Auto-Tram, Pic et pic et colégram, Bour et bour et ratatam, Auto-Tram: Do you want to participate with me in the weekly Québec radio game show Auto-Tram?
Hello, my reading friend, you are late. A few more minutes and the door of the Saint-Stanislas parish hall in Montréal, Québec, would have been slammed in our faces.
Yes, yes, the Saint-Stanislas parish hall mentioned in the 1972 song Fu Man Chu, a masterful work performed by the actor / author / composer / musician / performer Robert Charlebois, a giant of Québec song mentioned in March 2021 and November 2022 issues of our staggering blog / bulletin / thingee. (Hello, EP!)
By the way, the Fu Man Chu of the song was Dr. Fu Manchu, the archetype of the evil criminal genius / mad scientist / supervillain and one of the main protagonists of a series of 13 novels published by the English novelist Sax Rohmer, born Arthur Henry “Sarsfield” Ward, between 1913 and 1959. And yes, the bad doctor was also one of the main protagonists of a series of radio and television shows, not to mention many movies and a great many comic strips and comic books. He was one of the many faces of the infamous Yellow Peril.
In a nutshell, as the 19th century drew to a close, promoters of that viciously racist metaphor held that China, if not Asia as a whole, were a threat to Western civilisation, in other words to white Christian men. China, many thought and feared, wanted to take over the world. The ships bringing large numbers of Chinese men to North America in the late 19th century, so they could work on the railroads, were in fact gigantic Trojan horses, it was claimed.
The first Yellow Peril novels came out as early as the 1880s. By the early 20th century, that trickle had become a loathsome literary torrent to which one could later add plays, movies, comic strips, etc. Japan’s spectacular military victories against Russia in 1904-05 only added to the hysteria. What if the Japanese imparted their martial spirit to the Chinese masses? The horror! The horror! But I digress.
As long as we are digressing, allow me to point out that the link between Charlebois and Manchu / Man Chu was the series of 5 motion pictures co-produced by British and West European firms which starred the English actor Christopher Frank Carandini Lee. The young Charlebois presumably saw the dubbed versions of The Face of Fu Manchu (1965) and / or The Brides of Fu Manchu (1966), Le masque de Fu Manchu and / or Les 13 fiancées de Fu Manchu.
All in all, the series had few redeeming values. Indeed, the last movie in said series, The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969), in French Le Château de Fu Manchu, was / is arguably one of the worst motion pictures ever made, but back to our story, after a final, err, more or less final, digression.
You have a comment, my reading friend? My timing is wrong?! Charlebois was 21 when The Face of Fu Manchu came out?! Great Scot, you are right!
What Charlebois saw, in the 1950s, was presumably Docteur Fu Manchu, the dubbed version of Drums of Fu Manchu, the 1943 feature film version of a superb 15-episode American film serial released in 1940 entitled… Drums of Fu Manchu.
Yours truly vaguely remembers going at least once to Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc parish hall, in Sherbrooke, Québec, my native city, to watch one or more episodes of Batman et Robin, the dubbed version of New Adventures of Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder, a 15-episode American film serial released in 1949, and… No, yours truly is not that old. I watched said episode(s) around 1965-67.
Would you believe that the Batmobile was then a brand new Ford Mercury Eight convertible? Indeed, that mastodon proved so unwieldy during the action scenes that up to 6 vehicles got smashed more or less seriously during filming. Would you believe that the convertible top was up when Batman drove the automobile, and down when the wealthy American industrialist Bruce Wayne was at the wheel? I kid you not. End of digressions. For now.
What are we doing in Montréal, in November 1948, in the middle of the post Second World War period of Duplessian darkness, you ask, my reading friend? We have come to watch an episode of the brand new Québec radio game show Auto-Tram, then broadcasted by the Montréal radio station CKAC, of course!
And yes, CKAC was mentioned several times in our wonderful blog / bulletin / thingee, and this since November 2019.
You will remember that, at the time our story took place, that station belonged to the daily La Presse of Montréal.
The first episode of Auto-Tram, a new type of game show, if only for Québec at the time, had actually aired in mid-September 1948.
Would you like to see a photograph of said episode? And, yes, that question was indeed rhetorical. Sorry.
An overall view of the Auto-Tram stage on the evening of the first episode of that radio game, Montréal, Québec, September 1948. From left to right, R.A. Giguère, Tram competitor; Mario Verdon, announcer; Errol J. Malouin, master of ceremonies; and Mrs. Jeanne Hébert, Auto competitor. Anon., “Le programme ‘Auto-Tram’ au poste CKAC.” La Presse, 30 September 1948, 24.
