Walking through the old streets of the Le Vieux-Hull sometimes makes one wonder how life was at the turn of the twentieth century. Walking on the brick pathway of Aubry St. and come across the historic hotel Chez Henri in Place Aubry, where the renowned Al Capone smuggled booze, one speculates just how wild the Roaring Twenties were.
While those days are long gone, on the night of the 26 of October these crazy years were relived during the Noble Experiment as the first edition of La Nuit Folle took place in Hull. Organized by Vision centre-ville Gatineau and its partners, the night’s theme focused on the 1920’s and 40’s. Those years were Hull’s epopee as Americans yearned for booze and Quebecers couldn’t get enough of it. During this time the region matured into Sin City as southerners fled the Volstead Act. Many commercial activities and establishments developed around bootlegging like gambling houses, cabarets and clubs attracting famous names such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.
After the prohibition era, Hull faced a severe hang-over and with no available cure, the City succumbed to social problems such as drugs, prostitution and unemployment. Now, the revamped Hull, after expropriations, construction of major boulevards and erection of government complexes, is now trying to get back on its feet after withstanding a serious make-over. “The goal of this night is to restore a positive image of the Old-Hull,” said Marie-Ève Gratton, communication coordinator for the event. The whole night was also a collective effort to charm the delegates from Bienvenue Québec in town this week, to have Le Vieux-Hull become a recognized Québec tourist destination.
The representatives of Bienvenue Québec witnessed Hull’s transformation as residents disguised themselves in costumes of the era wearing top hats, long coats and suspenders. “The theme of the night was also to celebrate the working class culture of the area and its rich history,” said Gratton. A slideshow of old black and white picture’s in Place Aubry gave you an idea of what life resembled in the interwar period. You also had an idea of the prices of the time with signs advertising 5¢ shoe-shines and 25¢ haircuts, unfortunately beer remained at regular price.
All the bars and bistro’s in the area organized activities for the night. Pêle Mêle showcased an old black and white hockey game, the Troquet screened the Kino and Robe summer Slam free Jazz movie, 4 jeudis welcomed Hammerhead, a funk-rock band while the Petit Chicago hosted a Blues night. As for the Où…Quoi! Lounge Urbain it hosted the L’Omnium du Rock competition. There was also a 1920’s Halloween theme night at the Bistro and a cabaret theme night at the Bop Lounge. “I’m really happy that and all the bars collaborated with the event,” said Gratton. The bars were as busy as speakeasy’s and racked in a decent amount of money on a night which wouldn’t see as much cash and beer flow. Hopefully, the money will be re-invested into the community to see the return of the good old days in Little Chicago.