The Extra Mile

What was your ultimate pre-teen adventure? Consider this one from the late 1960s. A Shetland pony, a horse buggy, two brothers 9- and 11-years-old, a solo trip across three states and an international border to arrive at Montréal’s Expo 67.

Pony Boys is the most recent offering from Op-Docs the New York Times’ award-winning series of short documentaries by independent filmmakers. Archival footage and present day interviews with the adventurers Tony and Jeff Whittemore recount an unbelievable story of parental trust and confidence.

Source: Pony Boys: Expo 67 or Bust

Following a well thought out preparation period, Tony and Jeff’s parents let them hit the road for what turned out to be a 27 day, 350 mile trip in a buggy pulled by King, the family’s beloved Shetland pony. From Needham, MA to Montréal it was a slow cookin’ ‘Expo 67 or Bust’ kind of trip with virtually no onsite parental support.

Eric Stange’s 22-minute documentary captures the brothers’ perspectives 55 years after their incredible journey. Interestingly, they both are very matter of fact reflecting on the experience. During that summer of 1967, they felt that nothing extraordinary was happening. Even with stories in The Boston Globe, The New Yorker and other outlets they were pressed to understand a growing media hoopla.

Public opinion was divided. Letters and phone calls rolled in. There were those supporting the family’s decision to empower Tony and Jeff taking this trip. Others bluntly stated that the parents were irresponsible. Imagine the social media furor this would generate today!

The boys made it to Expo 67 none the worse for wear. They were feted by event organizers and for a brief moment were international media darlings capturing hearts and minds with their story of pluck and persistence. The ‘fame’ receded quickly but even today, Tony and Jeff reflect on those days when they were kings of the roadway, adventure bound.

Source: Pony Boys: Expo 67 or Bust

Time and again throughout the film, Tony and Jeff circle back to their mother. She was the one who made it all possible. She was the spark of trust and agency. Is this the kind of adventure you could foresee for your children of a similar age?

Pony Boys can be viewed here.

For some additional background, The Pony Boys: Expo 67 or Bust website includes a scrapbook, letters and a photo gallery.

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