PAWTUCKETVILLE SOCIAL CLUB
November of 1972 Le Club Social de
Pawtucketville celebrated its 75th anniversary.
We quote here the history of the club, written by Richard Santerre, as it
appeared in the 75th anniversary souvenir program. Ed.
years of community spirit
the section of Lowell, Massachusetts, bounded by Beaver Brook, the Merrimack river and the
town lines of Dracut and Tyngsboro, is one of the oldest and yet newer sections of the
city. Oldest in that its history precedes the
founding of the nation, newer in that it was annexed to
With the arrival of the colonists, Pawtucketville became a part of
The beginning of the nineteenth century was a period of industrial expansion.
From 1880 to 1895, the population of
The building boom in Pawtucketville was on and every year more and more
houses and lots were sold. The area was
particularly attractive to the Franco-Americans. Living
in crowded conditions in large tenement blocks in Little Canada many
dreamed of owning their own home with a small garden in Pawtucketville or of living in the
country away from the noise and smoke of the mills. With
the opening of the
By November 1897, the city had paved
The population of Pawtucketville was increasing at such a rapid rate that in
September 1898, the city opened a new grammar school on
For the leaders of the Franco-American community at the end of the nineteenth century, elections were always a source of major activity and concern. They knew that for the Franco-Americans to be recognized and to hold their rightful place in the community, they had not only to vote but also to become naturalized citizens. In 1896, in a French population of almost 20,000, only 1,289 were citizens. From the pulpit, the Oblates exhorted their parishioners to become citizens, business and professional men made speeches urging those eligible to vote to register, and the French press spread the cry, Encourageons la naturalization. LUnion fait la force. Votez.
Therefore, every election was the occasion to present French candidates and especially to launch naturalization and voter registration drives. The organizational end of the movement was concentrated in LUnion Franco-Americaine founded in 1895. It supplied the information, money, lawyer and papers necessary to become a citizen and coordinated the movement. Usually, during the yearly municipal elections various short lived clubs were formed to stir enthusiasm and distribute first citizen papers. The fall of 1897 was no different.
was held as announced but in Léon Gélinas
empty grocery store on
At the next
regular meeting October 12, presided by J.W. Alexander, after a speech by Atty. Joseph
Monette and other distinguished guests, the members decided to form a permanent club. By October 19, the members were already thinking as
a community organization and named committees to see the proper authorities to have a
light installed at the corner of Textile and Gershom and to have a policeman assigned to
At the next meeting November 9 in the blacksmith shop of A.E. Columbe at the corner of Textile and Gershom Avenues where now stands the club, L.P. Turcotte and Calixte Dozois explained one of the ideas which led to the formation of the club, les nombreux besoins du nouveau district et la manière pratique darriver à les satisfaire. Pawtucketville had grown faster than the municipal services. There were no streetlights, very few sidewalks, unpaved and undrained streets and no crosswalks. An effective organization was needed to press for the betterment of the area. Committees were named to ask the city to install street drains and cinder crossings, and, a month later, a committee would be sent to the citys express companies asking them to deliver the belongings addressed to Pawtucketville residents. L.P. Turcotte, Napoleon Grandchamp and Isidore Turcotte began preparing the constitution.
November 16, 1897, the temporary organization was declared permanent and the club named Club Social des Canadiens de Pawtucketville et des Environs. November 23, Coulumbe hall was decorated and before fifty assembled members, the constitution adopted. The new club had 65 members. Fifteen new members were admitted November 30 and the first permanent officers elected: president J.W. Alexander; vice president Vital Robert; secretary Charles R. Daoust; assistant secretary Jesse Alexander; treasurer L.N. Milot; and assistant treasurer Napoléon Grandchamp. With the club firmly established, the other purpose behind its founding was implemented, la récréation sociale, lavancement intellectuel et politique de ses members. Afin de promouvoir lavancement politique, toutes discussions politiques seront premises pendant les reunions du club. December 7, two weeks before the elections, two hundred persons assembled in Columbe hall for a Democrat candidates night. One week later a Republican night was held.
