Expo 67 Postcard
Today it's a trip back to 1967 when Canada was celebrating our Centennial at Expo 67, the world's fair in Montreal. Every day the fair was on, CBC Radio aired a special program called Expodition.
"Man and His World" was the theme of the fair, and by the time it was over it drew 50 million visitors to its site on three artificial islands in the St. Lawrence River. There were 90 pavilions which represented countries as well as themes: Man the Explorer, Man the Creator, Man the Producer and Man in the Community. Canadian provinces and regions also had pavilions.
CBC Radio and Television had several programs that covered Expo and Canada's Centennial celebrations- programs like Canada 100, Expo This Week and Centennial Diary. But the one we're featuring today is called Expodition, and it aired on CBC Radio every Monday to Friday for 15 minutes throughout the six months of Expo 67. It was broadcast from Expo's International Broadcasting Centre and was an on air guide to the pavilions, people, pleasures and problems of Expo 67.
As the host nation for Expo 67, Canada had one of the largest pavilions with a distinctive inverted pyramid. It was called Katimavik, Inuktitut for "meeting place." The Expodition team spent a week covering its many features, and on this occasion that meant talking about such things as the responsibilities of good government.
On another day, the Expodition reporters looked at work by Canadian artists featured at the pavilion.
Three architects from Toronto designed the Canadian pavilion. One of them, Rod Robbie, would go on to design the retractable roof on Toronto's Rogers Centre.
Of all the national pavilions at Expo 67, far and away the most popular one was the Soviet one. The line ups were consistently among the longest. Everyone wanted a glimpse of life inside the Soviet Union. In this episode of Expodition, the guest was the Soviet broadcaster Joe Adamov. Adamov was the host of Moscow Mailbag, an English-language radio program that aired on Voice of Russia. It answered listeners' questions about the Soviet Union. Expo 67 was the first time that Soviet authorities had allowed Joe Adamov to travel abroad, and reporters were eager to see what he thought of the west.
A lot of celebrities visited the fair- Queen Elizabeth and many other heads of state, musicians as diverse as Jefferson Airplane and Maurice Chevalier, dancers Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev and actors Marlene Dietrich and Sir Laurence Olivier. And also a hotshot young actor called Warren Beatty who had just released a new movie called Bonnie and Clyde.
Some of the most enthusiastic visitors to Expo were children, and Expo had plenty of delights just for them.
One of the most popular places at Expo, for children certainly, was La Ronde- the amusement park. Its biggest ride was the $3 million Gyrotron, which looked like a giant pyramid. Inside, riders experienced a simulated space voyage before being plunged into the mouth of a mechanical monster named Fred.
The Globe and Mail said that La Ronde "combines the fun of Disneyland with the thrills of Coney Island and the sophisticated adult entertainment of Paris, Montreal or Toronto."
As we've said, pavilions abounded at Expo 67: for nations, for industry, and to illustrate the Expo theme of Man and His World. There was another pavilion that Expodition featured: the International Broadcasting Centre, where 200 of the world's broadcast organizations beamed their reports from Expo around the world. The IBC had been built by CBC and housed two television studios, six radio studios, as well as four mobile TV units and three mobile radio units. Visitors could you're the building and watch journalists at work.
Expo loved facts and figures, and Expodition loved to highlight them at every turn.
But it wasn't always about boosterism and good times. A visit to the Indians of Canada pavilion told a different story. From the outside, it had all the usual symbols of the traditional North American Indian: a teepee, a totem pole, pounding drums and chanting. But inside, the pavilion told a different story: one of poverty, unfulfilled treaties, forced religion and the unhappy experiences of children in residential schools.
As people visited the Indians of Canada pavilion, they encountered large posters with the words "Give us the right to manage our own affairs," and "the white man's school- an alien land for an Indian child. As Tanahokate Delislie, the commissioner general of the pavilion recalled, "We went to all the bands across Canada and asked them what they'd like to see in the pavilion. The thing that kept coming up was anger at the government."
But like all good things, Expo 67 had to come to an end, and so did Expodition. For their last broadcast on October 27, 1967, the four regular Expodition reporters boarded the mini rail for one last tour.
The last Expodition broadcast at the end of October 1967. These days there's not a lot to see at the old Expo 67 site. The islands are mostly used as parkland. But Canada will celebrate our sesquicentennial - 150 years since Confederation in 2017. A group in Montreal has already proposed Expo 2017 to mark it.