Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Lower Main: four great descriptions of old times

Four fantastic descriptions of the Lower Main.
Tales from the tenderloin:
 the lower Main through the past darkly

1940: Paint magnate Phil Chamber started selling newspapers as a 12 year old in 1939 "The sailors would get off the boats at the wharf and walk up to St. Catherine where the hookers would charge $2 rather than $1 charged by the girls down the hill. There were some bad guys who’d rob their banks in the east end but they wouldn't cause trouble here because this was home territory. Every once in a while some asshole decided to clean up the Main, they’d move the hookers off the street for a couple of weeks but they’d be back because the cops wanted the graft. "A suck and fuck for a buck."

1955 Legendary Night Squad cop Bob Menard. “I used to work undercover go down there, it wasn't fun and games, there were pickpockets and thieves. If you’d walk around and ask to be whacked, they’d whack you. Street cops spent their eight hours kicking ass down there because they had to. You had to protect the tourists, they had the right to get a hot dog.”

1960. Norman Olson, former publicist and gossip columnist. “West of the Main you’d have all the factories and the moment twilight hit and all the clothing
workers went home, all the kids and perverts and tourists would come out. Near that block you had the Hi Ho and the Casa Loma and Vic’s Café, run by Cotroni. It was a higher class joint because they’d charge 10 cents to get in. The place had two-hour vaudeville acts with jugglers, singers, sword swallowers that would end at seven in the morning. I remember coming out of there with Eartha Kitt and seeing people going to work and storekeepers opening up their awnings. It was like a stage, as the lighting changed, the city changed, it underwent a daily metamorphosis, at twilight all the lights and flickering lights and hoors and transvestites came out and this other world began.”

1967 Author and local landmark expert Alan Hustak: “It was really, really seedy.
A big attraction of the block were three repertory theatres on the block, where the unsavory of the unsavory gathered. They’d charge 25 cents for three movies, it was dark and the balconies were isolated and people weren’t really going there to see the movies. Next door the Midway was the setting for Hosanna, the famous Michel Tremblay play about a biker and a transvestite. The strip was a gathering of longshoremen, drag queens, prostitutes, and high culture people from Place des Arts. It wasn’t threatening but there was always the sense that if you looked at somebody the wrong way they might punch you.


Montreal bus driver demands envelope laden with cash

  A female hospital worker hopped off the 161 bus yesterday at Kildare and Caldwell in Cote St. Luc, not far from the Cavendish mall, only to discover an envelope stuffed with cash in the snow.
  As she peered inside the envelope she heard a loud male voice ordering her to hand it over.
  She looked up and who was demanding the envelope full of cash?
  The bus driver.
  The driver had seen the woman swoop up the package and so he aggressively insisted that she hand it over.
   Perhaps in a daze or thinking it was the honest thing to do, she complied.
   That nurse was later kicking herself wondering if it was the right thing to do.
   

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Victoria Bridge is ugly, says architecture prof

Montreal's Victoria Bridge was meant to look like...
     Montreal's Victoria Bridge sure is a durable structure as it's still going strong 155 years after it was built.
   But is it an eyesore?  So thinks architect Jean-Claude Marsan who notes* that the bridge was built by Robert Stephenson with an aim to recreate the Britannia Bridge in Northern Wales about a decade earlier.
... North Wales' Britannia Bridge....
   The Britannia Bridge crosses the Menai Strait, so that explains why streets in the now-demolished Goose Village bore the names Menai and Britannia, with Conway St. undoubtedly being a knockoff of the Welsh town of Conwy. (Forfar St. being the only Goose Village town that bears no connection to Northern Wales).
   The Britannia Bridge was praised as an artistic masterpiece as its stone piers were things of beauty and the four stone lions also added flair with a play poem below reading: "Four fat lions, Without any hair, Two on this side, And two over there."
 Talented architect Francis Thompson, who deserves much of the credit for the Britannia Bridge, did not sign on to help with the Victoria Bridge, the longest bridge in the world at the time of its opening. That was a big loss.
...but should have been built to look like the Brooklyn Bridge..
   Prof Marsan argues that Montreal geography simply did not lend itself to the copy as the St. Lawrence River is much wider than the Menai Strait.
   The Victoria remains an impressive engineering feat but they are not art, he says as the black limestone pillars are the only bit of artistic flair.
   "Their masonry, as well as that of the abutments did not have the distinction, discretion or ingenuity of the Britannia's," says Marsan.
  Marsan said that the Victoria Bridge relied too much on the old world and argues that a more suitable project would have been something like the Brooklyn Bridge.
*Montreal in Evolution 1981 253-254

