Orange Julep an Oldie and a Goodie

orange julep

“I don’t know” I said aloud as I perused the fast food menu. “Orange drink is usually gross, and it’s kind of expensive too…”

“Oh its worth it,” the counter-girl piped up immediately. “Our Julep is made from fresh-squeezed oranges and our secret ingredient. It’s a family recipe that goes back to 1932.”

As much as “secret ingredient” fails to inspire confidence, the counter girl’s enthusiasm was itself refreshing. There was no doubt that she had complete faith in her product, and so I consented to a glass of Gibeau Orange Julep.

She filled a waxed paper cup from a pipe that hung down from the ceiling, and I couldn’t help thinking, as I did when I was a kid, that the 40-foot sphere above us was a massive julep reservoir.

And it was worth it. The fresh-squeezedness of the oranges was unmistakable, the “secret ingredient” reminiscent of creamsicle (although apparently it’s fat-free), the texture foamy down to the last drop. It was really, truly good.

Turns out I had a lot of misconceptions about Orange Julep. Not only does it taste good, its legacy goes back almost 80 years.

I’d always assumed that the massive roadside Orange was a pure 1960s kitch. Indeed, the 40-foot orange was constructed in 1966. Its shell was made with fiberglass segments ordered specially from a local pool manufacturer.

But my counter girl – and the paper julep cup – had claimed that Orange Julep has been kicking since 1932. Turns out that our massive orange monument is in it’s second incarnation. The original building, which was was in nearly the same location, dates back to 1945.  It was a smaller, concrete orange with windows on the second story. (I can only assume that it took the first 13 years of julep sales to raise the money for this jewel).

The original Orange Julep building, in the 1950s. Photo taken by M. Connolly, Hydro-Québec. From the BANQ, Cote: E6,S7,SS1,D58727

The original Orange Julep building, in the 1950s. Photo taken by M. Connolly, Hydro-Québec. From the BANQ, Cote: E6,S7,SS1,D58727

But Montreal’s most iconic (well, perhaps only) road-side attraction was hoppin’ long before the metro and the Décarie expressway opened up this neighbourhood to residential and commercial development. In fact, the original Orange was a victim of the widening of Décarie for the autoroute.

There was a tramway along Décarie in the 1940s, linking NDG to Ville-Saint-Laurent, but the area around Namur was largely undeveloped. Picturing the quirky casse-croûte on the open road somehow captures my imagination in a way that its current position on the edge of the Décarie expressway, kitty corner to outlet malls, has never managed to do.

It also helps explain why the big Orange has retained a tradition of summer-time car shows, à la 1950s Hot-Rod nights. For those of our readers who don’t have a car to pimp on site, it’s also right across the street from Namur metro.

28 comments

  1. Orange Julep, Gateway to the West Island… I love it and this post! Well done.

  2. I love the Orange Julep! I used to go more often when I was younger. They had some of the coolest cars on their lots!

    Ah and the women working there!!! God one in particular … Nelly!!! You goddess you!!

  3. I don’t realize why this piece of banal highway non-architecture gets so much press in this city. In Los Angels or Lethbridge Alberta, this kind of tacky marketing billboard (duck) is significant. But in Montreal, this bland symbol of consumer numbness is as lovely as the highway it is located on.

  4. I love that black-and-white shot, esp the ladder up to the window. All it needs is some oversized mice to show up! Great post.

  5. A lovely photo of the earlier Orange Julep which was much smaller than the later version.

    Montreal Tramways route 17 to Cartierville and Belmont Park passed right beyond the proprty line to the rear.

    In the vicinity on Decarie were two Montreal restaurants, Miss Montreal and Ruby Foos, both great places to eat.

    http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b61/SDR_North/MissMontrealRestaurant.jpg

    Across Decarie at Namur was Harold Cummings Chevrolet, another Montreal institution.

    http://i17.photobucket.com/albums/b61/SDR_North/HaroldCummings.jpg

    Both images from the Internet.

    Further out, towards Canadair on then-Route 11 to the Laurentians prior to the Autoroute, was a Shell? service station which, on it’s roof, had a large array of working ‘Municipal’ traffic signals which flashed and sequenced as designed.

    These signals were very evident at night, were later deemed a distraction to motorists and removed c. 1957.

