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Stones, Phones and a Walk in the Park

This long weekend thousands of events will honour Canada’s 150th Birthday. All the news and attention has reminded me of the excitement that surrounded our country’s centennial in 1967. I was 9 and my family, like many others, was swept up in the celebrations which, for me, included some thrilling phone calls.

What do phone calls have to do with celebrating Canada’s birthday? And, at the age of 9, who was I calling?

Leading up to and throughout 1967, every Canadian was encouraged to have a ‘Centennial Project’, something they created to mark the occasion. Gardens of red and white flowers bloomed that spring and summer, 100 maple trees were planted in parks across the country and, at my house, my dad built a garden wall of 100 stones.

Always a master at jigsaw puzzles, the challenge of this project must have appealed to him. While it wasn’t difficult to find 100 large stones in Timmins, Ontario, I can’t imagine how he fit them together. I’d keep him company and can still see him in my mind’s eye, trowel in hand, straw hat askew, shifting stones into place each evening until only a sliver of light remained in the sky. And his wall is still there, a testament to his craftsmanship and diligence.

My family also drove to Montreal for Expo 67, the world’s fair that attracted 50, 306, 648 visitors. While there were lots of exciting moments during this trip, I find it fascinating that I was most captivated by … telephones. There were 90 pavilions at Expo, representing countries, companies and industries. And there was La Ronde, the amusement park with rides and games, but I kept wanting to talk on the phone.

Bell Canada had created the Enchanted Forest in their pavilion. It included the new push button phones with images of popular Disney characters (Mickey Mouse, Snow White,  Donald Duck, etc.).  By pressing a character’s button you could listen to a pre-recorded conversation from them. I was enthralled! Bell archivist, Janie Theoret, has shared with me that one of the aims of these phones was to familiarize children with the new push button technology. (In my case, it obviously worked!) My parents had to get quite stern with me about hanging up and moving on to another display.

Bell Canada Archives: The Enchanted Forest exhibit in Telephone Association of Canada Pavilion, Expo ’67, Montréal.
Bell Canada Archives: Bell News, June 26th 1967.

These memories had me thinking of how I might celebrate Canada’s 150th. I’ve been inspired by the free 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass. My intent is to visit as many national parks as possible and I’ve already enjoyed the hiking trails at Fundy National Park and Kejimkujik. Talking on my phone isn’t part of these adventures but the technology does allow me to share this favourite “enchanted forest” moment from our trip to Fundy. Enjoy!

 

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