Category Archives: Expo 67

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.

True North Playscapes – Canada 150

As Canada celebrates 150 years, PlayGroundology is inviting those who love play to join True North Playscapes – Canada 150. This new flickr group has been created to document and share the diversity of children’s playscapes across the country.

expo-67-iiChildren’s Creative Centre Playground – Canada Pavilion – Expo 67. Photographer – unknown. Source – Canadian Centre for Architecture.

Photos can depict any time period and any kind of space – urban, natural, other – that kids use for play. Photos do not have to be limited to ‘playgrounds’. Any space or feature that kids convert for play purposes will be a welcome addition to the group.

Please tag your photos by province, by town/city and by year. If the playscapes are distinctive in other ways, please tag them accordingly.

childrens-creative-centre-playground-iiSwallows and Amazons, anyone? Children’s Creative Centre Playground – Canada Pavilion – Expo 67. Photographer – unknown. Source – Canadian Centre for Architecture.

It is my hope that True North Playscapes – Canada 150 will attract a wide variety of playscapes and play spaces that provide alternative opportunities to the standard, off the shelf, pre-fab installations commonly installed in public venues in many communities.

Upload your photos at True North Playscapes – Canada 150 and let’s help build a resource for communities from coast to coast to coast and beyond.

the-waveThe Wave on the Halifax, Nova Scotia waterfront – sculpture becomes play environment.

It’s the 150th anniversary of Confederation, everybody play…..

Global Village Playground at Expo 67

Forty-five years ago this playground made quite a splash at Expo 67, the 20th century’s most successful World Fair. For a few weeks during Canada’s 100th birthday festivities, Montreal’s Expo was the cultural crossroads of the world. In that global village mashup, that summer of celebration and exuberance, the Canadian pavilion put children front and centre.

From CCA’s Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Archive

The playground at the Canadian pavilion was a must stop for the 10 and under set. By North American standards it was cutting edge, ahead of its time, as can be seen in this short excerpt from a National Film Board of Canada documentary.

Landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander had a great stage to share her playground design ideas with an international audience and the 30,000 appreciative kids who played there over the course of the summer.

The playground especially designed for Expo ’67, in conjunction with the Children’s Creative Centre, should provide some new ideas for crowded urban communities. Everywhere in cities there are areas that could be made into “vest-pocket parks”, with mounds, ravines, treehouses, streams for wading, and places for building.

See Oberlander’s entire Space for Creative Play text and a letter to the editor of Maclean’s magazine about the playground here.

From CCA’s Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Archive

Cornelia Oberlander is now a doyenne of the landscape architect circle. I have seen her referred to as the Queen of Green. The ideas she put in play at Expo 67 are increasingly in vogue. A case in point is the burgeoning interest in natural playscapes.

From CCA’s Cornelia Hahn Oberlander Archive

Cornelia, thanks for the Expo 67 gift that keeps on giving. It’s as relevant and exciting today as it was forty-five years ago.

Information on the Canadian Centre for Architecture’s (CCA) Cornelia Hahn Oberlander holdings is available here.

More on Expo 67 here and here.