Archive for the ‘Laurentians’ Category

PIT STOP

June 14, 2017

 

Many of you might not know that Neil use to write for The Senior Times, he had a column called Pit Stop.  Since the weather is quickly changing here in Quebec, I found the perfect article for you.

Resist hibernating and enjoy the outdoors this winter.

 »If you want to enjoy the Montreal winter, you’ve got to join it. »  I wish I had heeded that advice when I first arrived in Montreal in the autumn of 1972.

That first winter I was broadcasting editorial comments on CJAD and producing and hosting  »Prime Time », a program for seniors.  On the week-ends I huddle with my wife, Catharine, (a writer-researcher at the Reader’s Digest) inside our apartment on the twenty-first floor of a high rise near the old Forum, and read the newspaper including the weighty Sunday New York Times.  This regimen turned out to be a recipe for lethargy, lassitude and recurring stupor.

At the time we didn’t have a car (once we toured a good part of the island of Montreal on two metro tickets), but the following winter, Catharine reconnoitred the lower Laurentians by bus to find a place to stay and to ski.  Happily, she discovered on the perimeters of Prévost, then Shawbridge, a sprawling white frame house with many appendages, the Laurentian Lodge Club, founded in 1923.

Catharine and I have now been members of the Club for more than twenty-five years, enjoying chef André’s savoury cuisine and cross-country skiing on trails with such evocative names as The Barking Dog, Fallen Women, The Madonna, and of course, portions of the Maple Leaf, laid out by the famous Herman Smith  »Jack Rabbit » Johannsen himself.

One stormy Saturday, I was chatting with Mr. Johannsen (then more than a hundred, still a skier and long-time member of the Club) in the living room beside the fireplace when the  »Chief » with a glint in his eye, lit a cigarette.   »I never smoke before lunch, » he explained,  »but I usually have lunch early. »

Mr. Johannsen was not the only notable member of the Laurentian Lodge Club, chock-a-block in those early years with young families and their children.  Other distinguished members included the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield and Brooke Claxton, a minister in federal Liberal governments.

Not that the Club was an elitist conclave or luxury resort.  Far from it.  The original iron beds were purchased from the Montreal General Hospital for three dollars each.  Their springs were so dilapidated the mattresses had to be propped up by large sheets of stiff brown paper that crackled down the halls whenever the sleeper turned over.  Still, the spartan bedrooms were merely a counterpoise to the charm and gentility of afternoon tea served in front of the blazing fire by ladies in long gowns.

From its beginning in 1923, the Club was at the heart of early ski developments in the Laurentians.  Just beyond the first door across the river and through the trees loomed the Big Hill where in 1932 Alec Foster, using an old Ford engine for power, installed the first rope tow in North America, charging skiers five cents a ride.

From those early days, the Laurentian Lodge Club developed and still retains a distinctive élan marked by enthusiastic and warm camaraderie.   »The atmosphere, » as one senior member described it,  »was set by people in their eighties who had nothing to prove, » and who, it might be added, encouraged a tradition of fun skiing which meant taking time on the trail to stop to eat an orange and feed the birds.

This spirit continues, epitomized by the Club’s oldest active member, a vivacious ans elegant lady in her early nineties.  She still skis and still serves afternoon tea in a long gown.  She joined the Montreal winter a long time ago.  Obviously she had never regretted it.  Neither have I.

Published in February 1999

Jean P.

TUESDAY WRITING CONVERSATION

January 10, 2017

Since winter is here, I thought about talking to you about a book that Neil and Catharine co-wrote together.

Skiing Legends and The Laurentian Lodge Club

This book invites you to curl up beside the fire and journey to a time when Montrealers skied down Peel Street and the Laurentians were  ”the wild west” of Quebec.

For two expatriate Torontonians, Neil and Catharine McKenty, this journey begins at the Laurentian Lodge Club in Shawbridge, now Prévost.  There we meet skiing legend like ”Jackrabbit” Johannsen, Harry Pangman and Barbara Kemp.  With them we discover the perils of ”Foster’s Folly”, the world’s first ski tow, we climb Mont Tremblant in the Thirties and we ride the ski trains with their smells of wax, orange peels and cigar smoke.