Why the Caisse du Depot should front me $35 million to open a seniors paradise

  A multitude of studies and ponderous thinkpieces have been written about how an aging Quebec will cause the health care system to collapse.
   But the aging of the population is causing another totally overlooked problem.
   With age, once-robust consumers are transformed into pennypinching spendthrifts.
   That's because for an elderly person, a big spending day involves purchasing a new button for their threadbare cardigan.
   Some old folk are poor but a solid number are well-off with good pensions that they don't end up spending due to lack of effort by pencilnecked marketing geeks who see older folk as a lost cause.
    Studies show that after about age 54 folks stop blowing money on Playstations, fancy suits, new cars and George Clooney DVD box sets and that's a problem because mom'n'pop stores suffer, main street withers and the tax man's cupboard goes bare.
   We need seniors to circulate their money rather than hoard it.
   Yet many of our policies discourage them from doing that.
   Take something like videopoker at the depanneur for example, a hobby popular among elderly with time and $20 to blow.
   Our mother hen government made sure to ban that.
   Bingo? Overregulated. Beer at a tavern? Not cheap anymore. Massage parlours? Busybodies want them closed.
   Their cash is no good here so seniors end up spending money on vacations down south, pouring money into another country's economy and forcing Quebec into a $1 billion annual tourism deficit.
   To help reverse this tide I propose that the Caisse du Depot front me $35 million to create the world's first Mature Mart, a shopping, entertainment and indoor artificial beach community for the elderly.
   It would house a lot of baby clothing stores, as studies demonstrate that elderly women spend their money on the sartorial interests of their grandchildren.
   Steve McQueen, Harold Lloyd, George Clooney movies would play all day long in a little theatre.
    We'd have a ballroom dancing bar and a massive exercise and health complex bereft of intimidating musclemen.
    And the centrepiece would be an indoor beach heated plenty with a domed roof to give the impression of being in Florida without the $15-a-day health insurance costs.
    Quebec and other jurisdictions need to quell the reflex that pushes the elderly to keep their wallets closed. You can't take it with you, and hell no we don't need to pass our money down to our kids. Inheritances only turn the benefactors into entitled d parasites on intergenerational ghoul welfare, let them earn some pride by making their own ways in this world. Spend it all before your time is up.

The secret world of Montreal's police homicide squad

A feature article I wrote in 1999 about homicides in Montreal.

