The Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ) is detonating bombs and committing political kidnappings. On October 5, Montreal’s British trade commissioner James Richard Cross is kidnapped. On October 10, another FLQ cell kidnaps Pierre Laporte, Quebec’s Minister of Labor and Manpower. The War Measures Act is invoked. It’s the October Crisis.
The army is deployed on the streets. Innocent people are arrested and imprisoned. Everyone is under pressure. On October 18, Long- shoreman Larochelle arrives at Hangar 16 to unload a cargo of alarm clocks from a Japanese ship. The youth is also there to pick up whatever he can for himself.
So he starts stealing clocks in full view of Stevie and Mayday. They decide to trick the petty thief. They take out the stolen alarm clocks from his vest in order to crank them up and make their alarms ring a little after 5 PM, when they’ll leave the port.
At the appointed time, the alarms begin to sound, like time bombs. Everyone jumps up in surprise. Soldiers guarding the entrance to the harbor quickly surround a panicked Larochelle, who is frantically trying to stop and get rid of the ringing alarms. The longshoremen have taught him a good lesson. They pick up the fallen ‘alarm clock time bombs’. They have become treasures of the longshoremen.
THE COMPLETE STORY OF THE ALARM CLOCK
Quebec’s October Crisis begins on October 5. A cell of the FLQ (Quebec Liberation Front) kidnaps James Richard Cross, British trade commissioner in Montreal. On October 10, another FLQ cell kidnaps Pierre Laporte, Quebec’s Minister of Labor and Manpower.
Is this the beginning of an insurrection? On October 16, the federal government invokes the War Measures Act. Civil liberties are suspended; about 500 people are arrested and detained without a warrant1. The army is deployed everywhere in Montreal, right down to the port. On October 17, Pierre Laporte is found dead in the trunk of a car. Everyone is under terrific pressure.
On October 18, young docker Larochelle awaits his turn at the longshoremen hiring hall at Place Jacques Cartier. The Empire Stevedores company, responsible for unloading Japanese ships, hires him. He is sent to Hangar 16 to join the crew unloading a cargo of Westclox alarm clocks. Larochelle, a habitual petty thief, quickly fills his jacket with clocks. Watching him do his stuff, Stevie and Mayday decide to teach him a lesson. Unloading the stolen goods from the thief’s jacket, they crank up the clocks and program their alarms to ring a little past 5pm. They then place the clocks back in the vest, with Larochelle none the wiser2.
At 5 pm, the longshoremen leave work. Larochelle heads for a friend who will fence the clocks for him2. But as the longshoremen cross the soldiers guarding the entrance to the harbor, the alarms begin to ring one after the other. Mistaking the rings for time bombs, everyone jumps in surprise. Larochelle quickly finds himself isolated. In a panic, he frantically searches for the alarm clocks in his vest to stop their ringing, but as soon as he stops one, another one starts up2. The soldiers surround the alleged terrorist, himself terrorized. Stevie and Mayday burst out laughing. Finally rid of his alarms, Larochelle is allowed to move along. Our dockworkers pick up the ‘alarm clock time bombs’. They are now treasures of the longshoremen.
2- Thomin Jean-Paul, J.L.B. débardeur, LES RÉVEILLE-MATINS, C’est arrivé au bord de l’eau, Atelier d’histoire des débardeurs du port de Montréal, 2018, p. 98