Westmount exists because of the CPR; ditto for Montreal West: Graeme Decarie shares the day’s trivia

The photo of the 17 streetcar is from the Montreal Memories Facebook Group. If anybody has additional details, regarding the source, please let me know.

The photo of the 17 streetcar is from the Montreal Memories Facebook Group. If anybody has additional details, regarding the source, please let me know.

A previous post is entitled:

Graeme Decarie has been reading the autobiography of Christopher Plummer

Click here for additional posts by and about Graeme Decarie >

I’m pleased to share with you the following text from Mr. Decarie, who taught history at Malcolm Campbell High School in the early 1960s before he proceeded to graduate studies and a career as a Concordia University history professor:

Don`t underestimate the impact of street cars and railways.

Westmount exists because of the CPR. Ditto for Montreal West. I know that because some of my ancestors made a bundle out of it.

The railway created TMR as a railway suburb for the well off (if not really rich).

As well, when the wealthy moved up the hill from the old city to the area from Rene Levesque to Pine, it was the streetcar that make that possible. (Yes, the very wealthy had carriages. But those were a little pricey for even lots of the well off.)

Generally, the working class of the nineteenth and early twentieth century tried to live close to work. A streetcar was too pricey for them. An exception was Rosemount which was founded to attract the working class.

Plummer didn`t live in the house on the lake. But he frequently mentions in his autobiography how much he enjoyed his visits. Mostly, he lived on Pine. That`s why he went to Montreal High. The Montreal Repertory Theatre was commonly called The Mountain Playhouse. It still stands (I think) on a hill overlooking Beaver Lake.

Originally, it was a clubhouse for clubs of the wealthy like the Montreal Snowshoe Club.

(Amateur athletics was an important feature of upper class life. That`s why the Stanley Cup and the Grey Cup were originally for amateurs only. That kept out the riff-raff who could play only if they were paid to. And that`s why there was a Polo Club – it was a status symbol. that`s also why the rich did NOT play baseball. It did not have the character-building qualities of Hockey and football.)

Invention of modern hockey

The church also played a role in this. The Pastor in the Anglican church on Ste. Catherine behind Concordia, (then a residential area of the wealthy) founded the first golf club – on Fletcher`s Field. He had been raised on the British tradition of select sports to build character for the wealthy only. Women, as usual, were excluded – I guess because women don`t need character..

In, roughly, the same period the park in front of the Sun Life building was a cemetery, and the area was home largely to the well-off English. On Rene Levesque, roughly behind the old, Windsor hotel, was the sporting club of the wealthy where they built their own character by inventing modern hockey. (P.S. playing a game with a stick and a ball or a rock goes back to cave men. variations existed all over Europe. The original word for hockey was hoque. (French). But the modern game was invented in Montreal.

That club that invented it was the Winged Wheelers, so – called because it was originally a bicycle club. And in those early days, bicycling built character. Their crest was a wheel with wings. about 1938, the owner of the Detroit team got permission to adopt the winged wheel, making it a car wheel because Detroit was then the world car building champion.

Thus endeth the day`s trivia.


PS Ever wondered why the entry age for Boy Scouts and Girl guides was 12

[End of text]

Additional comment from Graeme Decarie, Sept. 28, 2019

Jaan Pill: Can you let me know answer to question raised in 2016: “Ever wondered why the entry age for Boy Scouts and Girl guides was 12?”

Graeme Decarie: The age for Boy Scouts varied from country to country – from 10 to 14 or so. There was nothing magical about it. There was a limit to how young you could run an organization that called for building fires, cooking meals on them, a limit to how wide an range of ages one could manage when setting group activities…… Powell set it at 12. Other countries set it anywhere from 10 to 14.

Baden Powell, incidentally, was no military hero. He became a media hero for defending Mafeking. But he wasn’t supposed to be defending it. He was supposed to be roaming the countryside and striking down various groups of Boers. Getting himself bottled up in Mafeking was his idea – and the army was furious with him because it had to divert a large number of troops to get him out when the reality was he could have got himself out. However, the news media had played him as a hero. So the army had to promote him. But it never again trusted him with a command.

Oh yes, When he left his office to walk around Mafeking. smiling and whistling to boost morale. Later, scouts were expected to smile and whistle.

He also enjoyed seeing his boy scouts taking their normal (naked) morning dip at camp. Indeed, he made it his point to watch them. And he wrote how “amusing” it was to watch them.


My own local history interests are highlighted at the following recent post:

Mississauga positioning itself to take ownership of historic Small Arms building – June 17, 2016 Mississauga News

Graeme Decarie’s comments about the role of railways in the creation of communities brings to mind a previous post:

Significance of the late 1880s for New Toronto and the First Nations of western Canada 

8 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Graeme Decarie has added a note; he mentions that a source that he trusts told him, on June 19, 2016 that “the word around Montreal is that Montreal North is now the most dangerous part of the city to live in.”

