Outlander, Mr. Peabody and Time Travel

Mr. Peabody, his boy Sherman and the Wayback Machine

 

Having binge watched the first two seasons on Netflix, my wife is now reduced to a single weekly episode of Outlander. The hugely popular historical time travel series is in its third season, with a promise of a fourth to follow.

…I have never really been able to grasp books or films that include time travel or fantasy

When she watched it on Netflix, Spanish being her first language, she took advantage of the English subtitles to decipher the often thick Scottish accent and 1700’s vocabulary. I’m not certain if the W Network offers subtitles. Although, I must admit that in addition to learning some Scottish words including aye, nae, and bairn she has mastered the program’s catch phrase “I am Sassenach”, Gaelic for outlander. I know because she says it several times an hour a day!

I have watched bits and pieces of a few episodes but have not been bitten by the Outlander bug. This is not surprising, as I have never really been able to grasp books or films that include time travel or fantasy. I just can’t suspend reality; could never understand the appeal of mind altering drugs. When I read a book and come upon a character walking through a wall or, as is the case of the Outlander, a stone, I lose interest. I have to believe things are possible.

…I can’t help but find myself thinking about Mr Peabody and his Wayback Machine! (And of course his boy Sherman.)

As I sit watching the lead female character, Claire Fraser, prepare for and discuss her intended return to 1740’s Scotland I can’t help but find myself thinking about Mr Peabody and his Wayback Machine! (And of course his boy Sherman.)

Although I would be remiss if I did not mention that time travel nudity is just as pleasing to the eye as present day – of course I mean Outlander, not Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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Don’t Memorize, Write an Article

mem·o·rize
ˈmeməˌrīz/Submit
verb
commit to memory; learn by heart.

As my memory starts to play games with me I have taken to writing things down. Not just grocery lists and the like, but family history and lore. With two such memory-boosters developing from mere notes to published articles about my grandmothers.

 

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

School Principal’s Less Than Magnetic Personality

It’s the first day of school. As I have mentioned in another post, I don’t believe I ever returned to school before hearing Jerry Lewis close out his annual Labour Day telethon by singing You’ll Never Walk Alone.

Fifty years ago I was entering grade three. I still live around the corner from the school but it has changed so much any nostalgic feelings are quickly quashed.

The high school French teacher who moon lighted as a piano player in a bar. Most mornings he was still drunk or hung over, but worst he went to Mexico over the Christmas holidays and never returned

At this time of year I often think back to my school days. This year it struck me that although the vast majority of teachers I had, it is the lousy ones who I remember most. The high school French teacher who moon lighted as a piano player in a bar. Most mornings he was still drunk or hung over, but worst he went to Mexico over the Christmas holidays and never returned. A string of substitutes made preparation for province-wide 100% final exams dicey at best.

There were screamers and ranters along the way, perhaps trying to channel their emotions in the relatively new non-corporal punishment school environment. The old crack across the back of the head being no longer acceptable. I recall the principal coming to our grade two class to give a child the strap. He was a large over-weight oaf of a man who seemed to take pleasure in removing the weapon from his inside suit jacket pocket and applying it several times to the seven-year old’s hands. No Doubt hoping this little act would serve as a deterrent for the rest of us.

Returning to school after summer holidays for grade seven was like walking into a new dimension. No longer was it called grade seven, it was now Secondary One. And the small close-knit group of students who had been together, with some shifts of course, for six years had been overrun with students bussed in from other schools now close, the baby boom having run its course. But we adapted and came to know the new kids and formed new friendships, as children will do. But there was a bigger problem.

In all of my years of education, from grade school through graduate school, I cannot think of a more miserable cuss than this guy … to unleash this abhorrent man on youngsters was questionable.

