Sunday, January 29, 2012

Capone and Edward VIII and Edward Beck

Well, I found something interesting, looking up "Al Capone + Montreal" on the Internet for my play Milk and Water  about Montreal in 1927, during the era of American Prohibition, using my grandfather, Jules Crepeau as a character. He was Director of Services in Montreal all through the 1920's.

This pic is a still from a YouTube film. (The original movie, Chicago, aired in 1927, you know, the story of Roxy Hart, is it, that inspired the popular musical a while back.)

In early July, 1930, a few months before my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, was forced to resign by Houdists on the Municipal Council, the Gazette published an article comparing Montreal Crime with Chicago crime.

It's not an example of stellar reportage. Indeed, I wonder what it was really all about.

Apparently, a Chicago judge, passing through Montreal, claimed to a local reporter that "Chicago is not a healthy city to live in."

Then an anonymous person, upset by the criticism,  wrote a letter to someone and this someone showed it to City Council and asked for their opinion, and it was published in the Gazette.

This anonymous Chicagoan said that he has seen more racketeering in Montreal than in Chicago. That there is more open gambling in Montreal than in Cicero (Al Capone's hangout). And as for immorality, Montreal makes Chicago look like a village."

Chief Langevin of the Montreal Police Corps was asked to answer to this anonymous letter, and said the usual, that they are always closing up gambling houses and houses of ill-fame, but they needed the addresses first.

He said "We have no gangsters in Montreal. We have officers at every train station looking for suspicious characters and many have been deported."

Alderman Bray, Chairman of the Executive Committee says that the criticism does not come from a Montrealer, but from a Chicagoan, who is upset by a remark from another Chicagoan criticizing his city. True enough.

A silly article, that shows that Al Capone was known in Montreal circles. Again, I have to wonder: wonder what was  purpose and who "planted" it in the Gazette.

Oh, let's say it was crusading reporter Edward Beck...(I have no idea.) Beck died in October of this year, a month after my grandfather got 'let go' so he got some revenge in the end. He hated my grandfather and McConnell apparently.

I might write a story based on his life, it would be interesting.

Now, in a 1985 article, Tommy Schnurmacher wrote a piece about Montreal night life and opened with the line that "Montreal has been famous for its nightlife ever since Al Capone came down from Chicago to party all night." It's just a lead, so means little...I must go back over my Montreal Then and Now. If there is a Montreal/Capone story,  Edgar Andrew Collard would have written it I think.

His book is where I got the VERY USEFUL  info about the Prince of Wales, David, Edward VIII, that he liked to party with Mederic Martin.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Don't Blame Us Boomers, Blame Consumerism!

Horse and carriage, Richmond Quebec. Turn of the Last Century. This is likely the carriage that took Finance Minister Peter Mackenzie around Richmond Country during the 1912 provincial election.

Well, there's been an awful lot about Quebec's budget in the News, what with Mario Dumont saying that without equalization Quebec is as badly off as Greece (without the 24/7 blue skies and cheap wine.). And now one of his advisors, the 42 year old Eric Duhaime is blaming Mom and Dad.  In a new book L'État contre les jeunes: Comment les baby-boomers ont détourné le système 

Read more:

(Hey, when you cut and paste from the Gazette article it automatically puts in the link. Cool!)

Apparently, he says we're spending too much on health care and not enough on education. 

Well, well. Be careful Monsieur Duhaime. If the Boomers don't have health care it's the Boomers' kids who are going to have to take care of them. Hey, even with some reasonable health care, you are going to have to take care of them. Believe me. I've been there. Of course, there's always euthanasia. Not a bad idea: I'm considering it for myself, after having watched my mother suffering due to incompetent medical care at the end of her life in a pricey privatized Rest Home. 

Considering the fact everything might be privatized when the time comes (a representative of one of those American Rest Home Corporations warned me that will be the case) and I won't have 10,000 a month or more for my end of life care, a little pill seems the smart thing to do.  Hey with Harper's Social Security cuts I may have no choice. Especially since, we live privatized lives these days, a by-product of consumerism. (Don't blame us boomers, blame consumerism, I say.)

Now, I do think I have a unique (if not a blanket) perspective on things budgetary, having researched and written Threshold Girl. I know what it was like for 'an average family' in 1900 in Quebec. An average family under economic stress. If you read the ebook, you will too.

Margaret and Norman Nicholson, two respectable and very frugal people who did everything right all their lives, would not have survived - in old age - but for financial support from their kids and all kinds of other support from friends and community. 

There was a reason Norman always paid his Masonic fees, which were considerable, even when totally broke!

Norman worked until the day he died at 72. Doctor's bills were always a problem. A lot of people couldn't pay them. In fact, Norman made extra money working as 'collector' for a couple of doctors. I have the documentation. Lots of bills of 10 dollars, some as high as 35. In a day and age when 100 dollars a month was a good salary, but few made that.

Want to see what it cost to live in 1900, for a typical Quebec Family. .A List for the Laurier Era

Anyway, I just happen to have on hand the 1912 Quebec Budget. Norman Nicholson kept it. I think it must be from the Montreal Witness. Of course, my eplay Milk and Water is about Montreal in 1927 and the emergence of the Quebec 'welfare' state. 

Here's a summary of the budget

Quebec Provincial Budget Speech, 1912
(From insert in Richmond Times Guardian - Nicholson Family copy.)

Hon. Mr. P S G Mackenzie, Provincial Treasurer, Shows Splendid Financial Standing of Province - $905 910,04. (Mackenzie was the Liberal Member of the Legislature for Richmond - re-elected in 1912, with the help of the Nicholson carriage.)

I have transcribed excerpts relevant to certain web site themes: the automobile, the temperance movement, education, forestry.
Comparison of results:
Recalling that the last Conservative Administration were in office from December 17, 1891 to May 28, 1897, when Mr. Marchand assumed the reins of power for the Liberals, he compared the results of the two regimes…

The Treasurer then went on to say that he had seen, from the time the Liberal party took office in 1897, up to 30th of June, 1911, not only had the public debt been decreased from every point of view, and the interest charges diminished and equilibrium restored, but the party was able to say that it had largely increased expenditure for pubic instruction, agriculture, rural roads and colonization.

The ordinary receipts for the the past year paid out of ordinary revenue consisted of: Legislative and departmental buildings, painting roof and repairs, construction of new library, Jacques Cartier Normal School furniture, iron bridges, Normal School Quebec purchase of land, Dairy School Ste Hyacinthe, repair and construction of farm buildings.

