Come one, come all, to Expo 67 Montreal

It has been 45 years since Expo 67. At its time, the world’s fair of 1967 was the biggest exposition in the history of the world. The trip to Expo was our summer road trip that year, with the added value that my grandparents lived not too far from Montreal so there was built in accommodation. The details are a little hazy but here are some things I remember.

1. There were a lot of people. In fact, Expo set a per capita attendance record (relative to the national population of 20 million) that has never been surpassed by any other world’s fair. This is probably because no country that small is dumb enough to have a world’s fair. Actually, the 1967 fair was originally slated for the Soviet Union (in celebration of 50 years of communist rule) and we were the first runner-up who got to step in. That was a bonus, because anything we could come up with would have to be more exciting that a tourist attraction centred around the joys of communism.

2. The pavilions were pretty boring. I think Walt Disney stole the idea for the Epcot international area from Expo (which, in case you have never been, is also pretty boring). They consisted of a feat of mid-century modern architecture meant to reflect the nation in question, a movie (perhaps ‘in the round’, which required holding your neck at an un-natural angel), and a gift shop where you could buy keepsake trinkets (Russian dolls made in China, anyone?).

3. The movie at the Ontario pavilion (at which you were lucky to get a ‘place to stand’) was the exception to the boring rule because it had a photo of our town beach in one of its many montages. I maintain that my bicycle played a cameo role in the third bike rack from the left (the blue CCM glider).

4. Despite the international theme, Expo was pretty white-bread. I don’t think you could even buy brown bread in 1967 and garlic was still very ethnic. Each pavilion had ‘hostesses’ that were supposed to represent something about the national culture, but my recollection is that the only variation in costuming was the colour of their mini-skirts and pillbox hats. I guess we didn’t make it to the Saudi Arabia pavilion.

5. Why didn’t I keep my Expo swag? I do have a scarf that features pictures of the pavilions, but I got that many years later at Goodwill courtesy of someone who also didn’t want to keep their Expo souvenirs. I had a passport stamped to prove I had visited several pavilions (and in fact you could get a stamp at the door and not have to bother being subjected to another arty movie) and a ring featuring the Expo logo. I’m sure I also had a few buttons and brochure. My bits and pieces of Expo ephemera lasted about as long as the pavilion buildings themselves. Apparently, in the true spirit of the disposable ‘60s, the structures were only constructed to last for the duration of the fair and they pretty much lived up to that objective. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!”