Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Time is Flying By ( and it's all time we've been here for) -are we old?

Gazette article that reminds me how long we have been here for: Yikes you guys are old (not

History Through Our Eyes: Oct. 2, 1963, extending Île-Ste-Hélène

Work was progressing on the enlargement of what we then called St. Helen's Island for use as part of the site of what was to be Expo 67.
Ile-Ste-Helene, or St. Helen's Island, in the St. Lawrence River, was enlarged in order to serve as part of the site for Montreal's Expo 67. This photo of the work underway was published in the Montreal Gazette On Oct. 2, 1963. Bob James / Montreal Gazette
Gazette photographer Bob James’s aerial photo of Île-Ste-Hélène was published on our front page on Oct. 2, 1963. The purpose was to show how work was progressing on the enlargement of what we then called St. Helen’s Island for use as part of the site of the 1967 World’s Fair, Expo 67.
Dikes had been built around the areas to be filled in. Île-Ronde, which was to become part of Île-Ste-Hélène (it lent its name to La Ronde), was being used as an operational base, and rock for the dikes was being quarried there.
“Work is to begin later on a new island of similar size, Île-Notre-Dame, as the second half of exhibition grounds,” we wrote. “World’s Fair Deputy Commissioner-General Robert Shaw says dredging will begin within 10 days to fill in extended parts of St. Helen’s Island. Most of this phase is to be completed before freeze-up, Mr. Shaw says.”
That timeline proved optimistic.
On Dec. 26, 1963, we reported that the dredging was not providing enough fill, so the city was about to call tenders for a contract to bring in more fill by truck to the site. In addition, “instructions already have been given by the administration to contractors working on construction of Montreal’s projected subway system to transport all excavated material to the World’s Fair site for filling in the link between Île-Ronde and St. Helen’s Island,” we reported. 
The panic was on account of the city’s commitment to making the site available by July 1, 1964 to the Canadian Corporation for the 1967 World Exhibition.
A huge ceremony to transfer the site was indeed held the night of June 30-July 1, 1964 — even if Île-Notre-Dame was yet to come.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Swizzle Sticks ( I think I posted this once before when it came out initially) but here goes

Swizzle sticks stir up nostalgia for 1960s Montreal

The city's best restaurants, hotels and watering holes featured a now-nearly-extinct ornament to mark these golden days and to plop into the cocktails of patrons: finely crafted swizzle sticks, individually designed for each establishment.

In the 1960s, custom-designed swizzle sticks were the norm in the city's best restaurants, cafés and watering holes. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Those were heady times. Those were prosperous times.
Montreal was still the financial hub of Canada. Expo 67 was soon to come to the shores of the St. Lawrence River and offer the city an international showcase that would leave its people pumped with civic pride.
Back in the early 1960s, Montrealers were a party people,­ as we are today. But Montrealers had reason to party back then. Political strife was minimal. Damage to the city’s infrastructure was also minimal. And, of course, the city’s economic indicators were rosy.
Happy days Those were the days when the captains of industry threw caution to the wind regarding personal health issues, and three-martini lunches were not out of order at the city’s best restaurants, hotels and watering holes.
And those were the days when the city’s best restaurants, hotels and watering holes featured a now-nearly-extinct ornament to mark these golden days and to plop into the cocktails of patrons: finely crafted swizzle sticks, individually designed for each establishment.
To borrow from the Rod Stewart tune to come a decade later, every swizzle stick tells a story. And thanks to the late Ted Mahoney, father of photographer colleague John Mahoney, a part of Montreal’s rich history has been preserved through the swizzle sticks of once-bustling destinations ­— all of which are, sadly, long gone.

Berkeley Hotel ­

The head of a swizzle stick from 1960s-era Berkeley Hotel, a Golden Square Mile locale with a fabled bar. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

It was in 1958 that a group of 125 local politicians and entrepreneurs had gathered in what was once among the city’s grandest hotels to put forward the idea of a world exhibition for Montreal. And nine years later, their dream became a reality with the unveiling of Expo 67. The Berkeley, built in 1928 in the Golden Square Mile area along Sherbrooke St., is no longer. But some of its postmodern past was preserved in the creation of Maison Alcan, home ­for now ­of Rio Tinto Alcan. Still, to this day, some passersby swear they can still hear the clinking of glasses at the hotel’s fabled bar, where the rich and powerful and socialites gathered, as did journos looking for a little gossip.

