From the back of the book:
For six month is 1967, from late April until the end of October, Canada and its world’s fair, Expo 67, became the focus of national and international attention in a way the country and its people had rarely experienced. Expo 67, staged in Montreal, crystallized the buoyant sense of confidence many felt during Canada’s centennial. And it’s clear that for many Canadians it became a touchstone, a popular event that penetrated the collective psyche.
John Lownsbrough takes a fresh and engaging look at Expo 67 and at the social and political contexts in which it occurred. From stories about the physical setting, which signified major technological and engineering feats, to the people, both famous and not, who helped make Expo 67 memorable, The Best Place to Be is a terrific chronicle of a high point in Canada’s history.
I know far less about Canada than I would like to. Our history isn’t taught to the same extent that say ancient civ is taught, probably due to the fact that we’re still a fairly young country. I feel like there are large gaps in what I know about the country I’ve always lived in. So every once in a while, I like to pick up a book about Canada and Canadiana… this is the first Canadian history book, however, that I’ve read that doesn’t have anything to do with Canada’s efforts in WWI or WWII. In the end, I definitely think that this was a good place for me to start.
Penguin Canada has published The History of Canada Series, which includes books about important periods in Canada’s history. This book was is a part of that series, and I’m definitely going to be reading more.
The particular book took a look at the 1967 world fair that took place in Montreal, Quebec.
There were some chapters in this that were really interesting – the political landscape at the time, relations between Canada and the USA and between Canada and France, the design of the facilities – and there were some that were a little dry. I suppose that’s to be expected in any non-fiction book, and I’m certain that the parts that I found dry (like the original planning committee and how they ended up actually getting the bid for Expo, as well as what happened to everyone involved in the Expo after it finished) would be interesting to other people, just not for me.
This book romanticized Expo 67… and I don’t know if it really was as wonderful as the author has portrayed it. My mother was able to visit the fair, but doesn’t remember much about it, so it’s hard to say whether it was as glamorous as I now feel it is. This book certainly made me feel nostalgic for something that I have never experienced, and wish that I had been alive at the time of Expo 67. I mean, I was apparently at Expo 86 in Vancouver (though was so young that I don’t really remember), but ah! This book makes me really wish I had the opportunity to see what sounded like (for the most part) a huge success during Canada’s centennial! Oh!
I feel like a lot of the people quoted in this book either were at the time, or ended up being, big names in Canada – whether in politics, entertainment, business, etc. Everyone seemed to be someone, and I feel that perhaps this is part of what romanticized this. Where are the normal every day people? What did they feel about Expo? Did it draw to them as well? What kind of work did they do there? This book could have benefited from the author expanding the people who he talked about in the book.
I mentioned that one of the highlights of the book for me was the actual design of the facility. I love how Lownsbrough talked about that, and talked about some of the problems that people saw with the signage that was developed, because the whole design stuff is stuff I deal with on a day to day basis. In fact, when it started talking about the design of signage used for Expo 67, I had to look up Paul Arthur who did the signage for Expo 67, and had an all-out graphic designer geek fest. Did you know, this is also the guy who designed the Canada Post logo? Or that he did a redesign of the TTC signage that performed better than older signage but never got implemented because of costs? Or that he claims to have coined the term signage? Swooning!
The Bottom Line
Definitely a great read, and a great way to experience a part of Canadian history that I’ll never be able to experience. Highly recommended to other Canadians who would like to know more about their country.