    The traffic conjestion on Decarie/Route 11 on a summer Sunday evening between Queen Mary, the Decarie Circle at Continental Can at Cote De Liesse and beyond thru Canadair/Bois Franc and over the-then-single bridge at Cartierville was horrendous.

    Streetcars had to enter/exit their own right of way to the West of Decarie out to the centre of the road at an angle, providing very tense moments for Motormen on Northbound cars heading directly into Southbound traffic on Decarie as they angled across.

    Streetcars crossed the outer rim of the Decarie Circle at Cote De Liesse twice, at right angles.

    Another traffic circle once was at the South end of the old Pont Mercier, before the Seaway was constructed, directly East of the tunnel under the CPR tracks.

    Thank You.

  6. Wasn’t part of a ‘Men Without Hats’ video shot there in the 80s?

  7. Cdnlococo, snif, I’m sad to remember those destroyed tramlines.

    I remember Ruby Foos as a very tiny girl – I thought it was wonderful, sophisticated and exotic.

    I do remember the Julep on Sherbrooke east. But while I appreciate the kitch appeal, I don’t really value such things in a Montréal setting, which should have been far more urbanised.

    I do NOT want a car, to pimp up or otherwise. I want trams! (and bicycles, obviously, but tonight I’ll leave them for young daredevils).

  8. “Insufferable”? That could be said of the entire decade, Leila.

    I love it when Cdnlococo crawls out of the woodwork.

  9. Thanks to Denis and Pascal for the links – I didn’t realize there were other orange juleps.

    I was surprised at how little info there was readily available about the Orange Julep, considering that the Gazette once ranked it one of the top local landmarks. Went to newspaper archives and municipal database just to figure out the construction dates and materials (I added them to the wikipedia page after).

    Leila – I am considering posting the video “officially” but still feeling kind of nauseous/nightmarish from my viewing…

  10. Yes, thank you Cdnlococo for your descriptions and memories. Always a pleasure to read.

  11. @Rich: I love it too (when Cdnlococo appears) and I’m not being sarcastic. I hope you weren’t either.

    Alanah, I feel even worse. I watched FOUR of their old videos before I found that one.

  12. Me? Sarcastic? Regarding Cdnlococo’s comments? Nope. Never. No way. Cross my heart and hope to die.

    As for everything else on these here interwebs…

  13. I found a photo that might interest the folks at Spacing Montreal as it involves another of the common themes, Turcot Yard.

    http://www.railpictures.net/images/d1/2/7/5/4275.1240599489.jpg

    Here is a Diesel CNR freight headed West out of Turcot Yard, at a station named, fittingly enough, ‘Turcot West’.

    The Telegrapher is getting ready to ‘Hoop’ the Train Orders to the Engineer, who has his arm ready from the cab of the engine.

    The Vee parts of the hoop are light bamboo rods holding a loop of string in notches at their tips and a spring clip at the handle end, the Orders knotted in the centre of the string horizontal across the two Y-shaped arms.

    The Engineer gets the Orders and the string, the holder remains in the hand of the Telegrapher.

    The other shorter hoop is for the Conductor on the Caboose who will be standing on the rear Caboose step.

    This location was at the bottom of Brock across then-2/17 from the Raphael Ruffo Motel, now buried under fill for the overpass over the 4 main tracks to Dorval.

    At the time of the photo, the CNR main line West to Dorval paralleled 2/17 past Ville St Pierre at the Bascule Bridge over the Lachine Canal, with Montreal Tramways Lachine route between the CNR and the West Canadian Car and Foundry works which were next to the Lachine Canal.

    The CN then traveled thru Lachine just to the North of Dominion Bridge, thru Dixie and joined back to the present CNR main line at Dorval Station, where the platform is/was curved for that reason.

    In the photo in the distance to the right of the far vertical hand rail on the Diesel can be seen the circular steel lattice work for one of the gas holders at LaSalle Coke across the Canal, the LaSalle Coke crane is hidden by the locomotive.

    Both Diesels were built at Montreal Locomotive Works on Dickson in the East end. Their Diesel engines were manufactured at Dominion Engineering in Lachine.

    In 1961 many of the remaining CN steam locomotives were gathered at Turcot for scrapping, one of which is shown here. Over 100 locomotives, eventually.

    http://www.railways.incanada.net/Articles/art2006_12.JPG

    This locomotive has a full tender of coal and was scrapped serviceable

    Upper Lachine road is on the top of the escarpment beyond the engine.

