Expo 67 in Montreal
A Photo Collection about Canada’s Centennial Celebration!
“Set a good example for the world. If you are excellent, if you are of high quality, the world will imitate you.”
The above is the heading for Canada’s Expo 67. On their website, you can see an overview of that fabulous exposition that cost $1 billion and drew more than 50 million people from around the world. Georgianna, Heather and I spent a week at the Fair. Although not officially a World’s Fair, authorized by the Bureau International des Expositions, Expo 67 was immensely popular and successful, and regarded by most everyone as the greatest “Worlds’ Fair” in many years.
And certainly one area where they were imitated for years to come was in the 3,000 creative films that were shown. Being movie buffs, we were in awe, and 10 to 12 hours a day for seven days couldn’t begin to see them all! Images were above or beneath you, sometimes all around you, caroming off walls, on hexagons and cruciforms, whirring in on blocks and prisms. Sometimes they were shown on a plain old screen – but for sure, everywhere there were films.
One of the most fabulous films was Labyrinth, prepared by the National Film Board of Canada. It told the “Story of Man” in a 45-minute film. Another film that enchanted everyone was “The Creation of the World of Man.” On a screen of 112 cubes, the Earth came awake. In an unbelievable multi-visual technique, flowers bloomed, the first men walked the Earth, tigers suddenly appeared.
Labyrinth Pavilion at Expo ’67.
In the Ontario Pavilion, a 17-minute film was shown that didn’t require special equipment or a special theatre to show it. “A Place to Stand” was about Ontario. It had no narration or even subtitles. It used only sound effects, orchestral music, and a wonderful song (“A place to stand, a place to grow, Ontari-ari-ario.”) As I write this, I am listening to the recording I bought at the pavilion gift shop!
The most popular film was Canada 67, a 22-minute film executed in Circle-Vision 360 degree, a total wrap-around process where 1,500 people stood in a room surrounded by the large movie screens. Nine projectors, concealed in the space between screens, projected a completely circular image while twelve synchronized sound channels developed the audience in sound. The film was made by the Walt Disney Studios.
I spent one day at the New York’s World Fair in 1964, and it, too, had creative films. The only one I remember, and one which I have a recording of, is “The Triumph of Man.” This was presented by the Travelers Insurance Company and was a series of 13 scenes. You may wonder how the story could unfold with only 13 scenes, but it worked beautifully. It was a carefully chosen series of scenes or episodes that illustrate significant achievements and triumphs in man’s struggle to understand himself and the world about him, and to solve the problems that have at times threatened to destroy what he had accomplished.
The most memorable exhibit at the New York Fair for me was Michelangelo’s Pieta. I stood there in awe for some time, studying every inch from every angle, trying to comprehend the genius of this artist. But, of course, no one can. I looked at the faces of viewers around me, and they, too, were looking at something they saw, and yet couldn’t believe it was there.
We flew to Montreal, and our friends, Earl and Sue, with their two children, Tracy Sue, age 9 (named after our daughter Tracy) and Marty, age 11, met us there. It was impossible to get lodging anywhere near the Expo grounds, and Logexpo found us a motel that was on the Expo Express subway line – which was free during the Expo. The seven of us shared one huge room, and we had a wonderful time. Coming home late at night, we rarely had a seat on the subway; we just hung on to the straps. First thing everyone did when we got there was head for the pool to relax for a few minutes. We discussed the events of the day, what we had seen, and everyone had their favorites. There were many interesting places for the kids, including an area of rides, and they loved every minute. Heather had many questions about things and people she saw, and I can’t imagine what a seven-year-old was thinking as she roamed that atmosphere of the future.
At the Fair, we organized our Pavilion visits, as we knew we could never see everything. We stood in long lines much of the time, but we took it in good spirits and knew we were among the 50 million fortunate people who got to share this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Every day the Montreal paper had a huge headline with the number of visitors the day before. It was always in the hundreds of thousands.
There was food of every kind from around the world, and we sampled as much as we could, some we liked and some we couldn’t decide. There were 62 participating countries with Pavilions – each one trying to outdo the other – and their employees represented their countries magnificently. The least little detail in their manner was not overlooked. The most beautiful young lady we met was from Thailand, and we took a photo of her with Heather.
Star attractions at the Fair included Sir Laurence Olivier, Maurice Chevalier, and Marlene Dietrich. We never attended any of the stage performances, as we felt our time was better spent at the Pavilions, “seeing the world.”
I remember on the first day, when it was blazing hot, that Sue and Georgianna removed their girdles and hose! There were many pools with running water throughout the grounds, and we all – as millions did – took advantage of that cooling water to soothe our feet. Whatever we did, it was enjoyable and part of history. There is nothing more gratifying than to spend time with friends. Earl and Sue are gone now, having made their exit shortly after Georgianna said goodbye.
The silver-grey Pavilion of the Soviet Union was enormous, and over the main entrance were the dates 1917-1967 to mark the 50 years of the U.S.S.R. This was one of the most popular Pavilions, and it had a 60-seat theatre for movies, documentaries, fashion shows. There was a fine restaurant, café and snack bars with a variety of foods from many republics of the Soviet Union.
Pavilion of the U.S.S.R. at Expo ’67.
All the Pavilions had fascinating gift shops that were a great temptation. Georgianna had a very unique dollhouse that had a general store on the first floor and a boutique on the second. Wherever we went, she looked for unusual items, dollhouse scale. She bought several items at the Fair.
What we found in the Russian gift shop was the most expensive item we bought at the fair: a fur coat with a matching fur cap for Heather. Inside the cap, printed in gold, was a logo and the word SOUJZPUSHNINA around the top, with MADE IN U.S.S.R. below it. For the time she could still wear it, she was the envy of every little girl in Denver!
The U.S. Pavilion, which we visited several times, trying to take it all in, was a giant dome, roughly three-quarters of a sphere, designed to look like a lacy filigree weightless against the sky. It was 250 feet spherical diameter and 200 feet high. The construction was a space frame of steel pipes enclosing 1,900 molded acrylic panels. By day, the bubble glistened as the sun highlighted the structure, and by night the bubble “glowed” from interior lighting.
The chief architect of the U.S. pavilion was Buckminster Fuller, famous for his “domes,” and this was the most complicated of his creations. The exterior covering was exquisitely tinted, and surprisingly it was lovely to look at.
The United States exhibit was entitled “Creative America.” The interior exhibits reflected different aspects of the United States and included folk art, cinema and the arts displays, as well as a space exhibit, which was reached by a 125-foot escalator and a simulated lunar landscape supporting full-scale lunar vehicles.
I am grateful to the myriad of those who created Expo 67 and made it possible. I don’t think the likes of it will ever be seen again.
Don’t miss the next chapter: Cleveland Art Museum