And we also meet those earlier legends, the larger-than-life Curé Labelle, and the tragic Viscount D’Ivry who lived in a magnificent chateau on the shores of Lac-Manitou.  This is also the story of how the Laurentians helped Montrealers weather two World Wars and the Depression.  It’s a great story and the authors have told it well.

cover-1-6

The book is available here: click here

PIT STOP

October 4, 2016

 

Many of you might not know that Neil use to write for The Senior Times, he had a column called Pit Stop.  Since the weather is quickly changing here in Quebec, I found the perfect article for you.

Resist hibernating and enjoy the outdoors this winter.

”If you want to enjoy the Montreal winter, you’ve got to join it.”  I wish I had heeded that advice when I first arrived in Montreal in the autumn of 1972.

That first winter I was broadcasting editorial comments on CJAD and producing and hosting ”Prime Time”, a program for seniors.  On the week-ends I huddle with my wife, Catharine, (a writer-researcher at the Reader’s Digest) inside our apartment on the twenty-first floor of a high rise near the old Forum, and read the newspaper including the weighty Sunday New York Times.  This regimen turned out to be a recipe for lethargy, lassitude and recurring stupor.

At the time we didn’t have a car (once we toured a good part of the island of Montreal on two metro tickets), but the following winter, Catharine reconnoitred the lower Laurentians by bus to find a place to stay and to ski.  Happily, she discovered on the perimeters of Prévost, then Shawbridge, a sprawling white frame house with many appendages, the Laurentian Lodge Club, founded in 1923.

Catharine and I have now been members of the Club for more than twenty-five years, enjoying chef André’s savoury cuisine and cross-country skiing on trails with such evocative names as The Barking Dog, Fallen Women, The Madonna, and of course, portions of the Maple Leaf, laid out by the famous Herman Smith ”Jack Rabbit” Johannsen himself.

One stormy Saturday, I was chatting with Mr. Johannsen (then more than a hundred, still a skier and long-time member of the Club) in the living room beside the fireplace when the ”Chief” with a glint in his eye, lit a cigarette.  ”I never smoke before lunch,” he explained, ”but I usually have lunch early.”

Mr. Johannsen was not the only notable member of the Laurentian Lodge Club, chock-a-block in those early years with young families and their children.  Other distinguished members included the renowned Dr. Wilder Penfield and Brooke Claxton, a minister in federal Liberal governments.

Not that the Club was an elitist conclave or luxury resort.  Far from it.  The original iron beds were purchased from the Montreal General Hospital for three dollars each.  Their springs were so dilapidated the mattresses had to be propped up by large sheets of stiff brown paper that crackled down the halls whenever the sleeper turned over.  Still, the spartan bedrooms were merely a counterpoise to the charm and gentility of afternoon tea served in front of the blazing fire by ladies in long gowns.

From its beginning in 1923, the Club was at the heart of early ski developments in the Laurentians.  Just beyond the first door across the river and through the trees loomed the Big Hill where in 1932 Alec Foster, using an old Ford engine for power, installed the first rope tow in North America, charging skiers five cents a ride.

From those early days, the Laurentian Lodge Club developed and still retains a distinctive élan marked by enthusiastic and warm camaraderie.  ”The atmosphere,” as one senior member described it, ”was set by people in their eighties who had nothing to prove,” and who, it might be added, encouraged a tradition of fun skiing which meant taking time on the trail to stop to eat an orange and feed the birds.

This spirit continues, epitomized by the Club’s oldest active member, a vivacious ans elegant lady in her early nineties.  She still skis and still serves afternoon tea in a long gown.  She joined the Montreal winter a long time ago.  Obviously she had never regretted it.  Neither have I.

Published in February 1999

Jean P.

