For those who were wondering about Expo 67, 50 years ago this month....
My family drove up from Massachusetts to Montreal. By this time, the family car would have been a 1965 Dodge Polara, sort of an off-white eggshell color. I have no idea which roads we took, but the trip seemed to take all day, and we got to Montreal in the late afternoon. My mother tried to teach me a bit of French; I was fascinated that the red stop signs said "Arrêt" and the exit signs said "Sortie." Since I had been reading everything I could find in advance of Expo 67 -- and even though I was only 7 1/2, that was a lot! -- I could recognize the huge geodesic dome of the U.S. pavilion off in the distance, but my Dad could not figure out how to get any closer to it. I remember saying, "Daddy, I think you missed the sortie."
We pulled over to the side of the highway and Dad pored over the map. A car pulled up behind us and a man got out and walked up to our car. He asked us whether we had any hotel reservations, and when my parents said no, he said, "You aren't going to find any." He introduced himself as a Mr. Dalton, pulled out his government ID and said that he was a Quebec government official and he and his wife were letting tourists stay in their home. So we followed him to his house, which had a facade made of randomly shaped blocks of white stone. The house seemed magnificent to me, especially because the street was also named Dalton. I have no idea how much my parents paid for us to stay in their spare bedroom, breakfast included.
We spent two or three days at the Expo. I remember HUGE crowds everywhere. At one point my mother and I waited 45 minutes in line to use the ladies' room. Forty-five minutes' wait to PEE!!!! I remember going up the escalator in the U.S. pavilion, which was said to be the longest escalator in the world. (I suspect the ones now at the Wheaton Metro station are longer.) I remember turning up my nose at the tuna-fish sandwiches my mother had packed for me in a cooler; I wanted fresh French fries, while my parents had a "buffalo burger." A parade for the 20-millionth visitor to the exposition passed by us.
I remember riding on an antique carousel in the amusement-park section, La Ronde. I was terrified, because instead of the vertical pole right in front of the saddle, the only place for me to hang on was a tiny little T-shaped handle to the right of the horse's mane. I remember spending my carefully saved-up allowance on an Expo 67 tote bag and a little flag with the "Man and His World" logo. I remember that I'd fall asleep in the back seat of the car on the way back to Mr. Dalton's house, but I would wake up when the car stopped at a gas station or something and my mother (whose grandparents were all born in the St. Lawrence River valley) would be translating directions for my father, who didn't speak a word of French, couldn't read the signs and kept getting lost.
On the last afternoon we were there, my mother declared that her feet hurt and parked herself on a spot of grass in the shade of a tree. My Dad took me to La Ronde, where we rode the Gyrotron, which I'd read about, probably in Life magazine. (An image of its exterior is here
.) It was the first time I'd been on a ride with little moving cars that never quite stopped, even though this is quite normal now in the big theme parks. The first building was filled with a space motif, and it was my first encounter with black light -- I laughed at how my white ankle socks and the white parts of Dad's print shirt glowed eerily. Then the moving car took us back outside and down into the bowels of a fake volcano, where we were "eaten" by a big red monster at the end. I'm not sure what the combination of the two scenarios was supposed to convey, but I was thrilled anyway.
I wanted to take my mother on the Gyrotron, but wouldn't you know it -- that night there was a huge thunderstorm and the La Ronde rides closed early for safety reasons. We spent the evening sitting under the roof of a food-vending booth, with my mother talking in French to one of the workers there. The next morning we checked out of Mr. Dalton's house and headed home.
In late July 1983, as my mother and I were approaching the first anniversary of my father's death, she and I took a short trip to Montreal to see the actual city. We stayed at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel -- I didn't yet know it had been the site of the famous John and Yoko "bed-in" -- and saw lots of neat stuff. I insisted on checking out the Expo property again. From a distance we could see the skeleton of the geodesic dome. The Gyrotron had vanished from La Ronde, but I did go on a loop-the-loop roller coaster, just to satisfy myself.