Many changes have occurred in Cartierville where Malcolm Campbell High School was located from 1960s to late 1980s

Street scene in neighbourhood in Moncton where I met with Graeme Decarie at a Tim Hortons in August 2016 while driving to and from Prince Edward Island. Jaan Pill photo

Street scene in Moncton where I met with Graeme Decarie at a Tim Hortons in August 2016 while driving from Ontario to and from Prince Edward Island. When I first met with Graeme, in a phone call he directed my attention to a local landmark, the Econolodge Motel in the background of the photo. Jaan Pill photo



A May 2017 CBC interactive webpage is entitled: “Montreal is 375 years old, but how old are its buildings?”
A May 17, 2017 Montreal Gazette article is entitled: “Montreal’s history did not start 375 years ago.”

A May 13, 2020 Guardian article is entitled: “Why are so many people getting sick and dying in Montreal from Covid-19? The city is at the center of the crisis in Canada and Quebec is now the seventh deadliest place in the world for daily deaths.”

I note from this article and others I’ve read that Montreal North and the adjacent areas have been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. An excerpt from the Guardian article reads:

The other part of Montreal’s Covid-19 story can be summed up by the death of Marcelin François. The 40-year-old Haitian asylum seeker who died in his wife’s arms inside their Montreal apartment in mid-April.

During the week, François worked in a textile factory. On Saturdays and Sundays, he worked as an orderly inside whichever CHSLD his temp agency dispatched him to that week.

He lived with his family in Montreal North, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in all of Canada. It is a popular destination for asylum seekers – many of whom crossed the US–Canada border on foot shortly after American president Donald Trump took office. Half of the neighbourhood’s residents are members of a visible minority, and 42% are immigrants.>/p>

The article underlines for me how much the history of all cities is closely connected to history around the world, at so many levels. I speak as a person who grew up in Montreal and whose parents were refugees from Estonia during the Second World War. In the early 1950s we lived at an apartment in or near the Snowdon district of Montreal after which we moved to a newly-built house on Lavigne St. in Cartierville.

[End of updates]


Click here for previous posts about Cartierville >

The following email conversation, edited for brevity, took place early in September 2016 in connection with a 1993 NFB documentary that is highlighted at a previous post:

Graeme Decarie served as historical advisor and commentator for a 1993 NFB film about the Quiet Revolution in Quebec

A related post is entitled:

Fascism and the Italians of Montreal: An Oral History: 1922-1945 (1998)

A recent update to a Jan. 1, 2013 post is also of of relevance; it concerns the relationship between buildings and that occurs inside and outside of them:

 Ken Greenberg (2011) talks about early urban planning in Chicago


September 2016 mail conversation

Graeme Decarie, Aug. 6, 2016 at a Tom Horton's in Moncton, N.B. Jaan Pill photo

Graeme Decarie, Aug. 6, 2016 in Moncton, N.B. Jaan Pill photo

Graeme Decarie (Sept. 2, 2016): I’m in Montreal for a funeral for my brother in law, and to see my sister (his widow). I’m really quite lost with the changes in Montreal. Traffic has become quite dreadful. And so many anglos have left, I know almost nobody here. There are some magnificent mafia palaces on Gouin along the waterfront.

I’m staying at my sister’s place, a condo about a couple of hundred metres from MCHS just on the other side of the commuter railway. The constant volume of traffic by the school is phenomenal. The train station now has monster parking lot. O’Brien has heavy traffic and there are several, new expressways.

Jaan Pill (Sept. 3, 2016): Can you tell me more about the “mafia palaces” topic? That is: “There are some magnificent mafia palaces on Gouin along the waterfront.” Are these new houses or have they been there for a long time?

Another sign in the same area. I like taking photos of traffic-related signs wherever I go. Each province and era has a different approach to the graphics of communicating the same messages - in this case, a sign indicating that if you press the button, you will increase your chances of making it to the other side of the street without being hit by a car. Jaan Pill photo

Another sign in Moncton. Each province and era has a different approach to communicating the same messages – in this case, the story is that if you press the button, you will increase your chances of making it to the other side without getting hit by a car. Jaan Pill photo

I assume this is a colloquial term referring to houses that are assumed to be related to Mafia figures.

Graeme (Sept. 3, 2016): They are huge and ornate houses on large properties on the water. Everybody says they are mafia. I don’t know that for sure. They must be 5 or 6 thousand square feet. I knew some high-flying mafia types. And there’s just a touch of coarseness in these palaces that they would like.

