As we mark the 150th birthday of Canada – rare are references to it as our sesquicentennial, thank God – we are also celebrating the city of Montreal’s 375th anniversary. But for me the most enjoyable reminiscences have been those documenting the 50th anniversary of EXPO 67.
As a seven year-old the huge World’s Fair was a pure joy for me. Thinking back to those days often tweaks a pang of nostalgia in me. Not surprisingly there is a plethora of tweaking going on as many exhibits and special events are running this summer. While I enjoy these formal presentations, what I find most heartwarming are posted photos of EXPO 67 that were taken by average visitors.
As an example this collection on Flickr comprises over a hundred photos that were found in a scrapbook on the street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I figure sooner or later I will come across a picture with me in the background.
One of the things that has struck me while looking through many photos, is the seemingly total lack of corporate branding at the fair. There were corporate pavilions; Kodak, BELL etc. But when it came to branding there was little if any. No Doritos pavilion of the United States or Stella Artois’ Belgium pavilion.
Given our reliance on corporate branding in today’s overpriced world, this is a breath of fresh air. I know it would be folly to suggest another EXPO 67-like event for any number of reasons, perhaps this is a good thing as another such event would no doubt be riddled with corporate logos and slogans.
Another thing that comes to mind while looking at these photos is that although there were lines for many pavilions (remember admission was free once you entered the site, no fee-per-exhibit) there never seems to be overwhelming crowds. It always looks comfortable – or is that an illusion after fifty years – even if over 53 million visitors dropped in that summer.
The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) is introducing a new wrinkle that is aimed at getting people on buses faster. They will allow passengers with unlimited passes – weekly, monthly, four-month or yearly – to board buses via the rear door. Commuters with a single fare or those paying cash will still have to use the front door.
There are restrictions aplenty; only the long articulated vehicles – commonly known as bendy buses – are involved, and only at Metro stations, and only between 5 a.m and 7 p.m.
Wow, that will no doubt result in a massive reduction in boarding time. However, I feel it incumbent upon myself to hereby inform the STM that this system has unofficially been in use at many Metro stations for years. When long lines form waiting in inclement weather – wet, cold, snowy or all of the above – it is not uncommon for folks to hop on through the back door, even on non-bendy buses.
I suspect the new system will have a means of checks and balances to weed out those just scamming a free ride. Undercover conductors to verify passes and transfers will be required. I believe that the majority of riders will observe the honour system, but there are always a few who take advantage.
It won’t surprise me if this does not result in a great improvement, given people have been doing it to some extent for years. Now if we can just build a Metro station turnstile that is too high to jump over and too low to get under we may be getting somewhere.
Dear President Obama,
We are pleased that you are coming to visit us in Montreal. I thought I would take a moment to give you a little background on what to expect. We live in an officially French-speaking province in a country that is officially bilingual; French and English. But at street-level most Montrealers get by just fine in a variety of languages and dialects. But please do not tell anyone, we like to keep that a bit of a secret.
Our political views run the gamut – left to right and everything in between. However keep in mind that up here everything is shifted just a wee bit to the left. In fact, given this cultural adjustment, it may well be the first time in a long time that you, Mr. President, find yourself the most conservative politician in a room.
This year the City of Montreal celebrates its 375th anniversary while Canada marks its 150 birthday. You may notice, as you are whisked about the city, many streets closed-off for various festivities. You may therefore be tempted to think that these people are putting on quite a party for their anniversaries, but in fact things are like this most summers in Montreal. It’s a long winter so we tend to make the most of summer. Coming back for the Jazz Festival?
It is my understanding that the United States Secret Service is responsible for your safety. I strongly suggest you make certain they have the absolute most up-to-date GPS information in their vehicles We have been known to have construction related detours with their very own detours! Not that your motorcade will get stuck in traffic what with police escorts and all, but when you send a trusted Agent out for a snack or a pack of smokes, he or she may become enmeshed in our annual Festival of the Construction Cones.
I have a hunch the local police assigned to your visit may be in full uniform – at least if the mayor has his way – but should you notice a police officer wearing a bright red baseball cap, bullet-proof vest, and shocking pink camouflage pants please take no notice. Labour disputes can take some odd forms here. But let’s face it, cammo pants are a whole lot better that a police strike.
On the topic of food, no doubt there will be calls for you to be photographed eating poutine, bagels or smoked meat. Try to avoid these kitschy shots. Montreal has a wide range of restaurants serving great meals from all over the world, Perhaps a photo at a Latin American cafe might fit the bill. Or better yet, skip the whole photo nonsense entirely and have a quiet meal brought in.
In closing let me welcome you to Montreal. I hope you enjoy whatever time you have here, I believe you will find you are much admired in my city. As for your successor, well, perhaps the less said the better, after all, we are having a party!
Ironically these two tweets appeared in order on my Twitter feed today.
Global beer sales drying up, says report https://t.co/LsPn57AoYT
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) June 4, 2017
— Mediaite (@Mediaite) June 4, 2017
Someone is trying to do his best to keep those beer sales up, come hell or terrorist attack!
There has been a very heated debate in Montreal over the last few days. To get an idea of just how emotional this has become requires a bit of background. The person at the eye of the storm is one Karla Homolka, a convicted sex murderer. Well, sort of convicted.
When she was married to Paul Bernardo the two of them raped and murdered three young girls, one Homolka’s younger sister. Needless to say the country was rocked by news of these heinous crimes, however the Crown prosecutor, was concerned that a lack of evidence may be a problem in getting a conviction.
Believing Bernardo to be the main culprit, the crown struck a deal with Homolka whereby she would plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter, receive a twelve-year sentence, and provide the Crown with enough evidence to put Bernardo away for life for murder. People were irate not only when the deal was made known, but when a video later emerged proving Homolka was just as involved in the crimes as was her husband.
Now Homolka has served her time, left prison, married her lawyer’s wealthy brother and, after a time in a halfway house left Montreal for a tropical home. Now she is back. Her kids attend a private Christian school in a residential area. It has recently been discovered that she has volunteered at the school, and has even brought her dog for show and tell. Just a great mother.
Not surprisingly the media have gone into overdrive and have been lurking about outside the school for a glimpse and a photo. People are outraged that this person is involved with children. In response the school issued a statement saying Homolka will no longer be allowed to volunteer with children.
Fine and dandy.
But lost in the frenzy and anger are her kids – innocent children. Is it acceptable to have a phalanx of photographers and journalists, to say nothing of jeering neighbours, waiting for her and her children at the school? While most people rightly call her a monster, there are three innocent children who call her mom.
By all means complain about the situation, but let’s give the kids a break. They will have enough to deal with when they grow up. Or do some of these people think it is fair to try to exact revenge on her children for her crimes? That would be twisted logic at best.
Too many innocent young lives have been affected – indeed snuffed out – in this horrific episode. Shouldn’t we be trying to protect these kids?
If it wasn’t bad enough to have a video of Montreal buses slipping and sliding on a snowy street go viral last winter, the latest kerfuffle caused by street paving contractors is getting even more Internet play. Recently a main artery through the city was being repaved. One car was left behind. Had this been a snow removal operation the car would have been ticketed and towed away to allow for proper clearing.
In a photo akin to the old white-line-over-the-dead-animal shot – usually captioned “It’s not my job” – a paving contractor went around the parked car, rather than wait for a tow-truck to remove it. Not a trace of logic to be found!