“We’re not looking for trouble, we just want to have fun, we like the trip, the meeting of pretty girls, a beer from time to time, etc”Po-Pol, Playboys MC
Before they were Hells, even before the Gitans, they were The Dirty Reich. This isn’t going back as far as the Montreal Irish Red Hand Gang, but it’s pretty far back – 50 years, the 1960s. Georges “Bo-Boy” Beaulieu, the de-facto president of The Gitans who rose to prominence in the Hells Angels, was, at first, a member of The Dirty Reich.
The Gitans/Gypsies first formed as the Dirty Reich in the early 1960s. They changed their gang name to Gitans in 1970. They were allowed to patch over to be the Sherbrooke /Lennoxville Hells Angels on December 5, 1984. Then on May 24, 1985 we have the massacre of Laval chapter members at the Lennoxville bunker, and there you have a very brief history of the evolution of The Dirty Reich.
Going back even further, we find that the Dirty Reich actually spun off from an early version of what would become the Gitans number one rivals, The Atomes. So The Atomes begat The Dirty Reich begat The Gitans, then patched over to The Hells Angels. The earliest written evidence of The Dirty Reich appeared in a 1968 La Tribune article documenting a meeting in Sherbrooke between the Dirty Reich and an MC out of Montreal, The Playboys.
The Playboys came to Sherbrooke for a Saturday meeting with the Dirty Reich, at which a reporter was permitted to sit in and take notes. For their leader, Po-Pol, Sherbrooke was a bad memory. The last time they cruised through, the local police hassled Po-Pol and fellow members, Ronnie, Ti-Bob, Bonnie, Francisco, Jean and Luc. After reading this article, I have to admit, I was beginning to believe I had misunderstood the bikers:
“They travel together on the weekends. They laugh all the time. They live in Montreal but never spend time there. They have been as far as Percé, in Gaspesie. They promise to return to Boston in every week. Their only passion: their bike – that it is in order and in good condition.
They only live according to this motorized machine which represents freedom and escape for them….
For them, it’s friends and the motorbike…. They affirm indeed that their main motto is: “All for one, one for all” and they are ready to come to each’s aid.…
Bikers do not try to cause trouble. They want to ride a motorbike and sail in the open air, that’s all. Besides, when they leave like this for a weekend or even a few days, they admit wanting to take the fresh air, to sleep under the stars, under a bridge in a barn or an abandoned house.On ne cherche pas le trouble: on veut tout simplement avoir du plaisir, La Tribune, September 15, 1968
The council at Rivendell didn’t see such fellowship. The Tribune article documents what was an early, carefully crafted myth about bikers: They were misunderstood, and unfairly villainized. According to Po-Pol, your average biker was a harmless libertine like Authur Rimbaud. If he had enough to quench his appetite, a bike to ride, an abandoned barn in which to rest his weary head after a long day’s ride, then he was content. Or maybe they were like wild animals; if you didn’t mess with the bikers then the bikers wouldn’t mess with you and society. Except that most bikers weren’t average. They didn’t mind preying off society, stealing property and cashing pensioners welfare checks, as documented in the CECO report – a jug of wine, a line of coke and thou.
Despite apologies years later like ‘we didn’t know’ and ‘it was a few bad apples’, the La Tribune article demonstrates very clearly that the press, police and society were being fleeced from the very beginning. Witness this article from the spring of 1969 which must have gotten lost amidst all the giddy excitement over the moon shot:
A young priest from Sherbrooke will wear a leather jacket and the crest of the “Dirty Reich” motorcycle club
La Tribune – May 21, 1969
Father Jean Salvail, vicar at Ste Famille parish in Sherbrooke, and chaplain for the Dirty Reich motorcycle club, has no intention of imposing himself.
“Like all movements of young people, we must not be accepted, we must be desired; it is the same thing with the “bikers””.
Father Salvail said it is important that he be able to take part in the club’s outings, and that he is present at their meetings.
“You have to be close to these young people and know them well”, continues Abbe Salvail, “to realize that the outward appearance is very deceptive and that they are far from being as too many people imagine them. ”
A group of Dirty Reich club members, asked what they expect from the chaplain, first insisted that Father Salvail is first and foremost a friend, that they did not know he was a priest during their first meeting.
The bikers added that he is an adviser, a guy who knows them well and who thinks more than them.
Thus the members of the Dirty Reich club specified that Father Salvail had acted as an intermediary with the parents of their friend Andre Coulombe who lost his life in a motorcycle accident during the weekend.
Explains Marcel “Frank” Thibault, vice-president of the Dirty Reich club, “We were squeamish, and we didn’t have enough psychology to talk to Andre’s parents and convince them to let us participate in the funeral.”
