Snowdon Memories

[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.

Snowdon_Theatre_(Montreal)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.


Snowdon Theatre photo: copyright Bill Wrigley,  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

19 thoughts on “Snowdon Memories

  1. Hello Ellie P.
    I too lived in the apartment bldg at 5473 Decarie Blvd near Dupuis. I was brought there as a newborn in 1940 and stayed there till my teens. Do you by any chance have any pictures of the two apartment blogs? When I think of them now, I realize how beautiful they were with their “art deco” look. I walked up and down Decarie to QMR so many times, going to school at St Antonin’s (French side), running errands for my grandmother at Girouard’s little grocery store, Levine’s Bakery for my parents, I even worked on weekends at Lauro Secords on QMR while I was in 3rd and 4th high at St Augustines HS. So many memories!!!! I have a picture of my sister and I on the front steps of the apartment bldg but wonder if you had any? It was lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi there! Small world! But I’m so sorry, I have no pictures of those buildings! Wish I did, would bring back good memories – even if I was so very young when we lived there. Thanks for reading this post, and for writing. Take care!


  2. Reading about your memories reminded me of a new book called “The Amateurs” I just heard about today on CBC’s “The Next Chapter.”

    “At the centre of The Amateurs is a product called ‘port’ — a portal that a tech company creates and releases to the public before all the kinks are out. The world that we enter at the beginning of the novel is a world in which almost everyone has gone through portals out of the present. Whether they can come back, whether it’s wise to go through the portals — these are the dilemmas the survivors face.”

    Hmmm… interesting thought!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this comment and link. So… are you saying that when you read my piece, it was so amazing and enjoyable that you weren’t sure if you wanted to come back to the present? 😀


  3. Ummm… no. 🙂
    I simply enjoyed the coincidence of the two similar trains of thought.
    I do, however, get lost in reverie myself from time-to-time.
    Now… where… er… when was I? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Does anyone reading this who lived around the Decarie, Cote St. Catherine Road area have a memory of the house move that took place in early 1947 as described here:

    There surely would have been hundreds of additional photos taken by local residents who witnessed this unusual event.

    If so, please contribute your memories to the comments section of the aforementioned blog pages.

    Thank you.

    Urban Legend

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Quiz: What the former name of Nelson Mandela Park in Cote des Neiges located west of Victoria Avenue between Vezina, Barclay, and Westbury. The nearby school located at 4860 Vezina (Ecole des Nations) used to be the PSBGM’s Coronation Elementary School. None of the vintage city maps I own indicate the former name of this park, although logically it would have been named Coronation Park, just as the the former Van Horne School at the corner of Van Horne and Victoria is adjacent to the existing Van Horne Park.


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