Monday, June 11, 2012

Dominion Park, Dionne Quintuplets and

An ad for the Dionne Quintuplets in Marie Claire's fourth issue, 1937. Before the sad story of Octomom there was the sad story of the Dionne's.

I guess if you have four others exactly like you, you are not lonely. Actually, these poor children were horribly exploited - by the State! Or Province of Ontario.

An Ope Ed in this morning's New York Times mentioned this other article  Is Facebook Making Us Lonely from a recent the Atlantic Monthly.

This Atlantic Monthly piece is an excellent one and it is very relevant to  my ebooks about women in 1910 Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Biology and Ambition, because if my books point out anything, it's how important family, friends and connections were one hundred years ago!

The ebooks are based on family letters belonging to the Nicholsons of Richmond, a very respectable middle class family that had fallen on hard times. Without their friends they would have fallen into a great big black hole and never come out.

Anyway, Dominion Park the thrill park, opened in 1906 in the East End of Montreal, and that place figures in the story. Herbert Nicholson visited it in the first or second day it opened. I have a letter.

June 3, 1906

Dear Flora,

I suppose you have to be careful how you speak now that you are living with a model school teacher. I have not much news to give. I was down at Dominion Park last night. This is the new one that you may have heard so much about, or at least read so much about. Well, there is everything that you have ever heard of in your life.  They take you way up on a slide and then slide you down in a boat into a little lake made just for the purpose. And then they have a railroad that goes down and up hill and around curves and through all kinds of places so fast that you loose your breath.  Then there are other places where the stairs move and the wind blows and the floor jumps and I couldn’t tell you what all things do happen. There is a place where you loose yourself and then places where the looking glasses show you every way but the way they should. There are lots of other things, too, that I saw and many more I did not see.

I will tell you more about it when I see you,

 Love, Herb.

I know how he must have felt. My brothers and I visited Expo67 the second day it was open, the Sunday, which ended up being the busiest day of the World's Fair. I can remember my first sight of it upon leaving the metro station! All the green flags and the crush of humanity.

Dominion Park was instantly successful, all those young workers in the city needed a place to recreate. The Montreal Gazette had only a short article on the opening, and not some HUGE feature, so I imagine they didn't think much of the place. Montreal had a few other smaller parks for having a good time.

Dominion Park was the biggest. It had pavilions, rides, novelty acts, trained lions, acrobats, bands, the works. And one odd exhibit, the infant incubator exhibit, where real 'premature' babies were shown being cared for with these new oxygenated incubators.

Marion Nicholson visited Dominion Park in September 1908, a few weeks after she first moved to the City to work as a teacher in a city school, Royal Arthur. I use this in my story Biology and Ambition. I read about a novelty act featuring a man wrestling with snakes and put that in too... as a pivotal moment in her life.

Herb Nicholson, right in Dominion Park in the early twenties. Marion and Flora and Hugh, second third and fourth from left.