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A brace of weeks back, our affable rivals at Accessible File appear a adventure about Eaton’s Ninth Floor, that aces and allegorical Art Deco restaurant which has been alone aback the administration abundance alternation went out of business 12 years ago.

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(Here’s the link: http://montreal.openfile.ca/montreal/text/eatons-9th-floor-montreal-art-deco-masterpiece-gathering-dust)

Ian Howarth interviewed Sandra Cohen-Rose, columnist of Northern Deco: Art Deco Architecture inMontreal, and Dinu Bumbaru at Heritage Montreal, attractive for clues on what can and should be done to accompany the arresting space, advised by Jacques Carlu in 1931 to resemble the Ile de France ocean liner, aback to life.

It addled me afresh how crazy it is that there’s  no one in the burghal with the eyes and activity to accomplishment this battleground afore it avalanche into such afflicting busted that it goes the way of the Seville or the York Theatre or all those added shuttered Montreal barrio that deserve a additional chance. Such, it seems, is the way of our city. Never apperceive what we’ve got until it’s gone.

There was addition acumen why the adventure was abnormally agitating for me aloof now.

Not continued afore the Ninth Attic served its aftermost Waldorf salad, I went there in chase of a adieu cafeteria and a allotment for my burghal column.

Joining me for cafeteria on that September day in 1999 were my sister Colleen and two of my aunts, Ida McGlynn and Winnie Curran Dalgleish. Both were abounding of abundant tales of Eaton’s in its heyday, although Winnie had the aerial hand, accepting formed at Eaton’s for 19 years.

The aftermost survivor of my father’s seven sisters and three brothers, my baby aunt died at St. Mary’s Hospital aftermost Saturday night. Still acute and aciculate to the end, she had waged a adventurous nine-week action with a gastro infection afore affection ache and the failings of old age took charge. She would accept angry 97 abutting week.

So in her memory, here’s the cavalcade I wrote about Eaton’s Ninth Floor, Santa Claus, Sally Lunn and a Montreal rapidly crumbling from our landscape.

* * *

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It’s 20 account afore the doors will open, but there’s a fizz in the antechamber and a accurate band is basic alfresco the glassy art deco restaurant on the ninth attic of Eaton’s. For many, it’s a blow stop amid bouts of bargain-hunting. For the earlier women, audience of the bologna set, it’s aftermost alarm at a favourite haunt.

“I’ve been advancing actuality for 50 years,” a woman confided as waitresses shepherded barter to their tables. “All the businessmen acclimated to appear here. You had to abrasion a suit; they wouldn’t let you in cutting jeans or shorts like they do nowadays.”

Elisabeth Hotte formed as a waitress in the restaurant in 1952. “The atmosphere was nice and the aliment was consistently good,” said Hotte, 75. “I had a compatible and had to backpack a big tray up over my shoulder.”

“I apperceive you!” my aunt Winnie exclaimed as a woman belted against us in the line. It had been added than 40 years aback either of them formed at Eaton’s, yet my aunt and Helene Laroche were anon reminiscing.

They recalled a beat anniversary division aback they angry the appointment upside bottomward to acquisition $1,000 that had gone missing.

These days, everybody’s got a approach about what dead the 130-year-old department-store alternation – from its abortion to accumulate up with appearance fads to the billow of big-box food to its abrupt abandonment of the apostrophe.

Yet for anyone who grew up in this country and this city, Eaton’s is allotment of our civic and burghal lore. Aback the mother in Roch Carrier’s archetypal adventure The Hockey Sweater needs a Montreal Canadiens jersey, she writes to Mr. Eaton, and aback Parti Quebecois chiffonier abbot Claude Charron bare a tweed sports coat, he alone in – and ran out, with abundance detectives bitter at his heels. It seems alone applicable and able that this admirable Canadian academy eventually begin a way to alienate segments of both of Canada’s solitudes.

However, over the years, Eaton’s has additionally carved a atom in our claimed histories, memories we can’t casting off afterwards a little anguish as we see 13,000 workers beyond Canada get their blush slips. As the city abundance and its burghal satellites are dismantled attic by floor, as barter try on snowboots and clover atramentous gowns in the atramentous commonwealth of absent clothes accepted as the defalcation centre, sales clerks attempt circadian to accumulate a annealed aerial lip.

In the appliance department, I saw a middle-aged man angle to align the rug beneath an oak table, constrict in the chairs and aces up an alone newspaper. Appearances may not amount to the shoppers who accept flocked aback in chase of defalcation deals, but they amount to him. For this has been his life.

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Back in the canicule afore arcade malls took over the planet, aback the Bay was still Morgan’s, Simons was Simpsons and aging ladies took tea at Ogilvy’s Tartan Room, “going to Eaton’s” meant activity downtown. Eaton’s was the Blue Cake counter, the groceteria, the Penny Bank shop, Sally Lunn and achievement guaranteed. Most of all, Eaton’s was Santa.

My mother recalls Christmas arcade with her acquaintance Irene who had to stop for advantage forth the way; all day long, they went in and out of the big administration stores, assuming not to apprehend the babble of two alive chickens in Irene’s satchel. My mother’s first-communion blind and her atramentous apparent covering shoes came from Eaton’s. So did her bedchamber apartment – a three-piece amber set that amount $295 in 1953 – there was a $100 aberration in the ad. (This week, a amber bifold bed and two bureaus were affairs for $6,000. Less-expensive pieces bartering for $1,500 bragged of a aggregate of “wood and alleged veneers.”) My aunt Ida can acquaint you absolutely what she wore to a appearance appearance in the ninth-floor restaurant at atomic 50 years ago – a blooming checkerboard shirtdress she admired added than annihilation she saw on the models, who weren’t as emaciated-looking as models would be today.

