Graeme Decarie has tried hard to remember “how we got to Saraguay in its forest days”
Recently Mr. Decarie has told me about a photo he has of a trapper, and the story that goes with the photo. I’m looking forward to posting the photo and the story that goes with it.
On that subject, and regarding Saraguay, Graeme Decarie has shared with us the following comments:
I’ll take a look for the trapper. I know it’s somewhere within reach of where I’m sitting.
I should have mentioned I once saw Vic Aleslev who taught at MCHS. It was a long time ago – the late 1970s, and just for a minute or so. He was with his daughter Lis or Liz who I taught in grade seven. I think she also went to MCHS, but I’m not sure. She looked stunningly sophisticated and a real blonde, Nordic beauty.
I have tried hard to remember how we got to Saraguay in its forest days. I was very young.
I think we must have taken the 17 streetcar (how wonderful to stand at the back of it with the window open, and looking out to the track narrowing and disappearing.)
We got off at the end of the line and, I think, walked along Gouin to a path that led through the forest, along a creek and past the polo field. Continuing, we would come to a very simply, country road, turn left, and walk a long way to the edge of what was Cartierville airport. Then we turned left following the border of the airport with just one, thin row of houses on the other side of the road. At the end of the airfield was a small factory labelled Noorduyn where, I guess, they made the Norseman.
The last time I did that was a very cold winter day about 1948. It was still pure forest, then.
[End of text from Graeme Decarie]
An Aug. 4, 2015 mesquartiers.wordpress.com article is entitled: “TOP 15 DES PLUS BEAUX PARCS RIVERAINS À MONTRÉAL!”
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I’m sure Liz or Lis (pronounced Liz) Aleslev went to MCHS. We were in the same class there , early ‘60s. In fact, we used to sit next to each other in the classroom, kinda fooling around a bit at times. Last time I spoke to her (about two years or so after graduating from MCHS) we were riding the CNR train that runs thru the Mt. Royal Tunnel. I’d be totally flabbergasted if she wasn’t in the 1961-1962 Highlander.
Isn’t Saraguay still as much of a forest as it was back in the days when Graeme Decarie went on expeditions there?
Getting there would have been a simple matter of doing just what Graeme seems to remember doing: taking the #17 to the end of the line (Cartierville Station), walking down Ranger Street a block to Gouin, then along Gouin in a westerly direction for a mile or so. The south side of Gouin was pretty much “forest”, except for maybe one or two buildings hidden behind the trees. At some point, one would come to a road going south off of Gouin. Entry to this road was probably marked “Private” or “No Trespassing” or “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted to the Full of the Law”.
It’s possible that Graeme read this sign and decided, instead of going down this road, to go down a foot path nearby that ran roughly parallel to the road. I think I did this myself with companions but we never reached the polo field or the road (Bois Franc) that ran east/west past the Noorduyn aircraft factory. We only got as far as a skeet shooting range.
I remember seeing a lot of clay pigeon target pieces lying on the ground there. The polo field was the scene of much activity for decades until 1939 when war broke out. That was the end of polo at the polo field. I seem to recall seeing a picture of a scene at this polo field during the ‘20s or ‘30s when a member of the Royal Family visited there. Perhaps it was Prince Edward, later the King of England who abdicated – he was riding horseback parallel to a line of about 50-100 people all dressed up [High Society]including people who lived nearby in the estates on the shore of the Back River.
The road that went south from Gouin past the polo field might have been built by Hugh Paton. He lived in his mansion on his island in the Back River way back when. He worked in downtown Montreal. To get to work, he took his own ferry across theBack River and then his caleche along his road that headed south from Gouin towards downtown Montreal. [Source: Bob Carswell].
Cartierville Airport used to be Canada’s oldest continuously used flying field (first used in 1911). It also is said to have been the location of Bois Franc polo grounds [Source:Wikipedia]. It’s hard to believe there were two polo grounds out there back, one field in the Saraguay forest, the other where Cartierville Airport was later located. There seems to have been only one polo club in the area first called the Montreal Polo Club, later the Back River Polo Club. The only other polo field around Montreal was probably in St. Lambert.
I generally stay away from Wikipedia. However, the following item from a Wikipedia entry about Quebec Autoroute 13 provides information that may help to round out the discussion:
“Boulevard Pitfield derives its name from the origin of the actual route. In the 1920s, the actual route was a Polo Pony Trail leading from the various estates of the Saraguay Village residents to their Polo Fields, now where the area of St. Laurent Blvd and Bois Franc merge. In the late 1930s the path became an unpaved local road. Over the next several decades Saraguay Farms, owned by Mrs. W.C. Pitfield, was paid to clear the road in the winter by the municipality of St. Laurent. The road was developed into a two-lane highway in the 1960s.”
In the days of early Saraguay/Pierrefonds when the wealthy folks along the back river owned all the property, everyone had whatever they thought they needed to live their lives there but like all families, they eventually died off and children who had grown up there found other homes elsewhere.
For example there is a petroleum transport firm in the south of the USA named Saraguay Petroleum Corporation of Marietta, Georgia run by Tex Pitfield, the grandson of the Pierrefonds Pitfields who bought one of the the Ogilvie properties along the Back River. He was born in Alberta, where he spent his youth, probably around cattle, something that was a big thing with his grandmother and her shorthorn farm, the last cattle farm along Gouin at Pitfield now HWY 13.
