Monday, 12 March 2012

A little bit of Mad Men north of Lake Ontario…

This partly comes out of nowhere, but an email from a colleague asking me about which political figures in the 1950s were known to have mistresses reminded me of the Sordsman's Club. [yes, the spelling is right - not sportsmen's and no 'w' for swordsmen's either.]

I read about it in A B McKillop's great book, Pierre Berton: a Biography. Part of the book is on Google books, but do buy it here as it's well worth the money.

What was the Sordsman's Club?

It seems to have been a gentleman's club whose main organizers were the journalist Pierre Berton and the publisher Jack McClelland. According to McKillop (whose research seems pretty thorough here) the Club would meet regularly at hotel restaurants on a Friday afternoon in Toronto (a favourite haunt was the Franz Josef Room in the Walker House Hotel on
Front Street
). There were regular male members of the club but a variety of women would be invited, never the men's spouses. Much of the afternoon would be spent eating and drinking, toasting and roasting each other. Some of the guests would leave but for others, the meeting would be just the beginning of the fun.

At a certain point in the meeting, the men would go and stand behind a woman of their choosing and what happened next isn't hard to imagine. Some would head off upstairs.Sometimes it was even crazier, ranging far beyond the hotel.  Berton tells of one Friday afternoon trip off in a friend's fixed up B-52 bomber down to New York for the weekend.

At any rate, it is a fascinating 'entrée into life of the cultural and business elite in the early 1960s. No word on whether the women ever got to choose themselves, aside from saying 'no'. One assumes not, alas.

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