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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Playboy Magazine

In our living room on Harvard Avenue in Montreal in the 1950s there was a dark rectangular veneered coffee table. On it sat a brass bell and a brass turtle. The brass turtle had a hinged shell. It was actually an ash tray. Also on the coffee table were a number of magazines. They seemed to vary over the years. They were never thrown away. Once they became dated they were stored away until there were a number of bundles of them. My father would then take the stacks over to the war vets hospital on Queen Mary Road not far from our house.
Here are some of the magazines I recall sitting on the coffee table.
I was too young to realize that the New Yorker had some great writers. I pretty well only looked through it to see the cartoons. One cartoon that I particularly remember was one of two wealthy parents standing in a drawing room and addressing their son who was almost an adult. The caption read “20 years ago you were left on our front doorstep and that is why we always referred to you as….. hey you.”

The Saturday Evening Post had the great front covers by Norman Rockwell, a kid getting a haircut or some dogs running off with some links of wieners. Americana I guess.

Life Magazine always had amazing photographers. You didn’t have to read if you didn’t care to. You could just turn the pages and let the camera lens tell the story.

Look Magazine was a lot like Life Magazine with a more up tempo kind of presentation.

There was another magazine around at the time called Liberty and the only reason I remember it was because when I was about 10 years old I tried to sell subscriptions to it in the nearby Snowden area. It disappeared from circulation shortly after my door to door attempts.
Once in a while Newsweek and Time Magazine would make an appearance on the coffee table. Far too much reading for a kid like me.

Perhaps the strangest magazine was something called Scottish Field. It was my father’s connection to where he grew up I guess. There were lots of men in kilts and short tweed jackets. All the photos were in black and white and the sky always looked grey. It all seemed quite foreign to me.
In the mid 1950s I was reading (if that’s what you call it) Harvey Comics like Baby Huey and Sad Sack. I can’t remember exactly when I saw my first Mad Magazine. It had a big impact. My guess is that Mad Magazine was where a lot of kids in my age group first discovered sarcasm. Cracked was another magazine with the same sense of humour. Mad Magazine embedded forever in my mind Alfred E. Newman and “What me worry?” At the bottom of some pages they had tiny little cartoons called Spy Verses Spy. In some issues you could fold the back page to give you a funny alternative to what the page looked like before being folded. Mad Magazine readers were almost like some kind of inner circle. If you didn’t find this stuff funny then there wasn’t much hope.

Some kids had The National Geographic sent to their homes once a month. Always a good source for a naked breast even if some impoverished child was using it. At the age of 12 there weren’t many resources as far as seeing naked women.


Playboy Magazine

"I only read it for the articles."

I think the first time I ever got my hands on a Playboy Magazine was when I was about 15. I wasn’t the first in the neighbourhood. What 15 year old didn’t want to see naked women?
The first thing I would do is leaf through the magazine for all the nude gals. I would of course unfold the playmate of the month. Then I would search out the cartoons. The last thing I did was read the articles. Playboy left a big impression on me. In my later teens I wanted in on some of the action. There is no doubt that I could be easily influenced.
When I first moved out of my home and found my own place I would scotch tape the centerfold pictures on the wall. It never really dawned on me that if I was lucky enough to get some girl to come up to my room or apartment that she might be a tad intimidated by the pictures on the wall.
I was probably about 18 when I started reading Playboy from cover to cover. The magazine had really good cartoonists like Jules Feiffer, Erich Sokol, and the macabre Gahan Wilson. I remember one cartoon that had a dog at a typewriter…..”and the moon shone down on her 8 taught breasts.”
As far as I am concerned Leroy Neiman was a genius as an artist with his quick vivid brush strokes. Alberto Vargas was the master of the air brush. As far as graphics go, the whole magazine was tight.
Playboy had the best writers at the time contributing. Joseph Heller (Catch 22), Jack Kerouac, James Dickey (Deliverence), John Updike (Rabbit Redux), Roald Dahl (James And The Giant Peach), Ian Fleming, Norman Mailer, Vladamir Nobokov, Ray Bradbury, J.P. Donleavy, Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, James Baldwin, Jimmy Breslin, were just a few of the best.
If I was to choose one writer for Playboy who left the biggest impression on me it would be Jean Shepherd. He is the same guy who wrote the movie A Christmas Story with Darren McGavin and the leg lamp and the Chinese restaurant employees singing “Fa ra ra ra ra” on Christmas day. More than once did I burst out laughing at Jean Shepherd’s stories in Playboy. He added a much needed sense of humour to the anguishes many of us experienced as kids. Priceless!

Jean Shepherd
One of the most informative pieces in Playboy was the interview. You got to decide what you thought about some famous person as they expressed themselves in their own words. These were not puff pieces. You could clearly see how really crazy people like George Lincoln Rockwell (the head of the American Nazi Party) or Robert Shelton (the head of the KKK) were. You got the inside view from Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers and comedian Dick Gregory. Madalyn Murray O’Hair expressed her atheistic opinions. She later disappeared and her body has never been found.
Some of the other famous people at the time who were interviewed were Bob Dylan, Cassius Clay before he became Mohammad Ali, Jean-Paul Sartre, Orson Welles, Ralph Ginsberg, Fidel Castro, Arnold Toynbee, Ralph Nader, Stanley Kubric, Art Buchwald, Martin Luther King, Timothy Leary, Henry Miller, and John Kenneth Galbraith. It doesn’t get much better than that.
There was hardly anything that was taboo. Pretty well anything could be written about. Politics, wars, race relations, religion, you name it. Human sexuality was often discussed which was a far cry from the conservative 1950s. Playboy did a multi-part series on sex and the cinema.
This isn’t to say there wasn’t anything artificial about Playboy. Wearing English Leather cologne didn’t mean that you were going to get laid. You might have to add a bit of chit-chat.
My guess is that Hugh Hefner wasn’t the poster boy for a lot of us young guys. We never smoked a pipe (actually I did for about a month when it was a brief fad) or wore a shiny bath robe and an ascot (actually I did wear an ascot a few times) or lounged around in silk pajamas.
If you ever saw Hef dance back in the day (the head bobber) and you danced that way, I wouldn’t own up to it. He always seemed to appear that he thought he was a lot cooler than his actual appearance was. As the years went on he started to look like the perv uncle who had been cast out of the family.
Never the less Hef did have some good taste in choosing people for his magazine. It was one slick monthly.
I learned a lot about jazz from the magazine. Each year they would have a cartoon like drawing of the best jazz performers for the year. I never found much to argue with in their choices. Miles Davis, Ray Brown, Sinatra, Ella, Count Basie, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Bud Shank, J.J. Johnson, Gerry Mulligan, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz ,and so on.
Each year Playboy would pick out the best college drafts in college football. Whoever did this bit was right on the money a lot of the time. I checked back on old issues a few times and quite often those picks had impressive pro careers.
As far as humour goes, one of the comedians that often contributed to Playboy (and hung around the mansion) was a Montreal born guy named Mort Sahl. He had a very sharp intellectual slant on politics and morality while being exceptionally funny at the same time. He was a really interesting guy to listen to.

Mort Sahl
Over the years I continued to buy Playboy until sometime in the early 90s. I think one of the reasons I gave up on the magazine was because 7-11 stopped selling it. Maybe I had finally grown out of it too?
There is a shed behind our house. In it there are about 10 file boxes stuffed with old Playboy magazines. Those boxes have moved around over the years. Some of the issues go as far back as the late 60s. I thought at some point in my retirement, that I might want to reread some of those stories that had an impact on me many years ago. Right now it is about #30 on my things to do list.
Unless someone is prepared to offer some decent bucks for them I think I will just hang on to them. Whose that really old guy at the home and why does he have all those boxes stuffed under his bed?


Saturday, 10 November 2012

Shelby....First Pics

We picked up our new golden retriever puppy 3 weeks ago. He was born on August 15th, the day before our golden retriever Copper died. We are trying to get him house trained but it takes a bit of time. We bought him a big kennel to keep him contained at night so he doesn't eat everything in the house. He will chew on anything he can get a hold of. Everything is new to him. He seems to be like our old dog Cooper in a lot of ways but still different. We love his spirit.

The litter with mom in Honeymoon Bay, BC
Shelby at 4 weeks.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Planting Trees

Planting trees is probably the hardest thing I ever did for a buck in my life. It is totally exhausting. In the early 1970s I made an attempt at this type of work twice. Once at Franklin River which is between Port Alberni and Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island and a second time in Northern BC at a place called Ootsa Lake. 

It seemed to me, at the time, that those best suited for planting trees were the lean wiry types, people who could do a lot of sit-ups if asked to. A strong back was also a good asset. If you were a bit soft in the middle it could be a bit of a struggle. 

I had a friend in Port Alberni who had done some tree planting and I thought I would give it a try. I went out and bought myself a pair of corks which are basically heavy work boots with nails sticking out of the soles. The nails are for traction. I hated the damned things. First of all they seemed to weigh about 10 lbs. each and secondly you could cut one of your legs if you tripped which I did more than a few times.  

The instrument one uses to plant trees varies depending on what is available or what the foreman of a crew has chosen. One instrument is the old pick axe with a flat blade and another is a thing called a dibble which is a metal pole about as long as a ski pole (much heavier) with a little ledge on it about 6 inches from the bottom that you jammed your foot down on to make a hole. 

Usually a crew would consist of about 8-10 people and a leader. The guy who would run the show was often the same guy who had acquired a short term contract from a forestry company. Each day, shortly after sunup we would drive out to where the day’s planting was to occur and we would pack up about a hundred seedlings in a cloth bag that we slung over our shoulders. We would then spread out about 10 feet across and march forward in a row. We were expected to plant a tree about every 3 yards. Our daily quota was 1000 trees. 

Often the area where we were planting was where a forest fire had occurred or it had been burned purposefully to allow for new growth. We worked in all kinds of weather including sleet and rain. By the end of the day we would be pretty filthy. There were lots of mud and lots of rocks. There isn’t much more futile and bone crunching than coming down with an overhead swing of a pick axe onto a hard rock. 

I lasted about 5 days at Franklin River before telling the foreman to shove it when he was riding me late one afternoon. I swore to myself that I would never plant trees again. 

About a year or so later I was staying out in Gordon Head, a suburb of Victoria, BC. A girlfriend of a friend of mine was house sitting a professor from U. Vic’s place for the summer. And what a gorgeous house it was. It was right on the ocean. Throughout the house there were glass cases with artifacts the prof had picked up on his world travels. Although I never met him, Paul Horn, the world renowned jazz flautist, lived next door.
My 68 Ford Falcon at house in Gordon Head.
One night we were sitting around yacking and a friend of a friend of mine told me he was going up north to plant trees at a place called Ootsa Lake and would I be interested in joining him. I told him about my previous experience and somehow through his convincing and my being short of cash I decided to give it another try. I had just acquired my first car a few months earlier, parked it down the laneway, and a few days later joined a crew in two “crummies”  (a pick-up truck with a backseat) and we caught a ferry to Vancouver and onward up to Northern BC. 

We travelled along Highway #1 and cut north at Cache Creek. I had only been driving for a few months and came up with the bright idea of offering to drive the crummy for a while. I had never driven a big truck before. It didn’t take long for me to feel like I was on some wild amusement ride. The other truck in front of me was doing about 80 MPH and I was trying to keep up. I think there were some eyeballs in the back seat staring at one another. Finally it was suggested that someone else take the wheel. There was no arguing on my part. Did I mention that we had all shared a joint? 
Our crew foreman was a thickset guy named Glenn. He had his bush pilot’s license and played rugby. Not a guy to trifle with. Most of the rest of the crew were hippies who came up every year to make enough cash to buy some pot and basic food staples that would sustain them for a good part of the rest of the year. A few of the guys had ponytails. One guy was a walking authority on the band The Who. 

The month was late May and the warmer weather hadn’t turned up yet. Our sleeping quarters were in trailers. One trailer was where the kitchen and dining room was. The food looked great and there was plenty of it. Maybe this time planting trees wouldn’t be so hard? What was a month out of my life? All I had to do was survive and I would get a nice fat pay cheque at the end. 

Things kind of started off OK, at least for the first week or so. And then I started to wear down a bit. This was really hard work. Most days were overcast and we worked in the rain and light snow. I was amazed that a few of the hippies would keep working for extra cash at a nickel a tree after a full 8 hours and already having planted a 1000 trees that day. 
Loading up our bags of trees for the day.
The camp cook turned out to be a drunk and the quality of the food began to deteriorate. Stuff that had been passed on the day before was offered up again. It is an empty feeling when you can’t look forward to eating. Each morning when we woke up some guy would play and Eagles album. The music was like an ominous warning of the miserable day ahead. It took me quite a while to appreciate the Eagles after that. 

Back in Victoria I would have been chasing women at The Olde Forge Cabaret and working on my tennis backhand out at U. Vic. What had I gotten myself into?  

Well at least the hockey playoffs were on and there was a TV. By 8 o’clock each night everyone was asleep including the hard working hippies. Before one hockey game I drove the crummy over to the lake and cast off a fishing line with 2 hooks and bait attached. I came back and hour or so later and I discovered that I had hooked 2 rainbow trout. I was quite impressed with that. 

We were working 7 days a week. A plan was made that where we would go into Burns Lake some distance away and spend a Saturday night there. There was quite a lot of drinking going on with the crew. Around 4 p.m. I thought I would grab a nap back at the hotel we were staying at and be ready for some real partying that night. As luck would have it, I slept through the whole evening and missed out on everything. I learned the next day that one of the hippies had picked up a stripper the night before.
3 of the crew.
We drove back to camp at Ootsa Lake. There was only two weeks left of this misery and I thought I would survive to the end. We were divided into two groups both led by hippies. These guys could be pretty funny at times. I remember one of them saying something that some might think inappropriate but it sure made us all laugh. One of the hippie leaders stood on a hill ahead of us and yelled “Come on you niggers!” like we were plantation workers. These guys didn’t have a racist bone in their bodies. 

Ootsa Lake is pretty well out in the middle of nowhere. I think the lake was a result of some dam being built and a river being diverted. Eurocan Pulp and Paper had a mill there for a number of years. Later a bible camp was built in the area.

Over the close to a month that I was up there I saw lots of wildlife, often not too far away. There were bears and caribou herds and I had my once only ever sighting of a lynx. 

The guy in our crew that I knew from Victoria was struggling to make it through each day as I was. He also had the handicap of being rather stout in stature. We were kind of at the bottom of the totem pole as far as fitness goes. He was in quite a lot of pain where I was just totally bagged by it all. 

The calendar pages were turning very slowly. I counted the days until we would return to civilization. On the second to last day the foreman came out to check on our work. I don’t think he ever caught on that a few guys were burying a handful of saplings in soft earth by creeks when they weren’t being watched. 

The big no-no in planting trees was a thing called “hockey stick roots”. If you planted the tree at an angle instead of straight up and down the tree would grow at an angle. I think I mentioned that the foreman was a pretty intimidating guy. The long and the short of it was the shit hit the fan when he discovered some  hockey stick roots. I was one of the culprits. It certainly wasn’t intentional. The foreman started to ride me a bit verbally and I kind of snapped. I was fired on the spot, perhaps partly as a warning to the others. 

I quickly found out that being fired meant that I would have to find my own way back to Victoria. No ride in the crummy for me or the Kelsey Bay ferry trip back to northern Vancouver Island. No high fives. No group hugs. Just hit the road Jack! On top of that I wasn’t going to be paid until I got back to Victoria. 

I didn’t have any alternative other than to pack my bag and head down the dirt road that led to the camp and try to get some rides hitchhiking. I lucked out when a guy stopped to pick me up in a dark coloured station wagon. He drove me all the way to Cache Creek which was quite a distance. 

I was a seasoned hitchhiker and the first thing I always did when I got into a car was start a conversation. This would usually give me a clue if I was travelling with a pervert or a serial killer. One of things I asked was what the driver did for a living. He kind of let that slide and we talked about other stuff. A few hours into my lift I asked him again what he did for a living and this time he came clean. He worked for a coroner and had just recently fished a body out of a river. The same body was now behind a curtain just over my shoulder. Yuck! 

It took me about a day and a half to make my way back to Victoria. I met up with some of the crew at a tavern on Government Street and one of the guys had my pay cheque. I peeked inside the envelope and got that peaceful easy feeling if you know what I mean. We had a few laughs and told a few stories and I went on my way. I think I got about 30 bucks when I sold my corks. 

In the past few years I have read stories about people from third world countries living in tents in atrocious conditions at tree planting camps in BC. Apparently the tree planting contracts are now bid on and some of the winners cut as many corners as they can including providing reasonable room and board. In retrospect I probably got off pretty lightly. 

It is now over 40 years since I planted my last tree. Somewhere, far away in northern BC, there are some very mature trees swaying in the breeze that I planted. Actually there are thousands of them and just maybe a few that aren’t as straight as the others.








Monkland Village, Montreal....50 Years Ago

Monkland Ave. between Wilson and Harvard. Note the streetcar tracks. Late 40s or early 50s.

One of the main thoroughfares in the district of N.D.G. in Montreal is a street called Monkland Avenue. The street is named after James Monk who was the attorney general for Lower Canada (the province of Quebec) at one time. In 1804 Monk built an estate that became known as Monklands off of Decarie Boulevard at the eastern end of Monkland Avenue. The property later became the site of the Villa Maria, a Catholic private girl’s school.
Over the past number of years Monkland Avenue has become somewhat yuppified with a number of specialty restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor decks and umbrellas. It lends itself to an urban way of life where you can go and have a cocktail after work and see people from the neighbourhood, or do your grocery shopping without having to drive a distance.
Apartment buiding entrance 2012.

Apartment building on Marcil at Monkland 2012

I was born in 1947 and spent the first 3 or 4 years of my life living in an apartment building on the corner of Monkland and Marcil Avenues. We moved from that apartment building to a flat on Harvard Avenue. The apartment we lived in was quite large and I think the reason we lived there was because of the cost and my father trying to get back on his feet after being overseas in WW2.
Marcil Ave. 1949 near Monkland Ave.

Back in the early 1950s street car tracks ran along Monkland Avenue from Girouard Avenue to Grand Boulevard. When I was in grade 1 at Willingdon School a boy in my class was run over by a car and killed by a motorist after getting off a streetcar on Monkland Avenue.
The most notable building on Monkland would have to be the Monkland Theatre  with its art deco exterior walls. It was built in 1930 and closed its doors to movie goers in 1981. I have a feeling my mother spent a number of hours at the Monkland Theatre during the war years as I would sometimes watch old black and white movies with her in the 1950s and she seemed to know the names of a number of the character actors along with the stars.
Art Deco exterior of Monkland Theatre 2012
So…let’s take a walking tour along Monkland Avenue some 50 years ago. We will start on the south side of Monkland at the corner of Girouard and make our way down to Grand Boulevard.
There was a United Cigar Store on the corner in the Monkland Theatre Building. In the next block there was a restaurant called The Maryland Tea Room. The restaurant’s name was printed in gold letters on the wide plate glass windows. I remember that they served the darker coloured smoke meat. I think they catered to the after movie crowd.
For the next few blocks there were a number of 4 story apartment buildings. At some point in the past few decades stores were built into the ground floors of these apartment buildings. Between Harvard Avenue and Melrose Avenue I believe there was a furrier. There was a gas station on the corner of Melrose. My gut says that it was at one time Supertest station but I may be wrong. Between Melrose and Draper Streets was a Steinberg’s supermarket. Steinberg’s also had home delivery where they would pack up your groceries in a cardboard box.
At the corner of Royal Avenue, in the 1960s, there was a restaurant called the B & M. where kids from West Hill High and other schools often hung out. Next to it there was a barbershop that had little rocket ship crystal radios on display in their front window. Just off of Monkland and on Royal Avenue was The Monkland Tennis Club that I believe opened in the late 1920’s and still exists today. A little further down Royal Avenue was LCC (Lower Canada College) which catered to well to do families.
Monkland Tennis Club 2012
There were no more stores or businesses on this side of Monkland from Royal Avenue to Grand Boulevard. It was all houses or apartment buildings.
So…let’s start our walk again beginning at Girouard Avenue across the street from the Monkland Theatre on the north side of Monkland. I believe there was a bank on the corner. I also think there was a gas station at the corner of Old Orchard Avenue. Storefront businesses in the 1950s started at Old Orchard and ended up at Wilson Avenue going west. There was then a big gap of apartment buildings before stores resumed again around Hingston Avenue where there were a few blocks of more stores.
The Monkland Taverne was at the corner of Old Orchard and Monkland. Years ago it was one of those places where working men hung out and enjoyed cheap beer. Times have changed. In the block between Old Orchard and Marcil Avenues there was cake store that I believe was called La Patisserie de Nance. There was also a record store in this block at one time. In the 60s there was a laundramat in this block. Some kids would go for rides in the driers.
Monkland Taverne 2012
On the eastern corner of Marcil there was a small farm on Monkland. In the mid 50s it was bulldozed and a Thrift grocery store was built and later changed its name to Dominion. Magic Tom Auburn lived on Marcil just off of Monkland. On the other side of Marcil on Monkland was Tom’s (Monkland Tobacco & Stationery). For years my father would pick up his copy of the Montreal Star there on his drive home from work until one day his “reserved copy” wasn’t there and some harsh words were spoken and he never darkened that doorway again. As mentioned in another story, Tom’s was crowded with model kits and in the back of the store there was a barbershop.
Next to Tom’s there was a small grocery store. They also had a guy who would do home deliveries on bike. (I may have the blocks mixed up a bit as to where some of these stores were located.) I think the grocery store was called Powers.
There was another store quite like Tom’s between Harvard and Oxford called Nichol’s. The guy that ran the place seemed like a bit of an odd duck. I remember a friend winning a yo-yo contest outside of Nichol’s. On the eastern corner of Harvard was The American Drug Store, a good place to get diamond yo-yos and Classic Comics. When I was in my late teens I ran into the American Drug Store pharmacist a few times downtown. There was no doubt in my mind that he was interested in young boys and I steered clear of him.
On the other side of Harvard was a bank where I opened my first account. At the corner of Wilson there was another store like Tom’s and Nichol’s called Dexters. It was run by an elderly Jewish couple. I remember standing outside of Dexter’s with a fresh pack of trading cards. (The ones that came with a wafer of hard gum.) The cards were of planes from different countries and I was confused by one fighter jet that said Turkey beside it.
Between Wilson and Melrose Avenue there was a Chinese Laundry. The finished products were wrapped up in brown paper and string. From about this point on going west it was all apartment buildings until about Hingston. I can’t remember any of the stores in that area except vaguely another kind of corner store.
At Royal Avenue there was a long two story building that stretched the complete block from Royal to Hampton Avenues. A good part of the building was used for storing old films I believe. I seem to remember an old Paramount sign. A black or so further west was a Bell Telephone building. At least that’s what I think it was. It is still there today.
Other notable shopping areas in eastern NDG back in the 1950s……..
The little strip mall at Wilson and Somerled…. The NDG Food Market, Lackman’s Drug Store, a beauty parlor and a dry cleaner’s.
Strip mall on Cote St. Luc Road at Melrose…. Bellman’s Drug Store and restaurant, Bob Lunney’s Sporting Goods, Roland’s Barbershop, a delicatessen.
A joint called Harry’s was right next to the Share Zion synagogue  on Cote St. Luc Road near Marcil.  Next to Harry’s was another joint called Sid’s. In the 50s Sid’s got knocked down and they built a strip mall there. One of the stores was a deli where I often bought karnutzel. When they were building the strip mall we would often look for the workers empty pop bottles when they had gone home and use the refunds to buy candy.
Cote St. Luc Road around Clanranald. Near where the bus lane ran down to Queen Mary Road in Snowden….Labow’s Drug Store, Cote St. Luc Bar-B-Q, and a lumber yard. The Diamond taxi stand was about a block away.
I never knew that much about Sherbrooke Street when I was a kid. Of course there was the Chalet Bar-B-Q near Girouard. And the huge NDG park. I remember when the first Dairy Queen opened on Sherbrooke and hundreds of people would be lined up on hot summer nights. There were also the Empress and Kent theatres on Sherbrooke in NDG. One day in the 50’s Clayton Moore who portrayed The Lone Ranger made a personal appearance at the Kent Theatre.
Does anyone else remember this stuff?  I am pretty sure that I will be corrected on something. What the hell….I gave it a shot!

Update: Nov. 23/12... Monkland Avenue shops 1957 as per Lovell's Directory.....

5500 Mallet's Tobacco Shop
5501 Bank of Montreal
5504 Monkland Theatre
5507 West Hill Pharmacy
5510 Monkland Drug Store
5511 Superfine French Pastry
5514 Laura Secord Candy
5595 Thrift Stores
5605 Monkland Tobacco & Stationery (Tom's)
5605 Monkland Barber Shop
5611 J.J. Pilon (small grocery store)
5617 Quebec Liquor Store
5624 Richstone's
5661 Nicholl's Stationery
5665 Power Provisions (small grocery store)
5669 Vogue Cleaners
5677 Acme Meat Market
5683 American Drug Store
5696 Emery's Exclusive Furs
5701 Royal Bank
5707 Peggy de Paris
5709 Dexter Stationery & Cigar
5757 Union Laundry
5830 Steinberg's (large grocery store)
5955 Paramount Film Service
5957 Warner Bros. Pictures Dist.
5963 Twentieth Century Fox
5969 United Artists
5971 Columbia Pictures.


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hot Dogs...And Other Sausages

When I was a kid growing up in Montreal we would occasionally have hot dogs at home for a meal. My mother always boiled the wieners and the brand she most often chose was Swift Premium. Once the hot dogs were cooked they were placed in buns that had a slit down the middle. Mustard and relish were the only garnishes we used.

We also used to eat La Belle Fermiere sausages sometimes at breakfast or in one of my mother’s specialties that I believe was a dish that originated in England called Toad In The Hole. It was kind of a souffle with sausages buried inside. La Belle Fermiere also made very delicious country sausages that were square in shape and had a bit of extra fat. “La Belle Fermiere, the mealtime treat, the country fresh sausage that you like to eat!”
Back in the 1950’s, every so often, our family would take the drive over to Decarie Boulevard and have curb service at Miss Montreal or The Bonfire. It was at one of these restaurants that I first discovered the Michigan Red Hot which is basically a hot dog with a not all that hot meat sauce. Being that there was 4 kids in our family hot dogs were our only choice on the menu to keep the costs down. The waitress would slide a long thin metal tray into the car and both ends of the tray were attached to the glass on the car door windows. The hot dogs came in cardboard holders with an open end.
As I grew up, I discovered “greasy” spoons” which were small restaurants with a grill. It was sometimes discussed whether the cooking oil was ever changed in these places. A hot dog cooked on a grill tasted much better to me than one that was boiled.
There were a number of Jewish delis around the neighbourhood I grew up in and I became a bit addicted to a Jewish sausage that looked like a thinner pepperoni and was called karnatzel. There were two versions, the wet or the dry. The kanatzels hung from a holder near the deli case out in the open. I guess that germs weren’t considered because the meat had been cured. You would tell whoever was behind the counter how much you wanted to spend and they would cut off a piece that fit a price. I think an arm’s length was about 35 cents back then.
In 1959 some of my family went to Europe. In Copenhagen I found a totally different way of having a hot dog. Street vendors would give you a cooked European sausage along with a bun. Instead of the yellow French’s kind of mustard and relish I was used to, the wiener was garnished with English mustard and ketchup. You would take a bight out of the wiener and then a bight out of the bun.
Danish style hot dog.
In the early 1960s I then discovered “steamies”. These kind of hot dogs could be found in areas more heavily populated by French Canadians around Montreal. Both the hot dog and the bun were steamed. They could be could be bought as cheaply as 2 for a quarter. Chopped fresh cabbage was a common garnish.
I think it was around 1966 that I heard a very interesting story about hot dogs. I was working at a place called Hughes-Owens as a store clerk and one of my co-clerks was an elderly gentleman who had been in World War 1. Yes that’s right, World War 1. One day he told me about how he used to spend weekends up in the Laurentians. One of his cottage neighbours worked for Swift Premium in Montreal and every weekend in the summer he would bring up a load of free hotdogs that everybody enjoyed around a campfire. One Friday the old vet went to pick up his friend at the meat plant to give him a lift up to the Laurentians after work. He got there a bit early and his friend gave him a tour of the plant. Apparently it almost made the old guy gag. It was the last hot dog the old guy ever ate and he spread the word around cottage country as to what the process involved. His friend continued to bring up the free hot dogs but as soon as he was out of sight they were buried. I have no idea how long this masquerade went on.
The above story didn’t dissuade me at all. I went on to knockwursts. For 35 cents you could get a grilled knockwurst on rye at Dunns’s Delicatessen in downtown Montreal. They spilt the wiener in half before putting it on the grill.
In the late 1970s I was in southern Florida and checked out Nathan’s in Miami, a kind of a home away from home for Jewish New Yorkers. I would give Nathan’s a thumbs up in the tube steak hall of fame.
In 1986 I got my first Costco membership and to this day I stop by their food court and have a hot dog there at least once a month. They are only $1.25 including a drink and you can pile all kinds of things on top of them. I used to buy kosher wieners at Costco too but at this age I don’t know what I would do with a big package of them anymore.
I checked out the J. Kwinter gourmet hot dog franchise at Oakridge Mall in Vancouver a few times. Apparently a tasty hot dog can be made without using questionable additives. Who knew?
We also had the chance to try the British version of a hot dog at an outdoor market in London, England. They prefer to call their sausages “bangers”. It sure beat the hell out of the street food we had in France.
This past summer we were in upstate Vermont or New York ( I can’t remember which state) when we spotted a roadside hot dog stand called Brigante’s. Linda was so impressed with her Michigan hot dog that we brought a package of the dried seasoning home with us. When we got back to the west coast we had some folks over for a bar-b-q and the sauce was a hit.
I don’t think that I am by any means a hot dog expert but I do have my preferences. Vienna wieners are at the top of my list. It is hard to turn down a good bratwurst smothered in fried onions. Although I am not Jewish, I have always trusted the ingredients in kosher hot dogs and I am sure that the rabbis don’t bless anything that is suspect.
These days, if you read the obituaries, you will find that a lot of old folks are lasting into their nineties. I’m sure that a lot of them have had a hot dog or two in their lives. What’s the old line? If it doesn’t kill you it just might make you stronger.
Don’t get me started on cured meats, particularly smoked meat. I love that stuff!