Les Millionaires Sont La!
Recording the extraordinary story of the boilermaker who yelled himself to fame and fortune
THIS is the odd story of a man who used to be a boilermaker—that was only four years ago—and who is now well on his way to become a plutocrat and a fashioner of his country’s laws. You will say that in this Canada of ours, so filled with opportunity, so fruitful of reward for the deserving, there is nothing at all odd about that; but the unusual feature of this case is that this clever, small man has attained his present eminence in his community—which is a very considerable eminence in a very considerable community—chiefly by virtue of an abnormally stout pair of lungs, plus an enthusiasm for applying them zealously on behalf of certain professional athletes whose cause he champions.
He has, in fact, yelled himself into fame and fortune. He hitched his wagon, not to a star, but to a constellation. He has made cheer leading, hitherto purely an amateur sport into a profession, and he has done very well at it. As far as the not inconsiderable experience of this reporter goes, this is unique achievement and worthy of note, especially as the chances are that during the next few years Canada’s only professional cheer leader will do still better for himself. His real career, as yet, has hardly been launched.
The Boilermaker Sets an Idea.
rPHE shrewd gentleman under consideration is M. ± Adrien Doucet, and he is President of Le Club des Millionaires, which, in case your French is rusty, means “The Millionaires’ Club.’’ The Millionaires’ Club has handsome headquarters in a seventeen-room mansion on St. Denis Street, in Montreal.
Do not be alarmed. This is no sycophantic hymn in praise of predatory wealth. True, M. Adrien Doucet is on his way to comfortable affluence, but he is a long way yet from being a millionaire, and the members of his Millionaires’ Club are working folk, even as you and I. Boilermakers, teamsters, carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, tinsmiths, clerks, plasterers, riveters, printers, chauffeurs and mechanics: these make up the membership roll of The Millionaires’ Club. A university degree and the ability to wear evening clothes are no bar to membership, for these millionaires are a democratic crowd; but they are no special recommendation, either.
Inevitably, this unique organization would be the creation of a French-Canadian. It is unlikely that a Scot or an Englishman could have conceived the bizarre notion in the first place. An Irishman might have entertained the idea, but he would probably have lacked the ambition to carry it through to its present assured position. This queer performance required the combination of a sense of dramatic values, organizing ability, zeal for chosen causes, and unlimited patience. These are attributes which the French-Canadian possesses above all others.
The tale begins with M. Adrien Doucet banging lustily away in the boiler department of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Angus Shops in Montreal four years ago. Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing—and sweating with M. Adrien Doucet at that time were three familiars: his brother, M. Romeo Doucet, and two chums, M. Rosaire Beauchemin and M. Alfred Bouchard.
Conversation, even among the volatile and loquacious French-Canadians, is difficult amid the hideous cacophonies inevitable in a boiler shop, but there are lunch hours, and during those cheerful recesses the Messieurs Doucet, Beauchemin and Bouchard foregathered over their dinner pails and discussed this and that matter of public interest at length and animatedly, as is the sprightly habit of their race.
At this time, being late autumn, the talk was chiefly of hockey. Since Mr. Sam Lichtenheim had sorrowfully closed his unbalanced ledgers on the mournful affairs of the Wanderer Hockey Club many years previously, there had been no English professional hockey team in Montreal. That sparkling French-Canadian organization, Les Canadiens, had been for many winters the sole representatives of Canada’s great winter sport which • Montreal had been able to enter in the National Hockey League’s tournaments; but now things were going to be different.
In the west end of the city a mighty new rink was building. James Strachan and a small group of wealthy lovers of the game had organized a new club, bidding for the support of the English-speaking hockey fans of the bilingual metropolis. This was to be known as Maroons, and its athletes would perform in the Forum, the new rink. By all odds the approaching season promised to be the most interesting Montreal had seen for many a dull winter. The old and inevitable racial rivalry would be revived. Stirring times were ahead. M. Adrien Doucet spoke up:
“But, we must of course this season attend every game in. which; our. Canadiens are concerned, no?”
“It is expensive, this life sporting,” sighed his younger brother.
“For expense, pouf!” replied M. Adrien Doucet,. “At this new rink, Le Forum, there are to be no reserved seats whatever in the north end. It is to be what they call in English a crash-thegate. For fifty cents each, if we are early, and do not care much about having our toes trodden upon, we are able to witness every contest and cheer Les Canadiens on to victory. I say, we will make a promise here, the four of us, to visit every battle in which Canadiens are occupied. Yes?”
“Les Canadiens sont là!” declaimed M. Rosaire Beauchemin fervently. So the bargain was struck.
