What a difference 50 years makes. Or doesn’t.

What a difference 50 years makes. Or doesn’t.

I was looking for something completely unrelated to this particular memory. I know it is somewhere in my home office, possibly in a crowded desk drawer or an even busier bookcase. Maybe it’s near the bottom of a pile of papers in the closet. I don’t know, because I haven’t found it yet. But I will.

It’s an old address book my mother kept. A lot of the entries were made when we still lived in England, and that was 60 years ago. Some were made after we came to Canada. I stopped looking for it when I was sidetracked by the discovery of Lynne’s passport to Expo 67.

We both lived on the West Island of Montreal during Expo but didn’t know each other. She was 12-years old, living in Verdun. I was 20 and lived in Dorval, a couple of cities to the west. We didn’t meet until 10 years later when we both lived in Guelph.

The passport was the season ticket to Expo 67 and contains memories of the excitement and hope of being Canadian during the centennial year. It was the summer of love. The year of the hippies. The birth of the counter culture. The year of Sergeant Pepper and a wealth of other great music. The Nobel Peace Prize winner Lester Pearson was the Prime Minister, and Trudeaumania was bubbling under the surface.

People in my generation said we shouldn’t trust anyone over 30, and Pete Townsend hoped he’d die before he got old. He didn’t. Many did, but those of us who lived through it didn’t. We marched for an end to the war in Vietnam and for peace and disarmament. We marched for equal rights for women, against poverty, for justice for native people, for better access to universities.

Why did we do it? What were we up against? The answer lies within that passport to Expo 67. Expo was Canada’s hundredth birthday party and it was a blast. But it wasn’t completely the blast they planned. While it wanted to look to the future, it was also a reflection of the past. And the present.

The theme of the World Fair was “Terre Des Hommes / Man and his World.”

On the inside pages of the passport, Pierre Dupuy, the Commissioner General, wrote:

“I have great pleasure in welcoming you to the 1967 Universal Exhibition, authorized by the International Exhibitions Bureau. Our theme “Man and his World” portrays the growing interdependence between men in our time. We hope you will share our faith in a common destiny.”

This was on the page after a photograph of an optimistic young woman getting ready to enter the world of adulthood.

What has changed since 1967? One thing springs to mind. Fifty years ago, no one strongly objected to the wording of the theme. Other than that, the hope of our centennial year is still a tired old dream.