Café André ­

This swizzle stick could be found at the Café André, a warm and cozy spot popular with McGill students. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Its swizzle stick may have been the most elaborate and distinctive of this bunch, depicting a charming three-story home. Yet it also belies the grandeur of the venue, once known as the Shrine to the students who frequented the place. It is also the most low-key establishment of this swizzle-stick bunch. A warm and cozy spot on Victoria St., around the corner from the McGill University campus, this long-gone café, once a rousing hot spot best known for its music, dance and comedy revues, went all mellow in the early 1960s and became a haven for folk musicians and aficionados thereof. Among those local luminaries who launched their careers there were Mashmakkhan, Penny Lang and Ricky Blue ­— who recalls playing there for the princely sum of $10 a night but who doesn’t recall the fancy swizzle sticks, because he wasn’t into the booze back then.

Dinty Moore’s ­

Dinty Moore’s diner in downtown Montreal had a simple swizzle stick but a garish front window. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

The most basic swizzle stick of the bunch doesn’t do justice to the extinct downtown diner on Ste-Catherine St. with one of the most memorable menus of them all. The resto, best known for its “famous” corned beef and cabbage, featured a menu cover designed to highlight its specialty: a corpulent, Daddy Warbucks-like figure, his tummy bursting out of his three-piece suit, is pictured, stogie in mouth, lying on a veritable mountain of cabbages. Classic. As was the image of the pig roasting on a spit in the front window. And, indeed, the chattering classes did converge there in the evenings to chow down on the comfort foods.

Esquire Show Bar ­

This swizzle stick was stirred at the Esquire Show Bar, a Stanley St. music mecca. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

If music-savvy Montrealers of a certain age had their way, this fabled Stanley St. mecca of blues and soul ­— which ceased operations in 1972 —­ would come back to life. And music-savvy Montrealers not yet born during the club’s heyday would also embrace its return. Norm Silver, who ran the establishment, brought in the sort of acts that still make music-lovers of all ages salivate: James Brown, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Duke Ellington, Sam and Dave, Joe Tex, Little Richard, the wicked Mr. Wilson Pickett, the Drifters, the Platters, the Four Tops, and King Curtis — featuring a then-unknown guitarist named Jimi Hendrix. ‘Nuff said. And well worth the price of fake ID for those of us underage R& B buffs who snuck into the place and had the time of our lives soaking it all up.

Edgewater Hotel ­

Detail of a swizzle stick from the Edgewater Hotel, a rowdy Point-Claire hangout. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Mention the name The Edge to hipsters today, and they’ll probably think it’s a reference to the U2 guitarist. But well before U2 made its mark, The Edge, as the Edgewater Hotel was better known, was a Pointe-Claire club and hangout where the hipster youth and even their parents in the West Island got their musical kicks. The Edge, with its various rooms, was about as eclectic a musical gathering place as there was, serving up everything from rock to disco, country to calypso, big band to R& B. The spot got so rowdy at times that residents in the ‘hood wished to shut it down. They got their wish in 1987.

Martin’s ­

Montreal hot spots Martin’s and Ruby Foo’s had similar swizzle sticks during the 1960s. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Its whole name was Martin’s Since 1861, and the fact that it had lived to be well over 100 years old is remarkable. All the more so since this lively spot, located around the corner from Windsor Station and a mere stumble away from the old Gazette building on St-Antoine St., was the gathering spot of choice for many Montreal journos back in the early 1960s. Better known as Mother Martin’s, the long-defunct place did serve up decent grub, its roast beef in particular, but a large percentage of its clientele was there for the libations. Yes, those were the days when newspaper folk were more intent on giving their livers a workout than other parts of their bods, when the mention of hot yoga would likely induce a cold, blank stare. Oh yeah, Mother Martin’s even offered entertainment, everything from big band to comedy in the form of future Royal Canadian Air Farce troops Roger Abbott and Don Ferguson.

Ruby Foo’s ­

Ruby Foo’s was a Montreal nightlife favourite. LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA (COLLECTIONSCADANA.GC.CA)

This Décarie Blvd. landmark, razed back in 1988, was a mecca for the city’s business, social, sports, political and wise-guy elite —­ as well as a magnet for tourists who wanted to hobnob with the latter. Anyone who was anyone congregated there. More than that, though, it happened to serve, in the minds of many, the best damned Cantonese cuisine this side of Canton. But what patrons remember most about the place isn’t necessarily the elaborate Cantonese main courses, or the roast beef served from that sparkling silver trolley, or even the drop-dead gorgeous cigarette girl sporting the sleekest Oriental-style dress years before such frocks were deemed acceptable in public places. No, it was the egg rolls and the garlic spareribs — ­ never really replicated. The resto’s Black Sheep Lounge also attracted a who’s who of performers, including Charles Aznavour. It was founded in 1945 by, among others, one Max Shapiro, father of former McGill principal Bernard.

