Sunday, July 31, 2011

Le Verre Francais, My Favourite Vase

I've always liked this vase.. Le Verre Francais. The Amourettes Pattern..

A website claims that Schneider Glass has as much prestige these days as Galle, but I don't think so.

I still like my vase though. Below is a picture I scanned of my Aunt Flo posing in her home with the vase at right. Years and years ago. Possibly the 40's.

She was born in 1906.

The marble babies we also owned at one time. But my mother always needed money and she sold them to a friend. They weighed a tonne. And baby in the middle had a chip off the nose.

The thing on top of Flo's head is a dragon mirror, of carved wood, given to my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, by the Chinese Community of Montreal as he was Director of Services. It is with a cousin, I believe. A little paw is holding the mirror and you can see the wings. No head though.

Anyway, there are a couple of books out about Schneider, but expensive, even to buy of Abebooks. He's Charles Schneider born in Daum in Nancy, where the made all the nice glass, Galle too I think.

But if I had a Galle Marketry vase I would be rich. These sturdy Schneider vases are everywhere... but still nice.

Friday, July 29, 2011

EXACTLY 100 years ago Today...

Here's a plate from the August 1911 Delineator Magazine, which I purchased off eBay.

So, exactly 100 years ago, this picture made its appearance... And exactly 100 years ago, Flora Nicholson learned that she was accepted at Macdonald Teachers College.

I have finished the first draft of Threshold Girl, (the new name for Flo in the City, after all she only gets to the city at the end.)

I am going to put in more fashion items from the August Delineator in the later chapters... as August is the month they sew Flo up for school. So it's all very synchroni..synchrynos..appropriate.

And I'm going to start working on Edith's story.... Where she gets involved with the Montreal Council of Women, the murky eugenics side, and the social reform people, who Julia Parker Drummond rebukes...I think.. and where she meets a woman who is travelling to New York...Elizabeth Arden, Florence Nightingale Something is her real name. She is exactly the same age as Edith Nicholson.

Elizabeth Arden will tell her about all the stenographer jobs in New York City, etc.

But I don't have to make things up to make Edith's story compelling: she taught at a Missionary School, where French Canadians were converted to Protestantism.. and I have read a number of accounts of 'testimonials' at the Wednesday prayer meeting which are very freaky in themselves!

And I have to figure out why she is so mad at Villard. I think I will have her upset that the youngest children are being converted...She will feel that they are too young...

I know that Edith knew Carrie Derick at McGill, I have a 1917 letter where she is stepping out with her... So I can have her know her earlier..

I already hinted at it in Threshold Girl.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Threshold Girl Comes Along

My Delineator. I have no idea how to use Corel Photoshop.. which drives me crazy. But I cleaned up my Delineator. I haven't seen this pic on the web. It's from August 1909.

A beautiful day, and I spent a great deal of time working on Threshold I await my new Delineator from 1911, which will have some up to date fashions...Not that the Nicholsons wore the lastest fashions... so I'm pretty safe with the 1909 patterns.

I am changing the story into the present tense, so that when I talk about a flashback, I don't have to use past anterior, or whatever it is called in English.

Funny, I know the name of tenses for French, but not for English.

And I'm still confused about Sherbrooke Street and the streetcar. I know from a book I have bought by Aline Gubbay, A View of Their Own, that Westmount got electric street cars in 1893 and one of Sherbrooke the year later.

But I read so much about the controversy about putting in a track between Greene and Atwater, and I also found that there were two loops, north and south, and I also found some 'instructions' on how to get to NDG in 1910 and they don't mention going along Sherbrooke. So I don't know.

Wait a sec. The Gubbay book has a map with a tiny tread marks where the street car went... I guess befoe 1913, because it goes along Sherbrooke only to Greene and then along st. Catherine.. and another goes down Victoria to St. Catherine.

So, logically, the girls would take the street car right at the corner of Greene and Ste Catherine.. the two routes converge there....

I will have Edith take the UPPER Loop because the Upper LOOP is the pretty loop... and she aspires to HIGHER things. So I'll still have the girls walk to Sherbrooke and Victoria...and then take the tram to the city. I guess I'll have Edith drop off a library book at the Westmount Library. They'll walk through the park. But that's a long walk....Hmm. They did walk a lot in those days, even in their corsets..

Oh, I don't know.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Delineator Discovery!

I found my Delineator! The the 1910 era women were depicted wearing flowers or sniffing them....

The irony, it is from August 1909, only a month earlier than my new acquistion.

Anyway, I've purchased one from August 1911, the month Margaret and Marion sew Flora up for school. So all is well.

And with the cool air, my head has unclogged and I fixed up the middle part of Theshold Girl. Simply, efficiently, by putting it in chronological order.

The day I spent fixing the graphics allowed me to work on the problem without working on the problem...Obliquely.


I got an email form Workopolis: I guess I am on their list. The subject line intrigued me.. "The 10 doomed industries or industries with no future."

Well, I guess it's no worse than any other newspaper article, so I read it.

According to this workopolis promo e-mail.... Newspaper journalist is the worse profession, followed by apparel manufacturing and textile mills.

Journalists are a dime a dozen these days, with citizen journalists. And of those who took a degree: Just work for a tabloid then go into consulting for the government or police.. or straight into PR.

Or blog if you are above all that, and make money at some side-job.

My husband's profession, electronic newsgathering, wasn't listed in the Workopolis article. Although video post production was.

There are more news outlets than ever, but these often hire models and talking heads. And the way things happen: a story is covered to death and then forgotten. "Nothing in Moderation" has to be the slogan of news media these days.

Of course, that's what's wrong with the world, but what can you do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Clearer Pic of Edie

A cleared scan of the picture of Edith Nicholson and teachers at Westmount Methodist.

I checked with another picture and the man at right is certainly Dr. Villard and these are likely the Institute grounds. The pointy buildings at left are still there on Staynor.

The MAAA grounds are on the other side.

The Westmount Methodist building is gone now. A playground is there now.

The first chapter of Up to the Light, by Paul Villard describes the building: A solid large brick building composed of the main building and two wings, behind which is a ground for recreating.

In the basement of the main building are found the kitchen and apartments of the servants; on the first floor the Principal's apartments and teachers' parlour and pupils reception room. On the second and third floor the girls' rooms and on the fourth floor, the infirmary.

In the basement of the South Wing is the school dining room and on the first, second and third floors are the boys  rooms.

In the basement of the North wing are the laundry, coal bins and furnaces. On the first floor the recitation rooms, on the second floor the chapel.

No mention of where Edith's rooms would be. Probably with the girls.

Edith looks young in this photo. It is not often that the photos capture texture, but here you can see her smooth, young skin and the pattern on the shirtwaists.

Crazy Big Hats and "Kodaks"

A clear picture of the Nicholsons in fashionable 1911 hats. You can even see the texture in the material.

I scanned this at 600 dpi. The photo was taken by a "Kodak' purchased in 1910. Perhaps on the same day, Margaret took a snapshot of Norman and Floss. you can see her hat in the shadow.

A Soap Forgotten

Sapolio Soap, a brand forgotten, but according to Wikipedia a best selling soap at the turn of the last century, one that advertised heavily and one that subsequently lost its market because it stopped advertising heavily.


A soap with a name that sounds like the most dreaded disease of the 20th century (also off wikipedia).

In the era of light, soap and water and above all PURITY.

Not a mention of the P word in the copy.. What was the copywriter thinking?

"Look into the homes and see the service Sapolio gives cleaning pans, kettles, paint, marble, woodwork and floors....Cleans, scours, polishes, works without waste."

Virtues certainly, but not the appropriate one for the new century. Just ask Procter and Gamble and their advertiser J. Walter Thompson and anyone back then who read the Ladies' Home Journal.

