A most remarkable man is retiring today.
Harold Cammy has been a colleague and friend of mine since the day we first met over four decades ago. My late father Larry (Lawrence Frederick Cohen, aka Larry Fredericks) was his biggest fan. The Côte Saint-Luc Parks and Recreation Department is part of Harold's DNA and he has left many legacies. One of his closest associations has been with Pierre Brunet, the remarkable owner of some 20 McDonald's franchises. Harold and his wife Bev are regulars at his Côte des Neiges, TMR and Decarie locations - and of course our very own at the CSL Shopping Centre. So what better place for Pierre, myself and his invaluable team members to organize a bit of a surprise for Harold.
I spoke to Cornelia Ziga and Alvin Fishman and told them that Harold believed we had a meeting set with Pierre to go over some business. When Harold arrived, Pierre's assistant Lina had the entire second level decorated. A few friends were there to shout "surprise," such as longtime friend and boss David Taveroff, community leader Roy Salomon, Mayor Mitchell Brownstein and wife Elaine, David Haltecht from the CSL Men's Club as well as Mark Lidbetter from The Suburban and Janice Arnold from the Canadian Jewish News. Not only did Pierre have staff take our food orders, but he pinned an official ID tag on Harold which said "honourary manager" and added in a $100 gift card.
Harold is surprised by a cake.
I will miss Harold's presence more than I can say. He is an extraordinary human being. I asked him to write his memoirs and what you see below is now on our website at www.cotesaintluc.org/haroldcammy. Public Affairs Chief Darryl Levine is finishing up a tribute video which we will post soon.
Please read on. It is extraordinary material!
Retirement Retrospective: Looking back on a 45 year association with Côte Saint-Luc
Retirement Retrospective: Looking back on a 45 year association with Côte Saint-Luc
By Harold Cammy
Myself, Mayor Brownstein, Harold, Roy Salomon, Pierre Brunet and David Taveroff.
My very first childhood memory was when I was 6 years old. It was October of 1960 and I was watching game 7 of the World Series on our small black and white TV….It was the Yankees vs Pittsburg Pirates and the Pirates won that game when Bill Mazeroski hit a game winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning.
Why am I telling you this?
Baseball is what brought me to Côte Saint-Luc. Every weekend my friends would call me and we would all race over to Wentworth Park, on our bicycles, where we would play pick-up softball, a practice (pick-up sports) almost unheard of today!! While playing in those weekend games, I heard about this hardball team in Côte Saint-Luc, the Midget AA Avengers, coached by the local Olympic Sports store proprietor, Lenny Goldfarb.
I tried out for the team as a third baseman, was chosen, and so began my affiliation with Côte Saint-Luc that would last for the next five decades.
I played for two years, 1970 and 1971, and was “affectionately” known to my teammates as Coco Cammy…that’s because I played third base and the Expos, the new major league baseball team in town, had a popular third baseman, Coco Laboy.
We had a makeshift baseball field, a temporary home, built on Mackle Rd across from the Beth Israel Beth Aaron Synagogue. We had no other baseball fields in Cote Saint-Luc which could accommodate players of our age group, (16-18)
In 1972, I decided to volunteer and began coaching the same CSL Midget AA team with Lenny. Problem was we could no longer play at that makeshift field on Mackle so the City made plans to tear down the facility…something about building a new park there…Rumour had it was it was going to be called Centennial Park.
Finding a Place to Play
Well, where were we going to play until then?…after all the only other ball field in Côte Saint-Luc was the north field at Wentworth Park, home to the Cote Saint-Luc Slo Pitch League…Canada’s oldest organized softball league. The dimensions of this field were too small for Midget baseball.
The south side of the park was a football field, home to one of the top rated tackle football programs in Quebec during the 1960’s…the Cote Saint-Luc Astros, coached by Vaughan McVey, who just happened to go on and become the head coach of the McGill Redmen Varsity Football Club. He was later elected to the McGill University Sports Hall of Fame. The Cote Saint-Luc team actually won the PROVINCIAL football championship in the 1960’s.
However, years later football started its decline in popularity as parents began worrying about potential injury to their youngsters. We petitioned the City to build a new baseball field…and the Wentworth Park football field was turned into a hardball baseball field which became home to the Avengers AA baseball program.
