The ancestral homestead in the Quebec countryside is long gone.
But a monument, unrelated, marks the spot where it stood – and where, in August 1967, Jack Kerouac came to visit.
Born in Lowell, Mass., in 1922, the author best-known for On The Road would have turned 100 last March. The township he visited at age 45, two years before he died, is called Saint-Hubert-de-Riviere-du-Loup.
Kerouac traveled with his friend and driver, Joe Chaput, and it is wonderful to follow the winding two-lane highway 40 km south out of Riviere du Loup, imagining the road as it must have been when they passed this way.
Plans to place a memorial plaque to Kerouac were stalled by COVID-19, but a poster high on the wall of the community centre testifies to future intentions. Nobody speaks a word of English in these parts, but as I grew up in a French resort town, and later taught French in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I was able to ramble around asking questions.
This was Canada Day, so the town was pretty well shut down. But in the local grocery, the Marchand General, I struck up a conversation with a likely looking chap. Jackpot! Businessman Laurier Caron not only knew why the plaque had been stalled but knew also where the old Kerouac house once stood – home to Leo Kerouac, Jack’s father, who after the First World War, joined the Quebecois job-hunting exodus to Massachusetts.
Laurier offered spontaneously to lead us to where it happened – where Jack visited with relations and friends who had known his father as a boy.
A great deal more emerges out of this 1967 visit – which followed by a few months Jack’s Montreal TV interview on Le Sel de la Semaine – but all that we will save for another day. Oh, one more thing. . . .