The Calumet Club, Le Club Calumet, Franco-Ame
rican, Maine Quebec, French-spe aking,
Back in high school, most of my girlfriends lived in North Augusta, on Sand Hill (or as I called it: Augusta’s “French Quarter”). I have many happy, hilarious memories of times spent at homes on “The Hill” and events at “The Club”.
The Calumet Club, Augusta Maine’s Franco-American organization has recently been celebrating and commemorating their 90+ years of existence! I was excited and honored to paint, along with Corliss Chastain and Lisa Lancaster, a mural that tells their story. The mural was recently unveiled at a formal ceremony to much applause and many eyes filled with tears! We artists were each given a bouquet of long-stemmed roses!
In 1922, back in the days when French-speaking folks endured much discrimination here in Maine, there were 22 local men who got together to form an organization that would serve to support both the French community and reach out to the larger community, while celebrating the French language, heritage and culture. They held their first meetings in a downtown shoe store.
On the now completed mural, 1922 and other important years, symbols, and images are visible. The young Franco-American organization used other downtown buildings for club meetings at various times, and for a number of years a building on Kendall St. provided a larger venue to house their suppers, receptions, parties and other events.
In 1952, on West River Road, the new large clubhouse which is still in use today was erected.
These buildings are included in our mural, along with the Harold Alfond Cancer Center, and the new Maine General Hospital, which Le Club Calumet funds helped to build.
Also included are the Edwards Manufacturing Co.’s Bate’s Mill, which for decades employed many, and of course St. Augustine’s Church and school, all of which have figured prominently in the lives of many local Franco-Americans.
On the right hand side of the center, a stone column shows 1988 – the year when men who lacked French surnames, but had French mothers, were allowed to join.
In 2002 WOMEN were allowed to join and next to that year’s column, Corliss painted two women members, one showing her new purple membership card, in front of the new club house.
The welcoming “Bienvenue” and the phrase “UNIS POUR TOUJOURS” are prominently shown, as is the statement of purpose on which the organization (and the figures in the mural) are standing. The club’s emblem is shown on the middle arch’s keystone, the “Medal of Honor” on the right keystone, and the keystone on the left arch illustrates their education/scholarship fund; American, French, Canadian and Maine flags are flown.
The club has been a big supporter of area baseball and the mural shows little league players and one of their baseball diamonds. Viewers will recognize that the little girl feeding the squirrel is wearing St. Augustine’s School’s traditional uniform. Many in the community have memories that awaken when they see the representation of the Racateurs, their award-winning drum and bugle corp, who even performed at a World’s Fair!
The design was created from a long list of elements that the mural committee had given us.
During alternate summers, Le Club Calumet hosts “Le Festival de la Bastille”, replete with lively Cajun music, dancers in traditional attire, and a fireworks display. Using the design element of stone arches, with “carved” images and dates provided a solid framework for the mural, and the images of Bastille Days’ revelry served to exemplify the celebratory spirit of Augusta’s Le Club Calumet!
We also received expert help with this mural on a few evenings, from Steve Kenna-Moore and Rich Entel.
A big THANK YOU goes out to each of them!!