Besides having a new home for intercity baseball…we also had a Bantam and Pee AA baseball program and Wentworth Park was rocking…with teams coming from all over the western part of the Island of Montreal to play our Avengers.
A local gentleman by the name of John Elias, a Phys Ed teacher by profession, heard about the baseball program and approached me about helping coach the Midget AA team. We teamed up and that’s how John and I began a lifelong partnership in Côte Saint-Luc sports.
Building An Arena
Now volunteering just about year-round our next focus was trying to convince our City Council to build a much needed municipal arena for our growing community.
I was chosen along with Allan Smofsky, by the Citizens Committee to Build an Arena to meet with then Mayor Samuel Moskovitch and solicit his guidance on how to convince the Council it was time to build this arena in Cote Saint-Luc.
For now, we were playing our hockey at the Montreal West Arena on early weekend mornings. Of course, coaches and parents first visited the well-known Famous Delly Boys on Westminster and Cote St. Luc Rd for an early morning bagel and coffee before heading to the Arena. This was a routine for almost all the volunteer coaches in the program.
The Mayor was a lawyer by profession and Allan and I decided to pay him a visit at his law firm in downtown Montreal. Upon writing this, I can still see the Mayor’s face in my memory, coming around from his large office desk, smoking his cigar and asking what he can do for us. We made our presentation and at the conclusion, he turned to us and said “come back with 5,000 signatures and I will make sure that an arena is built. The task was laid out before us…
Keep in mind that in 1973-74 there was no internet…so the petition was not on line. That’s right…we had to walk the streets knocking on doors…one by one…and we succeeded in getting those names down on paper… we had a great committee of volunteers and a team with a great spirit. Those members included our leader, Eric Helfield, yours truly, Allan Smofsky, Kenny Saxe, Mark and Freddy Bandel, Earl Dameshek, Buddy Manis, Morris Maron, Ricky Steinberg, Billy Leibovitch, Harvey Bernstein, Mark Bagen, Marty Goodman, Mary Goodman, Al Bernstein, Ted Angert, Mike Barrett, Mel Wilansky, Judge Maximilian Polak, Shirley Mendelssohn, Marty Braun, Bill Martow, Freddy Leber, Brian Litvack, Jeff Martow, Derek Schwartz and Wally Freestone.
Mayor “Sam” kept his promise…but unfortunately passed away in 1976, months before the Arena opened in February of 1977.
The Arena had been scheduled to open in August of 1976, just after the summer Olympics, but construction crews in Montreal went on strike delaying the actual opening until February. The ceremonial opening took place in June of 1977. Walter Freestone was appointed the first Arena Manager in 1976 and was to oversee the completion of the facility. Walter was also assigned as an employee of the Recreation Department since the facility would fall under the Department’s oversight.
Though the Arena failed to open in 1976, the year was marked by another special occasion for Côte Saint-Luc. In the fall, Wentworth Park was renamed Kirwan Park in honour of former City Councillor Ed Kirwan, who devoted over 40 years to the community.
During these years, (early 70’s) I worked part time for the City, my very first job as a wading pool attendant at Fyon Park…(my best customer was none other than Michael Green, owner of Green Locksmith on Westminster, who at the age of around 7 years old would bring me bracelets made from gimp every week).
Starting Off as a Day Camp Counsellor, Rink Attendant & Other Responsibilities
I then worked as a Day Camp counsellor at Wentworth Park. Every day, parents just sent their kids to the park. The children would come from 8:30 to 12, go home for lunch and then return in the afternoon from 1 pm to 4:30 pm.
I continued my part-time work as an outdoor skating monitor at Wentworth, Parkhaven and Singerman Parks where our hockey rinks were located.
Wentworth had two rinks, both located on the north side, where the Slo-Pitch League played their games. My colleague Alvin Fishman would attest to the fact that each rink had 30-40 players nightly. No matter how cold it was. Players changed inside the old Wentworth Park chalet. It was how hockey was meant to be played…outdoors and the “old fashioned” way!
Parkhaven outdoor rink, where the current Recreation Parking lot now sits, was also home to another one of my attendant jobs. An attendant working at Singerman Park Rink followed thereafter.
My final part-time job was being the first attendant of our recently built indoor Games Room located in the basement of Parkhaven where our Legion Room had been for the past several years.
One of my regular customers at the Games Room in the 70’s is current Gymnasium employee Allan Rock. Whenever we see each other he describes the fun times he had as a youngster while visiting the games room.
