Throughout the entire year, in 1967, there were special events planned all across Lanark County, to help get everyone into the spirit of the 100th anniversary. There was even a special flag created that year.
It was a stylized maple leaf made up of 11 triangles, representing the provinces and territories. I remember that the Lions Club was selling these flags in Perth, and one of the first places to hang one was at ‘The Perth Courier’ offices. The grade eight students at Queen Elizabeth School went one step further, and constructed a three dimensional version of the flag. They had a special ceremony at their school, with some local dignitaries – Rev. J. Gillanders did a devotional service. The Principal Miss Jean Blair was there, John Scott, Mayor Burchell, and Jack Wilson.
The Royal Canadian Mint issued new coins for the centennial year. Each coin depicted a different Canadian animal – the back of the dollar coin had a Canada goose, the fifty cent piece was a wolf, and the back of the quarter was a lynx. The Bluenose schooner on the back of the dime was replaced with a mackerel, the nickel featured a rabbit, and the one cent coin had a dove. It was also the last year that pure silver was used in our coins.
Mother and Dad decided that they would like to go to Montreal that year for the centennial celebration called ‘Expo ‘67’. This was a kind of ‘world’s fair’, and was to be held in Montreal, Quebec, from April to October that year. There were 62 nations in total that participated, and they each had displays and ‘pavilions’ set up to showcase their countries. It was held on Ile Sainte-Helene, and Ile Notre-Dame, on an already existing island, and some ‘created’ islands as well. There were likely many discussions back and forth between Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and the mayor of Montreal Jean Drapeau, to get everything just right. Canada would be hosting many nations of the world, as well as its own citizens celebrating their centennial.
Dad was delivering milk, door to door in Perth, working for Chaplin’s Dairy in Glen Tay at that time, and he would have his usual two weeks of vacation in July.
It was decided that one of Dad’s vacation weeks would be spent at ‘Expo ‘67’, and Mother, who was the usual arranger-of-travels, began to look for accommodations. Mother read in the newspaper that there were families that lived close to the exhibition grounds in Montreal, who were renting rooms in their homes, and so she began making some phone calls, and writing some letters. She found an English-speaking family who lived within walking distance to the Expo; they even had a little girl that was a couple of years younger than me, so that I would have someone to play with. This seemed like an ideal choice.
Now came the tricky part…….. Dad did not like driving in heavy traffic. He did not like driving in Quebec. He did not like driving on freeways. Hmmm……Mother was going to be asking him to drive on busy highways, in Montreal, to probably what would be the most congested area for traffic in the entire country that summer. This was going to be ‘interesting’.
The months passed by quickly, like they always do. There were lots of celebrations going on all over Lanark County, and so, because it was such a busy year, I think that the time passed even faster than usual. The big week finally came. It was time for Dad’s vacation. The weather was hot and sunny, and we packed up the old Buick with our well-worn suitcases, and we drove down the lane, turned left onto the Third Line, and headed for Montreal.
We crossed over at Glen Tay, and turned right onto Hwy 7, and headed east. It wasn’t long before we saw the signs telling us how many miles it was to get to Ottawa. Mother said we’d be passing by Ottawa on the Trans Canada Highway, and then continuing on to Montreal.
Dad didn’t like driving on the Queensway; not at all. By the time we passed Bayshore I could see that he was getting a little ‘hot under the collar’. By the time we got into Quebec, and were getting close to Montreal, I discovered for the first time in my life, that my father was bilingual. No, he couldn’t speak French. He had grown up on the 11th Concession of Drummond Township after all, on a farm, in the 1920’s and 30’s. No, there wasn’t really any French being spoken up there. No, the language that he started speaking, just outside of Montreal that day so long ago, was a completely new one – one that he likely wouldn’t want to be speaking when he dropped Mother off at Calvin Church on Sunday mornings.
Mother was giving him ‘the look’, and for once, it didn’t seem to be having any effect. Apparently, from what I could gather, Dad was not too impressed by the skill level of the drivers in our neighbouring province of Quebec.
Once we got into the downtown core of Montreal, we were trying to find the house where we’d be staying. Dad got lost a couple of times before we finally arrived, and once again he demonstrated his fluency in a second language. He would not, under any circumstances, stop and ask for directions, and Mother was frantically unfolding and re-folding the city map of Montreal. I sat quietly in the back seat, and hoped that we’d be there soon.
We finally found the house, and pulled into their driveway. They were very friendly people, and came right out to our car to greet us. Their names were Jimmy and Vicki Irvine, and their little daughter Sharon was there beside them. Jimmy helped Dad carry the luggage inside, and they showed us the room where we’d be staying, and I had a nice little cot on the floor, on one side of their room.
Mrs. Irvine was very kind, and she already had our supper on the stove. She and Mother chatted in the kitchen, and Dad and Jimmy went back outside so Dad could have a smoke. Sharon took me downstairs to their basement, and wow, their basement was really something! She had more toys than I’d ever seen in my life, and right smack in the center of all of the toys was a spring horse!! It was a plastic horse, set on a metal frame, and suspended by big heavy springs, and you could climb on its back, and either go up and down, or backwards and forward. I loved it! I was going to ask if I could have one of these for Christmas. I thought to myself that there really wasn’t much chance of that happening, so I’d better enjoy riding it while we were staying here.
We stayed with the Irvine family for the entire week. We’d take the short drive to Expo ’67 each morning after breakfast, walk around, and see all of the different pavilions that were set up to showcase each country. We even got a little paper ‘passport’ booklet, and a new stamp was added each time we visited another country’s pavilion. That was a pretty cool souvenir!
Another souvenir from that trip was a little notepad with a red plastic cover, with the centennial maple leaf design on the front, and even better still, I was given three four-leaf clovers. Mr. Irvine had a patch on his lawn where there were four-leaf clovers growing, and he picked three of them for me to press in my little notepad, before we left at the end of the week.
Mother and Dad kept in touch with the Irvine family for many years. We never returned to Montreal, but they sent Christmas cards back and forth each year, for many years, until one year when Mother didn’t receive a card. It had been many decades since our trip, and Mother wondered at the time if one of them had passed away. The Christmas before that was the last time we would hear from them. It was sad to have lost our connection with the Irvine family. Whenever we’d receive their Christmas card each year it always brought back the memories of Expo ’67, and of all of the centennial celebrations.
I fondly recall all of the special events in Perth that year, and in different parts of Lanark County. When I think of the 100th anniversary of confederation, and of Expo ’67, I will always remember the Irvine family, and how they graciously opened their home to us, strangers from another province, that they welcomed us as if we were old friends, and made us feel a part of the big celebration going on in our country that year.
It serves to remind me, even today, that there are good folks everywhere, not just in our own back yards, but all across this great nation of ours.
“Patriotism is not short, frenzied, outbursts of emotion,
but the tranquil, steady dedication of a lifetime.”
(story is an excerpt from ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line” ISBN 978-0-9877026-16)