    “I grew up just a short walk from it,” Graeme adds. “I used to go there to cut bulrushes.”

    Jaan Pill: That is of interest.

    The general topic of corruption, which may be distinct from where the most dangerous places to live are, I’ve highlighted at a previous post:

    Farmers’ fields north of Montreal is where the City of Laval was built

    Graeme Decarie: Back in our youth, mafia were the biggest. Their district was around St. Laurent and Villeray. I went to school with their kids. As a child, I had a neighbour who was small time mafia.

    The Montreal docks were controlled by the Irish mob, mostly from the pointe. And the West End Gang was still in its early days.

    Those the good old days when the cops would go to a nightclub where there had been a shooting, pick up the body, and dump it in an east-end street.

    I forget the name of the gambling boss – Harry something. He lived with a belly dancer named Fawzia Amir who owned a club.

    They lived in one of the most respectable parts of Beaconsfield.

    • Christine
      Christine says:

      Hi, his name was Harry Ship and he didn’t live with Fawzia Amir as he was married. He did stay there often however. How do I know? Fawzia Amir is (was) my mother.

      • Jaan Pill
        Jaan Pill says:

        Graeme Decarie notes, in reply:

        Fawzia Amir…George Allan and I went to her club once. She was a remarkable person. She was, of course, beautiful. But more than that, there was a magical quality about her. And it wasn’t just sexual.

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Pat Q, who read the above-noted post on Facebook, commented:

    “Graeme Decarie was my Canadian history professor during my first year at Concordia and also my academic advisor. He knows his stuff when it comes to Montreal history.”

  3. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    During my lengthy high school career I remember the 3 years I attended the High School of Montreal before being sent to MCHS. It attracted the riff raff of the city in addition to the regular students that trained it downtown from Cartierville, Saraguay and Roxboro. I remember hearing about the fighting Irish of Griffintown and often wondered what became of those people. Over the many years of genealogical research I found out that my ancestors lived in Griffintown back in the 1840s and earlier. If fact, my great great grandfather John McKinley from County Antrim who was buried in an unmarked grave in Mount Royal Cemetery in 1854 lies along side his best friend William Lewis who took on his family and died 10 years later. Both ex-husbands of Mary Lewis, she and her family then moved to Ottawa to be near her successful youngest brother. In fact, her grandson, Charles Lewis McKinley was the goalie of the Ottawa Cliffsiders, the team that was awarded the first Allen Cup in 1909. Personally, I also played hockey out of a love for the game. In fact, I recently learned that my name is in the Markham Men’s Recreational Hockey League’s Hall of Fame. I think it had to do with my being one of the original players and certainly not for my hockey skills.

  4. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I remember watching hockey games at an ice rink that used to exist north of Forbes northeast of the intersection of Obrien and Forbes. It was a rink where I also went skating sometimes with my friends when I was about 12 years old. Next to the rink was a little shack, with a wood stove – always a great feature on a cold winter day – and benches, where you could lace up your skates.

    A feature of the hockey games, that I used to watch, was that players (these were players in their early twenties, as I recall) did not wear mouth guards to protect their teeth and did not wear helmets to protect their heads. I am pleased that things have changed, in that regard and that, as a consequence, some players may have retained their front teeth rather than having their teeth broken during a game of hockey.

    I also recall that there were some great players out there. The top players really stood out. They had a command of the rink; they had control of what happened with the puck. It was a sight to see.

    I remember the train rides from Monklands Station to the High School of Montreal. If I recall correctly, people in those days could smoke on the trains, and that’s what they did. I’m reminded as well that when I had a summer job at the Banff Springs Hotel in the Canadian Rockies, the transcontinental train that we travelled on also provided the opportunity for people to smoke anytime they wanted to. I used to smoke my pipe and look out the window. I stopped smoking (cigarettes, a pipe, and cigarillos) when I was in my twenties living in Vancouver.

  5. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Hi Jaan,

    Thought I would add a few thoughts. Firstly, that No. 17 Streetcar you see is actually in the fields behind the old farms along Lachapelle Street in Cartierville below Val Royal train station. That whole area is now full of apartments and duplexes and known as Grenet Street in Cartierville. What you see in the distance is the actual Catholic hospital called the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal. It has been in the Cartierville neighbourhood for almost a hundred years since it replaced its predecessors.

    According to Wikipedia it is one of the largest teaching hospitals affiliated with the Université de Montréal, and one of the largest hospitals in Quebec. My first visit there was in 1949 when I was hit by a car and had a slight concussion. Then in Kindergarten that November 18th on my birthday I was sitting on a bench and the girl at the other end got up and down I went hitting my chin on the table and doing a bit of damage. I also had to have my tongue stitched by a doctor at Sacré-Cœur who happened to live downstairs below us about the same time. He gave my mother a choice, a fine stitching job which would require a lot of stitches and a stay overnight or a quick job with just eight stitches so I could be home for my birthday party. Since his son was coming to it, he was glad she chose the second suggestion. I kept it clean by eating lots of popcorn with all the salt containing iodine and had a great birthday. I still remember it. hahaha.

