Terry DiMonte – Home Again

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Montreal.  Writer and media personality, Matthew Cope, happened to run into Terry DiMonte in Westmount the other day, and was quick to respond to my request to share this photo he posted on Facebook.  I know Matthew from my days at CFCF TV. Montreal is just that kind of city. You always run into someone you know and it is easy to stay connected to people. Small town feel under big city lights.

The story of Terry DiMonte -“Radio morning man returning to the airwaves in Montreal after a 4 year stop in Calgary”  is of interest to me (and thousands of others, apparently) for many reasons.  Not the least of which is that it provides a glimpse of the complexity of life in Canada.  Terry’s story is one of many that have been experienced by Quebec anglophones who have moved west to start new lives.

My story is on the opposite side of the coin. I am a western Canadian by birth (Winnipeg), who claimed Montreal as home for a dozen years in my television news career.  I now call South Florida home, but Montreal is that shiny bit of magic that remains undefined and truly missed. Every Canadian should live in Montreal for at least a year. It will completely change your perception of what Canada is all about. To be an “Anglo” in Quebec is a complicated affair. I think it fair to say that to be “Quebecois” in Canada is equally complicated, but that is a story for another day.

I am enriched by my experience in Quebec, and by the people who I have met along the way.

Terry and I knew each other professionally and our paths would occasionally cross at media and cultural events.  In addition to that, he was “my” morning radio man who helped me ease into the day and get off to work as I sat down to coffee and Cheerios.

Bill Brownstein, another contemporary from my Montreal life, writes for the Montreal Gazette. His thoughtful and detailed piece on Terry DiMonte’s return to Montreal is a terrific read.

Terry’s return broadcast will be heard early on Monday, January 9th.

Best wishes for success and happiness, Terry. Have a great time in a great city.

Montreal Anglos Moving Back – Terry DiMonte

An era has come to an end in Calgary morning radio with Terry DiMonte packing up his boots and ten gallon hat and heading back to Montreal. I’ve been following this story because Terry is taking a terrific gamble that many former Montrealers only dream of taking. Montreal is a fabulous city to call home. So is Calgary. I’ve lived in both over the years. One has mountains in view from town; the other “The Mountain” from which to view the city.

Sandi Krawchenko, reporter, CFCF TV, Montreal

I moved to Montreal from my hometown, Winnipeg, in 1980 and lived there for 12 years, working as a reporter/anchor/entertainment editor at CTV Montreal, which was then known as Pulse News on CFCF TV. Montreal is the kind of city you fall in love with. A cosmopolitan French city with an international flair, and known as one of “the coolest” cities in the world, according to a recent survey, it is an international jewel, where every taste can be satisfied, and the bagels are the best in the world.

There is a constant intensity of emotion in the city that inspires passion, strong debate and a deep appreciation for the better aspects of city life. It’s a party town with a joie de vivre that bubbles out of a heated political reality–two dominant cultures working out their conflicts and accommodations over a colourful 400 year history.

Add to that the ease of getting out of Montreal for Le Weekend “up north” or in the townships, or even skiing in Vermont, and you start to have a sense of the appeal of making Montreal home. It is as easy as it is difficult to be comfortable in Montreal.

This is Quebec. A life of contrasts. Beautiful, cantankerous, heartbreaking and exciting. I’ve talked to a number of people who have returned to Montreal after being away, and the experience was perhaps best summed up by this comment from a business associate:

“In some ways, it is like going back into a volatile love relationship. You fully appreciate the problems but can’t resist the appeal of being intensely alive, so you go back, and hope for the best.”

Here’s wishing Terry DiMonte a great ride in his new start in Montreal.

You’ll hear him on CHOM, January 9, 2012.

Montreal Anglos Who Moved “Out West”

The big news in Canadian radio last week was the announcement that popular radio morning man, Terry DiMonte, is leaving his job in Calgary to return to Montreal.  Why is this big news? Because Montreal is a city like no other.  When an anglophone comes home, people talk.

Montreal, and indeed the province of Quebec, have seen a great deal of turmoil over the last generation. Many of the historical wrongs against the majority French population have been addressed, but with a price.  Anger, riots, bombs. Neighbour against neighbour.  It hasn’t been easy.  Yet, still, the city remains a spectacular international destination for business, travel and most importantly, for the fiercely proud people who call Montreal home.   To this day, there are lingering issues that have changed the course of many lives.

Montreal, more than any other city in Canada, has been forced to bring confrontation to the kitchen table, particularly in the Anglophone community, as family after family since the 1970s grappled with decisions people in other cities never had to think about.  Where will you move after you get your degree from university?  What will you do when your company moves to Toronto? How will you adapt your business to comply with the demands of the language police?   And of course, it often came to: what do you think your prospects might be “Out West”.  (Out west meant Alberta or BC.   Saskatchewan and Manitoba played little part in the dream of Montrealers starting a new life.)

