One, little, two, little, three Canadians
WE LOVE THEE
Now we are twenty million!
North, south, east, west,
Church bells will ring, ring!
It's the hundredth anniversary of
EVE-RY-BOD-Y sing TO-GETH-ER!
If you know it, sing along! (Bonus points if you know it in French.)
To my American friends, be glad you DON'T know this little ditty; it is a persistent ear worm at 3 am.
And why do we know this song so well? How is it we remember every word after 50 years? Because it was everywhere that summer of 1967. Every school kid across the nation learned it for Canada's Centennial celebrations. In Winnipeg, we marched in a giant parade; a sea of kids, all singing Bobby Gimby's Canada song, all waving little Maple Leaf flags, all wearing red and white. I was 14. It was a big moment in a kid's life.
Now Canada is celebrating 150 years since confederation. I don't know if there is a Canada 150 song, but I do know that celebrations are planned nationwide for the July 1st, Canada Day holiday, and I understand that Peter Mansbridge is retiring from The National on Saturday. (Say it isn't so!)
Even though we live in the US, we will hoist our Canadian Maple Leaf into the flag holder on our front porch and go out for dinner. We know a place here in Dayton that serves a righteous poutine.
The summer of '67 was a stand-out year for me as a 14 year-old. There was that parade I mentioned above. I have a clear picture of walking along Portage Avenue with my school mates, beaming with pride at the cheering crowds lining the sidewalks and center boulevard.
Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, came in July to open the Pan-American Games. I remember being so impressed that my brother was volunteering as a driver to pick up athletes at the airport in a fancy convertible. He met people from all over the western hemisphere.
Mostly, I remember my trip to EXPO 67 in Montreal.
My Dad arranged the entire trip — and looking back, although he didn't accompany us, he did treat Mum and me to the very best — and I ought to have been a bit more grateful. It was my first flight on an airplane — an experience that cemented my fear of flying for a lifetime. We landed in Montreal during a thunder storm that made my short, pre-teen life flash before my eyes.
He booked us a room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel — one of Canada's premier CPR Chateau hotels — luxury accommodations then, as they are now. (And a couple of weeks later, the scene where French president, Charles DeGaulle's declared, "Vive le Quebec LIBRE!" It was a news event that my 14 year-old self could actually engage with because I had been in that same spot where he threw out this inflammatory remark.)
That week of EXPO 67, I got my period and was miserable the entire time. (Thus setting a precedent for my cycle to arrive in time for every vacation thereafter, until menopause finally kicked in.) Poor Mum had to put up with a sullen, moody girl whom she had to drag away from the hotel room TV, where I was watching kids slow-dance to Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale," to go experience the wonders of the World's Fair.
I do remember some of it: long lines to get into pavilions, many oddly-shaped buildings, multi-screened films, people-moving conveyors, and entire seating banks that saved you the bother of walking from one exhibit zone to the next as they actually took you on the journey. I woke up one night in the QE hotel with motion sickness. (Such a joy of a child.)
Ethnic food of every variety was available in every pavilion, presenting a severe challenge to the mother of a confirmed fussy eater. We wandered for hours, hungry, one afternoon at the Fair, searching for something to feed a kid that had grown up on a decidedly bland, Canadian Prairie diet. How on earth, then, did we end up with Naan bread and Chicken Tikka Masala? Maybe Mum thought it looked like chicken soup. I remember liking the Naan. (Rotten kid.)
I don't recall if I ever gave up my ill-tempered EXPO 67 sulk — I was likely too stubborn to let on that I might be having fun — but I do recall being so proud in the Canadian pavilion, the inverted pyramid by preeminent architect, Arthur Erickson. A lasting impression.
I think I cheered up a little when Mum and I departed on a train bound for Toronto. Dad came through on great accommodations here, too. We stayed in the then-brand-new Inn on the Park, a luxury resort in suburban Don Mills. It had a pool and Canada's first discotheque, although we availed ourselves of neither. Mum in a disco! Ha ha ha! (I find it something of a marvel that my dad would have found out about these places without the benefit of hotels.com or Trip Advisor. How did anyone make reservations in the olden days before the internet?)
We toured the city's highlights, finding our way around on transit. We ate safe, sane Canadian food in the hotel restaurant. My aunt and uncle came to pick us up after a couple of days to take us out to Newmarket to stay with them. Before leaving Toronto, they took us on a drive to show us any city sights we might have missed. One was Yorkville, "to see the hippies." Yes, in 1967, the Summer of Love, Toronto's Yorkville was a hippie hang-out — the Canadian version of Haight-Ashbury. The adults in the car gawked and tsk-tsked about long hair, "I don't mind if it's clean!" and colorful clothing, "How do their parents let them go out looking like that?" But my eyes were as wide as saucers. I was overcome by the sudden need to be a hippie. I was instantly desperate to trade my sensible shift dress with its daisy appliqué for bell-bottoms, a fringed leather vest, and a headband. "You don't want to be like THEM," my uncle said. Oh, yes! Yes, I do! I thought it, but didn't say it out loud.
The summer of '67 — it was my turning point. From impossible pre-teen to impossible teenager. I went into grade 10 that fall. High school. I used my clothing allowance to buy bell-bottom jeans in a neon turquoise and an equally garish orange sweater to go with them. My mother said, "Well, if that's what YOU think looks nice…" her preferred passive-aggressive comment that meant, "How DOES your mother let you go out looking like that?" Thus, my teen years began.
The summer after grade 12, I went to EXPO 70 in Osaka, Japan, where our school choir sang at the Canadian pavilion. Hippie values informed my high school and university years, although I never ran away to join them; to hitchhike to Vancouver as so many kids did.
I grew up to appreciate luxury hotels, great food, and interesting fashion. I worked on design teams for the Canada and Yukon pavilions at EXPO 86 in Vancouver and wrote design proposals for EXPO 92 in Seville. World Expos ended up being components integral to my life; those experiences leveraged later career choices.
And now, it's the summer of '17. Fifty-years since that amazing summer. I hope there is at least one little, two little, three little, Canadian kids of 14 for whom Canada 150 is their amazing, memorable turning-point summer. Happy 150! Happy Canada Day!