Sheraton Mount-Royal Hotel

Detail of the head of a swizzle stick from Montreal’s defunct Sheraton Mount Royal Hotel. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

 In what is now Les Cours Mont-Royal, a chi-chi condo development with high-end boutiques on the lower floors, used to stand one of the most ornate and swanky hotels in the city, from 1950 to 1973. Also one of the most massive, with 1,100 rooms and exquisite ballrooms. Popular with visiting hockey teams and home to many a high-school prom, the edifice, taking up almost an entire city block, was initially constructed in 1922 and designed by renowned architectural firm Ross & Macdonald. To many Montrealers, though, it was the hotel’s Polynesian-flavoured resto/bar Kon Tiki, with its exotic libations and its exotic serving-staff sporting flowery sarongs, that proved most memorable about the place.

Stork Club ­

Spot the stork: A swizzle stick from the Stork Club is part of the late Ted Mahoney 1960s-era collection. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Not to be confused with the Big Apple’s famed nightspot of the same name. Still, Montreal’s Stork Club, located on Guy St. next to the famed Her Majesty’s Theatre (formerly His Majesty’s Theatre, when our monarch was male), was synonymous with the city’s glorious ­ Sin City days, when visiting celeb royalty like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and Jerry Lewis would head there for late-night revelry following their engagements at other city haunts. Montrealers of all stripes would also congregate there not only to catch a glimpse of celebs but also to bop to the beat of house bands on the club’s sprawling dance floor. The club was later to become home to the disco palace Oz. And ­sigh! ­So it goes.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Tragic Anniversary ( We have mentioned this in the past)

Today's Gazette article remembering te Bluebird Cafe fire ( Wagon Wheel actually was the target)

History Through Our Eyes: Sept. 1, 1972, fire at the Blue Bird

On Sept. 1, 1972, a deliberately set fire took 37 lives at the Blue Bird Café and the Wagon Wheel Bar above it.
Taken by either Tedd Church or Garth Pritchard -- they were jointly credited with several photos -- it shows the gutted interior of the Blue Bird, as viewed through a window, after the bar was destroyed by fire on Sept. 1, 1972. Montreal Gazette

On Sept. 1, 1972, a deliberately set fire took 37 lives at the Blue Bird Café and the Wagon Wheel Bar above it. They were located in a two-storey white stucco building at 1172 Union Ave., north of what is now René-Lévesque Blvd. The Blue Bird was a cocktail lounge and the Wagon Wheel featured live country music. It was a Friday night, and they were busy.
This photo was published in the following day’s Montreal Gazette, along with extensive coverage of the tragedy. Taken by either Tedd Church or Garth Pritchard — they were jointly credited with several photos — it shows the gutted interior of the Blue Bird, as viewed through a window.
“Witnesses say three men jump out of a grey car, rush up the stairs and run down again seconds before flames engulfed the entrance of the building,” we reported. The fire caught quickly, and blocked the stairwell.
We quoted survivor George Lancia’s description of the horrible scene: “There was lots of pitch black smoke then a lot of heat and then a lot of yellow light …. we knew it was a fire and everyone began to panic. There were so many people on the fire escape that the railing broke, people were falling from the sky, almost.”
The culprits were three young men angry at having been denied entrance. They came back and poured gasoline on the stairwell. One of them later explained that they did not mean to kill anybody, only to scare the doorman. They were convicted and received life sentences, although they were eventually released on parole.
In 2012, to mark the 40th anniversary of the fire, a monument was unveiled in nearby Phillips Square.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Montreal landmark the big Orange on Decarie

Remember the big orange on decarie blvd. well here is a little article from today's Montreal Gazette

