Luci and I spent part of Sunday in the city of St. Hyacinthe, 50 kilometres east of Montreal.
I wanted to go back and see it because when I was in grade nine we were asked if we wanted to do a French-English exchange during the summer and I volunteered. Several towns and cities were available to choose from, and I chose St. Hyacinthe because it was near Montreal and Habs right winger Bobby Rousseau was a golf pro there.
I think the Canadiens also held their training camps there from time to time, which gave it extra bonus points.
I spent a month with a nice French family, the Chaputs, and then my new friend Normand Chaput came with me to Orillia for a month. We had hitchhiked all over Quebec and even slept in our sleeping bags on the Plains of Abraham, and from Orillia we thumbed down to Niagara Falls and Buffalo, and up to Bracebridge to see a charity hockey game starring a kid from the Oshawa Generals playing for the Orillia team that day, Bobby Orr.
Today in St. Hyacinthe Luci and I went to Frontenac St., where the Yamaska River flows behind, and I saw that the old Chaput house is now gone, as well as the complete neighborhood, which isn’t surprising considering it was about 48 years ago.. In place are beautiful and expensive homes, a far cry from when the street was a blue collar street with men coming and going who punched clocks and got their hands dirty.
We went downtown and it looked familiar, because Normand and I would go there from time to time to see live music in a teen club, including seeing a band I can still picture, with long, bleached white hair and singing Beatles tunes. I can almost remember their name.
We also accidentally drove by the old train station where the Chaputs greeted me when I stepped onto the platform all those years ago.
I’ve inclosed a couple of links from previous stories I’d written about that time, including the day we saw Bobby Orr, and also when I went back to St. Hyacinthe few years after that first time and did something I’m not proud of.
I wish I could find Normand Chaput or any of his family now. But I think it’s impossible to do.