The few Dirty Reich members present all agreed on one point; Father Salvail knows them well, they are more at ease with him, which makes him better able to advise them when problems arise.
In The Club
During an interview, Father Salvail specified that the decision to become chaplain to the bikers was not taken immediately.
Ordained a priest less than a year ago, Father Salvail met the bikers on several occasions, then he was asked “Are you “game” to board with us?“
Since then, he has attended a few biker meetings and meetings have even taken place in the basement of the church.
“Make no mistake about it”, explains Abbé Salvail: “the members of the Dirty Reich club want to be at peace and they don’t want to trouble anyone ”
Father Salvail explained that bikers realize that when several of them meet at one place, everyone is uncomfortable and many are afraid. It is for this reason, he said, that steps will be taken with the municipal authorities of Sherbrooke, in order to obtain financial assistance that could allow the acquisition of a house outside the city, where all the members of the Dirty Reich club might get together. The members of the club know that the municipal authorities of Granby have contributed a grant to set up “Les Québécois”, a biker club of this city, in a building outside the city. They would like the same thing in Sherbrooke as a contribution to the organization for leisure activities for young people.
Yesterday, Gingras et Fils Ltée lent a motorcycle to Father Salvail and it will be available to the young priest as long as he acts as chaplain to the bikers. The firm will also take care of the maintenance of Abbé Salvail’s motorcycle. The latter welcomed the news with joy, but the joy was even greater among the members of the Dirty Reich club.
Father Salvail said he wants to dress like the members of the Dirty Reich club. “I want to wear ‘jeans’ like them, a jacket and most importantly the club crest.”
The name of their club, he said, is very important to them and they see to it that they conduct themselves well so as not to sully that name.”
Abbe Salvail’s jacket will have the small “chaplain” crest, at the very request of the members. The chaplain added that his presence in the club had the effect of overcoming the objections of several relatives. who did not value their son being part of the club.
“Finally,” he said, “I could allow myself to be more present with them. when I get to know them better.”
There is so much to digest here. Who was this Father Jean Salvail? As the article states, he was a young priest with the Ste. Famille parish in Sherbrooke who believed his ministry should be fulfilled in the community. In this way, working with the early biker gangs, he was not unlike John Dalzell, the Montreal cop who In April 1969 – one month earlier than the publication of this article – launched La MUQ or Association of United Motorcyclists of Quebec / La Fédération des Motocyclistes unis du Québec, one of Quebec’s earliest community policing programs.
Efforts by people like Dalzell and Salvail would have had the effect of instantly legitimizing biker culture at a time when the gangs were eager to establish a foothold in Quebec communities. As the article suggests, if you were a parent, and you were having doubts about the people your son was associating with – but then not only the police, but your priest told you there was nothing to worry about, you wouldn’t question the authority of such figures. As well, there was the media – The Montreal Gazette, Sherbrooke’s La Tribune – promoting these olive branch initiatives as something to be desired by communities. It is not unlike, say, a parent believing there was foul-play involved in the disappearance of their daughter, but then the police and town college coming out and suggesting she was a drug addict, a lesbian or a runaway, so you should just go home and forget all about it. Everything is fine here. That’s the power of institutional influence.
I have no doubt in those early biker days there were members who genuinely only wanted to ride their bikes on weekends and be left alone. But they were easily manipulated and duped by members like “Boy-Boy” Beaulieu who knew they were taking advantage of the good graces of stooges like Father Salvail. Accepting bribes like leather jackets and a bike with free maintenance is the surest road to becoming co-opted and corrupt. Remember that Georges “Bo-Boy” Beaulieu was involved in the murders of five Hells Angles at the Lennoxville bunker in 1985 (the Lennoxville Massacre or Sleeping-Bag Murders). In 1988 he was arrested in Amsterdam and extradited back to Canada, where he pled guilty for his involvement in those five murders.
We don’t hear of Father Salvail again, he’s involved in community work until about 1972, and then he drops off the radar. We can only speculate as to the reason; I wonder if he eventually saw the light that he had been used as a tool. Less than five years later in 1974, Atoms and Gitans were literally shooting it out in the downtown streets of Sherbrooke. I can’t imagine by then any resident of Sherbrooke would have had tolerance for Salvail’s sermon that bikers “want to be at peace and they don’t want to trouble anyone.”
Father Salvail wasn’t quite finished with his do-good ministry for The Dirty Reich. He would re-emerge in the fall of 1969 with a show-stopper – this P.T. Barnum man-of-the-cloth bringing the Eastern Townships the greatest shit-show on earth. It’s some kind of church voodoo fuckery.
But that is a story we will bring you next time.