What Virtue has done to Montreal
The “Paris of North America“ has decided to obey its own laws. Some think it’s now a better place but the reformers are still chasing “the girls“ out of town and forcing the bars to close on time. For better or worse, it’s a different Montreal
A FEW months ago, at the opening of Montreal’s much-advertised tourist season, a motorist from New York City stopped at Plattsburg, N.Y., about twenty miles below the Canadian border, registered in one of the town’s hotels, and stopped to talk with the manager. He had intended to drive straight through to Montreal, the motorist said, hut he had changed his mind.
"There's nothing to hurry for this year," he eXT)lained. "Not with Prohibition hack in Canada." At just about the same time in Montreal, the man ager of the Sheraton-Mount. Royal Hotel, Thomas C.
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What Virtue has done to Montreal
Deveau, was listening to an air traveler from France tell how his friends had been shocked when they heard that Montreal— long celebrated as the Paris of America—had gone dry; the New York Herald Tribune was reporting the closing of the Bellevue Casino, Montreal’s loudest, best known and most popular night club, because of new tough liquor laws; and Walter Winched was talking cryptically in eight hundred American newspapers about a “furious mob war in Montreal, with the victims of Mafia murderers blocking traffic.”
The motorist, the air traveler, the Herald Tribune and Winched were ad far from the facts. There is no liquor prohibition in Montreal; you can drink in public eighteen hours a day every day except Sunday and the law won’t bat an eye at you. The Bellevue Casino is still alive and loud and popular. There are no Mafia murderers lurking in the streets.
But there was nevertheless a startling element of truth behind ad four of these stories. Montreal has changed. “The old lady has lost her girlish laughter,” AÍ Palmer, a columnist for the Montreal Herald, wrote not long ago. “Now it’s Montreal the Good.” Raffish, colorful, picturesque, slightly sinful Montreal, where vice and corruption provoked two historic public investigations in thirty years—the Coderre probe which in 1925 found the city in the grip of vice and the Caron probe of 1954 is undergoing the biggest and most rut hless house cleaning any Canadian city ever saw. It has been accompanied by bitter conflict and occasional violence.
The cleanup is the result of a report just about a year ago by Mr. Justice François Caron of Montreal’s Superior Court on police tolerance of crime, gambling and prostitution in the city. The judge recommended that Police Chief Albert Langlois and twenty of his men be fired. Montreal’s voters did better than that. They turned out long-popular Camillien Houde’s regime (Houde himself did not run) and put the Civic Action League, a reform movement, in power. Jean Drapeau, one of the prosecutors who helped reveal the extent of the city’s sins, was elected mayor. Pierre DesMarais, a wealthy businessman and city councilor who had helped organize the Civic Action League, became chairman of the city’s powerful
executive committee. Pacifique Plante, Drapeau’s fellow' solicitor who had once been fired by Chief Langlois for “insubordination” and whose newspaper reports launched the Caron probe, was brought back as assistant director of police, the position he had held before.
In the cleanup these three men — Drapeau, DesMarais and Plante — are doing most of the sweeping.
Racketeers, gamblers, prostitutes and hoodlums,
who have often been suspected of influencing the city’s destinies, are now being chased out, or at least hindered in the pursuit of their trades. The provincial liquor laws, sometimes winked at by the provincial police and frankly soft pedaled by Premier Maurice Duplessis, are being enforced to the letter by the city’s new reform administration.
To do this both Plante and Drapeau have had to exercise all of their legal talents. Enforcing the province’s liquor laws is actually not the business
“This is a fight to the finish,” said reformer Pax Plante and the most ruthless house cleaning any
of city police. Normally it is done by provincial police, who have twenty-five men at work in Montreal and vicinity to see that all provincial laws are observed. But when Plante and Drapeau saw the law t>eing flouted—many night clubs were running wide open all night although they are supposed to stop selling liquor at 2 a.m. weekdayr and midnight Saturday—they invoked an old city bylaw to regulate liquor sales.
This is bylaw 926, which provides for the
licensing of restaurants. Any place where food or beverages are kept, manufactured, prepared, bottled, stored or offered for sale has to have a city license which costs $10.80. Plante and Drapeau told the night clubs that if they didn’t observe the provincial liquor laws they wouldn’t get a city license. In addition to locking up the liquor at the right time, this meant getting rid of the prostitutes and other undesirables hanging around the bars. If they tried to operate without a city
license they could be prosecuted and padlocked.