UPON the first occasion that Canadiens met their newly established intracity rivals in the huge new Forum, spectators within earshot of the north end section were aware of the presence of four young men, possessed, it seemed, of lungs of brass and throats of chilled steel who whooped and yelled, and shouted and shrieked and applauded and sang, and howled and bellowed at every turn of the game. They made more noise than any other forty people in the rink combined, and their frenzied cheers and acrobatic antics on behalf of their favorites attracted the amused and slightly superior interest of thousands of aristocratic, but only mildly enthusiastic supporters of the Maroons, seated in boxes, on promenade chairs and reserved pews within sight and sound of these peculiar pyrotechnics.
“You have to hand it to those Frenchmen. When they tie to a team, they sure do support ’em,” was a comment frequently heard after that game.
Now, this is fact. Your average English-speaking Canadian, sincerely interested as he may be in sport, is inhibited to a degree when it comes to making what he considers a public exhibition of himself.
Not so the French-Canadian. By no means. By racial temperament ardent in love, in politics, and in sport, he is the whole-hearted zealot, the blazing flame, the pale martyr with his soul on fire. In victory he is exalted. In defeat he plumbs the depths of despair.
Sere and sardonic English spectators át Canadien hockey games might elevate their sharp, chilled noses as they observed what they considered the mountebank antics of M. Adrien Doucet, M. Romeo Doucet, M. Rosaire Beauchemin, and M. Alfred Bouchard. That valiant quartette was not in the least concerned with what any of the high-hat Anglais might be thinking about them. It is doubtful if the idea that some of the aristocratic patrons of the exclusive . private box set frequenting the Forum considered them more than a bit of a nuisance, ever entered their heads; but if it did, be sure that they didn’t care. They were having fun. Canadiens were winning. The world was a bright pink satin-lined place in which all was well. “Les Canadiens sont là: Hourrah! Vive
Morenz! Vive Joliat! Vive Gagne! Vive everything !"
THERE were plenty of others who agreed with the frantic four in their interpretation of the philosophy of how to support a hockey team. Before the season was half over, the original quartette had grown to a dozen, then to a score. Adrien, a man possessed of a keen sense of theatrical values, one evening rented a red, white and blue sweater from a grubby youth who chanced to be seated beside him. The rental was one dollar, but the idea which the incident generated was worth many times the price. Adrien went into conference with M. Leo Dandurand, the affable executive head of Les Canadiens, and from M. Dandurand obtained for the use of his squad of leather lungs a number of cast-off Canadien jerseys. He bought tricolored tuques for a chosen few and, thereafter, at every Canadien game you could see M. Adrien Doucet arrayed in a glory more vivid than Solomon’s, standing before his faithful followers, waving a baton in fashion more frenzied than the wildest antics of John Phillip Sousa, singing, yelling, and waving his arms in a series of maniac acrobatics which he had never before achieved. Overnight, Adrien and his Merry Men became an Institution.
Sports writers, observing in the course of their routine visits to the Forum that something new in the way of rooting was developing in the North End, made casual references from time to time anent the more extravagant antics of M. Adrien Doucet and his little group of serious shouters. The boys spoke of them brightly as the “North-Enders,” the “RushEnders,” and the “Fifty-Centers.”
It was Peter Spanj aardt, veteran sporting editor of the Montreal Star and dean of Montreal sports writers, who first dubbed them in a moment of satiric inspiration “The Millionaires.” The title caught and stuck. M. Adrien Doucet and his cohorts took it unto themselves, hugged it to their bosoms, approving it heartily. “The Millionaires” they have been ever since.
Naturally, since the English papers found them worthy of public mention, the French press hailed them enthusiastically. . M. Adrien Doucet, the boilermaker of Angus Shops, tasted the piquant flavor of publicity and found it pleasant upon his tongue. He began to keep a scrap book. When a boilermaker keeps a scrap book his days in the boiler shop are numbered.
Among his following Adrien discovered individuals with talent in varying degree. Some of them could really sing. He organized a male chorus. Some of them could play the cornet, the French horn, the saxophone; and a raft of large muscled chaps professed an enthusiasm for banging the big bass drum. He organized a band. In this fashion did M. Adrien Doucet bring the college cheering section idea into professional sport for the first time in history.
The boys were intensely serious about it all. At the first Canadien game of the 1927 season the audience assembled at the Forum was treated to a performance not on the official programme. Following the customary patriotic procedure, players stood at attention, sticks extended on the ice, while the rink band played “God Save The King.” The spectators, of course, stood. As the last strains died away, and before the crowd could settle back in its seats or the referee move to face the puck, from the bright patch of tricolor behind the north goal there broke out another tune.
