Monday, March 02, 2015

Street view rebels, urban trikes, swimming in cold water and more from Montreal

Fab Excavation guy is the new champion of Google Street view Montreal as a reader submitted this fab belly-exposing pose made last summer on Dunver in Crawford Park west Verdun.
   Unlike a Montreal woman who sued Google for showing a too-daring pic of herself, this guy was happy to show off his hairy Molson muscle.
   Before you get too excited, the company is based in Laval so this great model is not likely a Montrealer in the strictest of sense.
This Czech-born Montrealer who came to Upper Lachine via Vancouver likes to swim in the St. Lawrence River in the winter.
   He seems to think swimming in a chilly flow has curative benefits because it reduces inflammation. He reports that he saved someone's dog not long ago who had ventured into the icy waters. He rides his bike to and from NDG to a spot in Verdun to take the plunge. I've told him many times that I'll go down and watch but never never found the time.
Purple-tricycle-riding Greek-Montrealer spotted at Val-U Village yesterday proudly reports that he rides all through the winter, which is quite an accomplishment considering the last two winters have been incrazilably cold here.
Snowdon Theatre needs to be saved. I have started a Facebook group up for those who want to join the effort to stop the ongoing dilapidation of this borough-owned building which housed a gymnastics facility that mostly catered to young girls. (Don't believe it when they tell you that it has been moved elsewhere, the new facilities don't have the necessary amenities made possible at the old locale).

One danger in citizen democracy is that is allows a small gang of 'tards to give the impression of a critical mass by crowding in at council meetings where oblivious councillors are fooled into making hasty and rash decision. As a result, many regular citizens who didn't happen to attend the precious council meeting are saddled with a with a permanent mess they had no say in.
   The renaming of Oxford Park by people friendly with a Caisse Pop manager from 20 years ago was one such disgrace, more so now that a person with the same name - Georges St Pierre - has the same name.      
   Do you really want this park to seem to be named after that guy?
   This guy might be a hero to some but he's an entirely inappropriate person to have on the name of your park as he practices a vicious sport and recently went to bat for a major drug dealer.

As much as it pains me to admit it, the $11 million pledge recently made by Mayor Coderre to spruce up the city's baseball parks doesn't strike me as money well spent. Although I loved playing as a kid, organized baseball is not a very good sport for youngsters.
   Until at least about 12 the pitchers are simply unable to toss a ball over a plate with any accuracy, so batters end up walking, pitchers get stressed and fielders get bored.
  It's not that much for parents either because you can only see the game through a fence which isn't visually satisfying.
  The makeshift coaches are routinely overwhelmed by the size of the teams and never know more than a couple of kids' names. They are prone to making unfair choices, putting some kids on the bench too often, or in in the outfield where no balls ever get hit. In the house level many games are cancelled due to non-attendance. There's a ton of sitting around.
   Meanwhile the competitive league is way too intense, a kiddie boot camp, far too demanding.
   Also, tossing money at people to re-make parks can end up in disaster as we saw with the basketball court at Oxford Park which replaced 14,000 square feet of grass with mostly-unused concrete.
   Adult baseball/softball is pretty great though.
   I played in regular weekend pick-up softball games at the park at Laurier and St. Dump on the Plateau in the 90s and the facilities weren't great. The wooden stands were so rotten that somebody named Christina Stockwood called the city to ask them to fix them. Instead they were simply removed. The facility has been transformed into a soccer field. How depressing is that. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

Swastika Ave in the heart of downtown Montreal

Swastika Ave. is still with us here in the heart of Montreal.
   The tiny laneway sits behind the highrise at Ste. Famille and Sherbrooke and was renamed Ste. Famille Lane, or Place Ste. Famille.
   The name was not considered controversial until the Nazi movement appropriated the ancient lucky symbol and 1933-34 was the last year it was known by that name.
   St. Lawrence Alderman Bernard Schwartz ruled the area as municipal rep during those years and one would imagine that he had something to do with the name change, as seen in his quip where he describes the laneway as being infested with rats

Life off Centre in the Point

  How awkward is Centre St in the Point?
   Correct answer: Pretty much awkward yeah.
  Perhaps no better instant portrait as this scene where a pair on Jardin are caught wandering with nowhere special to go.
   The woman defies Google street view car ogling protocol by stopping in her tracks while the man Sullivan St which is in truth is just a short laneway and deserves no such title.
walks stops and starts back towards
    I think long ago the entrance to a boxing gym was once down that Sullivan St. laneway but I'd be ok if they just took the sign down because maybe it's confusing that pajama pant guy.
  Meanwhile up on the strip snooty cafes have sprouted up where obsessive compulsive chefs spend hours getting the placement of a mint leaf just right.
  The only real rootsy (ie: semi badass old time) spot on that part of the high street is the Griffin Bar where a murder was committed in front of several witnesses a couple of years back but the killer went unapprehended nonetheless.