The club was now firmly established. Its
community spirit and fraternal consciousness were well anchored. The members took pride in their club and in
Pawtucketville. The first demonstration of
this pride took place on
The night of
patrie est les Etats-Unis et notre Drapeau est la bannière
étoilée. Nous sommes prêts
les deux jusquà
goutte de notre sang. Plusieurs des nôtres
et dans la marine et si le pays en à
besoin dautres, des milliers de Canado-Américains
Présent! Nous avons aboré
notre Drapeau ce soir pour célébrer
la grande victoire de lamiral Dewey dans ce port de Manille et il flottera sur nos
salles tant que la victoire des Etats-Unis naura pas été
With one success behind, eight days later May 18, the club presented at the Music Hall, its first attempt at dramatics. In front of a packed house which included delegations from all the French societies, the club amateurs presented Molieres three act comedy Les Fourberies de Scapin followed by musical selections and song solos. The profits of course went to naturalization.
During the summer of 1898, word reached
As these activities prove, the popularity of the club was increasing, with new
members signing up at every meeting. The hall
in A. Columbes blacksmith shop had become too small, so in January 1899,
construction began on its enlargement. Enthusiasm
however, does not always go with good construction. Consequently,
at the debate
By October 1900, there were 1,390 Franco-Americans in Pawtucketville and the club
had become one of the more influential French organizations in the city. Large delegations took part in the golden jubilees
Joseph Mangin, O.M.I. in October 1903 and Père
Joseph Lefebvre, O.M.I. in 1908, both pastors of
In 1909, The Franco-American population of Pawtucketville had increased to 2,593
persons of which 365 children attended parochial schools and 250 public schools. The parish authorities began seeking a solution to
the problem of the long distance which the children had to walk to
The club was prospering to such an extent that when the opportunity
presented itself to buy the building containing the clubs rooms at the corner of
Gershom and Textile Avenues, it was decided to take the final step in organizing an
association. Many of the members were
distinguished and important businessmen in the community, for example, grocer
Although the club was prosperous in the devotion of its members, it was not rich, in money. Members paid 15cents dues per month, the roof leaked and sometimes members had to buy their own coal or wood to put in the pot bellied stove. The members however had a strong sense of harmony and club spirit. Men came every night after work to play whist, checkers or pool with their friends and whoever left last locked the door. In the summer, there were so many members assembled on the sidewalk in front of the building that it was suggested that a porch be built in back of the club to get them off the street.
To finance the purchase of the building, shares were sold to members and a mortgage taken at the Caisse Populaire Jeanne dArc. In 1920, a second mortgage was taken from Oliva Poirier to buy back the shares. Steady revenue was provided by the dues and by the rent from the two stores in front of the club. In 1920 they were occupied by the bakery of J.B. Boudreau and Joseph Bouchards shoe repair. Over the years, there were various tenants Stoddards bakery, a Chinese laundry, etc. The last tenant was Joseph Payettes tailor shop which he rented after the fire in June 1928 and relinquished in 1949 when the club was enlarged. The most important sources of revenue for the club were the various activities organized throughout the year. Whist tournaments, smokers, dances, ladies nights, raffles, turkey nights, checker contests, Christmas and New Years parties, all added money to the clubs budget.
The single most important event however was the annual Mardi
Gras celebration. The Mardi Gras celebrations
which began shortly after World War I, were held throughout the twenties and thirties. Held first in Associate Hall, they were then held
in the C.C.A.s hall on
Lest we get the impression that the club forgot its political, community and ethnic origin, let us examine some of the other activities of this period. After the demise of LUnion Franco-Américaine at the turn of the century, the Comité Permanent de Naturalisation was formed. Composed of delegates from all the associations and clubs, it continued the work of its predecessor. The Club Social de Pawtucketville sent annually three delegates to the Comite Permanent until its demise in 1942. The club consistently played an active role in the citizenship movement and financially supported the Comite Permanent. Club members organized voter registration drives and canvassed the area for Franco-Americans eligible to become citizens.
It was also very active politically, ever faithful to the ideas of its founders that for the Franco-Americans to be recognized, they have to hold their share of elective offices. The Club had actively supported the candidacy of John B. Boudreau, ward 7 councilor from 1907 to 1909. In 1921 unlimited free use of the club hall was granted to club member and former ward 7 councilor Arthur Genest for his bid for election. August 23, 1923 a special meeting was held to endorse the candidacy of E. J. Larochelle to the position of deputy sheriff of Middlesex County, and in 1924, at the specific request of the Comite Permanent that a French candidate be found for the School Committee election, club secretary Arthur Giroux was elected to the position in 1925 and held it until 1927. In 1928, the club voted $25 to its president Victor Picard to help in his school committee campaign.