Auto-Tram’s master of ceremonies was Errol J. Malouin, a Franco-Ontarian born in Ottawa, Ontario. His teammate and announcer was the Montrealer Mario Verdon.
To take part in Auto-Tram, radio enthusiasts simply mailed a note containing their name and address, and a box top of XXX chocolate cake mix from a well-known flour mill, Brodie & Harvie Limited of Outremont, Québec, or a proof of purchase from the Pharmacie populaire of Montréal.
Incidentally, what was then W. & R. Brodie & Company began to use the XXX descriptor no later than 1871. And yes, as of late 2023, the American global food corporation Cargill Incorporated was still producing Brodie XXX flour, but back to our game show.
CKAC and the sponsors of Auto-Tram hoped that the exceptionally valuable prizes to be distributed to the winners would not go unnoticed.
The end of season prize was indeed quite impressive. It was actually a magnificent Chrysler Plymouth De Luxe 1949 American automobile supplied by Garage Touchette Limitée of Montréal.
The prize offered each week interested me more, however. This being said (typed?), yours truly is not going to identify it right away, just to encourage you to read this pontification in its entirety. Indeed, it was above all through that mystery prize that I could justify the presence of an article on a game show in our very serious, educational and didactic blog / bulletin / thingee. Let us therefore continue our reading of this pontification without any further twaddle.
All right, all right, take a chill pill, my reading friend. I will give you a hint. The mystery item in question falls within the domestic technology areas of research and collection of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario.
This was not a very useful hint, you say, my slightly aggrieved reading friend? Well, to quote my old pal Felonious Gru, life is full of disappointments. I never got to be a supervillain, for example, but back to our story.
Two participants competed against each other during each round of Auto-Tram. Malouin asked them general interest questions. The first person with an answer activated a sound making device, an automobile horn in one case or a tramway bell in the other case, hence the name of the game show, Auto-Tram.
Would you believe that the very last Montréal tramway was scrapped in August 1959? The very last tramway of Québec, Québec, on the other hand, had suffered the same fate in May 1948. You see, more and more people believed that this type of vehicle impaired traffic in city centres. Automobile traffic of course. No one in a position of authority gave a rodent’s posterior about pedestrians or cyclists.
The bus was also more flexible than the tramway, prisoner as the latter was of its steel tracks. Worse still, many tramways were old, dilapidated or utterly worn out, but back to our story. Again.
Three correct answers were enough to win a round. The winner then pocketed a sum of money corresponding to the number of questions asked during said round, at a rate of $5 per question, an amount which corresponds to a little less than $67 in 2023 currency.
Another person having been chosen at random from among the people attending the recording of the show, the game resumed without further ado.
The person who was awarded the prize offered each week, yes, yes, the prize whose identity your truly wishes to keep secret, was chosen at random at the end of each show from among the letters sent during the previous week. That person also seemed to win a sum of money. That lucky person had to answer a question before taking possession of her or his prize, however. Would you believe that the answer to said question was sent to the Auto-Tram team… by mail? I kid you not.
A particularly gifted participant might return week after week.
Before yours truly forgets to mention it, there appeared to be a pot which grew by $75 per week, I think, or about $1 000 in 2023 currency, but I do not quite understand how that pot fitted into the prize giving.
Auto-Tram was broadcasted on Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. Oh, and each show was about 30 minutes long.
Auto-Tram was produced by Continental Broadcasting Incorporated of Montréal, a seemingly ephemeral radio program production and sales firm founded in July 1948 by an advertising agent named Julien Riopel. Indeed, the latter was the director of that game show.
Would you like to see another photograph of an episode of our game show? And, yes, that was again a rhetorical question. Sorry.
A close-up of the Auto-Tram set, Montréal, Québec, February 1949. From left to right, Mario Verdon, announcer; Errol J. Malouin, master of ceremonies; and Mrs. Yvette Bouchard, competitor. Anon., “Fin de semaine au poste CKAC.” La Presse, 26 February 1949, 32.
The first season of Auto-Tram ended at the end of March 1949. It was a nurse, Joséphate “Josette” Gélinas, who won the magnificent Plymouth De Luxe provided by the aforementioned Garage Touchette. Her letter was the one chosen by chance from all those which had been sent since September 1948.
