Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Verdun Spy Mystery - rerun

From: kristiangravenor <>
Subject: [MediainMontreal] Help with Verdun mystery
Received: Tuesday, February 1, 2005, 8:33 PM

There's a good discussion forum about Verdun with a few neat stories
that I might use if I ever write another book about Montreal. Here's a
potboiler that maybe somebody knows the answer to ....

Most of us 55 and older will have various memories of the Cold War and
spies.  But I suspect none of us knew just how close the spies were.

I recently bought a non-fiction paperback book in a second-hand book
store and while reading it, discovered the Verdun Cold War Connection.
The book is called "FOR SERVICES RENDERED" by John Sawatsky,
originally published by Doubleday & Company in 1952, and in 1953 a
paperback version was published by Penguin Books.   It is about RCMP
spymaster Leslie James Bennett.

The Verdun Cold War Connection described in this book is all too brief
- no more than a couple of paragraphs - but left me fasinated and
wishing I could remember more about the location mentioned.  In 1952,
a Soviet spy (code named "Gideon" ) set up operation in Verdun.  Here
I will quote directly from the book (remember, this is non-fiction and
the year is 1952):

"Weeks later word arrived (from his controller) to start setting up
shop as a photographer.  Gideon settled on a small shop on Bannantyne
Avenue ... in Verdun, a suburb near downtown Montreal.  The store had
previously been a one-woman beauty salon that succumbed to competition
from two other beauty shops within a block.  Low-income homes ...
mixed with the smattering of mom-and-pop outlets such as the Joe and
Alec Restaurant across the street dotted the neighbourhood... Before
he had finished purchasing photographic equipment he went out and
bought a short wave radio and propped it up in his living quarters..."

In 1953 Gideon contacted the RCMP and became a double-agent working
for the RCMP.  Gideon continued to broadcast to Moscow from his
photography shop on Bannantyne (sending material provided to him by
the RCMP) until he was recalled to Moscow in 1956 for the usual
briefing.  He never returned.

So, how are your memories?  Where on Bannantyne was this Cold War spy
located?  By the way, no other information is given in the book  - and
I no idea.

The only clues (some are quoted above; others from the book) are:

   1. In 1952 a photographers shop opened in a former beauty salon on
Bannantyne Ave.
   2. In 1952 there were two other beauty shops within a block.
   3. The Joe and Alex Restaurant was across the street.
   4.  There was a short wave antenna situated at the back of the
   5. In 1952 he was a short blond man in his late twenties, with an
European look.
   6. While in Canada he used the name David Soboloff.

Can anyone help solve this Verdun Cold War Mystery?


john allison said...

I can't come up with any answers. Could not even come up with a good guess. I do know one thing though. Red Starky, an avowed Communist, lived across the street from us on 3rd Avenue. He lived at 802. I know this because he came to out house one day and talked to my brother-in-law about joining up. He said he would send him a magazine that was published by the Communist party. After my brother -in-law received some of the magazines, he and my sister went to New York City for a visit. They flew down there, and when they got off the plane, the FBI arrested them. They took them to Ellis Island for interrogation. They separated them and put them in different wings, and questioned them extensively. After a few days of questioning, they deported them back to Canada. Yes the Cold War was on, and is was for real...that was probably 1950 or so.

Guy Billard said...

I have checked the Lovell's directory and found the following 5 beauty parlors on Bannantyne in 1952:

4315 Bannantyne, Salon Allard, Tremblay, Miss J.G.
5312 " (near Melrose) Bannantyne Beauty Salon, Miss C. Delisle
5382 " (near Argyle) Aimée Beauty Shops, Touchette, Miss Aimée
5407 " Trudeau's Air Dressing
(5411 Scotch Fish & Chips)
6308 " Alex Beauty Parlor

There are no Joe & Alex Restaurant. However note the last beauty parlor names Alex.

There are no David Soboloff listed.

That's about it, Maybe someone can come up with some links based on this information. However, beware of these so called clues as they maybe fiction.


Maggie McKiernon said...

Lovell 1953 Directoy
5362 Bannantyne.
Joe & Alec Rest.