As several members noted in 1922, il serait bon de parler de politique de
temps a autre. The members kept informed
of the latest political changes. Also, the
most powerful Franco-American politicians belonged to the club, Joseph Légaré,
first F. -A. postmaster of
Pawtucketville had progressed over the years but there was still a lot of room for improvement. In 1920, a delegation was sent to complain about the inadequate trolley service on Textile Avenue; in 1921, a petition containing 175 names requested that all of Textile Avenue be paved; in 1924, a joint committee was named with the Club Social de Centralville to have a bridge built over Beaver brook; and in 1925 a delegation from the club has the directors of Lowell Textile School remove the trees and bushes at the corner of Riverside Street and Textile Avenue, a dangerous traffic hazard, etc.
Charles Denizot, O.M.I. attended the
In January 1923, there were about 4,085 Franco-Americans in this section of the
city and by 1924 the number had risen to 5,505. As
early as January 1913, the residents of the area had held meetings in the club to discuss
the formation of a parish. By October 1915, a
request for a new parish was sent to Cardinal OConnell and a permanent committee
composed of Joseph Payette, Josephat Sawyer and Oliva Brunelle named to follow through on
the request. Finally the Cardinal agreed and
in 1921 the little schoolhouse on
With the mortgage paid off in 1924, with a new parish formed and with
Pawtucketville expanding at an ever rapid rate, membership began to rise sharply, and it
was decided to enlarge the club at a cost of $2,446.14.
Two mortgages, one from Omer Deziel and the other from Oliva Poirier were taken out
in March 1925. By 1926, the club was worth
$9,000.00, the furniture $1,390.30, and the mortgage was down to $1,900. The whist and cribbage tournaments between the
Fortune seemed to smile on the organization until
Suddenly the depression struck. Members fell in arrears and the officers had to exercise extreme prudence in the clubs expenses. Dues were lowered back to 25 cents a month and some members were allowed to do work in the club in exchange for their dues. A new category of associate member was created at 25 cents per year with $1 to be reinstated. Yet, despite these measures, many fell from the roster. November 1930, at Mayor Brandens request, Arthur Giroux, Pierre Leblanc and Adolphe Brassard were appointed a committee to find work for unemployed members. During this period, Alex Mailloux took over the mortgage from Arthur Genest and in 1934, Omer Lambert bought it from Alex Mailloux. Revenues were always just ahead of expenses and depended greatly on the members dedication and ingenuity in organizing fund raising events.
The financial stability of the organization was reestablished with the amending of the constitution in April 1933 to permit the sale of beer and then in December to permit the sale of liquor. The license cost $250, $150 of which had to be borrowed. Obviously, it was not the first time that liquor appeared on the clubs premises. There had always been suspicions that the club librarian had more bottles than books in some of his bookcases, and during Prohibition, the automobile of the clubs semi-official bootlegger Henri Duval could be often seen parked in front of the club. At first, the older members did not want to admit liquor. Liquor licenses had never been granted in Pawtucketville and if the club had one, it would draw all the bums and drunks. But the younger members were persistent and showed that on the contrary, the club could control those who had access to the bar and it wasnt open to the public. Also it would provide a steady revenue. A delegation was sent to Pere Leon Lamothe, O.M.I., pastor of Ste. Jeanne dArc, for his opinion. He had no objection provided that women were not admitted to the club. The motion passed and gradually the financial situation brightened and the mortgage was burned. The admission age was changed to 21 again.
At the end of the thirties, naturalization and citizenship ceased to be an issue
since by now most of the Franco-American population was native born and in December 1942,
the Comite Permanent closed its books. The
Club Social de Pawtucketville had been a member to the end.
Political activities at the club were unabated however. The hall was regularly given to the Republican City
Committee meetings, since if you were Franco-American you were Republican. Candidates nights drew crowds and during
fellow member Dewey Archambaults mayoral campaign in 1933 and 1935, activity was at
a fever pitch. The club officially campaigned
in his favor and when he became in 1936
In 1925, the section of Pawtucketville from Beaver brook to
With the change to Plan E and the elimination of ward councilors, the
political importance of the club diminished, since all councilors were elected at large. Most of the Plan E Franco-American councilors and
school committeemen were members of the club. Pawtucketville,
along with Centralville, is one of the strongest, most homogeneous Franco-American
When Plan E was adopted reorganizing the citys political structure, the leading Franco-Americans formed LUnion Franco-Americaine in 1943, composed of delegations from all of Lowells French associations. LUnions purpose was to organize and marshal the Franco-Americans political force and activities in line with the new system to insure that there would be adequate French representation in the citys elective offices. The Club Social was a sustaining member until LUnions demise in 1957.