House of misfortune, Basin street home of tragedy

Good ol' Basin street where big dreams go to get crushed. It's a typical Griffintown street: once inhabited by working class Irish, then turned into warehouses and now at the centre of massive condo development. The street sits parallel the Lachine Canal in the Western Griff just south of downtown Montreal.
   One house in particular attracted its share of bad luck. The house, long demolished, was east of Seigneurs, and was home to a recently-arrived Welsh immigrant Thomas Williams who in 1889  murdered his wife Mary Orchard, 28, with a razor and then killed himself, leaving five kids, the youngest being a mere four months. Eight years later at the very same home smallpox hit and the home was fumigated. No word on whether the inhabitants survived. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Montreal's child mayors - how they once ran our parks


Little guys and girls, being the principle stakeholders in the welfare of our local parks, should have a major say in the way those playgrounds and parks are run.
   That insightful vision was enshrined and enforced in Montreal from 1941 to at least 1962 as kids from each park elected their own mayor, aged usually between 10-12 or so.
   In the 1940s about 55,000 kids were eligible to vote in about 100 parks and that total eventually ballooned to 244 in the early 60s.
**caption below
   Add that to countless other mayors in other Montreal-area municipalities, including at least 16 in TMR alone.
   There were actual elections too. Only a small number won by acclamation, for example 14 of 122 were decided without a vote in 1953.
   Montreal's mayor would consult the playground mayors as well, so it wasn't a merely symbolic position either.
   An annual session as held where the kids were involved to urge the mayor to add swimming pools and make other tweaks to parks.
    It's brilliant idea that needs to be revived. We at Coolopolis have noted the absolute disaster that has resulted in the loss of these voices, as representatives have been cynically sacrificing park space in exchange for the promise of votes without giving any thought to the greater interest.
    The ritual also helped the kids learn and participate in the democratic process and showed them that their voices could be heard through that process. McGill's Francine Granner was one of the thousands of kids who served as playground mayors, representing Van Horne Park and considering that there were likely something like 5,000 of these young kids elected, there are undoubtedly many other notables as well.
*  Hochelaga Playground Mayor Serge Leonard with Mayor Jean Drapeau 31/7/62
**In 1951 there were 207 playground mayors and Mayor Camilien Houde is seen welcome Patsy McPolland and Ronald McPolland (left) and Robert Levac and Anita Levac (right) representing Richmond Square and Centre Park respectively.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Massive plywood boxes sprouting up in Montreal - alien invasion imminent?

   Someone asked me recently what that massive wooden box was at the corner of Girouard and St. James.
   I had initially suspected it was some sort of workers hut for those construction apes (Hey! - Chimples) preparing the disastrous impending Turcot Interchange overspending-a-palooza.
   But it appears to be something much larger than that.
   So rather than repeat the scuttlebation heard at the hockey rink, I called the NDG CDN borough to ask and was simply told that I'd have to file an access to information request to know what it is.
   This is an exceedingly legalistic and formal ritual just for a single question I could get answered if I could find a parking spot nearby to ask a worker.

 Often organizations reply to access to information requests via registered letter, which you have to go to a pharmacy to pick up because you're not home when the mailman comes and so forth.
   The NDG requests must be sent to if you're curious.
   So I haven't done so yet because I was hoping somebody here would know why big plywood boxes are suddenly part of the West End streetscape.
   You'll note that a similar big box has been built down the hill at St. Remi 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Young Montreal photographer becomes subject of mother's panicked posts

Halouma, right, seen with singing star Janelle Monnae

A well-known Montreal photographer has found herself at the centre of some passionate invective as her mother has taken over her Facebook page and posted a series of notes expressing grave concern about her daughter's well-being.
    Halouma Gue Garr is a young Spanish woman who is well known in the local music scene, as she treks to just about every hip hop show that hits Montreal and takes photos.
   However she recently left town for Calgary to be with her boyfriend or husband who is here in Canada via one of the Congos.
     The young lady is a very trusting individual and is considered a little vulnerable and as a result her Spanish family is highly-protective.
   There's no verifying whether the unflattering words launched against the young woman's husband or boyfriend on her page would survive scrutiny but her mother has expressed extreme concern about her well-being.
 The mother most recently wrote that Halouma returned to Montreal and was briefly hospitalized.  
 Another unverified report suggests that the young woman said she would return to her boyfriend and that she was released and now cannot be located.
   Bear in mind that the young woman is presumably an independent adult, legally entitled to make her own decisions and her husband or boyfriend has not been accused of any crime that we know of, so we are not condoning or endorsing any suspicion or accusations expressed elsewhere.
  We hope all parties will be fine and find some harmony.