I suspect the various Polo Roads all led to the same polo grounds as we have to remember the Ogilvies, Molsons, Pitfields, Capes, and even the Duncans were all intertwined as families, each able to build their own style of home along the back river but each could also afford to have their own polo road leading to one common polo grounds.
Keep in mind that the families also lived through two world wars so by 1960, most of the old estates were exactly that. By then, various Catholic religious orders were buying up the properties as fast as they could, in many cases, tearing down the old houses because it was too difficult to keep them all occupied. There was a home for … priests west of Saraguay on the property known as Saraguay according to its markings etched in stone at Gouin entrance as I remember.
Then there was a family home that was rebuilt by the Duncans from a low old farm house of a English or Scottish style, probably built in the late 1800s to a two-story family home which sat on the property when it was bought by the nuns to create a large catholic school. I suspect it is still there today, 50+ years later interlinked with the school built out behind it.
There was also a road down the hill and up again to the lakefront property that was a retirement home for Mrs. or Mr. Duncan’s parents that teaching nuns took over as a residence. I suspect it is probably no longer there. It was quite a unique place. I think it was when her husband passed on that Mrs. Duncan and her son moved to Brockville, Ontario where I once stopped briefly to say hello to her.
Until the lands were bought up to become estates in the late 1800s, the area occupied by the Village of Saraguay (1914-1964) was referred to as the rural part of Cartierville. From the edge of Cartierville (after 1914 when properties from the Gordon property bordering on Cartierville west to the creek just east of HWY 13 (Pitfield Blvd) that defined the west border of the village.)
These were the Estate properties owned by wealthy Montreal anglophones of Westmount. Fathers worked in the city during the week while that their families moved to the back river properties in the summer which eventually became their full time residences as transportation, roads and rail transport improved.
Even back in the early 1900s the rail trip to Cartierville would have only been half an hour but it was not until 1918 that mail flew from Cartierville Airport to Leaside in Toronto, the first mail transport trip in Canada. Back then, Cartierville Airport in St. Laurent was known as the Bois Franc Polo Field. So many different polo field references that one has to wonder were there lots of them or just one with many different names?
I suspect the latter. I do not know when the first CF-104 flew over our house but it was a deafening sound many times each day that we became so accustomed to that it did not faze us after a while.
When the airport expanded across the old Bois Franc Road, it changed the landscape permanently. The old farms of the pre-1960s were now being bought up as the sons sold them off to take advantage of rising property values. Like my Scottish ancestors who left farming in the late 1700s in Scotland, it had become that time for the farmers along Bois Franc Road 150 years later.
I have been using Wikipedia for many years now and found information most useful in my research. Jaan, it took me a while to feel comfortable with Wikipedia but the scrutiny they apply to any entry you try to make warrants our respect for the job they do. After all, a lot of history is just the presenter’s point of view because none of us were there. Should we believe everything that is written down here?
We simply take it for granted that it is correct. I have strong visual images of what used to be that will die with me but until then, I will not compromise myself by guessing what was when I know I can trust the image in my head.
Reading what Graeme Decarie said about his youthful trips. I suggest that he took the No. 17 streetcar to Cartierville. Walked down Ranger St. to Gouin turned west along Gouin and walked right out to Patton’s polo road, walked south to Bois Franc Road and then east again to catch the No. 17 Streetcar at the Val Royal stop on what became Grenet St.
It would have been a trip of about 5 miles which is not unreasonable at a time when walks were very common as a form of entertainment and exercise I will let you digest that for now and I may add a bit more later on. Cheers.
Thank you for a wonderful overview, Bob. You truly bring the past to life! It’s so interesting – the fact that people grow old and die, and times change. I’ve been re-reading parts of Alice Munro’s The View From Castle Rock.
She also speaks of the passage of the years, and she gives us glimpses of how people in the past, including those who crossed the ocean coming here in the 1700s and 1800s, viewed their lives and the world that they saw through their eyes, at the time.
Even in the 1950s, people were arriving in Canada on boats, as was the case for me and my family. I remember, at age 5, arriving at Halifax harbour in the mist, thinking to myself, “Well, have a close look, this is where you’ll spend the rest of your life.”
Well, I spent just a night there and we were on a train travelling toward Toronto the next day. We were headed for Toronto but in Montreal, when the train stopped my mother had a look around, fell in love with the city, and persuaded my father that this would be even better than Toronto as a place to settle.
What my mother saw when she walked outside the train station in Montreal were the horse-drawn calèches and the horse poop along the roads. She marvelled: “This is just like Europe! What a place!”
Religion had a strong hold on the worldview that had currency among many people in the past that Alice Munro brings to life in her stories, which occasionally are in the borderland between fiction and non-fiction.
We can see that, in this case, it was thanks to Wikipedia that I learned about the various roads in Saraguay all leading to the polo field. So let us bless Wikipedia for sharing information – about the roads that lead to the polo grounds – that otherwise we would not be talking about. That said, I remain a little dubious about the value of Wikipedia. It’s a brand that doesn’t appeal to me as much as other sources. But then again, what do I know? Not all that much, to be honest.
The link that you’ve shared is most interesting.
I’ve been reading a bit about the history of polo, in online sources other than the Wikipedia entries (of course). The history is interesting to read about – for example, that polo was popular, as I understand, many centuries back in Tibet. I like the idea that Tibet might have had an influence on the history of Saraguay, the rural part of Cartierville. (I like the concept of Saraguay being the rural part of Cartierville.)
