Aug 10 | Petitcodiac

“Memramcook West, Memramcook North; Shediac, Mi’kmaq, Kouchibouguac.”

Petitcodiac by Zéro Degré Celsius
When Moncton-based band Zéro Degré Celsius first hit the scene in the early 90s, playing “organic charcoal rock” and incorporating pieces of local folklore into their music, they raised eyebrows, including those of international cultural activist, poet and singer-songwriter Zachary Richard, who ended up releasing a cover of the band’s song “Petitcodiac” on his hit album “Cap Enragé”.
The song, which bears the name of a river that has fascinated people for centuries with its tidal phenomenon, offers up a barrage of mostly aboriginal place names, which are what most non-Native New Brunswickers know of the language that was spoken here before the first European settlers arrived. Their meanings are a record of what the original inhabitants of the land found significant; and today, there are more indigenous names used for rivers, towns and places in New Brunswick than in any of the other Atlantic Provinces.
Petitcodiac (or “Epetkutogoyek”) means “the river that bends like a bow” in deference to its sharp change in direction from north to south-west. Now stop and think about that for a second. How lucky are we to be able to see in a name what the original inhabitants of the land saw with their eyes all those years ago? These geographical descriptors give us a peek into the past and serve as powerful symbols that connect us with landscapes and places across our province, from Memramcook to Caraquet, Kedgewick to Kouchibouguac, and Nackawic to Shediac.
Shediac. Yes, you read that right.
The Mi’kmaq encampment of “Esedeiik” was a major camp in present-day Shediac. “Esedeiik”, which means “running far in” (in reference to the tide, which has a long range over the shallow, sandy beaches of southeastern New Brunswick), was eventually changed to “Gedaique” (French pronunciation) and ultimately Shediac. The oldest map on which a variation of the name Shediac appears is that of a French cartographer who mapped the whole area along Shediac Bay as “Chediac” in 1685.
Before I go any further, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the following in my blog article. Sadly, our history with respect to the treatment of Aboriginal people is not something in which Canada can take pride. The government’s commitment to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples is a necessary step in the right the direction. While we can’t change the past, we can choose what we live with in the present, and what we pass on to future generations to learn from, to marvel at and enjoy.
According to John Edward Belliveau, author of Running Far In – The Story of Shediac, “everything seems to have happened first in Shediac, a community which has been home to an extraordinary number of New Brunswick leaders, both English and French. It is unique in that the place was settled simultaneously by both of Canada’s founding peoples, and they have lived comfortably together ever since. Neither has questioned the other’s right to develop its own culture, speak its own language and practise its preferred religious faith. No community in Canada is more truly bilingual and bicultural, and its social, commercial and cultural history is almost a New Brunswick in miniature. All of the characteristics which created the province’s civil, governmental, religious and educational development were present in Shediac’s make-up.”
Indeed, Shediac is a unique place. Its history is full of “firsts”, with the town being intimately linked to the early stages of all forms of public transportation: the first public road in New Brunswick was built at Shediac Cape; the first operating passenger railroad in the Maritimes was established in Shediac and the first commercial and passenger traffic via water went from Shediac to the St. Lawrence. And in 1933, Shediac had its moment of glory in aviation history when General Italo Balbo, the Minister of Aviation for Italy, sent by way of Shediac 25 Isotta-Marchetti-powered flying boats from Ortobello, near Rome, to the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago. Around the globe, newspaper headlines put Shediac on a pedestal.
But what eventually put the town permanently on the world map was… well… its lobster.
Shediac is most famous around the world for its lobster, with thousands of visitors flocking to Shediac annually to get a taste of one of the most sought-after seafood in the world and to have their picture taken with the Giant Lobster that serves as a focal point at the town’s entrance. The Giant Lobster is hands down one of New Brunswick’s best-known landmarks and most photographed attractions. The sculpture has appeared in national TV advertising and hit television shows such as Amazing Race Canada, thus confirming the town’s claim to fame as “The Lobster Capital of the World”.
The first mention of the word “lobster” appears in the Maritimes Archives as far back as 1578. Three centuries later, William Blizzard, a pioneer in the lobster processing industry and resident of Shediac, opened a lobster-processing plant in Shediac, selling lobster on the open market. He is considered an innovator in the processing of lobster in New Brunswick.
Another Shediac native whose name is synonymous with the lobster industry in the 20th century is Émile Paturel. The Paturel name was closely linked to lobster for over fifty years in Canada, the United States and Europe. Shediac took advantage of this abundant natural resource and in 1949 the municipality staged its very first annual Shediac Lobster Festival, making it one of the oldest festivals in New Brunswick. Over the years, the festival has attracted people of prominence, including one of the greatest hockey players of all time, Maurice “The Rocket” Richard, who was awarded the Order of Canada.

