The Montreal Daily News was continuing to make a positive impact on my bank account, but little else. Like everyone else there, I no longer thought the paper could be saved and waited for the end from paycheque to paycheque.
Of course, my life was now taken up by young love. Miriam Schleifer, still 18, was back from being a counsellor at Kamp Kanawana and soon enrolled at McGill University, headed for a professorial life in history or philosophy. She had taken over my life. Her father, only two years my senior, taught psychology in the Department Education at L'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), which was founded in 1969 as part of the ferment of the Quiet Revolution. Within a week of our first meeting, she told me she wanted to be a professor like her dad. I said I could guarantee it. She was excited by the thought. Then I said: "If you do as I say when I say it." She agreed. I then said: "Okay, do ten push-ups--now!" After a quick querulous look, she got down on the floor, and I relented. We had a deal until she broke it a decade later. It was understood that my power to speak with papal authority would be confined to matters of her attaining professorial status--and there were a few raging rebellions to come. I am pleased to report that her dad, Michael Schleifer, who had no love of me, sided with me against her, though we disagreed on almost everything else.
Our getting along enraged Anne O'Reilly. Despite the fact that she had thrown me out of her flat and forced me to set up on my own downtown, she didn't want anyone else to have me. So there were a number of ugly incidents of petty harassment, during which time she went feral, living on the street as a bag lady. I told Derek to live with his no-goodnik dad in low-rent Verdun, but if after three months he could not tolerate it, he could bunk in with me. He arrived, and gone was my den as we all--Trooper dog included--wintered in Westmount.
As I was fearful of being regarded as a sex fiend, a 42-year-old man living with two teenagers, I insisted that we be examined by social services to have our domestic arrangements formalised, or have them devise another arrangement. After a couple visits and a lot of questions, we passed muster and settled into the basement apartment in Westmount on de Maisonneuve and Kensington, around the corner from where I grew up.
Life went on contentedly. In George Bernard Shaw's "Don Juan in Hell," his devil said that over the gates of Hell are inscribed the words "Give Up All Hope Ye Who Enter Here." To which his devil added: "For what is hope, but moral responsibility?" This was his devil's invitation to enjoy Hell. It was not, said Shaw, as clergy supposed, a place of fire and brimstone, but one where hedonists could enjoy themselves. While admitting that there was a great gulf fixed, Shaw's devil said it was the gulf of personal inclination, not of good and evil.
There was an aspect of that in the dying days of the Montreal Daily News. Sackings continued. Departures continued, and we became more expert producing the ridiculous product we produced. It was like that film "Groundhog Day" in that we got better and better at what we did every day. The result was the same, but the process markedly improved. Jim Duff seemed to occupy a bigger office at a greater remove from us. George McLaren, who seemed to serve as a buffer between the mercurial Duff and the mercurial Peladeau, had departed. Not that anyone paid much attention. Everyone gave up hope and relaxed.
I still went to the professors' table, and after the Queen Mother's visit the previous year to present the Black Watch new colours, I had rejoined the regiment as a social member of the officers' mess as well as the Montreal Pistol Club, in which I was dragooned into becoming its secretary.
It was at the professors' table, moved to the Bar Bleu, since the Royal Pub was demolished, where my life changed. Neil Cameron mentioned that the new owners of the Suburban were looking for an editor. He had been told this by Fred Krantz, who ran the Zionist Canadian Institute for Jewish Research. Neil, a polymath, was a frequent paid lecturer at the Cote St Luc Public Library on just about anything anyone wanted to know about.
Cote St Luc, despite its Christian name, was also the "Golden Ghetto" of Montreal's Jewish community. Neil told me that two crusty-bagel Sabra brothers, Amos and Avi Sochaczevski, were looking for an editor, and that he had recommended me to Fred, who said he would tell Amos and Avi.
My reaction was casual, suggesting we meet at the officer's mess at the Black Watch. I was not anxious to return to weekly journalism, having been retrained on a daily with its state-of-the-art computer technology, which meant more then than it does today.
But when I got home and mentioned this development to Miriam, she was thrilled. This was a very big deal to her! This was the Suburban. It was the paper that the Jewish community took seriously and took to heart, in some respects more important than the Gazette.
