A B C Abécédaire. Viens avec nous autour de la Terre: The Société Radio-Canada’s Tour de Terre children educational television program

A scene captured at the launch of the Jeu de l’électricité by Éditions Héritage Incorporée, Montréal, Québec, 6 November 1968. Anon., “–.” Le Devoir, 6 November 1968, 11.

Good morning, good day or good evening, my reading friend. Yours truly dares to hope that all is well in your little corner of our galaxy.

Not being sure that your encyclopedic knowledge of the world around us allows you to identify the people in the above photograph, allow me to quote its caption:

A new game for your children, a game that answers their questions, finally a game designed in Québec for our children. Launched [on the evening of 5 November 1968] by Éditions Héritage, the “jeu de l’électricité” was born out of a series of shows broadcasted every Friday on Radio-Canada television. It is like an encyclopedia that comes in the guise of a game in which parents and children alike can participate. The two hosts of this series of shows called TOUR DE TERRE were Lise Lasalle and Jean Besré who can be seen on [the above photograph] with Mr. Jean Conjusteau, supervisor of the [derivative] product department at Radio-Canada and Mr. Roger Provost, head of advertising for Hydro-Québec [or Commission hydroélectrique du Québec]. Starting this week, the “jeu de l’électricité” which includes a numbered grid sometimes representing certain achievements of Hydro-Québec (such as the Manicouagan), sometimes fines, sometimes advice on caution to be observed in the use of the electricity, will be on sale in department stores and toy shops. Parents can get it, we are told, for less than $ 4. It is a board game suitable for ages 7 to 77.

By the way, the $ 4 in 1968 meant almost $ 30 in 2020.

It should be noted that at least some copies of the Jeu de l’électricité were produced in a bilingual version, called Jeu de l’électricité / Electricity Game.

Conceived jointly by the Commission hydroélectrique du Québec (Hydro-Québec), the aforementioned Éditions Héritage Incorporée and Éditions Radio-Canada, with a sizeable contribution of the outstanding screenwriter with real popularization skills of Tour de Terre, Réjane Charpentier, said game was played with a dice and pawns in the shape of the letter Q, the symbol of the Québec state-owned firm.

It was a simple game but of good quality for the time. Accessible to people of all ages, it was mounted on a thick cardboard and illustrated in a beautiful way, in colour.

The bilingual version of the Jeu de l’électricité. Hydro-Québec.

The bilingual version of the Jeu de l’électricité. Hydro-Québec.

And yes, you are quite right. We encountered the Manicouagan River of Québec through a dam, near-mythical in the 1960s and 1970s, Manic-5, later renamed the Daniel-Johnson dam, in January 2019 and September 2020 issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee.

The reference to Homo sapiens from 7 to 77 years of age, on the other hand, was inspired by the hyper-known advertising slogan of the Belgian and French illustrated weekly Tintin, the “journal of young people aged 7 to 77” – a quasi-mythical publication mentioned in July 2018, September 2018 and March 2019 issues of our you know what.

You will undoubtedly also have noted that the date of publication of the photograph above, 6 November 1968, in a respected daily from Montréal, Québec, Le Devoir, does not correspond at all with the date of posting of this article, in December 2020. I have no intention of apologising. Nay. In fact, this week’s post in our blog / bulletin / thingee is a little Christmas present that I have the uncontained audacity to give myself in these trying times, but back to our story.

My memories of the period from 1964 to 1973 being as clear as a stout on a moonless night, I do not know how much of a regular viewer of Tour de Terre I was. Unless I’m mistaken, I saw many episodes, and…

What do you say, my reading friend? You have never heard of Tour de Terre? Shock and dismay.

As you now know, Tour de Terre is / was a weekly (Saturday or Friday) educational television show for children ages 4 to 12, it was said, a television encyclopedia of sorts, where science and technology held a primordial place, broadcasted in episodes of 30 minutes, in Québec, between January 1964 and September 1973, I think, as repeats perhaps, by the Canadian state radio television broadcaster, the Société Radio-Canada. Apart from a few episodes, broadcasted in 1968, Lise Lasalle and Jean Besré, spouse and spouse in everyday life, were the only hosts of this Québec television classic.

Would you believe that Lasalle completed 3 years of medical studies at the Université de Montréal before embarking on a career in theatre and television? She was 29 when the first episode of Tour de Terre aired. Besré was 27.