The bylaw also gave the city power to act against blind pigs, or bootlegging joints, since they also keep and sell “beverages.” Rooming houses also have to have a city license; if they are found to be harboring prostitutes or gamblers they can be put out of business too.
Scores of prosecutions have been started under the city bylaws. As a result the municipal courts are so crowded that.
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Canadian city ever saw began as police cracked down with a zeal that impressed some, shocked others
What Virtue Has Done to Montreal
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when the city police recently brought charges against several shopkeepers who were operating pinball machines the cases had to be held over until the courts could hear the dozens of other police charges. In one day John G. Ahern QC, one of the city’s leading criminal lawyers, spent all morning and afternoon pleading for his clients in court, and then spent his evening trying to get others released on bail. It was an average day for him.
When this article was written cases were pending against at least half a dozen major underworld characters, including Frank Pretula, a former lieutenant of Harry Davis who was the underworld’s pay-off man until he was shot to death in 1946. The underworld itself was torn with strife over the collapse of its protection system. Police toleration of crime and vice in Montreal had ended in the Caron probe and the city election last November.
Les filles, the so-called bar girls, vice girls or just plain prostitutes, around whom Montreal’s night life whirled gaily and amorously ever since the end of the war, have been chased relentlessly by the police. Where once there were established red-light districts and madams even distributed advertising cards in public, the city’s brothels now are few and well hidden. Many girls have moved to mining areas or other industrial cities in Quebec. One nightclub operator recently got a telephone call from Las Vegas, where a muddled feminine voice asked tearfully, "Is it safe to come home?” He replied that it wasn’t. Last May police arrested a woman who was suspected of running a bawdy house. In the place they found a list of names and addresses of three hundred "call girls,” many of them stenographers and shopgirls who accepted night-time assignations by telephone. They were all warned by the police to stick to their daytime jobs.
Until the present cleanup gamblers operated more or less openly in Montreal. Almost anyone could walk into large bookmaking establishments and place p bet or check the results of horse races at major tracks all over the continent. Barbotte, a fast-rolling dice game, was a city legend, played in dozens of gambling joints. All this was illegal, of course, under section 176 of the federal Criminal Code, which prohibits any game of chance with money as a reward unless it’s for charity. But the police didn’t often bother such places.
Now, however, gamblers have been driven into private clubs, which operate with either a city or a provincial charter, and even there they can’t be sure of privacy. When the city police suspect that a club operator is taking more than the legal rake-off (ten cents an hour or fifty cents a day for each player at cards) they often send a uniformed policeman into the club. With a cop peeking over their shoulders, the big gamblers usually leave. When one renowned bookmaker tried to beat the city shutdown by moving his establishment to nearby Ville St. Laurent, the city police called on the Ville St. Laurent police and persuaded them to raid the place and close it. One hapless barbotte operator was chased by police from one location to another until he finally gave up in disgust and bought a taxicab. Soon after, the police caught him rolling dice with a few other men on the back seat of his cab and arrested him.
But the shrillest cries of pain have
come from the eighty-three night clubs and bars, two hundred and ninetyeight taverns, twenty hotels, seven inns and forty restaurants that come under the Quebec Liquor Act in Montreal. The law says taverns can serve beer from eight in the morning until eleven at night; cafés, clubs, restaurants and cabarets with licenses can serve liquor from eight in the morning until two the next morning. But they’re not supposed to sell any liquor after midnight on the day before a holiday or an election day, which means that the city’s supposed to lock up at midnight Saturday—traditionally the biggest day in the week for the bars.
As this was written the city had refused to renew the licenses of twentyfour night clubs and was preparing to start court action against them under bylaw 926. But the clubs were still operating, since the city can’t lock them up until and unless they’re convicted of breaking the law. Six of the clubs —the Eldorado Club, La Madeleine, Bacardi Café, the Press (not newspaper) Club, Vic Café and Casa Loma —had applied for writs of mandamus, which would require the city to show cause why they shouldn’t get licenses.
It Costs Cabbies Money
This legal rigmarole—and the cleanup—is slowly changing the character of the city, throttling down its once tempestuous night life. But it’s nothing you can see at first glance. On week nights St. Catherine Street, the main stem from which Montreal’s night life flows, still glitters with neon lights, as bright after midnight as before. There are just as many people jostling on the narrow sidewalks as there were a year ago. If the average person who lives in Montreal is aware of the change he probably doesn’t consider it important that you can’t buy a drink legally after 2 a.m. There are still the Alouettes to cheer for in football and the exploits of Rocket Richard to discuss in hockey. As far as the average citizen can see, the city is probably getting
better, not worse; streets filled with potholes are being resurfaced, a hundred and twenty-seven miles of them. Black-and-yellow signs everywhere proclaim: "This street to be resurfaced
But for the city’s thousands of professional and semi-professional nighthawks it’s a different matter. There are six thousand waiters and busboys, ten thousand taxicab drivers and uncounted hundreds of musicians and entertainers in Montreal. More than half of them work at night. The cleanup has cost most of them money in tips and wages, and it has cost some their jobs.