She ordered me to get my CV from the computer, had me write a covering letter, checked it for errors, had me collect my clippings book, borrowed her parents car, and bundled me off to Avi or Amos Sochaczevski, who were lodged at their toy factory in Ville LaSalle under the sign AMAV Industries - No 1 in Play Value.
Stating my business to the reception, and handing in the material, we waited on a bench that reminded me of an old-fashioned back seat of a 1950s American car, plain but commodious. There was a stack of Suburbans on one rack and on the other side a display of various boxes, mostly games made of cardboard and bits of plastic. I had not seen the Suburban since my Monitor days nearly five years earlier. It had a girlish front page with a swirling giant S, fitting for Sophie Wollock, who fashioned the first edition with her band of yentas from her kitchen table in 1963. Her son kept it going until he was unable to recover from the Montreal flood of 1987 and sold it to the Sochaczevski brothers.
We didn't have long to wait before a large, muscular, heavyset man emerged, looking harried and apologetic. "Please. . . I won't be long, but please wait, please!" he pleaded in Hebrew-accented English.
Her game face on as he departed, Miriam said coolly: "He knows of you."
We waited 45 minutes before Amos came back, voicing apologies as he ushered me into his office. A few pleasantries were exchanged as we waited for his brother Avi to arrive. Heavyset Amos appeared as a wheedling salesman, smiling, agreeable, readily apologetic, a social universal joint, quick to accommodate changing circumstances as they arose. Not entirely trustworthy.
Then Avi arrived. Just as big but less pudgy, offering only a brief smile, he sat down and let his garrulous elder brother take the lead. Amos questioned me the way prospective employers do, revealing more about himself than intended. It was clear they knew little about newspapers, but they had good instincts about publishing, light-years ahead of those at the Daily News. I also noticed something about the new boxy layout of the Suburban's front page that had shed the feminine swirls and curls of yesteryear. It struck me that the paper's layout was much like the toy boxes, with stories and blurbs framed in rectangles. I began to appreciate that from what I could see, these guys were already in the publishing business and knew their business--however unwittingly.
That interview ran for a half hour, maybe less. Something they had to do cut things short. Avi, who would have been sensationally handsome if he didn't wear glasses, questioned me less solicitously in equally Hebrew-accented English. He wanted to know what I made of the situation in the Middle East and Israel's place in it. Amos's face turned grave.
"Israel is a first-world beachhead on third world turf," I said. "The UN gave it to the Jews and the Jews have a right to have it."
That seemed to visibly satisfy them. They both looked at each other pleased. Even deadpan Avi allowed himself a smile. We set up a meeting for the following week, as they were in the midst of doing things that had to be done.
Miriam could hardly contain herself with excitement as the days passed before the next interview. This one went on for more than two hours. Two things concerned the brothers after a brief discussion about Israel, when I amplified my views on Palestinians and Arabs, saying if they attacked they could be counterattacked. What one man lost in the course of dispossessing another, I said, need not be returned to him--that is, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
More relevant to the day-to-day task of editing the Suburban was supervising 12 editorial staffers in two offices--the main Cote St Luc office and the one in Dollard-des-Ormeaux on the West Island. I had supervised eight at the Gazette's entertainment department during the entertainment editor's long and frequent absences, or even when he was there in body but not in mind. But the Suburban was a bigger problem, not only in size but in complexity.
In the course of that interview and a brief third encounter where we sealed the deal and I got a salary of C$40,000 (as much as for a single shift at the Montreal Daily News), they told of their real troubles they had been concealing. In short, they may have got their toy-box front page through; but that was about all they could manage, because they were faced with obstruction at every turn. They were told--from the general manager on down--that whatever they wanted to do couldn't be done without violating some sacred canon of journalism.
Of particular annoyance to them was the staff's unilateral introduction of the signed editorials on the basis that that was how the French newspapers did it and it was now only normal to follow suit. What's more, the owners were forced to publish signed editorials by the reporters on a rotation of their own choosing, expressing views they did not share, and in some cases actually opposed.
