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Laurier Palace Theatre fire...

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January 10, 1927

THE DETROIT FREE PRESS, Michigan, January 10, 1927

* Laurier Palace Theatre fire
* Montreal Canada
* Children disaster

This 22 page newspaper has a nice banner headline on the front page: "75 CHILDREN DIE IN MONTREAL MOVIE PANIC" with many subheads. Much text on this.

Other news of the day throughout. Usual browning with margin wear but no text loss. Must be handled with care.

wikipedia notes: The Laurier Palace Theatre fire sometimes known as the Saddest fire or the Laurier Palace Theatre crush was a small fire that occurred in the theatre on January 9,1927 in Montreal, Canada. The fire--reportedly caused by a discarded cigarette smouldering beneath wooden floorboards--started in early afternoon during a comedy called Get 'Em Young. 800 children came to watch, and panic erupted when smoke began to billow into the theater. 78 persons died in the ensuing mayhem.

The children — who were seated in the balcony — had trouble exiting the building, as one of two stairways that led to safety was locked. Furthermore, the doors opened toward the inside, not outside. Smoke filled the air, choking and blinding the children within two minutes. Firefighters arrived rapidly from fire station number 13 just across the street, but not fast enough to prevent the deaths of 78 children. Of the dead 12 were crushed, 64 asphixiated only 2 children actually died to the fire itself.

The first to enter the building, Alphéa Arpin, discovered his own son, Gaston, aged 6, in the pile of cadavers. Another man, Adélard Boisseau, discovered one of his 3 children. He would identify the bodies of his two other children later that evening at the morgue.

On January 11, funeral services were held in l'Église de la Nativité, near the theatre, for 39 of the victims. More than 50,000 watched the funeral procession. During the homily, Father Georges Gauthier, co-archbishop of Montréal, asked why, on the Lord's day, such places of pleasure are allowed to remain open ("pourquoi on laisse ouverts en ce jour (celui du Seigneur) des lieux de plaisir comme celui-ci qui vient d'être incendié?"). He stated concern about the moral safety ("sécurité morale") of children. He asked whether it was too rash to ask if, in this province, one could find could souls large enough and impartial enough to write laws barring children from the cinema.

The Catholic Church seized upon the the tragedy of the Laurier Palace Theatre as an opportunity to block children's access to the cinema in general, claiming that the cinema ruined the health of children, weakened their lungs, troubled their imagination, excited their nervous system, hindered their studies, overexcited their sinful ideas and led to immorality ("ruine la santé des enfants, affaiblit leurs poumons, affole leur imagination, excite leur système nerveux, nuit à leurs études, surexcite les désirs mauvais et conduit à l'immoralité").

A few months later Judge Louis Boyer recommended that everyone under 16 be forbidden access to cinema screenings. The following year such a law was passed, to appease extremists who wanted the cinema closed to all,[citation needed] and remained in effect for 33 years, until 1961. Building codes were also modified so that the doors of public buildings were to open outwards.

In 1967 the cinema law was further modified, installing the Visa system, dividing movie-going populations into age groups of 18+, 14+ and general (for all). This change of law coincided with Expo 67 in Montreal, a time of rapid evolution of attitudes as the city began to open itself to the world.

Category: The 20th Century