Once upon a time… the story of Nash Shirt Limited of Saint-Leonard D’Aston

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Nash Shirt Ltd., St.Leonard D’Aston, Circa 1950

 

The shirt section of the Saint-Leonard D’Aston factory of Nash Shirt Ltd,, circa 1950

 

It was somewhat ironic that I was invited to represent my father at a gathering in St. Leonard D’Aston because of a horse that died almost 90 years ago!
Well, this is how the story goes: My uncle Boris Katz, a Russian immigrant, was a peddler in the 1920s. He made his way through the towns and villages around Montreal selling clothing and housewares. One of his stops was the little village of Saint-Leonard d’Aston, about halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, near Drummondville and Trois-Rivieres. On one particular visit in 1928, Uncle Boris’ horse died and he stayed over for a few days. So taken was he with the town and its villagers that he decided to set up shop. He opened “La Maison Bouris”, a general store on Rue Principale.
Many years later Uncle Boris grew frustrated that his shirt order was late for Christmas and he wanted to offer better service to his customers. So he decided to open a small factory to sew his own shirts and pants. He called upon his nephew, George Nashen, who had just returned from overseas service in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Having trained in general accounting, Uncle Boris thought that my dad George would be the perfect partner. In 1948 they established Nash Shirt Limited on the upper floor of the Allyson Building located on Rue de la Station, just across from the tiny train station on the Montreal-Quebec CN Rail line. Uncle Boris spent the week in Saint-Leonard while my father set up the head office, showroom and smaller warehouse on Saint-Lawrence Boulevard in Montreal. My dad spent one day a week at the factory.
They eventually bought the building, followed by the bowling alley next door and built a third adjoining building, along with the old train station and two houses. Through the years they employed several hundred people from across the town and neighbouring towns as well, about 230 employees at their peak. Local housewives without the ability to hold down a full-time job owing to their large families and responsibilities at home were given work as independent contractors. They would purchase their own sewing machines and worked as seamstresses right in their kitchens and basements.
Marcel Alie was one of the loyal and dedicated employees spending the full 35 years at Nash Shirt. He lived in the house immediately across the street from the factory (photo below, the house hasn’t changed much since it was built around 1913) at the corner of de la Station and rue Fleury. He would open up very early in the morning firing up the boilers to power and heat the buildings, and he would be the last to leave late in the evening shutting down all the machinery. He also drove the company truck making local deliveries, picking up supplies and delivering bundles of denim to the women waiting to sew at home.

My last visit: Glenn J. Nashen with Marcel Alie, Dec. 14, 2012, St. Leonard d’Aston. Marcel passed away a short time later.

The Alie family, dedicated employees:  L-R: Mme. Joyal-Alie (Marcel’s sister) worked at the factory as did her daughter Monique Joyal (1972-80 in the jeans and shirt sections), and her friend Monique Prince (from 1972-83). Also pictured is her daughter Sylvie. Their father owned the Garage Joyal across the street where he respectfully hung a photo of Uncle Boris.

The town was doing quite well in the years of Nash Shirt with hardly a family that wasn’t in some way touched by its economic reach. And the town’s work in fashion reached from coast to coast: Indeed, it was said that St. Leonard “outfitted Canada”. Monsieur Boris and Monsieur Georges, as they were affectionately known, maintained a wonderful working relationship with their employees throughout the years.
At one point they decided to build a number of affordable homes for their employees very close to the factory. The new neighbourhood was named Rue de la Cie (Company Road). Rue Cie became Russie and eventually La Petite Russie, (Little Russia) as an endearing tribute to Uncle Boris’ origins.
Uncle Boris was so well respected that upon his death in 1970 nearly all the employees boarded buses for the trip to Montreal to attend his funeral. Some had never left the region prior to that bus ride.
The business continued to grow and prosper.  Fresh out of Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, my brother Stan joined the company and spent his weekdays at the factory working on improving production techniques. Eventually my brother Barry joined too, starting up a new line of clothing under the ‘Carnaval’ label and working out of the Montreal office. As a teenage student, I spent several weeks during the summers working out in Saint-Leonard d’Aston, riding alongside my coach Marcel Alie, who drove the route to all the seamstresses and to pick up supplies. Marcel taught me how to speak French with a countryside guttural twang, quite different from what I was learning in school in the big city. Oh the wonderful memories.

