The bridge linking Montreal to the South Shore opened in 1930 and those crossing had to pony up with cash on the barrelhead right into the attendant's palm.
The human collection system endured until 1959 when it was replaced by an electronic system.
The federal authorities in charge of the bridge were in for a complete shock after the first two months after the collection became automatic.
Their revenues had jumped 30 percent.
They concluded that a small group of toll attendants had fleeced them of massive amounts of cash over the decades.
One out of every three dollars, it would seem, the equivalent of $80,000 a month was being grabbed.
The feds were suddenly making $20,000 more per week after the attendants lost their ability to cheat the system, based the numbers of Oct. and Nov. 1959.
On May 27, 1960 cops rounded up 26 men,* who were charged with various degrees of fraud, although some of them were subsequently released.
A bit of math suggests that 26 toll booth attendants might have been engaged in pocketing $960,000 a year in 1959.
That's almost $40,000 a year each guy, back in a time when buying a house cost about $1,000.
Multiply that by 29 years.
In one of the cases, Eugene Benoit was charged with stealing $8,000 over a decade on the job, so perhaps the numbers weren't quite that high.
The toll booth drivers were pocketing the money from trucks whose drivers had to pay $1.60 to $1.75 to cross the bridge.
The truckers would give a $2 and get a $1 back, so they would be paying less than the official rate. A witness who testified to this effect was threatened in the hallways outside the courtroom.
Another witness, a supervisor, said that he didn't see any theft, as attendants had to empty their pockets before a clerk before leaving just to show that they didn't steal anything and the receipts were sealed so as to avoid doctoring.
In the end, to attendants were given $1,000 fines, another got six months in prison, not sure if there were others. (Soon after, the most-discussed accused, Eugene Benoit, was sentenced to six months and fined $2,000 for defrauding an insurance company).
One toll booth attendant wasn't happy with the way things turned out: Andre Lacas,, 21, simply went in to a booth and stole $400 of cash and tokens before getting busted and charged.
The case eventually dissolved into political bickering in Ottawa. The feds issued a report on the scandal in 1960 and one point noted that irregularities had been noted in 1934, 25 full years prior, but it had been buried.
The tolls were removed in 1962, satisfying a constant demand for their removal that Quebec leaders, including Premier Duplessis, had been making at least since 1943.
The feds were surely embarrassed to learn that the tolls they fought hard to maintain were being siphoned off by thieves, something which surely contributed to their removal soon after.
In Nov. 2011 authorities floated the idea of putting a $1 toll back on the Jacques Cartier Bridge. The new Champlain Bridge will have a toll and having a toll only on one span might cause some disruption.
*On May 27, 1960 six men were charged with theft of over $25,000. One was Eugene Benoit 38 of Chambly. He had worked there for 10- years. Others arrested: Wilfred Gagne, 39, Montreal North, Andre Paul Beauchamp, 44, St. Michel, Marcel Duceppe, 37, Montreal South, Andre J. Decary, 37, of Hogan St. Mtl, Joseph Michel Savoir, 47, of Longueuil, G. Roy Repentigny, A. Turcotte Duquest St. Mtl, L. Gagnon 25th Ave.Rosemount, W. Forest Drake St. E. Lanteigne Laval des Rapdies, A. Belisle, Thobodeau St. Edgar Wheeler, Delanadiere St., Peter Dumbrowsky Coroner Ave, R. Bolduc St. Bruno, F. Jalbert, Charleroi St, Roger Rioux, Trois Riviers, H. Adams, Manning St, Verdun, G. Henry, St. Michel, Frank Baker Marquette St, R. Toupin, LaSalle, R. Hachey Ste. Rose, Marcel Ste. Marie Ste. George St., E. Phaneuf, Foucher St. Normand Lanteigne, St. Denis St.and G. Flynn Hamilton St.