Montreal Fifty Years After EXPO 67; Sorry Mayor Drapeau

Fifty years ago this week , Thursday, April 27, 1967 to be precise, was the opening day of Montreal’s EXPO 67 World’s Fair. It was a General Exposition of the first category as decreed by the  Bureau International des Expositions (the first fair of this magnitude ever to be held in North America). The theme was Man and His World; the fair was open until October 29th and welcomed over 50 million visitors from across Canada and around the world. The city was on top of the world.

 It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?

Ah nostalgia! That word, the etymology of which is often said to come from the Greek for “a painful yearning to return home” is just about all that remains today of EXPO. However I imagine other Montrealers have felt the pang of pride when overhearing tourists marvelling at Moshe Safdie‘s Habitat 67 which, along with Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome are among the few remaining EXPO buildings.  I was seven-years old in the summer of 1967 and spent many days with various family members visiting the numerous pavilions and soaking up the international environment. A half-century later, when I look back, I do so through the eyes of a child.

Habitat 67

Halcyon, salad, glory, or just plain ‘good old’, those days are indelibly etched in my memory. I suspect some of the warm fuzzy feelings of that year’s Summer of Love in the United States made the trek north with the many visitors to the fair.  It was Montreal at its best. Will new generations of Canadians and Montrealers ever see anything the likes of those days?  I fear not.

I cannot deny that I am out-of-step with what appears to be the general consensus of my fellow citizens today. Concerns about costs, noise, corruption, you name it, have exceeded our once prevailing desire to be host to the world. The late Jean Drapeau, who as mayor of Montreal was responsible for both EXPO 67 and the 76 Summer Olympics, planted the roots as he set out to make Montreal the “first city of the 21st century”. Alas financial and political insecurities during the eighties and nineties scuppered the mayor’s dream forever.

… projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

As Canada marks its sesquicentennial this year, which sure does not roll off the tongue like centennial (I can’t imagine there will be too many Sesquicentennial High Schools or Sesquicentennial Bridges named), and Montreal celebrates its 350th anniversary I cannot help but feel saddened that the events planned are not on par with EXPO 67. With our current state of affairs, ranging from an ageing infrastructure to gentrification concerns (investment in neighbourhoods was once seen as a positive thing, if broken shop windows and graffiti are any indication the opposite is now true), projects of world-class proportions have been relegated to mere memories for most of us. That is a pity, but thankfully many of us of a certain age can think back to those days with pride and reflect on what grand memories they are.

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+

#TBT Sorry, But We Canadians Do Not Apologize Too Much

“Sorry, I didn’t realize you are a total arsehole unable to function in normal society”

It is often said that we Canadians are polite to a fault.  As a Canadian I would suggest, but certainly not argue, that it is impossible to be overly polite. People point out that we say thank you too much, perhaps even when being given a traffic ticket. If someone gives you something you have two choices; you can say thanks, or no thanks. As the latter probably won’t work with most cops you’re left with the former. Thanks for the ticket. Just as an afterthought, when someone does say thanks, or thank you, it is customary to reply with “you’re welcome”, or “my pleasure”, or even “no problem”. It is never appropriate to reply with “sure” or “uh-huh”!

800px-Canada_flag_halifax_9_-04But maybe  we are more often accused of being overly apologetic, so let me enlighten you as to the true nature of the Canadian apology. Saying sorry is often depicted as a national pastime in Canada: bacon, hockey and apologizing. However I think it would be of benefit to those who hold this opinion of Canadians as apologists to explain our apologies, because they can be very subtle in nature – often more empathetic than apologetic.

Let’s say a Canadian and a non-Canadian turn a corner and bump into each other on a sidewalk.

because (Canadian apologies) can be very subtle in nature – often more empathetic than apologetic.

The Canuck will probably be the first to say cheerily “Sorry about that” even though  both were equally at fault, or no fault existed. The other person may also apologize, just as cheerily, resulting in what is known as a civilized exchange. Then again he or she may seize upon the Canadian’s apology to feel superior and reply “You certainly should be sorry” or some other witty retort.

… don’t be fooled by our oft used  “sorry”, sometimes we’re actually expressing our sympathy for your shortcomings.

In this case the subtlety of the sorry masks its true intent, which is along the lines of: “Sorry, I didn’t realize you are a total arsehole unable to function in normal society”. You see, the sorry in this case is more akin to the sorry expressed to someone recently bereaved, you weren’t responsible for the death of the loved one, but you “feel” sorry for their loss – you empathize with them. In our case you feel sorry for the cloddish boor for being a cloddish boor.