    Here is a little history.

    In downtown Montreal on June 1, 1898, the day of the Feast of the Sacred Heart, a group of women founded a small hospital named Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal to care for a dozen ill individuals deemed the “incurables”. In 1902, the administration of the hospital was taken over by the Sisters of Providence, and a new building with 375 beds was built on Décarie Boulevard; it was known as Hôpital des Incurables. The building was destroyed by fire in March 1923, and in 1926 a new building was built on Gouin Boulevard in Cartierville, where it still stands today. With the new building, the administration reverted to using the original name, Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur de Montréal.

    The new hospital was initially focused on the treatment of tuberculosis. Considered a sanatorium, it became an important teaching hospital for pulmonary illness.

    In 1931, Édouard Samson founded the orthopedics department, which eventually became the largest institution for training orthopedic surgeons in the province of Quebec.

    In 1973, the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal was affiliated with the Université de Montréal as its medical and health-sciences teaching hospital.

    Next, the Albert-Prévost Institute merged with hospital to form a centre for psychiatric patients.

  6. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Cartierville was my third home and I wasn’t even a year old. I was born in Harrogate, Yorkshire in the UK, came to Canada as one of 22,000 war babies with my mother, a former WAAF officer and by then a warbride with two sons in tow. My father had spent 4-1/2 years in the UK in the Canadian Army signal corps, the RAF and subsequently the RCAF in April 1944 on paper so he could get back to Canada in July of 1944 before the war had ended as his mother was not expected to live out the war with her kidney problems.

    After a short visit with family in Montreal we settled in Pendleton, Ontario where my father as Station Adjutant was the most senior officer at the No. 10 Early Flying Training School at Pendleton,Ontario, in charge of 1,000 people on staff all waitingfin case they needed to start training again. It was his last posting after almost 6 years in the military. We then settled in Pendleton until my father could find a new apartment somewhere in Montreal. He learned probably through his Irish uncle living there, a tank driver in WWI, that there was building going on in Cartierville two streets over from his home.

    Accommodations were something every returning soldier was looking for as a lot of weddings happened when the soldiers got home to their girlfriends who had been waiting for them for 5 to 6 years. Back at work in Montreal, living with his brother, he made the trip to Pendleton every weekend to be with family.

    My third home in Canada was a six-plex on the main road going north to the Laurentians back then known as Reed Street. It was about 4 or 5 years after that when I first met Graeme Decarie who is now about 86 if my calculations are correct. At the time he was 17 and I was about 6 years old. He was a councillor at the Northmount YMCA in St. Laurent. I vividly remember my days in the YMCA summer camp, from meeting Graeme in the front office when I first arrived and seeing he was younger than most of the others, to various trips to places like Canada Dry, the beaches, swimming nude as the boys did in the YWCA and going back to get my towel just as the girls arrived in their bathing suits.

    Then there were the trips to the beaches in Laval and Cap S. Jacques in the west island but more towards the north shore. Before a trip over to the Laval beach, I was playing in the St. Laurent playground on the roundabout and someone jumped on behind me. I lost my balance and fell forward just as the hole around the pole left enough room for my finger. It got sliced and to this day I have an inch long scar on the side of that first finger which has since grown considerably and is now a lot longer. Even so, I did not break the bone. It required that I waited until we got the bus loaded, my hand wrapped in a towel and we had driven over to Laval to get everyone to the beach after which they found a doctor for me. It took two very large metal clamps to close the wound.

    The crazy thing about it, my doctor, Doctor Marlette, was on the same street in St. Laurent as the park only on the other side of Decarie Blvd but a 6 year old does not remember these things. One other thing I remembered was the Saturday movies at the YMCA sometimes shown when an outdoor event was also cancelled during the week. . Tarzan was one of my favourite movies back then. There were also the special trips to Beaver Lake on the mountain in downtown Montreal. I loved that outing. For those who did not know where The Northmount YMCA was, it was at the southend of the wartime housing apartments and just north of the Norgate Shopping Centre, the first strip mall in Canada built on Decarie Blvd. in 1949.

    You could walk through to mall at the north end via a short covered walkway to the front door of the YMCA just across the street. We always walked from there to where the streetcar turned from Decarie and went over to the track and north again through the farm fields near Dagwood’s Restaurant, the great ice cream shop and Ayerst-McKenna where Lynne Legge’s father, Frank Hennebury, worked.

