Expo Show Stoppers                                                                             

They're Flocking Like Flies to the Big Five

By Richard Jackson, The Ottawa Journal

MONTRÉAL  -  They've geared Expo to a daily attendance of between 150,000 and 175,000.

They figured for opening day, Friday, a working and school day maybe, with luck, they'd turnstile the 150,000, mostly Montréalers.

They were worried  that a warm, blazing bright blue day might bring out a quarter of a million.

And as it did happen, they were simply overwhelmed. For not everything is ready yet for the swarming crowds. Especially the restaurants, many and varied as they are. The day was blue all right -- blue with cold.

But even on a blue cold opening day, it looked like perhaps big as it is, they've made everything too small. The cafés, the bars, even the biggest of the pavilions, the Russians. For there, at the height of the traffic yesterday, they twice had to stop the escalators, which, like most other things, were overwhelmed by the mobs.

For an opening-day crowd of 310,000 turned out, and for a time it looked as though the man-made island of Expo would sink out of sight into the muddy bed of the silty St. Lawrence under the sheer weight of them.

Photo credit: © National Archives of Canada

People entering the Place D'Accueil turnstiles on opening day at Expo 67

They're polarizing, like iron filings on a magnet, around five of the 70 pavilions, the great international show-windows of Britain, the United States, Russia, West Germany and France.

If you came from Britain -- or, less directly in the first person singular sense, your parents did -- you'll know what they're talking about in England's $8,000,000 pavilion.


What you will see will grab you by the throat and you'll choke up while pretending you're only using that hankie to blow your nose.

For it's Wordsworth's England and Churchill's too, the England of the Silver Ghost of Rolls Royce and the black crashing misery of the Lancashire mill towns, the marvel of Britain's leadership in aeronautical engineering and the misery along the Mersey.

It's all been emotionally deployed in Britain's many-sectored pavilion dominated by white truncated conical tower topped by a three-dimensional metallic Union Jack.

It's moated and masculine, with no softening influence of flowers or lawn.


Just bare, starkly white concrete, representing, the way its designer, Sir Basil Spence likes to see it, the "tough, durable craggy, uncompromising quality of our British people."

But while, unless you, too, are cast from concrete, it will dampen your eye -- it's just that good, that true to life and times of Great Britain down the years of heroic history -- they're fun, too.

In a pictorial gallery of British genius -- Shakespeare, Christopher Wren, Drake, Wellington, Disraeli, Victoria the great and all the illustrious hundreds of others who made old England might -- there are, of all people, the Rolling Stones.

Who says Britain isn't keeping up with a changing World?

Funny thing, too, the inclusion of the Rolling Stones stirred up something of a small storm -- but not for the reason you might suspect.

Seems the Beatles were hung there first.


And then the bureaucratic brass at the Central Office of Information in London ruled that the four-long-haired lads no longer were sufficiently with it to carry the musical Jack abroad.

The COI just better watch it.

For there are 30 glorious English girls serving as hostesses in the pavilion and they're blazing mad, and waiting for the publicists of the information office to just dare show up.

"If the Beatles haven't earned a place of honor, who has?" asks the head hostess Dorothy Rogers, 28, from Lytham St. Annes in Lancashire.

The girls are also a bit put out about their red, white and blue stripped shirts -- with handbags to match -- which are only sort of mini-ish.

The designer on Carnaby Street decided, they tell you, that the approved London length was considered just a bit much for we unsophisticated North American types to take.

However, a free-the-thigh movement is mounting.

"Just wait," whispers one luscious 23-year-old patriot, "until we get to work on these hems."

Nowhere at Expo is the feeling of the future accelerated made more tangible than in the American pavilion.

The Yanks chose the most radical and ambitious of all their many architects to represent them -- R. Buckminster Fuller, a major American cultural diety to the avant-garde, and considered by some of his more conservative colleagues as certifiably loony.

He has presented them as a pavilion with what he described as a "geodesic sky break bubble -- a sphere 20 storeys high, structured of light metal hexagonal frames covered by a transparent skin of acrylic.

It glitters in the sun by day.

Softly glows at night with a golden gleam that is truly entrancing when viewed from the lofty heights of high-rise Montréal just across the St. Lawrence Channel.


The temperature within -- and the marvelous mini-rail meanders through the very centre of the bubble -- is controlled by a motorized system of moving plastic shades that follow the sun.

Inside the seven million cubic feet of the bubble, the imaginative and inventive American's have packed just about everything that speaks well of these glorious United States -- and some that speaks not so well, like Elvis Presley's pelvic pulsator, the geetar.

There's an American political convention-sized blow-up of Clark Gable -- he's the very first you see when the minirail rides you sedately in at four miles an hour -- and Gary Cooper, walking straddle-legged, straight out of High Noon.

There's Henry Ford's forever durable and unforgettable Model T. and the bug-like Apollo space landing craft that they hope will put flag-planting and territory-claiming American astronauts on the moon three years from now.

Just over a little bridge called, fittingly, "Cosmos Walk," spanning one of Expo's many lagoons, the gigantic Russian pavilion coexists, peacefully, if competitively.

This is the biggest production of all Expo.

The Russians have given this truly giant-economy-sized pavilion a roof that can be described with equal accuracy as a monster ski jump, or a yet-to-be-invented jumbo jet about to zoom off into the world of tomorrow.

It is filled with what the proud Soviets quite correctly say is just about "everything in the mane of man."

And this includes an armchair space jaunt, a stroll across the moon's dusty sea of storms, and a thousand-seat restaurant where twenty chefs from Moscow and Leningrad are starting to dispense an initial eight tons of caviar flown in from Black and Caspian seas and 56,000 litres of Vodka, aged on the Steppes.

The French have built themselves a seven-storey glitter of slanting glass and aluminum louvers that looks just a little reminiscent of old Fort Zinberneuf if you should come staggering, sun-struck, from the desert back of Sidi Bel Abbes and see a glimmering 21st century mirage coming at you out of Beau Geste.

They've even got elegantly-garbed, romantically mustached Ronald Colemans -- dozens of 'em -- bowing and smiling and murmuring at you as you go, pop-eyed from floor to amazing floor, inspecting all the aspects of what General Charles de Gaulle very obviously wishes you to regard as clear evidence of the French force de frappe.

On one level there are convincing re-creations of Parisian street scenes, lifted bodily from the Champs and from Pigalle.

Another glorious floor celebrates the wonders of that best of French arts, the magic skills of the haute cuisines.


Then, finally, on the roof, above all but the soaring 200-foot British tower of white concrete, the Americans' gleaming dome of glass and steel, the Russians' mighty architectural flying wing, and the nearby skyscrapers of Montreal, you behold the spot, the very spot where, 207 years ago, France's Chevalier de Levis ordered his men to burn their battle flags before they fell into the victorious hand of the conquering English Redcoats.

The Germans are under a gigantic tent of steel mesh and translucent plastic hung from eight canted masts.

Seen from above it could be a slice of skin off the moon or a vast camouflaged emplacement for the biggest big Bertha yet to come.

- End of article. Copyright by The Ottawa Journal, April 29, 1967. All rights reserved.