50 years ago: Our pavillion at Expo 67

Special to the VOICE

Growing up on our farm it is unusual to travel any distance. The mailbox is our window to the world, yielding correspondence till a mother robin takes up residence. She gleans straw and fills the box with her golden nest. No letters arrive for a time as the mail lady refuses to deal with a broody bird, and mom will not disturb the nest.

Like most children in my community, school, church, and the general store comprise the sphere of our knowledge. In 1967 Canada has a special birthday: One Hundred years of Confederation. The World’s Fair is in Montreal that year, the ultimate celebration. From the quiet confining realm we live in, an opportunity arrives to see the entire world at its best and finest. A school trip is planned to the World’s Fair, Expo 67. I am to be a part of this splendid adventure, and my mother joins as a chaperone.

The long, arduous bus ride brings us by nightfall to the Expo residence. Our excitement and anticipation is so boundless sleep will not come, instead we chatter boisterously. Our den mother, strict and unyielding, with her face scarlet, cheeks billowing, hollers, “Silence!”

Undeterred we prattle on, so my mother offers a voice of reason saying, “Settle down girls. Morning will come early and our adventures will begin. You must be rested, and it’s nice to be quiet So others can sleep. Close your eyes and rest. Sleep will Come.” She tucks in a cover here, plumps a pillow there, and her calming presence wraps itself around our jubilant group, till soon we can’t help but close our eyes to sleep.

Morning comes and gone are the over-taxed spirits of the night before. After breakfast we join our groups to carry out planned activities. Mom isn’t my chaperone and as we part she says, “Have fun.” I know she also means, “Behave.”

Our group goes to see the United States Pavilion, a spherical marvel of concrete and glass. Two rambunctious boys forge ahead, my cousin and I follow suit. From high up on a curving staircase bannister one of the boys starts spitting down on people below while his mate copycats. The two culprits are spotted by an angry guide who starts pursuit. The boys tear off and guilt by association has us hot on their tails.

We find ourselves outside looking in as we gasp great gulps of air in fear and excitement. In due time our chaperone and the rest of the group join us. We four are subdued on our trip back to the residence, savoring a lucky escape.

That evening Mom takes me out to the fair by herself. I go with a certain amount of dread, wondering if some word of our misadventure had reached her diligent ears. I know she would take a dim view and say something like, “We didn’t come all this way to spit on the world.”

Instead she takes me to the Canadian Maple Tree Pavilion. With silk-like panels of red, yellow, and orange, it looks like a paper lantern, translucent with radiant light glowing through. Mom says, “Isn’t it a thing of beauty, telling a story of our country and its people in pictures. I know you saw the lavish United States Pavilion.” I’m feeling a little squirmy thinking she knows, but she continues, “I’m enjoying the fair, but can’t help think how expensive most of these exhibits are with the world for many a hungry place. It’s good to show our glory, but we must not forget our people. They are our guts. I know Jesus said, ‘The poor are always with you,’ but even the birds of the air have nests to call their own. Anyway, this simple pavilion touched me and I wanted to show you it.”

“I understand a little mom.” I reach my hand to hers, and smiling she says, “For now that is enough.”

My mother is much like the pavilion she favours, both complicated in their simplicity. I only remember two pavilions from Expo 67. One I didn’t see much of, and the one my mother opened my eyes to.

We arrive home just in time to see the mother robin teaching her babes to fly. Copying a post card she sent home, Mom paints a picture of “our” pavilion. It is luminous, not unlike her lessons. She feels moved. Her inspiration flows around her and encloses me in its sweet spell. It takes a mother’s heart to teach the little birds to fly right.

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The Voice of Pelham
Pelham's independent news source from the heart of Niagara.