Advance Praise – Book Cover
Set in the years of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Post-War Era, this engaging story follows the life of Gabrielle Picard, a weaver in the great Ponemah Mill in Taftville, Connecticut. Work in the mill allows her family to participate in the American dream. The photographs are remarkable. Gay dancing on the dirt pile where their home is being built exemplifies the character of this heartwarming book.
Norwich City Historian
Author of Norwich (Images of America)
What an intriguing story about one family’s immigration in 1924-to a new world and better life. Filled with insights about their years in Taftville and mill work in the Ponemah era.
Fire Chief Tim Jencks
Taftville Fire Department
The full reviews or excerpts shared below, unless otherwise noted, originate from the online sites of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and/or Christianbook.
History and Family Come Together
The Ponemah Years is a wonderful book—a work of real affection and family feeling, beautifully written and illustrated. Beyond that, it is also an important piece of history, providing a sense of a time and a place that is rapidly fading from first-hand memory. For anyone like me who had ancestors working in the textile mills of eastern Connecticut, this book will give you a glimpse into that world that would be hard to find anywhere else.
Amazon Customer – January 20, 2019
Nice Piece of History
Great to read a part of your own history and hometown area.
Wayne A. Chmielecki – January 16, 2019
Portrait of a Time Gone By
The Ponemah Years is a combination memoir, photo essay, travelogue, and family history. With this book Bernice Rocque has created a loving tribute to her French-Canadian ancestors and to her beautiful hardworking mother, who was a weaver at Connectiut’s Ponemah fabric mill in the 1940s. Enjoying photos and reminiscences, the reader is transported to a time when loving parents struggled but helped each other raise children and create a warm and happy home for them.
The section where the author takes the reader on a tour of the long-abandoned mill, retracing her mother’s footsteps in her workplace of seventy years ago, was particularly interesting. And the late-life reveal that her mother had longed to return to work after having her first child, but never did, was quite poignant.
Among the many photos featured in the book, I especially liked the ones of the old mill, now long-abandoned, and the handsome house the author’s mother and father built for their children.
All in all, a lovely book.
Jacque Masumian – September 4, 2018
Loved the Stories of Taftville
Being that I was born and raised in Taftville and my family comes from Taftville, I absolutely loved reading this book. It made me think of my grandparents and great grandparents living in Taftville. Bernice definitely knows how to tell a story and keep you wanting to read more.
Deb – June 21, 2018
The Ponemah Years – Walking in the Footsteps of My Mother
Review by Laurie Gauger
It was the title of this book that caught my eye, causing me to back up and take another look. A good book title can do that can’t it? The Ponemah Years – Walking In The Footsteps Of My Mother. I was instantly intrigued. I suppose that as I am now wading into middle age, I find myself pausing more frequently, pondering my life. This season is different than the younger years, when I found myself looking ahead, to all of the possibilities of the future. Now, I find the subtlest change. I find myself looking back in time a little more, not in regret, but in curiosity. There is a sort of awakening as I approach these years. I identify with my parents in a way that I never could have before. I find myself considering the events that influenced them into who they were and are now. My maternal grandparents passed on a few years ago, and I’ve been quietly observing my own mother, and how that experience has and is shaping her. That also finds me pondering my own relationship with my mom, and it’s trickling down as I consider what memories my daughters will carry with them, about me. It is that nostalgia, that drew me to this book, like a magnet.
I’m trying to determine which category to place The Ponemah Years – Walking In The Footsteps Of My Mother in, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s in a class all of its own. You’ll find a blend of biography, history, documentary, family scrapbook, and more.
Author Bernice L. Rocque was a genealogy enthusiast for many years, researching her extensive family history. She made the decision to focus her search on the history of her parents, more specifically, her mother, after taking a walking tour called, “WALKTOBER” with her mom in the fall of 2004. “WALKTOBER” is a walking tour in Taftville, Connecticut that allowed people to tour the inside of the Ponemah Mill, which was a focal point of the town, and a huge influence on the author’s mother throughout the years between 1937-1950.
Rocque traces her maternal and paternal family’s French Canadian and Eastern European roots, respectively, to their ultimate destination in the Eastern United States. She recounts the early childhood of her mother, the budding romance between her mother and father during WWII, and the process through which they settled down to create a family of their own. The book is filled with beautiful photos that are sure to evoke interest and nostalgia in the reader. It is a heartwarming account of life in the early to mid-1900’s. We get a sense for the values held by this family – a strong work ethic, commitment to family, and a positive attitude. Interestingly enough, you can also trace the journey of the author herself, as she discovers pages of her mother’s story that she had never read before. She learns that there was more to her mother than the homemaker that she and her siblings remember, as valuable as that was. She too was once a young woman, excited for her future, who loved her job as a weaver in the mill. Not to suggest in any way that her mother was bitter or full of regrets. Not at all. It was the maturity of her mother, having the eyes to see what was the most important thing for her family. There is a quote from the author that struck a chord in me,“My mother’s essence has become clearer from hearing…recollections.” Yes, this!
