HOME HEARTSTRING 4: FAITHFULNESS TO HERITAGE

“Heritage,” says Joe Tremblay, “is everything that Quebecers have in common: rocking chairs, Alouette (a popular song), pea soup and Maurice Richard!”

Around 1945 Quebec advertising began using a lot of folk songs because our admen wanted to prove to their English-speaking counterparts they had something different and edgier to offer than lame translations of American jingles. This led to every song in the Abbé Gadbois La Bonne Chanson repertoire being used, much to the delight of radio listeners.

Contemporary Quebec literature never stopped using folk themes: songs from the land, superstitions, legends, celebrations, customs and jobs. Since the early 1960s, people were clearly returning more to traditional actions, words and objects. Who doesn’t dream of having a traditional house with pine cabinets, braided rugs and a collection of old tools made by even older people?

The new Revue d’ethnologie du Québec (Quebec Journal of Ethnology) as well as certain recent books, such as those by Robert-Lionel Séguin, sort through and modernize things from our past, some of which we’ve almost forgotten, and others that have taken on new meanings. This apolitical revival of all things heritage and our local history is a stronger bond than the nationalisms from Heartstring 18. We all really do love pea soup...

“We are a traditional culture.” In his book Le pain d’habitant (The Farmer’s Bread), Jean-Claude Dupont explains what these words mean. “Cultural manifestations that rely on knowledge acquired by the representation of actions and words, and that tie the past in with the present in the process, are guided by tradition. This way of passing on knowledge, which leads to the reincarnation of what has been seen and heard, is called traditional culture.”

Quebec would have been a genealogical goldmine for Alex Haley, whose Roots masterpiece not only made blacks feel less inferior, it also created a real ancestry psychosis among white Americans. According to Time Magazine (March 28, 1977), “Finding out about ancestors has recently become a more popular hobby than stamp and coin collecting.”

While researching the Boudreau family tree in Chéticamp, Marcel Rioux was convinced the family expert knew about and could name some 2000 ancestors from memory.

Reporter Réjean Tremblay (La Presse, May 31, 1977) described some of the amusing circumstances about Pierre Tremblay’s fertility. (Pierre was his first ancestor.) “I’m a Tremblay-Cornette and I married a Tremblay-Chapelle. My brother is a Cornette and he married a Tremblay-Philibert. My father, who was obviously a Cornette, married a Tremblay-Luçon. One of my aunts, Jeanne Luçon, married a Tremblay-Pétambin. The Pétambins (my uncle Roland’s family) got their name because one of their ancestors used to say “Vous savez pou(r)tant ben!” And then there’s the Tremblay-Lapiroche clan...In the Saguenay region, a piroche is a female goose!

Every Quebecer is a genealogist whether they know it or not.

Because it was traditional and never tired of retelling social relics, Un homme et son péché (A Man and His Sin) from Belles histoires des Pays d’En-Haut holds the world record as the longest-running show on radio and television...Dans tous les Cantons (Across all counties, a line used in the show), the Sherbrooke TV traditional folklore series is set to beat another record since we’ve been jigging to the show – which was awarded international recognition in Paris in 1977 – for a good 20 years now.

Like the saying goes: you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. Any communicator who heeds this advice will always find there are people out there who are just dying to listen.

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© 2014 – English translation and website by Lawrence Creaghan. Published online with the permission of Guérin Éditeur Ltée and the Fondation Jacques-Bouchard.