Saturday, March 31, 2012

Poor Politician Can't Take the Heat------- lol --- I love it. or "The Truth" why "You Can't Handle the Truth"

         Dear city councillor Alex Norris,

Being a humorist takes help. I need readers who can laugh at the world and themselves, at a quirky city and province - and public figures who roll with the punches.

Over the years, I've made fun of everyone from Lucien Bouchard and Jean Charest through mayors Tremblay, Doré and Bourque - and most of my former city councillors.

They've all taken it with silence, or a smile, right back to Jean Drapeau, who sent me a funny picture of himself after years of savage criticism.

So I was dismayed to see a long humour-free harangue in the March 23 Gazette - from you, my city councillor - picking apart my column like a language inspector.

My goal was a gentle column, poking fun at your party's unusual decision not to clear snow in the Plateau after the last storm.

Your retort began by saying humorists like me don't "let facts get in the way of funny" and then went on to dissect my story at length - an attempt at comedy chill. My crime? I said you were "battling cars, bars and barbecue joints" and not plowing the latest snowfall.

But comedy and reality aren't at odds, so here's how I see it.

No. 1: I said your party was "battling bars," two words that led to 90 words from you, claiming Plateau bar terrasses had multiplied under your party - which has "been good for (bar) business."

Please. I live in the area and bar owners have literally run out to lament to me about their problems. I walked into two neighbourhood bars Wednesday and heard the usual tirade against your party from both owners.

According to Humberto at the long-standing La Cabane, terrasses finally bloomed after the endless construction chaos that widened the sidewalks on the Main, but almost killed the street. But, he says, when your party took power soon afterward, it became a constant struggle.

"They cut down terrasse spaces and seating, they passed new terrasse regulations and we're being fined for the tiniest offence. In Little Italy, terrasses are allowed everywhere - here it's all rules, rules, rules."

Lionel, owner of Bar Frappé, told the same story but added:

"They've raised terrasse fees as high as $10,000, they're putting parking metres everywhere and chasing away customers. They're killing us since they were elected."

I've heard this many times. Projet Montréal has been "battling bars" - at least as far as many barowners are concerned.

No. 2: I said you were "battling cars" - another two words you denied at length. Yet your party has reduced parking spots, raised parking meter rates and almost doubled resident parking fees.

You've made numerous streets one way - to force traffic onto main streets that have become heavily congested. That's enraged many drivers like Terry, who wrote to me last week to complain, "I must now drive 10 blocks out of my way to go anywhere south."

That said, many pedestrians probably do like these changes - and I happen to think cars are a fair target.

Your party is clearly "battling cars" and I thought you'd be proud of it. Again, why deny it? You should be bragging.

No. 3: Snow Job. You actually take me to task for saying your party saved "a reported $1 million" by not clearing snow in the Plateau after the last storm. That's the figure announced in The Gazette on March 9 by the Plateau mayor - from your own party.

But my facts are "wrong" because you've decided you really saved over $2 million. Yet the same day as your Gazette article, La Presse reported your real savings were only $650,000, according to an internal city document.

I'd say my "reported $1-million savings" was pretty generous.

You also go into bureaucratic detail to prove you didn't cut snowplowing, as I had written - you just reduced snow "loading" and snow "transport." Help! I'll leave that for snow engineers to debate.

All anyone in my district knows is that most of Montreal was snow-free for over a week while the Plateau had dirty snow banks and icy streets you may have slipped on, too.

Ultimately, the warm weather melted it, so maybe it was worth the headache to save that money. In fact, I wrote that "they played Russian Roulette with nature and won."

This earned me a lecture that it wasn't roulette, because Projet Montréal "closely followed" extended weather forecasts and knew what weather was coming. Gee, we should hire you guys to replace Environment Canada.

You're the only people who can actually predict the weather. Projet Meteorology. No. 4: On one point, I'll retreat. I mentioned your party was "battling barbecue joints" - since two popular longtime restaurants are being forced out of business for smoke emission from their grills. But here, councillor, you're right.

That was city environment officials - though I have to say both barbecue owners told me they never heard a word of support from your party, which is usually outspoken about everything.

Still, you didn't make that decision - so I'll apologize.

The bottom line is I wrote a column that spent just five paragraphs out of 23 discussing your party - saying what's self-evident in my neighbourhood. You're battling cars and bars, and you didn't remove the snow last snowstorm - and I'll keep telling it as I see it no matter how many cranky, wordsplitting letters I get.

Frankly, some members of your party are very quick to go on the attack against journalists and community members who take the mildest jibes at your party. It seems we can only poke fun at other parties.

Sorry, councillor, but I feel that what you're really trying to do is squelch criticism and discourage humour - the ability to poke fun at politicians as is done everywhere from Jon Stewart to Rick Mercer to Maureen Dowd.