"The racket boys used to come into a club and spend five hundred dollars in a night,” one waiter told me. "You might get a fifty-dollar tip. Now, with the rackets being cleaned up, they haven’t got that kind of money, or they’re staying out of sight. So you get a ladies’ bridge club where everybody has one drink and leaves you a dime.”
At a parking lot on Stanley Street in the middle of the night club district, an attendant told me, "The girls used to attract big spenders. They’d come up from New York or Toronto, expecting to pick up a girl and spend a few nights on the town. Now the girls have been chased out of the clubs, or out of the city, so the spenders aren’t around any more.”
For the most part, the seamy side of Montreal is the side being changed. The city’s three strong men, Drapeau, DesMarais and Plante, have gone about it with a crusading zeal that has impressed many of their constituents and shocked some. They haven’t hesitated to do the unpopular thing. They have made many enemies even while winning supporters. And they have come in more or less open conflict with Quebec’s most formidable strong man, Maurice Duplessis.
Two years ago in the Quebec legislature Duplessis referred to the provincial liquor laws and said, "Strict observance of the law leads to the
It’s a scandal/’ the judge said, that children can obtain liquor”
opening of blind pigs. We must avoid a worse evil by not employing excessive severity.” And, regarding the Saturday midnight closing, he said, "It is impossible. No human authority can apply such a law.” Yet in Montreal it is being applied and the new administration has not hesitated to remind the citizens that if the law is unpopular it is after all a provincial law. "I would prefer a 3 a.m. closing,” DesMarais said recently.
Plante and Drapeau have not been afraid to step on toes, big or little. Last spring Drapeau attended a meeting with several prominent Montreal businessmen who wanted to see the new mayor at close range. "We’ll be glad to tell you if you’re on the right track as far as business is concerned,” one of them told him bluntly. "You mean you’ll tell me if you think I’m on the right track,” Drapeau replied sharply. When the city’s leading charities appeared in a body a few months ago to discuss their annual four-hundredthousand-dollar grant from the city, Drapeau said he could give them no assurance they’d get it. He wanted their whole expenditures reviewed. It appears now, however, that they’ll actually get most or all of the grant.
Plante, long aware of what happens to policemen who accept favors, is conscientious to the point of brusqueness in rejecting even the slightest kindness from anyone connected with the city’s night life. A few months ago he appeared unexpectedly in the Bellevue Casino to see one of the club’s celebrated stage shows. The management, flattered at the presence of the assistant director of police, neglected to give him a bill for his refreshments. Plante insisted. The management demurred.
"All right then,” said Plante, "give everybody in the place a free drink, and I’ll accept mine for nothing.” There were six hundred people in the Casino. The management changed its mind and let him pay his bill.
It was with this general attitude of "no favors for anyone—just obey the law and do your job” that DesMarais, Drapeau and Plante went to work after becoming the three top men in City Hall.
"We will not be overzealous,” said Plante, as he prepared his plans for the city’s cleanup, but DesMarais gave some indication of the administration’s impatience to get on with the job when he said, "If we make mistakes we’ll make them fast.”
Public works had lagged for years, and there was a mountainous backlog of street resurfacing and reconstruction. Montreal’s traffic problem was even worse than Toronto’s. The city’s tax rolls were obsolete; some properties now worth thirty thousand dollars were assessed at three hundred. And the city needed money as always.
The new men in City Hall spent two months tackling these problems. In New York DesMarais borrowed thirtyfive million dollars—just for a start; next year he intends to borrow forty millions and the year after that, sixty millions—all for city improvements, slum clearance and other projects. Drapeau launched a two-year, six-million-dollar program of thruways and street repair. A traffic director was appointed to act independently of the city police. And DesMarais started work on what he called "the dynamiteloaded job” of revising the tax rolls. Previous city regimes had carefully
avoided this task as being too unpopular with business interests. DesMarais, a successful businessman himself, decided it was the only realistic approach to sound city financing and ordered the job started.