OK. So I turned my very very messy house upside down looking (once again) for my 1911 Magazines, the Delineator and the Pictorial Review.

That's because I have figured out how to design my Threshold Girl e-book or ebook, with bits about fashion...High fashion and low fashion that are self-explanatory. That will interest girls and also underscore my point about child labour.

And it will look pretty.

The Delineator, in the public domain, has beautiful plates and also little drawing of fashion items, many the delicate ones.

I want to scan and put them in the book at areas where the reader can pause for a moment.. and at chapter heads.

Anyway, I will spend the next few days cleaning the crap out of my house, while still looking for those magazines. My sons are home for a few days and all they do is talk about violent video games and poker. One is an astrophysicist and one is about to finish a philosophy degree while training as a high end chef, but because they are so advanced in their fields the ONLY subjects they appear to have in common, today, are video games and poker.

Driving me berzerk, except my son made great lamb burgers and fennel salad the other day. (Neither is big anymore into pro sports.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Harvest

At breakfast this morning my husband went on and on about seeing Eva Longoria on Piers Morgan's show talking about immigration and child labour issues in the US. He seemed surprised the beautiful woman might have a purpose outside of acting.

That didn't surprise me much.

But something else he learned from the interview surprised me, as well. Eva Longora has co-produced a documentary about child labour in agriculture in the US. It's called the Harvest and it is directed by Roberto Romero.

In many cases, young US citizens used as a kind of slave labour, not going to school, to pick our food.

I knew that Mexican labour is used to pick fruits and vegetables and that our lowish prices are thanks to this.

And I also know Mexican crews come to Canada. When my son spent a summer picking cherries in the Okanagan, he said their were French crews (who made gourmet meals over campfires) and French Canadian crews and Native Crews and Mexican crews. The Native Crews saw my son's tan and said, "You must be one of us." Well, there's Cree in my husband's family.

Anyway, I wonder if the Mexican crews include children... that would be appalling. It's still appalling as we Canadians eat a lot of US produce.

So I've been writing a book about child labour in the textile mills in 1910, equating it to the child labour in the textile industry (far away overseas)when there still is child labour right close to home.

Here's my first draft of Threshold Girl. where Flora Nicholson, 19, learns about child labour close to home but does nothing about it, just like all of us, today.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Firing or Resignation? Camillien Houde fires Jules Crepeau

Mederic Martin and My Grandfather, Jules Crepeau, bookending a Seattle City Official on a trip. Martin's Hair, my gosh!!

I've looked over the press clippings in my Aunt's scrapbook...and here's an excerpt from a French newspaper (unknown).. translated by me:

Here's what came down at CITY Hall when my grandfather tendered his resignation as Director of Municipal Services, if so accepted by the Municipal Council.

...That the resignation of Jules Crepeau, Director of Services, be accepted under the conditions stated in his letter of September 22, now before the Municipal Council; that in consideration of services Mr. Crepeau has rendered to the City over many years, an indemnity, amounting to six months salary be paid him, that the Executive Committee effects this payment and that Crepeau's letter me put in the archives.

One of the conditions of the resignation was that the city would not oppose the 7,500 pension that will be submitted to the Provincial Legislature according Mr. Crepeau the sum of 7,500 annually, in addition to the 5,000 that represents 6 months salary.

The aldermen ask for explanations, but M. Bray says to M. Derochers that 'everyone knows what happened.'

Alderman Monette rises quickly and asks Mayor Houde is this resignation was voluntary or not and why is a pension of 7,500 being given to Crepeau on top of the 10,000 salary for his successor. That totals 17,500 and Mr. Crepeau is in good health and can continue rendering his precious services to the city. Blah blah blah.

Alderman Trepanieer asks for the names of those who signed the petition demanding the resignation of Crepeau. Houde says this was all done privately, outside of City Hall, so he won't give the names.

Houde says: Today the council is acting rationally and the alderman are acting in a consistent manner? What position did we take before the election? We condemned the purchase of Montreal Water and Power. And to be fair to the citizens of Montreal, who elected us, we must get rid of all those who are responsible for the situation related to the purchase of the aqueduct. We condemned Tetrault and Crepeau, for the population of Montreal..

Friday, July 22, 2011

Florida St Martin Crepeau Walter, my Aunt

My Aunt Flo and Me, in 1959, from a still off a Super 8.

Aunt Flo, 1940's.

I found my Aunt Flo. On the 1911 Census. After a second try.

The last time I looked, I somehow thought her natal name to be St-Clair and found nothing. Last night, I decided to try again and wrote in St-Martin, without thinking, and found her. Of course, St-Martin was her natal family name, she had told me, but I had forgotten, and then my subconscious memory kicked in and I found her!

Here she is:

According to family legend, she always showed up in rags to beg at the home of Jules Crepeau, my grandfather, and she was given food and new clothes and sent home. But then she returned again in rags. So they finally just 'adopted' her. The 1911 census says her dad worked for the City, so that makes sense. As a city worker he would know the name of Jules and somehow he got his address, to send his daughter begging.

(The Census says the father Onesime, the dad, was making 600 a year, and he already had five children under the age of 7. (It is said that 1,500 a year was a minimum needed in the era to support a family in dignity, but I found few families making that.

My grandfather, in 1911, was making 3,500 a year, and would end up making 10,000 a year in the 1920's. (A newspaper reporter in 1913 accused Jules of making a lot more than that from graft.) Thomas Wells, the President of Laurentian Spring Water claims to be making 7,000 a year in 1911...In 1911, Marion Nicholson was making 600 as a teacher, but she had no children and lived for three months at her parents' house in Richmond. Her father was making 1,000 a month on the railroad. Apparently, a good cook cost about 600 a year. Cooks were among the better paid domestics)

The family myth goes, Flo's natural mother was an alcoholic actress and one of the most beautiful women my grandfather had ever seen.

Well, Aunt Flo, if not beautiful, was extremely photogenic and she seemed to have an instinctive knowlege of how to carry herself, to be sexy, which is not something the women in her adopted family had.

(Flo herself looked like the actress Barbara Stanwick.)

This had to be picked up from her natal mother.

Anyway, here she is, Florida (or Florence) St Martin, Crepeau, Walter. She married a Frank Walter later in life, a French (from France) graphic designer. He was much older, a ladies man from what I could see, but he almost called off the wedding when he heard Aunt Flo was adopted and not the natural daughter of Jules Crepeau, former Director of Services of the City of Montreal.

Flo died in 1998 at the Veteran's Hospital in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. She had been a WAC, working in recruiting, using her sex appeal to lure young men into the armed forces, no doubt. She had no children, but a fun life. She worked as a salesgirl at Morgan's Department Store and so got a lot of nice dresses to wear at cheap prices. She worked at the University of Montreal, in the cafeteria late in life, say in her 70's, allowing her to mix with people, as she was very social.

She liked to go on long drives with her husband, making picnics.. and she often vacationed in Old Orchard, where the Crepeaus had vacations. I went with Flo and Frank, her husband, one summer.

She had a third grade education, it is said, but she could read and write and speak both English and French and if her math skills were poor, she always managed to live within her means, while enjoying life, a skill many PhD's in Mathematics do not have.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Investigative Reporting, or Tabloid Journalism, 1914

The Crepeaus on the beach. Couple in middle, unknown. Girl in helmet, my mother. Girl in dark suit, my Aunt Flo.. Woman on right, my Aunt Alice. My grandfather had a slim, athletic figure; my grandmother, well.

So, in 1914, my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, was accused of "being a grafter" by one Edward Beck, former managing editor of the Herald and Montreal Star in his new weekly Beck's World.

I found a Toronto Sunday Sunday article on the topic where the Beck's World article is quoted. My grandfather was Assistant City Clerk, a position that gave him the confidence of the Board of Control and the City Council

He was set up by the Press, and offered money by a private Burns Detective to influence aldermen on some issue or other. No wire in those days and hiding a Talking Machine under your lapel was probably quite tricky. They had something called a 'detectaphone.'