My aunt Winnie Dalgleish – she was still a Curran again – formed at Eaton’s for 19 years, alpha in 1937. Afore that, she had spent a few years teaching in a two-room academy in Greenfield Esplanade acrimonious with a copse stove. “One ancillary broiled and the added ancillary froze,” she said over the acceptable cafe in the dining allowance that Lady Eaton commissioned Jacques Carlu to body in the angel of the dining allowance of the affluence liner Ile de France.

The academy was in the average of a farmer’s field; the aboriginal time my aunt got off the train, one of her acceptance was cat-and-mouse with a brace of elastic boots.

So she was blessed to barter in the blackboard for a job at Eaton’s – aboriginal in accounting, again in the administration that handled toys, radios, refrigerators and pianos. During and afterwards the war, aback accessories and added bogus appurtenances were scarce, Winnie became the family’s aimless scout, allowance to clue bottomward fridges, fur coats and furniture.

Eaton’s consistently set a aerial accepted for its workers, with a austere dress cipher still in force in contempo years. Aback in the ’40s, uniformed elevator operators stood for analysis every morning while the “head girl” fabricated abiding their seams were beeline and white gloves were spotless.

But my aunt, who is now in her aboriginal 80s, additionally remembers the fun ancillary of the Eaton’s authority – such as the anniversary exchange and ball that agents captivated on the ninth attic to accession money for the war effort. “My acquaintance Maisie Dagg told fortunes and led a conga band all about the ball floor.” A assemblage of Eaton’s advisers formed the Masquers, who entertained the troops in their additional time. “Lou Bain – he formed in radios – ran the complete and Flo Jenkins sang and played the piano.”

Lois Cianflone, 40, belonged to a afterwards bearing of Eaton’s employees, yet she too has mostly blessed memories. Aback she was little, Cianflone visited the store, area her mother Lily awash alien Scottish sweaters. “We’d go from administration to department. This is area I’d buy my 45s, forth with those animal round-toed shoes.”

As a academy apprentice she went to assignment at Eaton’s, too, aboriginal in ladies’ wear, afterwards in the appointment accomplishing banal control. It was there, at a agents Gold Rush affair in the ninth-floor restaurant, that Cianflone met her husband, Marcello Lamberti, addition apprentice who formed allotment time in the accepting department. Walking through the abundance en avenue to the restaurant this week, she saw abounding bodies with whom she already worked. “I’m actual sad; I feel like I’m accident something, a big allotment of my life,” said Cianflone, who formed at Eaton’s for nine years. “Christmas is coming. Can you brainstorm the Christmas division afterwards Eaton’s?”

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In these times aback Santa can be begin in every atomic capital and muffler shop, it may be adamantine for anyone adolescent than 35 to accept what it was like aback accession of the Eaton’s archive and the Santa Claus array signaled the barrage of the anniversary season. I accept a admirable black-and-white account of my sister, age 3, snowpants blind beneath a adorned affair dress, as she looked with complete admiration and complete acceptance at the one accurate Santa, begin alone at Eaton’s.

There were added Santas, of course. Some of us alike paid them a visit, out of courtesy, benevolence or ambiguity our bets. But from the time Santa aboriginal rode bottomward St. Urbain St. in November 1925 on a giant, balloon-spewing bang until the Montreal array was canceled in 1968 because of the accident acquired by riots and agitator bombings, every adolescent accepted there was alone one absolute Santa – and he was at Eaton’s.

During the 1930s, array floats were alien into Montreal a anniversary afterwards Santa accustomed at the Toronto store, with the big man bringing up the rear in a barter chariot, on the wings of geese or fins of a argent fish. It wasn’t until 1944 that Pere Noel pulled up to Eaton’s in a reindeer-drawn sleigh, a accommodation that had a lot to do with wartime gasoline rationing. Santa got his better assembly on a mild November day in 1952 aback the temperature topped 16C and 600,000 Montrealers lined Ste. Catherine St.

For pre-McDonald’s baby-boomers, a cruise to the Santa Claus array was followed by a amusement – chip tarts and ice chrism at Murray’s or a algid alcohol at the Honey Dew. A few canicule later, aback the fizz died down, we’d acknowledgment to see Santa and his accessory Punkinhead and go for a blithesome affair on the Toyville Express train, which anguish about the fourth floor. “I admired that train; I aloof capital to ride it forever,” said above Montrealer Leslie Manion, 43. Her mother, Norma, wasn’t absolutely as entranced. “After four or bristles times around, it absent a bit of its appeal.”

My aunt Winnie said she consistently had to anticipate to accompany a sweater to assignment on the day of the array because the boiler was angry bottomward to accomplish up for the bags of shoppers who would army in. Every year, Eaton’s set abreast one day aback the abundance opened at 8 a.m. so that bedridden children, who were rarely chip with added youngsters aback then, could appointment with Santa and ride the train.

While the city’s accouchement accounted the Eaton’s Santa to be the absolute McCoy, my aunt now admits there was never aloof one. In fact, Eaton’s usually had added Santas on alarm to awning continued hours during the anniversary aeon and adapt for the abrupt – like the time Kris Kringle appear for assignment with a few too abounding eggnogs beneath his belt.

“One time, a woman alleged the appointment allurement for Mr. So-and-so, but I told her there was no Mr. So-and-so here. She said, `Yes, I’m his wife. He’s Santa Claus.’ Well, I told her he can’t appear to the buzz if he’s on the throne.”

pcurran@montrealgazette.com

twitter.com/peggylcurran

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