Montreal: Friday photo fun and food for thought

   This is an overlooked but important character in the local criminal scene. He died in the mid 70s of a brain aneurysm. Can anybody name him? Answer: It's "Smiling" Jackie Matticks, considered the mastermind behind the Matticks clan of the West End Gang. He was a brilliant negotiator who knew how to deal with Mafia, bikers and anybody else. He was acquitted of the attempted murder of a bookie in the back seat of a car once, as the witness got squeamish. He died in the mid-70s of a brain aneurysm.

Hilarious moments for pedestrians forced to walk into traffic while crossing Dorch on Pap. And yeah it's been like that all winter.

  Can't stop looking at this historical photo. Is the old lady with the old man? Maybe they're a couple but she can't stand to be near him because he's obviously such a major pain in the neck. I've never met an older goatee-wearing guy like that who wasn't a complete prick. And good luck with the metro booth employee. There's an epic clash about to happen here.
Glitch in a newly-released video game has a Bruins fan giving unlikely tribute to Habs. 
   Winter biking guys!
53 more days until Don Draper meets more Quebecois in-laws on Mad Men.
 Bronze of Camilien Houde at arena named in his honour. Was a hero or bum? Have we decided?
Quebec City will be getting a skyscraper about 50 metres taller than Montreal's tallest. Are we really going to let them do that to us? 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Death of a flat-out Montreal character

Gordon Mianscum, a Cree from Chibougamau who became an oft-seen Montreal character due to his unusual stretcher-style wheelchair in the 80s, has died at 51.
   Mianscum lost use of his legs as a teen after a car he was in crashed on the way to a wedding in Chibougamau in 1976, an accident his which claimed his brother and aunt.
   Mianscum moved to NDG to be closer to the Mackay Centre where he received services but he pined for his home town.
   He suffered skin issues in a regular wheelchair so in 1986 they put him on the stretcher model wheelchair, which became his trademark.
  He tried at least once to get donations to get a better racing wheelchair but fell just short. (Maybe he shouldn't have gone around Montreal with a Boston Bruins cap if he wanted to raise funds? Just sayin'- Chimples)
 Mianscum was a Montrealer who was famous for being famous but also once accomplished something of note.
  He completed five marathons including the Boston Marathon wheelchair division in 1989, when he placed third, beaten by a pair of fellow Montrealers.
   His racing inspired the clever headline "Going flat out for the marathon."
   Anyway he moved back up to Chibougamau in the 1990s and recently expired.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The life and times of Montreal Irish mobster Johnny McGuire

   Local Irish mobster Johnny McGuire was a portrait of confounding contradictions, a prince and a bum, a generous benefactor and a shylock, a hard-fisted boxer and a tranny club owner.
   McGuire was born in the area around St. Antoine and Guy in 1929 to a family that included brothers Gerald, Paddy and Richard, sister Carole among others.  
   He was too young to serve in WWII but his father, who was overaged, made a point of enlisting and serving for six years as a matter or pride.
   Johnny was a scrapper and at age 19 won the Golden Gloves in the 160 pound division but he would later put on about 60 pounds.
   He grew up in Rosemont on 25th Ave. and would have constant run-ins with the Bouchard family, who lived on block over and were on the other side of the law, as several of them turned out to be cops, including Andre Bouchard, long a bigwig of the homicide squad.
   Andre as a young beat cop once famously pulled a gun on Paddy McGuire, who was attempting to flee down an alley from the scene of some misdeed.
   Johnny McGuire was involved in at least one high-profile heist, the theft at a Coca-Cola factory in Montreal along with Gilles and Johnny Asselin of the Point. (They were possibly best-known for having a father-in-law named Fred who found a big stash of cash in his basement on Greene)
   Johnny lived in a hotel downtown and would spend his days at a bar on Belanger and Lacordaire, an establishment owned by his friend Dominic.  
   He and his brothers never had real jobs and it's believed that they were involved in some money-lending as a principle source of income.
   Johnny owned - or partially owned - a number of bars, including Chez Mado on Pie IX and more famously, PJ's tranny club on Peel and Ste. Catherine (back in the era where the transvestites would allow their male members to sway freely as they lip synched their tunes in stage).
   That led some to question whether he might perhaps be gay but Johnny also married into a Mafia family, which some later described as a sort of royal wedding of the underworld.
   He suffered a major downturn when his Palladium went up in flames and did a bit of petty cocaine trafficking to make ends meet.
   McGuire - who sported a Compass Rose tattoo on the back of his hand - remained a big supporter of boxing and was close to Joe Mell, who was respected in boxing circles and also ran a halfway house in the Point - he's still alive.
    McGuire only made it to age 55, dying of lung cancer in 1984. He was treated to an effusive tribute by Tim Burke, an enthusiast of local Irish thugs. Burke noted that McGuire was a generous soul who would give money out freely.
   Shortly after his death an important crime American crime report named him as a labour racketeering kingpin but that notion was shot down as insiders noted that he never had any in with unions and one of his major claims to fame was having a relationship with West End Gang leader Dunie Ryan. The article unkindly described McGuire as a "moocher."
    *This information is cobbled together from a variety of sources, please write me directly or in the comments to add or adjust stuff. I'd also love a photo if anybody has. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

