Saturday, October 29, 2016

Re-Visit Verdun in Today's World (a story from the Montreal Gazette)

been away from verdun for many decades now ,then you might like a quick visit courtesy of online Gazette,  Cheers ! LesF


                                  Wellington St. has come alive since Verdun ended its 'dry era.Wellington St. is that perfect mix of high and low, kitschy and urbane, old and new.

Every visit seems to yield a new place to discover, or an old gem to revisit. But Verdun’s main commercial strip has had its share of ups and downs. There were glory days in the 1950s and 60s, when Wellington St. was a bustling thoroughfare with department stores and high-end pastry shops. There was Woolworth and Kresge, but also Greenberg’s and Gagnon, and Patisserie Rosaire for fancy cakes. But then the métro system was extended in the late 1970s, and the easier access to downtown led to a decline in neighbourhood business.
Wellington St. nowadays has reason to linger. Deborah Interlicchia, left, Christelle Martens and Rafael Jassan with his dog Marciano, enjoy a warm fall day.
Wellington St. nowadays has reason to linger. Deborah Interlicchia, left, Christelle Martens and Rafael Jassan with his dog Marciano, enjoy a warm fall day. PHIL CARPENTER /MONTREAL GAZETTE
Fisun Ercan, chef-owner of the Turkish restaurant Su, at Wellington St.’s western edge, recalls the bleak landscape when she opened 10 years ago.
“The street was empty and very poor-looking, with nothing but small, cheap ethnic restaurants and boutiques that were changing hands or closing down here and there,” Ercan recalled. “We had white table cloths and crystal wine glasses, and customers were surprised to find that in Verdun.”
Now Su — with its turquoise chairs and colourful small-plate mezzes —  attracts diners from all over the city. And it has plenty of company along Wellington St. There are dozens and dozens of lively and interesting shops, restaurants and cafés along the street.
Chef Fisun Ercan at her Turkish restaurant, Su.
Chef Fisun Ercan at her Turkish restaurant, Su. PETER MCCABE / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Wellington St. is back, but in a newer, hipper incarnation. Its recent rise follows Verdun’s growing popularity as a lower-priced alternative to Villeray and the Plateau Mont-Royal, which includes Mile End. The working-class borough has been attracting students, artists and immigrants looking for cheap rents, but also young families and professionals in search of affordable properties to buy. And they in turn have welcomed a new generation of bright and inventive entrepreneurs who are opening businesses that coexist alongside old-timers who have weathered good times and bad.
Mary Lamey, a real-estate agent and former Gazette reporter who relocated from the Plateau to Verdun with her family a decade ago, says Wellington St.’s proximity to public transit (two métro stations within walking distance) and the neighbourhood’s compact layout have been important factors in its renaissance. Verdun is configured in a narrow swath that flanks the St. Lawrence River, its residential streets all within walking distance of the businesses along Wellington St.
Ezra Azmon does some busking on Wellington St., with Natalia Babanova waiting for him around the corner.
Ezra Azmon does some busking on Wellington St., with Natalia Babanova waiting for him around the corner. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE
“In an old-fashioned way, you can walk and find all the services you need,” says Lamey, when we meet for coffee at Café La Tazza, a 10-year veteran on the street. 
“When we first moved here, a croque monsieur was the best you could find to eat. But now we have our pick of more than a dozen really good restaurants — all of them within a 10-block radius.”
Of the newcomers, none is a better example of Wellington St.’s new persona than Boutique Réunion Cuisine & Maison, the smart, sunlit housewares and kitchen store that shares its 7,000 square feet of space with Librairie Verdun, a French-language bookstore and Café de la troisième, a compact café. The space, designed by star interior designer Zebulon Perron, is housed in a former Baptist church that was, before that, a Dominion grocery store. Stripped down to its concrete columns and original terrazzo floors, it is a dazzling space, all glossy teal walls and LED lights juxtaposed against a rough industrial shell.
Boutique Réunion owner Catherine Rousseau, left, chats with shopper Marie Fortin.
Boutique Réunion owner Catherine Rousseau, left, chats with shopper Marie Fortin. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE
Catherine Rousseau, Réunion’s owner, stocks her shop with exquisite kitchen linens and artisanal glassware and ceramics as well as high-end cookware and cocktail accessories. Her goal, since she opened at the end of May, is to showcase Quebec designers such as Tomas Design and Petits Mots. 
Local merchants and restaurateurs say the borough of Verdun played a big role in Wellington St.’s transformation, when in 2010 it lifted a decades-old ban on alcohol, making way for the microbrasserie Benelux, which moved into an old bank building right in the middle of the shopping strip. More recently, Bar Palco, with its laid-back, jazzy atmosphere, live music and craft cocktails, opened its doors right across the street — putting a decidedly stylish end to Verdun’s “dry” days.
As Kathryn Harvey explains in her historical reflection on Verdun in the Montreal Mosaic web magazine:”When Verdun came into being at the end of the 19th century, the city founders decided that their territory was not to be sullied by the noxious fumes of industry, nor by the vices associated with alcohol and hotel rooms. Consequently, Verdun remained ‘dry’ and industry-free throughout most of the 20th century. What it did have was an abundance of churches, whose many activities structured the leisure time of parishioners.”
Brandon Linhares with patron Samuelsson Arsenault at Bar Palco.
Brandon Linhares with patron Samuelsson Arsenault at Bar Palco. PHIL CARPENTER /MONTREAL GAZETTE
These days, that seems like ancient history. Manager Maeva Costedoat says Bar Palco has become a neighbourhood place, where locals pop in to drink chai lemonade with rum at the bar or to play board games at a cozy table on the mezzanine of this old clothing store.
“Verdun’s like that,” she says. “It’s all about the neighbourhood.”
What to see and do and taste on Wellington St.? Here’s a sampling:


Boutique Réunion
4750 Wellington St.
An inviting space filled with beautiful things, all of them hand-picked by owner Catherine Rousseau, who is on a mission to showcase works by Quebec artisans and graphic designers. She’s a cook herself, so her selection features good-quality kitchenware and tools as well as attractive kitchen linens and barware. Take a look around, browse the books at Librairie Verdun, which shares the space, then grab a coffee in the stylish Café de la troisième, which is tucked away behind the shop.
Boutique Réunion.
Boutique Réunion. PHIL CARPENTER / -
Boutique Brock-Art
4835 Wellington St.
This shop, with its atelier at the back, features homespun, handmade furniture fashioned from recycled and upcycled pieces. Plus a quirky selection of midcentury kitchenware, dishes and collectibles as well as new handmade jewelry and giftware from Quebec artisans, with a large showing from Verdun.
Vintage clothes and accessories at Boutique Brock-Art.
Vintage clothes and accessories at Boutique Brock-Art. PHIL CARPENTER /MONTREAL GAZETTE

Boutique Brock-Art.
Boutique Brock-Art. PHIL CARPENTER / -
Café La Tazza3922 Wellington St.
Johanne Minicucci opened her café a decade ago and has transformed it into a fine-food emporium. She’s a chatty, friendly presence, and the store stocks an interesting selection of cocktail syrups, spice mixes, olive oils, maple syrup, tea, coffee and other specialty items. In the lead-up to the Christmas holidays, it boasts one of the city’s best selections of fine Italian panettone and torrone, with the regular clientele putting in their orders as early as June. 
Johanne Minicucci with some of the cocktail mixes at her Café La Tazza.
Johanne Minicucci with some of the cocktail mixes at her Café La Tazza. PHIL CARPENTER / -

Spices and other goods at Café La Tazza,
Spices and other goods at Café La Tazza, PHIL CARPENTER / -
Copette et Cie
4650 Wellington St.
Though it’s small, this just might be one of Montreal’s best cheese shops, accessed through a picture-perfect turquoise entrance. It specializes in Quebec cheeses, including local chèvre and buffalo and sheep’s milk cheeses. Plus there is bread from Arhoma and a selection of local charcuterie meats.
A sampling of cheeses at Copette & Cie.
A sampling of cheeses at Copette & Cie. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Copette & Cie.
Branche d’Olivier
4342 Wellington St.
This bulk-food store is the place to find whole grains, dried beans, rice and spices in bulk as well as vegetarian and gluten-free specialities from all corners of the world. It’s got olive oil from Tunisia and Morocco, date vinegar, rose water and halva from the Middle East, and canned goods and hot-pepper pastes from Eastern Europe. 