I've always thought "he who laughs lasts" - but I think societies that laugh also last. So I'll keep calling them as I see them and fighting comedy chill wherever I feel its frosty breeze.

- Citizen (and your neighbour) Josh

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tracey Lindeman reports on Open File "Gentrification in Verdun: Not so Bad

  This is another good article from Open File this one by Tracey Lindeman    March 28, 2012

The much-reported arrival of a microbrewery on Verdun’s Wellington St. is an historic event in the borough’s storied existence as a semi-dry neighbourhood. But it never would have happened if not for Verdun’s rapidly changing demographics.

As the director of the Société de développement commercial Wellington, Billy Walsh has been working hard to attract businesses like the Benelux brewpub to Wellington St., the borough’s main commercial area. The SDC Wellington’s purpose is to respond to increasing demands for a diversity of local enterprise by supporting the establishment of new and interesting businesses.

In the seven years Walsh has lived in Verdun, he’s seen the neighbourhood morph into a refuge for former Plateau denizens looking for cheap(er) condos to call home, as well as higher-end goods and services to sink their disposable income into — and he doesn’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

“It’s not bad to gentrify. It’s just the way it’s [often] done that’s bad,” Walsh says. “We want to find a good balance.”

As one of the city’s oldest communities, the area counts families who have called Verdun home for generations among its residents. To develop the neighbourhood without keeping them in mind would be irresponsible, Walsh says — after all, they’re part of what makes the borough unique. Instead, Walsh is focusing his energies on making sure Wellington St. has something for every local resident, both old and new.

“It has to be inclusive,” Walsh says.

The southwestern borough has had a reputation as a bastion of vice and poverty for years, and however misguided that notion may be, Walsh says the SDC Wellington is working to combat this dated perception of what is fast becoming a vibrant, young and green community. “We need to change the mentality about Verdun,” Walsh says.

The Verdun chapter of the 2010 Montreal master plan made mention of the need to develop Wellington St. to better serve its new clientele, and according to Walsh, borough councillor Ann Guy and several other borough employees, the microbrewery simply responds to a long-standing demand for a place to have a pint.

Local development commissioner Alain Laroche says the borough was careful to use “microbrewery” and not “bar” in the zoning bylaw amended this past July. The phrasing meant only a craft beer producer — in this case, Benelux — could open up shop.

The new zoning stipulations not only work to limit the number of drinking establishments, but also to provide a service to the area’s younger and newer inhabitants the older ones wouldn’t necessarily be interested in.

For local butcher shop owner and former Verdun resident Paul Ouellette, the brewpub is a positive symbol of the community’s gentrification. “It’s for the people who buy the condos,” says Ouellette, who first moved to the area in 1974, and opened Viandes McCormack at the corner of de l’Église and Bannantyne streets a decade ago. He says having a brewpub in the neighbourhood will help foster a greater sense of community, particularly among new residents, by giving them a place to socialize.

The brewpub, though, is just one of many new small businesses opening on Wellington St. and its environs to accommodate the influx of new homeowners. More local activities and events, like the SDC Wellington’s urban sugar shack, are meant to give new and old members more opportunities to come together as a community.

“When you’re in Verdun, you feel you’re part of a village,” Walsh says.

The urban sugar shack wraps up this weekend (March 31-April 1) on Wellington St. just outside de l’Église metro and local businesses will be serving up samples of coffee, tea, snacks and yes, beer.

                               Cheers ! HF&RV - Les

Genrtification Coming to a Town Near You------------Verdun (I doubt that's a good thing)

We have heard for years about Verdun becoming the new plateau.....who needs it.Read the article from  Open Montreal  -Les

Has the Plateau exodus started?

The reactions of Montrealers was swift yesterday after OpenFile published a piece looking at what some say is a measured approach to gentrification in Verdun

new brewpub on Wellington St., is making the formerly semi-dry borough even more attractive to new arrivals. And it seems many of those new arrivals are former Plateau dwellers, having driven their loaded U-Hauls down the jammed St. Laurent Blvd. to more affordable digs by the free-flowing river.

The rhetoric goes something like this: rent is too high in the hip borough; garbage litters the streets; transient students don't give a damn; and the local government under Mayor Luc Ferrandez seems more interested in letting snow melt than tackle real issues.

“I just moved to Verdun from the Plateau,” wrote Sarah Aline. “I lived in the Plateau for almost ten years and as much as I liked the [convenient access] to many places like my work, the many restaurants and boutiques [...] I could not deal with the garbage and graffiti problem in my area.”

Plateau councillor Alex Norris, one of the staunchest defenders of the borough under the administration of Ferrandez, answered Aline’s complaints.