These seasonal jobs all took place between 1973-77.
An Internship in CSL
In 1977 I was completing the first ever English University program in Recreation and Leisure Studies to be offered in Quebec at Concordia University. I was required to complete a six month internship to obtain my degree…so off I headed to the Côte Saint-Luc Recreation Department and was greeted at the Recreation Office on Mackle Road by Teri Druick. At the time, the building was shared by Recreation and Public Works.
I explained to Teri my request and while doing so out walked from his office the ONLY other Recreation employee at the time, “Flaming” Frank Yanofsky. Larry Fredericks, famed Suburban Sports Writer and Mike Cohen’s father, had a penchant for “nicknaming” local personalities. Soon after he dubbed me “Handy” Harold…followed a few years later by “Hollywood” Harold…
The former Recreation Director, Bob Howes, had just resigned in June of 1977 and so it was a question of being in the right place at the right time.
They asked me when could I start, I said Monday…they said okay.
I joined Teri and Frank, our two secretaries Henrietta Cohen and Jean Leslie and Wally who was at the Arena.
In February of 1978 the City hired its new Recreation Director, Serge Menard.
A Full-Time Employee
After our very popular Skate A Thon in January of 1978, to raise money for the Inter-Service Club Council of Montreal, Frank decided to leave the Recreation Department and I took over full time overseeing the sports programing.
The Skate-A-Thon was another big boost to the City’s reputation and good will we were trying to build around the sports community. Particularly with a new Arena now in operation, none other than the great NHL Hall of Famer Jean Béliveau joined us for the afternoon skate and we raised $8,000.00.
Teri Druick’s late husband Moe Druick was instrumental in bringing Béliveau to Côte Saint-Luc and personally, I was building a great and healthy relationship with our volunteers. There was great chemistry and we were all working together to help build a better tomorrow.
The year 1978 was a special one for Côte Saint-Luc and for me. At the completion of my internship I was then hired full time in June of 1978.
A Grand Slam
John Elias and I went back many years. Johnny approached me in 1978 and said he would like to move his baseball camp, then in TMR to Côte Saint-Luc. Johnny lived on Smart Ave. (still does) and felt he would be more comfortable here working with someone he knew. So began a 25 year association with Côte Saint-Luc as home to the Grand Slam Baseball School, with the best players from the Expos visiting Cote Saint-Luc every summer.
It was the City’s 75 anniversary and Councillor Nathan Shuster was appointed Chairperson for the 75th Anniversary celebrations. I was given the role of assisting the City’s celebrations by heading the organization of a Golf Tournament with Councillor Hazel Lipes to be held in October. Since I had a long standing relationship with John Elias we immediately went to work on attracting a couple of celebrities for the Tournament. John came through and Gary Carter along with two other celebrities joined us at the tournament in frigid temperatures…nevertheless it was a fabulous day.
But before the golf, City Councillor Eric Helfield had his own project, a Jog-A-Thon to raise funds for Heart disease. We formed a committee and worked closely with Councillor Helfield as we did with Councillor Lipes for the Golf. The Jog a Thon was a resounding success with runners taking to the streets of Côte Saint-Luc.
We later went on to organize one more special event for the 75th anniversary, a hockey tournament.
A City Flag
At this time (1979) I was living in Town of Mount Royal, considered to have some of the finest Recreation programs and facilities in Montreal.
One of the first things I noticed living in the Town was that the Administration had a Municipal flag at all of its facilities. We did not. I asked our new Recreation Director, Jacques Bissonette, replacing Serge Menard, if he thought this would be a good idea and he recommended such to City Council. Soon thereafter our City flag with coat of arms went up at all our facilities!
Our Department started to grow under Jacques and that was good news. Joining Jacques, Teri and me over the next few years were Louise Ferland, Alvin Fishman, Suzanne Herscovitch, Francine Petrin, Gail Aber and Liliane Saliteanu. Wally of course was still working out of the Arena.
The Executive Softball League
In 1979, Bernie Rapp and Dave Margolis met with me to discuss the idea of starting an Executive Softball League for residents 35 years of age and over. Outside of the Côte St. Luc Slo Pitch League, which began in 1956, we did not have any other softball league for adults. Bernie and Dave went ahead and organized the league which is still operating today. They added an adult hockey league as well which also still runs out of our Arena. Dave passed away a couple of years ago but we were happy to see him at our golf classic shortly before he passed.