Su Restaurant
5145 Wellington St.
This stylish Turkish restaurant was one of the first new places to open on Wellington St. a decade ago. The ambiance is cheerful and the colourful and flavourful mezze plates are great for sharing. Main dishes of slow-roasted meats and grilled fish change with the seasons.
The mezze plate at Su.
Blackstrap BBQ
4436 Wellington St.
A fun, casual, rustic restaurant with picnic tables at the front and giant smokers in the back, where dry-rubbed, fall-off-the bone ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket are always smoking, Memphis-style.  
Chicken with fries with coleslaw at Blackstrap BBQ.
Chicken with fries with coleslaw at Blackstrap BBQ. JOHN MAHONEY / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Restaurant Wellington
3629 Wellington St.
Modern bistro food in a friendly, low-lit, minimalist setting with impeccably set tables and a blackboard full of specials. This bring-your-own-wine restaurant at the eastern edge of Wellington St. is always busy. The $45 three-course special is a perennial favourite. (Its sister restaurant Balconville Pub Gourmand, at 4816 Wellington, 514-419-1942, is a more casual place serving fish tacos, burgers and craft beer.)
The blood pudding at Restaurant Wellington.
The blood pudding at Restaurant Wellington. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Piquillo Bistro de quartier
3900 Ethel St.
Not right on Wellington St., but just around the corner. This Spanish-Portuguese restaurant owned by chef José Ignacio Rodriguez and pastry chef Anabela Gonçalves, his wife, is always a treat. From paella, seared scallops or braised oxtail to pasteis de natas and flan, the food is stellar and the vibe is friendly.
José Ignacio Rodriguez and Anabela Gonçalves.
José Ignacio Rodriguez and Anabela Gonçalves. MARIE-FRANCE COALLIER /MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES

Petiscos at Piquillo Bistro de quartier.
Petiscos at Piquillo Bistro de quartier. MARIE-FRANCE COALLIER / MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
Comptoir 21
4844 Wellington St.
Fish and chips, hamburgers with a serious reputation and a very cool wall-sized fish mural made of salvaged wood and newsprint by Montreal artist Marc Gosselin makes this a fun place to stop for a bite to eat.
Comptoir 21.

The fish mural at Comptoir 21.
The fish mural at Comptoir 21. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE
Cucina Linda Ristorante
3900 Wellington St.
Old-school Italian eatery open for breakfast, lunch and supper. Overseen by Linda Minicucci, who took over from her father, Michele, who opened the restaurant in 1929. This is the place for home-style Italian comfort food like veal parmigiana, pasta e fagioli, manicotti and lasagna.


Sweet Lee’s Rustic Bakery & Café
4150 Wellington St.
Bright red walls and shiny pressed-tin ceilings are the backdrop for this cozy bakery, which shares quarters with Café St. Henri. It’s owned by the enthusiastic young brother-sister duo of Liana and Greg Lessard, with help from their mom. The displays are practically heaving under the weight of their baking, both sweet and savoury. The offerings change with the seasons. Right about now they feature roasted squash and spice muffins, apple and caramel tartlets and chai-tea shortbreads.
Liana and Greg Lessard, owners of Sweet Lee's Rustic Bakery & Café with their mother, Claudia Settels, who works with them.
Liana and Greg Lessard, owners of Sweet Lee’s Rustic Bakery & Café with their mother, Claudia Settels, who works with them. PHIL CARPENTER / MONTREAL GAZETTE

Tarts at Sweet Lee's.

Sweet Lee's muffins.
Station W
3852 Wellington St.
This café has become a neighbourhood hub, with locals dropping in for a quick coffee or sitting down with their computers for a day’s work. Bright, bookish digs and communal tables offer a low-key setting.
Bar Palco4019 Wellington St.
Can be reached via 
Have the chai lemonade with rum and coconut milk or a warm nutmeg-spiced toddy, depending on the weather. This laid-back neighbourhood bar, with its bottle-lined bar, white-painted chairs and easy-listening playlist is an attractive place for a pre-dinner drink or a late-night cocktail. There’s live music every Tuesday and a DJ on Saturday. Plus old-school vinyl on Wednesday. In summer, the terrasse is lovely.
Benelux Brasserie Artisanale4026 Wellington St.

  Thanks for surfing by by the old Verdun Connections site: Cheers ! LesF

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Monanton Explosion 50 Years Ago

Another event that happened while most of us were growing up in Verdun (Montreal) is covered in a story in today's Montreal Gazette.