George and Phyllis Nashen (centre), Stan Nashen (left) with workers from Nash Shirt, Saint-Leonard d’Aston, 1970s

My father is now 94 years old and reminisces with great fondness of his years in Saint-Leonard d’Aston.  During all those years from 1948 until the closing of the factory in 1983, he had his trusted assistant Marcelle Hebert by his side.  He has wonderful memories of many of the special townspeople who worked in the factory producing shirts and jeans sold in mom and pop stores from coast to coast. They made uniform shirts worn by police officers, denim first worn by workmen and later by a younger generation of fashion conscientious teens and young adults. The labels included ‘Georgie’s Boys’, ‘Oui Jeans’, ‘Que Jeans’, and a host of private labels from every major men’s sportswear store, department store and jean shop across Canada.  The workers at Nash Shirt Limited in Saint-Leonard d’Aston truly outfitted all of Canada over a 35 year period.
My parents, M. Georges et Mme. Phyllis, my brothers and our entire family salute the residents of the town and its neighbours and those involved in keeping the memory of this wonderful place alive. May this community and its wonderful people thrive for many years to come. Long live St. Leonard d’Aston.

N

Marcelle Hebert, now in her young 90s, at the launch of the documentary

 

The reason for the gathering was the launch of a 20 minute documentary film, “Ma vie à la Nash”, produced by Nicole Campeau with images by Isabelle du Blois.

Nicole Campeau said she wanted to give a voice to those who worked at Nash Shirt, especially the dressmakers. “For me it is a duty to remember,” explains Mme. Campeau. The film touches on the working conditions and about the company and its owners. A seamstress, Cecile Mailly, recalls in the film that it was Boris Katz who put Saint-Léonard d’Aston on the map of the world.

Armand Leblanc was a tailor (cutter) at Nash Shirt for 22 years

Four former employees of Nash Shirt recounted earlier times in the town and at the manufacturing plant. The building which is now named Chez Boris has been purchased by Denis Guevin, who is doing major renovations and turning the facility into a community gathering point for culture, recreation, business and community services. The latest wing was dedicated a few weeks ago and named in honour of the seamstresses who worked there. Memorabilia and clothing produced there decorate the walls. The electrical outlets in the ceiling that powered the sewing machines have been turned into fixtures, each one representing a seamstress who once worked in that exact spot.

1970s brand from Nash Shirt

Oui shirt label. Nash Shirt Ltd. 1970s.

Another brand of jeans and shirts produced in the 70s and 80s at Nash Shirt

 CKBN Radio reported that several former employees of Nash Shirt of Saint-Léonard d’ Aston, various guests and personalities were at the launching of the documentary “My life at Nash”. The short film featured testimonies of three dressmakers and a tailor who worked at the factory and spoke about Boris Katz who championed economic life in Saint-Léonard d’Aston, between 1949 and 1983. The 20 minute film will be presented at various places in and around Saint-Léonard d’Aston. Eventually it will be posted online.

Felix Campeau-Guevin teaches Jorkeyball to Jeremy Nashen in Saint Leonard d’Aston

The building also houses Canada’s first “Jorkyball” courts. The sport is fairly well known in Europe and already 22 teams have been formed here. The Saint-Leonard d’Aston site will host a world championship next July. Guevin and Campeau’s son Felix is the chief organizer of the sport and boasts proudly of the unique facilities that attract young sports enthusiasts from across the region.

The cord and light of each fixture reminds us of the women who once worked at the sewing stations powered by the very same outlets

l était une fois… la Nash Shirt: Le Courier du Sud, Nov. 30, 2017

La Nash Shirt devient Chez Boris, Le Courier du Sud, Nov. 8, 2016

The Nashens at a company Christmas Party in St. Wenceslas, 1973 (L-R: Barry, Stan, George, Glenn, Phyllis, Jeff).

 

Phyllis Nashen with women of St. Leonard d’Aston, July 1975

 

George Nashen speaking to the Priest of St. Leonard d’Aston, July 1975

 

Hockey Legend Jean Beliveau with Phyllis, George and Stanley Nashen (left) and Freda, Boris and Hershey Katz in 1957. Le Gros Jean, originally from Trois-Rivieres, was working in promotions for Molson Brewery and was passing through town when the priest invited him to the opening of the new shirt factory just built at Nash Shirt Ltd.