Perhaps the musicians were a trifle inexpert and the grouped voices a bit off pitch in spots, but what the melody may have lacked in finesse it made up in vigorous sincerity, for the Millionaires were singing with extended lungs their own hymn, “0 Canada!”
At first from sheer surprise, then in respectful recognition of the eminent fitness of the gesture the mass of people and players remained motionless until the song was ended. Then, as the players went into action, the audience broke into spontaneous applause. M. Adrien Doucet and his friends had made their gesture and were admired for their patriotism.
UNTIL last year the activities of the Millionaires were confined almost entirely to the winter months; but with the return of Montreal to International League baseball they pounced joyfully upon the opportunity afforded them to get behind the enterprise with all the vivid 'enthusiasms of their race and traditions. When the new Stadium opened, the Millionaires were there with their band, parading, presentingfloral' horseshoes, addresses of welcome, and offers of cash prizes for first hits, first stolen bases, first home runs, and all the rest of the paraphernalia which goes with baseball. They occupied a section of the unreserved stand between third base and the home plate, from which vantagepoint they sang French-Canadian folksongs—Alouette and Prends Un Petit Cou —mingled with the popular tunes of the day. They hurled abuse and approbation at the players and umpires, in Quebec French which neither players nor umpires could understand. The effect was immense.
They remained faithful in their allegiance throughout the summer, donating cups to players of special merit and making cash collections in the stands when the occasion seemed to call for such a gesture. On the great day when Long Tom Gulley, Montreal’s home run expert produced three circuit clouts in one game, Mr. Gulley’s spikes had hardly dented the plate on his third trip around when M. Adrien Doucet stood before him with a hatful of bills and change. The total was over a hundred dollars. Mr. Gulley highly approves “The Millionaires” as an institution.
When at the end of the season George Herman Ruth, baseball’s mighty behemoth of swat, visited the Stadium with his side kick, Lou Gehrig, for an exhibition frolic, the Millionaires took charge of the ceremonies, paraded, whooped, made presentations and sang. At the opening of the present season they were again on the job, adding color and excitement to the proceedings.
There is no limit to the activities of these zealots for sport. They make outof-town trips to Ottawa, Toronto, Boston and New York in support of their pet athletes. They give cups by the dozen for competition among French-Canadian schoolboy teams, organize track meets and school leagues. Perhaps the most notable if the least spectacular of their enterprises is the establishment of free ^tuition classes in the English language for French-Canadian adults who are unable to speak that tongue. Last winter, more than a hundred French-Canadian men and women attended these courses.
Until’ last fall, the Millionaires were without a definite organization. Then, M. Adrien Doucet, quitting the boiler shop for ever, allied himself with M. Henri Gauthier, one of his warmest supporters and a man of modest wealth. Between them they took a five-year lease on a seventeen-room house on St. Denis Street, obtained a club charter, and incorporated Le Club des Millionaires as a commercial enterprise. There are general meeting rooms and parlors brightly furnished in glowing reds and greens and blues. Bowling alleys, billiard rooms and a gymnasium are planned for the near future. The Millionaires are, finally, there.
M. Henri Gauthier, secretary-treasurer of the club, is a rotund, genial merry gentleman, the born host. M. Adrien Doucet is wiry, spare, serious-minded and immaculately neat. It was M. Doucet who spoke recently with this reporter concerning the affairs of Le Club Des Millionaires, Inc.
“You will say for us, please,” said M. Adrien Doucet, the ex-boilermaker, “that we are interested in all sports, amateur and professional. Also in everything else which promotes healthful recreation in the community. We support baseball and hockey, and bowling, billiards, wrestling and boxing as well. We have already branches in Three Rivers and' Quebec. There will be others.”
HAVING a nasty suspicious mind, I asked M. Doucet bluntly, what there was in it for him. He looked at me thoughtfully and said:
“When we opened this club we had 2,000 members. Today we have 3,500. We shall have 5,000. That will keep us going comfortably. As for me, I am interested in sport. I am interested in this club. It is my hobby as well as my job. I started it and I am going to stay with it, let me tell you. Also, I have some ambitions, I do not mind telling you. I am married and have three children, two boys and a girl. I cannot say anything definite at present, but perhaps, who knows, some day I shall go into politics.”
Horatio Alger could not better that one. M. Adrien Doucet, four years ago a boilermaker, serious-minded, a clever organizer, thirty years old, and with an organization of 5,000 male, adult voters behind him, may be in a year or so in a position to make a considerable splash in the political pool. Keep your eye on M. Adrien Doucet. You will hear more of him later—quite a lot more.