Lordy Lordy: Passing the Buck over a Fatal Fire

Mayor Mederic Martin and aldermen and my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, looking terribly bored..

Hmm. I found one of the points where my Flo in the City research and Milk and Water research overlap.

The Lord’s Day Act and the Motion Pictures, called ‘the cinema’ in 1927.

I’ve written about the 1906 Lord’s Day act, how it was pushed through by an unholy alliance between the radical Presbyterians and Labour.

And how the French Canadians, especially the owners of movie houses, largely ignored it.

Well, apparently in 1927 Premier Tachereau wanted to get movie houses to shut down and lawyers for this body claimed they had a kind of grandfather clause, because they’d always remained open. You see, they weren’t theatres per se, but cinemas and the Act only described ‘theatres.’

The term ‘cinema’ didn’t exist in 1906.

The Province was suing a movie chain United Amusements. Well, what a coincidence, United Amusements was run by my great uncle, Isidore Crepeau. (That my mother had told me.)

Even weirder, Mon Oncle Isidore, as my mom called him, died in 1932, falling out of the window of his 7th storey ST. James Street office window.

Now, THAT my mother never told me. Did she even know? She was 10 at the time.

The newspaper article says he fell out trying to signal his chauffer to come get him. He almost landed on his ‘stenographer’ who had left but a few minutes before.

Crazy Uncle Isidore. All very weird. But too late for my Milk and Water story.

Jules, of course, had a finger in every civic pie and he obviously dealt with this issue of the Lord’s Day Act. He dealt with damage control on the infamous fatal Laurier Palace fire.

He was the first person to give testimony at the hearing in April, which was very boring, according to the Gazette. “Little Public Interest”claimed the subhead. I guess that meant he was doing his job…

Apparently that same cinema had been running without a licence for a year, but the license hadn’t been taken away for fire-safety issues, only because they hadn’t paid their taxes. They paid their taxes at the end of the 1926 year and then they had the fire in January.

In a ‘short drab’ session, with only 12 people present, where my grandfather refused to give more information than he wanted to (sounds like a Murdochy thing) he described the licencing procedure. The Chief of Police, he said, grants licences on the recommendation of the District Police Chief.

All very interesting.

Apparently, at the ‘inquest’ in January, the scene had been intense, with the public stirred into a ‘white heat’ over the 75 child deaths. The owners of the theatre were on trial, (The proprietor would get 2 years for manslaughter and 2 employees one year, which they would appeal) so the inquest was to deal with 1) the causes of the fire 2) the responsiblities of theatre owners 3) Sunday performances.. Ah, this must have happened on a Sunday so that was the reason for Premier Tachereau wanting, suddenly, to enforce the law, as if Sunday was the cause of the fire or something. (Or maybe it was a ‘labour’ thing..

Members of the public, ‘especially members of the working class’ were to be asked about their opinions. Hmm, so in 1927 the cinema was still considered low rent.

Jules also gave evidence at the trial. Basically, everyone passed the buck about whose job it was to see that the place had a license, the Administration, the Police Chief, the District Officer and the Assistant District Officer, who actually visited the place. H testified he knew the place didn’t have a license but that it wasn’t his job to do anything.

At the trial it was revealed that many police officers had passes for their families. And that a fire door was tied closed (like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire.)

Anyway, because of that tragic event, I wasn’t allowed to go to movies as a child. But, then, there weren’t that many movies aimed at kids.

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