Expo 67

 

Today, July 1st, is Canada Day! This year, Canada turns 150 years old. I’ve been blessed that I was born in the 1950’s and have been able to participate in our country’s two milestone anniversaries: the Centennial (100 years) and now the 150th birthday. I’m not going to write or debate today about the way we, as a nation, arrived here. I simply want to write about my experience during the Centennial year when I attended Expo 67, the highlight of that year.

Expo Postcard WM

My Expo 67 Postcard

 

I remember very well when Canada celebrated it’s centennial in 1967. I want to take you back 50 years ago to share my experience when our family attended the Expo 67 World’s Fair in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in July of 1967 when Canada was 100 years young. “Man and His World” was the theme of Expo.

1967 was a memorable year for me. I was 14 years old and living at home with my parents and two sisters. We planned to go down home to the Gaspé coast to see my relatives that summer. We’d have to drive right through Montreal so my parents decided that we should take in Expo 67 to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday, along with 55 million other people – pretty impressive since our country only had 20 million citizens. We camped near Montreal at Mont Ste. Hilaire, I think, and my Dad drove us into the city bright and early to experience Expo for an entire day! I think my poor Mom stayed at the campsite with our dog that day (she probably preferred it and had a lovely, quiet day).

Expo67logo2

Expo 67 logo

 

Expo was exhilarating, exciting, amazing and SO futuristic! It was built in the St. Lawrence River on several existing islands as well as some reclaimed land. Ninety participating countries built pavilions and I specifically remember the U.S. Pavilion looking like a giant ball of glass – actually a 250 foot diameter (76 meters) geodesic dome 200 feet high (62 meters). Currently, it’s the home of the Montreal Biosphere, which I had the pleasure of re-visiting with my youngest son a few years ago during a class trip.

There was also a Minirail – an elevated, open-air ‘train’ that took people all around the sprawling site. It seemed SO futuristic! But the best of all was La Ronde! This area was like an amusement park full of rides and games – we spent most of our day there.

La Ronde boasted rides like no other amusement park we’d ever seen before. Some of them, like the sensational, pyramid-shaped Gyrotron, were made of shiny metal and were VERY impressive: from the ground level, a rail car transported ‘travellers’ through the pyramid which attempted to reproduce space travel in a rocket. The ride suddenly ‘dropped’ into a hissing, spitting ‘volcano’ to be swallowed by a huge monster living within in it. Futuristic for 1967.

Gyrotron from Minirail WM

Gyrotron from the Minirail

 

Like any other fair, there were games galore. One particular game was a 10 cent coin toss into a plate to win a prize. I can’t figure out, to this day, what the point was of that game! My sister spent about $3.00 in dimes to win a twenty-five cent bowl or something. Hahaha!  La Ronde, still exists today as an amusement park owned and operated by Six Flags.

La Ronde WM

La Ronde

 

Fifty years have clouded my detailed memories of Expo 67 but I still feel an intense fondness for having celebrated Canada’s centennial year at Expo 67.

What do you remember?

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

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The Link

I’ve been blessed with many, many cousins – hundreds probably! The vast majority of them are on my Mother’s side – down home cousins like Maureen and Carolyn; Montreal cousins; second cousins; second cousins twice removed; and even newly found cousins in the USA. But there is one cousin on my Dad’s side that has always been near and dear to my heart – Graham. Until the last few years, Graham had been my only paternal cousin that I ever knew and it’s all because of the special link that our mothers shared.
My father and Graham’s father were brothers. They both served in World War ll. My parents grew up in the same small town on the Gaspe coast and married after the war. It’s my understanding that Graham’s parents met during WWll in London, England and were married. So how did our Mothers ever meet and become friends? After the war, when Graham was a baby, my Aunt and Uncle moved back to his hometown where our Mothers met and became lifelong friends. Then both families moved on separately. My parents and oldest sister Faye, moved to Ontario where they would make a life. Graham’s family moved to Montreal briefly until Graham and his Mother moved back to England. That could have been the end of that. But that true friendship between our Mothers endured.

Our Paternal Grandmother and Aunt

L-R:  Our paternal Grandmother and our Aunt 1945

I remember the packages that arrived for my Mother from Auntie Ivy in England, when I was a child. I recall the smell of the paper that the magazines she sent were rolled in. Our Mothers always wrote to each other sharing who knows what but certainly telling each other news about their offspring. I saw my cousin Graham grow up in only a few photographs his Mother sent us.
After my mother passed away when she was only 45 years old in 1975, I began sending my Auntie Ivy Christmas cards every year to stay in touch. When we went to London, England in 1977, I arranged a visit with my Aunt and Graham, now grown up and married with two children. We met in Hyde Park then took a taxi to a museum, which was closed. The meet-up was short but sweet and I finally got to meet my cousin Graham in person! Auntie Ivy came to Canada for a visit in 1981 just before we moved but she stayed with us for a few days anyway.
Life went on as usual – Christmas cards every years exchanged updates on family life. Then one year, I received my Christmas card back stamped ‘deceased’. I was quite upset with myself for not getting Graham and Valerie’s address – how was I ever going to find them now?
One sunny, summer afternoon a few years ago, I received a phone call from Graham in England – he had found my phone number in his mother’s papers and hoped that I still had the same number. Hurray!! We were back in touch. After a long conversation, we exchanged emails and the promise to visit me in Canada. The next year, Graham and Valerie came to stay with me and travelled down east to our family’s hometown where he briefly lived as a baby. My sister Faye also came to stay for this impromptu family reunion.

Visiting National War Museum

Visiting the National War Museum:  Graham, Me, Valerie, Faye

Graham and Valerie have made a few trips to Canada to visit with me in recent years. We’ve enjoyed each other’s company – day trips to the War Museum or the Rideau Canal locks or just watching TV at night. In 2012, we met up in Florida when we were both there with our families at the same time visiting Disneyworld! We hadn’t actually planned it that way, but it was fortuitous. One of these years, I’m going to visit them again in England.
I am SO grateful to both our Mothers who, despite being separated by an ocean for decades, managed to remain close and keep in touch with each other. Their gift to both Graham and myself, was that lifelong link of family.

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