I assured them I would straighten that out immediately, and reassured them that the editorial was the expression of the publisher's view and was not only under their control but was expected to be--in the English tradition.
This was not true of French journalism because of something called loi Tinguet, an 18th-century law to discourage scurrilous pamphleteering in revolutionary France by requiring that every published piece be signed and the author traceable.
Despite my nearly two years of double-shifting at the Montreal Daily News, I was still not on staff and could be fired instantly with no notice. Such arrangements were reciprocal, of course. Nonetheless, I did not want to inconvenience anyone and would give two weeks’ notice if required. I found Jim Duff in his office, occupied with another matter. He only half listened to what I said and didn't mind if I left immediately, which I did.
My reception at the Suburban must have been something like Donald Trump's reception in Washington, DC: a combination of fear and loathing camouflaged by unctuous cordiality, as if their little tribe held all the cards, confident they could destroy me if I did not play ball.
I assured the fifty something general manager, whom I remember as Gloria, that I would keep her informed of any changes I intended to make. She was a heavyset woman, expensively dressed, heavily made-up and elaborately coiffed. She exuded matronly authority. It was clear by her response that she did not think my tone was sufficiently subordinate.
Gloria's countenance darkened further when I announced that henceforth I would be writing an unsigned editorial and giving myself an op-ed opinion column. She obviously knew that the unsigned editorial had long been on the Sochaczevski wish list, and that she and her in-house gang, who had been successfully resisting this as being out of step with the "new realities" of Quebec, could no longer do so. She had been given my CV, which showed that I could not be bamboozled by talk of the sacred canons of journalism, much less the wisdom of the Suburban kowtowing to Quebec's great downtrodden majority, the new oppressors of the Jewish community.
Gloria tried to impress me with how much money she made and what sort of car she drove. As time went on over the next four to five months, when it became clear that she had no authority in editorial matters, she asked me into her palatial office in plaintive tones: "What do they expect me to do?"
There was the sales force to supervise and encourage, which seemed job enough to me. But editorial was the fun bit of newspapering, and she had lost that. I suggested that she could usefully assume the role of governor general, of which she knew nothing. I explained the GG's role was to "encourage, advise and to warn." Had she been co-operative, I would have truly welcomed her and valued her input. But she was dismissive. I told her that if she disagreed with me, she could appeal to the Sochazevskis, which she knew was hopeless.
She departed shortly after, replaced by the cheerful, red-headed Ken Cochrane, and we got on famously. Although we had a few drinks together every now and then, and exchanged many a confidence, we had little to do with each other professionally.
That left me the nest of vipers in editorial. There were six of us in that gloomy basement department. The Suburban, I soon learned, was a substantial operation. It occupied the entirety of an old strip mall with cars parked along the front in the depth of suburban Cote St Luc. The switchboard receptionist was at one end, together with a bank of three girls doing tele-sales and customer service. There was a door to the GM's big office beside a short stairwell down to the editorial and the archives, sorting room and lunch area. There was also the door to Gloria's grand office, which was left vacant in Ken's administration. He preferred the smaller assistant advertising manager's office, a post that was never filled in my time. He liked to keep his door open and hear the reps' chatter and the phones ring. The Sochaczevskis wanted me to occupy that office, but, like Ken, I wanted to be close to my troops. So I took the only vacant desk left in the department downstairs.
Walled off from the reception and tele-sales area was a large room with about ten female sales reps. A man would occasionally join them, but they never numbered more than one or two in my time. This took up two-thirds of the strip mall. The remaining third was occupied by the production department, which could be counted on to make a production of just about everything, with the production manager occupying an office only slightly less palatial than the GM's office, which now became an occasional conference room.
In editorial, there was Lawrence Severs in his mid-twenties, who seemed to be migrating from male to female before my very eyes, and a thoroughly nasty young man called Carmy Levi in his early 20s, who made no secret of his hostility and frequently announced his intention to tell on me when I said I would do something that had never been done before. Carmy periodically scampered upstairs to tell Gloria, and wore a threatening "just you wait, Henry Higgins" scowl on his return.
