Paying tribute to Johnny Elias
By Danny Gallagher
Canadian Baseball Network
I first met Johnny Elias when I played in the Dorval Senior Baseball League in suburban Montreal in 1988.
I was his teammate that season. He was 50 years old at the time and still throwing competitively. He would regale me with stories about his Grand Slam Baseball School and often asked me to plug his school in my paper, the Montreal Daily News.
No doubt about it, Elias was a grand baseball man. He grew up on the sandlots of Montreal and was so talented with that left arm of his that he won a scholarship in 1960 to Michigan State University where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree.
Elias then obtained his master's degree in administration of physical education, kinesiology and physiology from Springfield College in Massachusetts.
Elias went on to pitch in the Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Athletics and Washington Senators organizations. From 1962-65, he threw in the minors and it was in 1963 that he showed some promise for the majors while in the K.C. chain. It was his only full season out of the four he pitched in.
Statistics from Baseball Reference show that he was 9-13 in '63 with a 4.31 ERA, recording 164 strikeouts in 163 innings for Daytona Beach in the Florida State League.
In 1964, Elias pitched for Granby in the semi-pro Quebec Provincial league and would continue to play competitively in Quebec and on the international stage for years. He was a member of the pitching staff for Team Canada at the Pan-Am Games in Winnipeg in 1967. From 1968-70, he helped Trois-Rivieres to two league championships.
Elias died Dec. 10 at the age of 82 following a stroke and a tough battle with Alzheimer's. Elias' wife Marlene said in an interview that he suffered the stroke Nov. 8 and never woke up. For a good portion of the time he suffered from Alzheimer's, his wife looked after him at home.
"He kept falling and I couldn't get him up. His walking was very poor,'' said his wife of 58 years. "He was still 200 pounds and dead weight. I'd call 911 to get him up. It happened so many times. Then the last one (fall), I said, 'I'm taking him to the hospital.' That was two months ago.''
In 1970, Elias embarked on a venture that would last 27 years: his Grand Slam school that featured numerous instructors and many Expos players, whom he befriended over the years. He was an Expos batting-practice pitcher for many years at home games, beginning in 1969. Elias would schedule his three-week school each summer when the Expos were at home.
"I'm sorry to hear of the passing of Johnny, a good baseball man. I served as an instructor at his baseball camp. My heartfelt condolences to his family,'' Expos legend Tim Raines wrote on Twitter.
"Saddened to hear of John's passing,'' former Expo Tommy Hutton said in a Twitter tribute. "I played golf with him often in Montreal and appeared at his John Elias Baseball School many summers.''
Hundreds of young kids in the Montreal area are indebted to Elias for running the baseball school, not only for instructional skills but it allowed them to rub shoulders with their heroes. Many of those fans took to Twitter and Facebook to mourn Elias' loss.
"John was a huge part of Montreal baseball. Another part of it is gone. What a great man and a great coach,'' Kosta Papoulias wrote in a Facebook post.
"As a 10-year-old, I went to his baseball camps. Johnny would personally pick me up and drive me home. Thanks to Johnny, I got to meet Gary Carter and sign his cast,'' Marc Lechter said on Facebook.
Elias was very fond of Carter. Kid was most definitely Elias' all-time favourite Expos player. Elias and Marlene would go to Florida for years and years to see Carter and his family. Of course, Carter and Elias would partake often in their mutual love of golfing.
Speaking of Florida, Elias participated for 12 years in various forms in the Major League Legends baseball fund-raiser in support of the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood.It's been said that Elias boasted the largest collection of Carter memorabilia and had acquired an enviable stash of Expos goodies. A few years ago, he donated about 90% of his collection to the Cote St. Luc Sports and Recreation Centre."John and Gary were very good friends,'' Mrs. Elias said. "He helped get Gary get a place in Montreal. Gary used to come for lunch and have a steak. It was so nice.''
Among his many accomplishments was volunteering to become McGill University's first baseball coach in 1994. In 2008, he assembled and managed a team representing Canada to victory at the Vintage Baseball World Series in Westlake, Mass. That championship was a feather in his cap.
A few years ago, baseball historian Bill Young of Hudson, Quebec and a few others successfully nominated Elias for induction into the RDS Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame. Elias was also proud of the Ambassador of the Year award he received years ago from the Town of Cote St. Luc for his help in developing baseball in the community.
Elias was such a wonderful, wonderful man with so many fingers in so many baseball pies.