NEIL

January 1, 2016

Neil's picture

It was my birthday, New Year’s Eve 1994, about six months after my depression had lifted for good and the happiest summer of summer of my life.  Catharine and I had spent the afternoon cross-country skiing and were relaxed before supper in the lounge of the Laurentian Lodge Club at Prévost, amid the soft rolling foothills.  Outside the frosted windows, the moonlight was glittering on the fresh snowfall; inside, a roaming fire flamed up the chimney of the large stone fireplace.  A splendid dinner was prepared by our talented chef, André.  I was presented with a birthday cake and a rousing chorus of three score year and ten.  I don’t remember feeling happier.  I felt connected in a way I had never felt connected before to these people who were my friends.  I laughed, and it was a genuine laugh.  In some measure I had become real.  I was comfortable in my skin.  As I sat there in the dancing light of the fireplace and happy sounds of singing, I thought of all the people including my family and the Jesuits and my friends who had helped me on this journey.  I thought of how God does indeed write straight with crooked lines.  And then I thought, with Catharine smiling beside me, the best is yet to be.

From Neil’s book, The Inside Story

Jean P.

 

 

 

 

 

WORDS FROM NEIL

October 19, 2015

blog

Here is a passage from ”The Inside Story” that can  also be found at the end of ”McKenty Live!  The lines are still blazing” (page 136)

Both books are available here:  click here

It was my birthday, New Year’s Eve 1994, about six months after my depression had lifted for good and the happiest summer of my life.  Catharine and I had spent the afternoon cross-country skiing and were relaxing before supper in the lounge of the Laurentian Lodge Club at Prévost,  amid the soft rolling foothills.  Outside the frosted windows, the moonlight was glittering on the fresh snowfall; inside, a roaming fire flamed up the chimney of the large stone fireplace.  A splendid dinner was prepared by our talented chef, André.  I was presented with a birthday cake and a rousing chorus of three score year and ten.  I don’t remember feeling happier.  I felt connected in a way I had never felt connected before to these people who were my friends.  I laughed, and it was a genuine laugh.  In some measure I had become real.  I was comfortable in my skin.  As I sat there in the dancing light of the fireplace and happy sounds of singing, I thought of all the people including my family and the Jesuits and my friends who had helped me on this journey.  I thought of how God does indeed write straight with crooked lines.  And then I thought, with Catharine smiling beside me, the best is yet to be.”                                            

Hope springs eternal amid the soft rolling foothills.

March 26, 2015

Click below to have an irish background while you read today’s post!

Catharine writes:

This weekend, once again, it is the ‘end of season’ at the Laurentian Lodge Club. Clare Hallward and I will be heading up north to celebrate this special event where old traditions continue. Neil wrote the following about another special occasion at the Laurentian Lodge Club:

It was my birthday, New Year’s Eve 1994, about six months after my depression had lifted for good and the happiest summer of my life. Catharine and I had spent the afternoon cross-country skiing and were relaxed before supper in the lounge of the Laurentian Lodge Club at Prévost, amid the soft rolling foothills.

LLC1

The Laurentian Lodge Club in Prévost/Shawbridge. Click on the picture for more information about this venerable club.

Outside the frosted windows, the moonlight was glittering on the fresh snowfall; inside, a roaring fire flamed up the chimney of the large stone fireplace. A splendid dinner was prepared by our talented chef, André. I was presented with a birthday cake and a rousing chorus of three score years and ten. I don’t remember feeling happier. I felt connected in a way I had never felt connected before to these people who were my friends. I laughed, and it was a genuine laugh. In some measure I had become real. I was comfortable in my own skin. As I sat there in the dancing light of the fireplace and happy sounds of singing, I thought of all the people including my family and the Jesuits and my friends who had helped me on this journey. I thought of how God does indeed write straight with crooked lines. And then I thought, with Catharine smiling beside me, the best is yet to be.

—-

The above is an extract from McKenty Live! The Lines Are Still Blazing – click on the cover below to find out more about this newly-published book.

Neil_McKenty_Live_cover

New Year’s Eve, 1952 at the Laurentian Lodge Club

February 12, 2015

It was New Year’s Eve, 1952, at the Laurentian Lodge Club in the foothills of the Laurentian mountains. The members, out of their snowy ski togs and dressed to the nines, were sipping their pre-dinner drinks in the comfortable lounge, beside the Christmas tree and the blazing fieldstone fireplace. There was an air of anticipation. Word had gone round that a special announcement, somehow related to the club, was presently to be made by Buckingham Palace.