Then there was a short nebbishy fellow, Andy Nulman, who maintained enough of an air of hostility to maintain the appearance of solidarity with his mates. He worked with a fiftysomething woman, Elaine, filling the voluminous social and entertainment pages with material from freelance contributors, some of whom were of excellent quality. Nulman went to better things, playing some noteworthy organisational role in the Just for Laughs Festival long after we parted.
On the home front, our strange little family moved from Westmount to a commodious apartment on Cote St Antoine Road between Hampton and Royal, where it hives into Sherbrooke Steeet in NDG, formally known as Notre Dame de Grace. It was a four-storey walkup, and had a grand view south over the tops of buildings that allowed us to say "we can see the river from here," which made us feel affluent and on top of the world.
My mother, whom I saw every other week, often in the company of my brother, surprised me with a C$4,000 gift. I had mentioned that this job would require a car and I would have to buy one. I was 42 and had never had a driver's licence, much less bought a car, having no need of one. I knew from my brother's experience, witnessed in his frequent road rages, that cars were expensive and involved deep and meaningful relationships with the police on their terms. But there was nothing for it. The Suburban and its West Island office, required one. So I put up my hands and went quietly.
Miriam was pleased as punch. We already had access to two family cars; now we were fully grown up and she could join the ranks of "JAPs [Jewish American Princess] on wheels." This was more theoretical than practical, because I had the car most of the time, or so it seemed at first. We got a fine little Toyoto Tercel station wagon with a standard shift, which I noted was only two or three inches longer than a classic Volkswagen beetle that I once found parked beside me in the office parking lot.
After taking mandatory driving lessons at considerable expense, I managed to fail the test three times. My younger daughter Aislinn from London who came to visit accompanied me to the provincial driving licence testing centre to make it appear that someone other than myself had driven me there. I had to take the test on an automatic, which had to be the worst test vehicle in the testing fleet, and I managed to fail twice. To my daughter's repeated exhortations to "relax" as I was about to take a third test, I snapped "No, I do better tense," and with the cold determination of a Spitfire Battle of Britain pilot, sailed effortlessly through.
Thus equipped, I headed out to the West Island in my new second-hand car bought from a fussy, nattily dressed Iranian. Just the sort one would not want to have a drink with, but just the sort from whom one can safely buy a car. And so it proved to be. It is the one and only car I ever owned and remembered almost as fondly as I remember my old dog Trooper.
I discovered the West Island office manned editorially by Christians, lodged adequately in a struggling strip mall with more vacancies than tenants. The core of our interest was Dollard-des-Ormeaux, which had been the site of much housing development and a thriving Jewish community springing up around a cluster of several synagogues. There was a fortysomething woman who I learned was the wife of an RCMP superintendent. So no dope smoking in the West Island office, I noted. There was also a thirtysomething man with a Polish name, who seemed pleasant and competent enough, who made an odd remark on meeting me: "I told them all you would be good--all you guys with those Mc and Mac names are good at this." I was pleased to hear it, and was on my way to believing it when I recalled my days with Larry McDermott. The West Island editor and office manager was Joyce Lapointe, a fiftysometling blond, who I sensed correctly would be a problem in future. She was a Christian version of Gloria, the former GM, and too domineering for my taste. But no problem for the moment. Two or three hours there, plus a tour of the territory, and I was satisfied there were no rebellions to suppress, the office was producing satisfactorily, and it showed every sign of continuing to do so without my help.
There were two things to consider on a non-combative level: What the Suburban covered and how it covered it. I had always thought of Jews as princes of commerce, thus it was no surprise to me that they had done with the Suburban exactly what I had advocated the French do with first the Sunday Express and then with the Montreal Daily News: go for what's there in bite-and-hold operations and not foolishly pursue unobtainable objectives because they were attractive. And this was a credit to the previous owners, the Wollocks. The Sochaczevskis had not had the paper long enough to show their commercial prowess, and I was the one who was giving them their first measure of control by breaking through the first line of resistance.
Thus, the Suburban had seized its most accessible ground in Cote St Luc and moved outward. The advance was both geographical and cultural, as the Jewish community encompasses both elements.
