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Meloche Family Fonds (P556)

Certificate of vaccination for Philippe Meloche (1905-1991) (detail), 1919. Gift of Mme Monique Meloche, Meloche Family Fonds P556, M2000.89.35.1 © McCord Museum

14 years old: a minor, but vaccinated (and ready to work)

"To Whom It May Concern:
I hereby certify that I have successfully vaccinated Philippe Meloche.
This certificate is issued for all legal intents and purposes.
Ernest Poulin

In 1919, Philippe Meloche was barely 14 years old and about to start a job as a porter for the Canadian Pacific Railway. During a 40-plus year career, he would also work as a brakeman and train driver.

What kind of vaccine did young Meloche receive from physician and surgeon Ernest Poulin -- the same Ernest Poulin, incidentally, who would become a Liberal MLA for the county of Montreal-Laurier? Was it a medical requirement of the young man's future employer, or rather a sign of the times? In the wake of the Great War and the devastating Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which claimed 50,000 lives in Canada and over 3,500 in Montreal alone, public health was more of a priority than ever before. The year 1919 thus marked a turning point in Canada's fight against infectious diseases, notably with the creation of a federal Department of Health. Consequently, the mass immunization of children was increasingly seen as a necessity.

While the Meloche family fonds may not provide an answer to the questions mentioned above, it does, however, offer a rare glimpse into the daily life of a railway worker and a Montreal middle-class family in the first half of the 20th century.

P556 Meloche Family Fonds. - [1867-1966]. - 15 cm of textual records. - 1 photograph.

Biographical Sketch

Joseph Albert Philippe Meloche was born in 1905, in Morin Heights. In 1926, he married Marie Thérèse Gabrielle Flore Bénard (1902-1989), a native of Ottawa. The couple had one daughter: Monique Meloche (b. 1930). The Meloche family lived in various homes in Montreal, primarily in the neighbourhoods of La Petite-Patrie and Villeray.

In about 1920, Philippe Meloche was hired by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (Eastern Region, Quebec District), whose Montreal headquarters were located in Windsor Station. Starting out as a porter, he subsequently worked as a brakeman, and then train driver, until he took early retirement in 1963 following a work accident. During his career at the Canadian Pacific Railway, he sat on the Safety Sub-Committee of the Laurentian Division, in addition to being a member of several Canadian and North American workers' organizations: the Association catholique des employés de chemins de fer du Canada, Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, Canadian Railway Labour Executives' Association, and the United Transportation Union. He also belonged to social clubs and organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the Canadian Railway Club. Philippe Meloche died in Montreal in 1991.

Monique Meloche went to high school at Académie Saint-Urbain, studied at Collège Marguerite-Bourgeoys, and then began a degree in social work at the Université de Montréal in 1950. She worked in hospitals as a social worker and psychoanalyst for over 40 years, from the early 1950s to the mid-1990s. She is also known for her many publications on the practice and history of social work and psychoanalysis.

Scope and Content

The Meloche family fonds focusses on the professional activities of Philippe Meloche, his personal life, and those of his wife, Thérèse Bénard, and daughter, Monique Meloche. It provides a somewhat rare look at the professional and private realities of members of a Montreal middle-class family, from the 1910s to the 1960s.

The fonds is composed primarily of documents chronicling Philippe Meloche's career at the Canadian Pacific Railway, the jobs he held with the company and his involvement in certain union demands and workers' organizations. There are documents related primarily to his job as a train driver, such as a logbook, various forms and information sheets, and a chart of train signals. Correspondence, newsletters and press releases, documentation produced by the Canadian Railway Labour Executives' Association and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, booklets about the Canadian Pacific pension plan and cartoons criticizing company management illustrate some of the issues associated with working conditions and union mobilization. Several copies of Spanner, a magazine published by Canadian Pacific, are also included.