Then, last March 1, the shady half world that operates after dark in Montreal got its first clear glimpse of the viceand liquor-law cleanup to come. Plante’s police raided and padlocked a blind pig in the city’s St. Henry district. The place had no liquor license but it had been running day and night. Plante used bylaw 926 to have the spot declared illegal and then asked Municipal Court Judge Emmett J. McManamy for a padlock and got one.
A Fortune in Pinballs
The judge said, "It is a scandal to fathers and mothers of adolescents in the neighborhood to know that there was such a place where their children could obtain liquor.” Plante reminded newspapermen that it was the job of the provincial police to enforce the liquor laws, but in cases where the provincials weren’t doing their job the city would do it for them, he said, by means of city bylaws. "They (blind pigs) may think they’re safe because Montreal police can’t interfere,” he said, "but this shows we can and will.”
Three weeks later the city’s gambling elements also got their warning. When Plante was head of the police morality squad in 1947, before he was dismissed by Langlois, he had smashed the slot-machine racket with a series of raids. Soon they were replaced with pinball machines, which involved some skill as well as luck; not being wholly a game of chance, they got out from under the federal Criminal Code. There were a thousand pinball machines in Montreal, each taking in up to a hundred dollars a week. This was split between the owners of the machines and the places where they were installed. But, by the simple expedient of passing a new bylaw, the city made pinball machines illegal in Montreal and handed Plante a weapon with which to run them out of business.
As soon as the bylaw was passed the police raided thirteen shops or clubs, seized one hundred thousand dollars worth of pinball equipment and charged twelve people with violating the bylaw. The owners promptly sued for the return of their machines and two hundred thousand dollars damages and asked the superior court for an injunction, claiming that a bylaw banning pinball play was outside the city’s powers. Mr. Justice André Demers rejected the petition, but in municipal court Judge Pascal Lachapelle dismissed charges against two operators. By this time the bylaw had succeeded anyway. Rather than risk going to court and possibly having their businesses padlocked, most owners of shops or clubs got rid of their pinball machines.
The next move was against night clubs and cabarets that had never bad
much trouble with the provincial police over the legal hours of liquor sale and did not suspect that the city would try to enforce them. But Mayor Drapeau got up in City Council one day and announced that the city intended to take a close look at all premises licensed by the city when these licenses came up for renewal. In Montreal there are 75,376 places of business that operate with a city license, including 7,643 restaurants, 3,448 rooming houses and 298 taverns. Some come under the health department and several thousand are under police supervision. Plante gave lists of these to his twenty-one precinct captains. He instructed them to tell the owners of clubs, restaurants, dance halls and rooming houses that they must obey all laws—federal, provincial or city—or lose their licenses.
“There is No Protection”
A few days later Drapeau told newspapermen that the licenses of forty-six hundred places were being held up for infractions of various laws or bylaws. The police were investigating sixteen hundred of these. Now the cleanup began in earnest. Brothels, which had been running for years with police protection or tolerance, were suddenly caught in a series of police raids. Twelve people were arrested in one place and eighteen in another. Provincial police said they had received complajnts from smaller centres in Quebec that prostitutes were moving there from Montreal.
Most night clubs co-operated with the police by cutting off liquor sales at 2 a.m. weekdays and midnight Saturday and getting rid of the bar girls. But some defiantly decided that the liquor laws were a provincial matter and they would pay no attention to the city police. In a statement to newspapers Plante warned this latter group, “This is a tight to the finish. To those who say, 'We have protection and to the devil with this new piogram,’ I repeat: 'There is no protec-
tion, and we shall see how far they will go.’ ”
At a meeting called to discuss the city’s new moves, one group of nightclub, restaurant and cabaret owners issued a statement calling the Drapeau regime “a police state.” They said that the strict enforcement of liquor laws would result in unemployment among the twenty-five thousand people working in Montreal’s drinking places, a drop in tourist revenue throughout the
city and an increase in vice in underground drinking spots or blind pigs.
These views on the effects of the cleanup were supported in other quarters as well. Gaston Ramat, organizer of Local 382, Hotel and Restaurant Employees and Bartenders International Union, announced that four thousand of the union’s six thousand members in Montreal were out of work; he later amended this to two thousand. Burly cab driver Raoul Houle, the vice-president of the Taxi Owners of Montreal, complained to one reporter that the earnings of a driver cruising around the night spots had been cut in half, from sixteen to eight dollars a night. The Montreal section of the Quebec Licensed Café and Restaurant Owners Association proposed to Drapeau that police give up enforcing the liquor laws to the letter "unless the civic authorities want to ruin us.” And Charles Smith, head of the Montreal Tourist and Convention Bureau, asked the city for fifty thousand dollars instead of the five thousand his bureau usually receives, "to counteract the bad effect of headlines” on the city’s summer tourist trade.
