Mary Tobin: Anti-Semitism in Mount Pleasant
Date:Friday, July 2, 2004
ID:Digital audio recording #: 20.04-06
MT: I grew up on St. George Street which is east of Main just off Kingsway and Broadway. And that was, at that time the Jewish neighbourhood. And we went to Florence Nightingale [School]. My mother, and there were friends of mine who did get, guys got beaten up for being a Jew.
LR: Oh my God.
MT: That never happened to me because across the street was a gang sort, of a group of brothers, I think there were three or four brothers. And the mother and my mother were good friends. So the word came down from the mother that I wasn’t to be touched. And I had this protection which I didn’t know until years later. So, the quote gangs that were there—certainly not like the gangs now, there was no knives.
LR: [Much more hoodlums].
MT: That’s right. It was more physical than it was dangerous. Didn’t touch me, I had the protection of this gang simply because our mothers said don’t do it and they listened. And…
LR: Which is scary in itself that she had to tell them who to hit and who not to hit.
MT: Well, I don’t know, as I said, I was protected, yet my girlfriend who lived four or five blocks away from me wasn’t. She, she was beaten up a couple of times and she was name-called and all the rest. Never happened to me. I didn’t have it.
LR: Wow. What about in school, I mean was it a very clear, distinct like…what I’m getting at is, was growing up as a Jewish kid very different than growing up as a gentile kid and I know the answer is yes obviously but what I mean is in the actual school environment.
MT: No, not really.
LR: Did you sense that, you know, in the classroom or anything like that…
MT: No, nah uh, I didn’t. I don’t know if others did but I didn’t. Any of this happened after school, weekends, because in that area from Broadway ‘til about 25th, from Main east was Jewish. Well, Jewish type. And so it was a real conglomeration of people at the time. So if you were going to have any kind of anti-Semitism it would be after school and weekends when you were at a store, or roaming around with a friend, or walking, or whatever. When you were on your own rather than the comfort of the school, the protection of the school itself.
LR: And the reason they’d know probably is just because the community was so small that they knew they could point every finger they had at who was a Jew.
MT: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. No question.
LR: And what were the teachers, what was it like being a Jewish kid in a public school, they were totally…
MT: They were fine. Didn’t bother me at all. You know if were a smart kid you got treated differently, if you weren’t you clogged along. No, I don’t remember any kind of problems at all.
LR: And what about, like I’m sure there were, whatever denomination, Jew, non-Jew, whatever you are, I’m sure there were probably parts of the city that were like, you know, the hot spots for teenagers to go and hang out. Probably like the movies or coffee shops or…
MT: 16th and Oak.
LR: 16th and Oak.
MT: There used to be a restaurant called Pal’s and that was the hang out for all King Ed. All King Ed, didn’t matter, if you wanted to be seen, if you wanted to meet somebody it was there.
LR: Yeah, so like the diner.
MT: The diner, that’s right. And there were a couple places on Kingsway that had hamburger joints that also had it. Then of course there were drive-ins too, in those days.
LR: Yeah, and going into these cafes and into these diner and then probably the drive in movies was it again, was it a very separate like social environment, from the Jewish kids and the secular kids?
MT: No, no, no, it wasn’t big enough. You know, the city isn’t big enough to have any kind of exclusion. Whereas in Montreal there the Jewish area.