The Summer of Love

Let me take you back to the late Spring of 1967. Tuesday, May 9 to be specific. Toronto’s top radio station, CHUM, played The Beatles’ All You Need is Love in near continuous rotation. Timothy Leary had just coined the phrase, “turn on, tune in, drop out”, and while far from Greenwich Village or Haight-Ashbury, flower children were congregating on the streets of Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood.  ‘The Summer of Love’ was in its infancy.

Many Torontonians, however, were paying scant attention to the long-haired hippies as just seven days earlier the decidedly clean-cut Leafs had taken game six from the Montreal Canadiens to win the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in six years.  Of course it was the last time they would drink from Lord Stanley’s mug, or make it to the finals for that matter, but no one at the time could have know that.  The mood in the city and indeed the entire country was one of jubilant celebration.  This was Canada’s Centennial year, after all, and the party was just getting started.

On this particular Tuesday morning, just as she did every morning, my mom served a breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast, homemade jam, and Old South orange juice, eaten at the kitchen table while Jack Dennett delivered CFRB’s 8 O’clock News on the radio.  After Bill Stephenson’s sports report and a second cup of Bokar coffee (A&Ps house brand), my dad headed off to work and mom informed me that we were going for a walk.  I was six weeks shy of my fifth birthday and attending half-day nursery school in the afternoons.  We had the whole morning to pick up whatever it was that my parents had been discussing over breakfast.  The words Hair, Canada and Montreal had been mentioned.

We walked down Edward Street, turned right onto Main Street, past Stiver Bros. Feed & Seed, and past Hal’s Snack Bar too.  We must be headed to Dinty Hodgins’ grocery store, I assumed.  But just short of the grocery store we turned to enter one of the very few businesses on Main Street that I had never been in.  The sign in the window said simply, “Travel Agent”.

I sat and watched the exotic fish in a large aquarium while my mom and the man who sat behind a big oak desk discussed whatever it was you discuss at a Travel Agent’s office.

When we got home my mom headed straight for the black, rotary dial phone that was mounted on the kitchen wall, right above her new portable dishwasher.

“Hello, Marion?”, she said.  “It’s Helen Hamilton.” I assumed that she was talking to her sister, my Aunt Marion, but when she started to explain that “Michael will miss school next Monday,” I realized that she was talking to Marion Boadway, the nursery school teacher.  Something was definitely “up”.

After receiving the teacher’s blessing, my mother explained to me that we were going to Expo ‘67, the World’s Fair that had opened two weeks earlier in Montreal.

Bob Dylan was right.  The times really were a changin’.  My dad had finally agreed to fly.  He wasn’t crazy about heights and until that time he had driven anywhere he wanted to go.  East Coast, West Coast, all over the United States, but always in a car.

What convinced him to fly?  I’m certain it wasn’t Expo 67’s opening day crowd of 336,000, or the record third day crowd of 569,500, as my father really didn’t care for large crowds.  I doubt that it was the appearance of ukulele-playing Tiny Tim as dad was not a big fan.  And it definitely wasn’t the lure of La Ronde, the fair’s amusement park, as dad wasn’t into roller coasters or gondola rides either.  Looking back at it now, it may have been the May 7, 1967 broadcast of the Ed Sullivan Show, live from Expo, featuring The Supremes, Petula Clark and The Seekers.  Or it might have been the CBC News reports of a controversy swirling around the UK Pavilion where hostesses wore Mary Quant-designed miniskirts that were said to be ‘scandalously short’.

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Whatever the reason, we did indeed fly to Montreal.  The ticket (above) indicates that we departed Toronto Airport (or ‘Malton’ as my parents called it) at 8:20 on a Sunday morning.  We returned on Monday evening at 7:40.  Adult fare was $46 return and I flew for half price or $23.  Adjusted for inflation, the adult fare would be $323 in 2014 dollars and I flew for the equivalent of $161.

To be honest, I don’t remember much about the actual plane ride.   It wouldn’t have been long as it’s only a six hour drive to Montreal.  I do recall riding an elephant at Expo, and I have a vague memory of eating at a high-end restaurant in the city, but that’s about it.

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ABOVE:  The Buckminster Fuller-designed geodesic dome that served as the American Pavilion.  (Photo by mom)

BELOW:  Me and my dad at Expo 67.  This must have been a big deal as my dad did not wear suits to work.  I, being a good boy, did wear a tie to most events and family gatherings.  (Photo by mom)

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BELOW:  I may have skipped a few classes but at least I graduated.  I have the ‘diploma’ to prove it.

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