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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

From the NFB archives: Our Street Was Paved with Gold

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Our Street Was Paved with Gold
Albert Kish, 1973, 28 min 37 sec

“Filmmaker Albert Kish revisits Montreal’s St Lawrence Boulevard – the Main – the road from the docks to the heart of immigrant Canada. This is a little Europe, a street of many languages, foods, and small courtesies that make a stranger feel at home. For the filmmaker his prevailing memory is of the seventeen steps of a walk-up apartment, but for all Canadians this film will evoke a shared multicultural experience.”

The Main is easily the most nostalgic street in Montreal. There’s no shortage of material extolling its past glories: the 1940s through the words of Mordecai Richler, the sleazy 70s in Michel Tremblay’s Des nouvelles d’Édouard, the 1980s in Edward Hillel’s captivating photos and, most recently, the late-90s in Louis Rastelli’s surprisingly engaging A Fine Ending. This documentary, which looks at the street’s heydey as a hub for European immigrants, is no exception.

I have to admit that I haven’t watched most of it because I’m currently dealing with a crummy connection. Let me know if it’s any good.



  1. This file is a good time capsule of early 70s immigration. See NFB film Xénofolies (1991) for an update touching on “accomodation” issues.

  2. What a fun film!

    Some places are recognisable, some are not. There are tramway shots, all kinds of fun things. (Moishe’s used to have take out??) But it’s fun trying to figure out what’s what, and who is who, and how things evolved. You can see the building at St-Laurent x Pine that was the falafel place, before it turned into a pigeon roost, and the buildings just to the north, before their balconies all fell off.

    There’s a fair amount of Mile End representation as well; there are shots of a very crowded Café Olimpico (“Open da night”); some of the young men are wearing very cheezy outfits indeed. The clothing factory scenes are interesting, too – I gather that they were mostly shot inside the Cooper building, but could also have been taken at the French Maid factory (St-Laurent just north of Mt Royal, now condos-for-rent & a Videotron).

    As the narrator closes up his film, he muses as to how he still goes there but noone recognises him, and he recognises noone. Funny, how I feel the same way about the Main, now, too.

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