The fieldstone fireplace

The fieldstone fireplace

A young man, sporting a McGill blazer, walked over to the floor-model Marconi radio and turned the dials, so high the little children of the Club members had to stretch to reach them. There was a crackle of static before the news came on. The members crowded close to hear. One of them was smoking his pipe, a tall man in a grey herringbone suit over a red vest, a Princeton pin in his lapel.

Then the announcer read the item from Buckingham Palace with the prominent names on the Queen’s Honours List for the New Year, 1953. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second, had bestowed the Order of Merit, the highest civilian decoration in the British Empire, on Montreal’s renowned neurosurgeon, Wilder Penfield.

There were cheers, toasts and congratulations all around. Only one Canadian, the country’s longest serving Prime Minister, the Right Honourable MacKenzie King, had ever received the O.M., which could be held by no more than twenty-four people at a single time.

Dr. Wilder Penfield, founder of the Montreal Neurological Institute, joined the Shawbridge Club in 1930.  (Penfield Archives, Osler Library, McGill University)

Dr. Wilder Penfield, founder of the Montreal Neurological Institute, joined the Shawbridge Club in 1930. (Penfield Archives, Osler Library, McGill University)

Dr. Penfield and his family had been members of the Shawbridge Club since 1930. Now he was sixty-one, a trim balding man with the square shoulders of the athlete he had been at Princeton University, just over six feet tall, with an expression and smile that resemble President Eisenhower’s. He was an imposing but not intimidating figure, at least not at the Club where he was sometimes referred to as “the gentle giant”.

A keen skier himself, Dr. Penfield was often among the first to hear the early morning call, “Who’s for skiing this morning? Get a move on. All out.” It was a man’s voice, “clear and high,” he remembered, “like the voice of a yodeller at the start of his yodel.” The voice belonged to the most famous skier of them all, Hermann “Jackrabbit” Johannsen, who had been a member of the Shawbridge Club since its beginning in 1923.

Many a morning, the “Jackrabbit” skied over to the Club from his little house nearby, rousted up a group, clomped to the front door in sight of the Big Hill, snapped on his skis and, at the head of his chattering retinue, thin and craggy as a pine tree, swooshed through the powdery snow towards the heart of the mountains.

"This strong, wiry man with the profile of an eagle, Johannsen, is the Pied Piper, one might say, of the the ski hills. He called in his clear, high voice and the young and the strong came flocking after him to discover the cold, white beauty of the North." Wilder Penfield (CPR collection)

“This strong, wiry man with the profile of an eagle, Johannsen, is the Pied Piper, one might say, of the the ski hills. He called in his clear, high voice and the young and the strong came flocking after him to discover the cold, white beauty of the North.” Wilder Penfield (CPR collection)

Extracted from Skiing Legends and the Laurentian Lodge Club, for more information on the title and where you can get a copy click here. To find out more about the Laurentian Lodge Club, click here.

Amid the soft rolling foothills

February 11, 2015

Neil wrote this about an evening at the Laurentian Lodge Club.

It was my birthday, New Year’s Eve 1994, about six months after my depression had lifted for good and the happiest summer of my life. Catharine and I had spent the afternoon cross-country skiing and were relaxed before supper in the lounge of the Laurentian Lodge Club at Prévost, amid the soft rolling foothills.

LLC1

The Laurentian Lodge Club in Prévost/Shawbridge. Click on the picture for more information about this venerable club.

Outside the frosted windows, the moonlight was glittering on the fresh snowfall; inside, a roaring fire flamed up the chimney of the large stone fireplace. A splendid dinner was prepared by our talented chef, André. I was presented with a birthday cake and a rousing chorus of three score years and ten. I don’t remember feeling happier. I felt connected in a way I had never felt connected before to these people who were my friends. I laughed, and it was a genuine laugh. In some measure I had become real. I was comfortable in my own skin. As I sat there in the dancing light of the fireplace and happy sounds of singing, I thought of all the people including my family and the Jesuits and my friends who had helped me on this journey. I thought of how God does indeed write straight with crooked lines. And then I thought, with Catharine smiling beside me, the best is yet to be.

—-

The above is an extract from McKenty Live! The Lines Are Still Blazing – click on the cover below to find out more about this newly-published book.

Neil_McKenty_Live_cover