Quite a few weeks back, a fellow neighbour from the Mederic-Martin park committee sent me this interesting video about our city parks (from 1949!). This made me think a great deal about my parents as they were at the same age during this era (my Dad was 13 that summer and my Mom 11) – so on Father’s Day I showed this to them when they were down for a visit. I can’t really tell where most of this is happening and if there are any Centre-Sud parks in there but it’s a nice going-back-in-time video and you see how the kids of all the different parks used to unite for the opening of summer with a festive parade. There is however some footage of the Delorimier Downs and the Royals.
While my parents were visiting, he joined me on one of my dog walks, his memory was jogged of the time he saw Jackie Robinson play in 1946 and it turned out that it was through a school trip where all the kids were brought down to see this now legendary player. He also started talking about his childhood and how his Dad made a decision to send him to English school (we’re French Canadian) and this basically meant getting beaten up by his French neighbourhood friends for being a traitor… and meanwhile he would get beaten up once he got to school for being the only French kid. Sometimes you just can’t win. But he learnt fast how to take the very long way home, blocks and blocks away, just to make it home safe. My Dad laughed it off though (easier now I suppose). Made me remember similar stories of my old childhood… I could go on but in a nutshell, I was a « Frog » in Ontario and a « Bloke » when I came to visit in Quebec. I’ve always lived on the edge of both so I feel at home here in Montreal because I am simply bilingual. A real hybrid.
Anyhow, on a second visit later this same summer, my Dad and I went to Home Depot to get a few things for the house but we also took quite the detour. We ended up on Boyer St. north of St-Zotique where he grew up and once there the memories kept flowing. I wish I could pull a google maps photo but for whatever reason my Dad’s street portion doesn’t have the street view. The home was a small 4.5 apart. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it that, it was a double-living room, a closet sized kitchen with a half-bedroom. It was on the bottom floor of a triplex which had one of those horse-carriage entry ways which meant my Dad’s apartment was the smallest of the building. My grandparents had 4 kids in that home and my Dad, the oldest, grew up there between the ages of 2 and 17. My Dad was trying to explain all of this to me and the current tenant was a little curious what these two men were doing outside of his apartment, so he opened the door and my Dad started talking about how he grew up there. The gentleman invited us in and here I could see that not much has probably changed since my Dad lived there. The original old floors (but crooked), the original mouldings (but painted over) but the only change was that they knocked down the wall of the half-bedroom to make an open concept with the kitchen. It was tiny as it was so I couldn’t believe 4 kids once slept in that space. ‘Where did the beds fit?’ I thought. The backyard had changed since the owners removed the old 3-story sheds so the new tenants actually had a little room for a couple of chairs and a table.
Other memories poured out, my grandfather doing middle-of-the-night fire alarm evacuation tests, my grandfather turning Jehovah-Witness-then-later-Protestant (another reason for my Dad to be get beaten up), the local park, his best childhood friend « who lived right there » who he has lost touch with and the local butcher shop across the street (now a residence) where his mom used to send him over to get bones for soups. The bones were free and the butcher knew my Dad’s family was poor so he would leave a little bit more meat on the bone than one would expect. My grandmother would scrape that off and put it in the soup. This sure gave me a visual of some of those old photos we see in museums of families crammed up in small apartments.
Anyhow, my Dad and I were on our way home and out of the blue, I asked him if he wanted to get a beer at Dieu du Ciel in my mom’s old Mile-End neighbourhood. Thinking that my Dad would say ‘no, we’ll just go home’, he said « sure » and off we went for a pint of microbrewery goodness. All these memories makes you realize how short life is and how tough it is for many of us. So rather than going back home, we experienced a moment together, one worth remembering.
Thanks for reading and have a nice day!