When he wasn't promoting baseball, he spent a lot of time teaching physical education and coaching basketball. He was a force as a basketball official, something he did for 50 years. He officiated at many Canadian and international basketball events.
"I wanted him to write a book.,'' Mrs. Elias said. "I told him, 'Dictate to me and I will type it in.' He had a lot of stories and anecdotes. He knew all kinds of people.''
Besides his wife, Elias is survived by his daughter Caroline, son-in-law Kevin Smith, grand-children Ashley, Connor and Owen and sister-in-law Audrey Willis along with numerous friends, including many in the media.
Danny Gallagher's Expos book Always Remembered is discounted throughout the month of December at Indigo and Amazon.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE: I will be raising the possibility of naming one of the baseball diamonds at Kirwan Park after Johnny. That is where he held his Grand Slam Baseball School.
See this tribute video we did for Johnny in 2017:
I was most saddened to hear about the passing of Dr. Bernard Tonchin. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday at Paperman and Sons at 2 pm.
Dr. Tonchin was the ultimate community activist and with his friend Irving Itman earned the title of “council regular.” For decades he attended city council meetings and eagerly awaited his turn at public question period where he would passionately urge the mayor and council to move on all kinds of issues. He was very concerned about the extension of Cavendish Boulevard.
Dr. Tonchin, who retired a number of years ago from his dentistry practice, even tried to run for elected office once and challenged District 1 Councillor Isadore Goldberg. The latter turned out to be unbeatable anytime someone took him on, but Dr. Tonchin gave it a gallant try. Dr. Tonchin only missed council meetings when he travelled with his family. Otherwise he could always be counted on to keep us honest. In recent years he had significant problems with his vision. Whether it was his devoted wife Dorothy or Mr. Itman, he made sure to get a lift to City Hall. There were times when he would go to Montreal City Hall to champion a Côte Saint-Luc cause.
Soon after I was first elected to city council more than 14 years ago I formed a communications committee. One of the focus items was to establish a naming policy for streets, parks and buildings. I called Dr. Tonchin and Mr. Itman and asked them each to be part of this process. They happily agreed. Who better than a couple of gentleman I lovingly referred to as “The Sunshine Boys” to help us out?
I noticed lately that Dr. Tonchin was not attending council meetings. Now I know why. My deepest sympathies to his family,
Former City Councillor Isadore Goldberg has passed away at the age of 94.
Goldberg, a distinguished World War II veteran, served on council from 1983 to 2001 and represented District 1. At that time the district encompassed the area of MacDonald Avenue, where he resided, the North of Hampstead/Decarie Square section and in what was a strange electoral map at the time, Sir Walter Scott Avenue and Marc Chagall.
The boundaries were changed in 2005 when I ran in District 2. Sir Walter Scott, Marc Chagall and part of Mackle were transferred to my riding. It is for this reason we have Isadore Goldberg Park. Isadore’s niece, her kids and his brother and sister-in-law are my constituents. Because of the park, Isadore and I remained connected. In fact it was only a few months ago that I shared with him the exciting news that Director of Public Works Beatrice Newman and her team were not only beautifying the park under his name, but his dream of having the sign moved to a proper walkway was also about to come true. A rededication of the park was set for the spring and Isadore told me at the last Remembrance Day in November that he was very excited.
Isadore was full of pep and energy that day. He had all of his faculties and while he needed a walker to get around, that did not hold him back. That day I told him that a nephew of his living in Japan had read my blog about his park and reached out to me. Isadore allowed me to record a video message to the nephew, which was very well received.
Isadore was well regarded by his constituents. He faced opposition in most elections, but nobody could beat him. At public events my late dad Larry would introduce him as the man who would stand outside on MacDonald Avenue to find everyone parking spots.
According to Isadore’s family his health was pretty good until a few months ago. Some stressful issues at his apartment building had a bad effect on him and soon after he was hospitalized, complaining of dizziness and dehydration. He did not improve and died peacefully in his sleep. Sadly for him he did not have the opportunity to move into the new apartment that awaited him at B’nai Brith House.
Our condolences go to his family.
Here is a video that Mayor Mitchell Brownstein did with him just last May, produced by Darryl Levine.
I was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Allen Rosen, who lost his battle with Melanoma.
Allen and I first met decades ago when his son Bruce was my teammate in the Côte Saint-Luc Minor Hockey Association. He was a proud dad to sons Bruce and Howie, a devoted husband to Shirley and a doting granddad. Years later, when I was covering municipal politics for The Suburban, Allen started to attend city council meetings. On one occasion he ran for the same seat I now hold, then represented by Harold Greenspon.