Touting the borough’s strides to wipe out widespread garbage and graffiti, the Mile End councillor assured Aline, “I understand your frustration and why you got fed up but please believe me when I say that this is a problem we take very seriously and that we are working very hard to solve.”

Aline’s call for moving was shared by other commenters, who blamed a transitory population and tagged the borough with a general “run-down” feeling.

“I moved my family to Verdun 5 years ago after nearly 25 years on the Plateau. I was escaping soggy futons on the sidewalks, puking drunks, used syringes and just too many people at all hours of the day and night,” wrote Mary Lamey. “We traded up for green parks, the waterfront, tons of activities for my kids.”

With a Discover Verdun Facebook group, the hope of many was that a new community is being established in the once blighted borough. With calls to “move here, shop here,” the group celebrated an upcoming sugar shack weekend and shared locations for where the borough could put new garbage cans.

New census data seems to reinforce the view that Verdun is growing faster than the Plateau. With the borough falling within the Jeanne-Le Ber electoral district—which spills into Pointe St. Charles and St. Henri—Verdun has grown 2.6 per cent since the 2006 census.

The picture for the Plateau is a little more complicated, with the population divided between the Outremont seat held by Thomas Mulcair and the riding of Laurier-Saint-Marie. The population of the Plateau and surrounding areas has shrunk by 0.4 per cent and grown by 0.6 per cent over the past six years, respectively.

Without a Starbucks and serviced by three Metro stations, Verdun could be Montreal’s next gentrification bubble. Did we mention that it has a [John] Galt St.?

Photo: Christopher Policarpio via Flickr (

Want to read more from this website checkout :Open Montreal @ the following link

                              ...Cheers ! Have Fun and Remember Verdun........  - Les

Thursday, March 29, 2012

from Pauline
It's no I-Phone,........Pauline found this 19 second advertisement for touch tone phone's.......Remember when all the pay phones at Expo67 were touch tone,something that was on display at Seatlles worlds fair in 1961.
We've come a long way ,that's for sure,now you can do almost anything you want on a phone(except get it to actually work when be used as a 'phone' many dropped calls have you experienced at the womderful low monthly rates on 3 year plans....and just when you got used to watching a movie on a Big Screen,.you find out your an idiot cause you could be watching it (as you drive) on a 2" lcd.
Yup we are going

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Year Books

I have found in our archives (SHGV) the following year books:

Lindsay Place High School, Eighth Edition, 1970 year book (Address ?)

James Lyng High School, 1987 year book, 5440 Notre Dame St. West, Montreal Qc

If any MVC members think they are in these yearbooks and would like a copy of the page showing their name or photo, let me know and I will post them.




Tuesday, March 27, 2012

CBC - The History of CBC 6 (Montreal based TV Station)

Verdun Family Van Returned -----Finally

This is one happy kid,to get his van back after a few weeks without it, Seems the wheelchair access van was stolen by some FrigginG 'lowlife scumbag,who in turn sold it for scrap to a south shore wrecking yard,he told them it was his father's & his father had died,so he sold it for $400 bucks 
Well due to the story appearing on the news in Montreal & the Gazette newspaper doing a story on this Verdun families loss.....the Van has been returned to it's rightful owner.

MONTREAL - Ann Paraskevopoulos had a special surprise for her son Philip when she picked him up from school Tuesday afternoon. The 13-year-old boy, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, grinned from ear to ear when he saw what was in the parking lot at the Mackay Centre.

It was his family’s 1999 Dodge Caravan, which had been stolen on March 10 from a Walmart parking lot in LaSalle. The theft of the van had been devastating for the Verdun family because they need it to transport Philip to medical appointments and family outings.

“Philip, you are mobile again – you have your van back,” his mother said after kissing her son’s face.

After his mother and sister Jennifer placed the wheelchair into the van, Philip said there was only one place that he wanted to go: “Future Shop,” he blurted out.

The family’s stolen van had been discovered by Allan Zinman, an honest scrapyard dealer who had inadvertently purchased it for $400. After reading about the family’s plight in The Gazette, Zinman called the paper to say he had the van in Iberville. Philip’s mother and sister picked up the van Tuesday morning and drove it back to Montreal. Zinman and the owner of a towing company paid for a new ignition, which had been damaged in the theft. Zinman also gave the family two summer tires and said he would try to find them two others.

For many years, the family used public transit or adapted transport to take Philip to medical appointments or to visit friends. But their luck changed last September when another family with a disabled child gave them a used minivan that had been adapted for passengers in wheelchairs. It meant that instead of an hour's ride on the school bus each way - the bus makes detours to pick up other children - Philip got a 15-minute ride to school from his older sister, Jennifer.

Paraskevopoulos said the van had given her family a freedom they had never had before.