Gradually, however, the clubs interest in politics waned. One of its last official acts in this domain took
place in October 1952 when, at the suggestion of William Patenaude, member of the school
committee, a letter was sent to the mayor and each school committeeman recommending that
club member Gerald Leblanc be named principal of the
of its past and of its accomplishments, the members organized on Wednesday, November 19,
1937 at C.M.A.C. hall a banquet to celebrate the clubs 40th anniversary. Under the able direction of toastmaster Joseph
Montminy, mayor Archambault presented the citys greetings, Pere Gaston LeHouiller,
O.M.I. represented the parish, Atty. Alphee Achin toasted les dames, Antoine
Clement, editor of
Proud of its past and of its accomplishments, the members organized on Wednesday, November 19, 1937 at C.M.A.C. hall a banquet to celebrate the clubs 40th anniversary. Under the able direction of toastmaster Joseph Montminy, mayor Archambault presented the citys greetings, Pere Gaston LeHouiller, O.M.I. represented the parish, Atty. Alphee Achin toasted les dames, Antoine Clement, editor ofLEtoile spoke for the press and Arthur Giroux reminisced about the club. Joseph Payette was president of the banquet. Anniversary year officers were: president Joseph Payette, vice-president Armand Dupont, treasurer Arthur Giroux, assistant treasurer Georges Blazon, secretary Maurice Drouin, assistant secretary, Armand Desloges, librarian Raymond Caron, hall attendant Alphonse Banville; finance committee Pierre Leblanc, Josaphat Sawyer, Leo Bilodeau; hall committee Charles Geoffroy, Georges Perreault, Alfred Chandonnet; liquor committee Alexandre Bolduc, Arthur Giroux, Rodolphe Beauchesne and Origene Descoteaux.
The unique spirit of harmony and cooperation which exists in the club is in large
part due to its character as a neighborhood organization.
As a neighborhood club for Franco-Americans, this means that most of the members
probably grew up together, went to school together and go to church together. Every one knows everyone else aside from club
meetings. It is this community spirit which
enabled the club to endure seventy-five years and it is this spirit which was manifested
In 1919, the club had joined with all of the other Franco-American organizations in
the general committee to welcome back the Franco-American war veterans. This time however it organized its own
celebration. Four hundred persons gathered at
the Lowell Memorial Auditorium to honor the clubs veterans. Forty-one veterans held membership when the war
began while 200 other veterans became members after joining the armed services. The
charter veterans, as they were known, were each presented a billfold, suitably
engraved, by committee chairman Alfred Lacourse while committee secretary Tancrede
Blanchette read the list. These veterans
occupied special tables on the stage. All 241
veterans were guests of the club at the banquet. Lucien
Brunelle, national vice-president of the 40 and 8 organization was toastmaster of the
affair. A special tribute was paid at the
banquet to the memory of Arthur Descheneaux, the only club member to die in action and
grandson of club founder Rodrick Descheneaux. In
February 1949, a portrait of Arthur Descheneaux was placed in memoriam in the clubs
hall. An honor roll of all the veterans still
hangs in the club also.