 

1971 tribute to Boris Katz_Courier du Sud

Ma visite à Saint-Léonard d’Aston | 29 novembre 2017

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Celebrating Chanukah on the Hill

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Judy Hagshi, Anthony Housefather (MP Mount Royal), Jeremy, Glenn, Nicole and Barry Nashen. Chanukah on the Hill. December 2017.

It was a great privilege and unique experience for my family to join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mount-Royal MP Anthony Housefather, Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians, Senators and community leaders from across Canada for Chanukah on the Hill last week for the second night of the eight-day holiday. Our Parliament was brightened by the lighting of the Chanukah Menorah.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lights the Chanukah Menorah in Parliament as MPs Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather look on.

 

“Chanukah is about finding light in darkness and hope in the face of overwhelming adversity. It’s a time to honour the profound strength of the Jewish People”, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, on Twitter.

I thank my good friend Anthony Housefather for this wonderful invitation and for his initiatives in ensuring the centrality of Canadian Jews within the deliberations in the Parliament of Canada.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh lights the Chanukah Menorah in Parliament

 

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May lights the Chanukah Menorah. MPs Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather look on.

 

Members of Parliament Michael Levitt (North York) and Anthony Housefather light the Chanukah Menorah in the historic Railway Committee Room of Parliament

 

Glenn J. Nashen, Arieh Lev Reiktman and MP Anthony Housefather at Chanukah on Parliament Hill, December 2017

 

Jason Glazer, Glenn and Jeremy Nashen in the Railway Committee Room in the Centre Block of
Parliament

 

Glenn, Jeremy, Judy Hagshi, Nicole and Barry Nashen in Parliament for the lighting of the Chanukah candles, December 2017

 

The Nashens on a frigid December 2017 evening for Chanukah on the Hill

 

#CanadaRemembers

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wewillremember

We are so fortunate to still have many veterans with us and honoured to be able to mark Remembrance Day and VE Day commemorations with them. Veterans Park in Cote Saint-Luc has been a gathering spot to remember and to honour those who served and the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in such a wonderful country and in a free and democratic society.

Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

Sergeant George Nashen, Royal Canadian Air Force, 1944

My father, George Nashen, served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and was stationed at RCAF Overseas Headquarters in London, England for nearly three years during WWII. Luckily, he was not called up to the front lines but his buddies were.

My dad lost his best friend in battle. “Jay Singer was like a brother to me,” my father recounts. “Jay and I were inseparable from kindergarten through Baron Byng High School. Jay was an air force pilot from the age of 19. His plane went missing while laying mines in the Baltic Sea on June 15, 1944. Jay was just 22 year’s old when he died in service. I’ll never forget him.”

Jay Singer

Jay Singer

Le parc des Vétérans, une parcelle de terrain située juste derrière l’hôtel de ville et la bibliothèque, se prête particulièrement bien aux activités du jour de la Victoire en Europe et du jour du Souvenir. Nous sommes vraiment chanceux d’avoir encore avec nous autant d’anciens combattants et de pouvoir marquer ces occasions en leur compagnie.

Mon père, George Nashen, a servi dans l’Aviation royale canadienne et a été affecté au Quartier général à Londres, en Angleterre, pendant près de trois ans au cours de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Heureusement, il n’a pas été appelé en première ligne, mais ses copains étaient.

Mon père a perdu son meilleure amie dans la bataille. “Jay Singer était comme un frère pour moi», mon père raconte. “Jay et moi étions inséparables depuis la maternelle jusqu’à Baron Byng High School. Jay était un pilote des forces aérien à partir de l’âge de 19 ans. Son avion a disparu tout en jetant des mines dans la mer Baltique le 15 Juin 1944. Jay était juste 22 de ans lorsqu’il est mort en service. Je ne l’oublierai jamais.”

 

Each year, I ask my father to take out his medals and his beret and to teach my kids about what it meant to serve Canada as a soldier.  They listen in amazement at his stories, at what must sound like a very strange concept, as they reflect on their lives in the best country to live in, Canada.

