Quebec Studies

"Nous irons (… nous encore) à Old Orchard c't'été?": Popular Culture, the Media, and Québécois Vacationing on the New England Coast

Quebec Studies (2002), 33, (1), 117–128.

Abstract

117 "Nous irons (... nous encore) à Old Orchard c't'été?": Popular Culture, the Media, and Québécois Vacationing on the New England Coast Pierre Deslauriers Concordia University and University of Vermont The writings of Robert G. LeBlanc belong to a growing body of academic lit­ erature which examines the filiation between French-speaking people from Atlantic Canada and Quebec and those of French heritage living in New England. The perpetuation of this "connection/' as Louder and Beach put it back in 1988, has continued in Québécois popular culture, whether it be in fiction literature, songs, cinema, and also in the spoken and printed media. In a recent article published in Quebec Studies, Cuccioletta and Desbiens (2000, 11) suggested that research seeking to better understand the dimen­ sion of Américanité in Quebec identity requires more exploration of the field of popular culture. This paper therefore does not so much try to account for the several academic "dissections" of the relationship between "Le Québec d'en haut" and "Le Québec d'en bas." This has been done at different times and in different ways by several competent scholars, including Robert G. Leblanc. Rather, it explores different areas of popular culture and their con­ tributions to creating and modifying the image of places where Québécois typically vacation in New England. While doing this I will be focusing on one particular aspect which has received substantial attention, summer vacationing in various Atlantic Coast resort towns and destinations. No one would doubt that the New England states, because of the geo­ graphical proximity and special historical ties, hold a special place in the imaginaire collectif of French-speaking Québécois. These broad factors are of course strenghtened by cross-border family ties, and also by the significant economic exchanges that bring Canadians and Americans back and forth across the border daily. But our main concern here lies somewhere else, more in the area of leisure. When summer is around the corner, or on a long week­ end, it is not family or the economy that first comes to peoples' minds. For many years, and for a very large number of people still, the names Maine, Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent New Hampshire and Rhode Island mean packing up the car and heading for the beach! These vacationers all have their own set of "habits" and favorite spots; frequently they have a rel­ ative or a colleague who owns or rents a place close to the ocean. For many Québécois part of their life history is somehow tied to the American East Coast—Old Orchard Beach, Maine being the location that many would relate to spontaneously. Early in my life I became intrigued by the New England coast when I learned that one of my Montreal uncles had a trailer parked on Cape Cod to which he escaped every summer with his family. Recently, I was offered renewed and somewhat surprising evidence of the resilience of the "tradition." Some time after final exams had ended, one of our foreign undergraduate students showed up at my office with what Québec Studies, Volume 33, Spring/Summer 2002

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Deslauriers, Pierre