These were some 3 or 4 k west of sacre coeurs hospital.

The hospital now operates freely in both languages. The staff is at least 50% Black. Probably more. There’s also now a large, Muslim population in St. Laurent- Cartierville.

I haven’t seen much of an Oriental population.

Jaan (Sept. 3, 2016): This is good background; helps me to understand the story.

1) I did a search for “mafia houses Gouin Blvd.” and learned a bit about the Gouin Blvd. courthouse and related topics:

A Dec. 21, 2011 Montreal Gazette article is entitled: “Cops comb woods behind Rizzuto home.”

A June 29, 2015 Montreal Gazette article is entitled: “Montreal’s plan for Mafia-linked Pierrefonds land raises questions.”

May 2015 photo of the building where Malcolm Campbell High School was situated. Scott Munro photo

May 2015 photo of the building where Malcolm Campbell High School was located. Scott Munro photo

A June 18, 2016 Montreal Gazette article is entitled: “Wedding reception was a who’s who of Montreal gangsters.”

2) I’ve long been interested in the general story about the connection between corruption and Montreal:

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

3) Reminds me of a wider topic namely the role of gangs in public life:

Starting in the 1920s, gangster movies underlined the capabilities of talking pictures

Graeme (Sept. 3, 2016):  I’m finding montreal a very alien place. The mix of people is much different. But more jarring was the disappearance of so many stores and restaurants I had known. Even Concordia felt strange to me.

The language tension really wasn’t noticeable, though. And both of my sons just love the place.

Graeme Decarie arrives at Tim Hortons coffee shop for meeting with Jaan Pill. The former teacher and student had not seen each other for 53 years. Jaan Pill photo. Click on the image to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further.

Graeme Decarie arrives at Tim Hortons coffee shop for meeting with Jaan Pill. The former teacher and student had not seen each other for 53 years. Jaan Pill photo. Click on the image to enlarge it; click again to enlarge it further.

What is strangest is that I’m staying at my sister’s’ – in sight of MCHS. But the whole region seems alien. And I guess that’s partly because I don’t know a soul in the area. Even the YMCA has disappeared – and all the shops at Norgate are new.

And so we are left behind in the dust of a world galloping ahead in chariots.

Graeme (Sept. 8, 2016): I’ve been in Montreal for over a week, now. And it’s been rather sad. I’m staying just the other side of the railway tracks from MCHS. I lived in this area for ten years. The streets look the same. In fact, the houses look even better than new.

But it’s depressing to walk around. The whole community I knew, and its institutions, are gone. I feel decidedly alien here. I know nobody. And nobody knows me.

Much as I find Moncton an intellectual morgue, I’ll be happy to get home tomorrow.

Left to right: Sandra Holden. Lynn Smiley, Barry Levitt – the only boy in 11C, Myrna Ramsay, Joan Skelcher, Arleen Smith (sitting). In the background are Heather Locke and teacher Mr. Doig. Source: Arleen Smith

February 1963 photo from Malcolm Campbell High School. Left to right: Sandra Holden. Lynn Smiley, Barry Levitt – the only boy in 11C, Myrna Ramsay, Joan Skelcher, Arleen Smith (sitting). In the background are Heather Locke and teacher Mr. Doig. Source: Arleen Smith. Photo is from a post entitled: February 1963 photo from Malcolm Campbell High School at recess or lunch outside in the school yard

Oh, there is one change. Montreal is a hell of a lot more spread out. And the traffic is very, very heavy.

The Gazette has deteriorated to the point where it make the Moncton Times and Transcript look (almost) good. It’s obviously run as cheaply as possible. In fact, at first glance it looks like a supermarket freebie.

Jaan (Sept. 8, 2016): My post about The Rise and Fall of English Montreal (1993) is going to be longer than I anticipated. I at first envisioned a link to the video and a brief blurb about the film.

As it has turned out, I’m going through the film second by second, transcribing parts of it, and taking screenshots from it to add images to the post. I was interested to see that some of the things you had talked about in emails long ago, such as the invention of hockey by Anglophone Montrealers, were included in the film.

I’ve also begun to think about the wider context of how media works, how stories are created, and how impressions are fostered, and I’ve begun to acquaint myself with some of the written resources available at the Toronto Public Library about Quebec in the 1990s and beyond.