History Through Our Eyes: Aug. 9, 1977, the scene at the Orange Julep

"At Gibeau's Julep, the 1950s never really left. It's a scene that has outlasted LSD, the Vietnam war and thus far pollution."
Photograph, published Aug. 9, 1977, of the scene at the Orange Julep on Décarie Blvd. in Montreal: "At Gibeau's Julep, the 1950s never really left. It's a scene that has outlasted LSD, the Vietnam war and thus far pollution," Juan Rodriguez wrote in the accompanying article. Len Sidaway / Montreal Gazette
“At Gibeau’s Julep, the 1950s never really left. It’s a scene that has outlasted LSD, the Vietnam war and thus far pollution,” Juan Rodriguez reported, in an Aug. 9, 1977 feature on the Décarie Blvd. landmark.
The “cruising scene” drew an array of teenagers and young adults who came to hang out in the parking lot, admire classic and hot cars with booming radios, and flirt with each other. One suspects that the famous orange drink, hotdogs and fries were secondary attractions. “It is the ultimate hang out, the local epitome of the modern American pastime of the automotive pick-up, the great asphalt drama,” Rodriguez wrote.
“The Julep, which can be seen miles away, is the crowning jewel of the Décarie strip which — with its quick food stands, plastic fluorescent signs, car lots, gas stations, motels, high-priced restaurants and factory warehouses — is the closest Montreal comes to the gaudy tackiness of the paragon of roadside scenes, Los Angeles.”
This photo by Len Sidaway, which ran with the article, shows a ’55 Chevy, and, in the background, “the huge round orange structure that is Montreal’s monument to American pop culture: take-out food, T-shirts and jeans, cars, and the hit parade.” Indeed, sound systems were important. One Mustang driver said he had just shelled out $150 for an 8-track, which he said delivered better sound than the vinyl he listened to at home.
The Orange Julep is still going strong. And on summer nights, particularly Wednesdays, owners of classic cars and motorbikes still gather there.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Verdun Beach idea is coming soon

Borough Mayor Jean-Francois Parenteau says Verdun’s long-awaited urban beach — promised for Montreal’s 375th anniversary in 2017 — will be ready for its official opening on Saturday.
But passersby could be forgiven for expressing skepticism late Monday afternoon, as the site on the shore of the St. Lawrence River right behind the Verdun auditorium did not look anywhere near ready for sunbathers and swimmers just yet.
Bulldozers and backhoes were still on the site Monday digging into mountains of dirt, and all kinds of rock and debris, including an old tire, still littered the site.
Work at Verdun Beach on Monday, June 17, 2019: It will be inaugurated Thursday, with the official opening set for Saturday. Pierre Obendrauf / Montreal Gazette
But borough officials say the Verdun Beach will be ready for its official inauguration this Thursday, when the public is invited to view the site between 4 p.m. and  7 p.m. And the beach will be officially open for summer fun as of Saturday, June 22.
Some work will remain to be completed after the opening, borough officials acknowledge, including some planting and landscaping. Also, the universal accessibility ramp, which will allow bathers with mobility issues to enter the water, will not be completed in time for the opening. Hammocks will not yet be installed, they said, and the buoy lines to delineate the swimming area may not yet be in place.
David Cohen, who lives in a building right beside the new beach site, was among those watching the work Monday and wondering how it can possibly be ready for the public in just a few days. But he is very happy with the project overall.
My property value is going up, so I can’t complain.”
“I’ll have a beach right next door,” he said. “My property value is going up, so I can’t complain.”
Tim Siman, also a Verdun resident, said the beach should have opened long ago.
“I’m just appalled at how long it’s taking,” Siman said. “I mean, how hard can it be to just throw down some sand? … It seems to me they could have done (the beach) part of it and opened it, and then done some of the fancy stuff later.”
In fact, the project has certainly exceeded its initial budget of $4.1 million. It was up to $4.7 million at last check, and the borough is expected to reveal the actual cost on Thursday. Increases are because of various factors, including work that had to be done during the winter months, additional studies that had to be completed and modifications that had to be made once the results of wildlife and water current studies were known.
Of course, the project involved much more than just dropping a load of sand along the shore of the river. Walkways and ramps have been built to ease the descent to the water, and shrubs and trees were planted for shade. Studies had to be done on water quality and the impact on wildlife.  A rocky jetty was built to serve as a breakwater to slow the current, and a retaining wall had to be installed under water to keep sand in place.
Bathers will be able to wade into the water along a gradually descending, sandy bottom, out to a depth of 1.5 metres, all protected from the current. Land elements include a climbing wall, sand boxes and two long slides down to the sand, so that kids can skip the stairs down to the beach. The whole project will, eventually, be wheelchair accessible, including a ramp into the water. Colourful change houses are also in the plans.
A dozen teenage boys were already enjoying the water on Monday, jumping from the jetty into the not-yet-official swimming area.
Ethan Caldwell, 16, of Verdun, said the jetty really works to cut the current.
“We just jumped off the rocks and there is almost no current if you jump on that side of it,” he said, motioning to the side where the beach swimming area will be.
We swim in the river all the time.”
He and his friends have been swimming in the river near the site, without a beach, for years, even though there are several outdoor pools nearby.
“We swim in the river all the time,” Caldwell said. “I prefer it. There’s more freedom and no rules.”
He’s a bit worried an official beach and its lifeguards might reduce that freedom a little, but still, he’s excited by the prospects of a beach scene.
“Do you think there will be lots of girls?” he asked, smiling.
Sean O’Sullivan, 15, said he expects the beach will attract people elsewhere on the island who have never dared to swim in the river before. But in Verdun, he noted, it’s a long-standing summer ritual.
“Lots of people do it. It’s a Verdun thing.”