Assets and Liabilities: The honorable gentleman explained that during the 1910-1911, the government had increased the assets of the province, a sum of 21,009,941.12. The funded debt stood at 25,661,284.15

For the current year, among the items that had increased expenditures beyond the estimates, he mentioned 10,000.00 for the committee of organization of the French Language; 6,405.77 for the reception of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Connaught, 40,000 for farmers' clubs, 80,000,00 for rural roads.
The Quebec Bridge Subsidy:
Referring to this matter, he recalled in 1900 there was voted to the Quebec Bridge Company the sum of 250,000 to be payable 30,000 per annum for eight years. At that time it was contemplated that the bridge, in addition to being a railway bridge would provide a highway for vehicles and pedestrians. The bridge collapsed in 1907.
The Last Census
The honorable gentleman also touched upon this subject. In the 1901 census the population of Quebec was 1, 648,898, and under the census of June last it was 2,005,805. The Dominion subsidy to the Province of Quebec based on population, were annually 959, 252.80 being based on moribund census of 1861. Thanks to the persistent efforts of he Prime Minister in leading the successful demand made by the provinces for an adjustment in terms, provided by the BNA Act, the subsidy was increased.

Lands and Forests. Referring particularly to this source of provincial revenue, he said that he receipts for 1910-11 from the Crown Lands Department had exceeded the receipts for 1909-10 by 79, 181.81. Estimated results for the current year, 1,410,000.00
Licenses: (See: temperance: page 4)
Under this head the honorable gentleman remarked that if we are to judge by the revenue returns, the conclusion would be that the people were drinking to the health of the nation. The revenue from this source last year was 983,663.00 an excess of 88,664.00 over the estimates.
The Treasurer devoted a good deal of remark to this important question. He explained that there would be a further increase of 150, 646,70 in the estimates for 1912-1913 over those of 1911-12. The total vote for the latter being 1,065,950.40 as compared to 1, 16,596.0 for the latter. He gave the details of this increase and about 125,000 for distribution among the school municipalities, which paid all their teachers annual salaries of not less than 100 dollars to increase that to 130 dollars and later 150 a year, the object of the Government being to encourage the payment by local effort of a higher standard of salary as well as the employment of qualified teachers.

(EDITOR: In 1910 Quebec's teachers were the lowest paid in Canada.)

Referring to Laval and McGill Universities he commented on the great services they had paid in building up the state. In the past they had been mainly sustained by public munificence. Now, however the time had come when a united public demanded that the state should aid their great and good work . A substantial subsidy was also provided to Bishop's College in he estimates.
Agriculture and Rural Roads (the impact of the auto)
In consequence of the amendments to the law relating to automobiles, last session, by increasing the duties, there had been a significant augmentation of revenue from that service. He had no doubt that this source would increase from year to year, until it reached a very considerable amount, as it was obvious that improved highways would greatly increase the number of automobiles. He thought the automobilists deserved to be regarded as pioneers of the good roads movement. They had more than any other class drawn attention to the wretched condition of our highways

In conclusion the honorable gentleman spoke as follows: Wise expenditure, within the limit of revenue, is in my opinion the truest economy. Let us all patriotically bear our share of the Burdens of the state, and encourage every movement toward the development of our resources; to uplift the moral and social conditions of our people; to make them happy and contented at home; and admired and respected abroad.

Tighsolas | The Nicholson Family Saga | Canada 1910 | Historical Terms | 1908 Letters | 1909 Letters | 1910 Letters | 1911 Letters | 1912 Letters | 1913 Letters

Friday, January 27, 2012

Buttering up the Future King! O Canada!

Edward VIII, as prince of Wales, in a butter sculpture at the 1925 British Empire Exhibition. Library and Archives.

Geez! Apparently, the Prince was honored by this sculpture, that was a promotion of both the dairy and refridgeration industries in Canada.

You know, I might stick this in my story,Milk and Water. The story is about Montreal in 1927 and centers around a visit by the Royal Prince for the country's Diamond Jubilee.

Apparently, this was the only representation of  anything to do with Native Canadians at the Canadian Pavilion.

At the beginning of the movie the King's Speech, Bertie, the Duke of York, is giving a speech at the closing.  I have the Official Guide of the 1925 British Empire Exhibition at Wembley. It was a two year event.

I bought it off eBay while writing another play, Looking for Mrs. Peel, which takes place in 1967 and goes backwards. 1967 was the year of Expo67, my favourite year, so I have a thing for Exhibitions.
Now, it was while researching the 1900 French Exhibition that I discovered, to my amazement, that the Canadian Pavilion contained an exhibit of Pelee Island wines from Ontario.

I was surprised, since I had only heard of Pelee wines lately. (I often go to Hawkesbury to buy them at the local LCBO as the SAQ doesn't carry them.) Could it be? Was Canada into winemaking in 1900? And would they dare to presume to sell it to the French? Well, yes, so it seems.

Today, I wondered, out of the blue, if Canada exhibited Ontario wine at the 1924 and 1925 exhibitions, considering that the US was under Prohibition and Ontario had strict regulations concerning wine and hard liquor.

So I consulted the Official Guide and it appears, NO. Only Cypress and Australia were showing off their wines. "Australia is specializing in wine and proclaims of the day when she will be able to compete with France for the trade of the world. True enough.. France and Italy and Spain and Chile  and California and Canada and, and, and, and.

Canada had tobacco products on exhibit and fish and forestry products too. And dairy of course. In the Official Guide, in the Canada Section it says "You must not miss a two tonne silver nugget and a butter model of the Prince of Wales and the story of 'a shanty man's life.'

The Official Guide has full page portraits of the King and the Queen and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of York and Colin Firth. Ah...And some Princess they left out of the King's Speech. Princess Mary, a patroness of the Women's Section. I wonder if she handed out pamphlets at the kiosk of the Women's Total Abstinence Society.  It was situated in Clean Way, on Quality Street. The Duchess of York was also a patroness of this Women's Section, but from what I've read about the future Queen Mom she probably has a seat reserved in the Australian Pavilion, beside the wine exhibit. Had I been alive, I would have met her there!

The Pelee Wine Exhibit, 1900 Paris Exhibition. Canadian Pavilion. Oh La! La!

I found an ad for 1913 for Pelee wines, saying that comparatively few people know of this wine, that it is "Canadian Port" containing a low percentage of alcohol and of a red, rich colour. (I found a bit fro 1912 saying that it was a banner year for grapes.)

$1.50 a gallon!

Hmm. I wonder how much alcohol, likely 5 percent or less. Of course today, the wine is 12 and 13 percent, the usual.

Another article I found from 1883 said that vinyards at Pointe Pelee were established in 1866 by a Brantford guy, a Mr. Hamilton. He built a three storey stone winehouse.

They produced dry and sweet catawba, isabella, claret, port and sherries. Hmm. And communion wines and invalid wines. Wine was often prescribed for ailments at the turn of the last century. I have some family letters where people speak of this. Lucky for them, as most of the correspondents were Presbyterian, adherents to temperance. Being 'an invalid' was an excuse to drink.