Would you believe that this person was the daughter of a doctor from Trois-Rivières, Québec, and that she had a sister and two brothers who were doctors? She had two other sisters and two more brothers, by the way. A large family no doubt, but not a huge one in the Québec of the 1950s, a Québec which was still under the yoke of a roman catholic church fiercely opposed to any idea of family planning.
The success achieved by Auto-Tram during its first season justified its return to the airwaves in the fall of 1949. That game was, however, broadcasted on Mondays at 8:30 p.m., once again from the Saint-Stanislas parish hall. It should also be noted that the main (only?) sponsor was now Duchess Potato Chips Limited of Montréal.
To participate in Auto-Tram, radio enthusiasts simply had to mail a note containing their name and address, and a Duchess Potato Chips product label.
Announcement from the confectionery / pastry shop Joseph Vaillancourt Incorporée of Québec, Québec, extolling the merits of the weekly radio game show Auto-Tram broadcasted by the radio station CHRC of Québec. Anon., “Joseph Vaillancourt Incorporée.” Le Soleil, 13 September 1949, 10.
Better yet, a version of Auto-Tram appeared in Québec. Yes, the city. That show was broadcasted on Mondays at 9 p.m., by the radio station CHRC, from the Palais Montcalm, a well-known performance hall. The master of ceremonies and announcer for that second version were Roger LeBel and Gaston Blais.
A well known confectionery / pastry shop was seemingly the main (only?) sponsor. To participate in Auto-Tram, radio enthusiasts simply had to mail a note containing their name and address, and the coupon on the box of the special cake sold each week by Joseph Vaillancourt Incorporée of Québec.
And yes, that pastry shop was still celebrating at this time the 50th anniversary of its founding in… 1898 by Joseph “Jos” Vaillancourt, born Jean Baptiste Vaillancourt.
And yes, again, my reading friend, it was to the confectionery / pastry shop Joseph Vaillancourt that Québec owed the Mae West / May West, a little cake which became over the decades an emblem of Québec popular culture. Created during the 1930s or 1940s, that treat (junk-food?) owed its name to a famous and somewhat naughty and controversial American actress / comedienne / playwright / screenwriter / singer – or to an inflatable life jacket whose plump shape recalled the, err, ample bosom of that lady, Mary Jane “Mae” West.
Personally, I could never quite stomach the Mae West / May West. Too sweet and too greasy.
Before I forget, the first broadcast of the 1949-50 season of Auto-Tram took place a little after mid-September, both in Québec and Montréal.
The prizes to be won each week in Québec were not as exotic as those offered in Montréal in 1948-49, however. Nay. These were in fact vacuum cleaners, floor polishers, etc. This being said (typed?), the Montréal version of the game show no longer appeared to offer the weekly prizes offered during the 1948-49 season. Nay. Again. On at least one occasion, said prizes were a wristwatch and a boys’ bicycle.
A brief digression if I may. A person with good general knowledge and quick reflexes could earn non negligible sums by participating in Auto-Tram. Let us mention, for example, the unidentified gentleman who left the Montréal set of that show with $400 in his pocket, an amount which corresponds to approximately $5 200 in 2023 currency.
The Montréal and Québec seasons of Auto-Tram seemed to end in April 1950. Yours truly cannot say whether or not the end-of-season grand prizes were automobiles. Sorry.
Our game show began a 3rd season in Montréal in September 1950. CKAC broadcasted it again on Mondays at 8:30 p.m., but this time from the Cinéma Le Château. The aforementioned Malouin now seemed to combine the positions of master of ceremonies and director.
And yes, my reading friend, the version of our game show broadcasted in Québec seemingly did not begin a second season.
For some reason or other, however, the team of the Montréal version of Auto-Tram hit the road in January 1951. An episode was in fact broadcasted from Hull, Québec, at the Cinéma de Paris or the Cinéma Capitol, I think. The following week, still in January, the team was in Trois-Rivières, Québec, at the Cinéma L’Impérial. The team then travelled to Sherbrooke. That episode was broadcasted from the Cinéma Granada. At the beginning of February, the team was in Saint-Jérôme, Québec, at the Cinéma Rex.
In each case, the current champion accompanied the production team.
The magnificent 1951 American Kaiser Special automobile offered by Richelieu Automobile Limitée of Montréal. Anon., “–. » La Presse, 3 March 1951, 38.
