15 Moments of Montreal History That Will Make You Say "WTF!"
Every single day in Montreal is an adventure. With the city's diverse population, language laws, vast number of events, and political turmoil, you never know what might happen in this fine city of ours.
And sometimes, you seriously can't even handle what's going down before your eyes in Montreal, and all you can really say is "WTF?" Trust in the fact that you're not alone, because we've all been there.
Now, if you haven't, no doubt these 15 moments of Montreal history will, because each one is so incredibly unique and strange, you can't help but react with the emotional combination of shock, awe, and disbelief that is embodied in "WTF."
All The Ridiculousness That Was Pastagate
Oh boy, while we all may rip on the OQLF/Language Police, the government office truly is the gift that keeps on giving, at least when it comes to The Onion-like news stories.
This particular language-debacle occurred in 2013, when the OQLF sent an official complaint to Buonanotte on Saint Laurent street, reprimanding the owners for using Italian words, like "pasta" on their menu instead of French...even though it's an Italian restaurant. When news broke, everyone went "WTF, seriously?" and the public outcry was intense enough to force the then-head of the OQLF to resign.
The Fact That The Olympic Stadium Costed $1.47 Billion, A Full 1990% Over Budget
If you've ever wondered why the Big O is sometimes (or perhaps better known) as "The Big Owe," it's because the Olympic Stadium built for the 1976 Summer Games has been a gigantic hole in the province's pocket for years.
Quebec didn't pay off the near-$1.5 billion debt accrued from the Olympic Stadium 'til 2006, a WTF-ing full three decades after it was built. The whopping amount needed to fund the project actually ranks the Olympic Stadium as the #1 over-budget building project in the entire world (note: that study also claimed the debt to be $3.1 billion in total).
When A Bunch Of Single Ladies Were Sent To Montreal to Make Babies
Otherwise known as the "King's Daughters" or "les filles du roi", this initiative, put in place by King Louis XIV, saw 800 single women aged between 15 and thirty sent to New France from 1663-73.
The obvious objective was to increase the colony's population, though there was also the motive to promote marriage and increase the number of family units, which would also ensure men would stay put with their wives and kids. And the plan worked out, with the population of New France doubling by 1672.
In hindsight, the King's Daughters plan seems a little misogynistic, but when you consider that most of the women sent over to Canada came willingly, as they couldn't find hubbies within France's strict social hierarchy, King Louis's idea should make you say "WTF, that was damn smart."
That Time America Tried To Bring Montreal Over To Their Side
Nowadays, the notion of a bunch of Americans coming to Montreal and trying to get the city to do just about anything seems kind of WTF-ridiculous, but things were very different in 1776, back when the American Continental Army invaded the then-British ruled province of Quebec.
For some historical context, this was right after the Quebec Act of 1774, which can be argued as a means for the ruling British to appease the French Canadian population enough not to rebel.
The Americans knew this, and so Ben Franklin, joined by a small American army, Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll came to Montreal, hoping to get the city's populous to turn against the British and join their side. Things didn't work out for them, and a majority of the Americans were ousted from the city after a mere few hours, but not before they tried to burn Montreal down, at least according to certain sources.
The rest of the occupying Americans left Montreal by June 17th, just so you know.
Peanut Butter (As We Know It) Being Invented By A Montrealer
Honestly, this is my favourite piece of Montreal trivia, and pretty much makes me go "WTF I can't believe this I love the city even more," as I'm kind of addicted to peanut butter, as I'm sure you are too.
Now, many believe George Washington Carver was the man behind peanut butter, but it was actually Marcellus Gilmore Edson of Montreal, who was the first individual to patent the process of making peanut butter for candy in 1884. You can actually check out the patent here, for anyone who needs further convincing.
La Presse Releases Its Very First Issue, In 1884!
We all know La Presse is huge in Montreal, but we didn't know it was so damn old. Founded on October 20, 1884 by William-Edmond Blumhart, the fact that La Presse is over 130 years old seriously made me go "WTF."
The Smallpox Epidemic That Killed 3, 164 Montrealers
Allegedly coming in from Chicago, a smallpox epidemic broke out in Montreal circa 1885, infecting over 9, 000 and killing 3, 146. On the WTF-spectrum, this definitely falls more on the "sad and depressingly chilling" end of things, especially when you consider that so many more would have survived if they didn't buy into the propaganda demonizing the vaccine for the disease.
IMAX Movies Beginning In Montreal
As soon as I saw that the origins of IMAX rested in Montreal, I had a legit "WTF, I'm so proud" moment. And it's true: back during Expo 67, a trio of Canadian filmmakers (Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor and Robert Kerr) decided to try out a motion picture screening system that featured a single, more powerful projector to showcase films, rather than the multi-projector setup used at the time. The model was then improved as years went on, and IMAX was born.
On the same level of "WTF, that's cool" is the fact that the very first motion picture to be screened in Canada took place in Montreal, specifically at the Palace Theatre on June 27th, 1896.
When A Montreal Team That Wasn't The Habs Won The Stanley Cup
Two hockey teams called Montreal home in years past, the Montreal Shamrocks and Montreal Crystals, but only the former went on to win two Stanley Cups, twice in a row. The very much now-defunct Shamrocks won the cup in 1899 and 1900, adding to the WTF-ness that any other team than the Canadiens played professionally in Montreal.
Montrealers Rioting Against Trudeau
No, not the beloved Justin Trudeau, I'm talking about his father, the late and great Pierre Elliott Trudeau, but either way, the fact that Montrealers rioted against a Trudeau is enough to make you go "WTF, why!?"
To put it into context, in the late 1960, when the elder Trudeau was running for Prime Minister, he made a visit to Montreal for the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day parade. Quebec sovereignists in Montreal weren't happy to see him, and threw rocks and bottles at Trudeau, though the soon-to-be Prime Minster didn't even flinch.
The image of Trudeau withstanding the rush of rioters instantly went viral (by 1960s standards, at least) and he won the federal election the next day.
When It Was 37.6 °C In Montreal
Yeah, it doesn't seem possible with winter's cold looming ahead, but it truly did get WTF-level hot in Montreal on August 1st, 1975, when the city reached a record-level heat of 37.6 °C (100 °F).
The Montréal-Nord Riots
When Montreal police officers killed Fredy Alberto Villanueva, a Honduran immigrant on August 9 of 2008, the borough of Montréal-Nord exploded with rage.
A fair amount of tension already existed in the area, and Villanueva's death sparked a violent riot, which resulted in multiple acts of arson, many stores looted, and several police officers officers wounded. Words can't quite describe the event, but for those who don't remember this moment of Montreal history, this CBC video report will.
When Quebec Was Almost Its Own Country
Many of us millennials are simply too young to remember the 1995 Quebec referendum. The second referendum (held on October 30th, 1995) to ask Quebecers whether the province should become its own nation, the margin between the "yes" and "no" votes was 1.16%, or 50.58% vs 49.42%.
The Giant Pothole That Swallowed A Truck
On the corner of Saint-Catherine and Guy, the street literally swallowed a construction truck, making for the largest pothole the city has ever seen. The only reaction anyone had was "WTF, for real Montreal?" followed by a "get your sh*t together."
When Montreal Was Flooded In 4 Feet Of Water
Montreal experienced a lot of floods in the 19th century, largely because ice jammed up the St. Lawrence River, forcing a fair bit of water to flood inland.
One of the most "WTF, that seriously happened!?" examples occurred in 1886, when a majority of what is now Old Montreal was submerged in 1.2 metres/4 feet of water, known as the worst inundation of the century.