The St. Lawrence River

Heritage

A unusual place to swim

The proximity of the St. Lawrence River is apparent in Saint-Lambert’s landscape. Rewind to an activity that used to bring the people of Saint-Lambert together along this stretch of water: swimming. 

Hubert Brault talks about Saint-Lambert’s beach and its historic link with the St. Lawrence River 
Excerpts from an interview, December 6, 2016

The following text consists of excerpts retranscribed from an interview with Hubert Brault, a longtime Saint-Lambert resident who was born here in the 1930s. Some sentences have been reworded for easier reading. Read about those bygone days and picture Saint-Lambert as it once was. It’s as if you were there in person!

“In the summertime, it was easier to access the river in two places. At the Boating Club, opposite Fort Street, there were steps leading right down to the river. We used to go there to watch canoe races. A little further east, just before the Knights of Columbus building, there was another way down to the river. You need to know that there was a huge cement breakwater running from Victoria Bridge as far as Argyle Street. It was there to stop the ice from coming up into the streets when water levels rose during the spring thaw.

Fishing in the river was also a popular activity. From Argyle Street to Lorne Street, the riverbank had also been cemented, so it formed a cement beach. At the end of this platform, in the summer, the lifeguards would put in wooden boardwalks. It was sort of shaped like an H. It made two squares, one for girls and one for boys.  

Further along, the current was stronger. In order to hold swimming races, the lifeguards built a wooden wall between the two boardwalks to prevent the current from passing through. A little further east, there was the diving board where you could dive. The current was stronger there, and if you weren’t careful, you could get carried away under the diving board.” 

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The promenade: a meeting place 

Above the beach was the promenade. It was a beautiful promenade. That was where teenagers and youngsters would go for walks in the evening. We used to call it the boardwalk. We would go there, right beside the water. We’d climb off our bikes and just watch. We’d watch the people swimming, but mostly we’d watch the guys . . . and the girls... who were also watching. It was a way to meet people because everyone used to hang out there in the evening. The boys would try to talk to the girls they liked. It was a place where everyone could go to the water’s edge. There was a clear view as far as Montreal. It was really beautiful at sunset.”