Ever since I started studying the many Red Balloon locations systematically (2007) I have been intrigued by the location of the restaurant called CHEZ HUBERT. It is one of the places Pascal passes as he tries to protect his balloon from the rain by sticking it under the umbrellas of passers-by.
The film offers us not only the name of the bar, but also its telephone number (GOBelins 11-05), the fact that it was on a street corner, and that the name of the cross street was the rue de la Tombe Issoire. So how hard could it be to find this place? Easy as it might have seemed, it took me no less than four years to pinpoint the exact location.
The rue de la Tombe Issoire is rather long. It has 21 cross streets. Which one was it?
In May 2009 I wrote to Dutch essayist Rudy Kousbroek because I knew he had lived in this district in the 1950s. He replied on Mon, 01 Jun 2009 23:50:29:
“About 1954-’55 I lived at 37 rue de la Tombe Issoire… The façade of ‘Chez Hubert’ looks familiar, but my memory offers up nothing specific. That can also be caused by the fact that I was mostly familiar with the street between boulevard St Jacques and the rue d’Alésia. The restaurant may have been on one of those corners, for instance at the rue Rémy Dumoncel, the rue Bezout, the passage Dareau. The phone number, GOBelins 11-05, suggest that district. But the rue de la T.I. extended all the way to the bd Jourdan and I never came that far.
“Also, we never went to restaurants at the time because we were too poor. In any case, you should look under Restaurant Chez Hubert, not under Chez or Hubert. In the 1955 volume of the phone directory, I’d say. In my day old phone directories could be consulted at the Hôtel de Ville. There are also directories arranged by street address. It seems entirely possible that the address was not rue de la T.I., but one of its cross streets.
A needle in a haystack. But even if you find it, what have you gained? You do have my sympathy in any case.”
On a research trip in January 2010 I visited the rue de la Tombe Issoire and took pictures of several likely-looking street corners. By now it was obvious that the corner — whichever it was — had changed beyond recognition.
To make sure of the right location I searched online and in photo archives in Paris for old photos of the rue de la Tombe Issoire. Still the results were inconclusive.
Then I realized that it must have been a major cross street because there were trees in it.
The shows only two such streets: the boulevard Saint Jacques and the rue d’Alésia. I was willing to put my money on the rue d’Alesia, but still I had no proof.
Finally, in October 2011, I found conclusive evidence in a telephone directory at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris.
The 1954 Liste Alphabetique des Commerçants industriels professions libérales, etc has the following listing:
Chez Hubert, vins et restaur., 16 r. Alésia [no phone number listed]
Another directory, arranged by street, has this listing:
Rue de la Tombe-Issoire
82 – Lesur, vins et restaur., GOB. 11.05
We may safely conclude that the restaurant occupied the corner premises 82 rue de la Tombe Issoire / 16 rue d’Alésia and that mr Lesur’s first name was Hubert. The phone number on the window was his. The man we see cleaing the window as Pascal Lamorisse is passing by may have been mr Lesur himself…