Other Major Events
Also in 1979, the Jog A Thon, first brought to fruition by Councillor Eric Helfield in partnership with the Richard Nadler Heart Foundation was held again, in September, and was a huge success. The event ran for several more years all with our support and involvement.
We completed the 1979 year with another two major events. Our first ever Sports Celebrity Breakfast…we termed it Breakfast with the Stars held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Four hundred parents and children turned out to share stories and breakfast with such notables as Gary Carter, Don Sweet, Tony Proudfoot, Claude Raymond and Denis Herron. Dr. Ed Enos, from Concordia University, gave a stirring speech to all. All players received gifts, coaches received certificates, and members of the Executive received plaques. We didn’t forget Mayor Lang.
The Celebrity Breakfast was also the event whereby Morty Zafran rose from the Head Table to surprise me with a marble and gold desk set on behalf of the Minor Baseball, Hockey and Soccer Committees.
In fact, after only two years with them, they thought I was leaving the City to pursue a Master’s Degree in Recreation at California State University in Long Beach. What I didn’t know at the time of my application was that the fee was $25,000 annually. I cancelled my application and decided to stay in Montreal.
Morty presented me with the desk set and when I told them I was not going…they said I could still keep it. Thirty nine years later it still sits on my desk!
With our sports programs setting the path, Côte Saint-Luc was being recognized throughout Montreal as a leader. And that played out just a couple of years later when we were approached to host the first ever locally televised Baseball Tournament on CBC. More on that later!
The Habs come to CSL
We ended 1979 on a great high note with a sold out Samuel Moskovitch Arena as the Montreal Canadiens Old Timers came to play against Cote Saint-Luc teams. The game was organized by Moe Druick and the Inter-Service Clubs Council. Several NHL Hall of Fame players participated, including Dickie Moore, Elmer Lach, Kenny Mosdel, Gerry McNeill and Referee Red Storey. All the youngsters had a great time.
In 1980 Jacques asked me if I had any ideas about a new format for our Volunteer evening. At the time the Volunteer night was low key, with party sandwiches and cheese platters and held at the Wentworth Curling Club which was located at Meadowbrook Golf Club.
Jacques wanted the event to have a little more class, with a little more pizzazz, hence more attractive to our volunteers.
I talked with Teri Druick about a gala evening, with a full sit down meal, an orchestra with dancing, sweet table, and awards for the volunteers. Almost like a wedding, bar mitzvah, etc. This was going to cost a little money but Jacques thought every dollar was worth it.
Our biggest ally, besides Jacques was none other than the Mayor. He loved the idea…and away we went! The event ended up costing $6,000.00 (in 1980 dollars). Buddy Hampton was the orchestra leader and the event was a smashing success. Three hundred and sixty people (360) attended.
We organized a volunteer committee for Volunteer Night scheduled for June 1st. (interesting isn’t it that the Volunteer night was “organized” with a volunteer chairperson…the first one was Millie Halpern, and we hosted the first “new style” Volunteer night in the ballroom of the Chateau Champlain Hotel.
Just winding down from the Volunteer Night Gala, and off we were again…this time organizing our annual Canada Day event…June 30th…and we held the event at the newly built Rembrandt Park which was inaugurated on June 30th 1980.
A Golf Tradition is Born
In 1980 I was questioned by some seniors about hosting a Seniors Golf Tournament. I thought this was a great idea. The first organizing committee was comprised of Abe Baron, Saul Arshinoff, Irene Echenberg, Edith Yates, and Senior Social Club Coordinator Suzanne Herscovitch.
We hosted the nine hole Tournament on August 19th at Meadowbrook…and have been doing so for the past 40 years.
In following years, Molly Flanz and Hilda Greenspoon were added to the Committee. They are all gone now (except Suzanne) but I am sure they would have been proud to know that we have kept this event going for 40 years!
It has been a great pleasure over the past several years working with Councillor Mike Cohen as we adopted a new format in order to revive the event after some declining years, and it has rightfully taken its place as one of our highlight events each year using this activity to honour a great Côte Saint Lucer.
Maison Fleuries and More
The year 1980 also brought about the beginning of our annual Maison Fleuries contest. This was coupled with the Villes et Villages Fleuries contest organized by the Province.
