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Ps: This site is monitored but not actively posting on a regular basis. Mostly these are stories & some photos saved from a defunct site known as Verdun Connections which was on MSN Groups initially then on a social network called Multiply.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Ahh ! Remember When........(btw: where did that huge jar of swizzle sticks go)..lol
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.