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+

Legacy of Montreal’s Summer Olympics Forty Years Later

With the Rio Olympics opening this weekend, and Montreal marking the 40th anniversary of our games in 1976  much has been said and written about the legacy of those games. The Gazette columnist Basem Boshra wrote a piece on Monday titled Hosting the Olympics was cool, really, but let’s never do it again. While I agree with many of his points, I had to disagree with his contention that Montreal should never again embark on an Olympic bid. Below is my response as published in today’s paper:

Re: “Yes, it was fun, but never again” (Basem Boshra, Aug. 1)

Basem Boshra points out that Montreal is “widely admired around the world. … We do not need the spotlight of the Olympics to burnish our global standing.” I agree fully, but would suggest it was indeed that Olympic spotlight and Montreal’s continued standing as an Olympic city that have contributed to our status.

Those who complain about the cost of the Games are, understandably, locals who had to foot the bill. I believe this is far outweighed by the promotional benefits; advertising of this nature cannot be bought.

I recently took some guests to the Olympic Park and was pleasantly surprised to see so many tourists taking photos of the Olympic Stadium. These visitors are staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and buying goods. Like it or not, the stadium has become a symbol of Montreal’s Olympic standing to visitors, as iconic as the cross on Mount Royal.

Boshra wonders if the Expos, without the option of moving into the stadium, would have relocated downtown and perhaps still be playing here. I lament the loss of the Expos, but hold on to many memories of those great years in the ’80s and ’90s when the Olympic Stadium was packed with rabid fans. The winning product on the field vastly overshadowed the stadium’s shortcomings.

While I am not suggesting Montreal begin the process of bidding on another Olympics, I do hope we will not throw former mayor Jean Drapeau’s baby out with the bathwater. There were many advantages to having hosted the 1976 Games, so I’d prefer a “never say never”

DCS_Grad_2 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+

Traffic Cops Just Aren’t the Same These Days

Retired police officer Tony Lepore performs his dance routine while directing traffic in 2004 in downtown Providence, R.I. Darren McCollester/Getty Images

If you tried to get anywhere in the vicinity of the south-west area of Montreal last weekend you are probably all too aware of the old concept of needing to break a few eggs to make an omelette. The much-needed revamping – reramping? –  of the Turcot Interchange involves several temporary road closures, some long-term, some short, no doubt all leading to a few significant doses of traffic hell.

Some were flamboyant, outgoing sorts flailing their arms about like Bugs Bunny conducting an orchestra while others resembled Rudolf Nureyev, stretching and bending gracefully.

Last Saturday as I approached from the east an intersection near the work, I could see the line of cars traveling in the opposite direction that had been rerouted while work was carried out. As I sailed past I was sure the cars were backed up to about Ontario.

There was a time when a particularly busy intersection warranted the presence of a traffic cop. Clad in regular uniform with the addition of a whistle and bright white gloves that were visible from blocks away, these officers parked their motorcycles by the curb, stood smack at the junction of the two streets and directed traffic to ease the movement of cars. Some were flamboyant, outgoing sorts flailing their arms about like Bugs Bunny conducting an orchestra while others resembled Rudolf Nureyev, stretching and bending gracefully. Some who appeared to not enjoy the job quite as much as their colleagues relied on merely pointing at drivers to keep things flowing.

The current Montreal police “uniform”      Pierre Obendrauf / Postmedia News

Rain or shine, cold or suffering on the heat-soaked asphalt, these men, and a few women, proudly did their best to get motorists to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible. Many worked for years at the same spot becoming known to the daily drivers. At Christmas or retirement they could be seen standing amid small gifts and tokens of appreciation.

There are still cops who handle busy intersections when needed. There was a suggestion that non-police could handle this task, but the union won’t give it up as the job entails overtime to the tune of $62 an hour. In yet another example of how technology has erased the personal touch, today’s officers park their cars on the sidewalk, lest they exacerbate the congestion, and take control of the actual traffic lights. Currently dressed in red baseball caps, Kevlar vests and camo pants (in protest, contract troubles with the city), using what look from a distance very much like old wired television remote controls, the cops manually determine the best sequence for the traffic lights. All is done from the sidewalk, no waving or whistling, no panache or contact with drivers.

Stealth_2
The stealth police car, my fav. It only appears as a police car when the lights hit the decals at just the right angle. Comes in black as well. When stopped to ticket the red and blue lights are used.

I imagine the result is the same as the old-time traffic conductors, but the current traffic facilitators are far less entertaining for those of us waiting.