Dino Bravo. Frank Shoofey. Sidney Leithman. Miss Strip 1976. Four famous unsolved cases illustrate how the MUC homicide squad keeps a tight lid on unsolved murders
by KRISTIAN GRAVENOR
   About 15 years ago, several murdered children between 10 and ­14 were found in south-west Montreal. Eventually, the MUC homicide squad caught the serial killer. Yet there was no perp walk down a line of exploding flashbulbs.
   No trial, no arrest. Today the murderer works with the public in a job which takes him all over the city. "They just couldn't get the evidence on the guy," says a police insider. "The police attention seems to have made him stop, but cops try to keep this stuff quiet because they don't want the public to panic."
   That's one of hundreds of morbid secrets kept tightly within our homicide squad, whose shady world of information-control mirrors the dark world they police.
   So, the new spirit of community policing has prompted you to ask questions about the methods of the 20-officer squad? Keep 'em to yourself. Want an update on a case? Use your imagination. Access to information? Access denied. Who's watching the detectives? Their only required report is an annual update to the provincial Justice Minister.
   Even other cops grumble. "It's a cloak-and-dagger-type section who perceive themselves, rightly or wrong, as the elite," says a cop. "They want information, but they're not willing to share what they've got and only unless they're dealing with a joint task force. Unless they have to share, they won't."
   The official explanation for putting a lid on morbid facts is that killers will somehow use the information to their advantage. And there are other, less official ones. "They occasionally get wackos confessing to murders they didn't commit," says a veteran crime journalist. "If the nutcase had that information, the cops wouldn't know whether he was for real or not."
   Up until the '80s, Montreal police were famous for juicy press leaks, particularly to the splashy crime press. The strategy was tailored to create a public groundswell for larger police budgets. But the police no longer need public fear to raise their budgets: last year the police budget was hiked 2.4 per cent to $390 million in spite of declining crime rates. However, most of that money has gone towards police salaries.
   "They don't want the public to realize that they don't solve all that many murders," according to one officer. (Last year there were 41 murders in Montreal, 13 remain unsolved.) "Of the three basic homicides, the family quarrels and the heat-of-the-moment street-fights are relatively easy to solve. Those raise their solution rate. But the professional hits remain very hard to solve."
   For the homicide squad, secrecy remains one of the few potentially useful weapons. The much ballyhooed use of DNA testing remains costly and has only resulted in a few convictions, most notably that of the Tara Manning case. The use of informants met its Waterloo when Mom Boucher's accuser had his credibility stripped clean. And if you ever dreamed of hitting the jackpot turning in that guy you know who-they-say-killed-somebody, wake up: our police offer no cash rewards, and those offered by private groups or individuals are often aimed at sex slayings, which is generally useless because sex predators tend to keep their secrets.
   In cemeteries all over, victims lie sleepless in their caskets, waiting for somebody to bring their killers to justice. Here are some of our biggest unsolved murder mysteries, the full details of which, years later, are still kept tightly under wraps despite prying by journalists.
Dead men can't defend their honour 
   Adolfo Bresciano, 44, was a family man from Vimont, Laval, who doted on his 6-year-old daughter and was known to be friends with plumbers and bus drivers he grew up with in Rosemont. He was also Dino Bravo, a star 20-year veteran of professional wrestling circuits around the globe. To this day, fans still recall his famous battles, which included a nearly victorious title fight against Hulk Hogan. Bravo's scissor kicks, speed, showmanship and powerful arms--which could bench 500 pounds--are still fondly remembered around the world.
   But on March 11, 1993, he was just another fan watching the Habs play the Islanders on TV. He wouldn't see the end of the game, nor the Stanley Cup parade a few weeks later. Two gunmen, one wielding a .22 calibre, the other a .380, sprayed 17 shots in his living room, hitting him in the head seven times.
   According to the Journal de Montréal, an unnamed Laval police officer claimed to have found evidence of Bravo's involvement in cigarette smuggling on the scene. All of the press picked up on the rumour and the wrestling hero suddenly became, in death, a lowly cigarette smuggler, in spite of the absence of a trial, conviction or witnesses.
   "What the papers printed was bull," says Gino Bresciano, the wrestler's younger brother. "I feel rage in my heart, it really makes my blood boil. I never heard from the police since that day, yet I live for the day they catch his killer. I always wonder who really did it, a jealous husband, an old wrestling rival, maybe someone at the top of the wrestling world--that's a multi-billion dollar industry. There's no way of knowing. I'm powerless in this and I really miss him."
The missing briefcase 
   Sidney Leithman didn't have to wake up at dawn to defend underworld characters. But he did. The 54-year-old defence attorney had two teenage daughters, a mansion in Town of Mount Royal and enough cash for a few lifetimes. But none of that caused him to hesitate to jump up at the sound of his alarm on May 14, 1991, to defend yet another drug dealer, this one a Cuban pilot with links to the Colombian cartel. The fast-talking McGill graduate had drummed up his first business pounding the marble floors of the courthouse, eventually defending such underworld all-stars as Frank Cotroni, the Dubois brothers and Dooney Ryan.
   "He was a likeable guy, a real wheeler-dealer," says one crime journalist. Another remarked on his tendency to put a price on everything: "If he'd buy you lunch, he'd make sure you knew how much it cost. If you complimented him on his tie, he'd tell you how much he paid for it."
   As Leithman warmed up his Saab 2000 convertible at 6:40 a.m. he probably tossed some packages into his backseat. After a couple of blocks a Jeep cut him off at Jean-Talon and Rockland. A man about 5'7" shot six shots into the car, breaking the window with the first two, then hitting him four times.
   Two clear bags of white power were found on top of Leithman's briefcase in the back; packages which witnesses believe were tossed in by the gunman. However, another item, believed to be Leithman's briefcase, was off-limits for detectives. Although they had a potential gold mine of clues, the detectives were forced to seal the bag and hand it over to the Quebec Bar. The most persistent rumour pins responsibility for the hit on a Colombian drug lord upset with Leithman for failing to get his girlfriend acquitted.
It helps to be loved 
   Robert Morin was a man from St-Jérôme who moved to the city, changed his name to Carole Jean, got a sex change and became a stripper named Saria. And she did that well, well enough for the 21 year old to beat 100 hopefuls in a contest at Bar Robert for the title of Miss Strip 1976. In the hours before the midnight which would start her reign, Carole was at her Viau street apartment, watching TV with the person she called her sister, Claude "Claudia" Jean, 21, a pretty pre-op transsexual, five years into the process of becoming a woman.
   Somebody entered, without any sign of force, and around 9 p.m. the two shemales were both stabbed to death. There was no discernible motive, although Carole's presumed stash of cash she'd earned as a stripper throughout the province was gone, as was the killer.
   "Back then gays were killed with impunity," says community spokesman Michael Hendricks. "Until 1992 being a homosexual was a reason to get murdered." In the 1990s, when a series of murders in the gay community started occurring, Hendricks and others aggressively demanded information from the homicide squad. "We told them that the victims often didn't have much in the way of family. It took a year, but we finally persuaded them to show us photos of the crime scenes and such."
   Although the homicide squad discourages publicity, Hendricks believes it was precisely that which led to a greater awareness in the community concerning safety issues. Of the 14 local gay murders from the early '90s, only two are officially thought to be the work of a still-unapprehended serial killer. But another chilling rumour in police circles has it that the homicide squad secretly believes the number to be much higher, a fact they have sought to mute in an effort to avert further panic.
King of the rumour mill 
   It was one of those rare ho-hum moments in Frank Shoofey's day. Whether organizing a criminal defence for one of his many high-powered clients, plotting his entry into the provincial Liberals or fielding one of the many calls he loved to answer, the 44-year-old lawyer had few quiet minutes. As he entered the hallway outside his office at 1030 Cherrier, on October 15, 1985, to comb his elaborate mop of a hairpiece, a gunman shot him in the head four times at close range. The much-loved lawyer's body fell to the ground in the exact spot where one of his clients had been killed six years earlier.
   Within hours, the city was buzzing with rumours about the murder; citizen sleuths knew that Shoofey had received death threats and that the killer needed a key to enter his building. They spoke of his newly dissolved contract with the boxing Hiltons, an unusual deal in which the lawyer received half of their earnings, as a hedge against their father blowing the money on booze. Shoofey bragged of never keeping a cent of the Hilton cash, spending it instead on a huge Rigaud home for the clan. And you didn't need a Whisper 2000 to hear the talk about the American boxing promoter Don King, who had recently incurred Shoofey's wrath by allegedly getting Dave Hilton Senior drunk before getting him to sign an exclusive contract for his boxing sons.
   Yet in spite of the cold-blooded killing, Shoofey's son Dominique, who was 13 at the time, didn't hesitate to enter to follow his father into criminal defence law. "I don't think what happened to my father was really related to his practice, it was more an exception to what happens."
   But one veteran crime reporter says that the homicide squad are barking up an entirely different tree. "They got an idea on who shot him, he's in and out of jail, they've tried everything to get him to make a mistake and get him to court. They put a guy in his cell and everything, it didn't work. It's banal, it's punk stuff, it's just a client who wasn't happy with Frank. Maybe he needed money off him for a fix or something."
   And if, God forbid, you were murdered? In death you'd become the compliant client of a team which sits behind closed horizontal blinds in the glass and steel offices above the Place Versailles cinema, far in the city's east end.  
   Unlike other homicide squads, most notably that of Baltimore--which welcomed a writer to observe their day-to-day operations for a year "with no adverse reaction" in the name of "our partnership with the community," as a detective from that city put it--your murder detectives work in secrecy and darkness. And if, in the icy grave of a murder victim, you are one of the one-in-three homicide victims whose killer walks free, try to summon some blind hope that your case won't be mishandled. And be patient, you'll be dead long enough.