While Jews can be parsed in many ways, two units emerge, that is, observant and nominal, much as there are observant and nominal Christians. Jewish communities in North America rank New York in first place and then Montreal, which even then had been whittled away by the Anglo Exodus and partly by the same phenomenon that afflicted the Christian community as well--rampant secularism.
The Jewish ghetto, that enclosed geographical community, was imposed not so much by external forces, as widely assumed, but rather by the need for observant Jews of all ages to walk to the synagogue on the Sabbath. This necessitated living close together, hence the universal creation of close-knit geographical communities or ghettos.
In the Middle Ages, Ashkenazi Jews, those who lived in the Roman Empire, found themselves huddled in what were walled towns that survived the fall of Rome. In days when barbarian chiefs took and held lands, and made themselves counts ruling counties, barons ruling baronies, dukes ruling duchies, and eventually kings ruling kingdoms--all ultimately won recognition and legitimacy from the church. The Roman Catholic Church was the one enduring Roman authority that manifested itself as the Holy Roman Empire, which dissolved in the Napoleonic Wars in 1806.
The Jews, however rich, could not be a part of this network, as each noble vassal to a king pledged to provide troops and materiel in time of war to the extent of his landholding and the revenue it produced. And these wars for some 200 years were promoting Christian causes such as the 1095-1190 Crusades.
Thus, denied substantial landholdings as this obligated military service in an alien cause, northern European Jews were confined to cities, doing work that took up little space and was highly mobile, such as tailoring, banking, law, medicine, gold, silver smithery and jewelry making.
While the physical ghetto still exists, it is less a factor today in the face of universal secularism, which affects Christians and Jews--even Muslims, as I learned from the Iranian who ran my local video shop.
So it was in Montreal. Traditionally, Jews of the 1850s, '80s, '90s right into the 1930s and '40s--many from Germany, Austria and Russia--peopled the immigrant trough along the Main, that is, St Lawrence Boulevard, from where east-west street numbers ascend, giving us such names as Sherbrooke Street East and St Catherine Street West.
But after World War II, as many displaced persons arrived and new housing opened up for returning soldiers, the westward drift from the Main began. These tended to be the non-observant Jews who became the rank and file of the Communist Party, which elected Fred Rose the MP. But among them were highly observant pious Hasidic Jews, the "serious hats" as I came to call them, who were not keen on Zionism. The bulk of them are Ashkenazis and a now indistinguishable subgroup called Sephardics, who once in the 18th century formed the largest Jewish community in North America, centred on Charleston, South Carolina. They had migrated from Portugal and Spain via Latin America.
Incoming Jews of all sorts came to Montreal. They settled in Cote St Luc, where the Suburban started. It had been a fading French Canadian village of a couple of thousand, whose farms were bought and turned into suburban housing for 30,000; neighbouring tiny but wealthy Hampstead immediately to the east with its 8,000 people. Further east was the older, more working-class district of Snowdon, with another 30,000. After that, to the east and running along its eastern border, was Cote des Neiges, and along the length of the southern border lay Notre Dame de Grace (NDG), which had plenty of Jews in the border lands but thinned out into Christian houses pretty quickly. We did have NDG and Westmount editions, but these were stacked in shops, not distributed door-to-door.
In my Monitor days, we butted heads with the Suburban, but not seriously. Under Sophie Wollock, the paper would occasionally squawk about the oppressive language laws. But it tended to cleave to the Liberal banner that agreed with the oppressive language laws that put Canada at less risk of Quebec becoming an independent.
Because of John O'Meara, the column-writing ad rep later to become general manager, the Monitor was an active and constant foe of Frenchification and linguistic cleansing. On that point, the Sochaczevskis were co-operative; but their core concern was Israel, to which they had close links, specifically with the ruling conservative Likud party, and whose Labour Party they opposed.
While the West Island was not an immediate problem and tended to run itself, I focused on challenges editing what were known as the "city editions," which encompassed the areas mentioned above as well as St Laurent and the off-island community to the north, Chomedy-Laval. St Laurent was a large, amorphous former municipality merged with Montreal, with a goodly Jewish population, perhaps representing most of the non-French population, which has a clear but small majority.