Twenty five years ago my wife and I moved into our present town house condominium and who was my direct next door neighbor? You guessed it – Allen Rosen. Over the course of the last quarter century I got to know Allen and Shirley very well. They became friends. Allen and I would have endless long talks about everything from politics to sports. He was an avid golfer and always shared a good joke with me. Allen was also extremely helpful to me. He and Shirley supported my career as their city councillor in more ways than one. When they went away for the winters, I was asked to keep an eye on their home. So every few days I would go inside to make sure the plumbing was working. One day I misplaced their keys. After spending hours looking for them, I made the embarrassing call to them in Florida. Allen and Shirley took it in stride, arranging for a relative to drop off another pair. You see one of the perks in this service allowed me to use their freezer during the winter. Months later, I opened my own secondary freezer and pulled out some chicken. Right on top of those thighs were the keys. Allen got a real kick out of that story.
About 15 years ago I awoke at 6 am to hear the phone ringing. It was Allen. My basement was flooding and the overflow was going into his home as well. My hot water heater had burst. Allen was so helpful in advising me of which steps to take. His home was collateral damage, but he could see I was upset and acted in a very fatherly way. Not long after that we shared another adventure. A company was replacing the roofs at our condo. The genius workers decided to leave everything open with a threatening sky and you guessed it, the rain started to come down and both our homes sustained significant damage. Misery loves company and we worked as a team to ensure the guilty party paid for its negligence.
Allen battled Melanoma for years. At times he would share with me the discomfort he felt, but overall he looked for no sympathy.
When the Rosens moved to a more manageable high rise condo last winter I had a hard time saying good-bye. They were original residents in our complex and Allen at one time was on the executive of the board. At our lively annual meetings he never held back his point of view, much to the appreciation of everyone in the room.
Donations in Allen’s memory may be made to Melanoma Cancer Research c/o the Canadian Cancer Society, (514) 255-5151. My sympathies go out to Shirley and the entire family.
The community has lost a legendary queen of the kitchen. Marianna Roth passed away peacefully, in her sleep, on Sunday, May 5, 2019, after a courageous battle. She was 82.
It was about 10 years ago when I first met "Mrs Roth."
I stopped my car in the strip shopping centre that housed the legendary Delly Boys Restaurant and I saw the sign that said Côte St. Luc Kosher. My mother-in—law had been raving to me about Mrs. Roth and her son-in-law Avi Brook the butcher for years, so I ventured in to take a look. There was Mrs. Roth, standing besides some delicious looking prepared food. She did not know me, but asked if there was something she could help me with.
“How is the chicken schnitzel?” I asked.
“You tell me,” she smiled, cutting a nice slice and handing it to me on a plate.
“Wow!” I responded. “This is the best chicken schnitzel I have ever taste”
I ordered three pieces and brought them home, much to the delight of my wife and daughter.
A few days later I returned and I met Avi. In the back of the store was the butcher shop. Mrs. Roth and her crew were busy preparing all kinds of fabulous ready to eat home cooked meals. I tried the chicken burgers this time. They were extraordinary. There were other chicken dishes and an entire array of Chinese food. Meals were also prepared en masse for schools. I was hooked and became a regular and over time I became friends with the family.
I told a writer from The Gazette about Mrs. Roth and Avi and she wrote a feature story on them. We learned how Mrs. Roth had been through more hardships in her lifetime than most of us can even imagine. But the Holocaust survivor was not interested in garnering sympathy. Rather, her priority was maintaining Glatt Kosher Self Service Ltd., the deli that she had owned for nearly 50 years.
"My life is like a Hollywood story. I had a chance to succeed and earn a living in this amazing country, and to me that is the dream -that's what everyone wants," she told The Gazette.
As the story goes the native of Hungary lost both her father at the age of seven and was sent to a concentration camp near Vienna during the Holocaust. After being freed, she spent seven years in an orphanage. When she was 16, she married her husband just before the Hungarian Revolution happened. The couple and their infant daughter escaped through the mountains and waited two years in a refugee camp for a country to accept them.
Roth's husband was a butcher by trade, and Canada welcomed them in 1958.
After working as a dishwasher in synagogues, Roth took a job at Glatt, a butcher shop on Laurier Ave., doing odd jobs.