With this influx of students, someone had the bright idea that the nun who had been the principal for many years would be easy prey (pray?!?) for these newcomers. So they brought in a new principal. In all of my years of education, from grade school through graduate school, I cannot think of a more miserable cuss than this guy. Had he been dealing with university-aged students it would not have posed a problem, but to unleash this abhorrent man on youngsters was questionable. He would have fit in well as a character in a Dickens novel had he been just marginally more human. His was not a magnetic personality.

He was a short balding beady-eyed man whose face would have cracked if he smiled, yet somehow remained intact when he sneered. One of his favourite methods of communicating with students in the corridors was to snap his fingers. God forbid a custodian should miss a scrap of paper as this would lead to the next student passing by to be snapped at, a finger pointed at the offending paper, indicating that the student was to pick up this trash and dispose of it. Not a friendly could you just pick that up chuck that in the wastepaper basket Jim, oh no, finger-snapping.

I do not know what became of him, nor do I really care. But I promise to give equal time to the many good educators I encountered in an upcoming post.

 

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

A Nostalgic Look at Park Pond Cleaning

The pond when clean and clear

Today is a beautiful summer day in Montreal. The sky is cloudless, the humidity level is moderate, even tolerable. After many dull cool days, this is a beaut. I left my apartment building for a stroll through the park and was reveling in the wonderful conditions when it hit me like a slap to the back of the head.

They say olfactory stimuli are some of the most powerful when it comes to arousing nostalgic experiences. Well, this morning’s first whiff of the fetid, putrid, reek that had engulfed the park brought me back 35-years or so in an instant. While others were looking at each other with puzzled expressions on their faces, I smiled or so slightly, for I knew it was pond cleaning time in the park.

With the perfection of hindsight, it is clear the pond should have been made of concrete …

When the park underwent a major overhaul in the early sixties the existing pond was extended and resurfaced. The method used was tar paper. Yes indeed, just as if the pond was a roof, rolls and rolls of tar paper were placed and tarred into position. Thereby creating a watertight seal, just like a good roof. The only problem was that a pond’s floor is constantly underwater while a roof only has to deal with rain, even heavy rain subsides.

With the perfection of hindsight, it is clear the pond should have been made of concrete that would not have come loose over the years and have to be replaced as is the case with the tar paper. I suppose concrete was deemed too expensive, but as is often the case these things cost more when done later. I imagine the city has paid many times over in repairs what a concrete floor would have cost originally.

The stinking process of cleaning the pond

About twice a summer the pond is drained for cleaning. Hence the stench. The hot sun beating on the oily filthy surface, replete with duck droppings, the occasional dead pigeon or squirrel and sadly more than a little trash creates a malodorous assault on the nose.

Hence the stench. The hot sun beating on the oily filthy surface, replete with duck droppings, the occasional dead pigeon or squirrel and sadly more than a little trash creates a malodorous assault on the nose.

Having been involved in this process as a student employee I can assure you it is less than pleasant; sweeping the feculent slop into piles with the aid of a fire-hose, then shovelling it into a cart for disposal was not anyone’s idea of a nice day in the park. Tea anyone?
Yet there I was all those years later actually smiling at the horrible stink, The concept of nostalgia is a funny thing; a formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος (nóstos), meaning “homecoming”, a Homeric word, and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain” or “ache”.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Expo 67’s Lack of Corporate Branding

Photo credit: © “Expo 67 Montreal Canada.” Toronto: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1968

As we mark the 150th birthday of Canada – rare are references to it as our sesquicentennial, thank God – we are also celebrating the city of Montreal’s 375th anniversary. But for me the most enjoyable reminiscences have been those documenting the 50th anniversary of EXPO 67.

One of the things that has struck me while looking through many photos, is the seemingly total lack of corporate branding at the fair

As a seven year-old the huge World’s Fair was a pure joy for me. Thinking back to those days often tweaks a pang of nostalgia in me. Not surprisingly there is a plethora of tweaking going on as many exhibits and special events are running this summer. While I enjoy these formal presentations, what I find most heartwarming are posted photos of EXPO 67 that were taken by average visitors.