Keep this in mind the next time a Canadian apologizes to you; don’t be fooled by our oft used  “sorry”, sometimes we’re actually expressing our sympathy for your shortcomings.

This post was linked to by CNN to explain the backhanded apology of some Canadians!

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’s Anti-Capitalism March Fills Capitalists’ Pockets

Capital_Riot

I usually leave downtown Montreal to tourists on Sundays. But last Sunday I had to not only be in the downtown core, but was so with car. Having a few stops to make made driving necessary, not something you want to do downtown on any day, let alone Sunday. The problem last Sunday was dodging two groups of protesters and their inherent phalanxes of police cars.

The other group was made up of outright anti-capitalists. This latter bunch was not content to block traffic in an effort to make their point, resorting instead to vandalism.

Sunday was May Day, when the world pays tribute to workers, with the exception of North America where we have Labor Day in September.  One group of marchers was calling for better working conditions, including better pay and security. The other group was made up of outright anti-capitalists. This latter bunch was not content to block traffic in an effort to make their point, resorting instead to vandalism.

Motorcades of cop cruisers and buses of riot police zigzagged through traffic in an attempt to cut off the protesters as they snaked through the city’s core. Eventually tear gas was employed and arrests were made. Before it was all over, several police vehicles were damaged (beyond merely being defaced with anti-government stickers already placed on them by the police as they seek a new contract themselves), one police station had two large windows smashed.

I have never been one to march in the street, and when it comes to capitalism I am probably more Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump, but one thing just does not make sense to me. The anti-capitalism protesters succeeded in causing havoc that resulted in several retail outlets shutting their doors for a brief period. That I understand.

Perhaps a more effective approach to fighting capitalism, should one so desire, would be one that did not directly create business opportunities.

However their actions created a windfall for those who: replace store-front windows, remove spray paint from cars and buildings, fix damaged cars and buses, make tear gas and other crowd control devices, and manufacture riot gear. All of whom I suspect are capitalists.

Perhaps a more effective approach to fighting capitalism, should one so desire, would be one that did not directly create business opportunities.

Then again could these protesters actually be more concerned with causing trouble than any real cause? Every year Montreal has an anti-police brutality march. This inevitably ends in an ugly battle between marchers and police. The marchers claim this is actual proof of police brutality while the police insist they were provoked and acted in the interest of public security.

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+

A Short History of Montreal’s Anglo/Irish Pubs

Here’s a re-post of a popular piece on Montreal’s Anglo/Irish pubs. Just in time for St. Patrick’s day! To see the original post, including many comments from former employees and patrons click here.


John Bull Pub ad from The Gazette October 1972
John Bull Pub ad from The Gazette October 1972

Back when I was young, during the mid-seventies,  it seemed Montreal was awash with Anglo/Irish Pubs. There’s still a good number of them today including Hurley’s, McKibbin’s , The Irish Embassy and the Old Dublin to name but a few, but when I was cutting my drinking teeth there was a circuit of pubs in the western downtown area. They all had similar décor; after all, there’s only so much variation you can have on the theme. There was lots of brass and not much plastic,  easily cleaned concrete or tiled floors (no carpets, thanks), wood paneling and large tables for large groups (remember, this was a time when people bought drinks in “rounds” and managed to do so without having to mortgage their homes). The requisite dart boards, and very small stages, often just a raised area in the corner because floor space was at a premium.

Maidenhead Inn ad from The Gazette in March 1971
Maidenhead Inn ad from The Gazette in March 1971

Not only was the appearance similar but the entertainment was pretty much the same, at least in style. Usually a duo playing what North Americans considered traditional Celtic pub songs including Farewell to Nova Scotia, Whiskey in the Jar and The Black Velvet Band (and I hope they got those seven old ladies out of the lavatory). The main house act played Thursday through Saturday nights but other acts filled in the rest of the week so there was never a night without live music.

Starting this trip down memory lane, moving east from Atwater Avenue, the first pub you came to was the Maidenhead Inn in Alexis Nihon Plaza featuring the piano magic of Goa, India’s own Ferdie Fertado who would leave Montreal after several years and move to Laguna Beach, California where he passed away about three years ago. The Maidenhead waitresses wore low-cut “wenches” outfits while serving bottled beer and mixed drinks.