I also like to think that the social, economic, and political history of Saraguay is fascinating. For the wealthy and un-wealthy families who lived there, in times past, in such a great setting, there would have been some memorably and warmly recollected moments, as families passed through the stages of life. I like to think that each of them remembered being in Grade 4, wherever that school may have been. In some cases it may have been in a home school setting, presided over by a tutor. I speculate.
I first learned about the polo field when Graeme Decarie began talking about that in one of his comments, and it was so interesting.
Lynn Legge (Hennebury) has mentioned that Nellie’s Field was where they did the polo.
Nellie (or Nelly – not certain of the spelling) was the horse that lived there.
There was Lynn’s street and across from that was Nellie’s Field. She was on Martin Avenue, and there was a field – Nellie’s Field – right next to where she lived, as I understand.
Like in the old days, as Lynn has explained, there were skinny farms. So the back parts of the Martin’s farm was subdivided. Her parents had two acres, and the Jarry family had a couple, and then behind that side was Nellie’s Field. And that’s where they used to do the polo, and kids used to go in there.
Nellie died of old age, Lynn presumes, because she was in there and one day she wasn’t.
And the field became something else.
And life goes on.
Great stuff. I have to reach quite a bit just to fall short of it.
The British tradition was that certain sports were for commoners, and certain ones for gentlemen. (I’m not being sexist. There was virtually no sport for women – though common women could take part in walking contests for prize money.)
The characteristic of a gentleman was that he was above making money out of sport. The purpose of sport was to build character, leadership, etc. – skills that were unnecessary and even undesirable among people like us. That tradition was brought over to Canada and the US. Typically, the gentlemanly class built expensive, private clubs – like MAA with its playing fields in Westmount – and the Polo Club. Amateurism was the key to being a gentleman. That’s why the Stanley Cup and the Grey Cup were originally for amateur teams.
Football, perhaps first played in Canada at McGill near the Roddick gates at McGill, was originally the English gentleman’s game as played at Rugby. But it had no written rules because it was played by only a small group of the very rich. A gentleman learned the unwritten rules simply by growing up as a member of the class that went to university.
Students at McGill played football because it was what a gentleman did – but most of them were pretty new to being gentlemen – so they needed written rules. And in writing them, they invented what was really a new game. (They kept the scrum line. But the player who played a quarter of the way back on the field was moved up to just behind the line. Those who played half way back were moved up, and called halfbacks. Ditto for those who had played all the way back on the field.)
Modern hockey was invented in the same way – also in Montreal. (The original version of the game goes back at least centuries, probably more.)
Polo was for the elite because it went back as character builder from its days when knights tilted on horseback.
Football remained amateur for a very long time. So it became a standard game at the universities attended by the children of the elite. To this day, most pro football players come come up from the universities.
But hockey disgraced itself by going pro very early – as early as 1900. So it lost its virtue as a character building sport, and became something fit for only commoners. To this day, most hockey players are not products of the universities.
Polo in North America seems to have died in the 1930s or so. I’m not sure why. It wasn’t because of the depression because most of the rich, contrary to myth, did very well through the depression.
Which is way off the point. But in this company, I can’t just sit around and be an illiterate lout.
I’m just as clever as you are Carswell, and maybe even clevererer.
That’s a remarkable overview. I like how you’ve put things into perspective.
It’s most interesting to get a sense, from your overview, of the context in which sports such as hockey and football developed. I remember I was at Cartierville School when I heard in the hallway the story of what had happened the previous night – the Montreal Forum Riot, occasioned by some nastiness directed toward Maurice Richard. Streetcars being turned over. The word pictures that emerged in my mind, when I heard the stories, stayed with me.
I make no claim for cleverness. In all matters, and in deference to others whose merit is more impressive, I am a beginner practitioner.
I guess there are many version of the history of polo, at least judging from what I’ve encountered online. In one online version of the history of polo, at polomuseum.com, it’s remarked that polo was still going strong into the 1980s and beyond.
I like your reference to polo and the knights of old. I have, in that context, an interest in the history of the conquest of Estonia by Crusader knights in the 1200s.
Advances in technology of warfare played a key role in the conquest of Estonia on that occasion. As Andres Kasekamp (2010) has noted, in the Crusader attacks on the Baltic states in the early 1200s, the Crusader’s advantage over native warriors derived from the professionalism of their warrior class and their superior military technology.
The technology incuded the crossbow, the catapult, and the armoured knight on horseback, which Kasekamp describes as the equivalent of the tank in later warfare.
Kasekamp notes that native allies always formed the majority of manpower in the Crusaders’ force; he refers to similarities to the conquest of the Welsh by the English and the subsequent conquest of the Americas.
I found this information at one of my earlier posts. I wrote the text long ago and have copied it to here.
By way of a follow-up on the history of polo, I’ve recently been reading Polo: The Emperor of Games (1994). The book notes that concussions are a frequent occurrence in this sport.
The book also notes (p. 15):
“Churchill never considered polo just a game. Without exaggeration he saw it as a purpose of life. In The Age of Churchill, Peter de Mendelssohn wrote that young Winston ‘was among the best players in his regiment. The game fascinated him all his life. He never showed much liking for golf, and played it desultorily. But polo he played for the last time in Malta, in 1926, when he was 52.'”
