[Originally written for inclusion in Memories of Snowdon in the 50’s – a 2006 paperback by Bill Conrod.]
Where do I start? I guess with moving day, 1949. I was four years old. I remember a nice apartment building, 5473 Decarie, near Dupuis. Next to our building, just slightly south, was its twin, at 5471. Neither of them exists anymore, having been replaced years ago by a couple of ugly blocky grey-brick commercial structures.
We were so happy to be moving to Decarie. Our apartment was a dream, inside and out, compared to where we came from – the dark and dank place at 5998 Park Avenue. Like many other Jews of Mile End, we moved west the minute we could afford it.
No Decarie expressway yet, of course. To an almost-five-year-old just starting kindergarten in 1950, Decarie Boulevard seemed about a mile wide. My father took me across every weekday morning as he walked me to Royal Vale School (at Dupuis and Clanranald).
Traversing Decarie entailed crossing the streetcar tracks which ran north and south along the west side of the street. Along this route ran the 48 (to NDG, and my father’s dry-goods store), the 29 (to Outremont, and my grandparents’ house) and the 17 (to Gouin – and the fabulous Belmont Park)!
Another word about Royal Vale. The baby boom was approaching its heyday. The school was rapidly starting to outgrow its quarters, so to accommodate the spillover, tin-roofed Quonset huts were erected on the grounds. Boy, were they hot in June!
As hot as those huts were, that’s how cold the skating rink was at the north end of Clanranald Park in winter. It’s where I learned to skate – as much as it could be called “skating”…more like “hobbling” on semi-frozen feet.
Since we moved again still further west when I was seven (to Cote St. Luc road and Oxford, in NDG), my next memorable Snowdon event entails another walk with my father: we occasionally trekked to Levine Bakery, on Decarie just north of Queen Mary, to buy what we dubbed “favourite buns” for Sunday breakfast. These were challah rolls to which enough sugar had apparently been added to make them taste like dessert rolls. Delicious with butter!
As I neared my teen years, my friends and I would team up for regular Saturday shopping forays to Queen Mary Road. This was our St. Catherine Street! Our tour would start with Woolworth’s, the quintessential five-and-dime. To fortify ourselves, we would first have a treat at the snack bar. For me this was always the same: a slice of amazing dark-chocolate-fudge layer cake for 15 cents, accompanied by a small coke for 6 (SIX!) cents.
From west to east, other stores that stood out for me included Morgan’s, Larry’s Shoe Store, Peggy’s Nut Shop, the United Cigar Store on the corner of Decarie, and, on the eastern side of Queen Mary, there was the House of Wong with their yummy PuPu Platter.
After age 16, the magic age that allowed you into Quebec movie theatres at the time, I often frequented the Snowdon Theatre, which was on Decarie north of Queen Mary, but has long since passed from its cinema livelihood. Too bad. It held a strong association for me with one of my favourite films, which I saw there in 1964: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
You can easily see that Snowdon represented for me only the most positive aspects of life, such as renewal, good food, great entertainment, learning new things, and the camaraderie of coming-of-age rituals. All of them gone but never forgotten.