50 years ago today - Quebec TV personality busted for harebrained takedown attempt of America

   Here's the weird story of Quebec TV personality-turned terrorist Michelle Duclos.
   The tale starts when Michelle Saunier, a 30-year-old, French-born psychology teacher, who had recently visited Cuba, hosted a visit of two unidentified black males from New York who stayed at her apartment as of Jan. 30, 1965
   They were Robert Collier, leader of the Black Liberation Front and the ``brains'' behind the bomb plot and Ray Wood, who proved to be an undercover New York City policeman who had infiltrated the group.
   Duclos had a part time job at CFTM Channel 10. She was a tall, striking 28-year-old blonde and described in RCMP reports as ``a zealous and enthusiastic worker for the RIN,” a PQ forerunner led by Pierre Bourgault.
   The RCMP file said that Duclos' work relationship with Bourgault ended "For a variety of reasons, including her morals and irregularities regarding RIN funds.”
  After the Americans left, police continued to watch Saunier and Duclos. 
   On Feb. 15 Duclos took delivery of 68 sticks of dynamite and about 40 blasting caps.
   Duclos got the TNT from a RIN regional president Gilles Legault, 31. He worked as a typewriter repairman and president of the Laurier chapter of the RIN.
   The dynamite had been stolen from a Montreal subway project.
    "Legault thought that the dynamite would be used by a terrorist group in Quebec, and denied any knowledge of the plot to blow up monuments in the United States,'' his RCMP interrogators later reported.
   Duclos popped the TNT into a box and put it into the trunk of her Rambler. She picked up a pair of friends – who were both oblivious to her plans – and headed to New York City, with the RCMP on her tail.
   One of the passengers later said that she appeared relieved after passing the U.S. border.
When asked why, Duclos replied honestly."She answered in a sinister tone that she was carrying dynamite. As I was very much frightened, she said that it was a joke," said the friend. 
   Duclos dropped her friends off outside of New York City, hid a box of 30 sticks of TNT in a vacant lot in the Bronx and contacted the two men.
   Police then came to a home and arrested her, the two men as well as Walter  Bowe, a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and Khaleel Sayyed, a former engineering student.
    Bourgault distanced himself from his former protegee. ``We haven't seen her now for three months and we were wondering where she was,” Adding that Duclos “was always ready to attract attention in some dramatic way.'' The RIN, he added, had "absolutely no knowledge or interest'' in the conspiracy.”
   Four Montrealers were arrested for the dynamite theft:  Saunier, Legault and two others.
   Legault described himself as ``a citizen of the state of Quebec,'' and kept mum.  He was found hanging from his cell in Bordeaux Jail two months later.
    Two of the group eventually received minor sentences or probation. Saunier was acquitted.
   "For us, Gilles Legault died innocent,'' Bourgault told La Presse.  "Therefore, it is the death of a patriot that we deplore.''
   In New York, Duclos pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years. The three Americans were convicted, getting sentences ranging from five years to 18 months.
   Duclos' sentence was later reduced to five-years' probation -- on the condition that she never return to the United States. She worked in television in Lebanon and Mexico and later returned to government jobs in Quebec, the last one given to her by Premier Landry.