Leo with Louis at L’Etoile (PIP#3)
October always conjures up visions of Jack Kerouac. And so, it seems fitting to take a peek into the past at the link between Jack’s father and Louis Biron.
It was at L’Impartial, the French newspaper Biron founded in 1898, that Leo Kerouac learned the printing trade. There in Nashua, he mastered his craft. Biron, who consistently worked hand in hand with team members, saw Leo’s talents, appreciated them and decided to put them to use at L’Etoile. And so it was that “Ti-Jean’s” Papa worked in Lowell’s French newspaper as a linotypist. In addition, Biron entrusted the multi-skilled artisan with reporting, writing and translating assignments.
Leo’s career took him to many other posts. Study of his son’s works can lead the reader to guess that the Prince Street stint had left its mark.
In chapter 14 of Maggie Cassidy, Jack Duluoz conjures up his father Emil:
Smoke whipped from clean chimneys of Lowell. Now at Worthen, Prince and other old mill town streets as my feet shot past I saw the redbrick faded into something cold and rose – unspeeched – throat-choking – My father‘s ghost in a grey felt hat walked the dirty snows – ‘Ti Jean t’en rappelle quand Papa travailla pour le Citizen – pour L’Etoile?’ (Remember when your father worked for the Citizen, for the Star?). (1)
In chapter 18, Emil Duluoz introduces himself as:
A good linotyper with years of experience. (2)
Unraveling the threads of Lowell’s past continue to make our hometown magical.
What a town when you come to think of it – Lowell (3)
And things Franco-American are part of the magic.
know that in Lowell the guys from the alleys and rock streets run like demons, let the name of Lowell make a noise in their hearts after this – that in the world where the name is Lowell the boys brothers and mad hurl themselves howling in this mortal ocean…brothers, boys, wolves of the North.’ (These thoughts were all in French almost untranslatable).
1) Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac, published by Avon Books, New York, 1959.
Quotations here are from the original edition of Maggie Cassidy, copyright 2013 by the Devault-Graves Agency LLC. Memphis, Tennessee. Pages 91-92.
2) Ibid. p. 113.
3) Ibid. p. 115.
4) Ibid. p. 142.
This weekend is the 2023 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac Festival which has a full schedule on its website. While there are many interesting events, I want to call attention to one on Saturday, October 7 at 2pm: a Parker Lecture by Paul Marion on “Jack Kerouac’s evolving position in Lowell, 1950-2023.” This event is at the Middlesex Community College’s Donahue Family Academic Arts Center at 240 Central Street (formerly known as the Rialto Bowling Alley).