Today, we need no excuses! Especially since Ontario wines have come into their own.

This same article says that Ontario wine is being introduced in the West Indies and Great Britain. But in 1900 they brought it to Paris, and along with Edison's moving sidewalk, it didn't really catch on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Devil's in the Details: Milk and Water

Aunt Flo and Mom circa 1927.

I just added a bit to my eplay Milk and Water, about my Aunt Flo, who was 'plucked' from the city streets in and around 1912 to live with my grandparents. Milk and Water is about Montreal in 1927, and it's a Two Solitudes type story, about political corruption and the power of words.

It's in the section where the two men compare families: yesterday I added detail about the death of Morris, Thomas Wells's second son. He died in South America, on a job. I assume he worked for the Canadian Industrialists who were setting up big POWER projects in Mexico and South America in the 1910 era. William Mackenzie, McConnell.

In Milk and Water a powerful French Canadian, Jules Crepeau, and a Westmount Businessman, Tom Wells, have a long talk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

William Fong, Edward Beck, Financiers and Fuddy

Fuddy and May, Thomas Wells and Mary Hardy Fair Wells, my husband's grandparents.

All things are connected, that's for sure.

Milk and Water:  Scandal, lies and cover-ups in Jazz Age Montreal

I am editing Milk and Water my e-play about Montreal in 1927, the Roaring Twenties, the era of American Prohibition, Al Capone, and Elliot Ness (was he real?) and I've found yet another connection between this Milk and Water Story and my Threshold Girl story about 1910 Montreal.

In a bit of dialogue where Fuddy is telling Jules Crepeau, (Director of City Departments and my grandfather) about the death of his youngest son in South America, I decided to get specific.

So I consulted my FONG biography of McConnell to remind myself what South American concerns the Toronto Industrialists were involved in...


So I have Morris Wells die in Brazil. My father in law can't recall exactly where. (Why else would he have been down there? He was an engineer who died on a water power project.)

And I have Thomas opine (is that the word?) that he got his son the job. This likely happened. He was Director of the Rotary for Eastern Canada!

Odd, I'm also working on "The Diary of A Confirmed Spinster" that is the follow up to Threshold Girl. It tells the story of Edith Nicholson and how she lost her great love in a hotel fire.

In this story, I am fiddling around a bit. In real life, her boyfriend disappeared to Mexico in late 1909. I figured out why. They'd had a typhoon in Monterrey and that's where a Mr. William Mackenzie, Toronto tycoon, had a Power Company.

I'm taking guesses here, but I think they are educated guesses. Good guesses.

In Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, I'm fiddling a bit with the story, turning it into a murder mystery involving the opium trade.

Anyway, I noticed that the Fong bio of McConnell mentions Edward Beck, Journalist! He says that Beck is McConnell's biggest enemy journalist. Oh my. So Beck hated McConnell and my grandfather! And McConnell was involved with the Forget's, my grandfather's relations. HMMM. This is much more complicated that even I can figure out. Alas!

I guess I must thoroughly read Fong's Chapter on the Water and Power situation in 1910....
Oh, I did and it's still complicated. In a footnote to the chapter, No. 42. Fong says that Beck probably wasn't a reliable journalist as he lost a defamation suit in 1915. I think he is referring to my grandfather's suit. He 'sort of' lost... he only had to pay 100 dollars.


Monday, January 23, 2012


An ad for Edison's Phonograph. He's trying to get Moms to let them into the home.

Sopa and Pipa. Can't say I'd heard about them, until last week.

I know that similar laws are being passed in Canada.

I'm sitting in my living room, surrounded by my DVDs and some VHS's I'm reluctant to toss.

My husband and I have some titles on VHS, DVD, AND Blue Ray.

I can't feel sorry for Hollywood somehow.

So my husband and I tend to buy our DVD's, since we have no idea how to download them. Sure, I sometimes watch old British TV programs on YouTube. I just watched the first episode of the Duchess of Duke Street.

If I decided I want to watch it all, I'll probably buy the DVD.

Anyway, Sopa and Pipa are slowed for the moment. Wikipedia's efforts played a large part. I never realized how much I used Wikipedia until last week. I kept falling on the site, looking up this, looking put that.

Ironic. My story  Threshold Girl is based on letters from the 1910 era. To write this ebook (which I offer free online, although it is copyrighted)I did a lot of research. This was the Nickelodeon Era, the birth of the film medium.

It's Ironic that Hollywood is behind these Sopa and Pipa bills, because the reason Hollywood exists is because certain creative types "escaped" far away to the desert  Los Angeles to avoid patent issues with the ALL POWERFUL Edison.  He had a patent monopoly, back then. He also wanted to focus on Educational Films.

As least that is how I understand it.

But Hollywood style movie making is what people wanted. Sex, Violence, underdogs winning, bad people losing. Prat falls. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Here's a bit from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica about the Cinematograph.

An apparatus in which a series of views representing closely successive phases of a moving object are exhibited in rapid sequence, giving a picture which, owing to persistence of vision, appears to the observer to be continuous motion. It is a development of the zoetrope or 'wheel of life' described by W. G. Horner about 1833, a cylinder rotating on a vertical axis with slots through which one sees a succession of pictures. E. Muybridge about 1877 obtained successive pictures of a running horse by employing a row of cameras, the shutters of which were opened and closed electrically by the passage of the horse in front of them.
The modern cinematograph was rendered possible by the invention of celluloid film on which the serial pictures are impressed by instantaneous photography, a long sensitized film being moved across the focal plane of a camera and exposed intermittently. 16 to fifty pictures may be taken per second. The films are developed on large drums, within which a ruby electric light may be fixed to enable the process to be watched. A positive is made from the negative and is passed through an optical lantern , the images being thus successively projected over a distance onto a screen. The Cinematograph enables living or animated pictures of such subjects as armies at march or an express train at full speed to be presented with marvelous distinctness and detail. Machines of this kind have been devised in enormous numbers for the purposes of amusement under the names of bioscope, biograph, kinetoscope, mutograph,etc, formed chiefly from the Latin words for light and movement.

Valentine's Day Poem 1880

Young Margaret's Masonic Autograph. I know her future husband Norman Nicholson was a Free Mason. I didn't know her dad was. Her family's story is told in threshold girl

May your cheeks retain their roses 
May your heart beat just as gay
Til some manly voice shall whisper
Maggie, dear, name the day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

1877 Facebook?

Young Margaret McLeod from Kingsbury, near Richmond Quebec. Born 1853.

They didn't have Facebook in 1977, let alone in 1877. But in 1877, they had something else where friends could send each other messages - autograph books.

