By the 1950s, Snowdon was a largely Jewish neighbourhood in Montreal. Ottawa author Bill Conrod has put together two books gathering many people’s memories of living in Snowdon in those years.
Bill Conrod, a retired educator and former vice-principal of Algonquin College, has such fond memories of growing up in the Snowdon neighbourhood of Montreal that he put together two books of stories about the area.
The first, Memories of Snowdon in the 50’s, is a collection of personal reflections and vignettes from Conrod and other contributors about their days growing up in Snowdon, a neighbourhood – then, and now – filled with Jewish institutions including synagogues, schools and the YM-YWHA, Montreal’s Jewish community centre.
Conrod was inspired to begin collecting stories and photos for the book when he came across a photo from the period taken at the corner of Queen Mary Road and Decarie Boulevard. The corner then looked very different than it does now with the Decarie Expressway – built in time for Expo ’67 – now cutting the boulevard in two.
Conrod sent the photo around to family and friends and got it published in community newspapers in Montreal along with a request for responses from people willing to share their stories about Snowdon.
Memories of Snowdon in the 50’s was published in 2006. A second volume, More Memories of Snowdon in the 50’s came out two years ago.
Conrod spoke fondly with the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin about spending afternoons watching softball games at MacDonald Park and about how he and his friends would walk up and down Earnscliffe Avenue looking for adventures.
Conrod – who is not Jewish himself – has strong memories of the vibrant Jewish community in Snowdon and how it impacted the area.
In one vignette, a non-Jewish contributor recalls how empty her public school would be during the High Holidays.
Conrod recalled how prominent the YM-YWHA on Westbury Avenue was with its pool, gym and the dances it hosted for local youth. He also remembers the many synagogues in Snowdon, including the Spanish and Portuguese, Shaare Zion and Chevra Kadisha B’nai Jacob; as well as the Talmud Torah Day School and Herzliah High School.
Conrod’s favourite location for “Jewish culture” in the area is the Snowdon Deli – which opened on Decarie Boulevard in 1946 and is still going strong.
“It’s world renowned! Boris Brott, the conductor of many symphonies, touted it as the best place for smoked meat in the world,” Conrod said.
Conrod remains nostalgic about Snowdon, but said he’s finding it more difficult to visit as often as he used since he’s getting older.
“It was such a lovely place to grow up. It was just super,” he said.
Contact Bill Conrod at email@example.com to purchase copies of Memories of Snowdon in the ‘50s or More Memories of Snowden in the ‘50s.