CHAPTER 48. Montreal

At ten o’clock we drew into the Montreal station and the Windsor Hotel was only a block away. It was hotter than Quebec and very oppressive. I tried to get a cold bath before I went to bed, but the water was quite warm. Once again I slept with only a sheet over me.

Next day, Saturday 30th July, I hailed a taxi at 9 a.m. to go to the Burroughs office. Just as I entered I saw clouds of smoke settling over the city. I asked the driver where it was coming from and he coolly replied, “apparently your hotel is on fire!” I looked out and saw smoke coming from what appeared to be the roof. I told the driver to take me back, as I imagined the ladies would get a real scare when they saw the hotel was burning. Before we reached the main entrance three fire engines appeared on the scene with all their sirens blowing. I was ready for some excitement and a first-class American fire. I ran into the hotel and asked one of the officials in the doorway whether it was serious. He told me it was only a blocking in the main exhaust and there was no great danger. I did not disturb the remainder of the party, but returned to the taxi and went to the office.

World Tour 1938
Mr Raymond at Montreal

The Agency Manager was away on vacation, but I was expected and gladly welcomed by the Assistant, Mr. C.A.H. Raymond. I visited all the departments, met the salesmen and spent a very interesting and instructive morning with them.

Mr. Raymond very kindly invited me to go out with him in the afternoon to see some of the sights of Montreal. We drove through the city and saw some very large departmental stores and other buildings.

World Tour 1938
Cathedral at Montreal stated to be a replica of St Peters at Rome


World Tour 1938
The Sun Insurance, the largest bulding in Montreal

This city of 12¼ millions population gave us our first sight of the real American skyscraper. Right opposite the hotel was the Sun Life Office, which is the largest single building we had yet seen.

We then left the city and went to what is known as the Mountain. This is nothing more than a high hill of rock, but as the city is built all around it some excellent views were obtainable. On the side of this mountain is what is known as “The Shrine”.

World Tour 1938
the Shrine of Brother Andre at Montreal

This is another building similar to the shrine of St. Anne of Beaupre. A Roman Catholic who was not a priest but called himself Brother Andre used to heal people of their physical ailments and defects by some method of faith healing. Eventually he died and a shrine is being built from the money given to him while he was alive and the huge sums collected for the purpose.

I was told that 2,000,000 people visited this shrine annually to be healed in some way. All sorts of things are sold here, including souvenirs and there is also a large restaurant for the pilgrims. They use seven Burroughs cash machines for issuing receipts in the form of a docket on which is printed a photograph of the late Brother, as well as the shrine.

The building of the shrine has been in progress for several years and is costing some millions of dollars. We went inside and saw many people praying, but it had a most depressing effect upon me. I suppose it was because it was very different from what I had been brought up to believe. Later in the afternoon we saw the dome of the shrine from a distance of ten or twelve miles and it is undoubtedly going to be one of the landmarks of Montreal.

World Tour 1938
Red Indians at Montreal

The next special place of interest was the Red Indian camp. Here we saw some of the real Red Indians in a camp which is maintained for the benefit of tourists. For a few cents they donned their feathers and made these look as much as possible like the pictures we had seen of the Red Indians in their native surroundings. They gave us their war dance, shot arrows from a bow, and did some tricks with the lasso. It was interesting, but terribly artificial and made one realise how surely the survival of the fittest operates against these decadent native races in every land.

We drove along the banks of the St. Lawrence towards Lachine Rapids, which played a very important part in the defeat of the French many years ago when their boats were caught in them and they could make no further progress. I have seen some fast rivers, but so far these rapids are the fastest sheet of water I have yet witnessed.

World Tour 1938
Street Scene Montreal

We returned to the city from another direction and entered by the new steel bridge which is approximately a mile long and carries one particularly large span under which the large ocean liners pass.

World Tour 1938
steel bridge at Montreal

Montreal has the world distinction of being the seaport furthest away from the ocean, which is over 100 miles distant. It is also the second largest French city in the world, being beaten only by Paris, as over 60% of the population are French. In Quebec the French language is used and recognised officially, this privilege being specially granted by the British Parliament.

In Montreal, although the French people predominate, the English language is official and is used accordingly. Notwithstanding this, most public signs are in both languages and there are French sections where English is not spoke except in cases of necessity. All the picture shows are in English except one where films from France are used.

World Tour 1938
French homes at Montreal have the stairway from the first floor direct to the street
World Tour 1938
First floor tenants have direct access to the street in Montreal

I was also interested in the custom of building two-storied houses with the staircase out-side. We stopped at the end of one street and it was very strange to see these staircases coming down to the street from every house.

We returned to the hotel and while the ladies rested Mr. Raymond and I had a further Burroughs talk. We then went to a French restaurant where an excellent dinner was served in the real French fashion. It was 9.30 when this was over and then he took us up the mountain again to a different lookout in order that we might see the city by night. It was a beautiful sight to see the many thousands of lights and the unavoidable Neon signs in every direction. After driving through more of the best streets we reached the hotel just after 11 p.m. and everyone agreed it was one of the most interesting days we had spent on the trip. Mr. Raymond was a good companion. He had a keen sense of humour and a delightful, infectious smile. Even at that late hour it was difficult to refuse an invitation to see more of the night life of the city.

At about 9 a.m. next morning, instead of spending his Sunday in the usual manner, he was down at the hotel with his little boy Bunny (6 years of age) to drive us up to the lookout to see the city by daylight again before we left for New York. On the way up we had to walk about half a mile and we had a very interesting experience of seeing some squirrels amongst the trees. They were very timid, and I could not get close enough for a photo. In Mr. Raymond’s words they were “cute”.

We spent so much time over this and the lookout that we were afraid we would miss the train, which left at 11 a.m. Mr. Raymond tried to persuade us to miss it and he would then drive us to the other mountains, 60 miles away, where we were promised a good day. It was hard to turn down, but it had to be done in order to keep to our programme. At the last minute, and with several negro porters carrying our luggage we arrived at the train a few moments before it started.

Once again we came in hot and wet with perspiration to a cool compartment, air conditioned. We had the same easy parlour chairs, a first class lunch, a good tea, a trip through very interesting country and a safe arrival at New York at 9 p.m.

There was one amusing incident at tea time which I must record. We had just reached the dining car after going through five other cars. While I was trying to find a vacant table the train gave an unusually big lurch as it swung around a corner. Rozie just threw out both arms to save herself from falling and they happened to rest on the shoulders of a waiter in a white coat. He immediately turned round to see what was happening and Rozie found herself looking into the face of a very black negro and both arms around his neck!



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