An online article entitled “Churchill and Polo” at winstonchurchill.org provides a more detailed overview.
We can add that in 1939 at the start of the Second World War, Churchill (1874-1965) was 65 years old. When the war ended he was 71.
I follow with interest recent research overviews related to Churchill’s role in history, whatever that role may be, and whatever valence may be attached to it. Speaking for myself, as the child of Eastern European refugee parents, who fled Estonia in 1944 before the Soviet army sealed the border of the Baltic States, I am for all time pleased that the Allied side was victorious in the Second World War. I’m pleased that Churchill had a role, whatever the role may have been, in that victory.
The photo of the 17 streetcar is from the Montreal Memories Facebook Group.
That photo of the 17 streetcar was taken from CN Val Royal station looking north into Cartierville along what is now Grenet.
I much appreciate knowing this detail, Andrew! That is an evocative, and now historic photo; we now have some caption information that adds much to its value to us, as viewers of the image.
When I first arrived in Canada from the UK where I was born, I lived in Pendleton, Ontario where we joined my father who was Station Adjutant (commanding) of the No. 10 Early Flying Training School, by then still totally operational but no longer training pilots as the war was dying down and most EFTS stations had stopped their actual training. They were, however, staying ready just in case the Allies’ war efforts failed and they had to ramp up again.
My father had been posted back to Canada in June of 1944 having been transferred into the RCAF from the RAF as a request of the commanding officer of all RCAF in charge of RCAF personnel in the UK. This did not usually happen but it was the only way he could subsequently post my father home to Canada.
I gather fro later conversations with my parents that he was the brother of my dying grandmother’s best friend who I think actually became my godmother in 1947 but I have no way of knowing it. “My daughter has my original hand-carved old English Style three initials of RAC in a pair of cufflinks that I had made in Saskatoon in the winter of 1968-69 when I worked for Birks there. My godmother, Margaret McNeice had left me $375 in her will and I thought it would be a good way to remember her. I think they cost me $300 and have to say the jeweller was certainly an artist. I no longer wear them so gifted them to my daughter thinking I would not last past age 70. Surprise! I am now past 75.”
Back to the photo; I know the total picture above so well in my visual memory. First of all, the No. 17 was a classic streetcar and if you ever went to Belmont Park or lived on the north side of the island of Montreal, this and the commuter train that ran through Val Royal station were the only two ways other than driving to get into the city.
Even in the 1950s when I went down to high school in Montreal before transferring to MCHS after it was built in Cartierville, this was the only means of transportation to get to the main station so I could walk 15 minutes up to the High School of Montreal other than by driving. Place Ville Marie had not been built yet and it was just a hole in the ground where you could peer down and see the trains sitting there or coming and going into the tunnel to Mount Royal and connecting with the rest of the stations west of there.
In the 1950s when we lived in Cartierville one street over from Grenet at least at the station where it ran under the Val Royal Station bridge (which is to the left of where the photographer was standing while taking this photo, which you cannot see), and past Cartierville Airport and Canadair to the south (which were actually in St. Laurent).
Because Lachapelle begins just north of the Val Royal station and runs past old Tolhurst Farm’s former front door off Rte 117 and sort of heads northeast until it swings back again and meets Rte 117 at the Cartierville or Lachapelle bridge which I think it is now referred to, The whole area has changed since 1950 when the Tolhursts started up in Howick, Quebec.
Our apartment was in a six-plex with two front entrances and we were the first tenants after the war on the second floor to the right. The building is located behind the trees on Google Maps and today would be 75 years old as well. If you are interested in looking at the area, currently under construction when the photos were taken (Google no longer dates the photos so I do not know when that was). Look up “12015 Rte 117” and it will take you to my first home in Montreal, already my third residence by age one. We lived there for five years.
The long block next door with nine entrances is where we had family friends, my godfather, a German, finally out of prisoner camps, one of 850 suspected spies, only because he had arrived in 1928 and his father happened to be a big guy in I.G. Farbin in Germany. The father died in Hamburg in 1943 but his son was not released until the end of the war. They met on the train going downtown and eventually would walk home together, the war having ended for both of them, a period they wanted to forget.
There was also the McDevitt family who lived in that long block of something like 63 apartments on four floors, one being a basement apartment in each of the nine sections. The McDevitt lived in the first block closest to us. Their son water, my brother Jim and I would connect with each other daily. They were Pentecostal followers but that never stopped my mother from babysitting Walter for a bit of extra income during the day when we were not out climbing through barns somewhere or going down to Pitts barbershop where his wife ran a candy store in the next room on the main floor of their apartment.
Walterès father worked for Air Canada’s predecessor, Trans Canada Airlines and always drank Postum. I could never get used to that stuff. Eventually, they bought a house over around Lavigne Street in Cartierville and we moved west a couple of miles to Saraguay, an area once known as rural Cartierville in the days it was nothing but farms. In fact, if you know where to look, one of those farmhouses still exists, total renovated and turned into a more modern family dwelling. I was at a wedding on the former front yard (now a separated piece of property with house on it) when my kidney began to act up and I ended up losing Grade ten over it. Graeme Decarie taught me that year and gave me good marks in history.
Every century brought something new now that I look back at the history of the area. It is a book I am currently trying to write but as always, research takes time.