As an example this collection on Flickr comprises over a hundred photos that were found in a scrapbook on the street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I figure sooner or later I will come across a picture with me in the background.

One of the things that has struck me while looking through many photos, is the seemingly total lack of corporate branding at the fair. There were corporate pavilions; Kodak, BELL etc. But when it came to branding  there was little if any. No  Doritos pavilion of the United States or Stella Artois’ Belgium pavilion.

Another thing that comes to mind while looking at these photos is that although there were lines for many pavilions … there never seems to be overwhelming crowds. It always looks comfortable

Given our reliance on corporate branding in today’s overpriced world, this is a breath of fresh air. I know it would be folly to suggest another EXPO 67-like event for any number of reasons, perhaps this is a good thing as another such event would no doubt be riddled with corporate logos and slogans.

Another thing that comes to mind while looking at these photos is that although there were lines for many pavilions (remember admission was free once you entered the site, no fee-per-exhibit) there never seems to be overwhelming crowds. It always looks comfortable – or is that an illusion after fifty years –  even if over 53 million visitors dropped in that summer.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Home Children: My Paternal Grandmother

Last year I wrote a piece for a British genealogical magazine, Family Tree, about my paternal grandmother. She came to Canada as part of the Home Children migration program. Here it is.


DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Postal Art and the Hope Diamond

Here’s an example of my Great Uncles’ correspondence during the early 1900s. The envelope below was posted at 2:15 pm on March 9, 1903 from London. It was from Matthew Deegan, aged 21 at the time, and addressed to his brother Ernest Deegan c/o Lord Francis Hope. Does that name sound familiar? Think diamond!

 

Hope_Diamond

Hope Diamond

According to Wikipedia, Henry Francis Hope Pelham-Clinton-Hope, 8th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne (3 February 1866 – 20 April 1941) was an English nobleman. He was educated at Eton College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He inherited the estate of his grandmother, Anne Adele Hope (widow of Henry Thomas Hope) in 1884, upon condition that he assume the name and arms of Hope upon reaching his majority; he did so in 1887 and became known as Lord Francis Hope.This bequest included the well-known Hope Diamond. He was Sheriff of Monaghan for 1897 and 1917.

Lord_Hope

Lord Francis Hope

He married American actress May Yohé in November 1894. She had gained fame on the London stage in 1893 and 1894, especially in the burlesque Little Christopher Columbus. He led an extravagant lifestyle, which the two continued together, and was discharged in bankruptcy in 1896. One journal wrote: “Pecuniary troubles, however, embarrassed the two but slightly. A future Duke and Duchess can always beg or borrow, and they did.

In 1900 they made a tour of the world, and on their way home fell in with Captain [Putnam] Bradlee Strong, at that time one of the handsomest and most popular men in the United States Army, and a special favourite with President McKinley. The actress fell head over ears in love with him. She refused to return to England with Lord Francis”. Hope divorced Yohé in 1902; at this time, he obtained court permission to sell off the Hope Diamond to pay some of his debts. After lengthy litigation in the Court of Chancery, he was able to break the entail on most of his grandmother’s trusts, and sold off The Deepdene in Surrey and Castleblayney in County Monaghan, Ireland.

Hope_BankruptLord Francis married Olive Muriel Owen, née Thompson, in 1904. They had 3 children:

  • Henry Edward Hugh Pelham-Clinton-Hope, 9th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyne (1907–1988)
  • Lady Doria Lois Pelham-Clinton-Hope (1908–1942)
  • Lady Mary Pelham-Clinton-Hope (1910–1982)

He inherited the dukedom from his brother in 1928 and died in 1941 at Clumber Park.

If only my great Uncle had traded these cool postal art envelopes for that diamond … then again I understand it brings bad luck. Better to have the envelopes!