After a story about the theft appeared in The Gazette, the newspaper and the Sun Youth Organization received at least 30 emails from generous Montrealers offering to help.

“Two senior citizens came in and gave us $10 or $15 from their savings – they insisted we take it,” said Sid Stevens, Sun Youth’s executive director.

Several other people offered to pay for repairs to the van following the theft, along with a $364 charge for towing and storage.

“This family is already dealing with a handicapped child,” Stevens said. “The van was the only way they had to get around. Montrealers felt that the family was devastated by this and they wanted to help.”

Money donated to Sun Youth will cover any repairs or upgrades the van may need. The remaining donations will be given to the family in the form of gas certificates, Stevens said.

A spokesperson for the police in St. Jean sur Richelieu said officers are still trying to locate the thief. “An investigation in ongoing,” she said.

Philip’s mother said she has been overwhelmed by all the kind offers of help for her family.

“Thank you, from the bottom of my heart,” she said. “There are no words to say how thankful we are all. You saw Philip’s face. He is so excited.”

Having the van back means Philip will be able to get out of the house more often, his mother said. “He knows now that he can get out,” she said. “Philip is a real character. He deserves to have his van back.”

.....Well at least that somewhat of a happy ending to a weird ordeal,
            Cheers !  HF&RV .... - Les

Former LaSalle Sporting Activities

The were these three sports activities in Ville LaSAlle in the 30s, 40s and 50s:


As previously posted, there was an airport in Ville LaSalle in the late 20s, beginning of the 30s wich had a short life of about 4, 5 or 6 years, from about 1927 to 1933. This is where Buzz Beurling had his beginnings in aviation. The airport was situated approximately to the west by the Riverside Park, to the east by 9th avenue, to the north by the aqueduct and to the south by the river. The following 1930s map shows the airport as been situated just west of the hydrodam dike, on today's map shown as the Beaton and Gardner islands, Of course today the dam has been converted into a bird sanctuary. The former exhistance of this airport has been completely forgottened. You can see the airport area on the lower aerial photo on the top right.


In the mid thirties, the airport was replaced by an hippodrome (horse race track) and is faintly shown in the center of  the enclosed 1958 aerial view and is indicated as being just west of 9th avenue.

Here are some excellant photos taken from the book by Denis Gravel "Histoire du Village des Rapides":


The golf course replaced the airport in the mid 30s and I believe lasted well into the 60s. I know there are photos available somewhere but I don't have any on hand. Perhaps some will turn up. I did not do any research on the golf course but it may be on of my future projects 

I thought I would summerize these 3 LaSale activities as they often turned up in my research on other projects. No doubt that many Verdunites attended these 3 sporting events.


Verdun Plexes'

MONTREAL - Visitors to Montreal cannot help but notice the proliferation of small apartment buildings which line inner-city streets. Known as "plexes," their low-rise design and outdoor staircases have deep historic roots. The staircases could originate from French-Canadian settler habits or from a 19th-century law that required green space in front of each building. Since the latter constrained building sizes, outdoor staircases allowed more living space. The idea of stacking units on top of each other probably came from Scottish immigrants. Municipal regulations in the early 20th century set out requirements for natural light, bathrooms in each unit and building cladding, creating an official plex template.

Apartments in buildings with fewer than five storeys, like plexes, made up more than 40 per cent of occupied private dwellings in Montreal, according to the 2006 census, compared with less than 20 per cent Canada-wide. Many of these structures were constructed in the two decades from 1950 to 1971 to provide affordable housing as Montreal's population grew by 1.2 million people (nearly 80 per cent). While plexes' dominance of the market is now being eroded by condominiums, which made up 52 per cent of all starts in Montréal in 2010-11, these venerable structures continue to shelter tens of thousands.

The plex market has been a little soft recently. Plex sales lagged the overall market for the second straight year - last year's 10-per-cent drop more than doubled the marketwide decline. Meanwhile, the supply of active listings for plexes rose 17 per cent, slightly faster than the market's increase. Still, plex values remain firm; their median price rose five per cent last year, in line with gains among single-family and condominium units. As one might ex-pect, unit prices rise closer to downtown; those in the Plateau averaged $400,000 last fall, more than $100,000 above the CMA average.

But no new units have been built for years, as developers have favoured condominiums. Inevitable property aging is diminishing plexes' curb appeal and increasing maintenance costs. Still, plexes make up a significant proportion of the rental stock and benefit from strong rental demand in recent years due to heavy immigration. Indeed, CMHC reported a vacancy rate in purpose-built apartment structures with at least three units of 2.5 per cent in October 2011, well below Montréal's 3.8 per cent average over the prior 20 years.