I suspect the Pitts barbershop I spoke of above was in their former living room now that I think of it and they lived upstairs. That whole area down to the river of three-story buildings were torn down north of Gouin Blvd at one point to widen the road going to the Cartierville Bridge and on to the Laurentians. I suspect it was done to turn a previous two-lane road below Gouin Blvd into a four-lane highway where it met with Rte 117. In any case, rather than get off-topic, let us get back to the photo.
The building in the rear to the right is the dome of the Sacre Coeur Hospital in Cartierville which I ended up in when I was hit by a car. The doctor below us also worked in that hospital and once stitched my tongue up when I ended up there after a kindergarten accident with an unstable bench and my biting through my tongue when the girl at the other end got up from the bench and my chin hit the table. Not a great memory with all the blood but because it was my birthday and my mother had planned a party for me that afternoon, so the doctor asked if she would accept a quick stitch or a plastic surgery to hide scars which would require me staying overnight. I got the quick stitch because of my birthday party and the doctor was happy because his son was coming to it. Eight stitches did not stop me eating salty buttered popcorn at the party though.
The two trees to the right in the photo is about where today Boul. de Salaberry exists today running from east to west. It meets Rte. 117 opposite the long apartment block I spoke of above. For those who remember him, Mr Lawrence who was the caretaker at Cartierville School lived on Lachapelle which is just east of modern Rte 117, formally, Laurentian Blvd and before that Reed Street when we live there in the 1940s. Mr Lawrence lived just north of de Salaberry on Lachapelle on the left. I think the old house at 10214 Lachapelle which is still there was his original family home. He had two sons I remember, Reggie was the one I was in school with, in Cartierville, the other younger brother who I last saw at a convention as an excessively overweight sales manager in the perfume industry representing one of the major brands. I thought that was an unusual job for him, then again, look at my history.
At the time. I was trading in essential oils and supplying the fragrance manufacturers along with being an ingredient supplier to food manufacturers, being a spice broker with the spice grinders and doing some unique international trading like buying menthol for the tobacco industry from producers in China and selling a parcel of Ambergris to a broker in Britain as part of a chain, I was the third of five people involved, each doubling the price because of its rarity, which finally ended up in the hands of the Perfume Trade, in Grasse, France, the perfume capital of the world, having originated on a beach in British Columbia found by a beachcomber. Horrible as it sounds, it is the regurgitation of a sperm whale which loves swallowing large numbers of Cuttlefish. The hard remaining bone of the Cuttlefish tears into the walls of its stomach and the only way the whale can counteract the cuttlefish bone is to cough it up, generally in a large clump of protective ambergris that floats and ends up on a beach somewhere and gives off this heavenly fragrance. You would know the Cuttlefish bone as the white bone in a bird change that the birds use to sharpen their beaks on.
It was a business I did for something like about ten years while working in Torma Trading with my godfather. In its day, it was a fascinating business to be in.
Getting closer to the Val Royal train station where the photographer took the photograph from, you will see a fellow walking. That is where the top of Ranger Street met Grenet Street in later years. Also, there is a shadow or dip in the land to the left that sort of arches to the left in the photo. That is approximately where a side street ran to a parking lot behind the building I once lived in that was later built there. Again, you can look it up on Google Maps at 11760 Ranger Street. We lived in an apartment which you can see as the last apartment on the first floor with the balcony facing east. Now, fifty years later, the road extension that once ran back to a parking lot which has since been removed for some reason and large blocks place in front of the entrance, is now an extension of Grenet Street but leads to a new set of stairs whereas you could only previously reach the station from the north side by the set of stairs on the East side of Grenet. same building in which I lived for two years provides a second set of stairs to Val Royal Station. Unfortunately, that has caused the residents of that building to have to park on the grass or on that side street which I am sure is often blocked by the automobiles of people heading for the train as one photo shot tends to show on Google Maps.
Going back to the photo, the white building on the left is the former Florist building right beside Tolhurst Farm which was the next building across the lane north of there. Those buildings like most in the area are all gone now and turned into apartment buildings. You can vaguely see the glass greenhouse that extends from that white building to the left.
When I was very young probably 70 years ago living in the area, it was safe, or so our parents thought, to let the boys go out and run around the neighbourhood. That farm was one of the places in the neighbourhood and I remember the beautiful old house out front and barns behind. The farm fields were down the lane across the streetcar tracks and that is where the hay was grown to feed the dairy cattle they kept. On one particular day, when we knew the farmer was down in the fields, we snuck into his barn and climb up the ladder to the loft, once we were up there our buddy Walter thought it would be a good idea to cross the beam so when he got to the part where the two beams were connected together side by side, he sidestepped and warned my brother who was next in line. Somehow they forgot to tell me and I walked right off the end before I knew they had sidestepped right at that point. Down I went into the hay pile and just my luck I found the only well in the hay and disappeared. Fortunately, there was enough hay at the bottom to break my fall without my being hurt but neither Walter or my brother knew that. So, they both jumped into the pile and rolled down the side of the hill of hay to the ground. One went to get help from the French florists next door while the other went to get the farmer in te distant fields. By the time I got to the top of the well by carefully pulling the straw out of the sides of the well and standing on it, I peeked out over the edge to see them all arriving to come and save me. Once I found out how Walter and my brother had got to the ground from there by simply laying out flat and rolling down, it was easy and I saved my own life. To this day I have images of my short stay in the well in the hay pile and looking up at the only source of light. Good thing the sides did not collapse in on me.