By the way, Besré played the role of a world-famous reporter on the airwaves of a Montréal radio station of the Société Radio-Canada. The first episode of Tintin au Tibet aired in October 1962. There was a quintet of 15-minute episodes per week. The format later switched to a weekly 30-minute episode. The last episode of the albums thusly broadcasted went on the air in March 1965. The title of the 16th and last album broadcasted by the Société Radio-Canada? On a marché sur la Lune. The English title of that album was / is Explorer on the Moon, by the way.

As you well know, the graphic novel hero Tintin was mentioned several times in our you know what since July 2018.

Over the years, the Tour de Terre team, led by director Gilles Sénécal, a specialist in children’s shows, tackled dozens and dozens of topics, from insects to vision and kites to the sun, the tomato, the telephone and oil. It did so through songs, sets, models, images, graphics, dialogues and crafts which were original and well suited to a clientele which adored both Lasalle and Besré. The success of the series owed a lot to the talent and hard work of the aforementioned Charpentier.

The topic of a drawing competition taking place sometime after the mid-1960s, or towards the end of the decade, holds a special place in the dusty mind of yours truly. Lasalle and Besré then asked their young viewers to design a truck. The best drawings the team received would be placed on a wall and shown in a subsequent episode of the show.

An aviation enthusiast since those distant days, yes, yes, I admit it without shame, I imagined a truck used for pilot training. When I asked my mother to put said drawing in an envelope and mail it, she made it clear that she was not impressed by my work, which was way too messed up. I guess I was not too happy, but I did redraw my truck anyway, with a ruler and one or two circular thingees or other to draw the wheels. My mother approved of this second version.

A few weeks later, during the presentation of the designs deemed most interesting by the Tour de Terre team, imagine my surprise when I saw my design and heard my name. To hear and see my reaction, my mother must have seriously wondered if her offspring had gone completely bonkers. Anyway, let’s move on.

Memory being a faculty that forgets, and I certainly wouldn’t dare to swear on a stack of volumes of Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft that my recollections are correct, yours truly received a prize in the mail a few weeks after that happy day.

What was this prize, my reading friend? A copy of the Jeu de l’électricité, you say? That is what I think, I think.

My parents donated long ago, to charity, I hope, this copy of the Jeu de l’électricité, which sat in a cupboard for many years. Hopefully, at least one young person used it before it was sent for recycling.

It was during the 27 November 1965 episode of Tour de Terre that Lasalle and Besré introduced their audience to the Jeu de l’électricité, offered free of charge to young Quebecers by Hydro-Québec. Said episode was actually the first in a 4-episode series devoted to electricity. Lasalle and Besré introduced their audience to the mysteries of electricity. She and he also taught them 7 basic safety rules to use at all times when using this form of energy.

The subject of this short series was all the more topical since a power outage which had occurred earlier in November had affected approximately 30 million people living in Québec, Ontario and 8 American states, for approximately 13 hours in some cases. Was the said series a direct consequence of said failure? I do not know, but I have to admit that I doubt it a bit.

And no, it was not unidentified flying objects (UFOs) which caused said failure. This being said (typed?), this failure may have caused light phenomena interpreted as being UFOs. Live long and prosper.

The event which must be linked to the start of the 4-episode series of Tour de Terre was the inauguration, on 29 November 1965, by the Premier of Québec, Jean Lesage, a gentleman mentioned a few times in our blog / bulletin / thingee since July 2018, of the first very high voltage (735 000 volts!) line which connected the hydroelectric complex on the aforementioned Manicouagan River, then under construction, to the rest of Québec.

No other transmission network in the world had lines of such tension. Many foreign engineers, but also (English?) Canadian ones, had to admit that the doubts expressed about the competence of the Hydro-Québec teams were unfounded, but back to our topic.

It is with sadness that I must mention that Lasalle died in October 1979. She was only 45 years old. Besré and Sénécal, on the other hand, left this world in March and February 2001, at the age of 64 and 74.

Allow me to salute their memory by offering you an episode of Tour de Terre, in French.

And if the music played at the start of the video rings a bell, it is that you probably heard it in the American cartoon The Rabbit of Seville, a classic which hit theatres in December 1950, 70 years ago, oh happy coincidence, which starred Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. Said cartoon gently mocked Il barbiere di Siviglia, ossia L’inutile precauzione, a comic opera which premiered in February 1816 composed by a composer born in what was then called the Status pontificius, or Papal state, today in Italy, Gioachino Antonio Rossini.

I will see you in the future.

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Rénald Fortier