Montreal Daily Star, 11 November 1919, page 3

Montreal ceased all activity in honor Armistice

King’s Orders to commemorate termination of war carried out in city today – Factories, railways and street traffic stopped.

Everything stopped.  For two minutes this morning there was practically a cessation of all activities in Montreal.  At 11 o’clock it began and at 11:03 Montreal had properly observed the first anniversary of Armistice Day.

At the appointed hour the power was switched off the tram lines of the Montreal Tramways Company. The cars stopped and this was taken as a sort of standard from which all traffic took its cue.

The police department had not issued any order to the traffic policemen to hold up traffic but several of them of their own accord gave the stop signal. At the busy corners many vehicles were moving along, the drivers being unconscious that the house had struck for observance of the signing of the armistice.  The front rank of cars were held up by the traffic policemen on all sides.  Rapidly moving traffic behind piled up until there was a solid mass of wheeled vehicles.  Motor cars, lorries, light wagons, all were jammed up together like the headwaters of a dam.  It was akin to Macauley’s description of the Tuscan army before Rome:

“For those behind cried “Forward!” And those in front cried “Back.”

Slowly those who had failed to remember immediately the cause of the traffic hold-up caught the shriek of factory whistles and then they realised that this was the observance of Armistice Day.  The horns that had been impatiently ‘tooting’ for a movement of traffic began to sound a new note, a note of exultation in victory and joined with the sound that belched from factory whistles all over the city.

Pedestrians on seeing the traffic jam at the corners stopped to enquire the cause. Some who had kept the occasion in mind reminded those who had not, and then there was a general production of time-pieces from vest pockets.

Montreal go a new time today at 11 o’clock.  She has had the Atlantic standard and the daylight-saving time today she got the Armistice time or what might be called Victory time. Nine out of every ten men in the crowd set their watches anew, and many thousands of watches today are set to Armistice time.

Some of the more impatient pedestrians darted across the streets but they became discouraged on seeing the majority of people stop.  One old gentleman was seen to bare his head during the two minute period. The sudden cessation of traffic at a busy corner in a big city is impressive.  It was impressive this morning.


In the industrial establishments the observance was wrought with a little more display. The clanging hammers ceased, the whirr of the belts droned off into the silence. Pulsating machinery came to a sudden stop as the power was shut off and the majority of the employees in various establishments rushed to the windows to see how their fellow citizens in street dress were observing the occasion.

Office building windows were crammed with heads as when a unit with fresh scars of war is passing –this time they saw the passing of the first anniversary of Armistice Day.

Every railway in Canada, big and small observed the occasion.  In the railway yards there was a pause of silence at 11 o’clock.  The locomotives seemed to be taking a long breath preparatory to a great shriek.  Then they were let loose and thousands of pounds of pressure of steam upon whistle valves went mad.


No general order had been issued by the Bell Telephone Company to cease activities at 11 o’clock.  The manager stated that they had left this largely to the telephone users, fearing to cut off the service for the two minute period because of emergency calls that come in. Chief operators report, however, that the peak load service, which is carried at this time of the day suddenly slumped and there was little or no activities on the various switch boards during the period observances.


The employees of the Star in common with those in the majority of big office buildings in the city ceased work at 11 o’clock.  Every typesetting machine in the building stopped as did every other mechanical department.  When the silence had settled upon the building the employees of the mechanical department  sang the National Anthem. It was quite impromptu and soon other employees had taken it up until the building rang with it.  This was followed by “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.”


The Board of Trade secretary issued the following order this morning:

In order that members may be enabled to fulfil the desire of His Majesty the King, that at the hour when Armistice came into force, the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, there may be for the brief space of two minutes a complete suspension of all our normal activities, so that in perfect stillness the thought of every one may be concentrated in reverent remembrance of the glorious dead, they are asked to assemble in this hall shortly before 11 o’clock am and to remain here until two minutes after that hour.

The secretary’s office and the telegraph office will be closed for the same period and no telephone calls at that time will be answered by the office staff or the door keeper.


At five minutes to eleven the president, John Baillie, accompanied by the other members of the executive and the secretary, occupied the platform, behind which hung the Union Jack draped in black. The president then read His Majesty’s message to His people regarding the observance of the day and at eleven o’clock the Exchange Hall doors were closed, and the gathering on change stood in solemn silence for two minutes, the proceeding closing with the National Anthem, led by Mr Coates. During these two minutes, the telegraph offices on ‘change stopped their business and the elevators ceased running.


At the Red Triangle Hut a service was held on the balcony, in which the ladies’ workers in the canteen and the soldiers took part.  Prof McCreary was at the piano and the group sang “Oh God our Help in Ages Past” followed by the National Anthem.

Passerby on Dominion Square heard the voices in the morning air and stopped dumbfounded for a moment and then remembered. Hundreds stood still on the sidewalks while others stood with bared heads.

At the city hall all the employees ceased work, and the same observance was made wherever civic employee were working.

All over the city a fine spirit was evident.  Two minutes observance in a year of feverish work along reconstruction lines.  The observance found Montreal and all Canada making a final clean up in her war efforts in her last Victory Loan Campaign.

For two minutes Canadians went back in their minds to the old days of the war. To the day of strain and stress.  Mothers, wives, sisters and others emerging from the sombre colour of mourning felt again the tug at the heart strings and old wounds hurt. Two minutes later Canada had tossed off her coat and was at work again.