"They paid me in shares of the business instead of wages," Mrs. Roth explained to The Gazette. I was happy with that; it was a job that allowed me to be home for my two kids at night."
After years of working at Glatt, the owners gave Mrs. Roth her own store in St. Laurent. "When I came here I spoke no English and had no experience, so to be given my own store was just incredible," she said. "The owners of Glatt were great people, and they knew I was hard-working and wouldn't let them down."
The store quickly became known for its eastern European and Sephardic food. The shop was a staple in St. Laurent, and she worked there six days every week for about 14 hours each day.
In 1985, Mrs. Roth's husband bought a Kosher butcher shop in Côte St. Luc and trained their son-in-law to be a butcher there. "I was an airline mechanic, but there were no jobs in my field," said Avi. "So I went to work with the family."
Later I arranged interviews with CJAD, CTV, Global TV, CHAI Montreal and Breakfast TV. Mrs. Roth always insisted that her daughters Judy and Esther be by her side. I got to know the two of them as well. When Avi invited me to the family home, Judy would always make me something to eat. Like her mom, she was a fantastic cook. One day I asked Avi and Mrs.Roth if they could make an order of salmon patties for me. They do so in style. One week Avi said he could not have them made in the store. Judy found out and she made a batch for me herself. Tragically, she died on October 25, 2015 from a mysterious bacteria. She was only 55. It broke the family. Mrs. Roth had been living with Avi, Judy and their kids for many years and this did not change, even when they sold the home recently.
I wrote often about Mrs. Roth and Avi in other publications. It was a joy to be their de facto press agent. While she had never really done any interviews before she met me, Mrs. Roth was a natural.
“Age is just a number,” she told CHAI Montreal’s Lisa Winston in 2014. “I never want to retire. Never ever and it shows!”
Mrs. Roth was an extraordinary individual, the likes of which we may never see again.
Our sympathies to the family.
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”.
From my Notebook: Roy Salomon honoured; Vineberg back at Nosherz & Saul Ettinger still carves brisket
Bravo to Roy
One of Côte Saint-Luc’s most distinguished individuals, Roy Salomon, will be been presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award of the International Jewish Hall of Fame in 2019. This honours those individuals who have contributed to Jewish life, Israel, society and the community at large, through sports. After he first experienced the Magic of the Maccabiah Games as a basketball athlete representing Canada in 1969, Roy knew he had to stay involved with the Maccabi Movement and found other ways to get involved. His mission was to promote Canadian Jewish athletes and he has remained a pillar in the Maccabi Movement since he first got involved. In 1979 he founded the Montreal Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. From 1981 through 1985 he was Maccabi Canada’s National Athletic Chair and in 1982 led Canada’s delegation to the first JCC Maccabi Games. In 1990 he was the First Vice President of Maccabi Canada and in 1992 he was elected president, a position he held for two terms until 2001.
Roy has been the recipient of numerous awards over the years, including the Yakir Award in 2001, and in 2013 he received the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for volunteer work and was inducted into the Israel Softball Hall of Fame as a Builder. One of the accomplishments of which he is most proud was a proposal to bring junior athletes to participate in the World Maccabiah Games in Israel, one that he saw through to fruition with the first Juniors athletes participating in the 1985 Games. Professionally Roy has always worked in the corporate real estate field and for many years served as the managing partner of the Cavendish Mall.
The return of Robert Vineberg at Nosherz
Robert Vineberg is back as owner of the fabulous Nosherz bakery on Westminster Avenue near Mackle. Robert had sold the operation a few years ago to focus more attention on a series of puzzle businesses. He clearly missed the excitement and can now be found behind the counter offering freshly baked goods, prepared meals, fabulous side dishes, homemade favorites, hearty soups, prepared foods made daily, a full deli and cheese counter, sandwiches, salads, catering and so much more. They also deliver now.
Vineberg has kept the same great staff, notably the very popular Mena. “We are a small local, long-standing neighborhood, business working hard day-after-day to bring people delicious foods,” says Robert.
“ It would be great if you could include us in your blogs and hopefully even write an article and have it printed Suburban for everyone to see (FYI - since we spoke, we stopped advertising Nosherz in the Montreal Times).
For more information call 514-484-0445 or log on to www.nosherz.com.
Briskets founder Saul Ettinger has not lost his magic touch
One of the great things of having been in office for 13 years now as a city councillor is that I get to know many of my constituents very well. Take Saul and Farla Ettinger for example. They are wonderful people who always support my different initiatives, such as the recent benefit concert for our CSL Cats Committee.