The summer of 1980 brought about one more surprise…some talk and rumours about a new outdoor sports complex to be built on Mackle Road.
The early 1980’s were highlighted with other great successes stories. We hosted several Sports Celebrity Breakfast events at downtown hotels with the elite of Montreal Sports celebrities attending. Councillor Mike Cohen’s father, Larry Fredericks, served as MC at each event and was fabulous with his support.
Meeting My Life Partner
In 1983, another special moment surfaced.
It was a warm breezy June night, and my colleague Al Fishman was scheduled to award baseball trophies to our Minor Baseball teams at Kirwan Park. Al received an urgent family message and asked if I could go to the park and present the trophies in his place. Of course, no problem.
I arrived around 7:30 pm wearing a heavy tweed sport jacked with temperatures hovering around 80F. (around 24c for you younger folks)
My future wife-to-be, Beverly, saw me at the park presenting the trophies…It was “Hollywood” Harold Cammy she said. Soon thereafter we were married and are now celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary. The truth is Beverly has been my greatest supporter. It was because Beverly was able to stay home looking after our special needs daughter Lacey that I had the freedom to participate and attend so many special events, night time meetings, programs, during my career.
The following year, 1984, is when George Springate, former police officer and former MNA approached me about Côte Saint-Luc hosting a National Pee Wee baseball Tournament. The kick to this event was that it was not going to be just any tournament. It was going to be televised by CBC. George was working at CBC as a sports commentator at the time and we had developed a working relationship over the years.
Our Council was enthusiastic about the event and approved minor renovations to the baseball fields in order to accommodate the television cameras. It was truly a great week with our own Alvin Fishman, Ron Yarin, Joe Raie, Solly Levine, Morty Zafran, Merv Levin and Kenny Corber all part of the organizing committee. The Cote Saint-Luc tournament was now on television…throughout eastern Canada.
The 1980’s also brought about our annual Hockey Exchange programs with our inter city teams playing against teams from New Jersey. We travelled to New York and their teams came back to Cote Saint-Luc. The players stayed in each other’s homes and it was a great experience for the kids, coaches and parents.
We also experienced more highlights in the 80’s.
Canada Day Parade
Our Minor Hockey President Ricky Steinberg and I came up with an added idea for Canada Day. A full scale Canada Day parade.
Ricky and our volunteer committee worked on organizing the parade which began at the CSL Shopping Centre, complete with floats, marching bands, and hoopala.
The parade was even filmed by a volunteer, Leon Seidman, and we marched from the shopping Centre to Rembrandt Park…it was 1983.
The 80’s also saw the opening of Centennial Park. I was managing the Samuel Moskovitch Arena (Wally having moved over to the Recreation office) at the time and I was approached by City Council about managing the park and its programs and Chalet attendants. I was on board and I enjoyed every minute of that responsibility for many years thereafter.
During the 90’s we introduced the first Water Play facility in Côte Saint-Luc after I viewed a video from Calgary. We approached City Council with this idea and displayed a video to Council. If we could raise some private money Council was open to building this facility, one of the first waterplay facilities in Eastern Canada. I pledged I would try and raise 50 percent of the cost for building this water play facility which would be constructed at the rear of Centennial Park. We succeeded and the same way that Mayor Sam kept his word about the Arena, the Council kept their word on the Water Play project which was constructed at the north end of then named Centennial Park. We raised $30,000.
Rink Board Advertising and Bench Naming
We also introduced rink board advertising to the Arena bringing in a new stream of advertising revenue. At the time, advertising in local community rinks was not so popular. We made it popular, however, by bringing about the goal of uniting the business interests in the community with the local Parks and Recreation programs.
We also introduced another stream of revenue with the idea that people could sponsor memorial benches.
Memories of our very first bench purchased however are bittersweet! It was in memory of one of our own friends, employee Andrew Merriman, who died from a brain tumour while working as an attendant at Chalet #1 at Centennial Park. I spent the night at the hospital with his loved ones after receiving the call at home at 2 am. I can still hear the phone ringing!! Andrew was a great guy and at his funeral Allan Levine walked up to his casket and placed a Cote Saint-Luc pin on his lapel.
Jean Beliveau: A True Career Highlight
The year was 1997 and my old friend George Springate approached me once again, (remember the baseball tournament) for what was truly the highlight of my career in Côte Saint-Luc.