DCS_Grad_2 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+

The Tree is Gone, But Not Entirely

Tree3

I have lived on the same street for 53 of my fifty-six years. The house, we called it a flat in those days, in which I spent the first nineteen years of my life is a mere stone’s throw up the street from where I now live. It is a long, narrow unit, with halls perfect for playing ball hockey during inclement Montreal winters. On the small front lawn stood a tree; yesterday they cut down the tree. Childhood memories remain  

Tree
My father, me and the tree

The tree, like most of those found on front lawns, belonged to the city. Those in backyards are the responsibility of the homeowner while the city maintains those in front. This includes annual pruning of dead branches and when necessary the take-down of a diseased tree. The tree was sick and therefore a danger. Better to remove it than to have it snap in a strong wind and cause damage to cars and buildings, or injury to people.

Tree2

I knew the tree was slated for removal as it had sadly borne the orange spray paint marking for several weeks. Dead tree walking. When I noticed the no-parking signs being placed in front of the tree yesterday morning I knew it was time. The next day would be D-Day or Tree Day. But no.

Returning home yesterday afternoon I came upon a street full of tree removal workers and equipment causing havoc for parents trying to pick-up kids from the school across the street. Yep, the tree was coming down. I sauntered up the street to where two members of the tree removal squad were standing. I explained to them the significance of the tree on the lawn of my birthplace (actually I was born in the hospital). While one of the two went back to work, I  had a little chat with the other who confirmed that the tree was beyond saving and had become a danger. A few moments later, as I stood watching the take-down process, one that has always interested me, the other fellow returned with three slices of the tree for me.

The author with his tree slices
The author with his tree slices

I was moved that he appreciated how trees, given their longevity, can become life markers. He also assured me a new tree will be planted in the same place. With this knowledge, and my tree slices, I felt much better.

DCS_Grad_2 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+

Fobbed Off: Remembering Car Keys

I once owned a 75 Pacer much like this. It had two keys!
I once owned a 75 Pacer much like this. It had two keys!

We changed cars a week or so ago. After two Hyundai vehicles we changed manufacturer but not country by getting another Korean car, a Kia Soul. So far we are very pleased. I am especially pleased with the new key fob.

The two Hyundai cars were fine, we only changed to Kia because we liked the Soul and Hyundai does not yet have a similar model. But if there was a problem with the Hyundais it was minor but annoying.

I recall a time when a car had two keys. A square one that got you in and started the car, and a round one that opened the trunk. These keys were only slightly larger than regular house and office keys which allowed them to be put on a ring and carried in a pocket. To protect against loss, you could have as many copies made as you wanted simply by going to your local hardware store and having them cut for a few bucks each.

Capture_FobTo open your car door you had to actually insert the key and turn it; no button pressing from afar. A simple procedure unless of course the locks froze. This was a common occurrence the day after a car wash. A cruel winter reality was the need to often wash off accumulated road salt that ate away at cars like termites in a log cabin, only to find the locks frozen the next morning. Of course there were several lock de-icer products, small cans along the lines of butane lighter fillers, the nozzle of which you stuck into the keyhole and squirted the alcohol-based liquid into the lock workings. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. However more often than not it was not put to the test because it was left in the glove compartment, locked inside the car!

If the liquid failed to allow the key to function, there were several home remedies that could be used, including holding your key under a match or lighter to heat it. Inserting a hot key was supposed to melt the ice. It goes without saying that to try this method too soon after injecting the alcohol de-icer could have disastrous results. Hair dryers attached to several extension cords were also popular tools to gain access to a lock-frozen vehicle.

But those days are long gone. No longer do we have a pair of keys, now we have one key on a fob. The fob has several buttons that open and lock the doors, even if frozen, open the trunk and a useful red button that makes your car honk and flash madly so you can find it in a crowded parking lot.

Capture_DeIcerAll fine and dandy except for a couple of things. The fob is relatively large, it will not fit on a key ring. Worse, on literally countless occasions I, with fob in pocket, sat down to dinner and  inadvertently set off the horn and lights on the car parked outside our building three floors down. While that was annoying, it could be dealt with from the window by pointing the fob and pressing the lock button. More irksome was unknowingly opening the trunk. Family members and neighbors would often tell me they had closed my car trunk yet again as they walked by and noticed it gaping open.  Sometimes I hit the jackpot and not only tripped the car finder cacophony, but upon looking out the window to silence it I noticed the trunk wide open. This required me to traipse down three stories and shut the trunk before it filled with snow or thieving hands.

