On this page the SSCPN features stories of Events and people who have shaped local History: Visit often as the stories do change :)
The summer of 1930: Brought Great Excitement as Montreal-Saint Hubert Airport was the place to be
Throughout one's life, there are moments and events that can become etched in one's memory forever. For residents of Montreal’s South Shore , the arrival of the British Airship R100 in August 1930 was such an event. The New Titanic of the air as it was known, departed from Cardington England on July 29 1930, and reached its main Canadian mooring station Montreal’s airport (opened in 1928) in Saint-Hubert, in 78.48 hours. It had traveled 3,300 mi (5,300 km) at an average speed of 42 mph (68 km/h) with a total of 48 passengers on board. For a country and city now looking towards the economic winter that was to be the Great Depression, the arrival of the great airship was a symbol of hope. The R100 measuring 22O Meters in size (about two football fields) docked at the mooring station built by Canadian Vickers would stay at St-Hubert air base for 12 days, hovering over then the mostly farm fields was amazing site to behold. It was estimated over 100,000 people would visited the airship over its stay. When one considers that Montreal’s population was less than half-a- million in 1930, the arrival of the R100 was the combined Expo 67 and Montreal 1976 Olympics of its day.
For residents of then rural St Hubert, this major event was taking place in their backyards. To accommodate such a massive amount of visitors, the Southern County Railway added additional cars and extra runs from its Youville Square Station house in Old Montreal. Family members who would come for a visit and often stay overnight. Almost unheard of traffic jams back logged the mostly unpaved roads. As whole Families, church groups, along with others would pack picnic lunch and join the crowds at the airfield
For some enterprising South Shore residents, this event would prove to be a financial bonus as they would rent out rooms, or places on their land, for campers to pitch tents. For the Stratton family, owners of a General Store, it was an opportunity not to be missed.
Jesse Stratton-Armstrong, whose grandparents owned the General Store, recalls her father loading up the old pickup truck each morning with cases of soft drinks, ice-cream packed in lots of ice, to sell to the day trippers. He'd return for more supplies by mid-afternoon. "My older brother George and Uncle Tom would rummage around the field for discarded drink bottles to be returned for the deposit,” says Jesse,” I recall them bragging that they made a fortune that summer.”
The great airship's visit to St-Hubert lasted just twelve days, before it moved on to Toronto, and later returned to Britain. It was viewed as a great source of local pride. St-Hubert area children returning to high school in St-Lambert were able to boast that a piece of International aviation history was made in their community over the summer.
There were also more long-term spin offs for the Saint Hubert airport because of the R100'S visit in the summer of 1930. Since the large number of travelers to the site, the CNR which owned the rail lines provided much needed up- grade to their system. The provincial government improved access to St-Hubert through newly-paved roads. Located only 9 miles from the city. As Saint Hubert prove itself to be a reliable and easy to access the airport. It soon was expanded and remained Montreal’s prime airport until the construction of the Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (formerly Montréal/Dorval International Airport). Making it a hub for would be travelers coming into Montreal both from Europe and United states for the next forty years
This new easy access through Saint Hubert airport would also prove useful during Montreal Sin City days as Legendary mob boss Harry Ship's would send cars to transport High rollers from New York after landing at St Hubert Airport back to various downtown Montreal Night Clubs via the Victoria Bridge. Some Greenfield Park then kids still remember running alongside the cars as the tourist would they emptied their pockets of Canadian coins on the way back to the airport.
During the Second World War, the Saint Hubert airfields were the training center for the Royal Canadian Air force and major defense base as up to a hundred fights a day would take off to help supply England and our overseas troops. Military housing was built around the airport for the families of those working at the airport. After the war much of the same housing was given over to returning veterans arriving with their often expecting British & Dutch War brides and so the permitted population on the South Shore increased threefold.
Once thought as mostly remote farm country, new development became to pop up as Montréalers looked to for affordable land to build homes and escape from the crowded neighbourhoods of Giffentown and Point St Charles. Also major aviation companies such as Pratt/Withey would set up shop on the South Shore bringing hundreds of mostly English-speaking workers with them
Today the military base, the former RCAF Station St Hubert, has ceased operations, but the Armed Forces still uses the base as a garrison comprising the tactical helicopter unit 438 Squadron and 34th Service Battalion. While no longer Montreal’s main airport, Saint Hubert remains the ninth busiest airport in Canada
An small road named R-100* near the airport marks the visit of great Airship arrival Eighty-five years ago…However in many ways, its arrival in the summer of 1930 also marked the beginning of Montréal’s first airport and the beginning of the growth of its 1st off island South Shore suburbs.
Chair of the South Shore Community Partners Network (SSCPN) a local community organization that promotes English-Language services