Long before The Gazette moved to Peel and Ste. Catherine Sts., I got my start in the news business at Montreal's most famous street corner. It was the 1980s and I had a part-time job selling newspapers and magazines at Metropolitan News, a cramped and grimy newsstand with a lot of character (and a lot of characters).
I spent a lot of time sitting behind the elevated counter guzzling jumbo cups of Dunkin' Donuts coffee, munching on Wendy's hamburgers and whiling away the hours (the early shift started at 8 a.m.; the late shift ended at 11 p.m.) in never-ending conversations with co-worker Phil Moscovitch.
I'm Andy Riga, a reporter, travel columnist and occasional political writer at The Gazette in Montreal.
I find it comforting, in a twist-of-fate way, that what was once known as the "crossroads of Montreal" - Peel and Ste. Catherine, where I religiously browsed through Metropolitan News, crammed with newspapers and magazines that piqued my passion for writing - is today the location of the Gazette, which I wound up working for.
From The Suburban :
Memories of Barry Feldman - "The Restaurant Guy"
By Bernard Mendelman, November 7th, 2012
Barry Feldman died peacefully last week, at the age of 62. I met Barry when I started writing a weekly art column for The Suburban. At that time there was no one in the advertising department soliciting the art galleries, so it was further suggested that I try my hand at obtaining my own ads. Barry worked in the newspaper's advertising department where he was referred by all as "The Restaurant Guy". Restaurants were Barry's territory and he diligently searched out every new one while catering to the individual tastes of those who had already chosen The Suburban as their number one advertising choice.
With his car piled with old copies of The Suburban, Barry would show potential customers their competitor's ads and use that as a selling point. He was always there for his restaurant clients, often showing up early in the morning before they opened or late at night after they closed.
I knew zilch about advertising, but Barry helped me get over the rough spots with his patience and understanding. When I first laid eyes on Barry, I was sure that I had encountered him somewhere years earlier. One day I remembered where. Barry's late father Sam owned the Metropolitan News Agency, a city landmark, then situated around the corner of Peel Street south of Ste. Catherine Street. Way before there was an Internet, it was the place to find just about any newspaper or magazine published anywhere in the world.
Barry revealed to me, "I began hanging around when I was five-years-old and had worked there over the years-on and off- up until 1998." Prominent politicians and worldwide celebrities along with baseball and hockey players would constantly drop in, hungry for news from home.
I asked Barry, which celebrity most impressed him. "In the late 90s, a lady walked in one day dressed casually in sweats. She was the most gorgeous creature I ever saw. It turned out to be actress Ashley Judd, who was in Montreal filming a movie. She was looking for a newspaper from her home town in Kentucky."
Whenever I went to Metropolitan, which was often (including every Sunday morning to buy The New York Times) I felt like a kid let loose in a candy store.
At Metropolitan you could print your own headline on a mock newspaper front page. Barry told me this was a very popular item and he always enjoyed preparing those usually funny headlines asked for by customers.
After I gave up writing the art column I still maintained contact with Barry and always looked forward to seeing him at The Suburban get-togethers. In April I received a phone call from him. It was not good news. Barry told me, "Recently I became disoriented. I was blurring my words, unable to remember things. One day I couldn't locate my car." Barry was a diabetic and thought that this was due to neglecting his medication or not adhering to his diet. On medical examination they found a brain tumour. It was removed and Barry was hoping for a full recovery and to be able to go back to work.
I had lunch with Barry one afternoon during the summer. He looked fine and his memory was sharp. He even commented on Ashley Judd and asked me if I ever watched her in the TV series "Missing" in which she starred. Barry still thought she looked as beautiful as ever. I phoned him about a month later and our conversation ended, planning a date when we would meet again for lunch.
That was the last time I spoke to Barry. He was a loyal member of The Suburban family, a kind intelligent caring individual who will be deeply missed.
METROPOLITAN NEWS AGENCY -
AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE NATION
AT THE CROSSROADS OF THE NATION
REMEMBERING MY FATHER, GEORGE RUBIN
MEMORIES AROUND PARK AVENUE 1940's - 1950's.
GERRY RAQUER AT METROPOLITAN NEWS
MEMORIES OF METRO NEWS - LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY.
I REMEMBER PATRICK FARNEY
UNCLE SAM AND THE BESWICK HORSE
I CAN'T KEEP THIS SECRET ANY LONGER - HOW I LEARNED ABOUT CRIME
MEMORIES OF METRO NEWS
November 5, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President of the United States.
The Montreal Gazette photographed me with my grandfather, Israel Feldman, in the front window of Metropolitan news at 1248 Peel Street, Montreal, selling the first editions - hot off the press ! - of The Gazette with the headline announcing his election. I have the photo somewhere among my albums and files, and it is fixed in my memory.
I was a young teenager. I was wearing a sweater that had a deer motif on the front. My grandfather wore a leather cap. One of the customers out in front of us was an American sailor wearing a crisp white "gob?" hat. Another was a Peel Street Regular, one of the Damon Runyon characters who "lived" on Peel Street and were made famous by local novelists.
Unless there was a second edition of the newspaper that same day - we usually had three editions per day - the photograph of me and my grandfather appeared on the front page of the newspaper on November 6, 1952.