In August 2016 I spent some time in Prince Edward Island, a beautiful setting for a vacation. On our drive to the island, we stopped in Moncton, New Brunswick as well as in Saint John, where this photo was taken.

In August 2016 I spent some time in Prince Edward Island, a beautiful setting for a vacation. On our drive to the island, we stopped in Moncton, New Brunswick as well as in Saint John, where this photo was taken.

My own connection with the NFB includes a summer job in early 1970s Vancouver where I worked as an assistant director for a film in Victoria about foster kids, and writing about NFB and independent producers when I was a freelance writer with Cinema Canada (1975-1980).

In the early 1970s I spent a morning visiting the NFB head office in Montreal. That was an intriguing little empire, that I encountered. I also did consulting for an NFB film that was made more recently; the resulting film wasn’t very useful from my perspective, but I learned something about how NFB films are put together.

The NFB’s origin as a propaganda outfit during the Second World War has long been a source of fascination for me.

Prince Edward Island is a great place to meet with family and friends at any time of the year. Jaan Pill photo

Prince Edward Island is a great place to meet with family and friends any time of year. Jaan Pill photo

I’ve been interested to note that the CBC has done a good job l in connecting with audiences. My sense is that the origins of CBC involved engagement with somewhat different currents of Canadian history, as contrasted to the origins of the NFB.

Graeme (Sept. 9, 2016): I also worked on a few other films which I’m going try to find when I get back to Moncton (tomorrow). They were all NFB.

As to Montreal, it’s much more friendly than it used to be. And the language tensions aren’t to evident as they were. The old Black population seems to have been smothered by Haitians and Africans – and it’s very, very widely spread throughout the city. Housing prices are high. The house in St.Laurent that my parents bought about 1956 for $25,000 is now on sale for $580,000.

If I do move back to Montreal next year, I’ll have to avoid all those expensive districts like St. Laurent, Cartierville. The prices are insane.


Click here to access a Canadian Encyclopedia reference to Norgate Shopping Centre >

Archival photo of Cartierville

I recently came across a Jan. 31, 2021 Facebook post from Peter Halliday that I want to share; Peter writes:

I posted this shot a few years ago, but because of the renewed interest in the Canadair shot below, I thought I’d re-post this one too. Some landmarks are visible already – the path of highway 15, the railroad tracks, Sacre Coeur hospital, the neighbourhood where MCHS would be built, in the lower center of the photo. I think the picture was from the 1950’s, but I am not sure when… If you want the full zoomable photo/file you can try this link:–10HVXABELl_AdmbOi95ci6HL2B1a-I


11 replies
  1. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    In my interviews with him in Moncton in August 2016, Graeme spoke at length about the ways in which education and the influence of family life when he was growing up had a strong, positive, and enduring impact on his life. Graeme grew up in poverty but with help from many sources, managed to deal effectively with the major challenges that he faced in his early years.

    With regard to the role that education and social capital can play, I was pleased to read a Sept. 14, 2016 Tyee article entitled: “How to End Child Poverty, According to a Stanford Economist: Raj Chetty on ways to invest in kids for maximum impact.”

  2. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    I have on many occasions interviewed Bill Rawson, owner of Long Branch Furniture in the Toronto neighbourhood where I have lived for 20 years. He’s about the same age as Graham Decarie. I have some additional interviews that I look forward to doing with him, about the Long branch Race Track that used to exist just north of what in times past was known as The Village of Long Branch.

    One of the remarks that I remember from a brief conversation with Bill Rawson around August 2016 has very much reminded me, as I have thought back about it, of remarks that Graeme has shared regarding his September 2016 visit to Montreal to attend a funeral.

    What Bill said was (and I paraphrase), “It’s amazing. It’s all changed. Everybody I knew in those years is gone. I don’t know the people around here anymore; they’re all gone.”

    I would add that many old-time friends of Bill Rawson do regularly visit him at his store. However in times past, if he was walking down the street, he would know so many of the people that he would be encountering. It is those people who are now all gone – moved away, or passed away.

    The photo (by Jaan Pill from about May 2014) is of Bill Rawson (on left) and Lance Kelly. Click on the photo to enlarge it. One of the features of posting a photo to a Comment in WordPress is that captions can’t be posted within a Comment. For that reason, I write the caption information as a text within the body of the Comment, as I’ve done with regard to the photo below. It also took me a while to figure out how to add links to Comments. These are among the interesting things that I’ve been learning, often by chance, in the course of writing blog posts.


