Marcel Proust once said, 'The door of memory is opened by the taste of a Madeline
cookie.' He, of course, was referring to his mom being in the kitchen baking and
the smells that that awakened in him... but for me, it was seeing the weathered
facade of a hardware store (Quincaillerie)... as I ventured down Notre Dame St. West
in an old part of town... and I thought of what that French novelist said a century
ago and how apropos to here and now.
As a young boy, my formative years were spent in a quiet, safe neighborhood in
a borough in the city of Montreal, now known as Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension.
Until the late Nineteenth century, the area was predominately rural and dotted
with farms. The inauguration of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1878 and the arrival
of electric streetcars in 1892 permitted the growth of Villeray. It was also in this
era that the Italian immigrant community chose the neighbourhood as their preferred
My grandfather chose a little corner that had these beautiful tree-lined streets
and mom-and-pop stores. The main street, in our quaint section of town, was right
around the corner from where we lived. There was a linen and clothing store run
by an old, Italian couple, who my mother, until this day, is very friendly with, albeit
with the widow. They have traveled together extensively, from Europe to the French
Riviera, from Monte Carlo to a cruise in the Caribbean. The friends you made back
then were rooted in a strong sense of belonging and lasted a lifetime.
There was a grocery store that delivered (hard to believe in 2013) with a special
bike that had a box saddled to the front wheelbase... for the ones in the vicinity,
and a van for distanced carting. There was a barbershop, and a bakery where
enticing aromas emanated every morning. In the midst of all that secure feeling
of being home was a hardware store.
Quincaillerie Tillemont was situated where my lane ended to meet with that main
street. My grandfather being a do-it-yourselfer, long before it became a phenomenon
and spawned a network, was a frequent visitor. He and the owner, a man named
Jean Bordeaux (because back then the owners still fiddled about their stores, greeted
and cordially assisted the customers), who was a gentle old Frenchman, had a special
relationship. You sensed theirs was a kinship based on mutual respect of two men
who knew their trade and craft... of hard work, and of what that entailed, along with
the necessary tools needed for a job well done. The facade had large weathered
steel frame windows that contained tools, and samples of the wares you should expect
to find on the inside.
'We come together in unity to play a grand symphony of cosmic consciousness in the
divine meditation of our souls' manifestation as being one.' ~ ©Frank Borsellino