    The Diesels have since lived out their lives, and been scrapped, too.

    Thank You.

  14. Thanks again, Cdnlococo! I love your posts. I live in Petite Italie, and you know how much the building of that neighbourhood and Mile-End (named after a station!) depended on railway building and builders.

  15. As we all know, because of the Lachine Rapids, Montreal was the head of most salt-water navigation, and larger ocean ships had to make their final stop at Montreal and transfer their cargoes and passengers to other methods of transportation.

    Enter the canals prior to the Seaway of 1959.

    The following is a Link to the various pre-Seaway canals and the smaller Canallers that were used prior to the Seaway.

    http://www.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca/Documents/gilmore/default.asp?ID=s001

    These vessels could be heard through out NDG whistling 3 long blasts on their whistles if the bridge tender at Ville St Pierre was slow in opening the Bascule Bridge for them.

    The following USA instructional film from the War gives a quick overview to the operation of trains, ( which had to be used in Canada once the waterways froze up ) and the film might be of interest to those who wish to know a bit more about the subject.

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=e9a_1241081839

    At time 6:10 in the film Train Orders are delivered to a moving train in a similar fashion as used at Turcot West with the Diesels.

    The same methods shown would be used to repair track after a washout or a wreck.

    Many changes since the Forties and the Fifties when railways were deemed very important.

    Thank You.

  16. Ah, how I love those old canals. So many happy summer days spent cycling up and down the river between here and Kingston, stopping to check out every little interesting thing… The social history of the area upriver from Cornwall is particularly interesting what with the inundation caused by the Seaway and hydro dam works.

    Check out this article for a good overview of the development of the old canal system:

    http://www.history.rochester.edu/canal/bib/whitford/old1906/vol2/Part4-2.htm

    Also, Montreal history nerds, rejoice! The NFB started streaming La Memoire des Anges online at their web site last week. In high quality to boot:

    http://films.nfb.ca/memories-of-angels/

    Yowsa!

  17. This film helps explain why I am always referring back to Montreal.

    For good or for bad, this is the way it was when I was young.

    Youth is a foundry for memories that last a lifetime.

    Thank You.

  18. “Youth is a foundry…” boy that’s a metaphor from a certain age and class.

    Everything changes, doesn’t it.

  19. My parents introduced me to the Orange Julep back in the 1950s when we got our first car. I was one of four kids and anything sweet was okay with me. Orange Julep sure filled that gap. When I left Montreal in 1966 to take up a promotion in my company in Calgary, the one thing I missed were my regular trips to the Orange Julep. When I returned to go to university in 1969, it was one of my first stops. I did not go there on a regular basis and I found that it had changed and moved but that did not stop me from enjoying the most favourite drink I could remember. As time went by I learned to duplicate the Orange Julep at home and when I moved to Toronto in 1972 I took it with me. For about ten years in the 70s and 80s the Orange Julep was a regular stop during the one week a month that I spent there on business. It was a tough time in Montreal in those days and downtown St. Catherine looked like a ghost town but the Orange Julep was always there, faithfully filling the lunchtime gap. I am in my 68th year now and as long as I have been alive, the Orange Julep has been there. It is nice to know that the tradition has carried on. My deteriorating health for the past ten years has stopped me from going far from home. I do not expect I will get back to Montreal again, but then, I also did not expect to be in and around Toronto for the past forty years either. If I get there though, you can be assured that on a hot summer day, the Orange Julep will be on my list.

  20. I remember the Orange Julep, Ruby Foo’s, my Mum was the hostess at Miss Montreal. In my youth we would take the 17 tram to Belmont Park past the Julep, Continental Can, BlueBonnets, across the trestle which paralleled Decarie and finally stopping at the loop a couple of blocks away from the Park. Wonderful memories except for the crisscross pattern that the wicker seats left etched in the back of your legs if you wore shorts.
    As for the rails, my dad had a pass and both my uncles worked at Turcot Yards on the diesels. We would take a Sunday ride out to St Eustache or St Agathe des monts quite often.

  21. My Dad built the big Orange in Fiberglass, he was the pool manufacturer for Mr Gibeault…Orange Julep!

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