Montreal's plexes are frequently marketed to buyers who occupy one of the units while leasing the others. Back-of-the-envelope calculations demonstrate their attraction. In midFebruary, 30 triplex structures were listed on, a real estate trading website, at a median price of $419,900. Amortized over 25-years with a 10-per-cent down payment, this building's principal and interest charge would be about $2,256. If two of the units were one-bedroom suites renting for the average Montreal rent in this market segment of $544, $1,168 would be left for the owner to finance every month. This is well below the estimated monthly payment of $1,700 required to service a similar mortgage on the average Montreal home. Continued strong immigration to Montreal and an aging population suggest rental demand will remain firm; this will keep plexes beckoning to investors. Although condominiums are rapidly increasing their share of the new construction market, the existing plex stock remains not just a tribute to earlier waves of Montreal settlers, but a viable housing alternative for the new generation of Montrealers.

............Cheers ! Have Fun and Remember Verdun............ - Les

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blue Bonnets

The new residential project that will be built on the Blue Bonnets land will accommodate 5000 to 8000 flats or condos. Since each flat will accomodate at least 2 people, you can double these figures to give you an idea of the amount of people that will inhabit this project.

The provincial government bought this land in 1998 for 37 million and will be given to the city of Montreal free of charge but the income of the sale to the promoters will be shared by both.

The land is the size of 80 football fields and is larger than the Lafontaine park. The city wll take 5 years to develop the area so as not to compete with the exhisting projects.

The sale of the land is squeduled for 2017 and the profits from the sale of the land will help to recuperate the 50 million that the government has invested since buying the land in 1998. The sale of the land will be at least 100 million and maybe 125 million and the city will pay the decontamination costs.

Horse races have been held there from 1907 to 2009. The city bought the land from Blue Bonnets in 1991 for 46 million from Robert Campeau then resold to the goverment in 1998. The government announced that it is disolving the Société Nationale du Cheval de Course, created to manage the Quebec Hippodromes. The debt of 50 million is to be assumed by the government.


From La Presse, Saturday 24th of march 2012 (translated by Guy Billard)

Photo from book by Jacques Pharand "à la belle époque des Tramways"


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Craig Terminus

Here are more photos from the book by Jacques Pharand entitled: À la belle époque des Tramways on the Craig Terminus:



Saturday, March 24, 2012

Big Jean Beliveau Released From Hospital...Go Jean Go

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau has been released from the hospital after suffering a stroke in late February.

The team confirmed to The Gazette that Béliveau, 80, was discharged on Friday and transported to a rehabilitation centre, where he will continue to work on regaining his strength.

The Hockey Hall of Famer was hospitalized on Feb. 27 after suffering a stroke in his home. His family asked for privacy in the days and weeks that followed.

Béliveau suffered another stroke in January 2010, and has dealt with cardiac problems for decades.

He also underwent 35 chemotherapy treatments for a malignant throat tumour in 2000.

His cancer has been in remission for years.

Phantasmagoria ----------------Days of Vinyl Past......

MONTREAL - A hundred copies of the brand-new, self-titled, Beatles album, bought COD by 18-year-old retailer Eric Pressman, were spread around a former laundromat on Park Ave. Pressman’s total cash outlay for the lot – and a few LPs by other Capitol artists – had been $800. The money came from his architect father, David, who had also found some contractors to make the basement space at 3472 Park Ave. look like a record store.

It was Nov. 28, 1968 – the opening day of Phantasmagoria. From that shaky beginning came a Montreal institution that drew music lovers to spend hours listening to, and talking about, new albums. It was a product of its time, when music was a communal experience. When record stores – and, some will no doubt say, rock n’ roll itself – truly meant something.

A store with rocking chairs, sofas, a fish tank and an unwritten rule that the customer could hang out all day to dissect the latest music with the staff, other regulars and kindred spirits? It almost certainly couldn’t happen again. In an era when you can have a passing thought about an album and own it within a few minutes, without leaving your chair, we will never see the likes of Phantasmagoria return.

Phantas, as the regulars called it, was a destination store: you made that special trip to Park Ave. And it was always worth the trouble.

Phantasmagoria: Déjà Vu, an exhibition to be presented at the Galerie Nota Bene (located in what was once the store’s second, larger location) opens April 1, with a view toward giving nostalgic boomers and curious young vinyl revivalists a sense of what it was like. For the duration of the event, photos, memorabilia and a recreation of the famous albums-on-the-wall look will play the next best thing to time travel.

“Other stores were places you went to shop and purchase and leave,” Pressman, now 62, said of the music retail landscape of the time. “Phantas was a living-room environment. You watched the fish, you listened to music, you watched the people. Everybody knew everybody. I didn’t know people’s names, but I must have known thousands of faces. Everybody was greeted personally. It was a home away from home for music lovers.”

