A Look Behind The Narrow Gate

My great-great grandparents Julian and Petronill, came to this country in the 1800’s with their five sons and one daughter. All the sons were carpenters, although not all remained in that profession once they came to America. My great-grandfather Jules and his brother, John (Jean Baptiste) were both carpenters. While they didn’t have a big, successful business like Delcroix Construction, they were responsible for building a lot of the older homes and buildings in town. I borrowed the name Zacharie from one of the five brothers.

My great-grandparents names were Jules and Eugenia Masquelier. Everyone called my great-grandmother “Aunt Jennie” and she was a town midwife. I used a play on her name and named Elise’s grandmother “Eugenie” for Eugenia and Jennie.


In this photo, my great-grandmother, Eugenia “Jennie” Masquelier, is holding my great-aunt Mamie Masquelier on her lap. My grandfather, Frank Masquelier is the boy standing behind my great-grandfather Jules Masquelier and great-uncle, John Masquelier.

The French Church (Irons Memorial Presbyterian Church) is real. Jules and his brother, John, were primary factors in building the church.


stained_glass_window-webJules and his wife, Jennie, are featured in a historic stained glass window in the church foyer.

Bess and Babe really did have a candy store. My grandmother would give us each a dime to go there and pick 10 pieces of candy. One half was a candy store and the other had a huge pickle barrel and I think sold grocery items, but I can’t remember because we only looked at the candy!

I had a great-aunt Julia who I loved, so I have used her name. My grandfather had a cousin named Nova and I always thought her name was really cool and unique, so I borrowed it. Neither of the characters with those names in The Narrow Gate bears any resemblance to the actual Julia or Nova.

Scan 3There was a coal washer on Number 9 road and every time I drove under it while I was in Pittsburgh, it scared me because I thought it would fall on me.

My grandmother had a porch swing and a glider as did so many other homes. It was central to the house. My own porch swing sits in my mother’s basement waiting for me to stop rolling, come home, and hang it somewhere.

Zacharie’s house on Fairmount Street is my remembrance of my Uncle Frank and Aunt Marty’s home. Eve’s house on Liberty Street was my grandmother’s house.