  3. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    As an immigrant having arrived in Halifax harbour in 1951 after a voyage across the Atlantic, I enjoyed another recent article as well:

    A Sept. 15, 2016 Toronto Star article is entitled: “Suspicion of immigrants is a Canadian value.”

    When I saw Halifax harbour for the first time from the deck of the Gripsholm (as our ship was called), I said to myself, “Remember this scene. You’re gonna live here all your life.” But the next day, after an overnight stay at a hotel, we were on our way heading along the St. Lawrence River by train on our way to Ontario. You look out the train window and you see lots of trees, mile after mile. We didn’t get as far as Ontario, however. Montreal looked like a good place to stop, my parents decided, which is why we got off the train in Montreal, where I spent many years until finally continuing the journey to the original destination, which had been Toronto.

  4. Arleen Chenoll
    Arleen Chenoll says:

    Hi Jaan, I came across your blog suddenly when looking at some other information about Montreal. I remember Graeme Decarie not only from MCHS but I believe he also taught earlier at Parkdale. I was surprised to see a copy of the photo I took way back when where a group of my classmates are working in the snow. I am downsizing and have been looking at old photos…..can you believe I was looking at that original photo just yesterday and it is on my desk as I write this. What happened to Graeme Decarie, is he still in Moncton?

    Arleen (Smith) Chenoll
    June 2018

  5. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Hi Arleen,

    Delighted to know of your connection to the photo!

    I received an email message from Graeme Decarie just this morning (June 11, 2018). He writes: “I’ll probably be moving to Ottawa some time in the coming months to be closer to my family, so Toronto will be an easy hop.

    “I had been thinking of going to Montreal, but I suspect the atmosphere there has changed too much to be bearable.”

    In a previous message to Graeme, I had noted:

    “Bob Carswell continues to trudge along. The next MCHS luncheon is on June 22, 2018 at a Mandarin restaurant in Etobicoke. The lunch-time get togethers are now a regular thing with about 5 or 6 people turning up.

    “When you’re next in Toronto, let us know and we’ll arrange for a day when you can join us for lunch.”

    I want to add: If anyone wants to join us for our monthly Toronto-area MCHS luncheon, please contact me at

  6. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Cheryl Nicholls has written the following comment at the MCHS ’60s Reunion Facebook Page; I am pleased to post it below (she’s given me permission to post it; also, I’ve broken the text into shorter paragraphs for ease of online reading):

    I was in Montreal in May. We drove by the old MCHS and so many memories came flooding back. I graduated in 1966. We also drove by where we used to live on Guertin Street and on O’Brien to see our old houses. Everything has been so updated. Monkland train station is not there anymore. The train goes from Val Royal to Cote Vertu without stopping. The O’Brien shopping centre where Steinberg’s used to be is completely changed out. Did not recognize any of the stores there.

    I also have a photo similar to the old black-and-white one that you show above. It is a picture of my friends and I on the skating rink that used to be beside Filion street across from the Transfiguration Church.

    I had an amazing childhood in Cartierville and St Laurent. I have wonderful memories of going to Parkdale and Elmdale elementary schools and MCHS. I feel so lucky to have lived in Montreal during those years. But I guess it’s like what they say – you can never go back.

  7. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    In a subsequent comment at the above-noted Facebook page, Cheryl Nicholls adds:

    It means so much to me to have these memories. Also forgot to mention that I think I remember Graeme Decarie as being the teacher who forbid us from dancing the ‘twist’ at our high school dances LOL. I think it was because it was too controversial a dance at the time?

  8. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    At a previous post, I’ve shared Graeme Decarie’s reflections about the Twist; a comment at the above-noted site reads:

    By way of rounding out the story of the Twist being banned at MCHS in 1963, I’m pleased to share the following comments from Graeme Decarie:

    “Perhaps I can take this opportunity to reveal a long-hidden truth. It’s about the dance in 1963, I think, for which I banned the twist. It caused a lot of controversy, and lots of speculation than I did to satisfy an overheated sense of morality.

    “Here’s the true story.

    “I have never liked pop music, and have never been much of a dancer.

    “Consequently, when students asked me (constantly) if I was going to ban the Twist, I didn’t even know that they were talking about.

    “But every day, students would bug me about it. Then, one questioner, even before I answered, said, ‘You can’t ban it. It’s been on the Ed Sullivan Show.’

    “And I thought..;.. the hell with that. Ed Sullivan does not set the standards for MCHS dances. I do. And that’s when I said it was banned.”