The fonds contains personal documents that belonged to Philippe Meloche, including his membership cards for clubs and associations and a certificate of vaccination. Several records, such as certificates of good conduct, document the education of Thérèse Bénard and her mother Flore Vincent, while autograph books signed by Monique Meloche's friends and family represent her passage from childhood to adolescence. In addition, the fonds includes church bulletins and copies of the literary periodical Nouvelles soirées canadiennes.

This collection of documents is completed by a photograph taken at the retirement of Henry Boivin (a friend of Philippe Meloche).

Variations in title: Formerly known as the J. A. Philippe Meloche Fonds.

Source of title proper: Title based on the creators of the fonds.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds was given to the McCord Museum by Monique Meloche in two donations made in 2000.

Arrangement: The fonds underwent an initial treatment in 2004 and a new classification plan was adopted in 2017.

Language: The documents are in French and English.

Associated material:

LAC: Canadian Pacific Railway fonds (R4186-0-9-E) and Department of Labour fonds (R224-0-4-E).

A Canadian Pacific archival fonds is also preserved at Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum.

Related groups of records: The Omer Lavallée Fonds (P157) contains Canadian Pacific Railway documentation.

The fonds is divided into the following series, subseries and files:

  • P556/A Artistic Production of Members. - 1890-1966. - 44 cm of textual records.
  • Scope and Content: This series chronicles Philippe Meloche's career as an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway and, to a lesser extent, his personal life.

    It is composed primarily of documents that chronicle his duties and instructions related to his job as a train driver. For example, there is a Canadian Pacific Railway Company booklet about the haulage capacity of locomotives in the Eastern Region (which includes Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick) and a logbook for recording the tonnage handled by each train. There is also a pocket size signal chart, miscellaneous forms, handwritten and typewritten notes, and a report describing the transfers between Canadian Pacific trains and ships departing for Europe. A letter jointly addressed to Philippe Meloche and some of his colleagues identifies him as a member of the company's Safety Sub-Committee for the Laurentian Division.

    Correspondence, newsletters, membership cards and various publications chronicle his ties with various Canadian and North American workers' associations, including the United Transportation Union and the Association catholique des employés de chemins de fer du Canada. Many of these documents -- which include a copy of the Collective Agreement Between The Canadian Pacific Railway Company and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen 1962-1963 -- are from the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, which paid monies to Philippe Meloche in 1963 because of a physical disability. Other documents, including a press release from the General Chairmen's Association, a press clipping entitled "Rail Strike Hint Over Pensions," cartoons criticizing management's attitude and correspondence from the railway company and the Association of the International Railway Labour Organizations, illustrate issues associated with the pension plan.

    In addition, the series includes a copy of the Quebec Workmen's Compensation Act (1963), a publication entitled Benefit Plan for Employees of Canadian Railways (1963) and documents produced by Canadian Pacific entitled Your Pension Plan (1951) and Quelques mots au sujet de votre sécurité future et de la caisse de retraite du Canadien Pacifique (1966). There are also four issues of Spanner, a magazine published by Canadian Pacific between 1964 and 1965.

    A certificate of vaccination, identification cards, a list of electors, membership cards for the Knights of Columbus and the Canadian Railway Club, an ad for the Hotel Victoria in Trois-Pistoles and a souvenir booklet about Quebec's Government House complete the series by offering a brief look at Philippe Meloche's interests and various personal activities.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

    Language: The documents are in English and French.

    • P556/A1 Personal life. - [1919-1965]. - 0.5 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents

      Scope and Content:
      This subseries chronicles the health, interests and various personal activities of Philippe Meloche. It contains a certificate of vaccination dated 1919, membership cards for the Knights of Columbus and the Canadian Railway Club, identification cards, a list of electors and a souvenir booklet on Quebec's Government House.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in French and English.

    • P556/A2 Professional life
      • P556/A2,1 Working tools and directives. - [1924-1961]. - 2 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents

        Scope and Content:
        This file documents the jobs held by Philippe Meloche in the Canadian Pacific Railway's Quebec District, directives concerning his work and some of the tasks performed.