Saul is a well-known respected restaurateur and real estate magnate, having brought us the Briskets smoked meat chain and the Il Etait Une Fois burger spot. Almost 40 years ago Saul opened his first Briskets deli on Bishop Street. Twelve franchises in Montreal and Ottawa soon followed. As Saul says, people who remember dining at Briskets described the smoked meat sandwiches as "addictive." Briskets smoked meat was not only homemade, but it was never pumped. “Most smoked meat in Montreal and elsewhere were and still are prepared with briskets that are pumped with phosphates and a preponderance of nitrates and sodium,” he explained to me a few years ago. “This pumping technique is used in order to increase profit margins by making the briskets heavier. Strange, isn't it---the government bans the use of phosphates in your dishwasher and laundry detergent, but allows it in food? Briskets' smoked meat was made with unpumped briskets using a tightly-held secret recipe. They were dry-cured the truly old-fashioned way over a period of two to three weeks, producing superior smoked meat---smoked meat that was mouth-watering, and truly addictive.”
Briskets smoked meat sandwiches were just about everywhere, be it the Olympic Stadium concession stands or catered at private parties. As for Il Etait Un Fois, the classic hamburger spot was located in a standalone building in heart of Old Montreal at a time when it was a relative ghost town, Saul recalls pioneering a new phenomenon. While McDonald's was selling burgers for as little as 60 cents, he decided it was time to introduce Montreal to a gourmet half-pound burger at $5. In those days, the thought of a burger for $5 was ludicrous. Yet, within a short few weeks, Il Etait Un Fois attracted huge line-ups and rave reviews. Saul's burgers were made through a rarely used secret process that turned out the juiciest and most scrumptious burgers in Montreal. And along with mouth-watering burgers and incredible fries, the menu included specialities such as homemade beer-battered onion rings and fish n' chips as well as fried mushrooms and foot-long dogs.
Another of Saul's visions was launched on the Trans Canada, Linguini, an Italian restaurant situated in a rustic log cabin built by Saul on the south side of the 40 just west of Morgan.
Long retired from the restaurant business, Saul still hosted dinners and parties where he serves his amazing smoked meat. When I saw him at the cats concert I jokingly asked if he planned to make any briskets. Two days later I got a call to come to his condo. My brisket was ready. When I arrived Farla presented me with a special fork which Saul used to demonstrate to me how to carve the huge piece of meat. It was absolutely delicious. Boy Quartier Cavendish could use a Briskets franchise if Saul ever considers reviving it!
MITCHELL AND ELAINE:
It was about a year ago that as the city councillor for District 2 in Cote Saint-Luc I shared with my colleagues a desire to finally give a name to the laneway that leads from Marc Chagall Avenue to the Library/Bernard Lang Civic Centre parking lot. It is a beautiful area that we dressed up substantially with newly paved path and more benches.
Initially my thought was to name it simply Library Lane. But when I raised the subject on the Let’s Chat Facebook page, community activist Tamar Hertz private messaged me with the idea to honour the memory of Leonard Cohen. I promised her that I would bring this up after the November elections.
Soon after the newly constituted council took office, Leonard Cohen Lane was approved. I then worked with our Chief Librarian Janine West and Public Affairs and Communications Director Darryl Levine to set the wheels in motion. We scheduled the unveiling ceremony for the end of August, hoping for a nice summer night.
The August 27 inauguration was a fabulous event which frankly gave me goosebumps.“We honoured Leonard Cohen in Côte Saint-Luc because of the influence he had through his words and music,” Mayor Mitchell Brownstein said. “Arts and culture are important to Côte Saint-Lucers and adding his name to the landscape here is another way to recognize that fact.”
While Leonard Cohen never lived in Côte Saint-Luc, his early years were similar to many of his contemporaries who ended up in the community. He attended Roslyn Elementary School, Herzliah High School, Westmount High School, and McGill University, loved books and words and combined the analytical mind needed for debating -- which he did at McGill -- with the creative mind of a writer and thinker. He is all the things Côte Saint-Lucers revere and his name will be a fine addition to the landscape of Côte Saint-Luc.
Other artists, musicians, scientists and thinkers honoured in the city with streets or parks include Irving Layton (poet), Beethoven (composer), Chopin (composer), Banting (scientist), Edison (inventor), Euclid (mathematician), Freud (scientist), Honoré de Balzac (writer), Krieghoff (painter), Lismer (painter), Louis Pasteur (scientist), Marc Chagall (painter), Mozart (composer), Newton (scientist), Rembrandt (painter), Sabin (scientist), Schweitzer (philosopher), Sir Walter Scott (writer), and Stephen Leacock (writer).