Tragic train accident sparks speculation

   Unconfirmed information is slowly emerging concerning a mysterious disaster that took place nine days ago when a 22-year-old woman was hit by a train and lost her two legs beneath the the knees in late on a cold night an industrial area of Montreal.
  The woman was said to be a bartender at the Irish Embassy Pub downtown on Bishop and was originally from Ottawa. According to the unconfirmed narrative, she had a bit too much to drink and hopped into a cab to get home to Verdun at about 2:30 a.m. on December 8.
   For reasons that remain entirely unclear, the woman ended up nowhere near her home and instead found herself outside on the cold night in an industrial wasteland near Bridge and Wellington in the Point, still a 20-minute walk to the border of Verdun.
   Not only was she mysteriously marooned in an industrial wasteland, she found herself on the railway tracks for reasons unclear.
   She would have had no reason to be on the tracks, which host trains that come from the South Shore across the Victoria Bridge along tracks that loop behind the Costco.
   That route is not a shortcut to anything except more industrial space.
   So how she got on the tracks and why she was there remain a profound mystery.
   A train came along soon after and hit her.
   She was spotted by another train conductor about four hours later in a pool of blood and suffering severe frostbite to her hands.
   She has since been placed in an induced coma and so she might never tell her story. .
   Some people who discussed this unconfirmed report on Facebook have speculated that the taxi driver might have been negligent for dropping the young woman off in such a spot where she clearly did not live.
   Some thought that the woman and driver might have had a disagreement, or maybe she was disoriented from drink, or perhaps she fled a sexual attack, but it's too soon to convict anybody.
  Whether this sad story turns to outrage or remains a mystery is anybody's guess.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Montreal's Ferncraft Leather murder mystery

Raymonde Parent, killed at the Olympic Village 22/10/79 and hubby Fern B. 

    Not all murders are sparked by power, sex, jealousy and drugs.
   Here's an unsolved murder mystery of another sort, since I've heard you pining.
   Raymonde Parent, wife of Fernand Beaudoin was gunned down dead on October 22, 1979 at the Olympic Village.
   If you thought her husband did it, you're wrong because he too was shot in the same elevator attack.
   Did Beaudoin have any enemies?
   Well, glad you asked.
   Beaudoin ran a leather clothing company called Ferncraft Leather which had 168 employees.
   He needed a bit of financing to get through a rough patch, so he went to get it at a company called Aetna, based in Alexis Nihon.
   Well that didn't work out so well as Aetna suddenly pulled the plug on him at around Christmas 1976 and liquidated the company.
   Upon learning of this decision to fold his company, Beaudoin flew into a rage, which is always a great idea of course, and rushed to their offices and confronted Aetna boss Gerald Levinson.
   Oh, and Beaudoin was carrying a gun too, did I mention?
   It went off, Levinson was shot in the leg and recovered.
   Beaudoin was sentenced to three months in prison and fined $10,000.
   Beaudoin then laid a $25 million lawsuit against Levinson's company.
   Meanwhile the Quebec government bankrolled Beaudoin's new business, L'Atelier de Cuir Acton Inc.
   His wife Raymonde apparently ran for the Creditistes in the federal elections in the late 70s
   She certainly didn't deserve to be shot.
   Beaudoin didn't either but there was a better case to be made for him deserving it.
   None of this is to suggest that Levinson ordered a hit on Beaudoin out of revenge for the monkey business earlier, indeed that's not what I'm trying to imply at all. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Payroll heists: a onetime Friday tradition in Montreal