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

REPOST: World War One Centenary – Family Lore and Family Loss

My grandfather on the far right with the Piche brothers

My grandfather on the far right with the Piche brothers

I often wonder what those men who managed to survive the “War to end all wars”, my grandfather among them, felt when twenty-odd years later they watched their sons go off to the battlefields of Europe once again.

With countless media reports and background pieces regarding the centenary of the start of World War One this year, I have on numerous occasions found myself thinking about a story that has been in our family for, well, about a hundred years. In early August of 1914 my maternal grandfather, like thousands of other young men, decided to answer the call and volunteer to go overseas and fight for King and country.

He had two very good friends, brothers Randolphe, a warehouse clerk, and James Piché, who was a millwright. They didn’t live on the island of Montreal as did my grandfather, but off the western tip. However their family home was a farm just north of Montreal in the foothills of the Laurentian Mountains, in what was then called Saint-Canut. This area is now part of a larger community called Mirabel. How my grandfather came to befriend these brothers is unknown. Regardless, one day in August of 1914 the three of them made their way to the Black Watch armoury recruiting center on Bleury Street in downtown Montreal and volunteered to join the 13th Battalion. Although the civic number on the building  has changed to a four-digit version, the  armoury  is still there and very active.

BlackWatchPosterOn August 6, 1914 then Prime Minister of Canada The Right Honourable Sir Robert Borden  announced that Canada would send troops overseas to fight. The Black Watch began accepting recruits the next day. Once signed on, men received daily training at the armoury in various aspects of combat until they left for Valcartier, Quebec on August 24, from whence they would sail for England.

Having signed up, and while waiting to go to Valcartier for yet more training before embarkation, one day my grandfather and his pals visited the Piché family farm. While there, so the story goes, Monsieur Prospere Piché, father to Randolphe and James, planted three trees – one for each of them. I suspect there was talk of strong roots at home to ensure their safe return and the like.

On August 24th the battalion left Montreal and headed off to Valcartier. Following a brief stay they then set sail and arrived in England in October of 1914 and continued training on Salisbury Plain. It was in February of 1915 that they saw their first action upon arrival  in France.

Black Watch Armorry. The address has changed from to 2067

Black Watch Armoury. The address has changed from 428 to 2067 Bleury Street

Fast forward a mere seven months from the call for recruits, and just weeks after their arrival at the front, to April 24 of 1915 and we have the death of Randolphe. Sadly this would be followed by James’ death just weeks later, sometime between the 20th and 23rd of May. Two brothers killed in action within a month.

Basil Randolphe Piché Killed in Action

Basil Randolphe Piché Killed in Action

James Piché Killed in Action

James Piché Killed in Action

James Harland Piché inscription on Vimy Ridge Memorial

James Harland Piché inscription on Vimy Ridge Memorial

 According to a newspaper piece from June 4, 1915, just days after Mrs. Piché received word of  her second son’s death she received a letter from him in which he outlines the heroic circumstances of his brother’ tragic end.

Gazette

My grandfather managed to survive the war, although he did lose the sight in one eye from a gun shot wound and suffered from emphysema due to being gassed (no doubt exacerbated by years of smoking).

However the truth is that whatever became of those trees is unknown, not nearly as romantic as a Hollywood ending I’m afraid.

Now about those trees. If this was a Hollywood screenplay instead of a blog post no doubt I’d be writing that two of the three trees had been struck by lightning, or died suddenly and mysteriously for no apparent reason at just about the same time the sad news was arriving at the Piché home. However the truth is that whatever became of those trees is unknown, not nearly as romantic as a Hollywood ending I’m afraid. Perhaps they are all still going strong, or maybe they were among the many trees that were hacked down to make way for Mirabel Airport.

I often wonder what those men who managed to survive the “War to end all wars”, my grandfather among them, felt when twenty-odd years later they watched their sons go off to the battlefields of Europe once again. Frustration? Anger? Waste?