The Tolhursts still remember the story of my escape from their hay pile. It carried down to their new farm they bought in 1946 in Howick, Quebec and still is occasionally mentioned. If you are interested in more about their days in Cartierville where the family farmed for at least a hundred years it appears on their website at www. tolhurstfarms.com. There is a photo of the old Cartierville farm on the “About Us” page of their website, it also shows the barn of my folly. A most interesting website in any case. I recommend that you take a look.
Lastly, the fields to the right in the photo are today a combination of a school, duplexes and apartment buildings. Gary Mitchell and his family who formally lived on Golf Road back in the early 1950s when he went to Cartierville School, whose home I took refuse in during Hurricane Hazel when I tried to bike home to Saraguay, left that property sometime later, after losing a few trees in the storm and bought a duplex on Grenet not far from where I lived. I do not know what happened to the family from there as I did not get into the are until 1970. I occasionally talked to Gary Mitchell back in the early 80s through my former neighbour Paul Katien who ended up in Marketing for Rothman Pall Mall a few blocks north of where I worked in Don Mills but I lost track of him too.
While I have digressed a few times, I hope I gave you a complete story of that photo which brings back a lot of memories of my youth in Cartierville living on Reed Street where we had Pedro who once cornered a rat in the building and was smart enough cross the busy four-lane highway by looking one way, stopping halfway and looking the other way until it was safe from him to continue. He was fearless, yet gentle enough to look after a litter of kittens lying in the hot sun when their mother wanted to go and do a bit of whatever she did, like meet a boyfriend or something.
Wow! I can’t remember it being that pretty. I guess that’s the pen in the background.
Churchill was the second son of an aristocratic family. That meant no title and no inheritance in those days – so he had to scramble. His family got him into a “worthwhile” regiment of cavalry where it pleased him to think he had a brilliant, military mind. (He didn’t. And he ws quite furious when he wasn’t made a general in world war 1.)
In world war 2, the army command still distrusted him – and they kept their best general in London throughout the war to keep an eye on him. (The disaster of Dieppe, for example, was largely due to Churchill.) Churchill’s choice for planner of the raid was Prince Phillip’s father, a real twit. That’s why the planning for the raid was so bad.
Throughout the war, Churchill’s major interest was to build an American-English Alliance to preserve the empire. (The major interest of the U.S. was to inherit the British and French Empires as they collapsed.)
But Churchill had to settle for becoming a colony of the American Empire. Nor did the U.S. do as well as it expected. It failed to pick up China or India And, of course, it failed to pick up Vietnam (French Indo-China). However, it did crush democracy in Haiti.
I was wondering what that building was in the background. I like the sense that was still a bit of nature and open spaces left.
All things said, I’m pleased the British managed to hold on during the war and that in the end the tide began to favour the Allied side.
I just wrote something and then found it was missing when I looked further back on this page to check something…and lost it all. Again, this might also be a partial duplicate so I will start over.
I was reading back over these earlier pages and came across a few errors. Lynne Legge mentioned Nellie’s field as a polo field which I do not believe was ever the case. It was a previous farm field and may have been owned by old man Marcel, but I do not know. He kept Nellie there in the summers but used her to cross the back river in winter when it froze over. The horse pull logs on a sleigh from Cat’s Island that he had cut down to a saw mill just west of the old Roxboro train station. That field was the fenced off and also used by the daughter of the Mayor of Saraguay,(my brother’s godfather,) “Liepy” Liepoldt. Yanni was her name and she had a riding horse named Charlie. For all I know, he might have owned that field as it is more likely since his estate was just across the road. Yanni died of leukemia at the age of 21, and the horse was sold off. He retired from Shawinigan Power (which became part of Hydro Quebec eventually) where he had been VP of Engineering, they sold their estate and moved back to their original home country of South Africa. They had no other children.
Graeme Decarie referred to the No. 17 Streetcar photo saying that was probably the pen in the background. If he was referring to Bordeaux Jail, he was wrong. I suspect that building in the background was connected to the Sacred Coeur Hospital. Bordeaux Jail was a few miles east of there.
Graeme Decarie also mentioned that Prince Philip’s father was in charge of the failed Dieppe Raid planning. Actually, it was Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten who was eventually murdered by the IRA by a bomb placed in his fishing boat which also killed three others.
Jaan you previously mentioned Alan Macdougall as being a classmate in Cartierville School. Interestingly, his grandfather was also Jamie Duncan’s grandfather. a Montreal doctor. In 1919, the same Dr. Duncan delivered my father when my grandfather’s family was living in Montreal West. Both the Macdougall and Duncan boys grew up in Saraguay but not in the village part.
Very good to read your note, Bob.
You are very conscientious in keeping evidence aligned with stories!
Alan Macdougall I remember from Grade 4 at Cartierville School. A good-natured kid who lived in a mansion-type house on the back river, with a long roadway entrance to it from Gouin Blvd. As a kid I thought, “Nice place to live.”
Hoping your Holiday Season has gone well. I’ve spent a good part of the season reading books from the Toronto Public Library – what a tremendous resource! I find it phenomenal how many interesting books – including ones very recently published – are available.
Today I wrote on Twitter: New material on ‘highly mobile communities’ addressing the needs of people who stay put while a community around them moves rapidly. Reminded of history of the last remaining Toronto farmsteads. In the end: engulfed by cities growing around them.
