Globe and Mail, 25 October 1958, page 12


Nearly 100 debuntantes for Montreal Season


By Joan Capreol

Although Queen Elizabeth has discontinued the historic presentation parties for Commonwealth debutantes at Buckingham Palace, Montreal society clings tenaciously to formal coming out ceremonies.  More debutantes than ever – almost 100, both English and French – are expected to make their formal bow this fall.

A Montreal debut follows a pattern dictated by the debutante’s religious faith. The daughters of English-speaking Protestants have been presented to society at the St Andrew’s Ball, perhaps the most exclusive social event since the year 1873.  The ball is sponsored by the St Andrew’s Society, and the proceeds (about $5000) to go needy Scots, deserving students, the Boy’s Pipe and Drums of the Black Watch, old age pensioners and welfare organisations.

For almost a quarter of a century the English speaking Catholics have come out at St Mary’s Ball, another charity affair, proceeds of which average between $4000 and $6000 and go to St Mary’s Hospital.

The French-speaking debutantes make their debut at Le Bal des petits souliers founded about 25 years ago by La ligue de la Jeunesse Feminine, the French counterpart of the Junior League.

Kicking off the social swirl, La Ligue’s ball takes place in the Sheraton Mount Royal Hotel this year on Nov6.  Eighteen debutantes (11 more than last year) have registered so far and 500 guests are expected.

Following the US trend of inviting stage and screen celebrities as additional attractions, La Ligue has extracted promise from Parisian artists that they will be in attendance to coincide with the celebration of French Cinema Festival Week in Montreal. Among them are producers Rene Clair and Jacques Tati and starlet Mijanou Bardot, Brigitte’s sister. It is hoped that Charles Boyer will be present.

The debs will be presented to Lieutenant-governor Onesime Gagnon by Major Pierre Charbonneau of the Regiment de Maisonneuve.  Among the debutantes are Francine Gregoire and Marie Desy, both daughters of Queen’s Counsel here, the latter a niece of the former Canadian Ambassador to France.  Tickets to outsiders are $30 a couple, $25 to members.

St Mary’s Ball follows next on Nov 14 in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  Twenty five fathers and their daughters will dance a traditional three-minute waltz after the youn girls, mostly graduates of Sacred Heart Convent, curtsy before the guest of honor, Justice Minister E Davie Fulton.  In former years St Mary’s Debs genuflected before Earl Alexander of Tunis, Senator John Kennedy of Massachusetts and Chief Justice Patrick Kerwin.

“St Mary’s Auxiliary sends out invitations to fathers who have daughters to debutante age.” Said Mrs John Corbett, auxiliary president.  The fathers seem to love the idea and it may be a winner to introduce a mother-and-son waltz sometime.”

Tickets to St Mary’s are $30 a couple but student tickets are half price.  McGill University and the leading Catholic colleges are approached to purchase tickets. “There are no stag lines and we know who the boys are,” said one convener. “We expect 800 people this year.”

Upwards of 50 debutantes are expected to wear the tartan sash and dance the Scottish reels at St Andrew’s Ball at the Windsor Hotel on Nov 28.  They will be presented to a Scottish nobleman head of a clan whose name is on the secret list.

“We try to have an outstanding Scot as guest of honor,” said ball convener Mrs Keith Hutchison.  “We have had Sir Fitzroy Maclean, Lord Lovat, head of clan Fraser, and the Countess of Erroll, Lord High Constable of Scotland.  One year Lord Wavell and Lord Alexander attended together.  That year the artist Robert Pilot fixed up the head table like a battlefield in Africa with their battle honours strung form one end to the other.”

Tickets to St Andrew’s are $30 a couple.  Each girl brings her own escort.  Two debs are arriving from New York and two from Quebec City.

Monique Drouin, daughter of Mr and Mrs Ross Drouin of Quebec City, is to be presented at three balls – those held by La Ligue in Quebec and Montreal, and St Andrew’s.

High point of the season is the great Charity Ball sponsored by Montreal’s oldest hospital, the Royal Victoria, where all the debutantes will be presented this year to Governor-General Vincent Massey.  This ball will be held in the Sheraton Mount Royal Hotel on Jan 23.  “We netted $12600 last year and this should be even more successful because we have Denny Vaughan’s orchestra from Toronto as an added attraction.’ Said one organizer.