I have the one belonging to Margaret, and it contains entries from 1877 to 1884, a year after her marriage. Margaret is described in my ebook Threshold Girl

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Young French Canadian in Victorian Age

My grandmother, about 16?. So since her birth certificate says 1879, it's about 1895. Her future husband, Jules Crepeau of Milk and Water.

I was not able to find her dad, Louis Roy, boucher in the 1901 census. He was a maitre-boucher when she married in 1901, and he gave her a terrific dowry. I think she was the only surviving daughter. A sister had died.

Mary Georgiana. And she had a uncle Philias Roy who was a hotellier.  And this birth certificate is from 1950.. and she died a year later.

So off to the Census.

Well, it took a while.. an hour or so. First I found a list of marriages and saw one where a

Feb 22 1897 Sacre-Coeur, Montreal, Quebec
Eugenie ROY
Louis ROY Melina GAGNON

Ok. So I was wrong. Maria had sisters. 

Then I looked up this Deslauriers fellow and, what do you know, in 1901 the young couple were living with the Mom, Melina widowed and all the her kids who are registered INCORRECTLY as Deslauriers. They are Roys.

Maria's birth year is a year off, but the date, November 30, is right.  Maria gets married this year. Her brother Louis Jr. 30 is a boucher, so he took over the dad's business.

They live in South Central Montreal, so, until she moved to NDG (Harvard)she always lived in the center of town.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What's Wrong with this Picture? Kodak goes bust.

What's wrong with this picture, or lack of same?  Or more to the point, what's wrong with this ad? It's an advert for Kodak film and it has no pictures! It's from the World's Work of 1910... a magazine aimed at men. Full of important stuff.

Funny, the magazine is one quarter advertising, and all the other ads have pictures. Or at least drawings or cartoons.

You'd think a company this dumb about selling itself would have gone out of business long ago.

Well, no. Kodak lasted the century and today the company asked for bankruptcy protection in the US.

I have a lot of magazines from the 1910 era and many have advertisements for Kodak. One full page ad has two boys skiing, and capturing 'the wonders of nature' on film. There's a pocket Kodak advertised in a 1911 Delineator, I put the pic in my story.Threshold Girl. The protagonist of my story, Flora Nicholson, my husband's great aunt, is flipping through a copy of the Delineator and thinking "Magazines sure make you want things."

The Nicholsons bought a KODAK in 1906, for 5 dollars (a large sum, actually) because it is written in Norman Nicholson's account book. I have accounts from 1883 to 1921 and never is 'Film" written in, so it must have come out of the children's money. They took pictures in the 1910 era, with this kodak, most likely, and many of them are on this website, Flo in the City.

In Marion's 1907 diary, during her summer off from her first year of teaching, she writes about 'fooling around taking pictures'.

It's relatively rare to see pictures of 'ordinary' citizens -casual snaps - from that era. You don't see many on Flickr.  But I have quite a few: this picture actually is from the family album and is a detail of a tiny 2 inch photo of Margaret and the girls taking tea outside their house in Richmond, Quebec, with Marion, seated demurely in the corner in her white dress. Photos can be deceptive. Marion Nicholson was anything but demure: she was funny, and active and focused. She became President of the Teacher's Union.

I fiddled with it, using the "Impressionist" thingy on Photoshop. Then I fiddled some more using Corel: and I didn't spend a cent on 'film' because it was all done digitally. I purchased photo paper and printer ink for this - oh, and a digital camera.

This picture is up on the wall in my new "art deco" bathroom. Facing the water closet, as they called it in 1910.  I can 'sit' and watch Marion, my husband's grandmother, have tea in 1910. Don't you think they could have used this photo to illustrate the 1910 World's Work advertisement?

The Guardian, today, in an article about Kodak's demise, said that the company originally  advertised to women.

Or Moms, I guess.

Of course, people were wary of early cameras, for every day use. That they would be used for, well, inspecting nature, but of a more intimate kind, not landscapes, that's for sure

I guess this is why this ad doesn't have the picture of a beautiful young woman, the image that through the century has been used to capture the attention of both male and female readers.

Here's the advertisement for the pocket Kodak, from August 1911 Delineator. (I can't find the magazine with the skiing boys. It's somewhere.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Marion Nicholson's First Day as a Teacher

Marion Nicholson, my husband's grandmother with teachers of Sherbrooke Academy 1908.

Well, January is a depressing time of year, I think. Last year I spent some time cheering myself up by putting video of car rides in sunny Malibu on the Big Screen. 

This year, in February my husband and I are going to California and we're going to drive with my cousin to San Fran. It may be coldish and raining  at that time, but it beats this 20 below I'm experiencing. I'm not a winter person. Who is these days?  Marion Nicholson, above, spent her off time in winter skating, I have her diary from 1907. The skating rink was where you met men and her diary is all full of nonsense related to dating. Nothing about teaching, even though she was  a most serious career girl. I do believe the rules of courtship were more relaxed in small towns. The Nicholson letters suggest that a girl in Montreal could not go skating at the MAAA unless with a beau.

I am writing Edith's story now, the follow up to Threshold Girl about her sister Flora.  It's making me more depressed, because her story centers around the loss of her 'great love' in a fire, the Rossmore Hotel Fire.  April 1910. That happens a week before King Edward VII dies, so I have her walking the street on that day in an opium-induced daze. She's in Westmount, a place that no doubt went berzerk when the king died. The week before, Marion and she had bought big hats at Ogilvy on Ste. Catherine. 

And then I backtrack to 1907 when Edith is at a small company town near Three Rivers and Marion is at Sherbrooke Academy. Edith will be jealous of Marion as her younger sister is having fun in Sherbrooke, going to dances and skating. Sherbrooke was a fairly big town. Still, Marion ended up taking work in Montreal, in 1908, because the pay was much better. 50 kids, mostly very poor. Luckily, the Nicholsons had friends there, for finding a place to live was a very difficult thing for a young woman in 1910.

Rural school were not easy places to teach either.. In 1907, Marion is offered a job as a principal of a rural school. The man offering her the job, says the boys can be rough... In another letter, she says an older boy and the principal (of Sherbrooke Academy?) had a fist fight. So no wonder she doesn't take the position as principal.

Here's a letter she wrote after her first day of teaching in 1906. She liked the little ones. In a letter from Normal School she talked about an incident while she was practice teaching. Apparently, she said an ungrammatical sentence to a young student and asked him to tell her what was wrong with it. He replied. "T'aint grammer." She thought that very cute. I'm going to use that in her own story, when I get around to writing it. 