In the midst of this widespread dismay there were a few wry touches of humor. Even after Plante had warned, "There is no protection,” one minor underworld character was arrested for representing himself to nightclub owners as the collection man for police officials. For several days a rumor flew around the night clubs that some smart lawyer had found a way to get around the liquor-sale hours. This was bylaw 79. Hundreds of drinks were bought over this happy discovery and many warm handclasps exchanged, until it was discovered that bylaw 79 provided for the repaving of St. Suzanne Street. At the Mansfield Café the customers one night refused to obey the 2 a.m. curfew, so waiters turned out the lights. The customers turned them on again. Finally, after this had gone on for an hour, the manager telephoned the Montreal Hydro and asked to have his service discontinued.
As Premier Duplessis had predicted, dozens of blind pigs opened in many sections of the city and flourished. One on Mansfield Street was so busy after 2 a.m. that two doormen were hired to regulate traffic and park cars. When city police got a conviction against the operator under bylaw 926 and padlocked the place, one doorman stayed behind to direct customers to a new location. When the provincial liquor police unexpectedly raided another
blind pig on St. Lawrence Boulevard, Mayor Drapeau, acting surprised, congratulated them for getting in on the act.
One by one, the night clubs fell in line with the police cleanup and strict liquor hours. But by July twenty-four remained in business without city permits. Councilor Lucien Croteau criticized the new regime for trying to enforce provincial laws while people were breaking the city’s own laws by operating without licenses. Plante replied that he would soon start prosecutions against the twenty-four clubs. Hoping to stall this, six of the clubs asked the superior court for writs of mandamus compelling the city to show why they couldn’t get licenses.
This move was led by Vincenzo Catroni, the owner of Vic Café and a well-known night-life figure. It was the first, real show of resistance to the city’s new regime since the cleanup began. As if by signal, the underworld, deprived of many of its sources of
revenue by the campaign against vice and gambling, suddenly broke out in a wave of violence.
Nobody could state precisely the reason for this violence except that it appeared to be tied in with the police war against all lawbreaking. With no police protection to be "arranged,” there was no reason for any illicit enterprise to share profits with underworld pay-off men. And so battles broke out between those resisting payoffs and those trying to enforce them, with hired hoodlums acting for both sides.
Frank Pretula, the former aide of slain Harry Davis, got in a mixup with a private-club operator named Ned Roberts, first at the FI Morocco and then at the Down Beat, two downtown night clubs. Pretula vanished for five days, then surrendered to the police and was charged with threatening Roberts with a gun. At the same time a former friend of Pretula’s, Louis Greco, now a wealthy contractor, was
charged with illegally possessing firearms after city police visited his home and found several guns.
In a series of night club incidents, hoodlums carrying guns—and shooting them—broke bottles and furniture in the All American Bar and Grill on Dorchester Street and the Montmartre Café on St. Lawrence Boulevard where, in the Thirties, Texas Guinan held sway. The police arrested half a dozen men, including Canadian middleweight boxing champion Charlie Chase. Then the warring in the clubs ended as suddenly as it had started.
The cleanup of vice, gambling and drinking habits in Montreal is only one part of the civic-improvement program sponsored by Jean Drapeau, Pierre DesMarais and Pax Plante. Drapeau makes it clear that he considers traffic control, housing, street paving and tax revision far more important. But in its effect on the city’s character and its reputation as the Paris of America the vice cleanup is important, too, and
much more widely publicized. Recently the mayors of several other Quebec communities have come to Plante for advice.
So far Plante’s campaign has been successful but hardly popular. Business is down about thirty percent from last year in most of the night clubs. Raoul Houle, of the Cab Owners Association, says, "Tourists used to stay around a week or two for some fun and then move on. This summer they got fed up with the early closing after a couple of days and left.”
There has been some unemployment in the clubs, too, as a result of the Saturday midnight shutdown. At the Bellevue Casino, which usually packs in six hundred people at a sitting for the club’s bouncy stage shows, only three quarters of the regular staff of forty-five waiters and busboys are working full time. The Casino handled twenty-five thousand fewer customers up to the end of July this year than last. When business slumped, owner Harry Holmok went to the club’s talented show producer, Madame Natalie Komarova, and the musical director, her husband Georgi Komaroff—they’re both from the Folies Bergère in Paris —and asked them to cut the price of their contract. They refused and resigned. Holmok threw them a lavish farewell champagne party.
