When I lived in Park Ex, we often rode our bikes through a gate on l’Acadie Boulevard and into Town of Mount Royal. The mile-long fence separating Park Ex from TMR was infamous among urban planners and activists across the country — even written about in the U.S.
Once a year or so, an article would unfailingly appear in some local paper about the unembarrassed way the fence divided working-class from middle-class Montreal. It was our Berlin Wall, or directly descended from apartheid barriers. (You always have to leave some room for journalistic hyperbole.)
The fence never became a big enough cause célèbre to convince anyone to bring it down. It’s still there, still doing an excellent job.
The l’Acadie fence was not just a physical barrier, of course. It separated worlds.
At first, we crossed into TMR just to ride around and ogle the houses we could only dream about. Houses with lawns and finished basements and garages and, somewhere inside, colour TVs and cool air-conditioned rooms.
As we grew older, the rides into TMR gained purpose. We wanted access to services. So we’d ride to the centre of town and run the quarter-mile track attached to TMR High, or shoot hoops at the courts next to the town hall. (We weren’t the only interlopers. Kids from the Côte-des-Neiges area would also arrive for pickup games, lime-green combs poking from their Afros.)
The police occasionally stopped us en route. I’ve always wondered how they knew we didn’t belong. Did something about our faces and haircuts tip them off? Maybe our cheap clothes and banged up bikes told them we weren’t Townies.
When they stopped us, the cops were unfailingly polite and unthreatening. (We were white kids, after all.) They asked where we lived and where we were going. One time, they pumped us for information. Someone had been stealing bikes. They mentioned a name. Did we know this individual?
To be fair to the cops and to their impulse to profile, I suppose a Park Ex kid was more likely to steal a bike than a TMR kid.
Look at me — the first bike I ever owned was stolen. Thirty-five bucks for a white Mercier with racing handlebars. A guy about my age, who lived around the corner, sold it to me.
So the police were right.
I now live in house with a lawn. We have air-conditioning and an alarm to keep people from stealing our stuff.
Lately, though, there’s been a rash of burglaries in our area. It might only be a matter of time.
18 thoughts on “The l’Acadie fence”
Hey I haven’t heard “townies” for a while.
I can feel and almost taste those lonely summer days riding around in TMR.
( I think I knew the guy that sold you your bike).
In fact, I know you know the guy who sold me the bike.
Hey my Mercier! Give it back.
Drop by any time. I’ll also return the black-and-white TV I took.
I had a white Mercier with racing handlebars! Really! Not stolen, bought in Ottawa.
When going south on l’Acadie, never fail to ponder the fence, and wonder at how it has remained.
During that period, a white Mercier was like a Chevrolet. Pretty standard bike in our neck of the woods. Glad you’re a better person than I am…or used to be. Or whatever makes sense.
The fence will remain. Unless Park Ex gets so gentrified that the income disparity is reduced to zero. But at that point the Park Exers may want to keep out the non-hipsters.
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To continue your story Spiro. Then we grew up and used the entrance to TMR to get our Park Ex. children to school. My boys went to Dunrae Gardens School. I walked them everyday until Park Ex. got its own bus to the school.
Yes, I remember this period. And earlier on, many students south of Jean Talon, and then later south of Ogilvy, were shunted to TMR. If was a bit of a culture shock for some, but a good one.
I want to see this fence. After reading your piece I feel almost fond of it, I suppose because of its advanced age, and you made it speak. I’ll be on the lookout.
I’m afraid you’ll be crushed with disappointment, Jane. But I urge you to seek it out anyway.
I was a Townie and grew up inside the fence. I think it did make us feel “safe”, although we were always riding our bikes through the gate to Park Ex, to escape.
I will have to revise my opinion of you, now that I know you’re a Townie. I suppose you were escaping at the same time as we were escaping. Be well.
I remember the headlines when the fence was locked by the Townies so that kids from Park X couldn’t Trick or Treat in TMR… That was a horrible reminder of Man’s failure and lowliness.
Someone commented on FB that they did manage to trick or treat in TMR, but quickly realized the pickings were better on the Park Ex side. So they never went back. But I do get your point.
Really? I love it. And somehow I’m not surprised. Later!
No, I’m not surprised either.
Spyro, is that the fence that runs parallel to the train tracks? I always thought it was built for safety reasons, to keep people off the train tracks.
There are no train tracks there, Judi. Just nicer homes on the other side of the fence. Maybe you’re thinking of another fence?