Sherbrooke Quebec
September 10, 06

Dear Mother,

Have just finished my first day at school and it is not half as bad as I expected. But most of my pupils had never been at school before and their mothers had to come with them and tell me their particular troubles so that I would take particular care of them and I did not know one from the other after they had gone. Had 38 pupils today. Pretty good for a start, don't you think. Expect I will have more tomorrow. Mr Gruel came up today to hear me teach. I think he was very mean to come so soon. He might have waited till I was really settled down to work. The Phonic system is not half as bad as I thought it would be, although I have a lot to study up yet. Sat Mill Long and her cousin Irene, Ruth and I drove to Lennoxville and had a fine time. Don't know if I will send my wasting home or have it done here. Will see what it will cost first. I think that if you have not started to make that green dress, that I will have shirt waist suit and a short coat. Wish I had that black skirt. I feel like a kid among all the old maid teachers. Wish you could see them, they almost beat the Rd. ones. Wore my red and white shirtwaist suit because it was the longest one I had and I thought I would look more dignified and more like a school marm.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Iron Lady, Bosses and Montreal 1927

Maria Roy Crepeau, Florida Crepeau, Marthe Crepeau, 1927ish.

Well, it's definitely Atlantic City. La Victoire Restaurant in the background.

I wonder if Jules is taking the picture, or if he's, ahem, busy elsewhere.

That's a premise or at least a suggestion in my play Milk and Water about Montreal in 1927.

In this play, I have my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, have a long talk with my husband's grandfather, Thomas Wells, the President of Laurentian Spring Water, as they wait outside a dance club (sort of a speakeasy) waiting for the possible arrival of the Prince of Wales, that would be David, the future Edward VIII.

I watched the Golden Globes last night, most of it, and saw that many of the most critically acclaimed TV programs are about Political Intrigue: Boardwalk Empire, Boss and Throne of Kings.

Throne of Kings, I noticed, as my husband was watching it, has lots of beautiful naked people to boot.

Kelsey Grammer, won a Golden Globe for his role in Boss, which is about a Mayor in Chicago. I'm not sure what decade, must check. From what I saw on IMDB the theme is pretty much the same as my play Milk and Water except that this BOSS, this Mayor has power. 

In Montreal in the 1920's the Mayor was a figure head more than anything, due to  the new City Charter of 1921.

My grandfather had lots of power. Or did he? I leave that open to interpretation.

Anyway, my husband and I went to see Iron Lady this weekend. I had no preconceptions, as I had read no reviews or articles....That's a good thing, really.  The movie was pretty full, 3 pm showing Saturday. All older people. Then I went home and read the reviews and saw that some British Reviewer called the film despicable.

Most reviewers, however, said that Streep was terrific, the movie not so much.

I agree, I think it was Streep's best performance ever (that I've seen) and she won the Golden Globe last night, so others agree.  I'm not sure if I liked the movie or not, but I am very happy I saw it. (And that's a weird thing.)

My problem, I am no fan of Thatcher, and seeing a Conservative Woman portrayed as a feminist hero kinds of bugs me, although they hinted at the inherent hypocrisy in that.

I liked the editing though, thought a lot of the movie was stylish. The film was a bit of an historical hodgepodge (put together with news clips, like The Queen). Interesting, though to be reminded of the IRA and the damage they did, considering so many  ordinary god-fearing American citizens funded them.

I can see why Thatcher's fans hate the movie, as it portrays her at her weakest hour, as it were. But that also does a disservice to her enemies. She did a lot of nasty stuff.

Funny that both Reagan and Thatcher got Alzheimer's. Reagan was in power while suffering from the  disease, apparently, a well-known fact, although it's not a widely publicized fact.

(Makes you wonder about the post of President. Is it mostly figurehead?)  This Iron Lady movie suggests Thatcher was kicked out just in time, too.

As someone who knows Alzheimer's all too well, as my Dad died of it, I found the portrayal sympathetic, but we'll never know if this portrayal is anything like the real thing. And the flashbacks,well, would an Alzheimer patients flashbacks make any sense?

In the movie, Iron Lady, Thatcher's only delusion is of her dead but loving husband. A sweet comforting delusion. My father suffered delusions (he once phoned me up asking why I was weeping at the end of his bed) but later the delusions became frightening. He'd mix me up with his mother and ask me why I was raped by the Japanese. She had been interned at Changi, the subject of another play I have writtenLooking for Mrs. Peel

Madonna, who had on a nice dress, promoted her movie when she won for best song. Considering the reviews, it was a brave thing to do. I will try to see it though. WE is about Wallis Simpson and Edward. My play, Milk and Water, takes place just before he meets her.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I know a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales

My Aunt Alice in the 1920s. She sat on the steps of Montreal City Hall in August 1927 and watched the Prince of Wales.

Well, they had Schwartz's the Musical this summer at the Centaur Theatre with music by Bowser and Blue, which I enjoyed. It had Montreal history and some good-natured (as they say) Toronto bashing.

So why not Milk and Water the Musical?

It's not like they haven't done great musicals about Prohibition. Chicago for instance. (I saw that the first movie based on the story of Roxy was produced in 1927.)

Well, a musical that tells the story of a tragic theatre fire can't happen....

But I've already got music in the first draft of Milk and Water. Willie Eckstein's Hello Montreal.

Its lyrics fit beautifully in with my main theme, Water Supply.

A musical based on sewage management. Hmmm? But there could be some Toronto bashing, or Ontario bashing.

Still, I've been listening to a lot of Big Band on the satellite and I checked and many of the famous 20th century songs were written about then.

Ain't she Sweet, My Blue Heaven and Potato Head Blues, (which I mention because in the Movie Manhattan, Woody Allen's character mentions that song as performed by Louis Armstrong as one of the reasons to keep living. I know because I watched that movie yesterday.)

1926 saw Baby Face, Bye Bye Blackbird and Blue Heaven, and I'm only in the B's.

My play Milk and Water takes place outside a Montreal dance club in 1927 where my grandfather, Jules Crepeau and my husband's grandfather, Thomas Wells are awaiting the possible arrival of the Prince of Wales.

Funny, in 1927 there was another popular song, I danced with a man, who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales... You can find in only YouTube. They used it as the opening and closing song for a story called Wallis and Edward about you know who. The Prince of Wales, David, eventually to be King for a short time, Edward VIII was at his height of popularity apparently. Good for my story. (Hard to believe, with the bashing he took in the King's Speech. Madonna's WE is supposed to be kinder to him. )

Hm. Her title is the same as the TV TITLE, just uses initials, clever as their memory is indelibly intertwined.

I am thinking of having that song playing in the background at one point in the story. Through a window...It would be ironic, wouldn't it?

Too Bad: Mack the Knife came out in 1928. But they already put that in a great play. I guess that means Three Penny Opera opened a bit earlier. Must look it up. Maybe I can make an allusion to that play in my play.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Do Virtual Friends Help You Out When you Need It?

Some things change and some things stay the same.