  9. Duncan Campbell
    Duncan Campbell says:

    Hi Jaan.

    This is certainly a very small world and the following interwoven comment will reveal why. As a native Montrealer I was a classmate of Graeme Decarie, the cousin of previously mentioned Arleen Chenoll [nee Smith], and a resident of Long Branch following a move to Ontario in 1953.

    Graeme I admired and never forgot because he was so much smarter than me while in high school. There was no doubt in my mind that Graeme was bound to be an educator while I focused on a career in fine art.

    I grew up in an area known as La Petite Patrie, went to Peace Centennial school, later to William Dawson, then graduated The High School of Montreal. While the area around Jean Talon and St. Hubert was predominantly French, there was a good sized Syrian community complete with a Syrian bakery that made for tasty stops coming home from school.

    The original St. Hubert BBQ was just above Saint Zotique and Steinbergs just above Belanger, with a Woolworth’s in between. Near Jean Talon and St. Laurent there was a large outdoors farmers market and just north west the enormous undeveloped Jarry Park where one learned hockey, baseball and skiing. I still have my rations book from WW2 when we lined up to buy sugar, butter, meat and other war restricted provisions.

    Moving to the Toronto area I lived in all the Lakeshore communities including Mimico, New Toronto, Long Branch, and finally Alderwood. My first household items were purchased at Long Branch Furniture. I worked at a large factory on what was then 7th street, now Islington, and our neighbours on Birmingham were Anaconda, Continental Can and Campbell Soup. Just below was Goodyear on Lakeshore Blvd.

    In the 1950s steam locomotives still worked the roundhouse on New Toronto Street and the neighbouring community put up with constant ash fallout. The lacrosse bowl was on Kipling and the Long branch Race Track just above. 1954 Hurricane Hazel took its toll on all the communities and was devastating to experience as almost all bridges were wiped out by the force of nature.

    Many fond memories of all communities.

  10. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Hi Duncan,

    This is most interesting and remarkable – the connection to Graeme Decarie, Arleen Chenoll [nee Smith], and Long Branch!

    We are hoping that Graeme, once he moves to Ottawa from Moncton, will be able to travel to Toronto for one of our MCHS luncheon get togethers at the Mandarin restaurant on the Queensway just east of Kipling Ave. in Etobicoke.

    It would be wonderful if you could join us on such an occasion, or any other time, as a special – and honoured – guest. I would be pleased to arrange for transportation, in the event such an arrangement is needed.

    That is remarkable: A high school classmate of Graeme Decarie.

    I am interested to learn about your career in fine art.

    It’s wonderful to learn about your Montreal connections. I remember the reference to the Peace Centennial school, in the NFB film about English Montreal, in which Graeme Decarie was interviewed, and which I’ve highlighted at a previous post at this website.

    I met Bill Rawson of Long Branch Furniture on Lake Shore Blvd. West just a few days ago. His store closed down just recently. I was walking home from a workout at the Humber Fitness Centre around Twenty Fifth St. and Lake Shore Blvd. West when I saw him walking along Lake Shore.

    Bill was on his way to the race track with a buddy of his. I got his phone number (he lives in Oakville) and look forward to continuing my interviews with him. I’ve posted some stories, that he’s shared in interviews with me in recent years, and have many more stories and videos to post.

    I look forward to learning more from you, about Montreal and the Lakeshore communities where you have lived – and about your encounters with Graeme Decarie. Graeme wasn’t one of my teachers, at Malcolm Campbell High School, but I had dealings with him when I was on the student council in the 1962-1963 school year.

    What stayed in mind, from those encounters, was that here was a teacher who demonstrated a characteristic poise and directness; these were qualities that I recalled years later, when I was helping to organize a Sixties Reunion of Malcolm Campbell High School grads.

    As the work on the MCHS Sixties Reunion proceeded, I had the opportunity to speak with Graeme once again. Initially I spoke with him via email and later I met him in person (for an extensive series of interviews) in Moncton, New Brunswick, where he has lived for many years.



  11. Jaan Pill
    Jaan Pill says:

    Graeme Decarie wrote (June 13, 2018):

    Wow! Duncan Campbell. You made my day. And you brought back memories of Peace Centennial.

    And of St Hubert St. where I used to shoplift at lunch hour.

    Great to hear from you.

    I can’t remember being smarter than you. But you were certainly better looking than I was.



Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *