The BBC reports: Researchers say that social activities, such as evening classes, chess and even going to the pub can help maintain mental agility. …Taking part in activities which needed a high level of concentration or social interaction were associated with better cognitive ability than individual activities which needed little effort.
We would therefore humbly submit that Wednesday Night serves a useful and healthful purpose.
The Wednesday Night Salon began in 1982.
Who would have thought that slipping off to the coffee machine in the Bronfman Building would presage the beginning of a tradition that has passed its Silver Anniversary milestone?
However, on that late January evening, Diana did go to get a coffee at the break and when she did, she spied the imposing figure of Carl Beigie hunched over one of the dispensing machines. Carl, a well-known economist and authority on U.S.-Canada trade relations was a dear and old friend of David’s. At that time he was Executive Director of the C.D. Howe Institute, which had recently pulled up stakes and moved to Toronto.
We had not seen Carl for some time and had not known that he was commuting to Montreal to continue to teach his Wednesday classes on International Trade at the McGill Management Faculty, so as both Diana and Carl finished class at 9, we arranged to have dinner across the street at the Ritz, in the late and much-lamented clubby Maritime Bar, a Montreal institution. The annual Pulp & Paper industry convention was on and the crowd was boisterous, but we still managed to have a wonderful conversation above the din. We invited Carl to stay with us on Wednesday nights when he came in to teach and within a couple of weeks, he decided to try out the arrangement. He was a wonderful guest and became a beloved member of our extended family.
Soon after, David suggested over late supper that there must be friends in the financial community with whom Carl would like to stay in touch and why didn’t we invite some of them to join us the following Wednesday for a late bite after class.
Thus the first Wednesday Nights consisted in a very late informal meal around the dining room table for a group of three or four friends, usually economists or stock brokers, with talk of the financial markets and Carl’s reading of current federal initiatives in that area (he frequently advised Ministers of Finance and in the early days of the first Mulroney government was touted as the next Deputy Minister Finance).
However, early on, Diana balked at spending valuable pre-class study time preparing dinner for up-to-eight people, so a compromise was struck and the guests were invited to bring a bottle of wine and sit around the table while we dined (David’s idea!). While David was oblivious, this solution proved to be totally uncomfortable for Carl and Diana who hated being watched while they ate and eventually took refuge in the kitchen to gobble down their meal, leaving David to entertain the guests before we moved to the more congenial atmosphere of the living room.
When the semester ended, so did the Wednesday Night suppers. Diana arranged her class schedule for other nights and was able to better prepare for the increasingly more numerous guests who arrived bearing bottles of wine and settled in for conversation around the candle-lit dining room table.
Wednesday Night grew from a handful of practitioners to other professionals with an interest in the stock market and the economy, and then, under prodding from some of the less market-focused participants (including Carl and Diana), we sought out individuals who could speak with authority on science, new developments in technology, demographics, political trends and other underlying influences on the world economy.As Carl once said in an interview after Margaret Somerville (Founding Director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law) had joined the group, “This is where I first learned that sperm have rights”.
Unfortunately, not knowing that we were embarking on an institution, in the early years, there was no record kept of the guests, topics or discussions, other than an occasional reference in Diana’s diary. Regrettably, only in the late 90s with the advent of the Internet as a common communications tool were these events documented in both words and pictures.
What Good Listeners Actually Do (HRB July 2016)
Montreal couple’s weekly discussion nights are legend (July 2015)
Wednesday Night #1700 (October 2014)
Wednesday Night #1305, 25th anniversary – Examiner Story (March 2007)
About the Salon
Guidelines for guests
John Pratt: You’ll get used to it