The article from Beck's Weekly (a brand new but short-lived exercise) is written in the cheesiest dime store detective novel prose. Cue Humphry Bogart:

"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."

My grandfather denied everything, well, sort of and sued the Beck's Weekly and won... He sued for slander,and 25,000 dollars and got 100 dollars and legal fees.


 Beck died in 1930 and his obit says he started Beck's Weekly in March 1914, so this was written up in the first issue. Beck probably wanted to start with a bang with my grandfather's story. The story wasn't mentioned in the obit. And the Weekly died when war broke out, but a few months later.

I guess Beck's people, too, wanted to forget the incident.

I'm sure my grandfather was no saint, but he ended up penniless and that is usually not the fate of a master grafter.

Edward Beck left newspaper journalism after that iffy incident and became editor of a Pulp and Paper Magazine printed in Ste. Anne de Bellevue.

However, in 1927 a Toronto newspaper published an article on Sir Herbert Ames, the Montreal social activist and MP at Ottawa, that skewered Montreal City Hall.

The piece was penned by a person using a mysterious pseudonym, "the Make-up Man" but the style of the prose was suspiciously like Beck's.

When Beck died, in 1930, it was just as my grandfather was being forced into retirement by new Mayor, Camillien Houde. He had risen to the rank of Director of City Services.

Beck must have been pleased.

Beck's funeral was very well-attended.

My grandfather, who had negotiated a HUGE life pension with Mayor Houde, was 'accidentally' run over by an off duty police officer on Royal Avenue in NDG in Montreal 1937.

Lordy Lordy: Passing the Buck over a Fatal Fire

Mayor Mederic Martin and aldermen and my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, looking terribly bored..

Hmm. I found one of the points where my Flo in the City research and Milk and Water research overlap.

The Lord's Day Act and the Motion Pictures, called 'the cinema' in 1927.

I've written about the 1906 Lord's Day act, how it was pushed through by an unholy alliance between the radical Presbyterians and Labour.

And how the French Canadians, especially the owners of movie houses, largely ignored it.

Well, apparently in 1927 Premier Tachereau wanted to get movie houses to shut down and lawyers for this body claimed they had a kind of grandfather clause, because they'd always remained open. You see, they weren't theatres per se, but cinemas and the Act only described 'theatres.'

The term 'cinema' didn't exist in 1906.

The Province was suing a movie chain United Amusements. Well, what a coincidence, United Amusements was run by my great uncle, Isidore Crepeau. (That my mother had told me.)

Even weirder, Mon Oncle Isidore, as my mom called him, died in 1932, falling out of the window of his 7th storey ST. James Street office window.

Now, THAT my mother never told me. Did she even know? She was 10 at the time.

The newspaper article says he fell out trying to signal his chauffer to come get him. He almost landed on his 'stenographer' who had left but a few minutes before.

Crazy Uncle Isidore. All very weird. But too late for my Milk and Water story.

Jules, of course, had a finger in every civic pie and he obviously dealt with this issue of the Lord's Day Act. He dealt with damage control on the infamous fatal Laurier Palace fire.

He was the first person to give testimony at the hearing in April, which was very boring, according to the Gazette. "Little Public Interest"claimed the subhead. I guess that meant he was doing his job...

Apparently that same cinema had been running without a licence for a year, but the license hadn't been taken away for fire-safety issues, only because they hadn't paid their taxes. They paid their taxes at the end of the 1926 year and then they had the fire in January.

In a 'short drab' session, with only 12 people present, where my grandfather refused to give more information than he wanted to (sounds like a Murdochy thing) he described the licencing procedure. The Chief of Police, he said, grants licences on the recommendation of the District Police Chief.

All very interesting.

Apparently, at the 'inquest' in January, the scene had been intense, with the public stirred into a 'white heat' over the 75 child deaths. The owners of the theatre were on trial, (The proprietor would get 2 years for manslaughter and 2 employees one year, which they would appeal) so the inquest was to deal with 1) the causes of the fire 2) the responsiblities of theatre owners 3) Sunday performances.. Ah, this must have happened on a Sunday so that was the reason for Premier Tachereau wanting, suddenly, to enforce the law, as if Sunday was the cause of the fire or something. (Or maybe it was a 'labour' thing..

Members of the public, 'especially members of the working class' were to be asked about their opinions. Hmm, so in 1927 the cinema was still considered low rent.

Jules also gave evidence at the trial. Basically, everyone passed the buck about whose job it was to see that the place had a license, the Administration, the Police Chief, the District Officer and the Assistant District Officer, who actually visited the place. H testified he knew the place didn't have a license but that it wasn't his job to do anything.

At the trial it was revealed that many police officers had passes for their families. And that a fire door was tied closed (like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.)

Anyway, because of that tragic event, I wasn't allowed to go to movies as a child. But, then, there weren't that many movies aimed at kids.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Jules Crepeau: Jack of all Civic Trades

The Crepeaus Coloured, around 1927

Hmm. I was wrong when I said in the last (after a cursory glance at the newsclippings in a scrapbook once belonging to my Aunt) that the English papers denounced my grandfather, Jules Crepeau for the Montreal Water and Power Deal Controversy) and the French papers supported him.

The Montreal Gazette didn't approve of Houde getting rid of him.

"Both these officials have long terms of valuable service to their credit. Each occupies a position of responsibility and of authority and it is quite evident from the terms of the city charter that a certain independence of action on their part has been provided with deliberate intent. The labours of these officials, extending in the case of M. Tetrault over more than a decade and in the case of Mr. Crepeau over more than forty years, have contributed more to the orderly progress and development of the city than most people realize."

No kidding! From articles in the Montreal Gazette and elsewhere it is clear my grandfather was the City's Jack of All Trades. Technically, his job was to deliver and explain information from the heads of the various departments to the Executive Committee, which ran the city.

But from what I have read he was not only a liaising kind of guy, but also a damage control guy, a spin doctor and porte-parole, a fill-in for the Mayor for certain n0t-that-important visitors to City Hall as well as the Chief Planner of Events for real serious VIPS, like the Governor General or British PM. And he sat on all kinds of Committees, like the Town Planning Committee of 1923 (when it was discovered that maybe it paid to look ahead) and the City Improvement League, which was most interested in increasing the number of parks.

The latter job plays PERFECTLY into my story... where Mayor Mederic Martin calls him to perform a duty during the 1927 visit of the Prince of Wales. (It's perfect, as the PofW came to Canada for a month, visiting Montreal at the beginning for formal events and then resting for four days at the end..)

If Jules wasn't at Council Meetings, answering questions, he had sent a letter in, answering questions. And even as early as 1900, as a clerk, he had some duties: he was on the Bonsecours Market Committee for one. And as Assistant City Clerk he often went to Quebec to give depositions to the Legislature there.

Oh, and MOST interesting, after that January 1927 theatre fire that killed 77 people, mostly kids, he was the one who gave the first day's testimony at the inquest. Apparently there was low public interest.

Funny, as child in Montreal I couldn't go to the cinema until I was 10 because of a by-law enacted after that infamous fire. I sneaked in, though, being tall for my age, to see the Lippizanner movie.

So many momentous events in 1927 in Montreal! Fodder for my play Milk and Water.

A busy man. I wonder how he found the time to go to Atlantic City, above.

So, maybe it's the other way around: the English Papers supported him, the French did not. (Must read all the press clippings closely.) But Le Devoir wrote such a nice obit for him. And wasn't La Presse owned by the Forgets?

Milk and Water and Scapegoats..

Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, Montreal

Well, with the Montreal City Hall file and my aunt's scrapbook, I guess I have most of the articles are about my grandfather's firing..actually he tendered his resignation on approval of the Alderman. (Some about the congratulations he received in 1926 upon his 40 years in service. Ironic..)

The French Press seemed against this, the English for it.

Houde said that Chief Engineer Tetrault and Jules had to resign, as it was the mandate of the people to send home those who favoured the purchase.

The Herald, an English paper said succinctly "It is the opinion of the Herald that Tetrault and Crepeau are resigning because Houde has made their position uncomfortable."

Oh course why would Houde want to keep a man who had worked for Mederic Martin for so long? I must find a bio of Mederic Martin. I know there are many of Houde, because he was 'so colourful'.

Anyway, there's a lot more to it.. and a lot more to read... But clearly my grandfather, like some of the people going down in Hackgate right now, took the fall for others.

He very likely didn't benefit from the money made on the sale of Montreal Water and Power....Bigger fish than took home the spoils from the 4 million dollar profit made by the Lee Chase Company, famous industrialists no doubt.

But he was smart enough to negotiate a huge pension fo 7,500 a year until death.. (Too bad he died so early, run over by city constable, who my mother says was very contrite so it couldn't have been on purpose.)

I guess he signed something saying he'd tell no secrets... I guess.

Of course, as I wrote in the previous post, the Montreal Water and Power Purchase was to prove very beneficial to the city.

Le Devoir wrote this upon his resignation:
As an example of the kind of man my grandfather was, I will translate a piece from Le Devoir, 1938 that speaks of him upon his death.

(Translated off the top of my head.) “Yesterday, upon his death, the newspapers published some rather dull obituaries of Jules Crepeau, none of which give a just account of the exceptional role the man played in Montreal politics…. Jules Crepeau was intelligent, ambitious, and proactive.His education was rudimentary and didn’t give him a background in culture, unlike his successor Honore Parent. (Crepeau finished his studies at night) But this affable man turned all his considerable intellect and curiosity and energy towards the work at hand. From the start he comprehended the importance of the municipal administration, its vast complexity and its workings and he had a sense of being part of something grand and of great import. He started out as an intern in the Health Department and rose steadily, especially after going to work under L O David in the Head Clerk’s (Greffier)Office…

He rose in the ranks, slowly at first, then more quickly until all the Municipal Councillors and the aldermen had only his name on their tongues. He became the first Director of Services in 1921. Jules Crepeau was too passionate, too uncompromising not to have taken sides in disputes, so he made enemies and he took some hits, some of them nasty.

But it must be stated that no accusations against him stuck. On the outside, his reputation got larger and larger. In Quebec, before the Committee of Private Bills, it was his opinion that held the most weight. He was the one people went to for information because they knew that information would be succinct and exact. I once knew a banker who had thousands of safety deposit boxes in his bank, but if a client showed up he knew exactly which box to open. Jules Crepeau was like this man. The Administration is made up of many many boxes, or more precisely, articles and charters, rules and regulations, and if you wanted to know about any one of them, you called Jules. He had a prodigious memory and you could trust it. It remains only to say that this venerable and brilliant civil servant is an example to all, for his sense of service, his zeal for his work and the pride he took in serving the public.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Milk and Water: Montreal Water and Power Purchase

Last night I downloaded and read (quickly) a number of useful documents on Montreal's Water Supply for my play (or novel) Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927.

As it happens, the Montreal Water and Power Company Purchase happened that year: and the next year a controversy (or controversies) around it brought down the Mederic Martin Administration, which led to my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the most senior civil servant being ousted in 1930. That was also the year of yet anther typhoid epidemic, but one caused by Milk.

My Milk and Water story will feature Jules having a discussion about water with Thomas Wells, the President of Laurentian Spring Water, who is my husband's grandfather. It will be a bit of a Two Solitudes type story.


Again, the story of the events around the purchase are 'murky' as the Gazette articles don't describe the controversies, just the meetings about the controveries. Funny, eh.

But, in the Fong book about J.W. McConnell, the author claims it is the Montreal Star that stayed on the story and brought down Mederic Martin.

Well, I found a report on the debate around Montreal Water and Power on the National Assembly website. How cool!!

M, Houde, member for Montreal St. Marie brought up the issue.

He says the Montreal public is demanding a full inquiry in the purchase. He said a group approached the PM for a Royal Commission, but the PM didn't want to compromise Montreal's autonomy.

He said it is 'rumoured in the public' that the purchase was made on behalf of people high up in the government and as public funds were involved those guilty should be pursued like criminals.

It seems someone (a New York based group: Lee Chase) bought Montreal Water and Power for about 9,500,000 a few months before Montreal's administration, in a 32 to 12 or so vote, decided to purchase it for 14,000,000.

(Later an neutral arbitrator deemed it worth 15,ooo,ooo, but the opponent's claimed they were bought off.)

All very interesting. How my grandfather was involved in this, except for being in the wrong job and the wrong time, I haven't figured out. I must go back and read the family clippings.

The fact is: my grandfather had worked for Martin for years, so Houde wanted him out. He also knew too much, so he negotiated a huge pension.

But my story is about 1927, the height of The Jazz Age, and I am going to manufacture a good reason, involving the Prince of Wales, for my grandfather and my husband's grandfather to be stuck in a room together for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. It will have to do with the fact that the Prince like to party with Mederic Martin. It will involve an "underground" jazz club.

Anyway, I found one document that says the 1927 purchase was a benchmark in the development of Montreal's water system. Ultimately, a good idea.

Montreal Water and Power was a private company (who owned it? Lorne Webster.. Honourable Perron? McConnell?) that serviced the surburbs, which would all soon become Montreal.

And is the fact that my grandfather was related to the Forget's got anything to do with anything? I wonder.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fashion Tips for the Thrifty Girl 1909

In Threshold Girl, Flora Nicholson is thrilled because her Mom is making her a new wardrobe. She is off to school.

But the Nicholsons remade their clothing, and I even have a letter from 1914, when Flora is working at William Lunn School in Griffintown, where she gives detailed instructions to her mom about a skirt she wants remade.

She was deskilled, she couldn't sew, it seems. Her sister Marion could, when she had the time. Marion helped her mom make Flora's new wardrobe.

I have this 1909 Delineator, and I think I will steal bits of it to describe what they made her in more detail. All they say is "sewed her up."

Here are some excerpts from the article Dressmaking Made Easy from the September 1909 Delineator.

"Making over is not ordinarly regarded as a task that calls forth any joyful thrills of anticipation and and pleasure. Somewhat erroneously, I think, it is looked on as a burden and a bother, one of the uncomfortabe results of a more of less limited income....but it not only saves money but in the end it leaves one with a peculiar feeling of elation, one has been very clever in checkmating changing fashions and keeping even with that subtle, slippery thing- Style.

Decide first what clothes are worth remaking. When the materials are badly worn it is hardly worth while going to any amount of trouble in the way of renovations. But when the material is sound and whole it is little short of criminal not to take advantage of the possiblities.

Some women look with awe upon an expensive dress and feel it must be worn just as it was made. It is an attitude that is much more in general in England. I was particularly struck on my last visit to the other side. The women have a singularly dowdy appearance simply because they have fallen into the habit of wearing their clothes unchanged until they drop to pieces. As they generally get expensive materials of the most durable character, their clothes last from 4 to 5 years. ..

The first thing that you must examine with a critical eye on an old dress is the sleeve. It is the one part of a gown that offers the most convincing evidence as to its age. It is a simple matter to remodel a sleeve just at present when the old ones were large and the new ones smaller, since it is only a matter of recutting....

The deep yokes that were so popular a year or two ago have entirely lost their prestige. The new gowns show a very small section of white in the chemisette....

It is a mistake to think that the slender, hipless silhouette is going out. The talk of increasing width of skirts is most misleading. Many of the new skirts are wider than the last in measurement, but their appearance gives no hint of the new fulness.