The 3rd season of the Montréal version of Auto-Tram ended a little before mid-March 1951. It was a lady from Montréal, Mrs. J.B. Soucy, who won the grand prize, a magnificent Kaiser Special 1951 American automobile offered by Richelieu Automobile Limitée of Montréal. Her letter was the one chosen by chance from all those which had been sent since September 1950.
This being said (typed?), special shows seemed to have taken place on 29, 30 and 31 March 1951 on the site of the big sale organised in a Montréal recreation hall by the Centre canadien des Cercles Lacordaire et Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc, an association working against alcoholism and alcohol consumption strongly supported by the roman catholic church of Québec and elsewhere in North America.
Yours truly cannot say whether or not those shows were broadcasted.
The 1951-52 Auto-Tram season differed profoundly from those which had preceded it. It seemed in fact that the game show was presented exclusively from the Cinéma Laurier in Hull. Once again, yours truly cannot say whether those Friday evening shows were broadcasted. I also do not know who the master of ceremonies and announcer were.
The 1951-52 Auto-Tram season might have started in October. That game show seemingly left the stage of the Cinéma Laurier in May 1952.
This being said (typed?), again, a version of said game show graced the final day of a road safety campaign organised in Beauharnois, Québec, in April and May 1953, by the local Chambre de commerce des Jeunes.
Another version of Auto-Tram graced the March 1955 monthly meeting of the Montmagny, Québec, chapter of the Centre canadien des Cercles Lacordaire et Sainte-Jeanne d’Arc. Yours truly cannot say whether or not that was a unique situation.
Before leaving you, I will reveal to you the identity of the prize offered to Auto-Tram winners each week of the 1948-49 season. Said prices were Garberators / Garborators / Garburators supplied by Jarry Manufacturing Company Limited of Montréal, a (short-lived?) subsidiary of Jarry Automobile Limitée of… Montréal. Ta-daa…
Jarry Manufacturing had registered the Garberator wordmark with the Canadian Patent Office in October 1946. That firm had been using the said wordmark since September, however.
It should be noted that the French language term garburateur was sometimes used in Québec, no later than 1952. Indeed, said term might still be used there from time to time in 2023, but I digress.
The English term Garberator / Garborator / Garburator, a subtle combination of the terms garbage and incinerator, was / is in fact a Canadianism which hid / hides an American invention, one of the first disposal units / food waste disposers / garbage disposals / garbage disposal units / garbage disposers / garbage grinders / home garbage grinders / home grinders / household grinders / in-sink macerator / kitchen grinders / pulping units / waste disposals / waste disposal units / waste disposers / waster food grinders to be marketed.
And yes, an in-sink macerator could be mounted on any kitchen sink.
The American architect John W. Hammes began to take an interest in such a device around 1927. He wanted to make life easier for his spouse – and other queens of the castle. It might well have been that Hammes simply did not like to take out the trash, however.
Hammes apparently obtained a patent for his idea in 1933.
This being said (typed?), General Electric Company, an American giant mentioned in several issues of our exceptional blog / bulletin / thingee since April 2018, marketed a garbage disposal unit no later than February 1936, or even as early as October 1935, but back to Hammes.
One of the first production models of what some then sometimes called an “electric pig” was presented in the model house inaugurated in September 1937 in Racine, Wisconsin.
Hammes founded In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing Company in that city in 1938. According to the press of the time, firms in more than 15 American states were selling In-Sink-Erators before the end of the year. They did not sell many of them, however.
And yes, the term In-Sink-Erator was a subtle combination of the terms sink and incinerator.
The slogan of In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing deserves to be mentioned here: “Quick as a wink through any kitchen sink, with the In-Sink-Erator.”
This being said (typed?), most American cities apparently prohibited the installation of In-Sink-Erators on their territory, for fear that food waste thus dumped into municipal sewers could cause problems in pipes and water treatment plants. In addition, many male family heads saw them as an unaffordable luxury in a time of economic crisis.
A typical In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing Company advertisement extolling the virtues of the In-Sink-Erator garbage disposal unit. Anon., “In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing Company.” House & Garden, October 1947, 226.
A staged photo with two young American women fawning over an In-Sink-Erator garbage disposal unit. Anon., “Business Screen Camera – General Mills Premieres Annual Report Film; Lens-Views of the News.” Business Screen Magazine, March 1949, 29.
Things only really started to change in 1948, with the arrival of Robert M. Cox on the scene. The new vice president of sales was ambitious but had his work cut out for him. Indeed, several companies, including General Electric, now produced garbage disposal units.