When Terry DiMonte left his Montreal morning show almost four years ago, it left a hole in the fabric of Montreal. People missed him.  Many saw his move as a direct loss to the English community.  One more comfortable and familiar voice was gone from a community that had been made to absorb too many tiny cuts along with hard changes over the last several decades.   Now, many will see the return of a beloved broadcaster as bringing a little bit of “Montreal as we remember it” back to the present day.

In reading about Terry DiMonte’s decision to move back to Montreal, I came across this very interesting documentary produced by the Montreal Gazette in 2009. Nine people from Montreal, including Terry, reflect on their decisions to move “Out West” and provide frank comments on how things worked out in their lives.

I’m quite certain that there are a great many people in Calgary who will miss their morning man when he leaves Alberta.  Some of them may even be inspired to start conversations in their own homes about whether it is time to move back to Montreal.

For more information about Terry DiMonte, see Steve Faguy’s blog.  Steve is a freelance journalist in Montreal who has created a real news hub for Montreal stories.

Montreal Bagels and “The Main”

“Our Street was Paved with Gold”, is the title of a film about Montreal that is a charming and nostalgic piece produced by the NFB.

During the mass migration that began in the late 19th century, every city had a similar story when it came to the location of the immigrant neighbourhoods. As writers like Abraham Cahan often described: You got off a boat, or a train, and walked until you found someone who spoke your language.

In New York it was the Lower East Side.

In Winnipeg, it was Point Douglas and ultimately, the North End.

And in Montreal, it was St. Lawrence Boulevard, the long street known as “The Main” that ran down to the harbour. Mordecai Richler described the famous neighbourhood with these words in Son of a Smaller Hero:

“All day long, St. Lawrence Boulevard, or Main Street, is a frenzy of poor Jews, who gather there to buy groceries, furniture, clothing and meat. Most walls are plastered with fraying election bills, in Yiddish, French and English. The street reeks of garlic and quarrels and bill collectors: orange crates, stuffed full with garbage and decaying fruit, are piled slipshod in most alleys.”

Similar impressions are captured in this NFB film that takes us back to 1973, and the vibrant colours of the changing neighbourhood on St. Lawrence. Directed by Albert Kish, it is called Our Street was Paved with Gold.

Click here to see the film.

If your family history touches Montreal, and you remember the smell of sausage being smoked in the corner store, and the mouth watering sensation of sinking your teeth into a fresh warm bagel, you will enjoy this film.

How interesting and comforting, for those who love Montreal, to see that when it comes to making bagels, nothing much has changed in technique or atmosphere in all of these years. I think the equipment used today may well be the very same that we see in this film.

By the way, I am firmly of the opinion that once you have tasted a Montreal bagel you will be spoiled for life, and will have set a standard for bagel excellence that can not be equalled by any other bagel maker in any other city. Period.

1947, Montreal by Night

I happened across this short film by Arthur Burrows and Jean Palardy filmed in 1947. I am sharing it for anyone who loves Montreal, and social history. Filmed by the National Film Board, two years after the end of WWII it shows a sparkling view that could only have been created for mass audiences. It isn’t quite fiction, but it is far from documentary in approach. It would have served well as a travel film, encouraging visitors to enjoy the excitement of this cosmopolitan centre. Click here to see the film.

The National Film Board describes Montreal by Night this way:

This short film showcases the city of Montreal on a summer’s night. What was once a small Indian village is presented as a pot-pourri of contrasting sights and sounds. It is North America’s second largest port and, after Paris, the world’s largest French-speaking city. With its warehouses, offices, homes, clubs and amusement parks, the city serves as a bright backdrop for a happy couple out on the town.

The happy couple is French speaking Collette, and her English speaking boyfriend, Jacques, from Dauphin, Manitoba. I had to watch the film twice to fully enjoy the glimpses of flashing street signs on Ste. Catherine, the cars, fashions and the stiffly staged dialogue sequences. The film may well have been made with the sole purpose of promoting the city of Montreal, and in this sense it perhaps captures the post-war attitude of the day. Shiny and bright, with a bold, blockbuster sounding music track, we see a variety of carefully managed scenes to show the contrasts of life in the city. We see the vibrant night life of St. Catherine Street, the cleaners sweeping up the stock exchange floor, and the smiling residents of a working class neighbourhood where everyone has clean shoes, nice clothes and a friendly demeanor.

Montreal By Night also features Montreal Mayor Camillien Houde who had been elected four times prior to being succeeded by Jean Drapeau. The film depicts the mayor as quite a celebrity arriving in movie star style to the applause of his adoring public.

If this is your kind of film, I would encourage you to also watch the NFB film shot in Winnipeg about Paul Tomkowicz that I posted in Streetcars and Trolley Buses.

By the way, if you should happen to know the name of the glamourous night club with the dancers, please do let us know.