The barbershop was crowded and everybody was smiling and looking at each other and saying: “It’s Miller Time. It’s Miller Time.” They were still in a euphoric state over Marc Miller’s stunning victory in the Southwest district in the last federal election.
It was all about “Change.”
Professor said, “Change has come. When you keep hope alive and ‘keep on keeping on, change will come.’ It did. It’s Miller Time.”
The telephone rang, Just Chillin’ answered, and listened. He hung up the phone and said, “Joe and Yvonne called from St. Mary’s Hospital. They said that they don’t live in the district, but know many people who do. And they all agree that ‘It’s Miller Time.’
They never voted before, but they kept reading Community CONTACT, and believe in what vocalists Sam Cooke and Skipper Dean sang, “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Oletymer put up his hand and said, “Back in the day in Saint Henri-Little Burgundy where the late great Oscar Peterson and Dr. Oliver Jones were born and grew up, the annual income per capita was $4,920 (Statistics Canada), the Juvenile Delinquency rate ranges from 60 to 80 percent, the highest in Montreal. Theft and property damage account for the majority of crimes committed.
That’s what was going on back in the day in St. Henri-Little Burgundy.”
To Tell You The Truth raised his hand and said, “Get to the point, what does all this have to do with Miller Time?”
“I’ll tell you what it has to do with Miller Time. You have to have a past, to have a present, for a future.”
A few concerned people recently got together to review the lack of recreational facilities in St. Henri-Little Burgundy, an inner- city area. Most of the homes were subsidized municipal housing projects and recreational facilities were and still are at a bare minimum.
With a lack of acceptable recreational areas as well as the high juvenile delinquency rate, the concerned parties decided that they should seek memberships from people from all walks of life across Montreal, thereby enabling concerned Montrealers to help solve a problem, which nobody—except a few—cared about. The group consisted of businessmen, political leaders, athletes and community volunteers. This is how the Westend Sports Association was started in 1976.
Dropout asked Uncle Tom, “What’s Oletymer talking about, all that conversation took place back in the day.”
Money said, “It’s the history of downtown, of St. Henri-Little Burgundy, which many people don’t know about, but should.”
Just Chillin’ raised his hand and said, “Now that we know a little bit of what happened back in the day, what about now?”
“It’s worse now,” Genius said. “It’s all about numbers; you had less numbers back in the day. Montreal had a tight, strong Black community called St. Henri.
Back in the day, in the St. Henri district, there was a school called Royal Arthur School on Canning Street; everybody went there. World famous people went there, like Oscar Peterson and Dr. Oliver Jones. These are world famous people, not legends in their own minds. If Concordia University didn’t name the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall after the local community legend you wouldn’t hear the name of the world’s greatest Jazz pianist in Quebec. So because it’s now Miller Time we have a chance to change all this, because a change has come with Marc Miller and his political attaché Lisa Montgomery.
Dropout stared at Just Chillin’ and asked him, “What’s your problem, man. Why are your eyes so red?”
Just Chillin’ said, “I just came from Feron’s Funeral Home. One of the most popular youngsters in St. Henri-Little Burgundy, Scott Eckles, passed away. People came form all over to pay their respects; it was standing room only. Rev. Darryl Gray was in peak form; he did ‘the reading’ on behalf of Carol Eckles. And Skipper Dean was great; he sent Scott off on a high musical note.
Sunrise March 21, 1964, Sunset: November 10, 2015.”
Everybody in the barbershop said, “Amen. May Scott Eckles’ soul rest in peace.”
Money put up his hand and said, “Listen to me closely, I don’t want to keep repeating this to you guys. You know that there are 55 City Councilors in Montreal, more than any other major city in North America, and with many more people than Montreal…”
School Boy said, “Get to the point; get to the point…”
Money said, “I’ve been thinking about something. The late great Oscar Peterson, the world’s greatest Jazz pianist. None of the 55 ever suggested that the city name a bridge, a street or lamppost after Oscar.
Just Chillin’ raised his hand and said, “Why should they do that?”
All the regulars in the barbershop agreed that that was dumb question to ask, because the city named a park bench after the Great Antonio. All he did was eat 12 hamburgers or hot dogs, and pulled city buses. You’re taking us all for a bunch of fools, idiots. But we at the Ways and Means Committee are none of those. You’re not fooling us with that one city councilor who, by accident of birth, happens to be Black.
It shows that they’re all morally bankrupt, especially those in the West end. These councilors think Montreal started when they went to City Hall. They don’t know anything about the City of Montreal. And there’s still nothing for the 12 kids from St. Henri-Little Burgundy that drowned in 1954.”
Professor said, “If Barack Obama, President of the USA, came to Montreal for a visit and went to City Hall he would say something like: “…we all know that Jackie Robinson came through Montreal to get to the major Leagues in baseball, and broke the ‘colour barrier’, but you only have one city councilor who is Black?”
Money put up his hand again. “Founder and Coordinator of the MBA Community Services Outreach program at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB), Concordia University, Dave Mackenzie, organized a very successful event last Tuesday, 17. Every important community organization in Montreal was there. It was so successful that another one for young entrepreneurs is been planned.”
Like Albert Einstein said, “Next to oxygen it’s money”, and Puff Daddy once said, “It’s all about the ‘Benjamins.’” Dave is on the ball.
Everyone in the barbershop shouted in unison, “Props to Dave Mackenzie.”
Money said, “I’m not finished yet. All these people that go to church are not fulfilling Dr. King’s ‘I have a dream’ dream…”Dropout interrupted, “You really got to explain this to all of us now. You hear what I say? Just listen to what I say. We all agree that Montreal has a lot of churches that have a predominantly Black congregation. You know that word “If?” Well, if 20 Black churches got together (the word is “organization”) for business purposes (they don’t have to like each other – haters) good things could happen…”
Genius, one of the regulars of the Ways and Means Committee interrupted, “Man get to the point.”
Money continued, “So, if every week the money picked up in the collection plate is $400, and that money goes into a bank account which can’t be touched for five years just imagine the possibilities. Within that five years look around for a church. 95 per cent of the churches in Quebec are up for sale. And as we know, Montreal has some beautiful churches. Now they’re turning them into supper clubs, reception halls, convention centers, condos…”
“Stop, stop,” Genius interjected, “You don’t believe me? Look what they did to the old Elise St. Joseph Church on Richmond St., just off Notre Dame in St. Henri-Little Burgundy. If you don’t know, check the Montreal Gazette, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015, Page A2. That’s the result of thinking, planning, organization, cooperation and business. Read the story.”
Someone in the barbershop waiting for a haircut pulled out the newspaper from his abundant reading material and turned to the page to illustrate Genius’ point to anyone who was interested in what he was saying. “If you don’t believe him you’re insane.”
“Damn! This is amaaaazing,” everyone said when they looked at the picture of the old, new, born again Église St. Joseph Church.
Genius said, “We the regulars at the Ways and Means Committee keep the drug stores busy buying headache pills because you people are a headache, give me a headache. But you’re my people and I still love you.”
Money said, “Change is good, but talk is cheap. When are we going to stop talking and dreaming… and finally start doing…?”
Everybody said “Amen!”