   The Friday payroll heist was once a criminal staple in Montreal as companies would pay employees in cash, or offer to cash employees' cheques, leading thieves to the aroma of large amounts of often poorly-protected cash money to be grabbed.
  Here's a list of payroll robberies in Montreal over the years. (Please submit suggestions for this evolving list).
1975  Two men were arrested in St. Leonard six months after robbing $1 million earmarked as pay for 2,400 Hydro Quebec employees 150 northeast of Quebec City. Bank officials were held hostage in the theft but the cash money was soon after found in the woods and the pair was arrested about 20 miles away from the scene of the crime. They escaped on June 24 and were recaptured in Montreal.
1967 October 2: Five hooded men armed with sawed off semi-automatic shotguns robbed about $10,000 from National Sales Distributors Limited in Old Montreal at 477 St. Jean Baptiste, a narrow street across from the courthouse.
1967 July 7: Thieves make off with $8,000 from Jarry Hydraulics in the East End.
1967 July 7: Three machine gun-toting men took $86,000 from Brinks trucks from the Sacre Coeur Hospital in Cartiervielle -$78,000 that was earmarked to pay 3,000 workers.
1967 June 19 D.R. Hogman VP of Operation announced from Chicago that Brinks would no longer cash cheques in Montreal following a spate of payroll thefts that took place as police were busy dealing with Expo 67.  In the past year thieves had made of with $952,000 in payroll thefts.
1967 April 17: $400,000 in cash and non-negotiable cheques was stolen by four masked gunmen who held up two Brinks guards in the sub-basement of Simpson's department store.
1967 April 7: Coca Cola plant thieves took $10,000 from a payroll cash operation at 200 Bellechasse at 9:30 a.m. Three masked men forced five employees to lie on the floor, one was carrying  a machine gun. They missed out on another $22,000 that was in another box.  They were caught and sentenced to seven years each.
1967 March 9: $95,000 was taken from Dominion Glass in Point St. Charles. Four armed and hooded gunmen disarmed armed guards and forced 50 employees to lie face down on the floor at 7:15 a.m. as they robbed $95,000 from Dominion Glass in the Point. One shot bullets into a pillar to show he was serious.
1967 Feb 25: A big haul of $275,000 was taken from a Brinks truck on Villeray St. outside a supermarket where payroll was being delivered.
1967  Feb 23: Three men armed with machine guns escaped with $21,000 from a payroll theft at Smith Transport in Dorval.
1966 Feb. 18: Thieves stole an undisclosed amount from the Automatic Slipper Company at 9767 Birnam.
1966 July 22: Three masked men grabbed $77,000 from Brinks at payroll operation at Crane Canada on St. Patrick St.
1963: Sept 19: Payroll thieves took $10,000 from Boulevard Pontiac in North Central Montreal.

New Method at left, Jean-Louis Langlois renenacting his shooting technique for a cameraman and Claude Laframboise, 

1962 - December 28: Montreal police officer Jean-Louis Langlois shot Claude Laframboise, a 39-year-old waiter and would-be payroll thief dead at the New Method Laundry Company at 6455 Christophe Colomb. The same company which was targeted one  year earlier. Two others escaped. Cops had received a tip that there would be na attempt to steal the  $7,000 payroll.
1961  Oct: 16: New Method Laundry was robbed of $6,000 after thieves entered the building through the garage.
1960 Dec, 2: At 10 a.m. three masked and armed men held up messenger from George G. Hodges Ltd. at 205 Vitre West. They relieved him of about $4,000 in workers' pay.
1960 Dec. 2: Thieves stole $1,600 from the Prince Hat and Cap Co. 91 King St. (Roy) Marylin Pratt had been carrying the bag.
1960 Sept. 23: Three masked gunmen held up the Provincial Transport Company's east end terminal at Berri and de Montigny and took about $50,000. They threatened Roger Dupuis and five employees and dashed down the stairs. The pay was for 600 workers.
1960 Sept. 23: The Seafarers' international union lost a $2,500 payroll when a young  man attacked an employee Anne De Bellevefeuille carrying the money in a paper back to 718 St. James St. W. in broad daylight in Old Montreal.
1963: August 30: Two men escaped with the $3,370 payroll of an insurance agency while police chased the wrong red car. The men stole from employee Henri Chartrand returning from the bank for the Georges Tanguay company.
1959 Aug 4: George Ehrman of Acme Slide Fastenener described the theft of $1,900 in cash for employees at 1740 St Antoine. "He pulled a gun and asked me to give him the money. I threw the briefcase and ran up the stairs.
1954 July 23: This is in Joliette, about 45 minutes from Montreal: Two masked gunmen took $23,768 from the Howard Smith Paper Co. on the way from the bank to Crabtree Mills.
1953 - Leslie Kovach, 27, was charged with robbery of $2,681 from the Monitor Publishing Company. Ruth Webster said that she wasn't sure it was him so he was acquitted.
1953 June 12: Norman Sidel of the Empire Glove Company at 3480 St. Dominique reported that thieves took $460, pay for about 40 employees.
1952 Aug 28: David et Frere wholesale biscuits lost $19,668 in a payroll theft.
1952 Aug 20. A thief nicked $950 from Riva Pastal on her way to Room 202 of the Balfour Building 3575 St. Lwrence. A man levelled a nickel-plated gun at her and snatched her briefcase. The gun turned out to be plastic.
1947: May 14: Charles Hockman, 24, was sentenced to five years in prison for $4,000 theft of Lunham of Canada and Backett Ltd. at 231 Notre Dame W. He did it to buy jewelry and furs for his girlfriend who was crying in court. Two thirds of the money was found sewn in her coat. The rest was buried in a lot in Ville Emard.
1947 Sept 26: $2,000 was stolen from Montreal Laundry Ltd at 936 Busby (?) in a daylight robbery conducted by one young man and young middle-aged partner in crime.
1946  March 8: - St. Jean D'Arc Hospital on St. Urbain lost $28,000 in workers' wages when a man with a gun took off with the loot. He was described as 5'7" 135 lbs and about 35 years old. He'd be 104 now.
1945 March 1, Two bandits in ski masks and windbreakers staged the holdup in a narrow passeageway between one section of Wilsil Ltd. meat packing plant. They were gone in three minutes. in a station wagon, with a haul of $15,000 as night shift workers waited in vain for their pay. Some speculated that the thieves were army deserters.
1933 Lucien hogue and George Starke are sentenced to life in prison for the $4,000 payrol heist at Gagnon Lachapelle and the Catelli Macaroni Company -
1927 -Oct. 31 George Starke took $1,380 from the Montreal Tramsways Company on Victoria Ave. He was setnenced to two years and 20 lashes but was released after a bus driver late convinced that he did the inside job.
1924 April 1: Former cop Louis Morrell was ambushed on Ontario St. near Morea in a massive payroll heist of $142,288 - leaving behind another $200,000. Courier Henri Cleroux and bandit Harry Stone died in the shootout. Seven were eventually convicted and four of them hanged.
1923 April 16:Fred Young, 26, of Albany stole $6,000 in payroll from a Montreal shirt factory before it could be delivered to employees.
1922 An unnamted suspect was arrested after stealing $29,000 in payroll from the Dominion Textile plant on St. Ambroise in St. Henri.

