went and hid at the sugar shack or they hid somewhere else. But my father said to me, "No, Charles. When your country calls, you go. There’s no question of hiding." So I didn’t hide. I presented myself and I don’t regret anything from that period. I liked that period, it shaped who I am. It has served me well my entire life.
They sent me on what in French we call the passe d’adieu, but in English they called it embarkation leave; [a last] leave before going to England, to Europe. Then I went home, to Saint-Jean-Port-Joli [Quebec] for 15 days, two weeks’ embarkation leave. When I got back- it was the end of April - to Barriefield, Ontario, there they told me, "No, we won’t transfer you to Europe, the war will be over in two or three days." The war ended on May 7 or 8 or something like that, 1945. So I didn’t go with the American army either, I stayed in Vernon, BC. At one point I decided, I don’t know, it must have been August or September or October, I decided to go back to school. I was admitted to the Académie de Québec in Quebec City to finish my secondary studies. At that time, the Canadian government paid for tuition, books, everything and they gave you a fifty-dollar stipend per month. In those days, you know, fifty dollars was enough, so I was a pensioner at the Académie de Québec and it didn’t cost me more than fifty dollars. So I studied from 1945 until 1951, but not only at the Académie de Québec. I spent one year at the Académie de Québec and then I went to Université Laval. I was at the top of my class in the Faculty of Administration at Université Laval. My first year, I graduated summa cum laude [with highest honours] I earned my bachelor’s degree summa cum laude. After that, I got my master’s degree magna cum laude [with great honour].
So that’s how it went until my graduation in April or May 1951. After that, I took my CA exams. I passed the first time; I didn’t need to take them again. Afterwards, I started working as a Chartered Accountant. But I consider that period from 1940 - because it was in 1940 that I went to Collège [Sainte-Anne-de]-la Pocatière to take a business class because at my house, we were five boys and one girl. At that time, my father earned 600 dollars per year; at 50 dollars per month. We weren’t very rich. But that doesn’t matter, he wanted me to go to school and so I did. I don’t regret a thing. I admire my family and my father for having made sacrifices. My father had saved a bit of money and we got by just fine.
In a way, it was the timing that protected me. The war ended with Germany and the war ended with Japan. That’s why I like to say, "Life deserves to be lived; it’s pretty beautiful!" You just have to look at it from the right perspective and appreciate it. Then you can live happily. That’s how it is for me.