Thursday, May 16, 2019

May 16th 1977 (the good old days) Habs Stanley Cup Parade 42years ago

History Through Our Eyes: May 16, 1977, Stanley Cup parade

On May 16, 1977, in what was an almost annual rite of spring, Montrealers lined the streets to pay tribute to their hockey champions.
May 16, 1977, Stanley Cup victory parade: Montreal Canadiens captains Serge Savard and Yvan Cournoyer flank the Stanley Cup as Montrealers line the streets to pay tribute to the championship team. Michael Dugas / Montreal Gazette
Share Adjust Comment Print
On May 16, 1977, in what at that time was an almost annual rite of spring, Montrealers lined the streets to pay tribute to their hockey champions. This photograph by the Montreal Gazette’s Michael Dugas shows Montreal Canadiens defenceman Serge Savard (left) and captain Yvan Cournoyer flanking the Stanley Cup.
Our article the next day estimated that there were half a million fans along the six-mile parade route, which started at the Forum at Ste-Catherine and Lambert-Closse Sts. and ended up at city hall, where 132 bottles of champagne were quaffed by the team, city officials and fans.
During the parade, the biggest cheers were reserved for the vehicles carrying Savard and Cournoyer, Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt, and goalie Ken Dryden, Dick Bacon reported.
Savard received a rousing reception when he spoke on behalf of his teammates at the rotunda at city hall.
“It’s nice to play on the greatest team in the world in the greatest city in the world,” he said.
There was some truth to that estimation. The Habs lost only 10 of 94 games that season on their way to their Stanley Cup victory over the rival Boston Bruins. They had also won the Stanley Cup the previous year, and would go on to win again in 1978 and 1979.
There hasn’t been a parade for a while now, though. The Canadiens last won the Cup in 1993.
The uncropped photo. Michael Dugas / Montreal Gazette

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Montreal Forum Auction and the Habs haven't won Since

The Forum has long held a special place in the hearts of Montreal hockey fans. The arena at Atwater Ave. and Ste-Catherine St. W. was the home of the  Canadiens for seven decades — including Les Glorieux’s most glorious years — until 1996. It also was home to the Maroons in the 1920s and ’30s.
The Habs played their final game there (a 4-1 win over the Dallas Stars) on March 11, 1996. The occasion was marked with appropriate ceremony. Present were some of the biggest stars of the past, including Guy Lafleur, Jean Béliveau and Maurice (Rocket) Richard.
While memories may be priceless, that was not the case for the Forum’s seats, turnstiles, banners, nets and a host of other items. These were sold at auction to raise money for charity. Pierre Obendrauf’s photo of auctioneer Serge Belec taking centre stage in front of some of the items to be sold appeared on Page 1 of the Montreal Gazette on March 13, 1996, along with a column by Peggy Curran recounting the previous evening’s events.
“Before auctioneer Serge Belec even opened the bidding, Canadiens president Ronald Corey was so confident that he guaranteed a cheque of $100,000 to Centraide and the Old Timers Association. By the time the final hammer fell about midnight, $726,750 was in the till. Former NHL president Clarence Campbell’s seat went for $12,000. Corey’s block of four reds went for $9,000,” Curran wrote.
She marvelled that “a worn turnstile sold for $1,800, while a stick and jersey belonging to Donald Brashear, who hasn’t scored a goal this season, went for $2,500.”
The 1992-93 Stanley Cup championship banner was bought for $32,000. The Canadiens, who now play at the Bell Centre, have not won the Stanley Cup since.