Site of former Clover Leaf and Molly Maguires
Site of former Clover Leaf and Molly Maguires

That was another shared feature not only of the Anglo/Irish places, but all Montreal bars at that time; beer came in bottles. Draft beer on tap was served only in taverns (and later brasseries) and was a cheap lower quality beer produced by the breweries for the express purpose of taverns.

Moving along, on the south-east corner of Ste. Catherine and Lambert-Clossé streets (then referred to simply as Closse) adjacent to the Shell Station, was the Clover Leaf that would close and, for a very short time, become Molly Maguires. I’d let you know what the décor was like, but I don’t think I was ever inside.

Next up is the Grandfather of Montreal Anglo-style pubs, the Cock ‘N’ Bull. It is still a going concern today although its red-roof entrance is gone and the inside is slightly different as well. In its original state the bar, complete with embedded British coins, was located halfway along the  east wall, about 15 feet toward the back from its current position, placing it smack in front of the “stage”, which is now the darts corner.

Cock 'N' Bull Pub today
Cock ‘N’ Bull Pub today

The stage was an area about 5 square feet that would give any claustrophobic performer a fit as it was enclosed on three sides by patrons hooting, hollering and singing. (A strict “no dancing” rule was enforced to cut down on accidents.) I also assume they have gotten rid of the sign that read: “Free drinks for anyone over the age of 70 and accompanied by a parent”. In these days of increased longevity that could become expensive!

Late Sunday morning was brunch time at the Cock ‘n’ Bull and Sunday nights were Dixieland Jazz nights. But one of the most popular events was Monday’s Amateur Night. The late Ted Blackman wrote a great column on the amateur spectacular in The Gazette in May of 1974

On de Maisonneuve right across from Sir George Williams University’s (now Concordia) Henry F. Hall Building was the Fyfe and Drum (neither Anglo nor Irish but clearly Scottish). The building was torn down to make way for the Concordia Library, but in its day the Fyfe was, not surprisingly, a hang-out for students.

The old entrance to Finnegan's Irish Pub
The old entrance to Finnegan’s Irish Pub

Just a bit further east on de Maisonneuve in what has most recently been an entrance to Wanda’s Strip Club was Finnigan’s Irish Pub. It had been located on the top floor of the building, but by the time of the 1976 Olympics was a rowdy packed basement pub.

That summer of 1976 saw many bars filled to capacity and beyond as the world once again came to Montreal for the Olympics as it had in 1967 for EXPO 67. When I think back to evenings in Finnigan’s what comes to mind are the words fire trap.

Until a few years ago the Downtown YMCA building extended out over half of de Maisonneuve from Drummond to Stanley Streets. On the north side of de Maisonneuve not actually under the Y overhang, but in its shadow was the John Bull Pub. It was more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll place than traditional pub music. Except as the ad above shows they ran an amateur night on Monday’s as well, hosted by the ubiquitous Ferdie Fertado who clearly made the rounds.

Irish Lancer Pub ad from The Gazette September 1975
Irish Lancer Pub ad from The Gazette September 1975

On Drummond Street below Ste. Catherine Street in the basement of the Lasalle Hotel was the Irish Lancer. The Lancer’s bathrooms were outside the pub itself in a sort of lobby and were shared with guests of the hotel who were often confronted by drunk pub patrons.

On Peel Street just above Cyprus Street and the Windsor Hotel was the Hunter’s Horn. Given its location in the heart of downtown Montreal it attracted a more businessperson clientele – more suits than the other pubs. The upstairs lounge, or Parlor as it was called, was a bit up-market being carpeted and nicely appointed. It hosted the Montreal Press Club for several years.

 

HuntersHorn

UPDATE: During the recent renovation of Alexis Nihon shopping centre, I snapped a couple of shots of what was once the Maidenhead Inn but is now a delicatessen.

Left: Front door Right: Interior
Front door                                                                   Interior
Recently Elaine, who has commented on this post and let me know she worked at the Maidenhead Inn, sent me some pictures from her time there. With her permission I post them here. She also has an interesting online petition regarding Robin Hood’s Well in Nottingham; have a read and consider signing it.

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Me 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+

March Still a Lion in Montreal

Let’s hope this is Old Man Winter’s last kick at the can!

Snow_1Snow_2Snow_3Snow_4

 

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+