    From there the streetcar travelled north past Canadair and under the Val Royal tracks, through the fields to Carterville where an actual terminal was eventually built halfway up Ranger Street and across to Grenet Street where the streetcars entered and looped around for the return trip to Garland station where people going downtown took the No. 65 streetcar. There was also the No.48 line which headed to Montreal West and people using it ended up in the newer cars from the 30s much like the ones that used to ply Toronto streets in the masses. Montreal did not have as many of them. Because of the shape of the passenger side front window I always said they were winking at you.

    I was quite a runner in those days, and Graeme decided I was the best hope for wins for the Northmount YMCA at the competition between the various YMCAs. He became my coach and we regularly met. In the end I won 3 first place ribbons, 3 second place ribbons and a third place ribbon for the 100-yard dash. I won the individual mile, half mile and quarter mile race, and place second in the same three as part of a team. By the time the day was over, my legs were tired. I had run almost four miles in total, but I was happy thanks to Graeme’s coaching. At some point I went off to Montreal High School downtown after that.

    I think graeme headed for China and the Netherlands to teach English. On return, he joined the new Malcolm Campbell High School in Cartierville as a history teacher and I probably saw him there every day for 3 years except when I was off for 3 months have had a kidney removed with subsequent complications which put me back in hospital with Linda Kerr’s father. I mention that because when I returned to class, Linda Kerr was in my Grade ten class. Naturally, I failed that year and decided that I would become a dropout and go to night school while I worked during the day. After 8 years in three schools, I was accepted into Sir George Williams University by half a percent over the required 70% from their night school. I never did matriculate.

    Thirty years later I would self-identify my learning disabilities and have the tests at the University of Toronto. In the meantime, I completed 4 bachelor degrees as compensation for what I could not do in high school. My first was in the last graduating class of SGWU in Montreal in 1974 at almost age 30, the second and third from York U and the final from UofT in Toronto during which time I also completed a Associate and then a Fellowship in the Institute of Canadian Bankers. In Montreal High I took a year on a trumpet so ever since them I have been tooting my own horn. hahaha.

    Graeme went off to do a degree at Acadia University where my daughter graduated from. I think he also did a master’s degree there as well. We met again when he was doing his PhD at Queen’s University in Kingston. My married brother and his first wife, just divorced the second one, and he invited Graeme up for supper when I arrived that weekend for a visit. It was a nice surprise as I had not seen him for years. Later, I went west for three years but chose to return to Montreal to continue with my degree.

    I saw Graeme occasionally at SGWU and he stayed on through the change to Concordia and for the rest of his working career ending up as Dean of History, I understand. I would not see him but read his articles in Concordia University alumni magazines for the next 40 years. In 1996 I was having a problem with medications and I was being paralysed from one of my pills which no one could explain. I crawled to the bus, subway and down to the Toronto Hospital emergency ward.

    They kept me in overnight told me to stop taking my pills and by the next day I was fine again. The suggested that I go to see their clinic doctor. He put me back on Benadryl and I quickly learned which one of the pills was paralysing me. I am allergic to Benadryl. Hard way to find out. In any case it was during my paralysed state that I was checking things on the Internet and found a fellow under MCHS who was totally frustrated about not being able to find his classmates for a reunion.

    I thought about it for a minute and sent him an email suggesting that if he started then (1995) and passed the word about a reunion in 2000 a lot of people would come. Turns out 1,200 people attended and a lot of Class photos were taken. I thought about it later, I was the fellow who operated the dishwasher in the cafeteria for most of 3 years and I had run the snack shack at Montreal High before that for three years too, yet I was the one who was smart enough to come up with a workable school reunion on the 40th Anniversary of Malcolm Campbell High School and I never got to be in any graduation class photos at MCHS so I am tooting my horn here. hahaha.

    It was the Friday night and time to register for the events of the following day for the reunion. Arriving at the restaurant on Mountain Street, below St. Catherine, my sister from the Netherlands and I met Graeme Decarie as he was coming out of the restaurant and we were going in. Once again, we had run into each other. That day was another awakening for me. After registration and some supper, everyone went up the street to a new Disco to dance. While we stood on an upper floor look down over a bannister of sorts, I commented to my sister, “I think this place is an old funeral home.

    Imagine if you came in here and realized that last time your were in here was at your grandmother’s funeral” Well that thought stuck in my head as did Mountain Street. When I got back to Toronto I looked up my grandmother’s death certificate only to find, I was talking about us. My grandmother had been laid out in that place in 1946 and I later learned my grandfather had ended up in the same place in 1949. I do not remember either of them or going to their funerals at age one year and five years old but who knows for sure?

    After that, I somehow stayed in touch with Graeme for years and through his move with his new family to New Brunswick in retirement then on his own again and back to Ottawa where he now lives in retirement, for the most part. Like me, he probably spends his awake hours on the computer. Enough said!


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