MAIN STREET, MONTREAL
I’ve always been fascinated by Main Street. In this case the Main is known as St Lawrence Street. It has acted as the dividing line of the City of Montreal since 1905. Not only the geographical divide but also the sociological divide. The Main divides Montreal into the geographical East and West and also the French side and the English side. But I must honestly add that the sociological divide is not so clearly defined as it was it was in the 60’s and 70’s.
Today in the beginning of this Century we see the penetration of the East side by newly arrived immigrants: Vietnamese, Haitian, South American… This was not the case before, whether the newly arrived adopted English or French as their second language. We also see a growing presence of French Canadians on the West side of the divide. This is evident in the West tip of the Island, known to locals as West Island.
Main Street was not only a dividing point but also an artery full activity generated by freshly arrived immigrants. The new blood of the Montreal community. Many of the businesses on the Main were run by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. When I refer to many I am not making a pure statistical statement. This was merely the colour of the Main. This is the way I felt the Main. I assume that immigration from Eastern Europe was strong especially after The World Wars.
The Jewish presence on the Main is not as evident as it used to be. Many Jewish Institutions have left the area. Synagogues and Jewish cultural institutions have been replaced by Portuguese churches or Portuguese Social clubs or taken over by Major Schools of higher learning. Please note that when I use the plural I mean one or more cases.
What is life on Main Street like today? How much of the old venerable Main remains? Where are the remaining landmarks of Yesteryear.
I am a witness. I have witnessed the near past. Others have witnessed a farther past. Our common bridge is photography. Come with me on a journey. We will take a peek from behind the camera. We will see the Main as it was in the 1910’s and forward. We will also have the occasion of seeing other parts of the Island – Throbbing with life and insisting that they are too the guardians of the past and the vanguard of the future.
At the beginning of the 20th century people communicated by sending postcards. Some even had collections. Many of these cards have come down to us. Here are some examples of the cards that were so popular then. I have put up some Main Street cards in this section. And will be adding to them as I find them in my boxes or elsewhere.