The Frenchwoman has discarded petticoats entirely, but on this side are very few women who will relinquish them even for pantalettes and knickerbockers...

If your petticoat has a gathered flounce it should be ripped off and accordion plated. The plates fall absolutely straight without any flare and do not hold the dress skirt out from the feet.

(So I guess, I'll have Marion make plaits for Flora, the newest style.. (Even though it's two years late. I'll have Marion remark on it.

In 1909 it was all about Plaits or Pleats as I would call them in my childhood. But if the 1909 article is correct, plaits were a way to get the person to use more material!!

Indeed, my husband's grandmother on his father's side, May Fair, was a crack seamstress (she even made coats) and she always reworked the patterns claiming that the patterns made you use more material than was needed. I think I will have Marion or Margaret say that..

Friday, July 15, 2011

Uses and Abuses of the Corset 1909..

From the Delineator, 1909.. Charlotte C. West MD

"Throw that into the furnace when you get home," was the invariable comment of a noted medical man, as with disdainful gesture he indicated the corset of each clinical patient who was presented to him for examination, at the same time casting a sidelong glance of disapproval a this woman assistant, who was always well corseted.

The woman physician worked along silently in the clinic until an opportunity enabled her to show one of the patients that her condition, gastroposis or falling of the intestines and stomach, was caused by the improper use of her corset.

"But I can't do without my corset," wailed the patient.
"The improper use, not the use of it,"answered the woman doctor.

The male doctor suggested the woman doctor write up the subject of the corset from a medical point of view.

...How long have women worn some form of garment such as that now termed a corset? For centuries. So is it reasonable to assert that an article of apparel which has for centuries withstood the shafts of ridicule, possesses some extraordinary virtue and has not been dependent upon vanity for its survival through the ages.

In man, because of the erect posture, the abdomen is undoubtedly the most vulnerable portion of the body, and all are agreed that its natural supports are an insufficient protection for the organs which they cover. What happens:A gradual shifting of the stomach, liver or kidneys from their moorings, they descend, gravitate toward the lower abdominal zone.

Physicians who have made a study of such conditions find that many cases of neurasthenia, irritable spine, chronic headache, backache, are due to prolapsed abdominal organs and can be corrected, not by surgery, but by properly fitted articial supports.

With a properly fitted corset, one unconsciously assumes the ideally erect posture. Every corset and every abdominal supporter should encircle the upper thighs and pelvis, and be fitted upon the person who is to wear it... Metchnikoff, the geat biologist, in his "Prolongation of Life" shows that women live longer than men, and this irrespective of station or race and since women from every walk of life wear some kind of corset, it is not fair to presume that it is has not been an agency for harm? On the contrary, who can say that he longevity of women may not be dependent upon the beneficient effect of the much maligned corset."

Well, some pretty silly arguments. Corsets served a number of purposes. They made the boobs and hips seem larger (which men apparently like). And according to one academic, while corsets for men were a great equalizer, women's corsets set them up for competition one against the other. Well, that's nothing new.

But, remember, Protestantism was all about self-control. A corset meant you were in control, not a 'loose woman' literally. Here's a little thing I found in a 1893 Montreal Witness, the evangelical newspaper the Nicholsons read:

The corset (may its shadow never be less) is the root of morality, self-respect and health. It braces up the moral energies as much as it does the physical; many a slatternly Blowsabella that we see lurching along the pavement in a slum would take an entirely different view of life; and its responsibilities if she were put into a properly built corset.

But the corset had to go: women were out working, moving about in offices and running for the tram. And then came a Huge War, killing so many young men, so women had to shake their booty to get the attention of the few eligible men out there. The Flapper Era!

But don't make fun of great great-grandma. Women are fed similar nonsense today....We're fatter than ever, because of our sedentary lifestyle and atrocious diets and yet the media sets up super skinny girl/women as 'ideals.' And all that Pilates!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My 1909 September Delineator Meets "The Girls:

My new Delineator Cover between "The Girls"... Coincidentally, this cover, which I almost ruined by dropping two sided tape on it, goes PERFECTLY with my Thomas Forester Vases, especially since the fake flowers I have in them match the flowers in the model's hats.

Not only that, but the vases are from around the same time, I imagine.

The cover is signed and dated... Klimx??? Paris 09. Oh, I found it on Carl Kleinschmidt

1909 Delineator Magazine

From the Delineator Magazine, September 1909.

I purchased another Delineator Magazine, at great cost, because it had an article on the Corset: It's uses and abuses.

I thought it would be useful for my story Edith in the City. I'm guessing Edith saw this magazine, or at least perused in on the stands.

Now, the Delineator is a magazine which has been forgotten by History. The Wikipedia entry on it says only that it was a fashion magazine, but it was much more than that.

A few scholars have written it up in journals, but no scholars have analyzed the Delineator, to the extent that they've deconstructed The Ladies' Home Journal. I believe there are two giant studies on that magazine, neither of which I have read. Although I probably should.

The Delineator, in 1909, was being edited by Theodore Dreiser, the novelist who penned Sister Carrie in 1900 or so. His name is not mentioned on the masthead. Hmm. They had offices in Toronto and Winnipeg, but not Montreal.

I wonder if Dreiser penned the editorial for this edition, which addressed the decline in church attendance in the US.

"Is it is true that the people of the United States have ceased to be a church-going nation of which our Puritan forefathers would be proud? For the last twenty years - ever since the bicycle and apparently harmless outdoors sports began to lure armies of men, women, and children out of doors, until to-day, when the automobile and golf entices tens of thosuands, there has been an increasing tolerance of Sunday amusements and what appears to be a corresponding indifference to denominational affliations. (The editorial goes on to say that the Delineator is to run a series called "What is the matter with the churches."

I was just discussing this at lunch with my husband. His Aunt Edie and the Edith of my story was employed in 1909 at French Methodist Institute in Westmount, a missionary school. According to Preparing the Way, a book by Principal Paul Villard of the school, one of the most difficult tasks teachers of the school had was to keep Catholic children quiet on the Sabbath. Villard tells of how many a game of ball behind doors has had to be broken up at the boarding school.


As I explained to my husband, in 1908 Canada passed the Lord's Day Act, forcing people to have the day off from Saturday noon to Sunday noon. This act was pushed through by Conservative Prebyterians and Labour, an unholy alliance, as it were.

Of course, if you give people the day off, they want something to do. Maybe Presbyterians like Edith were trained to restrain themselves on the Lord's Day, but Catholics liked to have fun, let off steam on Sunday. (According to Villard, one of his students convinced his parents not to drink and play cards on Sunday.)

That's the reason the Ouimetoscope and about half of the Nickelodeons in Montreal stayed open on the Lord's Day. As Monsieur Ouimet later said. "It was my biggest day."

I will have fun with this, when Edith meets Miss Gouin, the vivacious French Canadian shopgirl of my first story, Threshold Girl about Flora Nicholson.

Of course, practical Marion Nicholson, didn't respect the Sabbath. She says so in a letter. In her story, I'll have her go out to plays and such on Saturday Night.

Edith Nicholson and Elizabeth Arden Meet!!

My bottle of Fifth Avenue. I got it at Christmas but gave it away as my husband is allergic to perfume.

As I plot out Edith's Story (tentatively called Edith in the City) and as I try to figure out why Edith got so mad at Dr. Villard at French Methodist, I have already decided to include a chance encounter with Florence Nightingale Graham, the Canadian from Woodbridge, Ontario who moved to New York in around 1908 (must check) to become Elizabeth Arden.

She was born in 1884, the same year as Edith. And she started out as a nurse. I'll have her joke that you don't have to become a nurse just because you are named after one.. and she'll tell Edith that it's not only about choosing the right job at the right time, it's also about choosing the right place. She'll talk about New York and all the jobs for women opening up there. (I have a list of statistics about stenographers in the city from 1910.)