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

Montreal Bars of the Eighties

noalc

During the late seventies and early eighties the Montreal Canadiens were still winning Stanley Cups, the Expos had some great teams, the preferred style was preppy, featuring button down shirts or polos with khakis, and the night air, and bar restrooms, was thick with the pungent aroma of Ralph Lauren’s Polo. One of the most popular posts on this blog is a piece I wrote a few years ago about Montreal’s long history of Anglo-Irish pubs. I thought I would give it another shot by writing about some of the bars that I frequented as a young man during the late seventies and eighties. Of course this is by no measure an exhaustive listing of Montreal’s many watering holes, but rather a bit of a trip down memory lane that might bring back some recollections, if not brain cells, of readers’ youth.

carb_matchesAs I did in my first listing of Montreal pubs, I will start from West and work my way east. Therefore the first stop on our journey is Alexis Nihon Plaza,  now Place Alexis Nihon, which was home to an establishment where many a young lad got his start. I am of course referring to Les Carabiniers, or as it was more commonly called, the Carb. One of the last bastions of male-only taverns, the Carb served cold beer and offered tavern fare at very reasonable prices. Students, retirees and everyone in between were welcome, just no ladies. Given the Carb’s proximity to the Forum, where the Montreal Canadiens played in those days before moving to the Molson/BELL Centre, it was not uncommon for players to drop in after practice.

Also located in Alexis Nihon was the Maidenhead Inn, an English pub and the Bali-Hi which, as the name suggests was a tropical-themed bar. The Bali-Hi’s claim to fame, aside from waitresses in grass skirts and fruity drinks with umbrellas, was an aquarium full of tropical fish that ran the full length of the bar.

 

Leaving Alexis Nihon and heading east along St. Catherine Street, past the Forum, on the north side was  Station 10. This bar was named for the infamous police station situated just a few blocks away. One of the owners was a former Canadian Football League player by the name of Barclay Allen. As high school students my friends and I spent many an hour in this place as they were not too picky about asking for ID! 

Barclay Allen

Barclay Allen

I recall the price of a bottle of beer being 80 cents. With a twenty cent tip added, both client and customer were happy with a dollar bill. Then the price went up to 85 cents and, as you might guess, tips went down to 15 cents! After a few weeks the price jumped to a buck, and a quarter tip was the norm.

piqueA few doors further along on the corner of Du Fort and St. Catherine was the Pique Assiette, an Indian restaurant with a very small bar at the back that was frequented by many British expats, many of whom were teachers, some of whom were my teachers! As a young boy I remember passing this corner when the place was called Danny’s Villa. It was a topless bar and the window was dannys_villa_68festoon with photos of girls wearing little more than pasties. Over the years it transformed from tasselled to tandoori tits. 

Strolling along we pass the Cock ‘N’ Bull on the south side of St. Catherine arriving next at a place best described as interesting: Café Diana. This was a long established hangout for some seedy if entertaining characters. No dim lighting in Diana’s, bright lights and tough staff made it a little safer. Not a regular haunt of mine, but one that was well worth the occasional visit. I recall meeting a man in there once who could do wonderful card tricks and micro-magic at people’s table for a beer or a buck or two.

Prior to the construction of Le Faubourg legendary Montreal Canadiens’ coach Toe Blake owned a tavern on St. Catherine just west of Guy Street. Toe’s hosted an older crowd who were often not too welcoming to younger louder imbibers. Fair enough, there was no shortage of places for us to go.

toe_blake

One block after crossing Guy Street was MacKay Street, home to Cheers! Actually named Bill Edwards’ Cheers! This bar was a very popular meeting place in the eighties for those in their twenties. The name was obviously ‘borrowed’ from the popular television series. 

