For the first time in my life, I have suddenly looked up Expo 67 on the Internet. I am also 67 this year so maybe subconsciously I had to do it, I do not know. Coincidences are part of life, more for some than others. I can tell you story after story of coincidences that happened to me in my life, the earliest of which I remember back to the age of 12. In fact, they became so common in my life that I was able to link them together time and again and identify them. This was no more apparent than something that happened at Expo 67.


It began in the early summer of 1966. I had been transferred from Montreal to Calgary by my company to take over my first management role. I was twenty-one, had three years fulltime and another four years of part time work with the company as my father was an executive and they found jobs for me and my brother to do wrapping parcels in the busy store basement to earn Christmas money. It was my first move away from home, more than 2,300 miles if I remember correctly. I had a 1964 white Volkswagen Beetle, top speed 72 miles per hour controlled by a governor so as not blow the engine. It was a long drive alone so my nineteen year old sister volunteered to travel with me as far as Winnipeg. The plan was that she would then take a train home from the old station at Portage and Main and I would see her the following summer for Expo 67.


It was during that trip that one of the most unusual coincidences happened about 2 a.m. in the morning that I remember clearly to this day. As we battled to keep awake until we could find a motel for the night, our eyes were fixed on the fog. We could barely see the line in the road and we were tired having been battling the fog for hours. Every so often we could see a late night stop on the side of the road, but no motel signs. We were cold, bored, tired having driven all day and ready for a long sleep. Then it happened, a pair of lights came up behind us. All of a sudden we were in a convoy and it was a nice addition as it took our eyes away from the road ahead every so often. We had come to know it as a potential for disaster, a road that could have at any moment produce a head-on collision by a passing vehicle coming the other way on the two lane road or perhaps with a moose or other animal mesmerized by the oncoming headlights lights. Fortunately we saw no animals and little traffic.


Then the car behind decided to try and pass us. It was painful to watch as they could barely reach our rear fender before the passing lane began to disappear as we topped the hill. When they finally got the grip on us, they pulled up along side and waved. It was a car with two young ladies of about my [age] who had known they were driving the identical white 1964 Beetle behind us. The only difference was that mine had a rack on top as I was moving west and not just on a trip away from home. It had slowed us a bit because it affected the aerodynamics of the beetle, something the Germans had discovered in the early 1930s. Gaining the upper hand, the other young ladies and my sister and I began a game of seeing who could pass who when the roads widened. It kept us awake in the fog and we began to take turns in the lead position facing the wall of gray darkness. Finally, we reached a truck stop having previously agreed with signals of “let’s get a cup of coffee at the next stop.”  When we got out of our identical vehicles, we all began to laugh as we had kept each other awake for several hours of difficult driving. We were somewhere north of Lake Superior on the Trans Canada highway and in 1966 it was a very barren place in Canada.


It was an enjoyable stop and we made new but very distant friends on the road. They were bank tellers from Kelowna and were driving home, alternating the driving every few hours as the other one slept. They had to be back home by Monday morning for work as their vacation east was over and they still had some 1,200 miles to go. I did all the driving so we needed sleep more than more hours on the road.


As we left the diner after an hour and a half of great Chinese food and chat, all we wanted to do was find a motel down the road. That happened around 4 a.m. and we slept until noon. The girls were probably somewhere around Regina by the time we got going again. I was not in as big a rush. As we had parted that previous evening and just before they drove off ahead of us into the night, I had said to them as I often did because of earlier coincidences, “I will see you sometime.” Little did they know then that I knew how often I had experienced coincidences in the past to be able to say that with confidence.


Later in the summer of 1966 I drove west to Victoria on my first trip through the mountains of British Columbia. I was to be best man at a good friend’s wedding. He and I had worked together for several years in Montreal before he was transferred to the Victoria main store as a department manager. We had stayed in touch with letters and he asked me to make the 1,500 mile round trip to be there for him as little of his family could venture west for the wedding. For me it was also a new adventure into a province I would get to know quite well over time.


On the return trip, I stopped at the Bank of Montreal in Kelowna to get some cash just before closing. I knew that the girls worked in this bank and wanted to surprise them. As the person finished in front of me and moved away from the teller, I simply said, “See, I told you I would see you sometime.”  Pleasantly surprised, we went out for dinner that evening and she offered to put me up in her living room on the couch to save me a motel fare. I learned that Pat, her roommate, had moved home to Whitehorse in the Yukon for family reasons. After a nice stay, I made the final leg of the trip back to Calgary over the next day or two and was left with fond memories of my first road trip through the Rockies.


Having been away from the family for the first time, and for a period of a year and a half, I decided to fly back to Montreal for a three week visit and a trip to Expo 67, a one time unique opportunity. Little did I know then that I would drive west again, this time from Toronto in 1986 to do Expo 86. I seemed to be at opposite ends of the country each time but I was not going to miss the opportunity.


Expo 67 was my summer excursion to the world and I attended as many exhibits as I could handle from the very largest to the very smallest. Like many I had a fascination for the north and especially for the stories of the Gold Rush of the previous century. I wanted to learn more so made sure I found the smallest pavilion at Expo 67. As I walked through the door of the Yukon pavilion I immediately recognized the attendant on duty. As she lifted her head to say hello to the umpteenth visitor, I caught her by surprise. All I said was simply, “Hi Pat, I told you I would see you sometime.” She was flabbergasted and I was as cool as a cucumber. We later met for a coffee or something if I recall correctly or maybe not. That I cannot remember. What I do remember was that she had been selected from a population of 1500 people in Whitehorse to represent her territory at the world exhibition, truly a lifetime honour. She was the one attendant who had got the job to be the Yukon representative at Expo 67 for the summer. I was just there for the fun of it, not realizing then that I was also there to fulfill a self-prophecy as I had done many times before and many times since around the world that coincidences do happen all the time if we can learn just how to recognize them. My journey in this instance took almost two years but I came full circle once again.



© Bob Carswell, Toronto 2011