Sunday, March 10, 2013

Jack Layton, CBC History, and Out of the Way Places


An experimental modern home being built on Rigaud Mountain. Out of the way places attract innovators - and people wanting to hide from civilization.

Tonight is the night they are airing the Jack Layton Biopic on CBC and I don't know if I will watch it. Almost 30 years ago I moved to the town and area he grew up in and I still hate it. I hate suburbs or exburbs as this area would be called.  I'm a city gal. Montreal West would do me fine, or even better, Greenwich Village.

My husband says this Layton biopic proves the CBC still produces History programs.

 I am trying to get a story produced about the Montreal Suffragists and the Conscription Crisis, a follow up to Threshold Girl and Diary of  a Spinster and I've been told by people in the industry that no one in Canada produces REAL HISTORY anymore, just cheap documentaries about ancient aliens, etc.

Yesterday, Saturday, was the first sunny day in ages so I wanted to go for a drive, but where?   Up North to Mont Tremblant seemed a good idea at first, but then I figured that popular place would be packed with Spring Skiiers. And going to Messina, a bleak town across the border in New York, didn't seem right, not to celebrate the sun.  That's a place you go for cheap cheese and Native casino gambling.

I had already cancelled a Thursday trip to Lake Placid, a beautiful resort town, as they had predicted a huge snowstorm on Thursday, a prediction they have since taken back. But that place is too far for a day drive.

So where to go?  The question remained. I drove to St. Anne de Bellevue and walked the front of the John Abbott Campus and took some footage of the main building. This campus is where Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl went to school in 1911/12. She was studying to become a teacher..

Beautiful old buildings built in 1907 on the waterfront...As an agricultural school for men and Homemaking School for women. This campus was part of the Macdonald Robertson Back to the Land movement.

When I returned  my husband and I went to a local restaurant (but one we seldom go to, one that serves the horsey set) and then we took a drive around Rigaud Mountain and Mountain Ranches.

Not quite the Green Mountains, but hey.

We had the restaurant all to ourselves at 3 o'clock until a group of riders came in and took the table right beside us.  (The jodpurs give them away.)

They were Montrealers in their late teens and from the same school. I had no choice but to listen to their conversation. Oh, and they had a pretty friend, who looked like a slut, or porn star, apparently. A bit of a prima donna -but not when you got her alone. Then she was nice.

Ah kids! It's always an education to listen in on their conversations. Of course they were all texting away too as they talked.

Now Mountain Ranches is famous for one thing. It's the place where Charlie Wilson of Britain's 1963 Great Train Robbery lived for a while and where he was arrested. The mastermind of the robbery died last week. Wilson died in 1990, done in my a hit man in Spain.


Jack Layton Park in Hudson. Created last year. I wonder if the trees lived through the winter. They were struggling last summer in the drought.
Rigaud Mountain, secluded by trees in summer and snow in winter.

My husband, a local boy, remembers the daughter being spirited away in the middle of class one day.

This Charlie Wilson changed his name to Alloway and moved to the area in 1963, after escaping prison, probably because it was out of the way while still being near civilization. And it's no different today.

He had the first lot in Mountain Ranches, according to some online sources and my husband seems to think he was friends with a man who was the Hudson Mayor for a while.

The entire area back then was very British, a British Enclave. In my husband's day you'd hear more British accents than French Canadian ones.  Horsey set you see. A local  girl I went to college with called them the Mink and Manure set.

(But I rode horses in Ste. Lazare in the 1960's (because my father, an accountant, had a client was too poor to pay up and so paid his bills in kind, with riding lessons for me.)

Yes, many of the horsey set were snobs, but just as many were kind and nice and like my father's client, not rich at all.

That's why Hudson has always been a target of the Office de la Langue Francaise or tongue troopers or their patriotic 'citizen-patrollers.'

 That's why the names of the shops around here are often ridiculous. Ye Olde Curiosité Shoppe.

Today we have an NDP Member of Parliament and the NDP see no problem with the new language laws. Pastagate being an exception, I assume.

Everyone in the area back then liked the Alloways...apparently. The locals petitioned the government to allow the family to stay in Canada after his arrest in 1968. Everyone admires a successful crook. (Hey a man died in the robbery, but they never meant for it to happen.)

I learned from a quick trip online that the wife got 250.000 dollars for telling her story to the press And she knew all along he was a thief!  Pretty good deal, I'd say. A quarter of a million dollars in 1967!

I found her story in the 1968  Calgary Herald. Apparently upon moving to the area they lived in Hudson Heights, the center of the town, but then bought that out-of-the-way lot.

Rigaud Mountain has many homes today, but the place is still pretty secluded. And the ritzier section there still has lots of trees and plenty of dead end streets and surveillance cameras and Beware of the Dog signs.

I've been told that in my area there are many large estates totally hidden away from view.

Anyway, a few years ago, clearing out my father in law's house (in Hudson Heights) I found a bunch of Yearbooks from Hudson High and found the one for 1967, Centennial Year and discovered that Jack Layton was graduating and he had been head of the Student Union and his goal was to be Prime Minster.

Close enough. Closer than me, that's for sure.

In my high school yearbook, my ambition was to  be a playwright living in Soho, New York.