Last night, wanting to take a break from my work writing Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, about Edith Nicholson in the 1910 era, and my work trying to publicize  Threshold Girl   about Edith's younger sister Flora at Macdonald College  also 100 years ago, I visited

I listened to two talks: one about the global power shift, by Paddy Ashton and one about the Quest to Understand Consciousness by Antonia Damasio.

Paddy Ashton claims social upheavals happen about once every 100 years. No surprise to me, as I have been researching and writing about the 1910 era in Canada for about 5 years. And the 1910 era was a time of social upheaval, of paradigm shift.

My Threshold Girl story is relevant to today because it describes a time of great change, much like today.

Nothing he said surprised me particularly, the negative part. We all know times of change are times of peril. My Threshold Girl story takes place but a few years before WWI. And today we have nuclear weapons.

And the fact that the POWER BROKERS today (CEOs and banksters) hold no allegiance to any one country, have no stake in any one country's lifestyle and values is pretty awful. Just look at our tar sands, now renamed the oil sands? What do Canadians get from the oil? 3 dollars a barrel is one figure I've heard. What do they  lose, their habitat?

(I guess what comes around, goes around. Time for the Third World to exploit us.)

But all times of change are times of opportunity too. (As my Tighsolas website reveals.)

Ashton claims today, this globalization has an upside: We will all have to work together or perish together.  We are all one  big tribe, now.

And he claims that "networking" is the key to it all, networking on all levels, the personal, the governmental. Involving yourself with people with very different values and lifestyles, as a practical measure. Not staying within your clique of like-minded folk.

I'm a little confused with this, being a pretty typical middle class person, who lives a pretty typical 'privatized' existence. I work at home, see friends occasionally, go out often with my husband to movies and a meal where we sit among strangers. And I talk with my kids and other relations on Skype.

Over the 20th century the North American family has become more and privatized, as in self-sufficient. Right wingers in the US will claim this has always been the norm, but of course it hasn't. It's the norm for a consumer society, because the so-called nuclear family living alone in its own house costs a lot for upkeep, a most expensive form of human group.

The nuclear family spends money to survive, big time. But many of these families are one or two paycheques away from being destitute. A job away from welfare, where there is welfare.

My Threshold Girl story takes place in 1910 in a town in Quebec and community is still important. It was a very social time. It was a time before radio and TV. Nickelodeons were only in the big city. The auto was just being introduced and was considered a kind of toy. Letters and telegrams were used to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family, although phone could be used for long distance to the City, but it was too costly to use except for the most exceptional event.

Yes, the Nicholsons went often to church, but not only for the sermons (which were entertaining) but for the social life. Norman Nicholson, the father was a Mason and he paid his dues even when broke because it was very important to be a Mason, to be part of the CLUB.

Friends were everything: without friends in the city the Nicholson women could not have moved to Montreal to get good paying jobs as teachers. But their friends were all just like them, middle class Presbyterians.

Today, their great great grandchildren have radio, tv, dvd's of all their favorite movies and tv shows, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, oh and

Lots of  virtual "friends"  but will these friends be there when they are out of work to give them a leg up - or a meal or a place to sleep. That I wonder.

Here's Flora's January 1912 Letter from Macdonald College, in Ste. Anne de Bellevue.

Macdonald College

Jan 7, 1912

Dear Father,
I am trying to keep to my promise and write to you first. I arrived here safely Wednesday night, Where did you and the girls go after you left me at Central station? Did you go up town and have supper?

Mabel came back Saturday night about 5.30 pm. I wasn't expecting her until the evening so she gave me quite a surprise. One of the girls, Helen Buzzel, stayed with me nights. Her roommate was away also but is coming back tonight. A great many of the girls are not back yet unless them come to-night.

I don't know what excuses they are going to give but I guess they can make up something. It was really no use in coming Wednesday for we have not done a thing but I suppose they are so fond of our company they couldn't possibly get along any longer without us.

One of the girls, Gladys Lefebvre, sister of a Miss Lefebvre that taught at the college, had a feed this afternoon and invited us down. We had a great time. There were eleven of them so it made quite a nice little party. My cake was pretty well squished when I got here but it didn't spoil the taste of it. All our good things are finished, it doesn't take long in a place like this for things to disappear. Nothing ever has a chance to get stale.

 I noticed in heading the letter that tomorrow will be the eighth, your birthday. I only wish I could send you some little remembrance but perhaps this letter will express my wishes for many happy returns of the 8th.


Macdonald College

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sink Holes of Corruption and my grandfather

This is from the Gazette. 1928. Mederic Martin pleads for Anglo Voters.

In my play Milk and Water about Montreal City Hall in 1927, I start with a telephone conversation IN ENGLISH between Mederic Martin, the Mayor of Montreal, and my grandfather, Jules Crepeau.

Not likely, but I needed to do it.

The device I use: I say that the Mayor has a representative of the Royal Prince in his office...I make it a matter of respect. The Mayor and the Prince liked to party, apparently.

Now I wonder if the Prince spoke French to the Mayor. He no doubt could speak French.. But then, this is a representative and not an official one, a friend.


Once again I stumbled on something interesting on the Internet while looking up something else. I found a 1914 Canadian Review that summed up the Montreal Municipal Election of 1914.

Now, up until that time, there had been a policy of rotating French and English Mayors. Martin, an alderman and a Member of Parliament, said "Poop to that" and ran for Mayor anyway, appealing to French voters' sentiment.

A lame English candidate was parachuted in to run against him. (Many highly qualified English Montrealers weren't invited to run for the candidacy.)

The 'lame' English Candidate, who also spoke French and German, wanted to put in a Central Library with branches and perhaps a subway. Imagine!

Anyway, apparently both the English and French Presses were against Martin, but he won the election anyway. Montreal Tramways supported him. (They are the monopoly owned in part by the Forgets, my grandfather's relations.)

Anyway, Martin won and immediately started grabbing more power for  himself.  (There were only 3 anglo aldermen elected in that council.)

Martin already had a reputation for being shady, so this article said. Anyway, I guess that's why in 1921 the City Charter was amended. An Executive Committee was put in lieu of a Board of Control and almost all power taken away from the Mayor.

And a new powerful position was created, Director of Municipal Services. My grandfather's post.

Perhaps that's why, in August 1921, one month before my grandfather got his job as Director of City Services, the Financial Post in Toronto ran a story by a writer under a silly pseudonym, the Make-Up Man, condemning the institutionalized corruption at City Hall and saying they 'create jobs for their friends.'

I suspect the author is one Edward Beck a former (short term) managing editor of the Montreal Herald and the Montreal Star.

Edward Beck was a journalist who, in 1914, tried to entrap my grandfather into accepting a bribe in a sting operation involving Burns Detectives and a wire device called a detectaphone.

