20 May 2014

Checking Out an Attractive 56-Year-Old Montrealer

The Montrealer. vol. 32, no. 5 (May 1958)

I don't remember much of The Montrealer. I was in elementary school when it folded and accept no responsibility for its demise. For a year or two our family subscribed to its successor, Montreal Calendar Magazine. That periodical lived into my university years, but I don't remember much of it either. Never bought copy. You can blame me for that one.

Did I miss out in not reading Montreal Calendar Magazine? I have no idea. A quick go around of old friends finds that not one ever so much as picked up a copy. No one can tell me the first thing about it.

I know I missed out on something with The Montrealer – just look at the names on that masthead: James Minifie, Sam Tata, Hugh MacLennan, Constance Beresford-Howe, Robert Ayre and 27-year-old Mordecai Richler.

Ethel Wilson contributed, as did Joyce Marshall. The Montrealer was the first to publish "Dance of the Happy Shades" and four other stories that would years later feature in Alice Munro's debut collection of the same name.In this issue Richler is the supplier of fiction with "The Balloon", a short story that has never been republished.

The kid returns 23 pages later to weigh in on the brand spanking new New Canadian Library. We've also got  forgotten humorist Norman Ward, Leslie Roberts' unheeded warnings about American imperialism, James Minifie's observations on bumbling Prime Minister Diefenbaker and an uncollected essay by Hugh MacLennan.

Then there are advertisements – lots of advertisements – each a reflection of a Montreal that is no more.

It's all too easy to wax nostalgic about a time in which one never lived. It takes no keen eye to observe that the the city's linguistic minority is all but absent in the magazine's 66 pages. The uncredited "Guide to Better Shopping in Montreal" features just one business with a French name:
May is the month par excellence not only for experiencing Paris, but for re-imagining it, and for the latter pursuit Café Chez-Pierre suggests itself as an ideal locale.
We're in a better place now.

Trivia: I found this copy of The Montrealer, the first I've ever bought, in late March at Brockville's From Here to Infinity. If the mailing label is to be believed – and why not? – it first belonged to Alice Lighthall, eldest daughter of novelist, poet, historian, philosopher and anthologist W.D. Lighthall (Mayor of Westmount, 1900-1903).


  1. Well, it was two solitudes, for sure. And I guess it's better now, but I sometimes wonder how it would have been if the bilingualism movement in the 70s had been more successful. Remember when CHOM tried to do a little broadcasting in French and Pagliaro and other acts put out bilingual albums.

    Hope you had a good time in Brockville, I went to BCI for a few months in 1977.....

    1. Interesting to note, I think, that the magazine dates from the very time in which Frank Scott began trying to bring the city's French and English-language writers together. It was not nearly so successful effort as he would have liked, i think, though it did go far in promoting French-English translation.

      I'm afraid my visits to Brockville are almost always brief. More often than not, I'm gassing up on my way east. As always, Montreal beckons.

  2. Now, if you could only come across an old ad for Nick's Sex Aquarium...

    Does anyone know anyone who ever went? Or were we all too young and innocent at the time?

    1. I believe I know at least two people who took advantage of the venue's hot and cold buffet, but would they admit it today?