Edith will be looking for work as a stenographer (it will be a flashback) as she took a typing course at St. Francis... So it works out well.

Elizabeth Arden will represent a woman as focused as Marion Nicholson, but with more options, for some reason... because she is willing to take risks.

I have to go find her biographies ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Love and Death - Edith's Story

The Rossmore Hotel Fire, Cornwall 1910.

Well, as I get down to writing Edith's Story (part of the Tighsolas Trilogy)
I once again go over the story of her great loss, her great love.

Charlie Gagne.

This time I look him up in the 1901 census, and he appears to be the son of French Canadian farmers from Weedon.

The father in 65 and the mother 58. He is 17. He appears to be the only surviving son of elderly parents.

Now that is sad, if, as I suspect, he is the Charlie Gagne, Bank of Montreal teller killed in the Rossmore Fire.

Edith's 'unofficial' fiance.

The fire was graphically described in 1910 accounts. According to the New York Times, those who died where employees or boarders, familiar with the hotel, so they took escape routes inside the hotel and died. The others leapt out of windows etc. A cigarette, tossed on a stairwell, is blamed for the fire.

Charlie was a boarder. Why he was there I don't know. Likely subbing at the Bank there. He was normally posted in Levis.

He said in a letter to Edith that he spent most of his time in the Presbyterian Church.... Was he a convert from RC? The 1901 census doesn't include religion, and I can't find his parents on the 1911 census.

Edith first mentions Charlie G in a letter from 1908. She says she heard he is still going to dances in Richmond. She tells her mother he has told her to write to him, so she does. (I guess women had to be invited to contact a man, back then. In 1909, she shows him to her father at the train station. Her father doesn't say what he thinks, according to Marion in a letter to her Mom. Edith also gets bitchy about a friend, Bert Cross, whom she suspects has her own plans to nab the man..(Hmm.) Then he is going to Mexico, and Margaret is worried 'the flirtation' (as she puts it) is over. And then in the fall of 1909 something happens to get them back together because in March 1910, she is heart sick. She says Villard gives her a tonic for her nerves and 'heart' and she is suffering so much from something they are giving her time off from work. That's when she mentions Cornwall.And then he dies. "Why are some allowed to live and other 'good people' taken so early, " Edith laments in a letter.

So her great love was a 27 year old bank clerk, son of French Canadian farmers.

I will have to fashion my story around that.

Converting Catholics to the WAY

French Methodist Institute, corner Staynor and Greene, as depicted in Preparing the Way by Paul Villard.

Well, Preparing the Way explains: French Methodist was an evangelical school.

Edith worked their three years, from 09 to 12, but I am only surmising the 09. No letters exist from her at the period, but she was in Montreal.

The ultimate purpose of the school was to convert French Canadians to Protestantism. There were two prayer sessions a day, one in the morning and one in the evening, and Wednesday Night was a prayer meeting, where a student could give a testimonial.

"Many who entered with a mind full of prejudice and superstition have been so influenced by the Gospel of Christ that their eyes have opened, and they have renounced Romish errors to accept pure Gospel Truth."

"The French Canadians belong to a most bright and intelligent race. As they come under the influence of men and women of lofty and pure Christian character, they soon become transformed adn show the bright side of their personality."

The book gives examples: "A Roman Catholic girl in employ of____, the businessman, went to his office and reported to him that he was in some way being cheated by his own people. Why did you tell me? he asked. "Because," answered the girl, in the school where I attended (French Methodist) I learned how to distinguish right from wrong."

Another story tells how a student, who learned at the Institut that the Sabbath was a day only for quiet talk and prayer, convinced his parents not to drink and play cards on Sunday.

This reminds me of a line from Western Canada magazine, that tells how a girl with immigrant parents, learned to cook at school, and then went home to show her mother how to cook. :) Every mom loves to be told what do to by her kid, especially about how to cook.

Preparing the Way gives the school schedule, a very disciplined agenda, but with daily time for play and Saturday afternoon off. (I have Edith go with Flo to see the suffragette Saturday evening.)

But I still have to figure out why Edith and a few other teachers rebelled in 1912. I see by the Book, that the older girls were the ones who set the tables and did the dishes. Maybe I will have Edith upset at the unfair division of labour, that the girls do more than the boys. Yes, that might be it.

The school will consider this 'part of their education.'

The school took in all level of student, from 12 on, pre-literates and young adults ready to take their Provincial exam.

They taught the same course as regular Academies, like St. Francis. And according to the book, the teachers taught in both English and French. I know from a story on the web, that Edith taught Bible class.

So, without her diploma she did, indeed, teach the same course as other teachers in the Montreal Board.

During the early war years she taught at St. Francis, but only after taking a special 'interim' course at Lachute in the summer. She got a provisionary diploma. And then she gave up teaching, likely because it became absolutely necessary to have a diploma...and this despite her experience. Or she was fed up with the low pay.

She went to work for Sun Life. And she got that job, which she didn't much like, through connections as per usual. Her boss was a neighbour of Marion's in NDG.

I will have Edith drawn to the Montreal Council, not so much for suffrage, but for work issues... And she'll meet Miss Gouin and try to convince her it is still time to go to school.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Protestant vs. Catholic

Edith Nicholson circa 1910

I found Preparing the Way, the book by Paul Villard that discusses Westmount Methodist Institute in far greater detail than the Westmount News article.

I had seen it before, five years ago.

But now, as I embark on Edith's Story, I realize this book is key to explaining it.

Edith's story will focus on her suffrage activism, but during the story she is teaching at this Missionary School in Westmount.

She is teaching there when she loses her fiance in a fire and Paul Villard, a doctor, gives her a 'heart tonic' -I assume something laced with Opium.

Preparing the Way explains every aspect of the curriculum and even gives the kid's schedule.

What will her story be? Will she try to convert Miss Gouin? The Roman Catholic, who likes to have fun...Yes, maybe she will meet Miss Gouin at a meeting... Hmm.

Preparing the Way is all about converting Catholics, who like to have fun, even on Sunday....

Of course, in 1912, Edith becomes very angy with Paul Villard but there are no details given. Preparing the Way goes to great length to show that everyone lives in harmony at the school, the pupils, and the teachers.


I have to take a wild guess about what irks Edith... Is it about Presbyterianism vs. Methodism or is it about workload vs. pay.

Edith seems to think the Board would be upset if they knew the truth.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Threshold Girl: Chapter 1 (a) Draft1

A Real Good Story of 1927

Mary Hardy Fair Wells, my husband's grandmother. In the twenties

Well, I'm taking a break from the first draft of Threshold Girl, my story about Flora Nicholson in 1911, and the best way to do that is NOT to start working on Edith's story, because that only serves to give me more ideas for Flo's story.

So, I've turned my attention to Milk and Water....and the more I look into it, the more I see a TERRIFIC story here, in the style of a BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play. (I wonder if Alison Hindell is still the head of BBC Radio 4 Drama? Or is it Caroline Raphael? She was a Commissioning Editor...No, I checked, it is Jeremy Howe. But I'm not sure if they take Canadian submissions: their mandate is to promote UK playwrights. And the CBC has NOTHING.)

The Montreal typhoid epidemic of 1927 was truly an historic event, one that changed the way the city of Montreal dealt with public health. It was a huge story elsewhere, too, which was very bad for Montreal's public image, especially when it came to the US. Montreal was a favorite vacation spot for Americans.

That is a pre-requisite for a story like mine.... I have to bring to light an historic event that has relevance today, and, BOY, does it have relevance, considering that the world's fresh water supply is dwindling, big time. And considering all the nonsense relating to Green Marketing. All the bait and switch. My husband's grandfather Thomas Wells, used all the modern advertising (see fear) techniques to sell his bottled water, never quite saying the truth, and never quite lying.