        It contains a logbook recording the tonnage transported by each train, information sheets and forms (containing preliminary accident reports and specific train information for the yardmen, for example), a chart of train signals, and various handwritten and typewritten notes. These documents cover a period from the 1920s to the early 1960s.

        Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the file.

        Language: The documents are in French and English.

      • P556/A2,2 Working conditions
      • P556/A2,3 Demands related to the pension plan
      • P556/A2,4 Association catholique des employés de chemins de fer du Canada
      • P556/A2,5 Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen
      • P556/A2,6 Official Canadian Pacific publications

  • P556/B Thérèse Bénard. - [1889-1917]. - 1 cm of textual records.
    Digitized documents
  • Scope and Content: This series focusses on Thérèse Bénard's education, specifically the framework for evaluating her schoolwork and conduct.

    It is composed of thirteen "Honourable mention" cards dated between March 1912 and February 1917, which recognize her manners, comportment and work. Nine of these cards were issued by the Pensionnat Saint-Basile school in Montreal. The others do not indicate the name of an institution. The signatures include Sister Jean l'Évangéliste, Sister M. de Saint-Stanislas and Sister Marie de Saint-Clotilde. A copy of Payson, Dunton & Scribner's National System of Penmanship in Twelve Numbers, number two, published in Montreal, completes the series. Featuring instructions for teachers and exercises for their students, this notebook chronicles how Flore Vincent, Thérèse Bénard's mother, learned to write cursive at the [Rideau] Street Convent in Ottawa. The notebook bears the handwritten date of January 21, 1889.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

    Language: The documents are in French and English.

  • P556/C Monique Meloche. - [1939-1947]. - 3.5 cm of textual records.
    Digitized documents

    Scope and Content:
    This series is made up of three autograph books that belonged to Monique Meloche. They were filled during the period when the young woman grew from childhood into adolescence. Not all of the notes recorded in the books are dated. Based on the inscriptions that are dated, the first volume was filled in 1939, the second, from 1940 to 1944, and the third, from 1946 to 1947.

    These notebooks contain signatures, short notes, good wishes and various reflections. They chronicle Monique Meloche's relationships with those around her, notably members of her family, including her aunts Alma and Gertrude, her uncle Roland, and her cousins from Ottawa, Colette and Yvonne. Her grandfather writes her an affectionate note dated March 20, 1940: "For a man, true happiness is made up of three distinct joys. The first is his wedding day, the second is the day of his first child's birth, and the third is the day when he becomes a grandfather." The notebooks also contain numerous expressions of friendship, many from schoolmates at Académie Saint-Urbain, including Paulette Lalonde, Pierrette Bouchard, Béatrice Lapointe, Jacqueline Lévesque and someone named Francyne, who dates her note the "day of graduation," June 17, 1946 or 1947. Maryse Gatien, who teases that she is a "member of the Gamelord trio," writes, after returning the notebook: "May you always remember the naughty schoolmate who, on June 18, 1946, ruined your autograph book by writing in it upside down."

    Some signers choose to express themselves with maxims, like her Académie Saint-Urbain classmate Andrée Gervais on November 27, 1946, who writes several sentences that she attributes to Lamartine: "Happiness is but a somewhat more fragrant hour... Breathe deeply of it, but speak in hushed tones... It is merely on loan from the heavens, not a gift." Others make drawings, like her cousin Yvonne Ducharme from Ottawa, who made a drawing of a child praying and signed it April 8, 1943, or her friend Lorraine Guérin, whose entry is illustrated with little birds.

    The notebooks also contain some messages from several nuns who were no doubt her teachers. Some note that Monique had a talent or, at the very least, an interest in music. For example, Sister Sainte-Antoinette-de-Notre-Dame wishes her to become a great musician, and Sister Saint-Albert-du-Rosère hopes that a musical future awaits her.

    Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the series.

    Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

  • P556/D Collection of Literary and Church Publications

  • P556/E Photograph


Last update: February 26, 2019