Damn Les Habitants

My introduction to French was via the heavy accent of a cartoon skunk, who appeared on TV every Saturday morning during the 1950s. Pepe Le Pew never got the girl. Skunks smelled bad and supposedly the French also never bathed with soap. I knew little else of France. That country lay across the Atlantic Ocean, but another France was much closer to my hometown of Falmouth Foresides and that France was Quebec.

The largest minority in Maine was the French Canadians. They worked in the mills and logging camps. A radio station from Montreal played songs for these workers and their families. I listened to the Quebec stations on a ROCKET RADIO, Miniman Model MG-302. Somehow attaching its alligator clips to the metal frame of my bed powered the crystal. I listened to the French music. None of the words had any sense, but several evenings a week in the winter a hoarse voiced announced the hockey games from le Forum.

The Canucks in Maine supported the Canadians or ‘les Habitants and the team dominated hockey in the NHL, winning six of the decade’s Stanley Cups. My father came from an old New England family. We rooted for the Boston Bruins. They always lost to the Habs just like Pepe le Pew never got the girl.

n 1960 my father moved our family from Maine to the South Shore of Boston. My ROCKET RADIO was upgraded to a Japanese transistor and I caught the Montreal station clear of static. The music was changing from smooth to pop led by Francoise Hardy, theYeh-Yeh Girl.

I bought her 45s in Mattapan Square. The nuns at Our Lady of the Foothills taught us French. I understood the lyrics and plotted to meet her one day.

Pop lost favor for rock in the late 60s.

I loved the Sultans’ garage rock version of LE POUPEE QUI FAIT NON.

But some things never changed.

The Bruins continued to lose to the Canadians with regularity and the Montreal team captured four Stanley Cups in a row, until the Bruins’ Bobby Orr scored a Cup winning goal in 1970. The victory was against an expansion team, the St. Louis Blues, but I didn’t care, for this was their first Cup since 1940, plus they had been lucky to avoid the Canadians during the playoffs.

They never lost to the Bruins.

A year later the Bruins were favored to beat the Canadians in the semi-finals. The goalie Gerry Cheever had allowed one goal in the first meeting. It was Easter Week and my three friends and I were driving down to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break.

We had rented an apartment across from the Elbow Room, famed from the 60s movie WHERE THE BOYS ARE.

Below Washington we entered the Deep South. We were longhairs and rednecks hated hippies almost as much as we hated the Canadians.

Our only stops were for gas and food.

Throughout Georgia we listened to WBZ’s broadcast of the second game between the Habs and Bs. The Boston-based radio station had a strong 50,000 watt signal. The Bruins went up 5-2 at the end of the 2nd period. The signal died at the Florida border.

In my mind the Bruins were returning to the Stanley Cup. We stopped for complimentary OJ at the state hospitality stop and drove the rest of the night to reach our destination at dawn.

I had never been to Florida before and I marveled at the palm trees, the Gulf Stream, and co-eds in bikinis.

At noon I went down to the store for beer and picked up the local newspaper, opening the sports section. I blinked several times in disbelief before the printed tragedy hit me with full force.

The Habs had come back from the abyss and scored 5 goals in the 3rd period.

The series was tied at 1-1.

The Bruins pushed the Canadians to the limit and lose game 7.

That misfortune was repeated often over the next four decades, but two nights ago with history on the line the Bruins played the Habs in another game seven. I watched from Mullanes across the street from Frank’s Lounge, which does not do hockey.

The teams were tied into OT.

I was ready for the loss, but the Bruins of 2011 were not those of 2010 or 1971. We won the game and I toasted my team with another beer. I was the only Bruins fan in the bar and I lifted my glass to Pepe Le Pew hoping that he had been lucky to get the girl in the end, because no one loses forever.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *