Ernest Lajeunesse in the heart of the village

Saint-Jovite Hotel. ©Courtoisie

There was a generation of men who, too young to participate in WWII, replaced their elders who were away fighting the war. These were valuable young men because they could fill the jobs – perhaps not available to them in peacetime – which allowed employers to keep things going. Even if the former warriors took their jobs back when they returned – and some preferred to change jobs – it was important and the young people found work again easily.

Ernest Lajeunesse was born in Saint-Jovite (now downtown Mont-Tremblant) on March 3, 1932. While still a young man, he headed for the hotel business. At the age of 19 he worked as a waiter in the Villa Bellevue dining room and bar. He was a pleasant young man and the clientele liked him. Among the regular clients was Harry C. Stokes, a rich American who spent much time in the region to invest there.

Mr. Stokes was the owner of the Beauvallon Hotel and he watched young Ernest closely and liked what he saw. The young man was comfortable with customers. Mr. Stokes suggested that he come work in his establishment. It was the beginning of a long and fruitful association. A few kilometres from the slopes for winter tourists and a few metres from Lac Beauvallon for summer tourists.

From the beginning, Ernest’s engaging personality drew customers to the dining room and small bar. Very quickly, he became Mr. Stokes’s trusted employee; Mr. Stokes had big projects in mind and he judged that Ernest was the perfect man to help bring them to fruition. In 1954, Stokes suggested that Ernest take charge of managing the Saint-Jovite Hotel – located where the Métro supermarket is now.

Things were moving fast for Ernest, both at work and in his private life. On September 15, 1956, he married Jacqueline Piché, also from Saint-Jovite.

The Saint-Jovite Hotel was a good place – its cuisine was excellent under Chef Gérard Allarie – and Mme Chauvin, owner of the Durolam business, had a reserved table where she dined every day, accompanied by a guest.

The bar, tended by Aimé Lajeunesse (Ernest’s brother), was welcoming and had a good customer base of loyal locals and of tourists. Saint-Jovite Hotel employees were also very loyal and worked there all their lives. Those who come to mind, among others, are Jean-Marie Dupras, Francine Perreault and Eugène La Victoire.

In 1957, Mr. Stokes decided to build some motel rooms, a popular concept at the time. He launched construction of the first phase, which had 15 units. To make room for these, a house – where Ernest and Jacqueline lived – located on the hotel grounds, had to be moved.

The house was skidded – along round logs – to the back of the lot. Quite the operation! And it was on that same day, October 3, 1957, that the first of their children, Sylvie, was born. Lyne followed on April 8, 1961, and then Pierre on December 3, 1962.

Charles Duncan, Ernest Lajeunesse, Maurice “Rocket” Richard and the Dow beer rep. ©Courtoisie

Harry Stokes, now staying in one of the motel units, continued the expansion, building 19 new units in 1962 and 13 more in 1982.

Ernest, although very absorbed by his professional responsibilities, had a great passion: golf. Every fine summer day, he played a round of golf at Gray Rocks. He not only liked to play; he was an excellent golfer. Season after season, it was his name on the plaque presented to the club’s best player. As equality demands, his sister Lise Lajeunesse-Leblanc – equally gifted in the sport – was the best woman player in the club.

Ernest was one of those men for whom friendship was highly important. He was generous and often showed himself to be. When I started competing with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, amateur status prohibited any type of financial compensation. As a result, it was my parents who were responsible for the costs of the season in Europe.

At the time, I was only 16 years old. I worked summers, but the amount required to be part of the team was significant and ate into the family budget. In spite of that, my parents supported me and I was aware of the sacrifice they were making. When I got back from my first year of competition in Europe, Ernest invited us, my parents and me, to dinner at the Saint-Jovite Hotel.

To our great surprise, we discovered upon arrival that the dining room was full of my parents’ friends who had organized – with Ernest Lajeunesse, Roger Godard, Marcel Dufour and Edgar Dufour – a fundraiser to finance my participation in the next season of competition in Europe. They had raised the incredible sum of $1,500. It was 1961.

Ernest Lajeunesse died too young, at the age of 57, on March 12, 1989. As an only child, I had been included in my father’s sports and social activities and, as a result, was friends with his friends. When Ernest died, I lost not only my father’s friend, but my own, as well. Ernest spent his life in the heart of Saint-Jovite but he was, above all, the heart of Saint-Jovite.


More from this author by clicking on his photo below.

Peter Duncan


1 Comment

  • Franki (Francine Legare Bevans Reply

    August 14, 2022 at 10:19 am

    Love the picture! So many great memories! I was very lucky to have skied with the best and I reminice often. Great times!!
    That was me in the photos skiing with Eddy and I often look at the picture as I have the same one.

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