With their unique pen and their own sensitivity, artists present their vision of the world around us. This week, we are giving carte blanche to host and comedian Dany Turcotte.
I am 14 years old and have a first job: a street vendor for the newspaper Le Quotidien de Chicoutimi. I’m assigned a no worse big “run”, with 45 copies to distribute each morning, in a neighborhood over a mile from my home. Forty-five nice big new houses, pretty much all hotter than my little bungalow. For a tiny body at just 4’10, which says it weighs 100 pounds, but actually weighs 90, the pocket is big! On Saturdays, with all the flyers included in the newspaper, I carry a veritable paper menhir. I also have to manage the money I collect from clients each week and most importantly, keep myself from dipping into the brown envelope of deposits! I deliver my gazettes while whistling Le blues du businessman and secretly dreaming of putting the key on the door of my “run” to launch myself into the world of show business!
At the time, my father had just lost his construction company, a big big bankruptcy. Its value of 1 million in 1977 would be around 5 million today. So we go from quite rich to very poor. My job as a street vendor has nothing to do with the crisis of a teenager in lack of autonomy, it was vital to pay for my clothes, my monsters to stick and my Bob Morane books. At home, we eat a lot of pasta while I deliver paper, in a town controlled by Price Brothers, which makes it. It is ironical !
I quickly get tired of the morning rhythm of the job. As I have to walk a lot to deliver my newspaper, I get up at morning time. I decide to change strategy. I managed to convince my 45 customers to now receive their Daily at the end of the day. At sunset rather than sunrise, a detail at the time, but that would be heresy today, in the age of streaming information! Better old news than no news at all, as the saying goes!
The smell of the Kénogami paper mill is still embedded in my DNA. Towards the end of the afternoon, a powerfully sulphurous draft poisoned our lives. It was said that the paper mill had flatulence. Very appetizing for a dinner out with the family!
It was the largest paper mill in Canada and 1200 people worked there. Since the Price brothers floated all the wood to produce their paper on the Rivière aux Sables and the City discharged the sewers of its 60,000 inhabitants there, we looked at this brownish and nauseating water with caution. We especially didn’t swim there and we bought our frozen fish at Steinberg (the most popular grocery chain in my childhood). Until the mid-1980s, there were only paper bags at the grocery store. Steinberg’s bag had even become a unit of measurement. We said: we picked up two bags of Steinberg hazelnuts! Then, revolution: plastic bags, which were invented for the ecological purpose of saving forests from clearcutting. A big round of applause for this great environmental breakthrough!
When I arrived in Montreal, my first surprise: there are adult street vendors! In Saguenay, the position only went to teenagers. I have fond memories of our first performance at Club Soda with Blood Type, followed by one night when we were “unfortunately” forced to drink until 3 or 4 a.m., just to wait patiently. le camelot to finally be able to read the La Presse review. Our future was at stake! We had to keep the party going: the critic Jean Beaunoyer loved our show!
I have always loved reading newspapers. Long before the tablet, you had to earn them! Take a shower (a guy has the right to be pretty), go out to the convenience store with wet hair in the middle of winter pre-climate change, chat with all the neighbours, even the delicate ones, wait behind the lady in charge of a group of 200 people at 6/49, finally joking with the guy at the checkout. A sometimes painful socialization relay race. But rewarded! You could then settle down with your three newspapers, your coffee, your 12 cigarettes and your cough from beyond the grave. Where is happiness, where is it? He’s there !
Today, 10 years after La Presse made the switch to the tablet, the last paper newspapers seem to be on the way to extinction. Nothing stops progress. The Rivière aux Sables of my childhood has also changed. For the best. The wooden pitounes gave way to paddleboarders and edible trout!
When I read a “vintage” magazine, I sometimes try, in a gesture of onset of dementia, to enlarge the photos with my fingers. Electronic warping! The cigarettes and my hollow cough are gone, but my thirst for information is intact and satisfied by thousands of electronic sources. We finally turn the page for the newspapers, but there is still hope for the paper. We need boxes to deliver what people order from Amazon! But that’s another topic, we’ll talk about it again…