I arrived in Montreal on Saturday night and had an early evening. This was the first time that I have been in Montreal since the early ’70’s – with the exception of some business trips – but they were all airport to hotel – meetings in Pointe Claire – and then back to hotel – and then back to the airport. So I was really excited about being here and looked forward to re-discovering all of the sights and sounds and maybe being able to meet with some old friends.
In the early ’70’s I was a self-employed manufacturer’s agent – representing a number of textile companies – one of which was located in Montreal. The owner of the company would always take me out to an expensive restaurant every time I came to town. His name was Jack W. and he was probably in his 60’s at the time. And although Jack was married, he always had his girlfriend with him.
At the time, I was living in downtown Toronto, divorced and very single. I became friends with one of Jack’s partners – who was also named Jack – although he was about 10 years older (mid 30’s) than me. I can remember that this Jack – who was also divorced – used to also bring his girlfriend with him when we dined out. Her name was Molly G., and she was Jack W’s lawyer’s secretary (now known as administrative assistant). Now I have seen a lot of funny people in the world but Molly was the funniest – by far! She and Jack split several months after I met her and we remained friends – mostly so she could check up and see what Jack was doing and if he was seeing anyone. Of course I had to do a lot of lying and to this day, I know that she never believed me.
So as I sat in my hotel room yesterday morning, I decided to give her a call. I didn’t have her number and I couldn’t remember the name of the street that she lived on but I knew approximately the area of Montreal where she used to live. After about 5 minutes of searching online – I thought that I had found her. But as I began to dial her number, I wondered if she was married – and if so, what would I say if her husband answered? I even wondered if she was married to Jack – whom I haven’t seen or heard from since our partnership in a textile business ended in 1974.
The phone rang about 3 or 4 times before someone answered – and it was a man’s voice.
There was a pause and then I asked “Is this the residence of Molly G.?”
“Yes why – who’s asking?” the man replied suspiciously and he didn’t sound very friendly. And I could tell by his accent that it wasn’t Jack.
It’s at times like this – when most normal people would simply hang up – to avoid any conflict – but these are not normal times and I have never ever been even remotely close to being ‘normal’.
I pulled the telephone away from my ear and suddenly realised that my cell phone number would display on Molly’s phone’s call display. The cautious part of my brain asked the rational part of my brain the following:
- Would her husband now have a way of tracing who I am and where I live?
- Is the guy a jealous nut case?
- Does he own a gun(s)?
- Should I give my real name – or make one up?
- Or even worse yet – will my call result in a case of domestic abuse?
A voice in my head answered ‘probably’ to all of the above. I could feel the “fear” inside of me – and it was just a matter of time before it bloomed into something more desperate. But I didn’t want this gorilla to think that I was afraid, so I continued.
“My name is Dan St. Andrews, and I am an old friend of Molly.” I hoped he wouldn’t pick up the tremble in my voice.
“Never heard of you!” the man angrily replied.
Another pause – as my mind stumbled – and then the ‘fear’ began to creep up my spine. I was just about to hang up when I heard her distinctive voice in the background…
“Who the hell is on the phone?’ she screamed.
“I dunno, some jerk named Don Andrews” he replied. His hand was covering the phone but I could still hear their muffled voices.
“I don’t know anyone by that name – ask him what he wants!”
“Tell her that I just want to say hello to her” I shouted excitedly.
“Well she no wanna talk to ya!” he screamed. I could tell by his accent that he was not French – but regardless, he sounded like he was a ‘mobster’.
“Tell her that I was a friend of Jack A. and Jack W., and I used to work with both of them in the early ’70’s. She probably knew me as Danny back then” I pleaded. Most of the people that I’ve known prior to the late ’70’s called me Danny. Those friends (and family) still call me Danny (which I like).
“Now he gonna changa he name to Donny!” he yelled.
I was starting to get annoyed with this guy and was trying to think of something nasty to say to him if he kept yelling at me – when suddenly I heard her voice in the background – but I couldn’t make out what she was saying to the gorilla.
Suddenly she was on the phone with me.
“Jack A. died a few weeks ago – but who are you?” she asked sternly.
“I am Danny St. Andrews, and I used to come to Montreal a lot in the early ’70’s. I worked for Jack W. when you were his lawyer’s secretary.”
“How old are you?” she asked.
“Well, back then I was in my twenties and my friend Jack A. was about 7 years older” I replied.
“You didn’t answer my question – are you deaf or stupid or both?” she yelled.
I now knew where the mobster got his attitude!
I told her my exact age.
Now I know that she was older than Jack but I couldn’t remember by how much. And I had no intention of asking her or any other woman how old she is now. (NOTE: Men should never, ever, ever ask a woman their age or weight).
“I just turned 83 last week and I had back surgery last year that I am still trying to deal with. Where do you live?”
“You are how old?!”, I asked.
“Eighty-three years – are you deaf? What did you say your name is?”
“It’s Danny – Danny St. Andrews… originally from Ontario but I’ve been living in various provinces over the last 40 years – which is when I last spoke with you”, I quickly replied.
There was another pause and then I could hear the muffled voices – again. I regretted calling her and was thinking about hanging up when suddenly I heard the gorilla’s voice…
“She no gonna talk to you no more Denny. You don’t call here no more!”
I hung up the phone and put on my coat.
I had one other thing that I wanted to do while here and that was to see if one of my favourite watering holes was still there on Crescent Street – between De Maisonneuve Blvd. and Ste. Catherine Street. Back in the day (70’s), Crescent Street was where all of the English speaking people hung out. And the best bar on the block was one that was located in the basement and was called the Sir Winston Churchill Pub. The layout of the bar was very similar to the Cheers bar – with the actual bar in the middle of the room – surrounded by tables and a small but always jammed, dance floor.
I got to the front door of my hotel and asked the doorman if Crescent Street was within walking distance of the hotel.
He smiled, and said “It’s the next street over from the hotel.”
I quickly handed him a couple of loonies ($1 coins) and thanked him for allowing me to feel so incredibly stupid. I had walked pass this street three times in the past couple of days but hadn’t noticed a Rue Crescent sign.
I walked along Boulevard de Maisonneuve and within a minute I was standing on the corner of Crescent Street. My eyes immediately started searching down the left side of the street – the pub used to be right about where the people in the picture (below) are standing. I began walking towards them…
and my heart started to race as I read the sign:
But when I opened the door I couldn’t believe how the pub had changed! It was several times larger and now had 3 floors – including a dining lounge. Here’s a few more pics of the outside of the pub:
I was tempted to order a beer and get up enough nerve to call Molly G. back. Or maybe I would order a couple of shooters and then call Molly G.’s place and ask to speak to the gorilla and then say something brilliant such as…
But I went back to my hotel, finished packing and then took a cab to the airport instead.
And they say “you can never go back”.