But it might never have happened if that first album for sale hadn’t been the Beatles’ White Album. Because it was the Beatles, all 100 copies of the double album – priced at $8.88 each, according to Pressman – were snapped up in a day.

And a pattern was set. “We didn’t really know what we were doing. We never had any business training,” Pressman said. “It was really all done on faith and love and hope that it would all work out in the end. It was always very stressful, financially, because we were always stretched to the limit. Every time a new Beatle record would come out, it would save our life, make the bank balance bigger and keep things going.”

The day after opening, Pressman bought another 100 copies of the Beatles album – this time on credit, which became the norm. With the industry’s generous return policy at the time, inventory purchases became a no-risk action, Pressman said. Even so, he said, all the store’s profits were reflected strictly in the albums on the walls. The latest, the hippest and best was pretty much the retail strategy.

Pressman’s partner was the woman he calls his first love, Marsha Dangerfield. He had met her at Sir George Williams University, the same night he first encountered future CKGM-FM (later CHOM) DJ and Phantasmagoria booster Doug Pringle.

Early clients quickly developed a taste for hanging out in the store to talk with Eric and Marsha.

“We thought of ourselves like John and Yoko,” Pressman said. “That was the model. We were very much in love and wanted to be together all the time, so the record store allowed for that. We did it through passion for each other and passion for the music.”

The couple encountered the real John Lennon and Yoko Ono, courtesy of Pringle, during the Montreal bed-in in May 1969. Pressman gave Lennon copies of his two favourite albums, Laura Nyro’s Eli and the Thirteenth Confession and Tim Buckley’s Goodbye and Hello. A track from the Buckley album, Phantasmagoria in Two, and the Lewis Carroll poem Phantasmagoria had given the store its name.

“I said, ‘Here, you gotta listen to these!’ John kind of smiled, took them, looked at them and thanked me. I didn’t feel strange about it. It never occurred to me to think ‘How dare I try and turn John Lennon on to something new?,’ ” Pressman said, laughing. “It just seemed perfectly normal to me.”

Dangerfield, who could not be traced for this story, was behind the upstairs boutique that came with the store’s 1971 move to a second, larger location down the street at 3416 Park Ave. Hippie clothing, candles, incense, cards, pipes and books, much of it imported, took up the second floor for a couple of years until records demanded more space.

Dangerfield disappears from the narrative in 1973, after what Pressman described as a “fiery separation,” returning only in the early 1980s to successfully claim compensation for her part in the enterprise. Pressman’s sister Linda, then working as an elementary school teacher, joined the business shortly after Dangerfield left, Pressman said.

The new digs, with twice the floor space for records, is the store most will remember, with its psychedelic painted-glass storefront window, fish tank, sofas, plants and staircase made out of birch. As the 1970s – the store’s golden years – went by, jazz and classical music took over the upstairs area, as did an import specialty area heralding and celebrating the punk and new wave years in the latter half of the decade.

In 1980, Pressman moved to Vancouver, leaving Linda in charge of the Montreal store. While living there, he saw an empty storefront on Granville St. “I have this weakness,” he said. “I said, ‘Let’s open a store here,’ without knowing the market at all, just thinking I had the magic touch.”

Spending $100,000 in borrowed money to revive the Phantasmagoria dream out west, Pressman soon hit a brick wall. Stereo equipment retailers, using albums as loss leaders to get people into the store to buy sound systems, were selling records at his cost, he said. The failed venture almost killed the Montreal store, he said, and he returned in 1982, deflecting bankruptcy by going into partnership with Tom Faludi.

With Faludi in the fold, the Park Ave. store lasted until 1995. Another downtown branch, on Ste. Catherine St. near Guy, was open only between 1996 and 1998, Faludi said.

Other branches of Phantasmagoria were launched in Westmount, Place Versailles, Beloeil, Longueuil, Gatineau and Cornwall. Most were opened in the 1990s and lasted until 2001. According to Faludi, the Phantasmagoria name remained on display at the Westmount store until last year, under new ownership, but it had otherwise long vanished from the record-store landscape.

Pressman was gone when most of this happened, having left the record business and moved to Toronto in 1986 as, in a symbolic transition, vinyl took a beating and CDs replaced it.

“I felt I was losing my passion for the music because of what was going on, musically, in the mid-’80s,” Pressman said. “Our customers were coming in with their little kids and rap music, which I had no affinity for, was taking off. I guess I just began to feel old, which is odd at 36. I just felt like I’d had enough of it. I might have just been tired and burned out. It was a long run and there was a lot of stress involved – always – financially. There wasn’t a day that went by in 18 years when I didn’t have to worry about what cheques were coming into the bank that day. It was that kind of cash-and-carry affair.”

