Day 146 - Callander
For the small logging community of Callander, a lot changed on the night of May 28, 1934. Five identical baby girls, the world’s first surviving quints, were born to the Dionne family, farmers in the neighbouring village of Corbeil. Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, Callander’s doctor assisted in the births and cared for the babies afterward. He wanted the best nurse available so he chose Swedish-born nurse Louise de Kiriline Lawrence (that you could read about on Day 145) to help care for them. The Quint's combined weight at birth was only 13lbs. 5ozs. and they had to be kept in incubators for the first month of their lives. Their lungs were so small that diluted doses of rum were required daily to help the Quints breath properly. It was a one in 57 million chance of giving birth to identical quintuplets and even less chance of them surviving, but the Dionne Quints did.
After four months with their family, the quintiplets were made wards of the King for the next nine years under the Dionne Quintuplets' Guardianship Act, 1935. The government and those around them began to profit by making them a significant tourist attraction in Ontario.
The Quints attracted 3 million visitors to North Bay and area during the peak of the depression. A whole new Quint industry sprang up and provided employment for thousands. The Quints helped millions of people feel happy during the depression and forget the hunger and unemployment for a moment. The Quints story is both fairytale and tragedy. They were world famous from birth but later it came to light that they were also horribly exploited and used by many who capitalized on their fame and who pocketed the results for their own greed. In 1998, the three surviving sisters reached a monetary settlement with the Ontario government as compensation for what was perceived to be their exploitation.
There is a Dionne Quints Museum (with Model Railroad Exhibit and gift shop) housed in the original (but moved) Dionne homestead, on the outskirts of North Bay. It contains many artifacts from the Quint's early days and their growing years, but if you want to get a real feel for the events more than seventy years ago you should visit the Callander Heritage Museum. The museum is located in the original home and practice of Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the famed doctor of the Dionne quintuplets. On display at the museum are a large variety of artifacts from the Township of North Himsworth, including records and relics pertaining to Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe, the Dionne Quints, area logging and shipping, and also the Red Cross nurses. Here you will see pictures of Loise de Kiriline Lawrence wrote the book "The Quintuplets First Year" (1936) in her log house at Pimis Bay.