Cox began to travel across the United States as early as 1948-49. He contacted sewer departments in many cities and argued that mass use of In-Sink-Erators would not damage sewage treatment facilities. Such a use would actually be a good idea. The demonstrations Cox organised during his visits did not go unnoticed. Over the years, most American municipal governments lifted their bans.
Better yet, during the 1960s, several American municipal governments passed ordinances requiring the installation of garbage disposal units. In at least one instance, the mass introduction of such devices reduced the amount of waste in bins to such an extent that it became possible to reduce waste collection from twice a week to once a week.
In parallel, Cox contacted plumbing firms. He also provided meals to the spouses of members of the National Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors. Better yet, Cox sent In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing representatives throughout the United States. To differentiate said representatives, he gave them… pink station wagons as vehicles. I kid you not.
And yes, Cox was very much targeting a potential female clientele, who, he hoped, would apply subtle, or not very subtle, pressure on their spouses.
To that end, would you believe that Cox obtained from the management of the firm that its garbage disposal unit be made available in 5 or 6 colors?
Cox also considerably increased his employer’s advertising budget. In 1956, he placed several advertisements in the very chic women’s magazine Vogue and elsewhere, advertisements whose text was, and I quote: “Darling, you’re much too nice to be a garbage collector.”
In 1970, Cox brought in famous American actress / visual artist / author / stand up comic / musician Phyllis Ada Diller, born Driver, to sell garbage disposal units. A version of the text from the ads read as follows:
Who wants all that garbage for Mother’s Day?
Give the little woman a lot of help. Give her an In-Sink-Erator, the LEFTOVER lover.
A somewhat impertinent question if I may. Might a husband who gave a garbage disposal unit to his better half on Mother’s Day be greeted with brick bats? I, for one, am convinced that my father knew better than pull a stunt like that.
Other celebrities employed over the decades to sell In-Sink-Erators include…
- American television journalist Barbara Jill Walters,
- American actress / singer Doris Day, born Doris Mary Ann von Kappelhoff, and
- American game show announcer Robert William “Bob” Barker.
Let me point out that In-Sink-Erator Manufacturing became the In-Sink-Erator Division of the American firm Emerson Electric Company in 1968.
As of 2023, the renamed Insikerator Division of Emerson Electric, quite possibly the largest manufacturer of garbage disposal units on planet Earth, was the property of the American multinational manufacturer and marketer of home appliances Whirlpool Corporation.
Would you like to hear what may very well be the only episode of Auto-Tram still available today, that of September 25, 1949? […] Wunderbar! Here is the link…
And that is it for today, my reading friend and… Is anything wrong? You are behaving like a hyperactive Tigger waiting for the arrival of Winnie-the-Pooh – or Jedi grand master Yoda. A question you have? Did yours truly modify a French nursery rhyme to come up with the title of this issue of our wonderful blog / bulletin / thingee? Yes, I did. The actual nursery rhyme goes like this:
Am, stram, gram,
Pic et pic et colégram,
Bour et bour et ratatam,
Am, stram, gram.
It has been suggested that said nursery rhyme appeared before the 9th century. If so, it was spoken by the Franks, in other words people who lived in the realm ruled by, for example, Karolus serenissimus Augustus a Deo coronatus magnus pacificus imperator Romanum gubernans imperium, a monarch of the Carolingian dynasty understandably better known as Charlemagne. And yes, that hypertrophied title was used only after December 800, when Charles the Great was crowned emperor.
By the way, Karolus serenissimus Augustus a Deo coronatus magnus pacificus imperator Romanum gubernans imperium is Latin for Charles the Most Serene Augustus, crowned by God, the great pacific emperor ruling the Roman Empire.
Given the great violence shown by that monarch towards the Saxons around that time, the word pacific was a bald-faced lie, a politician’s ploy, but I digress.
Would you believe that, according to some, Am, stram, gram was / is derived from a shamanic incantation, spoken at 8th century funeral wakes, and before, which allowed the officiant / shaman to be possessed by the spirit of the (celestial?) wolf. That incantation went like this:
Bigà bigà ic calle Gram
Bure bure ic raede tan
In other words,
Always strong Gram
Come on, come on, I call Gram
Do come, do come, I summon the strand
Always strong Gram
The strand in question appeared to be some sort of magic wand.
Not quite the answer you were expecting? Well, that is life. Carpe diem.