The reference, in the above-noted tweet, is to Third Culture Kids: Growing Up among Worlds (2017).
I’ve taken a break from writing posts. I’ve been making notes in my notebooks, about books I’ve been reading and about reflections that have occurred to me, based on what I’ve been reading. The reflections arise in particular in the early morning hours.
I have written tonight in response to another similar post on this site, before finding this thread. In the Montreal Gazette, May 21 1942, a bush pilot by the name of Gunn was returning to Cartierfield when he crashed into the farmland of a Joseph Leduc and was killed.
My Great-Uncle Bert Morris lived only 50 yards away in Bois Franc and was quickly on the scene. The article mentioned that the streetcar line ran between Bert’s and the Leduc farm, and someone actually jumped off the streetcar in order to dash over and add assistance.
Sadly the young pilot died before reaching hospital. I am fairly certain that this view must be very close to the place where my Great Uncle lived, and worked as a veterinary/horse dentist as well as dog and racehorse breeder. It just shows how built up town and cities have become in a relatively short space of time.
This picture gives me a real image in my head as to where my ancestor lived, a great asset in my genealogical searching because it makes the human story that much more real. Thank you from England!
Most interesting to read your description of these events, Josephine!
re Bob Carswell – I hate smart kids.
No question, Bob is among the smart ones. However, sometimes that’s exactly the kind of person that we need, when we’re trying to remember whatever happened years ago … in Saraguay.
If there is something that I have that you want, just ask. Brains I cannot supply as I need all that I have. We all have abilities that only time allows us to develop. I have come close to death more times than I care to remember, a broken neck, a kidney removal, a genetic build that I cannot avoid, hip replacements, learning disabilities, hearing loss, and now a cataract, the last thing I need as I depend on my eyes for everything.
It took a lot of years for me to realize that I am totally a visual person and I learn through my eyes, that is why I could not learn in high school because we had to sit and listen and I could not process auditory stuff. I could not read successfully due to dyslexia and therefore, not getting messages out of books and like many of the comedians of today, being the class clown was the only thing I seemed to be good at, even though it got me the strap a few times.
I fought through 3 years at Montreal High School, working in the school at lunchtime because it got me out of class early, then Malcolm Campbell for another 3 years…well 2-1/2 after my kidney removal. I had transferred to the Grade 10 advanced math class but even with tutoring at home by Dr. Aleslev when I was out of hospital between my two periods of 3 weeks there, I could not do the math. I now realize I was trying to follow my older brother who did a Phd in Math but it was not my thing.
I even took a math class at university years later but had to drop out for the same reason. From a very young age, I learned from selling Montreal Gazette subscriptions that I had a skill in sales. I enjoyed the challenge and even won a trip to New York at the age of twelve. Birks was a natural place for me to work as I was a salesman…however it was years later that I realized I should have concentrated on art since that was were my skills lay.
I was a student of Arthur Lismer of the Group of Seven who taught kids at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Saturday mornings. My dad would go in to work for a half day, drop me off, pick me up and take me home. I loved to draw and paint but it would not be until the years at York University when I went back to school for five years in my 50s after figuring out that I had been dealing with learning disabilities all my life, that I should have gone into the arts, into acting and related ventures.
I am on the IMDb data base as an actor under Robert Anthony Carswell and still looking for the names of films I worked in as an extra. I only just became aware that I have been on it as Bob Carswell since 1996 when I briefly acted in a short film for another classmate who is now extensively involved with film production.
When I went back to school, I added three degrees to my original Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing from SGWU in Montreal, an Honours Bachelor of Business Adminstration in Management from York University and a BA in film with 6 studio courses in Fine Arts filling out the electives.
While living on campus and taking night courses at York, I taught in a Spanish School on Saturdays for a year and worked with students in a local public school one day per week to qualify as experience for the following year, a requirement to apply for a teaching degree which I did at the University of Toronto while living at York U and taking a single night course there as well to keep my accommodations.
Back in the 70s when I worked for the Bank of Nova Scotia I also entered the Associate and Fellowship programs offered by the Canadian Bankers Association earning the AICB designation in 1974 and the FICB designation in 1975. As the years went by, my marks got better and when I got into film studies and studio work I knew I had found my calling but too late to do a lot about it as my health was becoming a problem.
I have all the family genetic problems that exist on both sides of my ancestry. I can track them for you and tell you exactly who had what and why I think so. If you think having brains is great…well, maybe so but try living with unidentified learning disabilities for 50 years and not being able to get the learning in easily and you will get a better idea of the tough life I have gone through.
One of my claim to fames from high school was that I was the guy that ran the dishwashing machine at lunchtime. But much later in life, I also became the guy that came up with the idea of how to get a school reunion going for the year 2000, at a time when I was quite ill with an allergy to Benedryl that was constantly paralysing me until I finally figured out what was actually doing it. No one else seemed to know in the medical field. Intelligence is what we are born with…it is a genetic thing…not something we learn.
My dad’s cousin, a close friend of Roberta Bondar, married to a Guelph University professor, Elizabeth Waywell, was the daughter of the Chairman of the Mercantile Bank in Montreal before it became part of the National Bank. Unfortunately, she died from breast cancer at the age of 60 and I really wished she had lived longer as we both had a keen interest in family history. She used to say, “the top 3% of the population are eligible to join MENSA, the other 97% are all members of DENSA.” Well, being measured at the level of the 95th percentile I guess I am part of the DENSA crowd like the rest of you or at least, I am guessing many of you are…like 97%.
