Tracking Jack Kerouac deep into Quebec

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. . . .

 

3 Comments

  1. Paul Charest on July 4, 2022 at 5:43 pm

    That is a great pilgrimage to make. It’s pretty cool to be where Jack’s family line started. I took up an interest in his roots after reading his books.

    As a cousin of Jack’s* I started tracking his genealogy. A few years ago I found a family history book for the descendants of Maurice Louis Alexandre le Brice de Kéroack. It covered the descendants since 1730 and included a large bit on Jack. It’s chalk-full of lineages, pictures and reproductions of archive documents.

    It’s well worth having if you can find a copy on abebooks. It’s called:

    “L’album: Pensées des descendants de Maurice Louis Alexandre le Brice de Kérouack depuis 1730” and is put together by Raymonde Kérouac-Harvey (1980, ISBN: 2-9800036-0-3)

    *Nothing amazing being related to Jack: if you have French-Canadian roots to the 1600s, chances are you’re related to every other French-Canadian at least once in your tree. My ‘cousin’ Jack happens to be 9C1R (9th Cousin Once Removed).

  2. Ken McGoogan on July 4, 2022 at 7:31 pm

    Paul, no luck on Abebooks or at bookfinder.com. So it goes.
    You are so right about French Canadian roots to the 1600s.
    My late grandmother, nee Pelletier,,took me back to the arrival in 1641 of Guillaume and Jean Pelletier.
    Just recently, a Jack Kerouac list-of-ancestors cited those two. So, yeah, like about 100,000 folks (?)
    with Pelletier roots, I too am related to Kerouac.
    Oh, and salut cousin!

  3. Paul Charest on July 4, 2022 at 8:05 pm

    Salut!
    I have just found a version at Le Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec for online viewing (link below).

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