Lovell 1954 Directory
5381 Bannantyne
D. Soboloff

john allison said...

I put the name down as Red Starky. His hair was redish, but I think his name was Len Starky.. ?????

Guy Billard said...

Good détective work. The Aimée Beauty Shop would be the closest, 5382 Bannantyne wich would be across the street from D. Soboloff who lived at 5381 and is near Argyle. There must have been something about the incident in the Guardian. This would mean going through 1952-1953 and 1954. Too big a job but I will keep it in mind.

Laurie Etienne said...

5362 Bannantyne was the address for the Restaurant.

Guy Billard said...

Maybe someone can come up with a newspaprer article on the subject as I would like to publish an article in our magazine (Les Argoulets) as well as in the Messager as this type of spy mistery is always fascinating to read, specially since Verdun is involved..

Les F said...

Here is one article from the Montreal GAzette ,that at least mentions the name David Soboloff who acted as a double agent......blah blah blah......
You will have to reuse through the article to see his name,.as always select the 'full screen' option to make it easier to read.................HF&RV

Les F said...

Same story line, with mention of David Soboloff returning to Russia & never seen again,.his code name was Gideon, & there is mention of his owning a photography studio in Verdun:

Les F said...

Photo from Google Maps, appears on the neat Coolopolis site,the story has intrigued them as well..maybe we will find out more info through their resources ...... HF&RV

Bill Pentecost said...

When I wrote the original "The Verdun Spy Mystery" article about five years ago, people provided some comments at the time but there was nothing that solved the "mystery." Thank you, Maggie, for restarting the "investigation."

My curiosity about this spy came from my being seven years old in 1952 and living on Claude Avenue between Church Street and Galt Avenue. Since reading the book "For Services Rendered" by John Sawatsky, I have often wondered if while going to Bannantyne School, the YMCA on Gordon Avenue and playing in the area streets, I might have been rubbing elbows (so to speak) with a real life spy as he locked up his photography shop for the day.

On one hand, I must say I am delighted that the mystery of the location of Verdun's Soviet spy has now been solved. On the other hand, I have to admit to being a little disappointed that he wasn't just around the corner...

And thank you to everyone who participated in solving the mystery.

Bill P.

Guy Billard said...

In 1952 I lived at 857 Galt across the street from the Bannantyne school near Bannantyne so you where just a few blocks from my home. However, I was 22 years old at the time. It's a small world.

john allison said...

Anyone remember the Velvet resaurant on Wellington in the 40's/50's?????

Les F said...

Intrepid .........has nothing to do with this thread,however on this day back in 1980 Intrepid was awarded the Order of Canada,.....the spy (Canadian by the way) was instrumental in the forming of the CIA ,as well as the model for the James Bond character,but how's this, these photos we share each day,may have had there beginnings due to his efforts as well.......
- Today's Canadian Headline...
Hamilton Bermuda - Sir William Stephenson is awarded the Order of Canada; the ailing Winnipeg-born engineer pioneered digital wireless photo transmission. He worked for British intelligence during World War II under the code name Intrepid, and was the personal contact man between Churchill and Roosevelt.

-"Nothing decieves like a Document"--William Stephenson (lends creedence to 'Don't believe everything you read') except this of course................hahahahahah Cheers !! HF&RV

Now this guy was not lazt,checkout his resume:
Sir William Stephenson (1896-1989 )
WWI fighter pilot, WWII spy master
born on January 11 1896 in Winnipeg, Manitoba
died January 31 1989 in Bermuda
during WWI he was a Sergeant in the Canadian Engineers
was badly wounded during a gas attack in 1916.
in1917 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps
shot down 12 planes before he was shot down and captured by the Germans on 28 July 1918
during WWII he was made head of British Security Coordination, headquartered in New York
was knighted and received the Presidential Medal for Merit from the United States for his counter-intelligence work during World War II
portrayed by David Niven in "A Man Called Intrepid"
A Man Called Intrepid, by William Stevenson
Intrepid's Last Case, by William Stevenson
The True `Intrepid', by Bill MacDonald