After working as a mortgage broker for eight years and then becoming franchise director for It stores, Pressman briefly opened a daycare centre for dogs and, in 1995, started walking dogs for a living. A lifelong dog lover, he walks about 20 a day, in three groups. He lives with his wife, Judi, who works for Ticketpro Canada.

Pressman’s record collection is gone and his CDs have been digitized. He listens to The Loft on Sirius XM. A new Avett Brothers or Ryan Adams album, purchased from iTunes, gives him the same charge as a new Cat Stevens record off the Phantas wall once did, he said.

But old habits die hard.

Thinking about returning to the old location for the exhibition (he’ll be there on opening day), Pressman chuckled. “If I were in Montreal, I’d be tempted to open a record store in the old building,” he said. “I go to Starbucks and fondle the CDs while I wait for coffee and reorganize them if they’re mixed up. I still have that in my blood. ‘That’s old! That shouldn’t be up front.’ I’d do it again, but, unfortunately, that market doesn’t exist.”

Phantasmagoria: Déjà Vu will be presented April 1 to 20 at Galerie Nota Bene, 3416 Park Ave. The exhibition will open from noon to 5 p.m. on opening day. For the gallery’s regular hours, go to Admission is free.

Verdun no longer dry

Approval has been given for the establishement of a microbrewery (microbrasserie) in the former Bank of Montreal building at 4026 Wellington street where beer will be brewed and served but will not be bottled.The full article by Pierre Lussier can be read on the Messager site:


Friday, March 23, 2012

Under Montreal & Verdun Too

Montreal Waterworks, Part II – Inside the Conduit

An exploration of Montreal’s former water intake tunnel and its role in the city’s “water famine” of 1913.

Inside the City of Montreal's former water intake conduit

In my last entry I talked about Montreal’s Aqueduct canal and its role in bringing water to the city of Montreal. In this entry, we’ll begin to go underground, but first, a bit more history…

I mentioned the use of hydraulic machinery and how it was powered by water by the aqueduct. Only a small portion of that water (less than 5%) was actually sent through the pipes and into homes and businesses. By the late 1800s, several problems with this system started to make it less than ideal. The first issue was that demand for water was increasing and more horsepower was required to distribute it. The aqueduct at the turn of the century, roughly a quarter the width it is today, was incapable of providing the hydraulic horsepower necessary to power the pumps.

On top of this, the success of system was often at the whims of mother nature. Low water levels in the summer and ice blockages in the winter frequently reduced pumping capacity. As a result, steam power, which was both cost and labour intensive, would then have to be used as a back-up.

Another problem was that the water was being brought in directly close the shoreline of the St. Lawrence River, which by this time was starting to become less than pure. City officials maintained that the water posed no health risks. However, there was a concern that drainage from properties situated upstream of the entrance to the aqueduct had the potential to cause future problems. Given that there was still no filtration process yet in place (and wouldn’t be until the early 1920s), engineers were starting to become somewhat mindful of what could possibly be entering the city’s water supply.

20th Century Solutions


To address the shortage of available horsepower, in 1907, after two decades worth of proposals and deliberations, it was decided to widen the aqueduct from 40 to 140 feet. Along with upgrades to pumping equipment, the alteration would provide a total of 2,500 HP during the winter months. A rate of 5,000 HP during the summer was achievable when the aqueduct was free of ice, or ‘frazil‘.

To help improve quality of water, a 9’ concrete conduit running underneath the aqueduct’s north shore was built between 1907 and 1909. In addition, the intake for this conduit would extend towards the middle of the St. Lawrence, where the water was less likely to contain sediment. By enclosing the water inside this underground pipe, the risk of further cross-contamination would also be diminished. The conduit would also serve as a continuous water supply while the aqueduct was emptied during its widening.

Rumour Has It.

I first learned of the conduit a couple of years ago, not through the city archives or maps, but from a message board dedicated to Verdun . In a bit of oral history, an older member recollected a time during his youth when he and his friends would open a manhole cover near the north side of the Crawford Street Bridge and climb down into a ‘9 foot pipe.’ This was enough to pique my interest. I decided to go have a look for myself.

When I arrived, the only manhole I could find in the area was now in the middle of Blvd De La Verendrye- a rather busy thoroughfare. If it was the same one he entered, then it must have been before the 1960s which was when they built the road . I walked further along the street hoping to find other options, but every single one was situated in the road. Feeling a bit dejected, I filed it under ‘things to look for if ever bored’ and left it at that.

A few months passed before I came across another reference to the conduit, this time in a city planning document from the 1930s. I learned that the pipe was connected to the waterworks system. A few weeks later, when Controleman came back from the City Planning department with a handful of sewer maps, one of which made clear where the conduit ran, that it was no longer in use, and more importantly, where the best point of entry was located.

City planning map detail showing aqueduc and the old water conduit (in red).

