Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Real Mix!

Atwater Market in Little Burgundy, a trendy venue today, built in the 30's, hence the beautiful deco styling.

Yesterday, I took a quick car tour of Little Burgundy, near the Lachine Canal, and near Canning Street, the site of Royal Arthur School, where Marion Nicholson taught in 1908-1912.

I seldom go to that part of town, despite the fact it's so close to downtown and the Old Forum site and the AMC theatre, where I regularly watch my 'adult' movies. As in good movies. (I love that scene in the Simpson's where Bart catches Moe coming out of the Adult Movie Section of a rental store and Moe is carrying a load of Truffaut's and Woody Allen's and Moe says in his sleaziest tone "Brideshead is going to get Revisited Tonight."... My husband doesn't get it.)

This area has been left behind by time, although people are working hard to gentrify it.

So close to downtown and on a canal, you'd think it would be easy, but I don't think the plan is working all that well.

The area, despite the condo projects (and bustling Atwater Market) seems desolate and deserted.

Why, because it's a former industrial area, and it just isn't a pretty area. It isn't Greenwich Village, if you know what I mean. It isn't the Plateau.

It has these looming heritage industrial sites, the Northern Electric Building and the Dominion Textile Building, all built with Victorian economy in mind, and other smaller such buildings and then a few tracts of era housing and no trees! A few cute churches, though.

I will revisit in the spring.

After, I took a tour of the area in 1910. Using the Census. I discovered that the immediate area of Marion's school overwhelmingly was home to French Canadian Roman Catholics and Irish Catholics. (Although there's a concentration of Protestants right on Canning, for good reason, I guess.)

A few Protestants and Hebrews (as they wrote) were scattered here and there, on adjacent streets, mostly newly arrived immigrants. Scotch Presbyterians, but only a few, Irish Protestants, but rare, Norwegian Lutherans, Italian Presbyterians (yes, one such family, who must have felt very isolated)Russian Hebrews, a real mix. English Anglicans too.

Which means Marion's 50 bad students, as she described them, were a real mix too, with most not having English as their tongue (and the new Scots talking so broad she probably couldn't understand them. (That's how Herbert describes the Scots he meets out west.)

I did not see children marked down as 'employed'.. all 'students or ecoliers' but they might have lied, and as I've said, many kids had to work outside of school. The two Russian Armenian families described the dad as a merchant. Well, if he had a store, his many children likely worked in it.
But if he had a push-cart, they worked at something else, delivery boys, babysitters.

The men and women of the 1911 era worked at the usual variety: drivers (horse) was a popular job, as was dayworker/journalier (someone who did anything anywhere); bricklayers (a reasonably well paid profession) and as waiters and shippers, etc.

There were many young women working as stenographers (which would be typists, I think.) Now, I knew this was an up and coming profession for women, but I can see it was well established in 1911, although not particularly well paid.

No family seemed to make the 1,500 deemed necessary to raise a family in 1911. Not even close. (That's why it is obvious the kids worked.)

I found two foreladies, which sounds very modern. And people who worked in buanderies, or laundries. And I found a writer, in insurance.

Oh, and sometimes the job description was vague ..employee of manufacturing.

And sometime the person was more precise: Operator at Northern Electric; or at least precise about where they worked: flour mill (Red Roses?) Sugar Mill (Redpath?) and GTR as in Grand Trunk Railway but I found no one working at Dominion Textile....yet.

Operators put through the long distance calls, if my understanding of the term here is correct. I didn't check to see if these were men or women. Women I assume. Certainly that job became a woman's job.

The oddest entry I found was 5 or so adult men, who had just arrived in 1910 from all over, Mexico, Norway and other places, who all lived at the same address and who all worked in the same "roller mill." Clearly someone brought in certain skilled labour to start up a business. That's the only explanation I can think of. (My husband says a roller mill is where metal is turned into sheets.)


Dominion Textile is now condos and businesses and a fancy restaurant.

Northern Electric. I was in that building a few years ago when it was being turned into a Techy place... Scary and cavernous. My husbands tells me the operators strode around on roller skates, the distances they had to cover were so great. I'm not surprised!!

Oh, and I finally found someone else, not especially far away on Tupper in Westmount, who was making 7,000 a year. My husband's grandfather, Thomas Gavine Wells, who was the President of Laurentian Spring Water.

The volunteer transcribing that page of the Census made an error, and mistook a T for a F, so I couldn't find him originally and this perplexed me.

Well, he had his second or third wife, Beatrice, and also two sons, Edward and Jaimie. Funny, the two sons, as my father-in-law remembers it, were Ted (Edward) and Morris. So unless Jamie is James Morris, something fishy is going on.

Now, 7,000 was a huge income (if it's true). He's making more than my own grandfather in the era.

Anyway, this just serves to show the great gap in incomes in the 1910 era in Montreal. Hey, looks as if we are headed back that way. Well, we are already there. The average family makes 50 thousand or so and pays out most of that to taxes, their mortgage and food, (and bank interest) and then some people make 4,000.000. a year and hardly pay taxes. I'd say that's pretty comparable to the 1910 era.


I always thought that when he remarried May Hardy Fair from Norfolk Virginia, in 1917 (the marriage certificate said he was a lawyer, a lie and also claimed she was widowed, another lie..the rich lied a lot, I guess :), that they lived off her money.

She was a Hardy Fair, cousin to General Douglas MacArthur.


But he was still at Laurentian, so he must have still been making a lot.


In 19o9 there was a typhoid epidemic in Montreal and Laurentian capitalized on this, scaring people into buying their water.