This picture is of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in 1915.
As their men trained at Vacartier in August and September, many Montreal families in the Square Mile, prepared to follow their men to England.
Here is Francis Chattan Stephens, the father of my great Aunt Frances.
He was in Valcartier and would sail on the Alaunia in September.
This is his immediate family. My aunt Frances is on the right. Her brother Johnny is on the left. He was left behind with his granny. As we will see, this was not the safest decision.
Aunt Frances recalls "Being buttoned into outdoor clothes, taken to the Ritz Carlton Hotel on Sherboroke Street, and put to rest in a bed with a white wickerwork headboard, in a room full of white furniture."
Her mother Hazel (Kemp) had closed the house on Pine Avenue - it was to become the Norwegian Consul General's house. She and Frances would follow Chattan to England.
But now this was the first step. Many other families were making the same kind of preparations. The Ritz would have been filled with people that Hazel knew well and was related to.
The Ritz was primarily a residential hotel. This role of the home away from home would expand during the war. After the war, many Square Mile widows and older women retired there. The irony is that the Ritz has been recently remodelled and now is once again such a place. Check out your new home at the Ritz here.
As an aside, after the war, Alec, my paternal grandfather was to have his haircut every week at the barbershop at the Ritz. My maternal grandfather, Charlie Ballantyne, had a multi decade liason with the housekeeper. I benefited from this. In the 1980's I used to stay at the Ritz for a few days most months in my time as an insvestment banker. She had long retired at my grandfather was dead but the key staff, the Concierge, Danny, and the key bar staff had all liked him and her very much. I was indeed treated like family!
This is a typical sitting room of a suite in 1925. When I used to stay in the 1980's my bedroom was an updated version of this room with the fireplace. (photo credit McCord Museum Montreal)
As war broke out in Europe, some of the conflict was mirrored at the Ritz. The General Manager, Rudolf Bischoff was a Prussian and many of the staff were German and French. Bischoff left, never to return, and his job was taken over by Mr Frank Quick. My Aunt Frances described him as the "Stoutest man I have ever seen" (Essays in Growing - her private memoir 2008).
Aunt Frances would leave the Ritz shortly and take a ship to England with her mother. They would rent a house near Salisbury Plain, where the CEF was to spend a horrible winter under canvas. It rained nearly all the time.
She was going to England against her husband's wishes though. He writes to her dated November 5th that says: "I got a letter from you as much said to Blazes with staying in Canada, that you were coming over. This letter I got just after writing you you and rather discouraging the idea for which I duly ask for forgiveness."
They would be part of a large contingent of Montreal women. In later posts we will follow some of them. These women were to surprise themselves and men generally by their toughness and resilience and their ability to get major projects done. They were also to suffer as badly as their men too.