The Astor on St. Catherine Street, once patronized by night-life big shots —club owners and entertainers—suffered more than most clubs. In the upstairs bar the Astor had a four-piece band, three dancers, a pianist and a singer, while seven waiters and a busboy looked after customers. Now it has a piano player and one waiter.
A Meal of Ripe Olives
Strict enforcement of liquor laws on Sunday has also cut down the revenues of eating places. Cafés and restaurants are permitted to serve beer or wine "with meals” between 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. Before the cleanup nobody quibbled with a customer if he didn’t want to eat. He was simply served beer or wine, or liquor if he wanted it. But Plante insists on what the law says—"witli meals.”
At Belmont Park in the city’s west end five hundred sandwiches were thrown away one Sunday after customers had paid for them but neglected to eat them. At the Café de l’Est the chef, desolate at seeing his handiwork ignored, telephoned a parish priest and offered hundreds of sandwiches to the poor. Finally, most restaurants stumbled on a happy solution: they simply served olives on a
plate, since the law does not stipulate what constitutes a meal.
"If the people don’t eat ’em we just put ’em back in the bottle,” said one restaurant manager happily.
Opinion is divided on how much the cleanup in the cafés and cabarets has affected the tourist business—worth seventy-five million dollars a year to Montreal. In spite of American publicity that sometimes suggests the city has gone dry, Charles Smith of the Tourist and Convention Bureau say: that border crossings at Blackpool south of Montreal, are ahead of last
year. In July alone four thousand more cars came across from New York. There is no vay of proving, however, that they slopped in Montreal.
Smaller gift shops report that their business has slumped since the cleanup began. Walter Selton, manager of Park Lane Gifts on Peel Street, says, "They know about the cleanup in New York. Whether you want a clean city is a matter of opinion but the Americans apparently don’t like it. They lell me so.” And Paul Saks, the manager of Saks Limited, antique dealers, says, "Business is definitely off, but there are a lot of reasons—people are going to Europe; Quebec is getting too Americanized.”
But larger retail shops are not so pertuibed. Jack Clifford, the advertising manager of Eaton’s and president of the Tourist and Convention Bureau, insists, "We hear no complaints about the city from people who come here,” and Alex Duff, general manager of Henry Morgan and Company, aerees with him. "More Americans are simply going to Europe now,” he says.
This may be a fact but more Americans also are going to the Laurentian resorts north of Montreal and to Quebec City. The Laurentians and Quebec City had their biggest summer in history. At the mountain chalets, hosteöries and inns business was up thirty percent over last year. Every Saturday night six and seven hundred people sat down to dinner and drinks on the lawns at little Mont Gabriel near Ste. Adele. At many other resorts the liquor-closing law was frankly and conveniently forgotten. Slot machines whirled and clanked in the bars.
In this lush summer of prosperity in the Laurentians—it was the hottest simmer in fifty years in Montreal - about seventy-five percent of the guests at the various resorts were
Americans. In Montreal, parking lot operators were complaining that only about one car in eight was American.
However, in spite of any indications that tourists are being driven to bed early and don’t like it, major business interests in the city are behind DesMarais, Drapeau and Plante—and the cleanup.
Both the English Board of Trade and the French Chambre de Commerce have endorsed the administration in an arresting way. When Drapeau was trying to get money for his various city projects last spring he had a meeting with several leading members of the Board of Trade and asked them if they would agree to an increase in the city business tax.
"Imagine going hack to our presidents,” said one man, "and telling them we had agreed to raise the taxes on their businesses! But we did it.”
But there have been brickbats as well as bouquets. Pax Plante has received a succession of threatening letters—he calls them his fan mail—and his telephone rings at all hours, often with nameless voices promising him no good end. At night his sister, Mrs. Marie-Jane Champoux, usually answers these calls, so that Plante can get some sleep.
The letters and phone calls are a reminder to Plante that Montreal’s underworld, although severely punished by the vice cleanup, has not been knocked out. Recently a friend invited him out for an evening and suggested they visit a night club to see the floor show. It was just after hoodlums had wrecked three night clubs. Plante refused the invitation.
"What if someone should make a scene?” he said. "An incident involving anyone of the Civic Action League now could wreck the whole administration.” it