Entrance to former Annex/Google Maps

Entrance to former Annex/Google Maps

Many buildings in downtown Montreal have, over the years, been bought by Sir George Williams now Concordia University. These satellites house many faculties and administrative offices. They were, and are still in many cases, called annexes. So it is not surprising that on the east side of Bishop Street just below deMaisonneuve there was for many years a bar called The Annex. Popular among students, the Annex was made up of several sections, one of which was much like a cave. The Annex was also known for often looking the other way when it came to underage drinkers as well as serving beer in the quart bottles that were more regularly a mainstay of taverns.

darwins

At Darwin’s Leonard Cohen, Terry Mosher (Aislin) and co-owner Nancy Nelson.

Still on Bishop Street but south of St. Catherine was The Longest Yard, yet another example of borrowing a name, this time from a popular movie. It was owned by another former CFL player, Dickie Harris and Bill Edwards. During the summer of 1982 the Yard, as it was often shortened to, had a softball team. On a few occasions they played an opponent that wanted to play fastball instead of slow pitch. For these games I would pitch for the team. Following his parting of ways with the Montreal Expos, Bill Lee satisfied his baseball need by playing second base for the Yard.

woodys

Woody’s was a huge place on Bishop that incorporated several adjacent establishments over the years. Lots of wood and brass, it was popular with Happy Hour – free snacks – suits as well as a later night younger crowd. It is now the home of the Irish Embassy Pub and Grill.

darwin_doorDown the street was Déjà Vu, another bar that grew as it became ever more popular. Unlike Woody’s this place expanded upward, and had a staircase that looked down on the stage. Never a good thing to try to navigate after a few too many!

The last building on the east side of Bishop Street was Darwin’s Gazebo. Before every bar and restaurant had a terrasse, some two, Darwin’s had a gazebo. It was essentially a backyard, but gazebo sounded so much better. It was a popular hangout for artists, journalists and writers, and many who fancied themselves artists, journalists and writers. The building was lost to fire.  

One block east brought you to Crescent Street, the Grand-daddy of Montreal’s bar scene. While popping in to and out of numerous bars on the street, primarily between St. Catherine and deMaisonneuve there were a couple that became second homes. The Seahorse was located downstairs from Les Halles; a fancy, snooty restaurant that suffered the constant annoyance from the younger clientele downstairs. The Seahorse was a long narrow place that was packed most weekends with university aged kids.

djsBy the time the Seahorse had run its course a new addition had appeared right across the street with the opening of DJ’s Pub. The original owners of the building thought that Crescent Street might be just the place to open a cinema. So they built a multi-storied venue. Le Flick,  that was supposed to draw revellers either before or after a night of drinking. Unfortunately the idea did not pan out and the building was soon empty. I must admit I did my part by seeing Ladies and Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones there in about 1975!

DJ’s Pub was named for Derek Johnson, a former race car driver and well-known figure on the local bar scene. Lines of people in their twenties formed four nights a week at the door. The inside was packed with fairly well-heeled kids – did I mention Preppy? – and the drinks flowed. I recall a friend of mine who was a bartender explaining that while he enjoyed having people sit at his bar, he made his money serving the constantly changing line of drinkers who reached over the heads of those seated at the bar to get their drinks and pay.

The former site of DJ's Pub. Soon to reopen as a Hooters

The former site of DJ’s Pub. Soon to reopen as a Hooters

The drinks were primarily bottled beer, no on-tap draft, and shots. Shots tended to be bought in rounds after “flipping” to see who would pay. Those interested were given a quarter and all flipped the coin, the process of elimination whittled down the player until someone lost. The ideal situation was when the bartender lost and the round was free. Popular shots included B-52’s, melon balls, and Southern Comfort. For a little while it was in vogue to have your shot upside down, which entailed turning your back to the bar, leaning back and having the bartender mix the drink directly in your mouth!

Today Rainbow Bar & Grill is a Subway. But the seven steps remain!

Today The Rainbow Bar & Grill is a Subway. But the seven steps remain!

