Friday, February 02, 2018

When Montreal's balloon man was suspected of murdering a child

  When little Robert Jones, 9, was found murdered at a fair in Montreal North in 1956, all eyes turned to the balloon man.
   Jacob Karmensky, aka Jack Karmensky, was a well-known figure in town after he arrived in 1948 after being turfed from China.
   Karmensky was a Russian Jew who claimed that he was thriving in business in Shanghai until Communism forced him to flee.
   Karmensky was 52 years old on June 8 when the Model Fair set up in an empty field in Montreal North.
  The little boy Jones had an idea of going to help blow up balloons at the fair.
  The boy's mom said no to his plan but his dad gave him the green light to go and blow the balloons, so the nine-year-old Robert Jones left his home at 11370 Lamoureux and was never seen alive again.
   Someone smashed the boy in the head with a rock and left his body in the bushes.
   It wasn't clear whether he had been sexually assaulted but his belt was found some distance away.
   All 65 employees were immediately interviewed and fingerprinted and the Mayor Lucien Brodeur of Montreal North shut the fair down.
   Karmensky came to the police on his own and insisted he had nothing to do with the boy's murder. He said he had.never met the boy.
   His alibi checked out.
   Police arrested a juvenile delinquent from Drummondville who had been around that evening but he too had a credible alibi and was released.
   Karmensky continued to lounge around downtown Montreal exercising his lungs and being a general oddball deviant selling his balloons, often getting in trouble with the law for peddling without license.
   One time he was busted at Place Bonaventure selling his balloons and the Montreal Star newspaper gave the court proceedings serious coverage.
   Feature writer Don Bell wrote an amusing magazine profile on the balloon man in 1968, but with a slightly altered spelling of Jacob Kaminsky. The article, which ended up in the award-winning Saturday Night at the Bagel Factory, was a lighthearted romp about the balloon man's bragging and issues with police in selling balloons without a license.
  The balloon man might have been delighted because the article transformed his reputation into being a lovable oddball rather than a suspected child killer.
    Bell's postscript noted that Karmensky had threatened to sue Bell after the article appeared, adding that when he ran into Karmensky on the street, the balloon expressed appreciation for the article and admitted that the threatened lawsuit was just a money grab.
   The Jones murder was apparently never solved.
Gerald Arkinson, 16, busted
Bonus story: On the same weekend that Jones was killed another heartless child murder took place as Gerald Arkinson, 16, killed Yvon Lafrance, 14, both of LaSalle, by tossing him into the St. Lawrence River as a bullying prank. 


  1. Another interesting article!
    Thank you!

  2. George who runs the point web site has a picture of him still trying to sell baloons at 81, he needed help down the street. It was sad to see a man trying to do the only thing he knew for a few bucks, especially when you remember him as a kid.


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