The Letendre brothers’ general store

The Letendre family was an important presence in Mont-Tremblant village (on lac Mercier). Originally a native of Saint-Bonaventure in Nicolet county, Louis Letendre, seeking work, first settled in Rhode Island where he married Éléonore Rochon on June 22, 1900.

Quite soon, she fell ill and they decided to return to Québec, specifically, to Saint-Jovite. Their three sons – Alexandre (1904-1990), Paul (1906-1995) and René (1908-1999) – got together in 1936 to open, at lac Mercier, a general store.

The general store was located where the Sandwicherie is now, and the Letendre family home was beside Milly’s restaurant. The store, a miniature version of today’s supermarkets or big box stores, was highly important to the village.

At the time, the dirt roads were almost impassable by horse-drawn vehicle when it rained or snowed, and very few of the villagers had automobiles. So if something was needed in a home, you went to the store on foot. It carried everything, from lamp oil to canned vegetables via dried pasta and firewood. It also carried basic tools.

René, the youngest of the three brothers, ran the store on a daily basis. At one end of the premises, his sister-in-law Annette – Paul’s wife – ran a small snack-bar-type restaurant. I knew the Letendre brothers at the end of the ‘40s and the beginning of the ‘50s when I started school at the Sœurs de Sainte-Croix, at lac Mercier – more specifically, on the rue du Couvent.

My mother drove me to the village by car and, because we lived at mont Tremblant’s north side, she had to go around the mountain.

Paul Letendre’s school bus

Over the months, parents asked her if she could pick up their children to take them to school with me. Eventually, she had more kids to take than she had room in the car, not to mention that my mother was saddled with the responsibility of transporting this gang.

It was at that point that Paul Letendre, with the help of a small Mercedes truck, became our school bus driver. My mother took me as far as the little Saint-Bernard chapel and I was first on the bus.

Paul Letendre smoked a pipe, which was nothing unusual at the time; all the workers smoked at work. When I got home to the Devil’s River Lodge, my mother rushed me to take a bath and made sure I changed my clothes for fear that the customers in the dining room might think that Charlie and Lucille’s son smoked a pipe.

Ox bellies

At that time, the road that connected mountain and village was not paved. In springtime, when rivers and creeks overflowed their banks and water poured over the road, huge mud holes called “ox bellies” – ventres-de-bœuf – formed. When the truck got stuck in the mud, the young passengers – namely, us – had to get out of the bus to push it out of the mud.

Paul often asked my mother to follow the bus in case there was a problem. I should mention that my mother was said to have limitless determination and that as a rule, nothing prevented me from getting to school.

A pioneer of sports restaurants

Paul extended his field of business and became the driver of the village taxi. He also sometimes drove young people from lac Mercier to other villages to go to the movies.

Annette, at the same time, put a television in her restaurant; it was the only one in the village. As a result, the villagers came to the restaurant to watch TV.

Programs such as Les Belles Histoires des Pays d’en Haut, La Famille Plouffe, and of course, hockey, attracted a good crowd.

Annette grasped the opportunity and started charging each person 25 cents for the privilege of watching hockey, and another 25 cents if the game went into overtime.

My last personal memory of Paul Letendre was on my wedding day, in August 1989. He showed up spontaneously at the reception being held at the restauranat Abbé du Nord (former residence of Curé Deslauriers). Like several other residents, he came to toast the health of the new couple.

There was a strong feeling of community and if we were all from the same little village, it was completely natural that we would celebrate together. I feel privileged to have grown up in a small village where the adults knew the children…and where the children felt safe and protected.

 

By the same author: The Dubois family (First part)  (Click the image below)

 

Peter Duncan72 Posts

Membre de l’équipe canadienne de ski alpin de 1960 à 1971, skieur professionnel de 1971 à 1979 et champion américain en 1965, Peter Duncan a participé aux Jeux olympiques de 1964 à Innsbruck ainsi qu’à ceux de 1968 à Grenoble. Intronisé au Temple de la renommée du ski au Canada, au Panthéon des sports du Québec et récipiendaire de la médaille du gouverneur général, Peter a longtemps été commentateur de ski à la télévision./ Peter Duncan is a Canadian former alpine skier who competed in the 1964 and the 1968 Winter Olympics. He was named to the Canadian National Alpine Team in 1960 at the age of 16 and competed at the national level for the next 10-years until 1970 before retiring.

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