Some days are better than others, and 19 September 1967 was more hectic than most.
I am bringing together my notes on Pie-IX, the large north-south boulevard towards the east of the island that Montrealers most likely associate with the wonder, both financial and architectural, that is our Olympic stadium. In 1967, at the height of the Expo, the stadium was just a glimmer in mayor Jean Drapeau’s eye, but as you can read in the pages that day’s Montreal Star at the end of this post, the boulevard was far from quiet. The previous day it was the scene of the car chase that ended a score of bank robberies and the life of the getaway driver, Monica Proietti Smith, a.k.a Machine Gun Molly or Monica La Mitraille.
With the metro only just opened, its chief engineer and now head of the Montreal Transit Commission was trying to avert a strike with workers. They were demanding $3.50 per hour, up from $2.77, a sum which puts Monica’s haul of $3,500 in some perspective. Despite the looming strike, the mayor of Anjou, east of the boulevard, complained that his city was treated as a poor relation to the rest of the island and was demanding a metro extension. That would come, but not for Anjou. Instead, the metro would be extended east to the south of Anjou as part of the Olympic infrastructure. Despite extensions subsequent to Olympic year of 1976, the mayor of Anjou, can still make the same claim about being a poor relation.
Also in the news that day, the explosion at the Expo’s Russian pavilion was inside job; the fire on Bernard in Outremont started in the area of the furnace but was being investigated; and in politics, René Lévesque announced his plans for a seperate Quebec in economic association with Canada.
All of this came too late for Pope Pius IX whose reign, from 1846 to 1878, was just as momentous, and after whom the road was named in 1912. (Taking the French form of his name, it’s pronounced “Pee Neuf”.) The last ruler of the Papal States, Pius was helped in the defence his temporal realm from Garibaldi and the Risorgimento or Unification of Italy by 300 Montrealers sent by Bishop Bourget. European politics meant they were unsuccessful and Rome became the capital of Italy and Pius “the prisoner of Rome”. Ironically this occurred just as the interrupted First Vatican Council had defined Papal Infallibility. Still, in this capacity, he increased the number of Canadian dioceses from 4 to twenty-one. This may have earned him the affection of Quebec’s Catholics, but it was a move sure to annoy George Brown, who had fulminated in his Globe and the Canadian Assembly a similar move was made in England in the 1850s.
We have two countries, two religions, two habits of thought and action, and the question is can you possibly carry on the government of both with one Legislature and one executive. That is the question to be solved.
As a father of Confederation, Brown found an answer to his question. One hundred years on, René Lévesque still thought it worth asking.
Consulted for this post
Montreal Star, 19 September 1967, 1-4
Peter Waite, “Between Three Oceans” in Illustrated History of Canada, ed. by Craig Brown (Toronto, Key Porter, 2002) 277-376 (314).