My daughters, ages 12 and 14 years, all read this book. We enjoyed it immensely. My daughters like the layout of the book. After the introduction, the book is divided into two parts. It is a very quick read, and easy to understand. This could easily be used alongside your history or social studies work, and even completed within a week. You might even stretch it out longer, depending on how deep you care to dig. We easily read through it thoroughly within a few days. Of course, speaking for myself, that was because I didn’t want to put it down. My 12-year-old loved all of the photos. She appreciated having faces to accompany the story. Those characteristics also appealed to my 14-year-old, who often takes on history with reluctance. A great addition to your library, whether for educational purposes, or a leisurely trip back in time. I can’t recommend The Ponemah Years enough.
Product Review, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, LLC – May 2018
A Homecoming Journey Between Mother and Daughter
Opening “The Ponemah Years” feels like stepping into the family dining room, with all members gathered, laughing, and remembering—with a beloved scrapbook filled with photos laying open on the center of the table.
It is not your family, but Bernice Rocque writes with such beauty, such sense-of-family and its values, that you will find yourself being part of the Ponemah Years.
In this photo-filled book, Rocque wraps personal remembrances around those of her mother and still-living relatives. She takes us on a walking tour of this incredibly large weaving factory. We hear the work shift bell; we wonder about the strange bathrooms; we want to know where Bernice’s mother Gabrielle Picard worked. We feel we are stepping on sacred, yet worn-to-history wooden planks that once held the deafening clatter of looms.
If you enjoyed Bernice Rocque’s first book, Until the Robin Walks on Snow, a true-story-based novella about how a family dealt with the birth of an under-two-pound boy born on a farm in 1922, you will be truly enjoy the continuation of this family’s journey in America.
Barbara E. Taylor – March 2, 2018
Wonderfully written and full of love.
Gin – February 13, 2018
Small Town Wrapped in a Love Story
A wonderful story of a small town wrapped in a love story. The author has captured a piece of history and allowed us to walk in the shoes of her relatives. How interesting that it starts out about immigration. So many people were moving from Canada to the United States to work in the mills at that period in time and it shows us how resilient they were. I also enjoyed the story of the authors parents as she wove the two stories together.
I learned so much about The Ponemah Mill and loved the pictures. Bernice, the author, did a great job with the research and put together a lovely story.
The story accompanied with the pictures is a wonderful read about our past. I highly recommend this book.
Patricia M. Herrick – February 13, 2018
A wonderful, engaging story of life in a mill town!
“The Ponemah Years: Walking in the Steps of My Mother” by Bernice L. Rocque isn’t just another biography but rather a tender telling of a family story that begins in 1924 with a long train ride from Montreal to the mill town of Taftville, Connecticut. The chosen destination was the Ponemah Mill, which was in its heyday. Well researched, this book is filled with wonderful photos and stories, both humorous and poignant, of the author’s grandparents, Alphonse & Eugenie Duhamel Picard, and her parents, Mike & Gabrielle Janovicz, and their children.
I’ve been following Bernice on Twitter for some time now and had read her first book “Until the Robin Walks on Snow” and couldn’t wait to read The Ponemah Years. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it reads more like a novella than a biography and actually is a great example of how to write one’s family story…
Sara in Syracuse – February 9, 2018
Like Gabrielle and her family
This charming memoir is at once nostalgic and currently relevant. In telling her mother’s story, the author reminds us of the flow of immigrants who came to the US for jobs, security, and opportunity between the two world wars, just as they do today.
We follow Gabrielle Jeanne D’arc Picard as at age four she moves with her large family from Montreal and settles in Taftville, Connecticut where she goes to school, speaking no English, finds work as a weaver in the Ponemah Mill while keeping house for her family and marries Michael from another Lithuanian, Polish immigrant family.
The book’s appeal lies in the many family stories and abundance of photographs which pull the reader into the text. Some of my favorites are the pictures of three brides in the family in wearing the same shared wedding dress in the forties; the story of Eugenie, Gabrielle’s mother, born in the US, but moved to Canada to a convent school to separate her from a young admirer; the stories of Michael, Gabrielle’s husband and his brother building by hand three family houses.
The book is meticulously researched as was this author’s first book When The Robin Walks on Snow, in which Michael’s family appears.
We are reminded that, like Gabrielle and her family, we come here to work hard, and contribute; the constant story of America.
Amazon Customer – January 13, 2018