In what I consider to be a continuation of underground exploration traditions, our entry point ended up being but a few feet away from the manhole that the older gentleman from Verdun once used. A three foot high drainage pipe within Parc Angrignon, just large enough the crawl through, provides a 21st century means of access.

Inside the Conduit.

Manhole chamber (and groundwater infiltration) underneath Blvd. Verendrye

The conduit itself resembles many of Montreal’s older concrete sewers, but with pronounced horizontal lines from the wooden forms that were used during construction. For a century old tunnel, it’s in excellent. The water is, at times, thigh-deep, but it is slow moving and not that much of an issue assuming you have the stamina to wade through it for long periods of time. Sewage can be detected, but for the most part the water is cleaner than what is usually encountered underground in Montreal. I wouldn’t want to drink it, but I wouldn’t mind falling in it either.

As a testament to its cleanliness, small fish can often be spotted over the course of its length. During one trip, I even came across about a half dozen mud-puppies that somehow got swept into the system and have done their best to make this dark tunnel their home.

One of many Mud-puppies spotted inside the conduit. This particular one was close a foot in length.

The Montreal Water Famine of 1913

By the winter of 1913, work had begun to widen the canal an additional 25 feet. This further widening was commenced to help generate electrical power for the city’s lighting systems. Rather than have to expropriate additional land on the south side of the canal, the City decided to make the enlargement on the north shore instead, close to where the conduit ran. It’s here where all sorts of problems began.

In the midst of this second enlargement, a two-foot long portion of the conduit was damaged. Workers did their best to try and repair the break, but a few days later, sixty feet worth of the conduit collapsed. The damage left close to 300,000 people in Montreal without a proper water supply. Adding insult to injury, the event occurred on Christmas Day  — never a good time for catastrophe to strike.

New York Times headline from Dec 28th, 1913.

City workers scrambled to repair the break while the people of Montreal had to receive water through water carts or from properties fortunate enough to have access to Cartesian wells. In one instance, Ogilvy’s department store, with a 1,200 foot deep artesian well in its basement, was able to provide water for people in the area. Meanwhile, large factories such as the Angus Shops had to be temporarily closed, while streets were patrolled day and night to react quickly to the first sign of fire.

Buckets of water being handed out from a casks during the shortage.

The  conduit was eventually repaired four days after its collapse using sections of boiler plate riveted together to form a steel pipe. Wasting no time, the city decided to let water through the length of the conduit as soon as the concrete surrounding the pipe had finished setting.

1913 newspaper clipping showing the repaired section of the conduit as well as the dry aqueduct to the right of it.

The joints held, and close to a century later the steel pipe can still be found. It’s a great deal rustier, but despite this, it’s holding up well.

The steel pipe section today.

While the conduit repair was successful, the city’s confidence in its water supply was severely shaken. An investigative report submitted to the city’s Board of Commissioners blamed the collapse on both the materials used during construction of the conduit as well as the excavation that had been taking place at the time.

More importantly, the report made several recommendations that would help prevent another such calamity from occurring. Based on the report, an emergency supply pipe running from the Lachine Canal to the pumping engines was soon added as a temporary solution. Ensuring a more reliable back-up supply system wouldn’t come until later.

Yesterday and Today.

It’s not clear at this point when the city stopped using the conduit  for its drinking water supply. It likely became obsolete by the time the filtration plant was put into operation during the 1920s. Impure water running the length of the open aqueduct was less of an issue after that. Repositioning of the system’s  intake pipes probably also ensured a cleaner supply as well. Also unclear is when (and why) the City officially abandoned its plans to use the aqueduct for purposes of power generation.

Fresh water flowing out from underneath the Des Baillets water treatment plant.
Fresh water flowing out from underneath a syphon that presumably connects to the Des Baillets water treatment plant. A makeshift ladder sits off to the side.

Today the conduit is still in use, both as a sewer for LaSalle and as an overflow tunnel for the Charles Des Baillets water purification plant which was built during the 1970s. The aforementioned relatively clean water and levels of sand (fare probably attributable to the plant’s filtering system.  A walled off section prevents water from the River from entering the conduit directly.  Before this, a section of the conduit has been replaced with a junction chamber with one pipe leading towards the discharge tunnel of the plant.

Junction chamber situated near the Des Baillets water treatment plant. Clean water flows in from the right and raw sewage from the left.

Given that there is currently only one known feasible entry point into the conduit, walking its entire length (and back again) would be a formidable task involving a 16 km round trip. To this date, I’ve walked roughly half its length, but I’m going to have to find other ways in if I’m to see the remaining portions.

Questions, comments or corrections regarding this article or anything else found on Under Montreal are always welcome. Write the author at andrew@undermontreal.comor use the contact section of this site.