A childhood friend of Leonard Cohen, Raphael Fleming, attended the ceremony and talked about Cohen’s early years. Councillor David Tordjman, who holds the Library and Culture portfolio and co-hosted the ceremony with me, noted that the Library will be putting Leonard Cohen materials on display the week of the inauguration. In addition, the library will have a special film screening of Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man on Wednesday, August 29 at 2 pm.
Cantor Danny Benlolo from Shaare Zedek Congregation and his nephew performed a fantastic rendition of Cohen’s Hallelujah” and the entire audience sang along with big smiles. We had a very nice turnout, including cameras from CTV, Global and CBC.
It was also nice to see impresario Ruben Fogel and his communications chief Arlene Slavin, a proud CSL native, on hand. They worked closely with Leonard Cohen and do so now with his son Adam Cohen, whom they shared the good news of our inauguration ceremony. Janine West and I have something on our wish list: an Adam Cohen concert at the library.
D'Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum, who paid a tribute to Cohen in the National Assembly after he died, also gave some words of tribute.
Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016) was a legendary Canadian singer-songwriter, poet and novelist. He was born in Westmount, Quebec. His father, who ran a well-known clothing store, died when he was nine. He pursued undergraduate studies at McGill University and became president of the debating union. He flirted with a legal career and attended McGill law school for a year after completing his bachelor's degree. He also went to Columbia University for a year. But literature had a stronger call than litigation.
"Let Us Compare Mythologies," his first book of poetry, was published in 1956 when he was an undergrad. The "Flowers For Hitler" poetry collection and the novels "The Favourite Game" and "Beautiful Losers" followed in the 1960s. He established himself as a poet and novelist of renown by the age of 32, Cohen decided that songwriting might pay better. Leonard cohen
A big break came in 1966 when Judy Collins recorded his standard "Suzanne," and he came out with his first album "Songs of Leonard Cohen" the same year. That was followed up with "Songs from a Room" in 1969, which included the popular "Bird on the Wire." He had a fairly steady output although his popularity dipped in the 1970s as disco, not doom, was deemed to be the treat for consumers' ears. But Cohen began a comeback in 1984 with "Various Positions," which included "Hallelujah."
Click here to see our video of the ceremony.
I wish to extend my deepest sympathies to the family of Shabtai (Sam) Lifshitz, who passed away on July 9.
Sam was a constituent and a neighbour who made his mission as a Holocaust survivor to regularly scan the different news media and send out mass e-mails of articles he felt people should read, often with his own personal commentary. Whenever I would run into him we always had an interesting and animated discussion on the topics of the day.
As a city councillor, Sam would call or e-mail me often with his concerns in the district. But he also added suggestions -often very good ones. He attended my Town Hall meetings and always tried to get a seat in the front row.
Over the last few years Sam suffered very serious back issues to the point where walking had become very difficult. He did not look for any sympathy and whether it was attending meetings or walking to to our pool, he made the effort,
Sam will be deeply missed by his wife of fifty-five years Tzipora (Fany), a retired school teacher and wonderful lady. He was the cherished father and father-in-law of Yael and Jay Lipman; Mitchell Lifshitz and Sarah Bloomfield, grandfather of Jesse, Daniel and Riley.
Funeral services were on July 11. Shiva is at his home, from 2:00 to 4:00 and 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. daily. Contributions in his memory may be made to the Beit Halochem - Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, (905) 695-0611 or visit www.beithalochem.ca or to the Association for the Welfare of Soldiers in Israel, (514) 738-2858 or visit www.asicanada.org.
Joe Presser is properly honoured at 2018 Golf Classic luncheon; weather permitting we play on July 19
As a massive heatwave hit our province, we reluctantly decided to take the prudent approach to postpone our 39th annual Côte Saint-Luc Golf Classic. If Mother Nature cooperates, we will all be at Meadowbrook Golf Course on Thursday, July 19 to play nine holes on the gorgeous land we all hope will remain green forever.
I have had the pleasure of co-chairing the Golf Classic for the past 13 years, initially with former Councillor Allan J. Levine and then Sam Goldbloom. Allan, Sam and I are extremely proud of how we took an event which was beginning to experience a significant drop in registration and turn it into a sold out affair months in advance. I must share a lot of that credit with our invaluable Parks and Recreation staffers Harold Cammy and Alvin Fishman. We opened up registration to people of all ages and more importantly chose to select an annual honouree.
