La Ronde under construction
It seems natural to suppose that Colonel Churchill is a willing part of this bureaucratic nonsense. After all, he's down here from Ottawa, the bureaucrats' Mecca, and from Defence Headquarters at that. (On loan at first, he decides later he might as well retire from the army.) And here he is in charge of Installations. It's true there are five other main divisions (Executive, Secretariat, Finance-Administration, Exhibitors, and Operations) but unless Installations gets the buildings up and the exhibits installed in time, the other five divisions won't count for much.
Should so much of the fate of this $800-million show rest on the shoulders of this one army colonel? He shows up in civvies, of course, but he might as well be wearing full regalia, the way he struts around like an over-weight Jimmy Cagney, dashing off memos with numbered paragraphs, army-style, firing questions and orders right and left, hurling the little shafts of fear into the hearts of the people around him, and earning the scorn of the French-language press because his command of their language seems limited to "oui" and "non."
Île Sainte Hélène under construction. Note how they expanded the island with additional landfill.
What's more, he sets up a briefing room. (Oh, come on now! Next thing, he'll have us all doing K.P.!) And he comes on strong with talk about something called the Critical Path Method or CPM, as he calls it.
CPM has its own mysterious jargon ("critical path network," "milestone date," "event number 139") and involves yards of charts covered with lines and arrows pointing to little squares, circles and hexagons. When you first hear about it, you know CPM has just got to be one of those gimmicks that grey-flanneled management consultants are selling to make their projects sound mysterious, intellectual and expensive. Or maybe it's the contrivance of some doddering civil servant who got tired of writing 1,000-page manuals with titles like Pencils, Lead, Approved Procedures for the Sharpening Of.
Mind you, the basic idea of the Critical Path Method is simple enough. Every project is broken down into stages. For instance, a proposed pavilion -- any pavilion -- can be charted through dozens of stages, beginning with "Intention," followed by "Talk...Preliminary brief...Concept design...Budget...Approval...Working drawings...Tender...Start foundations..." and so on. Each stage is allotted a specific number of working days. On the chart, the whole project looks something like a production-flow chart for a factory. A special calendar of workdays is devised, starting with Day 1 -- an arbitrary date in the fall of 1963 -- through and beyond Day 878, which is opening day for Expo. (Holidays and weekends are excluded from the numbering.) Every project is to be charted so that each step is set out in terms of these numbered workdays. Then the scheme is programmed on a computer, which acts as a watchdog.
Were they going to build buildings or just draw up charts?
For a while it looks as though getting his staff to set out willingly along the Critical Path is going to be a tough job for The Colonel as building Expo. I mean, are we just going to have room full of guys or drawing production charts? "At first," says Andrew Hoffmann, an architect who co-ordinates work on La Ronde amusement park, "I thought it was the biggest nonsense I'd ever seen." At the stage, Hoffmann is no minority voice, and there are lots of other things for people to beef about. The briefing room is a regular nightmare, with The Colonel lacing into people who haven't kept to their schedules (and sometimes into people who have but haven't explained quickly or clearly enough). And anybody looking for something to hate in The Colonel doesn't have to look hard. There's that broad, bull-dog face under those fierce, bushy eyebrows, that raspy voice, surprisingly high-pitched, that infuriating habit he has of cutting in on what you're saying. Before you finish answering one question, he's peppering you with three others. Just mention that some contractor has been having a little trouble getting something done on time and -- zoom! -- The Colonel's on the phone to the company president, insisting on answers, demanding action, before you can even complain that the whole problem is already ironed out.