Montreal

Tulips from Expo 67 continue to bring joy every spring to a Montreal family

A Montreal family has carefully looked after bulbs their father rescued from the garbage at Expo 67. More than 50 years later, the tulips still bring joy every spring.

Saved from the garbage over 50 years ago, the bulbs are still going strong

France Lafortune was only seven when her father brought home these tulips. She has been caring for them ever since. (Nancy Wood/CBC)

Every spring, when her tulips emerge from the cold earth, France Lafortune is flooded with memories — of her father Marcel and of Expo 67, the world fair that brought travellers from around the globe to Montreal.

The tulips were once part of vivid gardens that welcomed tourists and Montrealers alike, as they strolled through the grounds of the futuristic displays.

Lafortune's father, Marcel, worked as a mechanic for the Montreal Transit Corporation, part of the team ensuring smooth operations getting people on and off the site on Île Sainte-Hélène.

One day, as he was heading home, he saw teams of gardeners digging up the bulbs and tossing them into garbage bags.

Visitors who strolled the grounds of Expo 67 saw mass plantings of tulips and other flowers. (National Archives Canada)

"He asked them: 'What are you doing with those?'" Lafortune recalls. "When they told him they were throwing them out, he said: 'But they can be salvaged and used again!' and they told him: 'Go ahead and take them.'"

Marcel Lafortune was a transit worker when he rescued tulips being thrown out at Expo 67. (Submitted by France Lafortune)

So he did.

Marcel brought home garbage bags full to his Montreal North neighbourhood, where neighbours on Pelletier Street eagerly replanted them.

In 2003, when the younger Lafortunes sold the family home, France and four of her siblings took some of the bulbs for their own homes. Now hers flower in a bed in Saint-Bruno, on Montreal's South Shore.

Every spring when the tulips re-emerge, France says: "It always makes me think of Expo 67, of my family home."

"I just think it's extraordinary that there are tulips that old that have continued to grow and multiply. It's like they are eternal."

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