Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Father, George Rubin, President,
Metropolitan News Agency,
1248 Peel Street,
Montreal, Canada

Phyllis Mass Carter
Known around the world as "The Newsstand in Montreal", Metropolitan News Agency - "At the Crossroads of the Nation and the World" - was established early in the 20th Century at 1248 Peel Street at the corner of St. Catherine . It was our family's enterprise from the mid-1940's until it closed at that location in the mid-1980's. I started working there as a child in 1947 and I was there the day it closed. The Store was then moved to nearby Cypress Street across from The Windsor Hotel and continued to be operated by my uncle, Sam Feldman, until he reached his 90's, circa 2006 -2008.
This was my true alma mater. Working in The Store by my father's side from the time I was eleven years old, I was taught every aspect of the business and I met people from around the world, people of every race, language, religion and profession - politicians, journalists, actors, authors, circus animal trainers, singers, musicians, movie stars, teachers, artists, athletes - everyone of every description. There were the Runyonesque personalities - Jockey Fleming, Kid Obley, Dutchy, Louis Apple and the mute gent, Patrick Farney, who sold the latest newspapers out at the street corner for us in all kinds of weather for decades.
With access to newspapers from every corner of the world, and magazines and pocket books, I enjoyed a liberal education. My father read Pinocchio to me from a 25 cent Dell Pocket Book. I learned languages and explored every field of interest - from my earliest comic books - The Green Lantern, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman - and the wonderful Classic Comics - to the Pulps, the Digests, Theatre Arts, Writer's Digest, Arizona Highways, Flair, Life, Look, Coronet, Pageant, Alfred Hitchcock Mysteries, Who's Who in Hollywood, True Detective, Modern Photography, Photoplay and Silver Screen, Holiday, Ebony, Gourmet, Popular Science, Time, Newsweek, Liberty, Colliers and Saturday Evening Post, Crossword Puzzles, the classic Penguin Books, and everything in between. I learned to sing with Hit Parade. I learned to ride with Western Horseman. Venturing into The Racing Form, I placed a bet on a horse named "Legal Holiday" and lost my $3.00. I discovered the universe in National Geographic and delighted in the beautiful Christmas issues of London Illustrated News.
Almost every member of my family, including my parents, grandparents, uncles and cousins worked at Metropolitan News at some time - over three generations. My grandmother and my mother and I also sold Fine English Bone China and Irish Linens in one part of the store, and my grandfather, Israel Feldman, served newspapers from the window open onto Peel Street winter and summer. My uncle Harry and aunt Zelda Fields took care of the bookkeeping.
My father, George Rubin, was the brains and the backbone and the diplomat and the chief labourer at Metro News. He would work from sunrise to sunrise if needed, sometimes sleeping on a work table in the stockroom overnight to ensure that he would be there to open The Store early the next morning in case of a snowstorm.
My uncle Sam was the co-founder with Charlie Manella. He was athletic and dynamic and always on the go. Sam started out selling newspapers at the corner of Peel and St. Catherine for Charlie when he was eight years old. He brought the family into the business in the mid-1940's when he bought out Charlie's interest, and he worked until his 90's.
My father worked at The Store for 37 years. He loved books and he loved people - and I loved him. He was my true teacher all along. But that is a long, long story.

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