While the golf is a lot of fun, the luncheon became the real big draw. So when we had to put off the golf portion on July 5, the show very much went on. Councillor Dida Berku was my co-chair this year and how appropriate given the decades of work she had put in to keep Meadowbrook free from development. Our honouree was long-time community leader and volunteer Joe Presser, a man I consider a good friend and a true supporter of mine in District 2 from day one of my time on council.
Joe has been active at programming in Côte Saint-Luc for most of his life, notably at Beth Zion Congregation, the Parks and Recreation Department, the Cummings Centre Sports Celebrity Breakfast and the Côte Saint-Luc Men’s Club. But he was often the man behind the scenes, not getting his deserving day in the sun.
Everyone gathered for cocktails at our Aquatic and Community Centre, sponsored by Joe’s son-in-law Michael Maislin of Total Customs. This is one of the programming arrangements Cammy and Fishman implemented a few years ago and it provides a great opportunity to mingle and get an early start on things.
A big thanks to Marc Ezerzer and Hagai Brener from Team Ezerzer-Brener of Vantage Realty Group for returning as a title sponsor. They provided guests with caps and made a generous donation to the event. The Beth Zion Congregation via Marty Labow sponosored a surprise cake for Joe and Pharmaprix Quartier Cavendish Pharmacists David Banon and Rachel Ettedgui and store manager Ian Macdonald donated all of the water, canned soft drinks and juices for the luncheon and golf day. Lenny Rosenberg from TCBY once again donated TCBY cups for dessert. Silver Star Mercedes have sponsored a car at the 11th hole in one contest. Someone will get that car for a weekend.
PIERRE BRUNET FUND
We sold raffle tickets at $10 each, with the money going to the Pierre Brunet Parks and Recreation Bursary Fund – something I wish to elaborate upon. Just a year and a half ago Pierre approached Harold Cammy and I about finding a local Côte Saint-Luc cause which touched kids in need which could benefit from annual McHappy Day events at his CSL Road McDonalds. Harold and I brainstormed and came up with the Fund, which provides bursaries for families which may not have the means to send their kids to camp or register for a program. This has taken off like a rocket.
Not only have funds come in from McHappy Day, but we have connected this cause to the Golf Classic (Pierre was an honouree a few years ago) as well. Pierre donates coffee to our Men’s Club each week. They sell the cups and proceeds now go to the Fund. D’Arcy McGee Liberal MNA David Birnbaum has contributed so have a number of individuals. Following this year’s luncheon the total raised in just two years stood at an incredible $17,000. Cammy told the story of a refugee family from Nigeria that just moved to CSL with no money to send their kids to camp. Thanks to the Fund their three kids are having an amazing summer. There are many other heartwarming stories like that
UPDATE ON MEADOWBROOK
I invited Councillor Berku to provide everyone with an update on the status of Meadowbrook. I have been associated with this Golf Classic as luncheon emcee for decades, but I only began golfing upon being elected to council and co-chairing the event. As I pass through the course via the Back Nine holes we are on Côte Saint-Luc territory and the surroundings are picturesque. The owners of the land have wanted to develop housing here for years. Likewise on the Front Nine, which is on Lachine territory.
Councillor Berku noted that in 2015 the Agglomeration Council of Montreal adopted can urban plan for the island and declared Meadowbrook as recreational greenspace. “We hope that will be respected by the current owners,” said Councillor Berku, who would love to see tennis courts and even a reception hall built on the grounds." See this CTV report.
Côte Saint-Luc has been in court with the owners of the land since 2001 when we were sued for $20 million for rezoning the property recreational. That remains unresolved.
FORMER NHL COACH SPEAKS
Everyone enjoyed a nice buffet lunch, followed by our special guest speaker Pierre Page. His presence was made possible thanks to Alan Maislin, a noted community leader, president of the West Central Montreal Health Board (CIUSSS) and the dad of Joe’s son-in-law. Alan introduced Pagé while CSL resident and TSN 690 Radio Weekend Game Plan host Matthew Ross moderated the program.
