La Salle, Ontario Story

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        Map of the area

        Brief History of the town

 

Music of Marcel Bénéteau

bene1.tif (922224 bytes) bene2.tif (1447070 bytes) Man in the hat pictured on the CD cover is Etienne Meloche, transporting his grandchildren Bella and Eugene by boat  from their home, on Turkey Island in the Detroit River, to school on the mainland (circa 1910). Etienne was second cousin, three-times-removed, of Jim Meloche, webmaster of this site.
Tape PC 001

 

Story of the La Salle Pirates

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Front Row (from left):

   Hubert Meloche ("Turp") - Quarterback
   Henry Menard ("Hank") - Guard
   Louis Martin ("Lou") - Guard
   Tom Chappus ("Tom") - Tackle
   Robert Patterson ("Bob) - Center
   Earl Gignac ("Gainer") - Tackle
   Leon Martin ("Lee") - Guard
   Jack Pellican ("Jack") - Tackle
   Harry Boismier ("Mitt") - Halfback
   Lucien Meloche ("Pûn") - End (Captain)

 

Back Row (from left):

   Leo Reaume ("Nye") - Fullback
   Clifford Gignac ("Cliff") - Halfback
   Paul Meloche ("Pote" or "Poat") - Halfback
   Marvin O’Gorman ("Marv") - Tackle
   Mark Boismier ("Diamond Jim") - Halfback
   Al Benoit ("Ally") - Coach
   Paul Bouffard ("Rocky") - Quarterback
   Godfrey Reaume ("Buck") - Fullback
   Homer Lepine ("Homer") - Halfback
   Fred Beach ("Moon") - Guard

Not Pictured: Aimé Glandon ("Aime") - Trainer, and Edmond ("Vic") Vigneux - Waterboy

From THE WINDSOR STAR, "Local" Section, Friday, March 13,1998, P. A3

MARTY GERVAIS - MY TOWN

A football team that just loved, to play the game.

It was a glorious fall day in 1937. Store windows were plastered with handbills and banners were strung across the road in Richmond, Mich. declaring this team to be the Canadian Champions.
    There were parades and music, and kids elbowed and scrambled past their parents to gawk at these strapping youths from LaSalle who strutted proudly down the street.
    They were called The LaSalle Pirates. A ragtag bunch of young men mostly with French names who got together and played every Sunday.
    Today was their day. A big game withRichmond.
    The final score? 101 to 0.
    A rout, an embarrassment, the worst display of football ever.
    And no, it wasn't the Pirates who won.
    Even at the end of the game - and it was obvious to anyone who was there - the Richmond team deliberately gave up the ball to the Pirates and let them run it all the way down the field.
    They still couldn't score.
    Jim Meloche, who heads an advertising agency in Troy, Mich., and whose father, Lucien ("Pun") Meloche, had been captain of the team, laughs about it.
    "Apparently, they were terrible," he says.
    And the last thing they wanted to talk about was their win/loss record. They probably lost far more than they won.
    As for being Canadian Champs?
    "All a scam to get people out to the game," Meloche smiles.
    Paul Bouffard, who played on the LaSalle Pirates, can't forget that day, "We didn't put on much of a show ... We were way out of our class."

Skull and cross bones

    The team which used to wear the logos of a skull and cross bones on its sweaters, was likely the brain child of a former town clerk who made up the schedule.
    It also grew out of Bouffard's father's poolroom where the guys used to hang out.
    The team practised once a week, and I played teams on both sides of the border. Their biggest rival, however, was an Amherstburg team.

The 1930s LaSalle Pirates whose enthusiasm for the game exceeded their skill

    "We weren't that bad," protests Bouffard who pointed out how Godfrey"Buck" Reaume went on to the Canadian Football League and his brother (Ed.: Apparently, Leo Reaume was no relation to Godfrey Reaume), Leo "Nye" Reaume, advanced to the one-time semi-pro team, the Windsor Rockets.
    Meloche's interest . is more than just casual. In a search of his family roots, he's become obsessed in finding out more about the Pirates who lasted only about three years.
    The team broke up when many of these boys signed up to fight in the war.
    Meloche says, "They weren't very big guys - the average weight was about 150 pounds."
    And so they were killed on the field i by bigger and tougher teams.
    Meloche’s - father barely 135 pounds -was often creamed on the field, and had to be "picked up by the belt" by teammates who carried him off the field.
    The irony is that when Meloche was growing up, he knew nothing about his father's team.
    "I didn't even know he played football till I saw the picture ... He never talked about it."
    This crinkly old team photo shows Meloche's lean-looking father in the front row at the far right.
    There had always been a reluctance to talk about it, which was characteristic of the time.
    "People of my father's generation just didn't talk about what they did as kids."
    In Meloche's search for the story behind the team, he found a newspaper story from 1937 about the team crossing the border to play the guards and "trusties" (inmates on good behaviour). The headline read: Over Prison Walls They Will Climb - Just For A Day.
    They lost the game by one point.
    Up to the last two minutes of play, the Pirates seemed assured of their first victory of the season when, according to The Star, an inmate plunged over the line to score a touchdown and tie the score.
    A punt gave the Jackson team the extra point to beat the Pirates 13 to 12
    It was a good time in the lives of these boys who had gone through Prohibition.
    Days when they combed the canals near LaSalle for barrels of beer jettisoned by federal agents in raids. Or watched over a hollowed out corn field in the centre for a hidden landing strip for running booze across the border.
    It was a good time.
    A game every Sunday.
    The rush of an open field and the feel of pigskin in the cold air.

Marty Gervais can be reached by e-mail at mgervais@win.southam.ca

 

 

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