Beck almost did bring my grandfather down, but no cigar. My grandfather salvaged his good name in court.

(Beck and some others had taken down three Quebec legislators using a similar scam earlier in the year over bribe-taking in 1913. He must have felt confident he could get my grandfather.)

It must have burned Beck no end that, in 1921,  my grandfather went on to fill this new powerful post of Director of Municipal Departments.

Of course, in 1930, my grandfather himself was brought down by Camillien Houde and who knows who else. That was just one month before Edward Beck, now a PR person for the Pulp and Paper Industry, passed away in Montreal. He got his satisfaction, I guess.

Beck's obit says Edward Beck  started  his crime tabloid Beck's Weekly (where he wrote about my grandfather is vicious terms) in 1914 and ended it due to the outbreak of war.

It was in the first edition where he tried to take down my grandfather, calling him the worst kind of grafter.

"The City Hall is a sweet-scented sink hole of pollution if men like Crepeau speak the truth. Their greedy official hands take toll of contracts, levy tribute on ordinances, and prey upon the poor city labourers. Graft, graft, graft is written over the doorways, the lintels and on the doorposts."

Hmm. 1914 is where my Tighsolas stories Threshold Girl come together with my Milk and Water story.

Marion's Story (untitled) will end in 1913 October when she marries Hugh Blair, a Scottish/French Canadian from Three Rivers with a Cree grandmother.  Marion didn't get to vote, but Hugh Blair probably voted for the English Mayoralty Candidate. Or did he? They lived in NDG in 1914, on Marlowe I think.

(PS. I used three different terms for my grandfather's job, because the newspapers of the era also did.)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Boardwalk Empire Montreal and MacArthur Relations

Off to the Hunt. Hmm. My grandmother. I got this picture off a negative, by developing it in the printer using my own technique. Well, and Corel 'negative' changer. You have to scan with a big dpi and leave the cover up letting in the light, the more the better.

Jules, casual wear. He's on that hunting trip with the aldermen. So , my first draft of "Boardwalk Empire: Montreal" or as I call it Milk and Water is finished and up online.

You see, if I put it online, I will work on editing it. That's my method.

You see, it was only after watching the PBS program, Prohibition, that it struck me: "Those pictures I have of Grandpapa and Grandmama strolling the Boardwalk in Atlantic City in the mid twenties had more significance than I thought.  So the plot of MILK and WATER thickened...

PS. I made an error! When my grandfather was fired in 1930 (or forced to resign by Houde and his cronies) his job was taken over by a lawyer, Honore Parent. In earlier posts I remarked that Honore Parent has a big street named after him, whereas my grandfather has a little street and a park (in Ahunsic) Well, I erred. I just checked on Google Earth and there is no Montreal Street called Honore Parent. I wonder where I got that idea.

There is a Camillien Houde Street, right across the top of the mountain.

Anyway, too weird. Weirder still how I discovered rue Jules Crepeau. It was in the early 80's and my husband and I were going to buy our first computer... and, get this, apparently there was only one store selling computers in the City. In Ahunsic. (Probably one of a handful.) So we drove to St Laurent, but got lost.

I got out of the car to see where we were, and I saw Rue Jules Crepeau. "That's my grandfather," I said to my husband. We went home and came back to take a picture.

Another story, my grandmother was, ahem, full-figured. But this is the way men liked them back in 1900, apparently. Well, one day early in the century my grandparents were taking a train somewhere and Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier was on the train, and apparently, his eyes almost bugged out of his head when he saw my grandmother. Family story. Family myth. I couldn't figure out how to get this into my story.

The point of my story: the men are the same, the wives are different. And the biggest difference was in size. Thomas Wells wife was 6 foot and thin like a reed. She liked clothes. She was the first cousin of General Douglas MacArthur. Through the Mother, a Hardy from Virginia. MacArthur supposedly got his military brains from his father and his sense of style from the mother.

She was very dark. I have a book that describes MacArthur's grandmother, saying she is very slim and very dark, perhaps descended from Pocahontas. So they are saying they have Indian Blood, or implying. Has anyone ever said MacArthur had Native Blood. I doubt it.

Anyway, I have pictures of two of McArthur's uncles. I put it on Flickr and it is very popular. One of my sons resembles these men. I resemble my grandmother, her face anyway. Except I'm thinner :)

And here's a picture either of MacArthur's Aunt or his mom. The mom had a hook nose, but the photo is taken at a discreet angle or air-brushed. Now, I just went online to see the only extant pic of Mary Pinkney Hardy in an engraving and frankly, unless her sister was identical to her, this picture below is, indeed, of Mary Pinkney Hardy. So I have the only one, maybe, because all of MacArthur's family stuff was destroyed in a fire in Manilla. I wonder where I put it.. In my story, Milk and Water I have my husband's grandmother, MacArthur's cousin, try to push her way into a receiving line for the Prince of Wales, David the future Edward VIII, saying she's the relation of an American General. It didn't happen... but she was very brash, so it could have happened. And I read in the newspaper of the time  that some of the women invited to the reception tried to push ahead by saying they were personally invited by the Prince.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Redemption, CTV - A New Show with a Point

Window at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, the one sponsored by my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, a devout Catholic.

Well, surfing the Web today I found a news item that made me laugh Apparently the man who produces the CTV program Dragons' Den, Kevin O'Leary has another show in the works, Redemption, where ex-cons (mostly drug dealers) get a second chance to employ their savoir-faire in business.

O'Leary is quoted as saying that if you are a successful criminal you have what it takes to be a successful businessman. Gee, who woulda guessed? The Bronfmans maybe.

Who can dispute that? SUCCESSFUL criminal being the keyword. (These ex cons are not that successful in that they got caught and paid time. I suspect most very successful criminals don't get caught, and many are in business - or politics Well, all of them.)

Anyway, my story Milk and Water about Montreal City Hall in 1927, the era of US Prohibition circles around the topic of what constitutes criminal behavior. My point: It's all about class, really. Especially when it comes to illegal booze or illegal drugs.

My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, was the Director of Municipal Departments in Montreal from 1921 to 1930, and he is the main character, and I have him talking to Tom Wells, my husband's grandfather, a Westmount businessman.

Tom tells my grandfather about his cousins, the Townsends, who made enough money to retire on in one year, with a mail order booze business in the early 1920's. They weren't breaking the law, they found a loophole in it.

The two more than middle aged men also discuss the Montreal Water and Power purchase, where Lorne Webster the industrialist and his consortium, the flip the profitable utility company that has been 'a thorn in the side of the city' for years, making 4,000,000 in a few months. All at the expense of the Montreal taxpayer.  My grandfather is the one who pays for that savvy  -or suspicious - business deal, depending on point of view, with his own job.

