Monday, February 7, 2011

Letter 33: Lauder at the Princess

Norman Nicholson's membership card, Saint Andrew's Society.

Montreal Nov 1 , 1911

Dear Father,

This is just a wee note to let you know that I got your check which I have kept and sent Flora mine.

Flora and I were both home for Thanksgiving. Flora had from Friday until Tuesday.

I did not go out until Sunday morning as I wanted to stay and hear Harry Lauder. He was great and I enjoyed it immensely. It was at the Princess Theatre. He sang 8 songs I counted, including Roamin' on the Gloamin' and told jokes too, of course. He was on stage for about an hour. There were other acts too, including a violinist who played all crazy. And an acrobat. The usual.

Mr. Blair took his sister, who was in town for a few days, too.

Edith has been having another bad cold but is getting better now. There is no more news and I have heaps of school work to do so I will stop for now will write more later,


Entertainment options in 1910 in Montreal were vast: theatre, vaudeville, cabarets (although it is unlikely Marion visited the bawdier places), and of course, the motion picture houses.

Montreal was home to North America's first luxury motion picture house, the 2, 500 seat Ouimetoscope on Saint Catherine. And least one other motion picture house, the Nickel, promoted itself as a respectable venue, with no questionable movies or questionable clients and posh leather seats. It is at the Nickel that Marion, in 1909, sees Man in the Box, the silent short featuring Mack Sennett, who was born in or near Richmond and was the same age as Edith.

In 1908, the Lord's Day Act was passed in Canada. Consersvative Presbyterians and Labour Unions joined forces to ensure a day off for most workers from noon on Saturday to noon on Sunday.

The Ouimetoscope and some other motion picture houses ignored this law. Ernest Ouimet, the proprietor, said Saturday was when he did his best business. If you give people the day off, they need something fun -and cheap- to do.

Here's a snippet from the Montreal Council of Women's Committee Report on Immoral Material from their 1913 meetig.

"Your convenor reports an average increase in the number of moving picture shows, there being 69, more than in all Canada 5 years ago. Many of these have been visited more than once by members of the Committee. The Chief of Police has been most courteous in interviews regarding important matters. The Pictures are somewhat improved, but the vaudeville is still of a very ordinary tone (sic.)Some managers interviewed would like to exclude vaudeville, as it is expensive, but the public demands it.

Objections are expressed resulting from darkened halls where the pictures are shown. There is a menace to morals in this and it should be prohibited.

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