My dad’s Maurice Richard signed souvenir program

 

 

When I was a kid, my grandmother lived right across from the festival grounds, and every summer my dad would take my brother and I out for some festival fun. As I reflect on those times, there’s one particular memory that comes to mind:
Step right up! Easy peasy! Win a prize every time!”, barked the conniving carnie from across his table.
I decided to give this Hook-A-Duck game a try. Besides, it looked super easy, and the prizes were out of this world: cool flags, posters, rock mirrors, etc. So, about forty bucks or so later, I finally hooked a duck. The carnie then flipped the thing over, informing me that I’d won a prize. Finally! The suspense was killing me! Will it be one of those cool Mötley Crüe posters, sharp-looking Def Leppard mirrors or rad Led Zeppelin flags on display? Millions of them! Nope. The carnie handed me a flimsy Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band painter’s hat. A PAINTER’S HAT! And to add insult to injury… BOB SEGER! Not cool at all. The guy was a dinosaur even in 1983.
Oh, young Marc learned a valuable life lesson that day: like that old duck adage (no pun intended), if it looks like a scam, sounds like a scam and smells like a scam, it’s probably a scam.
When my grandmother noticed I wasn’t happy with my prize, she said: “I like that hat! Can I have it? I’ll wear it for protection against the sun when I go smoking my cigarettes outside.”
Now there’s an oxymoron and a half!
So, several times this past July as I’m walking through the festival grounds, I think about my grandmother. I see her in my mind, sitting on her front steps, smoking a cigarette and wearing that ugly painter’s hat as my dad pulls his big boat-of-a-car Buick LeSabre into the driveway of her little house on St. Anne Street (still there). Otherwise, my grandmother was a proud woman who always dressed well. She was a strong woman, having raised two boys all on her own. She was a resourceful woman who practically had no money to her name, yet always managed to put the biggest, most expensive gifts under the Christmas tree for her grandchildren. And lastly, she was a brave woman who wasn’t the least bit afraid of dying when we visited her in the hospital in 1986, my dad trying to encourage her:
“You never know, Mom. The treatment might work.”
Her response—and I’ll never forget it: “It’s in my liver now. It’s over. Now, get over here, Marc and Jacques! I’ve made a place for you here next to me on the bed. Come! Sit! Tell me all about your day.”
Her name was Héloïse (née Michaud) Savoie, and she was a wonderful woman. As an aside, she was the sister of the first Acadian woman to earn a university degree: Dr. Marguerite Michaud. Throughout her life, Marguerite Michaud was the recipient of numerous honours, including the Order of Canada. Among others, she received New Brunswick’s highest award, the Meritorious Award from the NB French-speaking Teachers Association. Marguerite Michaud dedicated her life to the cause of education and the survival of French culture in Acadia. She is considered a pioneer and famous woman in Canadian history and schools and libraries now bear her name.
“In my many years of teaching, at various levels, it always seemed to me that we did not stress sufficiently our Canadian heritage and did not cultivate a deep-rooted spirit, a Canadian spirit, in the minds of our young people.” – DR. MARGUERITE MICHAUD
But here’s the thing. While my grandmother’s name or words will never get published in a history book or show up in Google search results, she’s every bit as accomplished and successful as her famous sister… and even “The Rocket” for that matter. It’s all relative, right?! Where in hockey you need each and every guy helping each other and pulling in the same direction to be successful, my grandmother did it all on her own. She “enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country” (criteria for appointment into the Order of Canada) by raising independent, hard-working and contributing members of Canadian society. And as far as education goes, well, I guess you could say she graduated from Life… with honours in Courage.
I tip my hat to all widowed and single parents who manage to provide—financially and emotionally—for their children. Now, that’s what you call real success.
So, on the last day of this year’s festival, as I’m leaving the grounds, something catches my attention as my grandmother crosses my mind. Off in the distance, I can make out a piece of music among the creaks, squeaks, screams and squeals that makes me smile; it’s the “kind of music that just soothes the soul”: the music of Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band.
These moments—moments that some call coincidences and others call signs—keep things interesting. Listen. Sign or not, hearing old Bob Seger’s music at the festival absolutely made my day. Or rather, I chose to allow it to make my day. Life is a matter of choices. My personal belief is that in the end everything will make perfect sense one way or another. But until then, I choose to laugh at the coincidences and smile at the signs.
Until next time, goodbye my dear grandmother.
Did you know?
The rivers best known around the world for their tidal bores are the Severn and Trent Rivers, both in England; the Seine River in France; the Qiantang River in China; the Amazon in Brazil and the Petitcodiac River in New Brunswick. In 2013, professional Californian surfers set a North American record after riding the Petitcodiac River’s tidal bore for 29 kilometres.
Marc Savoie

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was to write a letter to a deceased friend’s mother on the eve of his 20-year death anniversary. Never again since that day in 2008 have I written anything that has had such an effect on someone’s life: my own. That letter is the reason you are reading this right now. It allowed me to witness first-hand the power of the written word and has set me on a new life journey, that of inspirational writing.

My name is Marc Savoie. Being a translator by trade, I’ve been writing—honing my skills, if you will—practically every day for the past 18 years, both in the public and private sector, across the country’s only officially bilingual province. Proud Canadian, Maritimer, New Brunswicker and Acadian, I was born in Moncton, grew up in Dieppe, lived in Miramichi and Bouctouche, and am now nicely settled in peaceful Shediac River, New Brunswick.

My goal is to one day publish a short story collection, to leave a legacy behind for my children. Written words matter! They have the power to heal or hurt, and I pride myself in using them wisely to make a positive difference in the lives of readers. At the risk of sounding off-the-wall, I believe in vibes, energy, etc. When you publish or put out something positive, people look at you in a positive light. When you publish or put out something negative, the opposite happens. It really is as simple as that!

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