Random-access Memory

Random-access Memory

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A former pupil at Maison Saint-Jacques, in Fournes-en-Weppes (59), Guy Virriot worked in HVAC, then as a film projectionist. Now retired, he offers his services to former Apprentis d’Auteuil pupils in the North.

From the outset, Guy Virriot expressed his desire to praise Saint-Jacques, the Apprentis d’Auteuil institution in Fournes-en-Weppes that took him in as a teenager: "Saint-Jacques gave me everything. At that time, there were not many institutions where children whose parents didn’t have the financial means or the time to look after them, could be housed, fed and taught a profession!"

He was six years old and his brothers were 3 and 2 in 1954, when their father, finding himself alone and unable to cope, left them at the Van-Kempen orphanage in Arnèke.

"I remember that children from the orphanage were not well thought of at the village school, and that I hardly saw my brothers, who were with the younger children."

Given the greatest responsibility

In September 1962, the 14 year-old teenage boy entered Saint-Jacques, after obtaining his certificate of studies. "Those were the glory years! There was real discipline then, but nobody complained".
To supervise 160 boys aged 14 to 18, Father Hamon, the general supervisor, was assisted by two supervisors and the young people themselves.

"The 1st year supervisor was a big boy from the 4th year, under the responsibility of the abbot. I can tell you the newcomers didn’t dare move!"

Mealtimes were a real ritual, and are still indelibly etched in his mind. Supervised by a 4th year and two 3rd years, everyone was seated at a table for 10, bearing the name of a French region: "Father Hamon had a microphone with a loudspeaker on each table. We went in and ate in silence, listening to RTL, then at 12.30 he said "Ok, you can talk now"."We were all treated the same: at breakfast, the head of the table cut the 500-gram block of margarine into ten equal parts; at lunch he shared out the two litres of beer into equal measures!"After the meal, one table washed up and cleaned the refectory. The other diners took part in competitive sports (volleyball, football, basketball, track and field); the results were posted on Friday. The Director, Father Lucien Dieterlen, sometimes joined in the football tournaments.

As regards housekeeping chores, every apprentice had a space that the others were not allowed to dirty. "Father Hamon was a born educator. Through the discipline he introduced, we respected each other and helped each other a lot. His authority wasn’t excessive", Guy Virriot adds, as an afterthought. Guy himself had to clean the cinema. One day he loaded the film instead of the Abbé who took the opportunity to say: "You can continue." This is how the young man who was passionate about cinema became the Maison Saint-Jacques’ projectionist!

Welcome to the electricity workshop!

"When we arrived at Saint-Jacques, the priest who was the director asked us which profession we wanted to do. I chose electricity.’ The workshop was not then open, so the apprentice began by learning mechanics. Finally, one morning in May, he and four other boys were called in: ‘we were as happy as sand boys when Pierre Sobry welcomed us at the door of the electricity workshop he had just converted".

Another memory involves the inventive classes Father Hamon taught in the 3rd Year, saying: "Today, we won’t be doing a French class, we’ll be doing a crossword." "We then got out the Larousse dictionary. They were difficult, brain-racking crosswords; we discussed them at length among ourselves. Fortunately, he guided us." Given his family situation, Guy Virriot did not go home for the monthly outing or the holidays (one month in the summer, a week at Christmas and Easter for the apprentices who were allowed). Then he discovered other foundation institutions: Saint-Jean, in Sannois, Sainte-Thérèse, in Paris…

From one trade to another

"Electricity was a cleaner, more technological trade than mechanics or carpentry. We did electrical diagrams, we went on electrical engineering courses, a subject I was very good at". This did not stop him from failing his CAP exam because of maths. This wasn’t the end of the world for the apprentice, as he passed the exam the following year having performed a lot more electrical work at Saint-Jacques itself. After graduating in July 1966, he was immediately hired in Lille as an electrical assembler (2.95 francs per hour, 48 hours per week) and a place was reserved for him at the home for young workers in Lille.

"I was happy, I had a job and somewhere to live!"

He was leaning towards HVAC: heating, air conditioning, water treatment and swimming pools. "Builders trained us in their business, we became versatile, and we were headhunted. It was a job where you could make a good living." Then came the oil crisis, management difficulties, companies began to make cutbacks and Guy Virriot became unemployed. He then went back to his first love, the cinema. He trained as an audio-visual projectionist-operator to support a local cinema: animation, programming and projection. He passed his certificate with flying colours, even securing a four-month placement at the UGC-Convention cinema in Paris, during which he stayed at Maison Saint-Philippe in Meudon. He also worked on the film rushes: "It was the technology and technical questions – the light, the sharpness of the image, the sound – which interested me, more than the film itself."

Serving former pupils  

Born in Lille, a real Picard-speaking "chti", a father of two daughters, living in Libercourt with his wife, a teacher he met while going dancing in Belgium. Now retired, he has two passions: ham radio and computers.  
He has also made himself available to former Saint-Jacques pupils, even signing a voluntary agreement with Apprentis d’Auteuil. Alumni Day, the 60th anniversary of the institution in 2014 (for which a show was created from his daily paper), meeting young people, providing cover on Thursday afternoons. Guy Virriot willingly responds to requests: "serving former pupils enables them to reconnect and be supported if there are difficulties in their lives." This is enshrined in the Foundation’s first Article of Association (1). His wish? For this service to become increasingly widespread, to the benefit of all previous Saint-Jacques generations!

(1) The aim of Apprentis d’Auteuil is to (…) help and support (former pupils) in life by striving to maintain with and between them, the bonds of a trusting friendship.

Apprentis d’Auteuil is a deeply committed catholic foundation, recognized as promoting the public interest in France and in more than 50 countries. Thanks to the expertise and experience of the foundation and their partners, Apprentis d’Auteuil have been able to supervise more than 23.000 children in France and almost 20.000 children and families worldwide. Its main goal is to help youth in difficulty by conducting educational projects and to boost their ability to participate in society as full-fledged citizens by promoting training and insertion programs worldwide. In addition to their actions towards helping vulnerable children, Apprentis d’Auteuil and their partners assist struggling parents in their family obligations, with coeducation as the guiding principle. The key purpose is to improve the management of children under their care and to enable them to grow as free and responsible adults. To make a donation for education – Please contact the foundation for underprivileged children Apprentis d’Auteuil.