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Archived Parks Video + Random Childhood Memories

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!


A thought on train tracks

I recently tweeted about train tracks and dividing lines while wondering to myself how many cities have been shaped, divided and changed by rail. When I lived in NDG, the Saint-Raymond neighbourhood south of the tracks was what locals called the “wrong side of the tracks” (technically speaking) but when I moved here in Sainte-Marie, I had no idea which one was the better side. I don’t think there was one in our case as its simply a divider but it still got me thinking…

Meanwhile my tweet got mentioned on Montreal City Weblog where a neat BBC radiocast was linked on how trains affected London and other England cities. All of this while I was listening to trains “choo-chooing” by during our stay at my in-laws in White Rock, British Columbia. Now there’s a city that has a great train-track design despite the fact that it could have been a disastrous barrier to the ocean. The line actually runs along the ocean but one can simply walk right across through multiple walk-throughs and the rest has simple blue bars with signs asking people not to cross. Any city the size of Montreal would probably fear repercussions for not having an ugly barrier-fence up but it made me wonder how much better designed the tracks going along the Saint-Lawrence river could be if we could still have access to the waters with a boardwalk near that one lonely park at the bottom of Iberville (there’s a second barrier, Notre-Dame St., but that’s another story). So I took this photo of White Rock to show everyone. Who knows maybe, it’ll inspire an urban planner in this city to think up a grand plan to bring river access to this neighbourhood.

White Rock train tracks

White Rock train tracks

Off topic (but similar): what a great job that was done in Hochelaga with the new Valois walkway where the old CN lines used to be. Definitely inspiring!

Also off-topic (but somewhat close to White Rock), check out this Vancouver history blog called Past Tense.

Montreal bus video

Somebody really likes buses AND has a quirky sense of humour.

Blogging just to blog…

Eglise St-Eusebe

Eglise St-Eusebe

I am posting the above photo as a kick in the you know where so that I can get blogging again.  I have tons of ideas to explore and a catalogue of photos taken (like the one above) to put visuals to these stories… but of course finding the time is the real challenge.  Right now, I have been focused on my baby daughter.  It’s an exciting time for us as a family but I’ll spare you the details you’ve heard from every other parent.  What I will say is that I finally get why every other parent goes on about every little success of their child (e.g. rolling over, sitting, etc.) .   It’s amazing to experience and obviously it’s even more powerful for the parent who is deeply connected to their child.  Anyhow, there’s renos to do too but they’ve been put off as well.  So naturally blogging falls way down the list.  Still, Fall is a time for change so I will try to find some personal time to continue this hobby.  Talk to you soon… you know, maybe.

Ma fille est née / My daughter is born

(English text below)

Le blog a pris du recul pour la naissance de notre première fille, Sabine, qui était née le 12 février… elle est très belle et on est super fier!  Durant mon congé de paternité et quand notre Sabine dormait, j’ai pris la chance de préparer mes blogs historique sur Montréal et,  en marchant notre chien Elliot, j’ai pris plusieurs photos du quartier avec un but de publier des articles et images plus régulierement, et au moins, chaque semaine. 

p.s. La première visite du quartier pour Sabine était à l’ancien Bain Mathieu (SPAG).

The blog took a backstep in the past little while for the birth of our first daughter, Sabine, who was born on Feb.12th… she’s a beautiful baby and we are thrilled to pieces!   During my paternity leave, I managed to find some time while our Sabine was sleeping to prepare a few articles on Montreal’s history and, while walking Elliot our dog, take photos of our neighbourhood in the hopes of printing articles and images more regularly (and at least once per week).

p.s. Sabine’s first neighbourhood visit was at the old Bain Mathieu (SPAG).