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   September 01, 2014



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In search of 'Butcher' Vachon
By GARY HOWARD - Pembroke Daily Observer


It was inevitable that we would one day spend part of a winter vacation in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

We had sped by the turnoff to the popular resort town on numerous occasions as we ventured on to various locations in Florida. But circumstances this year dictated that our getaway would be of a shorter duration, therefore MB fit the bill even though Pierrette and I are not golfers.

There's something about beautiful sunrises at 7 a.m. and walking the beach in late afternoon that's still preferable to the northern winter chill.

I am told by seasoned Myrtle Beach travellers, many of them from Pembroke and area, that the town was primarily a golfer's paradise in the past. But like most vacation destinations, planners have learned to broaden activities and interests for maximum profits.

As a result, there are many avenues for families to explore with mini golf courses, amusement parks and haunted houses. Modern shopping malls are another enticement and a multitude of restaurants cater to every taste. The seafood fare, as expected, is excellent.

But perhaps the most significant coup was when developers started to bring in live theatre shows several decades ago. The Carolina Opry is a fast-paced musical review comparable to most shows on the American circuit.

One rather unusual attraction is Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede, a dinner show where guests are served up a generous portion of southern vitals such as a whole rotisserie chicken, a slice of pork loin, biscuit, potato, corn on the cob, creamy vegetable soup and a pastry for dessert.

Not only does the serving set off alarm bells for the calorie conscious, but also guests are invited to dig into this sumptuous offering without the use of cutlery in keeping with traditional old time dining.

The Civil War theme of the show features an ongoing competition between Confederacy and Union participants cheered on by the crowd that is divided between north and south supporters. The performers race about among buffalos and partake in trick horseback riding and chuckwagon races.

Watching all the action unfold while endeavouring to keep up with the rapid serving of courses is a chore in itself. But a very versatile master of ceremonies kept the audience abreast of everything transpiring in Dolly's theatre, in between bites.

Usually mid-winter in any resort town can see a large contingent of seniors. But on our visit, more than 6,000 runners of all ages took to the streets for the 11th annual Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon. Tourism officials leave no seashell unturned as they lure visitors to their area. It is estimated this event pumped $4 million into the local economy.

This vacation also presented an opportunity for me to mix business with pleasure. New literary avenues were explored at a book signing on a Sunday afternoon at one of the largest flea markets in Myrtle Beach. On a beautiful day outside and a slow day inside, I found myself socializing with neighbouring vendors more than I was discussing the book with potential customers.

But matters livened up when a young gentleman from Charleston, South Carolina approached my booth and opened up a discussion on wrestling. His interest was not so much in my book but on the wrestling scene he was familiar with as a kid.

He was also excited that he had just been to a flea market in Little River where he met a childhood hero. While there he had encountered Paul "The Butcher" Vachon, a former wrestler who now sells memorabilia and other sundry items on the flea market circuit.

I first saw Vachon wrestle in Pembroke as young novice out of Montreal when he worked for Larry Kasaboski's promotion.

He later became known as Butcher Vachon and along with his brother, the uncontrollable Mad Dog Vachon, terrorized opponents the world over. Anyone who ever watched Grand Prix wrestling shows out of Montreal will know that the Butcher and the Mad Dog were to Quebec wrestling fans what the Rocket and the Pocket symbolized to the francophone hockey community.

Shortly after comparing notes with my newfound young wrestling fan, a woman approached with three young children in tow and requested an autograph for the threesome. I willingly obliged and was touched when she also requested a signing for a cousin who she said was gravely ill in hospital, cancer among other ills, being her main affliction.

The following week, the task at hand was to find the Butcher. Luckily, my search was immediately directed to Little River since it would have been a difficult feat to locate him in a never-ending sea of restaurants, golf courses and malls stretched out along the Grand Strand, an area that covers 60 miles of beaches.

We quickly found the flea market but after several enquiries, discovered that the big man had just left on a two-week cruise. Our departure was also imminent, and while I failed to meet the once-feared wrestling villain in person, I have now touched base with him in cyberspace.

Stay tuned as I continue to gather more tales on the early days of old time wrestling in the Ottawa Valley.

The venture appears to be a never-ending process.