On Stanley Street just above St. Catherine was the Rainbow Bar and Grill. It was a long narrow place with a room with a bar and another adjacent room that was just tables and chairs. From time to time they would show movies in the back room and there was always a game of backgammon going. There were seven steps up to the front door from the sidewalk which explains why the bar had previously been known as The Seven Steps.

Again please keep in mind that this is but a few of the bars and in no way represents all the drinking establishments of the time.

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+

 

 

#TBT Montreal’s taverns; relics of the past

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do

Tav1
Those words were made famous in the late 1960s by Beatles protégé Mary Hopkin, in fact the popular recorded version was produced by Paul McCartney. But for many Montrealers something just didn’t ring true with the song. The city was full of taverns, that wasn’t the problem, but they were beer halls that were off-limits to women. So having a woman sing about fun in a tavern was a wee bit odd to some.

At one time Montreal had many neighborhood taverns like the one pictured at right (the photos in this post come from the Montreal City Archives).  Perhaps not as many as the ubiquitous English pub, found all over the UK, but enough that they play a significant role in the city’s heritage. I’m not referring to large, downtown establishments, but local watering holes. Taverns were for men only, they only served beer, either draft or bottled. Some had simple but usually tasty (and always unhealthy) food, but many only offered  peanuts, chips and, of course, the traditional pickled eggs. They opened early, often around eight o’clock in the morning and, by law, had to close at midnight.

There were no bars in taverns, just chairs and tables. No entertainment, just a television. Imitation wood paneling was de rigueur in Montreal taverns. The chairs and tables were basic but comfortable and required a simple setting of an ashtray and a salt shaker for the pickled eggs, or to revive the head on your draft.  Taverns with air conditioning usually cranked it up to the maximum, but many used only floor fans to keep patrons cool. A single television, basic home-style, not a giant screen projection get-up,  was suspended on a bracket and used primarily for sports events.
Tav2
The beer served was local bottled or draft. As I’ve mentioned before, don’t confuse “draft” with “on-tap”. You can now have the finest beers in the world on-tap, as opposed to bottled. For instance, Guinness on-tap comes in kegs and is pulled fresh around the globe. Guinness in bottles and cans is a different animal. But the draft beer served in Montreal taverns was a special, some would say inferior,  product brewed by the main breweries and served ice-cold from taps. It was available in pitchers, steins or glasses. The glasses were ordered at least two at a time as they probably only held six or eight ounces. In my opinion these were the best way to drink draft beer.  The cash register in photo on the left shows a sale of 45 cents has been rung up. These photos were taken on July 15, 1963, significantly before I started drinking beer, draft or otherwise, but I’d guess the 45 cent sale was 9 glasses of draft at a nickel each.

Taverns were places where men could meet to have a few glasses and solve the problems of the world, or sit in peaceful solitude enjoying some cold ones while lost in thought. Many taverns were owned by Montreal Canadiens  players and therefore afforded an opportunity to talk hockey with a pro. Next to the beer, the atmosphere was the draw. Similar to the British pub, people frequented their local tavern, or maybe one close to their workplace, where they felt at home. Waiters seemed to stay working at the same place for years and would greet you by name or if you were new they’d refer to you as Boss or Chief or some other moniker.

It wasn’t all beer and skittles mind you;  occasionally a patron would over-indulge in the cheap beer and become rowdy. Fights often broke out over one thing or another. Card games and even arm-wrestling were not allowed in an attempt to keep a lid on well oiled, overly competitive drinkers.
Tav3
The Montreal tavern was pushed aside in the 1970s by establishments known as Brasseries (the French word for brewery, but also used to refer to a “fine” drinking establishment). These newfangled places were heavy on glass and chrome, served beer and wine, could stay open until 1:00 am,  and were open to both men and women.

Sadly both taverns and brasseries soon were things of the past as people moved out of the inner city neighborhoods in favor of the suburbs. The local tavern didn’t fit into that environment.

I guess I’m caught up in my subject because before posting I keep hitting the “draft” button, but no beer arrives…

DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+