There's a philanthropic aspect to O'Leary's show: he knows how hard it is for convicted felons  (even those who went to jail providing the middle class and upper classes with their recreational drugs) to get back into society as they can't get a job or get credit.

My daughter in law, who is a criminologist says, the penalties for selling crack are higher than for selling cocaine? The same product. Why, because the very rich do cocaine the very poor do crack, I guess

Friday, January 6, 2012

Family Album, Milk and Water, 1927 Montreal

La Fete de la St. Jean from my grandparent's house at 72 Sherbrooke West in Montreal. 1927 picture as it is written on the back of the photo.

Lionel Groulx wrote a letter to my grandfather in 1927, complaining that 4 important French Canadian holidays weren't being observed. It was just one of the issues my grandfather, the Director of City Departments, had to tackle during that difficult year.

I have written my first draft of MILK AND WATER and posted it on my website.

Today, I might scan Terry Copp's famous book The Anatomy of Poverty and another academic paper on Hygiene in Quebec in the 20's and 30's  (which I discovered yesterday as I put away my Jules Crepeau papers.)

I am trying to figure out just who got to vote in Montreal elections. It was claimed in the 20's that the city had 'universal suffrage' but I think this meant only men and women property owners. But not only male home-owners. I found a report of a debate from the 1930's, where some people were arguing for the repeal of Universal Suffrage in Municipal elections. Bums shouldn't vote, they say. Opponents reply that just because a man is unemployed, it doesn't mean he is a lazy bum.  Many honest men with families are also looking for work....So renters got to vote in municipal elections, although home-owners got to vote on more issues...Hmm. (All men are created equal, but some more equal than others.)

Besides, it is stated in the 1930's debate, very few Montreal families own their home, about a fifth.

My grandparents, Jules Crepeau and Marie Roy on the Boardwalk of Atlantic City. My story Milk and Water takes place in 1927, the era of American Prohibition.

Mayor Mederic Martin, who lost the 1928 election to a newcomer, Camillien Houde. The only election issue was the purchase of a utility, Montreal Water and Power. My grandfather would be forced to resign over the issue.

Mary Hardy Fair Wells, my husband's grandmother, who I have insult Mayor Martin in my story. She says the trim on his robes looks tacky. Sometimes you have to make things up.

Her husband, Thomas Wells, who spends the play talking to my grandfather about politics, booze and the power of words.

My grandfather, Jules Crepeau. in his power pose.

The Laurier Palace theatre on Ste. Catherine E, after the infamous 1927 fire, that looms large in my play.

The Prince of Wales with Mederic Martin in his robes trimmed with the very bottom.1927 visit. Diamond Jubilee of Canada. I think the man sitting at top in boating hat and the woman below him are my grandfather and perhaps one of my aunts. Only officials could get on the steps. I use this event to kick-start my story.

My grandmother and mother and aunts and one cousin in front of 72 Sherbrooke West.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sleuthing History, Milk and Water, Montreal City Hall 1927

Herbert Ames.
From Wikipedia Public Domain picture.

Well, well.

I have pretty well completed by first draft of Milk and Water my free ebook about Montreal in 1927. I just have to re-type the edits I've made on my hard copy. They are more like chicken scratches so I had better do it soon.

Anyway, I went to the Web to check out some background for a paragraph where my grandfather Jules Crepeau, Director of Municipal Departments, mentions Herbert Ames and his 1997  book, the City Below the Hill, where it is written that Montreal still has many homes with privies, that is holes in the ground for poop.

(This Ames has sort of gone down in history as the PRIVY GUY. That's how Pierre Berton sums him up in Marching As to War, or some other of this books. And maybe that's all he deserves.

Ames was a rich Presbyterian, born of American parents, who tried to 'clean up Montreal' in late 19th century, figuratively and literally, Civic Politics and Privies.

He became one of the few Anglo Aldermen of the period (it had been a long while since Anglo Industrialists bothered to run for Council, preferring to pull strings in other, more profitable, ways.)

In 1904 (around) Ames become a Tory MP in Ottawa and in 1928 he went to work for the League of Nations. Prohibition was his great cause apparently.( Hmm. That's one year after 1927, when at least one of his Tory Cronies, Senator Lorne Webster, made 4,000,000 on the Montreal Water and Power Purchase.)

ANYWAY, looking up info on this man, I stumbled upon something that was most peculiar.. August 1921 article in the Financial Post, ostensibly a profile on Ames, that waxes hyperbolic about the corruption at Montreal City Hall.

I had read similar stuff before, by a man named Beck, who in 1913 founded a short-lived Montreal tabloid, Beck's Weekly. As it happens, the first (and only?) issue of Beck's weekly contained an expose of my grandfather, then Assistant City Clerk, who supposedly had been caught in a set-up accepting a bribe. My grandfather sued Beck's Weekly for libel, and won, if only symbolically, as Beck was ordered to pay my grandfather but 100 dollars.

Beck's Weekly stopped publication, and Mr. Beck, who had previously worked as an editor at the Montreal Standard and Montreal Herald, went on to work for the Pulp and Paper Industry in PR.

So he left the profession. Or did he?

His obit in the Gazette (1937, if I recall) claimed he stopped publication of Beck's Weekly due to the outbreak of war. Yea, right!

HMMMMM. Suspicious.

I double checked, and the author of this Financial Post article, published just one month before my grandfather got his job as Director of City Services, was "The Make Up Man."

I strongly suspect the author of this piece to be Beck. (I'm pretty good at deconstructing literary style.)

He appears to idolize Lord Athlostan. Or is it Atholstan. I never can remember.  Hugh Graham of the Montreal Standard and Star, the guy whose rants against the Montreal Water and Power purchase  brought down my grandfather, obliquely, or not so obliquely. (Beck no doubt was ecstatic when my grandfather got guillotined. Beck died a year before my grandfather, as it happens. Death evens all scores.)

So here's (potentially) a failed reporter with a major ax to grind, describing Montreal as "a convenient sea-wharfing spot for industrialists, but otherwise a French city and so hopeless."

I mean the man could write: he should have gone to Hollywood.

On the inside front page of this Financial Times out of Toronto, there's a blurb promoting this biographic feature: "Montreal is ruled in a business way by a relatively small faction of financiers and business leaders who all live in another city -Westmount and which is ruled by the great French majority who vote a solid French ticket for the City Hall. Thus the people who pay the biggest taxes have little say in the spending of them. It has been with efforts to bring about something better that Sir Herbert has been closely identified with."

My GOSH. Were they serious? Great fodder for my next draft of Milk and Water.... I already have Tom Wells mention the cronyism at Montreal City Hall and my own Grandfather answer, "And you don't have your cliques? Your clubs? Where you give jobs to all your friends and their children?"

I did see that Ames in 1915, supported a English business man for Mayor, a Mr. Macdonald.