The paper ran between 48 and 68 tabloid pages, but it was perhaps a third more than that because of the change pages, a situation I had never encountered elsewhere. There were six editions, so in terms of editorial output, it was a rather like putting out a small daily that comes out once a week, with each front page and eventually each page three being about each municipality and district. Add to that, two sets of inner and outer contiguous district change pages.
Change pages were designed for the advertising department, who encountered advertisers whose customers, real and potential, were local, so they did not want to buy advertising the length and breadth of the Suburban's entire catchment area. Why have your ad shown in distant St Laurent or the West Island if you were only interested in NDG customers?
Editorially, this meant that stories about snow clearance problems in St Laurent would go on the outer district change pages, and stories concerning NDG issues and events would go to the inner district change pages. The West Island edition was wholly different, except for the editorial and op-ed pages, as indeed the West Island itself was, as the Suburban's catchment area was not contiguous with that of the city editions, having omitted Lachine and Dorval and focusing on the more Jewish areas north of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Conforming to the Sochaczevskis' toy-box front page motif, there were, in those early days, three elements on the six-column format--or there would be in the first few months, as I wrestled for control from the occupation forces, now putting up a rear-guard action in the production department. Soon, though repeatedly, they fell back when I suggested they appeal my decisions to the Sochaczevskis. No one wanted to do that.
There were two stories and a picture on the front page. As much as we could, we had one local story on top under a two-column headline that would be relevant to the particular edition and its district, be it Hampstead (pop. 8,000), where a complaint against dog poo could make the front page, or NDG (pop. 40,000), where you might need a police shooting. The page one picture would be the best picture we had, run over four columns, with an extended caption perhaps pointing to a story inside. Under the picture would run the main story of the week, which became known as the "turn front," as it directed readers to a page inside.
The editorial staff and the production department were displeased with my writing the unsigned editorial. It being about Israel, reporter Carmy Levi asked me whether I believed in what I had written. I answered in the affirmative but said, addressing the four of them, that that was coincidental, as the unsigned editorial was the institutional view of the newspaper. So it needn't be my view. They appeared shocked by this. Which gave me a chance to lecture them on the differences between English and French traditions in journalism. Given this knowledge and my experience elsewhere, they could not tell me, as they told the "Socos," as they called the brothers, that I knew nothing about journalism.
Their position was that they knew their duties and would continue to perform them. They would phone city clerks and favoured city councillors, attend the odd meeting and do odd jobs that the general manager gave them and thought that I should not concern myself with what they did or how they did it, as they were professional journalists like me.
Avi had been concerned about their low output, and I assured him I could double it. Here, I was largely mistaken. They had taken advantage of a flaw in the copy processing system but they were right about the very real computer problem. This was the matter of "discretionary hyphens." They made more of the problem than the problem made of itself, but it was still intolerable. One had to insert a double-keystroke hyphen or risk fouling a line break, each and every paragraph. I found one could reduce the problem 25 per cent by having more and shorter paragraphs. It was still a terrible system and I saw no other way than to replace the entire computer system, which the Sochaczevkis promptly did.
I wrote my first column under the heading "The Street Where We Live," which was Wavell Road. It was a whimsical piece introducing myself, which gave the impression of my having a light touch yet with a grasp of military affairs and Middle East geopolitics, as I wondered en passant why so many brainy British generals, such as Archibald Wavell, Ord Wingate, Henry Wilson and Arthur Wellesley (Wellington) had names that began with W.
As they didn't know what to make of that, it left them in a quandary about what attitude to take. I at least deprived them of creating a focus for their blistering negative views, other than that I was self-aggrandising, which I was, establishing the fact that I could do anything I wanted as long as the Sochaczevskis okayed it.
They were all too busy to do what I wanted, which I allowed at first. But one day an ad rep came in with a strange tale. She had passed a woman who was stranded on Kildare Road with a front wheel of her car having inexplicably spun off its axle. I ordered one of them to the scene and another to get a photographer. But I was told that the photog had to be given notice, so it was impossible. And they were too busy.
