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Tremblay brothers rediscover childhood home on Décarie Blvd

October, 2009

On a recent Sunday morning, the Tremblay brothers – Gérald, who is Montreal’s incumbent mayor, and Marcel, a city councillor – revisited their childhood home. It’s the same dwelling on Décarie Blvd that is now shared by Senior Times publisher Barbara Moser and her husband, Irwin Block, a Gazette reporter.

The Senior Times office is at 4077 Décarie, below the residence. From 1950, for five or six years, the Tremblays lived in the upper duplex at 4079 Décarie. During a tour of their former dwelling, the Tremblays reminisced about the home where, at the ages of 7 and 9, they played and prayed before moving with their family to a home their parents bought on Marcil Ave.

“Michel, he was a Dominican and he had a small altar,” said Marcel, referring to their older brother who had been a candidate for the priesthood and who occupied the bedroom next to Gérald’s and Marcel’s. If Gérald and Marcel seem inseparable in politics today, consider that they spent a part of their childhoods sleeping side by side in twin beds in a tiny room overlooking the lane where they had played. Moser told them that their room was her daughter Molly’s for ten years, until she left home. A photo of Molly as a child is on the dining room wall where the brothers posed for the front page photo in front of the stained glass hutch they remembered well.

Tremblays on balcony they 'parachuted' from from. Photo: Scott Philip

They pointed out many details as they toured the upper duplex, starting with where their piano had stood in the alcove.

“Here,” Marcel said, stepping into Michel’s former sanctuary, now the master bedroom.

Marcel recalled how the previous owner of the flat had never heated it adequately. “My father in the morning around 5:30 went downstairs and put coal in the furnace so we could have warmth, because otherwise it was icy.” The Tremblays moved to Montreal from Ottawa, where they had lived on Holland St in the central part of the city.

Marcel was obviously the more mischievous of the two younger brothers, while Gérald was more serious. Marcel clearly remembers indulging in a pastime behind the home, which carried a certain element of risk. “To come into the house, we’d go up the pole,” he said, pointing to a two-storey steel staircase. From that vantage, according to Marcel, “we’d jump from there to the house.” Gérald continued, “I never did that.”

“We wanted to use parachutes to jump, so we’d take umbrellas,” Marcel added. About Gérald, Marcel confided, “He never caused problems.” “I was the quiet one,” Gérald acknowledged.

The Manoir, the community centre attached to Notre-Dame-de-Grâce church on the other side of Décarie, played a role in their upbringing. The two worked there as pinboys in the bowling alley. Gérald recalled how each evening their father would summon them into the house. “When we were playing outside, at 7 every night my father would call us and say we have to pray,” he said. “At that time, Cardinal Léger had a special prayer on the radio.”

“The Chapelet en famille,” Marcel chimed in.

“He’d say ‘come on in, you have to pray,’” Gérald continued. “It was only 15 minutes. We’d kneel here,” he said, pointing to the kitchen floor. “We did that every day except on Sundays, because we went to Mass.” Marcel called the apartment “beautiful,” adding, “You haven’t changed the way it was at all.” With a municipal election coming November 1, The Senior Times had a number of questions for the Tremblays, who are running under the Union Montreal banner. While the party’s platform makes no specific commitments to seniors, transportation issues are on the minds of many who will be voting, according to one expert we consulted. Seniors need better access to public transit. Shuttle buses are becoming more common, but additional vehicles are needed and routes need to be expanded. It has also been suggested that Montreal should follow an example being set in other parts of the world, where seniors ride public transit for free between rush hours. Montreal’s Métro stations also need more elevators for those wishing to avoid the potential hazards of the steep and excessively rapid escalators.

Barbara and Irwin are flanked by the Tremblays Photo: Martin C. Barry

In addition, the rules for using adapted transport for the handicapped need to be adjusted so that seniors have easier access. As it is now, the process for applying to become an adapted transport user is long and complex, and tends to leave out the frail elderly, while favouring those who have specific disabilities. Finally, more low-income housing for senior citizens is needed. The Tremblay administration has overseen the installation of elevators at Lionel Groulx and Berri-UQAM, and the mayor noted that Henri-Bourassa, Bonaventure and Côte Vertu are next in line. In all, there are 65 Métro stations on Montreal Island, and for each it costs as much as $15 million to put in an elevator, for a total investment of about $1 billion. “If we want to increase ridership and help the elderly, we have to give better service, more hours,” the mayor said. “That’s why in certain boroughs you have special buses for the elderly. It permits them to go downtown. We’re doing things, but we realize we have to do more.”

On adapted transport, the mayor said the city is discussing the issue with the Quebec government. “Most of it is paid by the Quebec government and we realize that we have to do more,” he said. “We just look at the number of elderly people and more and more people who are handicapped. So we’re doing that.” He said Montreal is investing more than $2 million a year to make public buildings more accessible. “We have public buildings that were difficult to access for handicapped people, but elderly also have more and more difficulty to move around.” On the need for housing, he noted the city has doubled its efforts in the last eight years to increase the number of subsidized housing units. New projects set aside 20 per cent for seniors. “Three bedrooms, that’s very important if we want to keep our families in Montreal,” he said. “We’re doing it for seniors, we’re doing it for families, we do it for people who are in need also, and we do it for single-parent families.”



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