November 13th, 2011

Montreal in the 1950s

Posted in Canada, History by Christopher DeWolf

Alfred Bohn arrived in Montreal from a small town in Germany fifty-three years ago. He lived with his wife Hannelore in an apartment on Clark Street just above Prince Arthur, next to two other European couples. The six of them used to spent their free time wandering around the city, taking photos of their new home.

Bohns is now 78. Over the past four months, he has dredged up more than a hundred photos taken between 1958 and 60 and posted them on Flickr. Many were scanned from colour 35mm Kodachrome slides. Developing the slides back in the late 50s cost Bohns no small portion of the two dollars he earned every day working at a hatmaking shop on Mayor Street.

“We’d spend our days walking and walking because we didn’t have cars and we all lived in the same area and we all had empty jobs,” Bohns tells Kristian Gravenor, who has a brief but detailed account of Bohns’ adventures in photography at OpenFile.

Like other high-quality Kodachrome photos from the days before colour photography was common, Bohns’ images are a revelation. The grey landscape of the past is brought back to improbable life: fedoras and neon, housewives in long coats, lunch counters, factories that were still factories.

Bohns was not nearly as good a photographer as Fred Herzog, another German immigrant who documented his adopted city with the curiosity of a newcomer. But in a small way, like Herzog’s photos of 1950s and 60s Vancouver, Bohns’ Montreal is both familiar and markedly foreign.


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2 comments

  1. Ahmed says:

    Wonderful collection !

    November 21st, 2011 at 9:30 am

  2. Richard Broden says:

    Dear Mr Bohns

    I was born on Park Avenue near St Viateur. I remmeber well the bagel bakery (and so did my dog Spot every time he made his escape from my then home at 5600 Jeanne Mance street.

    Your photos bring back such found memories. Thank you so much. I have just retired from Kodak where I spend 32 years in service.

    I have lived now for many years in England where I know I will pass away but Montreal is still home for me.

    Kind regards

    Richard

    June 19th, 2012 at 5:36 am