And, of course, The Prince of Wales really did visit Montreal in 1927 and he really did like partying with Mayor Mederic Martin, my grandfather's boss. So that helps too.

And, I just found out, my grandfather really was directly involved with the Montreal water problem. I knew, as Director of City Services, this was likely to be the case, but I had no hard proof.

My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, was somehow forced to be a member of the Montreal Improvement League and I have a newspaper report where that group brings in 'an expert' to explain how Montreal water was purer than pure.

So, here, I have my Roman Catholic French Canadian grandfather having to work with those Presbyterian and Methodist do-gooder types. I can think of sooooo many good lines already.

I also want a reason to juxtapose the images of May Hardy Fair and my grandmother. My grandmother was the ideal woman of the 1900's and May was the ideal woman of the 1920's.

And since May was a bossy loudmouth American with a tall pencil thin body that she used to good effect showing off the latest 20's styles, I have to get a funny line in there somewhere...that brings to mind Mrs. Simpson.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Milk and Water

Crepeaus around 1927

Wellses around 1927

Well, as I let my first draft of Threshold Girl sit for a while, I got to researching Edith's story, the Westmount Story.

But a bit in the Westmount News about a run away Laurentian Horse cart got to me thinking... I plan to write a story, Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927, when there's a typhoid epidemic.

I intend to cross the stories of my grandmother, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services and my husband's grandfather, Thomas Wells, President of Laurentian Spring.

I figured I'd write if AFTER I've finished the Tigsholas Trilogy...

Then, thanks to Andrew Collard's book about Old Montreal, I found the link...David, the Prince of Wales.

I've figured out the plot and now all I have to do is a little more research... but not even that much.

I want to write it in the style of some of the Radio Four Afternoon Plays I've heard over the past 5 years.

I'll write in in dramedy style... My grandfather and my husband's grandfather are going to be thrown together and they'll have a two solitudes style conversation, that will work on a couple of levels.

Three Steps Forward, One Back

A picture of Edith with very possibly staff from Westmount Methodist Institut. Myabe Yvonne Villard is there.

Well, five steps forward, one step back.

I wasn't finding much online about Westmount Methodist, so lucky, I thought, for the Preparing the Way document by Paul Villard. Only a few copies of this little pamphlett remain in existence, one supposedly at McGill and one copy at Westmount Library. And his other book, Up to the Light, contains only a bit on the Institut -because I found a French webpage that said as much.

I decided to check the Gazette archives and didn't find much either, just a few graduation notices... and a strange article from 1960's, about the actress Madeleine Sherwood, the Mother Superior, I think, in the television show The Flying Nun and also that very bitchy pitch-perfect Sister Woman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of the movies that should have won Best Picture but didn't. (Did she play the same character on Broadway?)

It seems this Montreal-born actress's grandfather was a certain McGill Prof, Paul Villard, who was also an MD and a preacher.

Could it be the same Paul Villard. I couldn't be sure, until I found an article in the 1911 (YES) Westmount News about The Institut that claimed this Paul Villard was a doctor, too.

Too much of a coincidence. I couldn't be 100 percent sure, until I found a bio for Ms. Sherwood that claimed her Mom was named Yvonne.

Well, that nailed it.

The Westmount News was so useful. I discovered a great deal of useful information for my first draft of Threshold Girl, the new title for Flo in the City.

The Horse Show was in early May at THE ARENA in Westmount. So I have to fix that. Westmount Park wasn't referred to as Victoria Jubilee Park anymore, but The Westmount Park. So there, I have to change it back to what I had.

And there wasn't a tram on Sherbrooke,not until 1913, like I had supposed. The St Catherine tram was cramped and crowded.

And the Merry Widow wasn't playing (well, I knew that ) but Brewster's Millions was. The Westmount News goes into great detail about What' s On at the Orpheum and Princess... And in 1911, Sir Wilfrid bought some land in Westmount for his wife. And there wasn't much crime in the city, (well, I saw that from the Yearbook) but a lot of 'car' accidents. The trouble is, 'cars' could be motorcars or tramcars.

And they were showing Kinecoloured films of the Coronation at the Princess.. with realistic colours.. so they wrote. So maybe I will have Marion go to this, instead of the same Somner Park show that Edith went to.

And one tidbit I will put in my story: a Laurentian Water horse ran amok in Westmount. Well, I write about runaway horses, in my story and Laurentian water was owned by my husband's relations on the other side. I think I will have Flo and Edith witness this!! I want to put a bit about Laurentian in Marion's story anyway. (Here's a quote about the need for a children's library in Westmount: "Pure water, effective drainage, fine sidewalks,beautiful parks, and the annexation of profitable lands are material things worth striving for, but the things of the mind, things that build charcter should not be overlooked,these build for time and eternity. It was a wise Jesuit who said, "Give me the first 7 years of a child's life, and you can take the rest." (This quote is similar to my "healthy home" quote at the beginning of Threshold Girl.") Intellectual, physical and MORAL health were considered ONE AND THE SAME THING in 1910.)

But I also discovered something that messes me up a bit. In the article about Westmount Methodiste, Villard writes that Academy I graduates can enter the Model Course at Macdonald. Hmm. So that means Flora wasn't in Academy III but Academy II, as she just took one year of the course.

I guess I have to change that. I wonder why Edith didn't take the course, money I guess. Just like so many people, she didn't have enough money to take off a year and to go school.

Oh, and another thing I read, wedding announcements in Westmount tended to describe the weddings as 'quiet.' Many of them. I figure this is to appease those who were not invited..

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A signed George Eliot edition of Middlemarch?

Edith's 1884 copy of Middle March, signed by the author ont he outside :) and signed by Edie inside. (So my title is correct, even if it is Tabloid style.)

E Nicholson 1930, is written inside in pencil So she got the book, part of a set, when it was 50 years old... oh, and so was she as she was born in 1884.

Hmm. I wonder (and I just thought of this) is she got it as a 50th birthday present.

Very likely. And that goes to show you what kind of person she Edie was.

Well, I didn't work on the novel Threshold Girl, because it's a beautiful summer day, not too hot, not too humid, so I thought I'd go back into Montreal, and visit the Westmount Library to photocopy their version of Preparing the Way, the book Principal Villard wrote about Westmount Methodiste. I had a photo copy, from my first visit six years ago, but I threw it out. And now I know I need it in order to write the Edith story...

And there are only a few copies of this in existence, one at McGill, but it's on microfice and who knows if it is still there.

It's a not a part of history anyone is proud of. I swear I saw a copy on, but if it was there it got taken off. Or maybe it was

But I don't have it on my puter, so maybe I am remembering wrong.

The problem is, driving in Montreal this summer is a nightmare, even worse than usual. So it's better that I take a train, someday next week.

Anyway, this book is just about the oldest thing I have belonging to the Nicholsons, although they didn't have it in 1884. I do have a letter from 1879, very hard to read... a love note to Margaret, but by a girl, I think.

Oddly, I have never read Middlemarch, at least not all the way through. Dunno why. Maybe, in honor of Edith, I will read her edition.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Flowering of Womanhood

My 1906 Ladies' Home Journal Girl.


Yesterday, I watched the final 4 or 5 episodes of series 3 of Upstairs Downstairs.

I can see why that year the series won the Emmy for best Drama.

The stories are more polished than in the first two years.

It's so weird. 4o years later, I'm discovering this famous television series, after having spent 5 years researching the 1908-1913 period from a Canadian point of view.

Perhaps had I been familiar with the series, and already known about the era of Model T's and suffragettes, I wouldn't have been as interested in researching the background to the Nicholson Family letters...