Remembrance Day ceremony at the Jewish General Hospital (2014)

I salute my dad, today, Remembrance Day, once again.  His bravery and commitment to stand on guard, to liberating those who had their freedom taken from them so many years ago, to keeping Canada glorious and free, shines like a beacon to my kids and our entire family.  We’re proud of his accomplishments and grateful to have him, and my mother, as our bridge between our past and our future.

George Nashen in front of the Cote Saint-Luc cenotaph in Veterans Park on VE Day 2012

More:

A day of remembrance, honour and appreciation in CSL

In tribute to my father, the soldier

Councillor Mike Cohen’s blog

The JGH Remembers

Farewell District 6 Adieu

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It is with a heavy heart and humility that I accept the decision of District 6 voters.

I have called David Tordjman to congratulate him on his victory in this district and to wish him well in working on behalf of the constituency and all Cote Saint-Lucers.

I wish to thank those who continued to place their trust and confidence in me by marking their ballot next to my name. I appreciate your intentions notwithstanding the outcome.

To my campaign volunteers and supporters, I am gratified by your devotion in joining me on this incredible journey. You’ve been by my side in lousy weather, knocking on almost 2000 doors, hanging posters late on rainy nights, distributing flyers and postcards and making hundreds of phone calls and much more. I cannot express enough thanks to you for your efforts, your time and encouragement.

I have my council family to thank for six wonderful terms in office in harmony, fraternity and mutual respect. Mitchell Brownstein and Ruth Kovac have been my pillars of support from the very beginning. I revel in their victories and wish them, and all those elected, and those who were defeated, all the best as they move forward.

Finally, my own family has been rooted in Cote Saint-Luc for a lifetime. My parents instilled in me and my brothers a deep love for community. My wife and children embraced my civic pride and made it their own. The love and support of my wife – an extraordinary campaign manager; and my children – loyal, enthusiastic and adorable campaigners, is beyond description. Having dedicated my entire adult life to community and volunteerism, my kids have only known that their father was away at meetings at City Hall very, very frequently. I’ve missed so much at home and will now be able to be there for my family far more often.

As my wife describes, my heart is in Cote Saint-Luc and Cote Saint-Luc is in my heart. And that will never change.

For proven and trusted leadership re-elect Glenn J. Nashen | Pour un leadership assuré et fiable réélisez Glenn J. Nashen

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LIVE election results – Résultats des élections : Nov. 5, 2017   20:00   8:00PM


 

I’m tired of falling back!

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Worth Repeating:

garfield_i_hate_mornings

It’s about time!

Really, it’s about time that we ended this ridiculous 1970s-oil-crisis-game show of turning the clocks back and forth and pretending that this outdated and disruptive ritual is somehow beneficial to the economy or environment or our circadian rhythm. It’s not. I’m sick and tired of falling back!

Studies have shown that traffic accidents spike because we’re thrown off kilter, that heart attacks rates increase and that unless we’re raising chickens in our backyards that there’s not much of a benefit of having the sun come up well before 99% of us are ready to lift our weary heads off of our pillows. In fact, I don’t know anyone that is all that thrilled of having the sun set over Mount Royal at 3:30PM, a good hour before anyone’s even contemplating leaving their office (two hours for the rest of us).

I hate driving home before dinner in pitch black, yawning my way down Fleet Road, ready for my pajamas and fluffy slippers, only to remember that there are kids’ activities to drive to or volunteer work or meetings to attend.

And, I don’t know about you but why do I need the sun to rise at 6:00AM, especially in the middle of winter when the likelihood of going for an early morning jog in -30C on ice covered sidewalks is kinda low on my list of favourite pastimes.

So, this is a message to my favourite Member of Parliament. I know you’re reading this Anthony. You’re the only person I know that will be getting up super early to swim 100 laps before I hear Snap, Crackle or Pop. Please march right over to Justin’s office and deposit a draft bill to repeal the time change, just like those wise Saskatchewanians who were smart enough to realize that it’s better to stay on Daylight Savings Time, all the time!

If you’re like me, you too are sick and tired of falling back!

N

Here’s my previous rant on this annoying subject.

And this is a clipping from the Suburban Newspaper back in 2012:

Suburban Newspaper, Jan. 4, 2012

Suburban Newspaper, Jan. 4, 2012

 

 

Where & When To Vote | Où et quand voter

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