Expo Was Splendidly Right

Editorial by The Ottawa Journal

Monday, October 30, 1967

As the fireworks of Expo's final shot into the chill of what Sunday afternoon's closing ceremonies might have been like had the prophets of doom and men of little imagination been proven right.

What an array of arguments were hurled against Expo's creators from the very beginning!

  • The man-made islands would wash away in the St. Lawrence, but even if they didn't wash away the fair would been too inaccessible out there in mid-stream.
  • The themes were too religious, arty and longhair.
  • A fair without girly shows and with mutes placed on the raucous cries of pitch-men would be a flop.
  • French Canadians would put bombs in every pavilion.
  • English Canadians would stay away in droves out of jealously of Montréal's eminence.
  • Canada's winters would cripple construction and on opening day only half the fair would be ready.
  • Castro would stagger the place with an army of bodyguards, the Russians would walk out, an attempt would be made to assassinate President Johnson, there would be a general French boycott the day the Queen came -- and so on, and on.

Instead -- the men of courage and imagination fought and won. The great team of Dupuy, Shaw, Churchill, Kniewasser, Beaubien and others had faith in themselves and in Canadians. So did Drapeau, Lesage, Johnson, Diefenbaker and Pearson.

Photo credit:  © National Archives of Canada

From left to right: Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada; Roland Michener, Governor-General of Canada; Daniel Johnson, Premier of Québec and Major Jean Drapeau of Montréal.

Not least their triumphs was their being splendidly right in knowing that Canadians, and the world's visitors, would identify themselves with the spiritual, human, artistic, creative, philosophical and adventurous themes that made Expo unique among world fairs.

Expo wasn't over anybody's head, and yet it lifted everybody's head. It was without borderlines of time and nation, and yet it was everyone's own fair. The "mystery" or a "mystery" of Expo was that its message was often intensely personal; many of us found something of ourselves while there which we had not understood before, not least that we were all people and that people are really very much alike and are chumps (or chimps) not to live together in that knowledge.

If it was not an intensely personal message that most people got from Expo, why then was the closing day a time not alone for fireworks but a furtive tear during the final "Auld Lang Syne?" Gratefulness for what one had learned, perhaps; gratefulness that a Canadian effort had been so excellent; grateful on finding that Canadians, all of us, were equal to appreciating all that Expo had to give and say on Man and His World.

Is there forgiveness in man's world for a bit of vanity? If so, may The Journal recall that on April 28, the second day of Expo, we said this in these columns after our first visit:


 "By the time the leaves on old Mount Royal have turned this autumn, Canadians from coast to cost will walk a little tall in the discovery that they can take on a world-size test of maturity and win it -- in their own way...

"Perhaps this declaration of rejoicing on 12 hours' examination will be regarded as premature. We are prepared to have it read again six months hence."


The Last Day

It was a cold day but over 200,000 came to pay their last respects. Dressed in parkas, toques and other winter garb they walked through Expo's islands, pausing now and then for a final glance at some favorite building or exhibit.

The police came in droves too but their biggest job was keeping warm. Pilfering and vandalism were minimal. Visitors wanted to stare, to touch and just admire once more.

When pavilion doors swung shut for the last time, crowds filed towards exits with many backward looks and waited patiently at bottlenecks, kidding the security guards, who did a magnificent job.

But the crowd made their job easy. Pushing and shoving were absent. They bantered in English and French as lines formed at the Expo Express, and the subdued laughter was wistful. A beloved friend was leaving. They had said a dignified goodbye but not without emotion.                  

- End of editorial. Copyright by The Ottawa Journal, October 30, 1967. All rights reserved.