As it was, I knew nothing about the era and started from scratch and then waited until I was well-informed to watch this series that is ALL about 1908-1913 and makes a effort to be historically correct. In fact, these 3rd series episodes are a bit weighed down by efforts to teach history. Lord Bellamy's speeches, anyway.

But the fashions are spot on. The series didn't spend much on sets, but it made up for it in fashion. I will certainly go back over the series and take a closer look at Lady Bellamy's hats, etc.

Anyway, I've reached a point in my draft of Flo in the City, where I want to expound on the Presbyterian thing. Light in Dark Places... That's the 1910 book or "Sex Manual" that was so popular in Canada.

I inlcluded the Gertrude Atherton "Threshold Girl" quote in the book, where she describes 'teenage' girls as being confused by the sex drive and their female role... which is good, but I have to put it in context by describing the Presbyterian mindset. I want to do this fairly and honestly.

Oddly, I recently framed a 1906 Ladies Home Journal Cover and mounted it on the mantle and as I look at it I think: "That picture captures something of what I want to say."

At first glance the viewer gets the sense that the girl on the cover is a pretty Puritan, what with herperfect posture, her book held at just the right distance from her face. (I open Flo in the City with Flora studying in a reed rocker, with her feet up on the chair.) But the girl on the cover glancing at the viewer.. hmm. and that bonnet! At second glance it is very sensual. Isn't it?

This was not uncommon for covers of the Ladies' Home Journal. I found another, which I posted on my Tighsolas website, at that is very suggestive. I think, anyway.

Or maybe a braid is just a braid and a bonnet is just a bonnet. But it can't be denied: on Magazine covers of the time, young women are either gazing at blooms or wearing hats that look like blooms.

Anyway, must get to it. I am writing a story about 1910 'teachers' - how to make it 'sexy'..hmm. Marion's story is easier, as she is 'courting' and she broke a lot of rules. I have already decided to have her see the snake wrestling man in Dominion Park..

Monday, July 4, 2011

God of War, Goddess of Love

Kate in Quebec. Apparently, a British expat has just talked to her about starting a family. My gosh, where are his manners? At least you can't blame the Quebec school system.

Well yesterday, Kate Middleton __ (what is her full name?) or the Duchess of Cambridge and her husband, William, spent an edgy day in Montreal, what with the well-wishers a bit thin and the separatists singing songs of protests.

I'm sure there would have been many more well-wishers, except Montrealers are well-trained. We know,even, that displaying a Canadian flag on Canada day is kind of iffy business.

Anyway, a stop on their tour was at the school for cooks, at the Institut de tourisme et d'hotellerie du Quebec, which has no English name. The day before CTV news, local edition, the one we used to call Pulse, had a feature on the preparations for the big visit at said culinary school and they showed all the super fancy desserts being prepared for the couple.

Of course, it is a little ironic. Kate likely doesn't eat dessert. She likely has to pull a Jackie Kennedy in that regard. I once read that Jackie was always presented with a complimentary dessert when she ate out and all she did was dip her fork in it, touch the fork to her lips and say something like, "Lovely."

Sort of like what I do, before I eat 3 helpings.

Anyway, as a deconstructor of all things media, I recogized that this stop, this PR event, has a purpose, as do all the events on the tour.

And that purpose isn't just to promote the Institut, which is located right downtown on St. Denis, and not somewhere I would have brought the Royals, since that area is,well, ugly and being dug up big time.

No, I'm sure the visit, at least on the part of Will and Kate, was to promote cooking in England. In England they are really worried about the deskilling of their population. I read they even re-introduced cooking classes in schools, or, were at least, thinking about it. You can thank Jamie Oliver for a lot of this awareness.

Of course every stop, every event on the trip has a purpose. I see Will as The God of War, and Kate as representing the Goddess of Love/Beauty which is why they visited Veterans and thanked the Van Doos and why they planted a tree of LOVE.

The entire trip appears about cementing MARTIAL bonds. Of course, this is what is meant when the Brits talk about their special relation with the US. I guess they want a special relationship with Canada too.

Just like when Williams Great Great Grandfather, the Prince of Wales and future George V, (otherwise known as Colin Firth's dad) visited Quebec in 1908, for the tercentenary celebrations, arriving aboard a glittering battleship without his wife, Alexandra, this Royal visit seems to me about promoting cooperation should Britain need to start (another) war.

Oh, and about selling magazines.

(Margaret Nicholson attended the celebration which featured a pagent in era dress featuring Henry IV's court, Jacques Cartier and naked natives (parts played by citizens) as well as a spectacular military review on the Plains of Abraham and (which was in prep for the coming World War to end all wars, I guess) and I've written a lot about these celebrations, on this blog. These particular celebrations have been written out of history and I can only guess why. (Were it not for the Internet, I probably never would have figured out why Margaret went to Quebec to 'see the Prince.')

That's how I read it.

And that's why Prince Charles and Camilla aren't useful anymore as icons. He's not Aries; he's more the God of puttering in the garden and sustainable agricultural (which is probably more important to the future of the human race than fighting over oil and resources, but hey.) And I don't think I need to mention that Camilla is not Aphrodite, either. She certainly doesn't sell magazines, or media time, as does the photogenic and preternaturally lithe Kate.

This visit to the Montreal cooking school unintentionally provoked the least complimentary media line of the Royal visit I've heard so far. And it had nothing to do with separatists. The cook who supervised the PR event, where William and Kate were taught how to cook a souffle, was asked a number of questions, in an interview on CTV. "Was the lesson a success?" "Yes," said the sober serious and likely camera-nervous head cook "The souffle rose one and half inches." Well, that is better than if didn't rise at all, which is rumoured to have been the case with General Douglas MacArthur's souffles.

Friday, July 1, 2011

100 Years Ago 1911....Coronation Day.

Perth, such a pretty Heritage Town, it could be England. But Kate and Wills aren't going there.

Well, we spent a few days west of Ottawa on a lake, nearish Perth, a place without cell coverage, visiting my sister in law, the granddaughter of Marion Nicholson, who wrote the letter below, almost 100 years ago to the day.

As it happened, Marion N. talks of a visit to Hudson, near where I now live, and where my kids grew up.

It's Canada Day, July 1, 2011, and we didn't stop in Ottawa on the way back, because we knew the crowds would be too crazy, what with the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Of course, back then, they'd just had the Coronation of, hmmm, let's see, Wills' great great grandfather...George V, Colin Firth's Dad.

Well, 100 years to the day, and I have finished my first draft of Flo in the City, posted at

I'm going to print it out and think about things for a while. Maybe I'll listen to some dramatizations on BBC Radio 4, or some readings of Zola of or finish my Sentimental Education, to clear my head and put nice rhythms in my head.
Hmm. I didn't put anything about the Opera House and Lorne Elwyn. Someone was looking up Lorne Elwyn a few days ago and found this blog.

June 28, 1911
Richmond Quebec

Dear Father,

Your will see by the heading where I am. I only got here Monday evening for I went to Hudson with the Fields' and had a fine time. They have a cottage by the lakeside and they also have a motor boat where I spent most of my time.

Then one of the men there had a yacht and he took us for a sail from Hudson to Ste. Anne's and back and after all I find Richmond quite a nice place although it looks queer without a station.

Did I tell you that we really have got an increase of salary for next year so that I will be getting $650 next year and they have given me the next class on my way to the top so that my work I hope will be easier.

The next time you see me you will find me sporting a pair of glasses. I had Dr. Byers examine my eyes and he said that I should wear them all the time but I find that very hard to do and a great deal of the time they stay in their case.

Mother, Edith and Flora have gone to our opera house to hear the famous Lorne Elwyn and I am keeping house with Floss for protection from the tramps. Last night Dr. Skinner took us for a ride from Corris nearly to Trenholmville. It was great and the first time I have been cool for a week.

Since I have not been here very long I have not any Richmond news so will close for this time.