Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Building, a Man, A Vendetta

Here's a Canadian Press story that is from a press release I wrote way back for a small publishing concern. The article is almost taken verbatim from my press release which is what I had aimed for.

I wanted to be a publicist back then, but there was little call for these skills on the English side in Quebec in the 1990's.

I did well when I got the gig. I often got front page coverage for the little companies I worked for.

Anyway, this little company was Plant and Garden Magazine and it was located in Ste. Anne de Bellevue in the Harpell Building.

Little did I know that when I was walking the halls of that building, begging for a chance to prove myself, I was walking in the footsteps of a man who thoroughly despised my grandfather.

Small world, sort of.

The man's name was Edward Beck and he was a British born, Ontario raised journalist, a man who  came to Montreal at the Turn of the Last Century and worked for the Herald and Star.

Researching my eplay Milk and Water about Montreal City Hall in 1927, which uses my grandfather Jules Crepeau as a main character, I came upon Beck's name in relation to a scandal involving my ole Grandpappa.

I was flipping through my grandfather's official City Hall File when I saw that he was accused of graft in 1914, by one Edward Beck. Beck had set him up, using Burns Detectives and a 'detectophone.' My grandfather, then Assistant City Clerk sued Beck in court and won, 100 dollars (woo woo!) and won back his good name.

Beck had just launched his crime tabloid "Beck's Weekly" and my grandfather's embarrassment was written up, in florid pulp fiction style, in the first  edition.

"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."

In his October 1930 obituary in the Montreal Gazette, the demise of Beck's Weekly is blamed on the war. (I also read that Lord Althostan cut off paper supply to his former editor.)

Hmm. "Withered before the blast of war." I'd say Beck wrote his own obit. And why would he not? He gave up journalism for PR after the War. PR for the Pulp and Paper Association, which had its headquarters in the brand new Harpell Building in Ste. Anne de Bellevue.

J.J. Harpell attended his 1930 funeral.

Now, that October 1930 death date is EXTREMELY significant in that it proves Beck died just a month after my grandfather was forced, by Camillien Houde, to resign his post at City Hall. His post of Director of City Services, the biggest job at Montreal City Hall. 

No doubt Beck died a very happy man.  He was furious when the post of Director of Services was created in 1921, and just for my grandfather.  Why do I say that?

"Montreal is ruled in a business way by a relatively small faction of financiers and business leaders who all live in another city -Westmount and which is ruled by the great French majority who vote a solid French ticket for the City Hall. Thus the people who pay the biggest taxes have little say in the spending of them. It has been with efforts to bring about something better that Sir Herbert has been closely identified with."

This last bit comes from an article in the Financial Post in 1921, a few months before my grandfather took on his new position as Director of Services. Its by-line says "The Make-Up Man" and it is a biography of one Herbert Ames, Montreal Social Activist, who has gone down in History as the Privy Guy.

But the article appears to me an excuse for someone very angry at Montreal City Hall (Beck?) to vent. And the flowery style of the piece suggests very strongly that he wrote the piece.

The Make-up Man complains about cronyism at Montreal City Hall and states that "they even create jobs for themselves.' SIC SIC SIC.

My grandfather, who worked himself up at City Hall, working as a page as a boy, was also a relation of the Forget's, the tram and power and stock market people. According to Census data, Beck was making 3,500 in 1911, the same salary as my grandfather.

Had he been convicted, I wouldn't be here to write this post. Of course, had he sneezed on his way to court, I would't be here either.