George said that Canadiens hockey legend Jean Béliveau had amassed $925,000.00 in his Jean Beliveau Fund since the year he had retired (1972) and Jean wanted to donate $1 million dollars to the Quebec Society of Disabled Children. George wanted him to do it right here in Côte Saint-Luc because of our relationship.
Of course, we would have to raise the remaining $75,000 over the next several months in order to reach the total of one million dollars.
The entire Montreal Canadiens team would come to Côte Saint-Luc and play a Celebrity Softball Game against the Montreal media followed by a VIP dinner at Sternz Rhapsody in Cavendish Mall. That was the plan.
We sold out the restaurant…300 tickets at $50.00 per person. It was a magnificent evening. The celebrity softball game had to be cancelled because of a huge thunderstorm just hours before the scheduled game. Nevertheless we had the entire Canadiens team there so we ushered them into Confederation Annex and they signed autographs and took photos with the kids for the next three hours.
During the preceding months we had raised a lot of money, $50,000 but were short $25,000 from our goal of $75,000.00
I approached the Gazette and sportswriter Dave Stubbs who agreed to promote our event and publicize what our goal was. The story went into the Gazette on a Wednesday, two days before the Béliveau tribute.
Our committee had worked very hard but we were not going to raise $25,000 in two days. That is until someone very special read the Gazette story.
On Friday afternoon, just hours before the grand event at Centennial Park, George Springate received a knock on his door. It was special delivery.
He opened the envelope and there was a congratulatory note inside recognizing all the hard work we in Cote Saint-Luc had done to honour Béliveau…oh, and included with the note was a cheque for $25,000.00 from Senator Hartland Molson.
Jean made the donation of $1 million that night to the President of the Quebec Society for Disabled Children, right here in Cote Saint-Luc, and Mayor Bernard Lang later called it one of his most memorable and proud moments as Mayor of Côte Saint-Luc. Montreal’s entire English and French media were here.
Sports Celebrity Breakfast
We re-introduced the Sports Celebrity Breakfast after honouring Béliveau and we went on to host four more breakfasts in partnership with the TBDJ Synagogue using their facility as the site for the breakfast, again attracting the elite of Montreal’s sports world. Cote Saint-Luc was recognized throughout the Montreal sports scene as a leader and a place where great things happen.
The TBDJ partnership was a positive byproduct of the infamous ice storm in 1998.
The synagogue was set up as a shelter for the ice storm and we all developed such a wonder relationship with the synagogue staff and Rabbi Steinmetz at that time that they agreed to give us their facility for our Celebrity Breakfasts.
The early 2000’s brought about the merger with the City of Montreal. One of the bright moments was the introduction of the first battery operated Ice Resurfacer in Cote Saint-Luc.
Cary Miller, a Hampstead resident who owned a company called HL Leclair (now closed) approached me about purchasing a new ice re-surfacer for our Arena.
We went through all the details and prepared the proposal, with help from then Public Works Director Guy Poirier, for Council which was accepted. Côte Saint-Luc would have its first battery operated Ice Resurfacer and one of the first in the entire province. We were highlighted on all the news networks and my most fearful moment was when RADIO CANADA, not CBC Channel 6 (the English station) wanted to interview me. After all, French wasn’t my first language!!! Robert Libman helped out through the interview and all went well…
Israeli National Hockey Team
The year 2005 was another magic one for Côte Saint-Luc.
Once again, we put our community on the map throughout Quebec and Montreal. The Israeli National Hockey Team made its first visit to Canada and Allan Maislin, Gary Shapiro, and Gerald Issenman knew there was only one place to play their first game…the Samuel Moskovitch Arena. None other than Jean Perron, Head Coach of the Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup winning team in 1986, coached the Israeli team against LaurenHill Academy from Saint-Laurent.
I went to private Jewish school with Gary Shapiro, Shaare Zion Academy, so we had an existing relationship and Allan and I had been friends since his hockey coaching days in Côte Saint-Luc. Gary asked me to represent the City at the organizing committee meetings and we were off and running. Robert Libman was Borough Chairman and gave his approval.
By game time, the Arena was so packed the fans were standing three rows deep around the rink glass. Many dignitaries were on hand including the Vice-Consulate General Sharon Regev and Saint-Laurent Borough Chairman Alan DeSousa.
