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Posts Tagged ‘Expo 67’

There’s a lot of hoopla going on in Canada right now. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy good hoopla especially about this country I know and love. I am a proud Canadian. Born and bred. I have always been grateful that I was fortunate enough to be born in Canada. Everyone loves Canadians. By reputation we are friendly, polite, clean and relatively quiet. The kind of neighbour everybody wants. We do, however, stand on our moral high ground and make judgements about other more despicable countries. Unfortunately, just like every other neighbour we have our share of dirty little secrets behind closed doors.

So back to the hoopla…Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday and I confess that I have mixed feelings about it. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. In 1967 Canada celebrated its Centennial year. It was one of the best years of my life. I have nothing but fond memories of my great nation celebrating being 100. I was a child. My Mother was still alive. In fact, it was the last great year with my Mom. The next couple of years would be filled with hospitals, chemo and radiation, only to lose her in 1969.

Centennial year was filled with celebrations and endless activities across the country and we didn’t miss any of them when they were in our area. My two older sisters were able to actually visit Expo 67 which was Canada’s main celebration during its centennial year and was considered the pinnacle of the celebrations. It was a Category One World’s Fair held in Montreal, Quebec from April 27 to October 29, 1967. According to Wikipedia,

“it is considered to be the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century with the most attendees to that date and 62 nations participating.”

My adventures were closer to home. As a family we saw saw the Canadian Armed Forces Tattoo performed by the members of the Canadian military comprised of 1,700 military personnel from all three branches of the armed forces — the largest peacetime event in Canadian military history at the time.

We went to air shows that featured two Avro 504K planes, Canada’s first military aircraft that had been restored by The royal Canadian Air Force. They were joined by an acrobatic flying team called the Golden Centennaires, the predecessors of the Canadian Snowbirds.

We were lucky enough to see the RCMP Musical Ride and Band which toured the country and actually made its first visit to the Canadian Arctic that year.

Perhaps my favourite thing was The Confederation Train, a diesel locomotive with specially designed coach cars filled with exhibits showcasing Canadian history and culture. Front and centre on the nose of the engine was the Centennial logo. In purple and white along the sides of the car was “CANADA 1867 1967”. The Centennial Train started out on the west coast in Victoria, BC, January 9th 1967 and worked its way out to the east coast, reaching Nova Scotia in October. It made its final stop in Montreal in December.

There were also Centennial Caravans, which were tractor-trailers, travelling throughout smaller areas carrying similar exhibits to the train.

Music also played a big part in the celebrations. On a personal note, I was part of a choir that performed “100 Years in Song”, something, over the years, my family has regretted as I still sing the song, “I Don’t Want To Play In Your Yard” (1894) that was my featured duet with my friend Susie.

My niece recently walked in on me singing it to her young daughter. The little one was sitting there with a horror struck look on her face and her hands over her ears. Her mother immediately said, “Oh, no! Not the song!

I always pictured the reaction to be more like this than one of horror.

Let’s just say that my voice did not improve with age. It was good enough then, though, to be one of the children chosen to sing with Bobby Gimby, The Pied Piper of Canada, when he came to town with his jewel encrusted trumpet to perform his composition, “Canada”. It was considered to be the official theme song of Canada’s centennial celebrations and was performed as a children’s marching song with English and French lyrics.

Bobby Gimby appearing as The Pied Piper during Canada’s Centennial celebrations in 1967. (courtesy Harper Stevens, Wikimedia Commons)

Many years later, when I went back to college as a 30+ year old, I was assigned along with my much younger classmates to do some PR work for a local museum. As we went through the museum there was a display from Centennial Year. My first reaction was one of fond memories. Then I saw the photo of me with the “Pied Piper”. My next reaction was, “Oh, my gosh! I’m so old I’m in a museum!” Then my classmates began asking me what it was all about. They didn’t know anything about Centennial Year. I was stunned that something that had been so important to me had faded in history.

My best friend in college was Gilbert. Even though he now lives in Florida, I still consider him one of my best friends. Gilbert was younger than me but older than the rest of the class. As I lamented to him about this time in my life being forgotten, he pointed out that it wasn’t necessarily a wonderful year for everyone in Canada. Gilbert is one of the First Nation people. His talking to me about it was probably the first time that I, personally, became aware of the difference of opinion. In the years since then, a lot of things that we as Canadians can’t possibly be proud of have become more publicly discussed. Our treatment of the First Nations, probably most horrifically concerning the Indian Residential School Systemis a black mark against this country I love. In 1967 Chief Dan George very eloquently spoke his mind. His “Lament for Confederation” is one of the most heart wrenching, eye opening pieces I have ever listened to (sorry I couldn’t get it to embed but it is worth watching and listening to).

The thing is that at the time, I was a kid caught up in the excitement. I didn’t know about our dirty secrets. Now I do. Now I know how these things have affected friends and family that I care about. Is it any wonder that I am confused about how I should feel about all the celebrating? Many First Nations people have refused to take part in any of the events. Even Canadian actor Adam Beach, who has agreed to act as an ambassador, feels he is “walking a fine line“. The government is spending millions of dollars on this celebration of 150 years. Perhaps, the most embarrassing portion is being spent to bring  a 30,000 pound rubber duck replica to Toronto’s waterfront.  I do know there are a lot of better ways we could be spending that money.

This is not Canadian and in no way represents Canada.

As I said before, I love Canada and will always love Canada. I may not approve of or like the way we behave all the time, but I will always love Canada.

Now this is Canadian!                                                 Photo Credit- bc.rcmp-grc.gc.ca

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