Victims still grieve for fathers killed in 1966 Monsanto plant explosion in LaSalle

The massive explosion and fire ripped through the plant on St. Patrick St. at 10:10 p.m. on Oct. 13, 1966.
Among the 11 male victims, some burned beyond recognition, was Henry “Scotty” Caldwell, a native of Paisley, Scotland, who was 46 and a father of three boys, then between the ages of eight and 20.
“He was just entering the prime of his life,” said his oldest son, Brian Caldwell, now 70.
Eleven people were killed when an explosion levelled the Monsanto plant in LaSalle, Que., on Oct. 13, 1966.
The Oct. 13, 1966, blast at the Monsanto plant in LaSalle was caused by a spark which ignited polystyrene gas. MONTREAL GAZETTE FILES
The night of the explosion, which shattered windows in the area and was heard for miles around, Brian Caldwell was sound asleep at his parent’s home in Montreal North.
“I remember my mother waking me up. We spent the rest of the night up listening to the radio for reports.”
Although listed among the dead in newspaper reports, it wasn’t till several days later that Henry Caldwell was officially identified.
Brian Caldwell, who accompanied his mother and a cousin to the morgue, said an accurate identification was difficult due to the badly burned condition of the corpse.
“There was nothing really to identify anyway … . There was just a hunk of charred meat,” he said.
To this day, Caldwell is not even sure it was his father’s remains he saw.
“It was mostly a process of elimination. The other families went in first, and then us. To this day I believe we just picked somebody. I couldn’t be 100 per cent certain.”
Caldwell was in a haze at his father’s funeral, but he took some solace after his father’s co-workers told him his father had died heroically.
According to their accounts, Scotty Caldwell was among a group of workers who re-entered the plant that fateful night in a bid to rescue others after the initial blast.
“We understood that he got out, but had gone back in to see about getting someone else out, and it went off. We never got confirmation but that was the story that was told … that Scotty went back in.”
Indeed, an eyewitness to the tragic act of heroism was quoted in a front page article of the Oct. 15, 1966, edition of The Gazette. “We never saw them again,” the eyewitness said. “I had to tell someone how brave they were.”
A coroner’s jury later ruled the blast — caused by a spark that ignited polystyrene gas — was accidental.
Caldwell said his father’s death had a shattering affect on his bother Colin, who was eight years old at the time.
“Colin had a real hard time with it. I know my mother had to take him to a psychologist for a while. He was close to my Dad.”
As for financial compensation, Caldwell said his mother, Winifred, received a pittance following her husband’s death. “If I recall right, we got his two weeks salary and that was about it.”
The sudden loss of the family patriarch and bread-winner also meant that Caldwell’s mother had to find a job to support the family. She found work “packing” at a Zeller’s warehouse.
Brian also helped with the bills and became a kind of father figure to his youngest brother. But Colin Caldwell suffered another traumatic life experience as a cadet in 1974 when a grenade exploded during a training lesson at the Canadian army base in Valcartier. Six teenaged boys were killed and dozens more injured.
Colin survived the grenade blast, but suffered from hearing loss and post-traumatic stress disorder, said Brian Caldwell. “My mother was just devastated after that,” he added.
Alex Kouzouloglou was only nine when his father Panagiotis Kouzouloglou, a 33-year-old maintenance worker at Monsanto, was killed in the 1966 blast.
Alex visited the plant with his father the night before the explosion, and remembers the smell of chemicals permeated the air. His father’s death was devastating for the family, which included his two-month old brother Peter. 
LaSalle Monsanto plant explosion victim, Peter (Panagiotis) Kouzouloglou, is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery.
LaSalle Monsanto plant explosion victim, Peter (Panagiotis) Kouzouloglou, is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery. ALEX KOUZOULOGLOU
“It was horrible,” said Alex, 59, who lives in New York now. “My father had come from Greece just two years earlier to start a new life for us.”
In a twist of fate, one of Alex’s sons, Andreas Peter, was born on Oct. 13, 1997. “I prefer to celebrate my son’s birthday and not my father’s death on Oct. 13th,” Alex said.
While many Montrealers recall the 1965 natural gas explosion at the LaSalle Heights apartment block that claimed 28 lives, Caldwell said the Monsanto victims and their families fell between the cracks.
“We never even got an invite to the Monsanto Christmas party after the explosion,” he said. “None of the families did. We were sort of forgotten.”
Last year, the borough of LaSalle held a public exhibit and erected a plaque to commemorate the victims on the 50th anniversary of the tragic LaSalle Heights explosion. But there are no plans to do the same for victims of the Monsanto tragedy.
Brian Caldwell and Alex Kouzouloglou both said they would like to see a commemorative plaque erected on the site of the former Monsanto plant, with the names of the 11 explosion victims.
“They do it everywhere else,” said Caldwell. “Why not for that?”

The 11 victims:

Henry Caldwell
Charles Cavill
John Kee
Panagiotis Kouzouloglou
Bernard Lasalle
Robert Mercier
Jacques St. Jean
John Saverini
Donald Sharman
Robert David Squire
Anastasios Vacelatos