Bike path mania reconsidered: are they such a great idea?

   Bike paths are being added to streets in cities around the world at the rate of a bicycle headed down a steep hill without any thought of braking.  
   It might be time to pinch those handbrakes and give some rational thought to this practice.
Some points:
1-Many studies indicate that bike paths make cycling more dangerous than riding without them..              Increased risk to cyclists caused by bike paths has been demonstrated in studies done in Sacremento, Palo Alto, Toronto,Ottawa Denmark, Berlin, Sweden, and Britain.
   These are not only legit studies, many were commissioned under the assumption that the results would have shown the opposite (although other studies came with the opposite conclusions).
     2-Bike paths are massively expensive. Not only do they cost millions to build but many bike paths cost parking revenues.
   So let's say 500 street parking spots are removed for a bike path (as seen for example in the photo of Rachel St. above). If each metered spot brings in say $100 a day, a single bike path costs a city $50,000 a day in lost revenues (even in winter when they are barely even used). Now multiply those numbers dozens of times around town.  
   And of course wiping out parking spots makes it difficult for shopkeepers, as clients can't leave their car anywhere, so they just drive to malls, once again, that's another loss to main street.*
   3-Bike paths are ageist. Old, handicapped, young, sick people and many others can't or won't ride bicycles. And almost nobody can or will ride in winter or the rain. That's a lot of people who cannot ride a bike. This huge social demographic travels in cars. As unfashionable as they might appear, cars and taxis are more democratic than bicycles.
   Bike paths on busy streets often unnecessarily prevent people from stopping their cars, which makes it difficult for health-challenged or disabled people to disembark in some spots.
   Cycling is a great pleasure and many bike paths, such as the one lining the Lachine Canal offer a great riding experience, but paths on commercial arteries clearly should have been reconsidered and that goes to the future ones that are slated for Bernard and St. Lawrence.**
  ----
 *(The city has attempted to insulate itself from the shock of store closings by pushing the commercial tax onto landlords, who in turn simply raise rents both commercial and residential, so people end up paying one way or another). 
**Soon technology will make bike transit riding and bus riding obsolete anyway as inexpensive self-driven electric taxis will pick us up and drop us off without requiring any parking headaches.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

A tasteless wreath, Marxist bikers and suicidal female killer - high drama in a Quebec City biker war

   We have previously discussed the crazy carnage and mass murders that took place in Montreal 40 years ago as biker gangs battled over drug turf in the area of St. Louis Square on St. Denis in the mid-70s.
   But the untold preface to this story involves even more chilling elements upriver in the provincial capital involving a Marxist biker gang and a woman killer.
   The biker war between the Pacific Rebels of Quebec City and the Citoyens de la Terre - supposedly a Marxist biker gang - based in Ile D'Orleans claimed four lives in the first five weeks of 1974 in the usually-sleepy provincial capital.
   The war between the two obscure gangs started on July 29, 1973 when the Pacific Rebels attacked the Citoyens de la Terre headquarters on Ile D'Orleans.  
   The Citoyens returned the favour and attacked the Rebels headquarters.
   Indeed this is where an obscure but intriguing character makes her mark on the gang war.
   The Rebels' headquarter was entirely empty when the Citoyens attacked except for one person.
    Michele Blouin, the girlfriend of the Rebels gang leader Serge "Gallo" Beaulieu was alone when Raymond Che Ramon" Cardinal led the nine-man attack armed with rifles and baseball bats.
   Blouin shot one of the attackers, Yvan Lapointe, dead.
   He was given an ornate funeral by his gang Citoyens de la Terre biker mates.
   The Rebels could not resist an opportunity to show poor taste.
   The sent a wreath to their rivals' funeral with the message "It's a tragic accident but on the bright side you're not in shape to chase after anybody for revenge because you're dead you damn dog."
   Pride comes before the fall, of course and the Pacific Rebels would be humbled.
  On January 1, 1974 Rebels member Ghislain Fiset, 24, was found dead by the road in St. Emile, just north of the city murdered by axe. 
   Then Mario Demers, 18, of the Rebels was shot dead by three gunmen in Sherbrooke on Tuesday, January 29, 1974. His friend Mario Bureau, 19, survived the shooting. 
  And thirdly, on February 4, when Serge Letourneau, 27, a top dog of the Rebels was killed in broad daylight when he started started a booby-trapped car outside of the Chateau Frontenac.  Three other gang members were also in the car and they suffered injury as well.
   The explosion occurred right in the heart of the tourist area near where the caleche horses wait between rides.
   The gang was in town to watch the trial of seven fellow gangmates. Those proceedings had been delayed after the prisoners led a riot in the pre-trial cells.
   But the fourth incident was the stuff of high drama.
   The very next day Michele Blouin, a strong and beautiful woman, by all accounts, who was still facing charges on manslaughter, was found dead in her Beauport apartment with a bullet hole in her head and a .22 calibre rifle at her side.* It was deemed a suicide.
   The biker war quieted down after that as many participants were jailed for weapons and other violations.
   Pacific Rebels leader Serge Beaulieu said after learning of his girlfriend's death "All I had was my bike, boots and girl. Now she's gone and I have nothing.**
--
*Anybody who happens to be at the BANQ on Berri might do me a solid by checking the Allo/Photo police on the microfilms and scanning and sending me a photo of Blouin, if there is one.
**  Some of the worst biker violence of this pre-Hells period happened outside of Montreal, and includes an August double-murder-by fire of August 1971, 40 miles south of Quebec City. Victims were Jarrets Noire gang members Jacque Giguere, 19 of St. Marie de Beauce and Serge Bourque 24, of Notre Dame des Pins in Beauce.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Montreal's Golden Metal eyesore gone after just 65 years of fugliness