The most moving moment of the night, however, was not anything that happened in the game itself, but rather the moving rendition on ice of Hatikvah performed by the English Montreal School Board Choir…with the Israeli Flag blowing at centre ice there was not a dry eye in the house. By the way, the Israeli National team won the game 8-1 and the organizing committee was so impressed with the participation and support from Côte Saint-Luc that the Junior National Team returned in 2007 to play against our own Midget hockey team winning 11-8, again before a standing room only crowd.
In 2006, our First Pancake Breakfast was held, as part of the Winter Carnival and a partnership with Pierre Brunet, the local Franchisee and McDonalds. We made the arrangements, signed the deal with Pierre who donated 1000 pancakes, up to 1,300 today, and in the process agreed if he donated the pancakes we would raise money for the Manoir Ronald McDonald. Hence, the outdoor hockey tournament and an incredible $70,000.00 raised over the years for the Manoir. Cote Saint-Luc has a plaque inside the Manoir with one of the rooms named after our City.
Valentine’s Day Dance
The year 2008 marked the beginning of another special event, our annual Valentine’s Dance. The event started with about 85 tickets sold in the first year, with most of those tickets sold in the last two weeks leading up to the event. Louise Ferland and I were in charge and staff were telling us with the amount of work we did, this event was not going to succeed in future years. Too much effort for too few returns.
Our original committee, comprised of volunteers Irving and Mindy Schok, Ron Yarin, Sammy Pinsky, Louise and myself did not agree…we were NOT going to give up…It takes time to build a program…we tweaked, adjusted, adapted, and this coming year, 2019 the City will be hosting our 11th annual Valentine Dance, with sell outs over the past six consecutive years. The event attracts 275 to 300 people annually.
Just a few years ago, Councillor Cohen called me for a brief sit down…what ideas could we come up with as an annual fund raising program benefitting the community? After just one hour the two of us emerged with the idea for the Pierre Brunet Parks and Recreation Bursary Fund supporting local families with special needs children and/or facing financial hardships. The fund has raised close to $15,000 over three years.
When I think of starting my career with just an outdoor pool and one softball field at Wentworth Park as our major facilities, I think we have come a long way.
Gary Carter Field and the entire Trudeau complex is a first class facility, add to it the Aquatic and Community Centre, upgrades to our parks and other sports facilities, current renovations ongoing for the Arena and Kirwan Park, and you certainly have a community whose residents should be most proud.
A Great Team
As I make my final preparations to leave I must make clear that our achievements were all part of a team effort.
All of our successful events, programs, etc. were the result of building relationships amongst all. I never worked alone on any successful event. It was the product of commitment, devotion and dedication from my colleagues, volunteers and Senior Management and Council.
Furthermore, I would not leave out our white and blue collar employees who are truly integral to our success. Whether it was the carpenters, electricians, painters, labourers, etc we rely on their support so that every event can be carried off in the best possible way.
I came to know five Mayors during that time, starting with Mayor Sam, Mayor Lang, Mayor Libman, Mayor Housefather and Mayor Brownstein. I thoroughly enjoyed working with them all as I did with all the City Councillors who passed through City Hall from 1973 onwards.
I also worked for eight Recreation Directors passing through our doors….Bob Howes, Serge Menard, Jacques Bissonnette, Wally Freestone, Peter Wallace, Paul Desbarats, David Taveroff and Cornelia Ziga.
On a final note, I think one of my proudest memories is the knowledge that many employees who I recommended for hiring as young people at one time, now still working for the City, some married with children, and still contributing to our success.
Our current staff are most dedicated and it has been a pleasure working with Cornelia Ziga, my own team of Alvin Fishman, Ryan Nemeroff and Brad Horner, and the rest of the Recreation Department, Ray Valiquette, Steve Papp, Laura Trihas, Sarah Houle, Tricia McKenzie, Larry Masella, Dan Abisror, Michael Calcutt, Dennis Kopitas, Eden Burger, Maurice Giobbi, Maria Picciuto, Beate Hewel, Fran Rosen,and all of the ACC service staff, blue and white collars.
We have the ability to be “kind” to people, to be “responsive” to people, to “support and assist” people because that is what a City and its staff should be doing. Making someone’s day just a little bit better…a little more enjoyable.
It doesn’t take a great effort to be kind and helpful...it just takes a little empathy, compassion and understanding of human behaviour.
“People will not always remember all the good things you do for them, but they will always remember how you made them feel about themselves”.