spirit was still high. Recommendations were
still being made for the betterment of Pawtucketville and in January 1956 a letter was
sent to City Manager Frank Barrett asking for a traffic survey of
club has never forgotten its origin and that it is Franco-American. Apart from the social side of the French
temperament-zest of life, joviality and spontaneity manifested in the Mardi Gras
celebrations, the New Years eve parties and the annual picnic in August, the club has
always encouraged Franco-American activities and institutions. Since its opening in 1910, Ste. Jeanne dArc
school has benefited yearly from the clubs generosity in end of the year prizes,
$100 in 1947 and $50 yearly ever since. A $500
stained glass window was given to Ste. Jeanne dArc church in 1945, almost $4,000 was
contributed to the construction of the parish school and sizeable contributions were made
to the convent and rectory building funds. Particularly
interested in youth, the club made yearly contributions to the C.Y.O., the Boy Scouts and
in the 1940s and 1950s to the Garde Ste. Jeanne dArc. Thousands of dollars were also donated over the
years to lOrphelinat Franco-Américain,
members being for the most part parishioners of Ste. Jeanne dArc, in August 1955,
the tradition of the annual communion breakfast in honor of deceased members was
inaugurated. The march to the church from the
club quarters began at
under the direction of Lucien Brunelle with Donald Brunelle and Gustave Mineau as aides. Color bearers were Walter Lajeunesse and Armand
Desmarais. Armand Geoffroy, Armand Dupont, Leo
and Roger Desrochers were altar boys. Following
taps and a flag raising, everyone adjoined to the parish hall for a conférence
its inception in 1929 to its demise in 1957, the club was an annual subscriber to
activities over the years have been numerous but most of the outdoor sports began in the
1930s. From its inception, whist,
cribbage, pool and checker tournaments were club mainstays,
with the first whist contests between the Club Social and the Association
Catholique held in 1899. As late as 1949 and
1950, a mammoth pool, card and bowling tournament was organized with the Club Duvernay in
In the 1920s, tug of war teams were springing up all over the city and in 1928 the club organized its own and bought the necessary belts and sweaters. Under Ulric Turgeon as captain from 1928-1929, the team won a silver trophy from the Dracut Naturalization Club in July 1928. Alexis Morin succeeded Turgeon as captain in 1929 and kept the team going a few years more until its disbandment.
then the new bowling alleys, installed in 1928 had everyones attention. Bowling leagues multiplied and outside competition
was invited. The clubs bowling league
remains active and still holds its bowling awards night.
In October 1949, when, due to expansion, the four alleys were removed and
sold to the C.M.A.C of
as an organized activity appeared on the scene in January 1931 when a committee composed
of William Dupont, Joseph Payette, Léo
and Armand Dupont organized a league. The
first attempt was more or less informal and short lived.
Therefore, in March 1947, Edouard Ayotte, Wilde Chaput, Leon Fontaine,
Albert Lemay and Arthur Roberge organized another baseball league. Admitted to the Lowell Twilight League, the club
league became rather renowned and played all over
lifelong member of the club and a WWII veteran, he starred in three sports at Keith
Academy during the early 1930s and went on to play professional baseball with
Bradford, Evansville and Hartford before being called
up to the Boston Braves in 1941. He
played in 177 major league games with the Braves as an infielder under such managers as
Casey Stengel and Billy Southworth, through the 1946 season and continued his baseball
the mid 1960s the club also had an active volleyball league which lasted until about
1966 and played in Fels playground, renovated by the city for the purpose. Special mention should be made also of the hunting
instinct. Many club members were avid woodsmen
and in the 1930s, the annual venison stew was eagerly awaited. Usually, Peter Beauchesne went hunting with friends
and the members partook of his expertise. The
1947, the club had 500 members and $40,371.06 in the bank.
Many returning veterans had joined the club and membership was on the rise
again. In October 1947 alone, 52 new members
were admitted. The question of enlarging the
club by adding a new wing on the back of the building had often been discussed, but the
finances were inadequate. Instead of building,
the bowling lanes were removed and Joseph Payette vacated his store. Finally in November 1949, a construction committee
new hall was officially inaugurated
constantly increased, 103 members admitted in March 1956, and the club prospered. A new brick façade was added to the building in
1958. The Franco-American population of
Pawtucketville began to rise again as the Northern Canal Urban Renewal project got under
way. In 1959, there were about 5,000
Franco-Americans in Pawtucketville, and now in 1972 they number about 5,800. In anticipation of eventual further expansion, land
was purchased on
Today the Pawtucketville Social Club has close to one thousand members and looks to the future confident in its continued spirit of service to the community and fidelity to the Franco-American ideals laid down by its founders 75 years ago.
In July 1997 the Pawtucketville Social Club celebrated its 100th anniversary without fanfare at the club quarters. The one-day event included a cookout, dancing to live music and a catered dinner.
Today, in March of 2004, the club is situated in the shadows of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, north campus, a neighborhood plagued with a lack of parking. As a result members must either walk or face the aggravation of trying to find a precious parking space.
Membership today stands at almost 200.