  The hideously ugly rusted corrugated metal walls of Golden Metal will no longer haunt your dreams as the structure that sits just downhill from Montreal's skyscrapers has been removed after uglifying the cityscape for a mere 65 years.
Golden Metal, bottom right, is gone
  Yep, one of the city's last longstanding monuments to its ramshackle, dilapidated past has forever been eradicated, as the tetanus facade of the Golden Metal scrapyard at Mountain and William has finally been removed and the land evacuated for development.
   Golden Scrap Iron and Metal sat at the corner spot since 1949 and prior to that was listed as the home of H. Goldenberg, who we surely have to thank for unsightly barrier to beauty.
   I've long pined to know what stood behind the rusted corrugated metal walls of this cornerstone corner of Griffintown, which once gloriously sat across from the Stewart Bottling plant on William, (a softdrink maker that fused with Cott in 1955).
  It turns out that the stuff behind the walls was probably even uglier than the wall itself, as shown by the Bing Maps image above.
 The 10,000 square foot property has a 2012 municipal evaluation of $242,000, including $52,000 for the value of the structure on the property, although we're not even sure that there actually was one.
   The evaluation had been hiked up from $165,000 just three years prior, so the 50 percent tax hike from the Southwest borough (the downtown Ville Marie borough starts just a stones throw to the east) might be construed as a little taxey-hikey shovetastic encouragement meant to get the too-complacent owner to do something a bit nicer with his land.
   Since 2012 the property has been owned by 8241945 CANADA INC which appears to be based in the Aldo Shoes warehouse. Whether they're behind the current construction - surely condos - remains to be seen.