Pagé started out at the age of 24 with Dalhousie University as an assistant coach. He became the head coach the following year, a position he held for seven years. He then coached in NHL for 13 years with the Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiques, Calgary Flames and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He was an assistant coach with the Flames that went to the 1986 Stanley Cup Final, losing to the Montreal Canadiens.After being dismissed by the Mighty Ducks, and out of hockey for one season, he continued his coaching career in Europe where he has coached in Switzerland (Ambrì-Piotta), Germany (Berlin Eisbären) and now in Austria. In Berlin, he led the club to its first two championships. He is currently the Sporting Director and Head Coach of EC Red Bull Salzburg in the Erste Bank Hockey League in Austria.
Pagé was a pleasure to listen to. As general manager and coach of the Nordiques he made the historic trade that sent Eric Lindros to Philadelphia in exchange for a group of star players, including Peter Forsberg. He shared with us that he almost became the GM of the Canadiens. As for the performance of current Habs GM Marc Bergevin he was diplomatic but not complimentary. “Since 1994 the Canadiens have been going in the wrong direction,” he said.
MANNIE ROASTS JOE
Men’s Club President Mannie Young next came to the stage and roasted our honouree Joe Presser. His predecessor Syd Kronish and Presser then presented a $2,000 cheque to the Pierre Brunet Fund. Irving Leiner, a close friend of Joe’s, gave a nice tribute.
"The late Rabbi Sydney Shoham, who we miss terribly,was a dear and close friend to Joe and would often and affectionately refer to Joe as 'Pressure.' I’m certain Rabbi Shoham is qvelling at this moment so in loving memory of the rabbi and out of admiration and respect for Joe this will be a tribute to pressure. At the age of 8 and living on City Hall Avenue, Joe and his six siblings sadly lost their father and survival skills at a very young age were untimely thrust upon Joe. As a young boy and as a means of recreation, Joe spent all of his free time at Neigborhood House where the cost was free unlike the nearbyY that charged a yearly unaffordable fee of $50. He quickly honed his leadership and athletic skills there and became a dear friend to many, some if whom are here to pay tribute to Joe. However there was a time for play and more importantly a time to help support the family. So at the tender age of 16 he left school and did what most Jewish boys at that time did for a living. He went to work in the schmattah business for a men’s clothing firm called Cooper clothing. He started off as a shipper and then was given a sample bag and a territory and told by his boss to go out and sell and return home only with a bag full of orders. Back in those days, not only were you selling the line but you were given the task of collecting past due receivables, so when Joe went calling on his customers and asked to be paid for last season’s merchandise the retailer sensing the innocence and vulnerability of this young salesman doubled down on their placing orders. So Joe quickly sensing victory forgot about the past due receivables and triumphantly began to write the orders. Wow! Was the boss ever going to be impressed. Needless to say, the homecoming displayed by his boss could have been a little more receptive. And Joe quickly learned that writing orders was easy, but getting paid is a whole different ball game --- which begs the question ------ was the account ever shipped Joe? After a few seasons of abuse and schlepping samples on the road , Joe and a colleague soon took over ownership of the firm and quickly grew it to a prominant and leading mens and boys clothing firm."
Joe’s wife of 58 years, Isabel, was on hand as was his daughters Janet (with husband Michael Maislin) and Shari (with husband David Perl) and some of his grandchildren. Son Mitchell lives in Michigan. It was also nice to see the Blumer family on hand for they are part of the Presser clan.
JOE PRESSER IS A GEM
I have known Joe most of my life. He is a fabulous individual whom as a youngster worked as a shipper at Cooper Clothing and eventually bought the company. In 1988 I was hired as the national director of communications for Canadian Jewish Congress. I called Joe and went to see him as I needed some nice suits to wear for work. He took care of me like I was his own son. When I first ran for office in 2005, he took me door to door to every resident in his building. Last November, 12 years later, he did the same thing – quite impressive for a man who is 80 years young and thankfully in very good shape.
Before Joe spoke to the audience, Alvin Fishman rolled out the big surprise – a cake shaped like a business suit made by the one and only Chef Moshe Engler. We then watched a nice photo montage on the screen put together by our Public Affairs and Communications guru Darryl Levine.
For the door prizes, it was nice to have Allan J. Levine and Sam Goldbloom emcee that portion of the program. There was a nice assortment of gifts available.
Finally thanks to our luncheon volunteers Toby Shulman, Peter and Rhoda Sternberg, Doris Gottheil, Dina Ancel, Maureen Hankin, Elaine Waisgrus and Mark Avigdor. As well, hats off to Robin Chemtov on the keyboard.
So now we hope for good weather on July 19. I know Joe is already practicing his putts.