For a few months in the late spring and early summer of 1965, when I was eighteen, I crashed at my brother’s apartment on Lorne Crescent in the heart of the student ghetto area a few blocks away from the McGill University campus. I wasn’t exactly an invited guest. My brother was about six years older and I think my mother asked him if he could sort of keep an eye on me until I had enough money that would allow me to find my own place to stay. I can’t recall what crappy job I had at the time but whatever it was it didn’t pay much.
The apartment building was brand new and my brother’s suite was a one room bachelor pad at the back of the building on the ground floor. My spot in the apartment was a narrow air mattress beside my brother’s bed. The floor was made with a fancy new product called parkay. My brother knew that my tenure wouldn’t be long as he was going to be getting married in a few months.
His girlfriend, who later became his wife, was from the Eastern Townships and he spent most of his weekends there. For some reason, during the week, he wouldn’t let me have a key to the apartment but would give me one on the weekends.
On week days I would have to wait until my brother got home and only then would I have access to the apartment. The apartment building had a uniformed doorman. His coat had those kind of brush looking things on the shoulders. Sometimes my brother would see his girlfriend after work and I would wait in the lobby for hours until he came home.
The doorman was from Alabama or somewhere in the deep south of the United States. We got to know one another a bit. He sure was an eye opener for me. I don’t think I have ever met as much of complete bigot as this man was. A lot was happening at the time in the US as far as race relations go. He certainly seared an image in my mind about southern racists.
The lack of trust my brother had in me in giving me a key was based upon good reason. A lot of things happened in that apartment on the weekends he was away. One Saturday night I had a party with about 20 people and my brother was none the wiser.
One weekend I had a plan to bring an old girlfriend over to the apartment. Part of my plan was to take her to a movie first and warm her up a bit. The movie was Tom Jones. Kind of risqué for the times. The old girlfriend had a curfew so we cut out of the movie early and headed over to the apartment. You can guess about the rest .
She lived in N.D.G., about an hour away, and I took her home on the bus. On my way back I decided to get off the bus on Guy Street and instead of transferring to another bus I decided to walk the rest of the way back to the apartment. The route I took passed what was sometimes called “Embassy Row”. It was a warm summer’s night. It was about 1 a.m.
I had been walking for about 5 minutes and had just passed the American consulate when it happened. A huge blast! I dove on the ground. I had no idea what had just happened. I picked myself up and stood there in a daze for a few moments. The next thing I knew a crowd had formed. People dressed in their pajamas had come out of nearby buildings. “What happened? What happened?” a lot of them were saying.
I told someone that I had been really close to whatever blew up. The police arrived moments later and quickly learned that I was a witness. They had me get in the back of a police car. The crowd was staring at me through the car window. Some must have thought that I was the culprit. I was taken to the number 10 police station, interviewed, and driven back to my brother’s apartment. There was never any suspicion that I had been involved in the incident. The police knew it was the F.L.Q or R.I.N.
It turned out that a bomb had been detonated underneath a raised tunnel that connected the two US consulate buildings. Luckily for me the power of the bomb stayed underneath the tunnel. I was only about 50 feet away when the bomb went off.
The next day two detectives came by my brother’s apartment to get a written statement. My brother had kind of a wry sense of humour. A year or two before this event he was living in an apartment in Westmount when his front window was blown out by a mailbox bomb. While waiting for the window to be replaced he hung a Union Jack flag where the glass used to be.
It had never dawned on me that with the two detectives coming over to see me, that my brother actually had an R.I.N. (Resemlement Pour Independence Nationale) poster hanging on the wall. I remember them eyeing the poster and then staring at me for a moment and trying to connect the dots.
A few months later my brother got married and moved to the Town of Mount Royal and I found a room in a rooming house across the street on Lorne Crescent. I got behind on my rent and for a few days resorted to climbing a tree to get into my room to avoid the landlady. I moved on shortly after knowing that the tree deal wasn’t going to last.
All in all I probably lived in the McGill student ghetto are for about 4 years.