Text: Raymonde Paradis | Copyediting: Marie Léger-St-Jean
Photo: Carlos Guzman
I recently bought a T-shirt featuring the Farine Five Roses logo reinterpreted by Pierre-Luc Bouthillier, creator of PLB Design. Curious to learn more about how he approaches his designs, I asked him a few questions.
What themes do you favour for the logos you draw on your T-shirts?
I’m really into Montreal landmarks and the environment.
And why did you choose to design a logo to celebrate the Farine Five Roses sign more specifically?
First, it’s an important part of the Montreal landscape. However, the FARINE FIVE ROSES sign is even more meaningful to me because of my personal family history. I grew up on the South Shore of Montreal in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. My grandfather was a wholesaler and would come to Montreal to pick up flour and deliver it to general stores back home.
One day, my grandfather had a heart attack in front of the Ogilvie mill, on top of which stood the sign. He died suddenly at age 69. So each time I came to Montreal with my parents, they would remind us of the story the moment we spotted the sign.
As Pierre-Luc explains, the Farine Five Roses neon lights are one of the first things you see when you drive into Montreal from the South Shore on the Bonaventure Highway. Out of curiosity, I dug a bit deeper into its history. Here’s what I found.
In 1946, Ogilvie Flour Mills opened a mill in an industrial area of the Montreal harbour. The first neon sign was installed on the roof of the elevator two years later. It read OGILVIE FLOUR MILL.
In 1954, Ogilvie Flour Mills bought the flour brand Five Roses and changed the name on the sign to FARINE FIVE ROSES FLOUR. In 1977, following the adoption of the Charter of the French language, which required the use of French in all forms of public communication, the word “flour” was removed from the sign.
Incidentally, people in Quebec in the past would call flour “fleur” (flower) instead of the proper “farine”, probably under the influence of, at the time, the economically dominant English language.
In the early 1990s, Ogilvie Flour Mills was sold to Archer Daniels Midland (ADM). In 2006, there were fears that the sign would disappear because ADM sold the Five Roses flour brand to Smucker. The sign survived thanks to the watchfulness of Montreal organizations anxious to preserve it as part of Montreal’s industrial heritage. In the end, the new company even invested nearly $1 million in 2013 to restore the sign.
Let’s hope that it keep on welcoming people for a long time still, like a lighthouse, as they enter the island of Montreal.
Photo : Patrick Cardinal