Fed up, I went out myself with my own camera, which I now carried in my shirt pocket. I found the lady, an attractive woman in her thirties, standing by her car looking helpless. She said help was on the way but hadn't arrived yet. Before it did, I moved the tyre, which had rolled off into the gutter 20 yards away, and had her pose with it beside the empty wheel housing.
All in all, my effort was quite a success. The picture and story were the talk of the advertising department, as they were pleased to have had a hand in it--and talked it up all the more. Not that I had much to do with them, but they were good to have on side as they were responsible for 100 per cent of the newspaper's revenue.
It was clear that I would have to fire someone to obtain any discipline in the ranks. I stood in in the middle of the low-ceilinged editorial department, facing them all. Lawrence Severs, looking girlish and simpering, Carmy Levi scowling, annoyed that I had disturbed him. Elaine listened attentively, only wishing that this hostile atmosphere would go away, and Nulman cowered under her wing.
I simply told them the Sochaczevkis had bought the Suburban and they had a vision of what they wanted it and the Jewish community to be. While I was on firm ground and told the truth about their plans for the paper, I largely made up plans for what role I thought the Jewish community should play. I hoped it would take a leading role in resisting the linguistic cleansing perpetrated by Quebec with the connivance of Canada.
It was my thinking, backed by Miriam, that Jews represented the only solid block of Anglo-Quebec power that wanted to stay in Montreal because of its cosmopolitan nature. I thought that if Anglo-Quebec had its own political party, it could almost count on having balance of power in the Quebec assembly and play a role analogous to that of the Irish National Party in Westminster before World War I, when they managed to bargain with the British Liberal government for the Home Rule bill.
With Jewish backing and leadership, I felt, Anglo-Quebec could put our crucial weight to pass one bill or resist another, trading our support for the restoration of our traditional rights to signage and schooling, of which we had been deprived. As provincial elections were usually close between the Liberals and the separatist PQ, it was reasonable to expect that a time would come when the Anglo-Quebec bloc could determine the fate of a bill.
This all fell on deaf ears that day, but at least it showed I had plans for the Jewish community to aggrandise it, not to reduce it. What I wanted, for which I hoped I could enlist the Sochaczevskis, was to encourage the Jewish community to take on the leadership role of the Anglo-Quebec community and muster it into a political and economic force, making Quebec Hydro bonds as socially unacceptable as blood diamonds or South African Krugerrands.
Against us were the local English media, which filtered and blocked the transmission of news to the rest of Canada simply by not providing the stories conveying the impact of discriminatory language laws via the Canadian Press wire service, CBC state media and state-dependent private radio and TV stations, whose licences could be revoked by the federal Canadian Radio and Television Commission. There were a number of French-owned English weeklies or weeklies with English content, but edited by French journalists. On the face of it, it seemed hopeless, but if the Suburban was on side, Anglo-Quebec had a chance to muster forces with financial clout.
It was clear that this business-as-usual Suburban crew was not suitable to the mission. I had heard their attitude towards me and towards my ambitions to end linguistic cleansing in Montreal and knew they had to go.
First Carmy Levi. I had asked him to do a number of things, and he said he would do them when he had time. He went up to the GM for tea and sympathy, but was getting less of that as it was becoming clear that the GM herself was not long for her job.
Avi was to take care of editorial matters while Amos took care of advertising. I noticed that Amos was often in to talk to the GM, or the GM seemed to be gone to the toy factory to see him. Not a good sign.
I talked to Avi about sacking Carmy. He okayed it as long as I had enough to cover the loss. That meant I had to do whatever Carmy was doing, which I welcomed, as writing the editorial and my column was getting to be about the only thing I was doing.
I told Carmy to do a job by the next day, with my "or else" lingering in the air. The next day he reported in sick. So I fired him over the phone. This he took to be illegal. I told him he could pick up his letter of dismissal when he was well enough to come in. Lawrence Severs and the other two thought it was improper to fire someone over the phone, though neither I nor they could think of any reason why that might be.
It would not be long before the others left, too and were readily replaced by others, one of whom is still there to this day in 2020.
But that's another story.