The Kia fob has not yet caused me any trouble. Perhaps it is just a wee bit less sensitive. But I do foresee a problem. On the new fob the key retracts and is released by a button. Something akin to a switch blade. As I tend to carry the fob in my front pants pocket I suspect at some point in the future I will suffer a shot to the choir buttons as the key flips out into position.

DCS_Grad_2 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+

My Great-Grandfather’s World War One Lie

Hamilton_Recruit_Poster

In honour of Vimy Ridge Day I am re-posting a couple of World War One related pieces.

My great-grandfather, Ernest Henry Blackwell, was born in Sussex, England. As a young boy his family emigrated to Canada where he would spend the rest of his days. He met and married my great-grandmother, Annie Ellis, whose family had also made the move across the pond. They had five children: three sons and two daughters.

His eldest child, George Ernest Blackwell, was my grandfather. I have recounted some of his life in earlier posts, particularly his World War One experiences. Only recently did it come to my attention that Ernest Blackwell, like his son George, also attested to serve overseas.

The Hawkeye Pierce character  played by Alan Alda on the television version of M*A*S*H, summed it up best when he pointed out that when the authorities came to get him to go to Korea he was “hiding under the front porch trying to puncture my eardrum with an ice pick”.

I suspect that since wars have existed there have been those who gave lied to get out of going to fight in them. The Hawkeye Pierce character  played by Alan Alda on the television version of M*A*S*H, summed it up best when he pointed out that when the authorities came to get him to go to Korea he was “hiding under the front porch trying to puncture my eardrum with an ice pick”.

Conversely during the first world war many young men lied about their age in an attempt to actually join up. The cut-off point was supposed to be 18 years of age, but those in charge seemed to look the other way when a fine fit 16 or 17 year-old lad presented himself for duty. Then there’s the case of my great-grandfather who tried to turn the clock backward, not forward, so he could join the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and go overseas to fight.

Two attestation papers
Two attestation papers
… according to http://www.warmuseum.ca, “Most Canadian soldiers were between the ages of 18 and 45, as per regulations, but thousands served who were younger or older, lying about their birth date to enlist.

In August of 1914 his son, my grandfather George Blackwell volunteered to join the CEF in Montreal. He had opted to stay in Montreal when the rest of his family moved to Hamilton, Ontario some years before. He was accepted and spent the next four years or so in the trenches of France and Belgium. He also managed to meet and marry my grandmother, a strong woman who, no doubt on occasion over the next sixty years or so, made him long for those trenches.

In 1915 his father, Ernest Henry Blackwell, my great-grandfather, decided he could help out. So on November 19th, 1915 he went down to the local recruiting office and, well, lied through his teeth about his age, stating he was born in 1872, thereby making him 43. In fact he was born in 1865, and was a mere eleven days shy of his 50th birthday.

This was not all that uncommon, according to http://www.warmuseum.ca, “Most Canadian soldiers were between the ages of 18 and 45, as per regulations, but thousands served who were younger or older, lying about their birth date to enlist. The oldest recorded member of the CEF was 80, while the youngest was ten. The average age of the Canadian soldier was 26.”

 

Ernest_Henry_MedicalThe need for men being what it was, and he being fit enough to pass the very cursory medical examination, on  May 19, 1916, after some training in Canada, he left for England, arriving on May 30. His training continued in England and on March 18, 1917 he was taken on strength with the Canadian Machine Gun Depot at Crowborough. His son was also attached to this group; I wonder if they met. All was going along swimmingly, but not for long.

I find it interesting that on one medical assessment signs of “senility” are mentioned, considering he would live to be a ripe old age and would augment his salary as a dry goods clerk by composing crossword puzzles for newspapers

During his time in England he was training. It was during this physically taxing process that his Achilles heel came to be exposed: arteriosclerosis and a heart murmur. He couldn’t run or exert himself without collapsing. Not the kind of soldier one wanted in the trenches. Once it was determined he had lied about his age, he spent a year as a batman or personal servant to a commissioned officer, before being shipped back to Canada.

On June 5, 1917 he arrived at Canadian Discharge Depot, Buxton, which was used expressly for the married men and those returning on compassionate grounds. Alas my great grandfather’s overseas venture was ending. On June 9, 1917 he departed Liverpool for Canada.

But he re-attested and indeed served by keeping the home-fires burning as it were.

I find it interesting that on one medical assessment signs of “senility” are mentioned, considering he would live to be a ripe old age and would augment his salary as a dry goods clerk by composing crossword puzzles for newspapers. Did they just figure he was mad for trying to fool people?

DCS_Grad_2 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 DC on Twitter @DCMontreal and on Facebook, and add him on Google+