Aerial view of Montreal's Expo 67 world's fair on islands in the St. Lawrence River: April-October, 1967
And after it's just a memory
By Hugh Doherty
No matter what happens to the Expo facilities after the big show is officially closed tomorrow, memories of the little things that were part of the colossal extravaganza will probably remain sharpest in the minds of we in the Eastern Townships who have lived with Expo almost as closely as Montrealers.
My three small children, my wife and I, like many other families, made numerous pilgrimages to the exhibition site.
OUR FAMILY AT EXPO: Left, son David and daughter Patricia at the children's playground
We took our last fond tour last Saturday. It was rainy and cold, very much like the raw, wet day in May when we made our first visit.
But the atmosphere hadn't changed.
A tipsy Englishman asked me how to get the Bulldog Pub on Ile Ronde. Then he cheerily tipped the rainwater from his hat and said: "Thanks, and Happy Expo."
Above all, it was happy. In the rain; in the chill of spring and fall; in the sun and humidity of mid-August; even in the midst of a bus strike, you could color Expo happy anywhere on the site you went.
And here are some of the little things that helped make it so happy for our family:
The sound of water breaking as on an ocean shore in the cool, dim little pond under the Netherlands pavilion. There was always solitude there, and you could usually sit quite alone by the artificially-produced waves and imagine you heard seagulls crying;
That huge and largely deserted park that started behind the Canadian pavilion and stretched for miles, it seemed, with rose gardens spotted here and there, and Disneyland-like bridges and seals and buffalo and cormorants in the most unlikely places;
The wrinkled Oriental in the Japanese shop at the International Carrefoure who smiled a toothless smile as he unhooked a huge red paper lantern, and sold it to us at a ridiculously low price. It wasn't on sale; it was part of his decor, but he didn't have any others that particular color or shape, and that's the one our hearts had been set on;
The white-haired doorman at the Bavarian beer garden down on the canal in front of the Russian pavilion who sipped countless small goblets of wine as he ushered people in and out. On request, he would, with many winks and grins, pair up single young women and single young men;
The incredibly magnificant old merry-go-round on Ile Ronde, complete with paper-roll calliope music;
The terraces of ponds and fountains behind Habitat where foot-weary fathers and mothers could soak their feet while small charges waded and splashed to their hearts' content;
The wide range of deep emotions pictures in the International Photography Exhibit aroused. Like many other people, I wandered into that pavilion by accident and out of curiosity. I stayed an hour and a half;
The youthful drivers of the La Ballade trains who sang and cracked jokes and flirted with the girls the whole six months long, even as they poured their guided-tour spiels into the microphones;
Those little gems of movies at the revolving theatre at the Canadian pavilion. Who among us who saw them will ever forget "Canada is my piano?"
The sight of oh-so-contented cows placed behind glass in the Man the Provider complex, placidly giving up their milk into yards of clear plastic plumbing;
The quick, deft artist on Ile Ronde who produced cartoon after cartoon of thousands of customers from their silhouettes thrown on a screen, while his partner kept up a running gag show with onlookers;
The way-out children's playground on Ile Ronde with the iron grill in the surrounding wall too low for anyone over about 12 years of age to go under;
The holes thoughtfully placed in the plastic wall around the top of the Kamitavik for shutter bugs to poke their cameras through so they could get clear pictures;
Going on a blue mini-rail under two waterfalls at the Quebec pavilion;
And the canals, and low noise level everywhere, and the pretty girls at the information booths, and ...
Well, one could on and on.
But perhaps the best moment of all came for us when we discovered last Saturday that the reservation system at the posh Castle restaurant in the Czech pavilion actually worked.
We were in and enjoyed a lovely meal, and toasted the end of Expo with a bottle of fruity, happy Czech wine. When the waiter signed the bottle label for us as a souvenir, why even paying the startlingly big bill became, for us, a last happy little thing.
My press pass for the fair
(The Expo 67 pictures on this page did not originally appear with the article in The Record. They are taken from some of the many Expo 67 historical web sites that exist on the web.)
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Page created Spring 1999. Last updated Aug. 31, 2007