Monday, November 21, 2016

Deep Thoughts: Crazy Joe Baribeau

With the holidays fast approaching (hello Thanksgiving!) I find myself thinking about family. About our little family of four and how thankful I am that we are all under the same roof for the time being. About extended family and who they are to us. 

And how you can know about someone in that extended family, and then something comes up that makes them feel more real to you somehow. More flesh and blood than before. 

Crazy Joe Baribeau
Such was the case with my Great Grandad, who was known as Crazy Joe Baribeau. A couple of months ago my Dad forwarded an e-mail to me regarding this man that I had grown up knowing a bit about. There was a coin with his image on it. There was some knowledge of his involvement with motorcycles in Winnipeg. But something about this e-mail made me want to know more. The photos were fascinating. The story was big! So I sent out an e-mail to the Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba, not expecting a reply. Surprisingly it led to a response from a second cousin! 

He then shared more links which I will share at the end of this post for anyone interested. And the photos! The stories. Suddenly the man that was an image on a coin was someone with drive, with a family, with a life that made an impact. 
Joe Baribeau seated in front of his Indian motorcycle
Joseph Baribeau set a world record as the first rider to average 60 mph covering 100 miles in 1911. When I started reading the e-mail that was sent, then researching further I realized that this man, my Great Grandfather was something of a legend in Winnipeg Canada and had a lot to do with the sport of motorcycle racing at the time, and the Indian Motorcycle company in particular. 
Joe Baribeau astride his Indian Motorcycle
What was even better about all this was the conversations over coffee with my Dad about his memories of this man, his achievements, and what he was like in his daily life.  And this lead to even more discoveries about family. And a new connection with a second cousin that I never knew about. Who was so wonderful about sharing photos and stories. And made me feel my place in the world anchored even stronger in a funny way. 

I love old photos. Even better is the story behind them. And when they lead to discoveries about family, it's something I feel thankful for. And once again the "interwebs" as a friend calls them, have been a place of connection. Both within my family and outside of it. 

Have you ever made a discovery about someone in your family, or even in your circle? 

Links if you'd like to explore more:

Antique Motorcycle Club of Manitoba 
Motordrome/Leslieville Historical Society
Antique Motorcycle 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Loved reading about your great grandfather...thank you for sharing! Amazing all the stories that came before us!

    1. Thank you! I found he came to life a bit after talking to my Dad some more!

  3. Your grandfather was incredible Tammy. To most of us, traveling 60mph for 100 miles doesn't seem like a big deal. Those of us that ride motorcycles know that on a bike from his era, that's quite the achievement. They were uncomfortable, & shook; just to point out a few detriments! I love that you appreciate his great history & love that connection. It's amazing to me that not everyone cares. I love history & old photos. So important to know who we come from. The good & the not so good. I did find out several years ago where my dad's grandfather, who abandoned his children, ran off to. His wife died & he left 6 kids alone. My grandfather was in the 5th grade & had to leave school.
    I still don't know if my dad believes me. but I trust the census records! Thanks for sharing. So fun to read. I'm a huge fan of Indian motorcycles!! ��

    1. I love your perspective on motorcycles...especially since I have been on only a few in my lifetime. I love imagining what life must have been like for our ancestors. Especially in the hard stories. Some difficult things to imagine. The kicker to this story? My Dad thinks one of Joe's trophies was in his possession at one time! Aah!

  4. That's so amazing Tammy! My grandpa was the same kind of awesome guy. He was the gunner in a B24 nose bomber and flew with the red tails for 3 years out of Italy.
    Thanks for sharing 😉

    1. Your grandpa sounds like the most amazing guy...I love that you made it a point to spend as much time as you could with him.