The life and death of the West End Gang's John Slawvey

     Giant-sized West End Gang member John Slawvey is back in the news lately after a criminologist listed him among the people Quebec police forces assassinated over the years.
   I recently interviewed his then-girlfriend who was waiting for Slawvey, 38, to return home from a bar on St. James St. W. (he had no alcohol in his system when killed) on the night that he was shot by police.
   The girlfriend sheds light on another possibility that might have led to the shooting, more on that below.
   According to an official report, police shot Slawvey 20 times in the indoor parking lot at 2555 Benny on May 15, 1976 at about 3:30 a.m.
  He exited his 1974 Chrysler and police, who were waiting for him, yelled at him "police don't move."
  Police later suggested that they waited in the parking lot because his apartment door was barricaded. They did not, however, knock on the door upstairs prior to hiding in the parking lot that evening.
  The six officers present all later swore that Slawvey walked forward, crouched down and produced a shiny metal revolver, a Hopkins Allen 295, which was recovered from the crime scene.
  Some believe that police planted the gun at the scene after the shooting. (His girlfriend said that she had never seen the gun found at the scene but also said that she would not have known anyway.)
   Four officers opened fire (Lucien Lefebvre of the Night Squad with an M76 machine gun, Constable Ross Trudel of the Special Squad, Sgt Det Andre Savard with a M1 shotgun with 9 MM bullets, and Sgt Det Roger David of something called the UEHVQ, who said that he shot Slawvey five times) and two others did not (Sgt Det. J.P. Gilbert Station 10 and Sgt Det. Claude Paquette of the Night Squad).
   Police had no love for Slawvey who had reputedly shot and killed motorcycle cop Jean-Guy Sabourin in December 1971 outside of Simpson's during a robbery. (Great footage of police reacting to the news at Station 10 at 53:00 of this documentary).
   Slawvey hated police and was believed to have shot at officers a few weeks earlier as they were conducting intense investigations into the famous Brinks robbery.
   Slawvey grew up poor on Sebastopol in the Point in a Polish family with a domineering mother who would confiscate earnings from his first job and a father who he considered weak.
   The strapping 6'4", 242 lbs Slawvey soon found himself to be an important part of the West End Gang, Montreal's Irish Mafia.
   And although large, Slawvey admitted to being a poor fighter and was once beaten up on Sherbrooke and Girouard by 5'2" Bob Chiu.
   He also backed down from legendary WEG hit-man Jackie McLaughlin after losing his temper with a girl over a small amount of cocaine. West End Gang leader Dunie Ryan once almost fought with Slawvey in a bar after Slawvey slapped a woman.
   And he feuded with oddball former friend and onetime mayoral candidate Roddy Diamond, who he died last year in a trailer outside of the city. Slawvey once tossed a Molotov cocktail into a business in Verdun to piss Diamond off.
  Slawvey was also involved in an epic brawl against a bunch of football players at the Mustache Club on Closse across from the Forum. The football players won.
Gun found at the scene
   Slawvey was good friends with the McGurnahans, a family of 10 whose father died and were raised by a single mother in the Point. Some of the family joined the West End Gang and two were killed after running afoul of West End Gang leaders Dunie Ryan and Alan Ross,
  Slawvey admitted that he was no good at fighting but said that his gun could make up for any shortcomings as a pugilist.
    Slawvey, who dealt and enjoyed the more-than-occasional toot of cocaine, never confessed to any murders to those close to him except for having tossed an older man down a flight of stairs while fleeing a robbery.      
   Slawvey suspected that he had killed the man. He also had a bullet wound in his back, after being shot in Boston.
   At the time of his death, Slawvey was separated from his American wife Nancy. The two had a son named David, then aged nine. David died in a car accident aged 16 in 1985.
   Slawvey had links with the East End mobsters who he'd meet in an East End disco and he was known to motor around in style in an Italian made red De Tomaso Pantera one of only two in Montreal at the time. He also owned a 1929 Ford and a new-model luxury Chrysler.
   One time cops pulled him over while driving the Pantera, which had ample cocaine inside. He got out and threatened the cops and no arrest was made.
    His 21-year-old girlfriend who was waiting at home for him the night of his death had unsettling thoughts during his absence and kept looking out the window thinking that there might be a fire nearby.
   She sensed that Slawvey too might have had some sort of subconscious premonition that his life would be ending as he left home at 1:30 p.m. that day.
   Unusually Slawvey did not put his customary jewelry on.
   After the shooting cops rushed to apartment 201 and banged on their door at 3:44 a.m.  His girlfriend scrambled to hide and remove anything that might seem incriminating. She removed the metal barriers from the door which Slawvey had installed after several earlier raids.
    "I opened the door to a long gun pointed at my face. Three detectives rushed in, Andre Savard in front along with two others who were huge like John. They took our shotgun out of the bedroom and asked me if I used it to kill cops. I was extremely uncooperative and his exact words were 'John Slawvey is dead.' He was shot in the garage. I didn't believe them and kicked them out. I saw them towing his car, so I went down to garage and I knew he was gone. I'll never forget what I saw."
   Now the element that has never been mentioned in this narrative is that Slawvey was carrying a large shiny metallic object with him that night in the form of an early-model telephone pager, which he  usually kept in his belt. 
   It measured about 12 inches by 4 inches, according to his girlfriend. It's an item which would have reflected ample light in the darkness of a dim indoor parking lot.
   Police later said that they saw him draw a shiny metal gun from his belt, but it could very well have been the pager.
   Police were never, of course, charged with any misdeeds in connection to the death and were cleared less than a month after in a quickie inquiry. Many went on to significant accomplishments doing tough tasks within the force. 
   But it's possible that the officers opened fire after mistaking the shiny metallic pager for a gun. 
   Slawvey was dressed in a dark blue turtleneck and light blue blazer at his open casket funeral several weeks later, an impressive bit of work done by the Feron funeral home on the bullet-ridden body and invasive autopsy. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Verdun murder: cops seek woman as potential witness

   More on the murder of Peter Clement, who was stabbed to death on Allen St. in Verdun on Friday November 21. 
   Police are reportedly now scouring the city for a woman who they believe might have important information relating to the crime. 
   Clement was reportedly a drug dealer who ran afoul of his partners by falling into debt after consuming some of the rock cocaine he was selling.  
   The woman is described as being white, pretty and about 35 years old. She is usually easy to find in the Verdun area, although she is not known to wear provocative clothing as befits her occasional professional pursuit.
   The woman struck a good friendship with the victim as they became intimate as they partied together. She may or may not have knowledge of the events that led to the killing and she might be in hiding in Verdun.    

Friday, December 05, 2014

Montreal rapper gets pimping sentence reduced

A Montreal rapper recently sentenced to four years for savagely pimping his girlfriend will be serving a lot less time than expected.
  Jahmane Bolton, known as FROST, was sentenced to four years incarceration on January 17 but in June another judge lowered that sentence to 18 months.
  So Bolton will be a free man in June 2015 and likely much earlier. Heck with thirds of his sentence now already he could be free now even.
   According to reports he forced his girlfriend to become a stripper and prostitute and beat her badly if she didn't bring home enough cash, he'd force her to plead with him for food and cab money when she needed it. She reported him for domestic violence and police determined that she was being pimped. We assume there were drugs involved.
  Bolton has a few videos on YouTube that appear to have cost someone some serious dough.
   They have not resulted in many views.
   In his most recent effort from about a year ago he stops the video a couple of time to talk to the camera where he sheds light on his world view which is the standard bragging.
"Any party I go to, I'm in the lineup and they take me out of the lineup because they recognize me."
"We hit every single corner of the centre-ville... my money stays up like pants with a belt.."
   Blah blah blah.
   Not all rappers are involved in crime, of course and I'm told that many of them are exceedingly talented and a handful are touring the world and impressing with their skills. A new tech-savvy generation is also emerging that is showing great promise but alas some, sadly, are still not doing such great things.