Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Shoemaker and the Aquifer


Bottled water on an assembly line, circa 1986. In those days this constituted a news story.

These images are captured from a Newswatch Montreal report from that era, made on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of  the founding of the landmark company Laurentian Spring Water.


It was a family business and my father-on-law was a shareholder. His father, Thomas Gavine Wells, or Fuddy, had once been the President.

I write about it all in Milk and Water- Scandal, lies and covers up in Jazz Age Montreal, a play about the Two Solitudes in exciting, sleazy 1927. David, the Prince of Wales figures in my story.

Here are more pictures:



It didn't make for the most exciting news item: an assembly line and a talking head, the current GM discussing the History of Laurentian. (The company was soon sold to Labrador.)

He said that the company was founded when a certain Shoe Manufacturer, Mr. White, found a wonderful water supply under his business on Craig Street. 250 feet down. Fresh water from a 5000 year old aquifer fed (he said) by underground springs from the Laurentians.

He said White used horses to drill down into the earth.

In the 80's there were two wells, one 250 feet down, one 500 feet down.

My story, Milk and Water, shows that Montreal Island had many such aquifers.  Laurentian claimed their water was the PUREST (a VERY important concept in 1910) and they had the scientists from Macdonald College test it.



The Laurentian Advertising in the 1910 era played up the typhoid epidemics, although my father-in-law claimed the company gave away free water to anyone who could cart it away during the epidemic in 1909. Whoops, the Laurentian GM was quoted as saying that water cost 4 cents a gallon back then but it cost 4 cents a half-gallon.


White was Fuddy's Uncle and he had a 'ner-do-well for a son so he brought Fuddy in. Fuddy had the gift for the gab, I think.

He started out as an accountant, so the 1901 Census says. By 1911 he was GM making 7,000  a year, a lot of money.

By the 1920's he was member of many prestigious clubs, St-George's etc.

He played lawn-bowling and curling... all in the name of the big schmooze. Actually, he was athletic and enjoyed the games.
A water fountain at Place Ville Marie. Downtown. In 1911, Craig Street was downtown.

Now, the man interviewed on the CBC for this item said something very interesting with respect to my Milk and Water story. 

He said the company started off selling to private homes. (typhoid!) and by 1980's they were only supplying office water coolers, but were thinking of supplying homes once again.

See, something was happening here. We had no typhoid or cholera epidemic in the 1980's and Walkerton came a decade later.

It was all about finding new markets.

And then that myth got started that everyone needs 8 glasses of water a day. Lots of B.S. An urban myth...

A scientist at Dartmouth has conducted two huge studies to investigate the myth and he says there is no basis for it. That seems obvious to me, as everyone has a different metabolism and different physical make-up, and the weather changes dramatically, and a person's degree of exertion can go from marathoning to meditating.

Meanwhile, the oceans fill up with plastic water bottles.




Milk and Water tells the story of 1927 Montreal when there was a typhoid epidemic caused by milk.

It's a given, these days, that we provide fresh clean water to everyone, but that's only because typhoid and cholera do not discriminate between rich and poor, although the poor get socked harder, of course