Simone interviewing Piaf in the 50s
Simone Bussières Shares ( Aiden Roberts)
This writer had the opportunity recently to engage in a conversation with Simone Bussière, a long-time resident of the district of St. Sacrement here in Quebec City. In chatting with Mme Bussière one quickly realizes that we are in the presence of a person who has led a rich and varied life.
She was born Simone Gagnon on June 8, 1918 and grew up under very modest circumstances in St. Roch. Her father who worked as a barber died when she was five and this left her mother, Simone and her younger sister in a very precarious situation. However, despite her humble beginnings this dynamic lady has gone on to lead a very rich and exciting life.
When she was in her young 20s she left Quebec City to teach in Val d’Espoir in the Gaspe region. In addition to her teaching duties, the young teacher worked part-time at a radio station in New Carisle.
In 1945 she returned to Quebec City, and married before settling in Montreal. After the premature death of her husband Simone returned to Quebec City and resumed teaching. She would go to on to have a very successful career in this field. She wrote a series of manuals that were used to teach and instill in children the joy of reading, Simone would eventually become Directory of Elementary Education with the Catholic School Board. In this era it was rare that a lay person especially a female would rise to such a high position in the educational hierarchy.
While fulfilling her duties as a teacher and later administrator she also worked at a popular radio station, CHRC, where she created and sometimes performed in educational programming. For five years she was the popular Tante Colette and delighted children by her story telling abilities. She also wrote the texts for different variety shows such as Chansons vécues et Comment parlons-nous.
It was while working for CHRC in the early fifties that Simone had the opportunity to interview the great French singing sensation, Edith Piaf, while the much-loved songstress was staying at an apartment on Rue Murray. Simone has shared one of the pictures taken of Piaf while being interviewed by her for listeners of CHRC. It was one of Mme Bussière’s rare celebrity interviews. When her boss suggested that she do other such interviews she declined as she felt that in order to interview people of such caliber one needed to be very prepared and was not something to be done on the spur of the moment. However, later on in her life she did get the opportunity to visit and interview one of her favorite authors, Marguerite Yourcenar, the first female member of the French Academy.
Simone also had the opportunity to work on TV. From 1956 to 1960 this dynamic personality also found time to write, host, and direct educational game shows for CFCM-TV such as Les Jeunes Talents. While being involved in teaching and broadcasting, Simone found time to write her first novel, L’Héritier in 1951. Much later she would publish other personal works of fiction, but not before setting up her own publishing house, Les Presses laurentiennes in 1963 which she ran from her magnificient residence in Notre Dame des Laurentide. It was where she also entertained some of the writing celebrities of the day including Gabrielle Roy who she often socialized with as they shared the same circle of friends.
Mme Bussières retired from teaching in 1968 but continued on managing her publishing house until 1988. In 1981 she established a literary prize for the short story, the Adrienne Choquette award, in honor of her best friend a prominent Quebec writer. The prize goes to the writer of a short story collection written in French and published in Canada. She remained very active in the Quebec City literary world even after selling her publishing house. In 1999 her second novel La Pyramide des morts was published, and in 2000 L’Enfant d’Aube came out. For her 95th birthday she completed yet another novel which she entitled La Coupe broyée which she had printed herself in a limited edition and generously presented to her family and friends.
For her next big project she is planning on writing her memoirs. Judging by her collection of memorbilia including a large selection of photos she has accumulated over the years, her multitude of experiences as teacher, administrator, radio and TV host, writer, editor, and her many interesting encounters, her memoirs promise to be of interest to a large reading public.
( Note: I met Mme Bussières during my many visits to Claire Martin. Simone was a neighbor of Claire’s for many years. They lived in the same apartment building. Simone kept an eye out for Claire’s well-being especially in the last years of Claire’s life. When I would phone Claire and could not get an answer, I could always count on Mme Bussières to go and check to see what the problem was. She was always there for her friend.)