My point is that no matter how smart your are, if you cannot learn, it just takes time…it took me almost 60 years to get to the point of where I am today and like many dyslexics, I am left without a great deal from a financial standpoint but a lot of satisfaction in knowing I have been able to achieve a great deal in my life otherwise.
I have started and written more than 50 books since the first attempt back in 1986 and while they all need editing due to my dyslexia, only about a dozen have been published as e-books so far, and some are not very good. I just don’t have the time or patience to do anything more with them, except one I hope to turn into a movie script. Graeme Decarie and I go back to about my age of 8 and he has regularly turned up somewhere in my life ever since then.
He does not even remember coming to dinner at my brother’s place in Kingston when they were both at Queen’s University there when I was about 17 and had gone down to visit my brother for the weekend but I remember it to this day because of my total visual memory.
I can still see him climbing the stair to my brother and his first wife’s apartment when he asked me to go open the door. In the same way I also remember seeing Jackie Robinson when I was year and a half old playing for the Montreal Royals, the day of my first hot dog and first baseball game. In 1947 he was called up to the Brooklyn Dodgers and a new era in American baseball began. While I played Lob Ball in my 30s I never had his skills except that I have already outlived him by 20 years…that takes skill considering I have gone through at least a dozen operations in my life so far, and I know there will be more though hopefully not as big as my kidney removal or my two hip replacements. They weren’t much fun.
I want to comment on a few things that I have read in the above entries since 2015. Firstly, I know exactly where Graeme Decarie went on his walk into Saraguay because I knew every foot of that area. It was my playing ground since childhood. I remember the skeet club and the equipment that was always there, the broken clay pigeons all over the place. I seem to recall taking home a few of the unbroken ones too.
There is one “polo road” that was used to get into the city back in those days, it existed opposite the entrance to the only remaining McDougall home that has not been torn down where there is a break in the long stone fence that protects the estates.
When I delivered the Gazette to old Mrs. McDougall she was in her nineties then and not long for the world. Her house was overgrown. I will try to find the photo of her original estate as it once stood. Her son built right next door, another, large white house across the street facing Gouin reached from off the Polo Road (since torn down) and the daughter married a Cape plus the youngest son was the father that Jaan mentioned he knew, Alan McDougall who now lives out in Vancouver and runs Left Coast Books, a distributing company who did extremely well with the Harry Potter series.
He and a good friend of my youngest brother who lives in Vancouver both ended up on the board of the Vancouver Library together. Oh, did I tell you another of the books I plan to write is called Coincidences. I have already made up the cover.
You could say that is the story of my life. Regarding the two photos, the first one of the No 17 Streetcar was definitely taken from Val Royal station and I know the place because in 1970s my wife and I lived in the apartment to the immediate right of that picture that backed on to the train station and our apartment on the first floor faced Grenet Street at that point.
For Graeme, I have enclosed a photo of the dome at the Sacre Coeur Hospital which I was in several times in my youth. The dome you see in the street car picture is the dome at the hospital. It is now largely a University of Montreal training hospital in several fields. I have also enclosed a photo of my cheap university transportation which I had to do a lot of welding on before it was workable.
I loved that car, it went though snow like no other in winter. Nothing stopped it except turning off the ignition key. It gives you an idea of Grenet at that point from our apartment as it goes under the CN tracks at Val Royal. When you grew up in Montreal you loved the Canadians. Here is a photo of one I met three times in my life and we remembered each other, twice in Montreal, once in Toronto when this photo was taken in 1975.
As youngsters in Cartierville in the late 1940s, we also skated on an old quarry full of water and ice in the winter where Maurice “Rocket” Richard, and his brother Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard, then a teenager, came down to skate with the kids and teach them some hockey.
Not as famous as the older brother in the eyes of the public, the Pocket Rocket actually holds more records than his brother ever did. Did I tell you that I am in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the MMRHL…that is the Markham Men’s Recreational Hockey League. I also played on a defence line partnered with Ron Lalonde, former captain of the Washington Capitals.
I had introduced his brother Ray to the league and he invited Ron to join. Between that and regular Kin tournaments in Peterborough each year, I had a lot of fun playing hockey badly. It all started on the Riviere des Prairies or the Back River as we called it in Montreal where we scrapped off a rink and spent the winter.
I spent a lot of great summer days on that river, in the worst of storms in an high sided Vershares boat my father had bought and also racing a ski flea, that skimmed across the top of the water like a jet. Built out of plywood from a Popular Mechanics book, it was a wonder. Fortunately, I did not have to build it, I just got to use it after the guy who built it got tired of it. Anything for speed! My speed these days is a Wheel Trans mobility bus. Such is life! Jaan, I will send the photos separately which you can add where you see they best fit.
Bob, I’ve broken your text (above) into shorter paragraphs for ease of online reading. I’ll work on the posting of the photos (that you sent by email) soon as I have time. Have another project that I need to attend to first.
How interesting. Thanks for that picture of a tram car. To Bob Carswell: surely the mayor’s daughter Johanna Leipoldt was older than 21 when she died. It was at the beginning of 1966 and she was over 30. She had an older sister (half-sister I think), but she was a good 10years older so perhaps you never knew her. Mitzi, she was called, but by then she was married already, likely. To an engineer also. Cheers.