My 1967 Memory of Resuming my Love Affair with Canada

It seems every who was an adult in 1967 is putting down memories of the year.  For me it was a bit momentous.  In 1967, I was spending my first full year as an adult in what was pretty much a “foreign ” country.   I was born in Canada of a Canadian father and American mother.  In 1953, when I was nine, the family moved from my birth country to my mother’s — in fact to her home town of Dover Ohio.  After graduating from the Oberlin college from the family base in Colorado in 1966, I worked for a month and then bought a 1954 Chev and headed northwest to Vancouver, my birthplace, with the expectation my two brothers, then also targets of the draft, would follow soon.

1967 became my biggest-ever traveling year ( have never left North Am).  And I included Expo 67 on it.  I started the year living in Van and being laid off by GM of Canada in Feb, my first “permanent” job (albeit work in the zone office parts warehouse didn’t seem to be on a path to the presidency).  It is a seasonal thing in the biz, I was told. But I didn’t like the idea of sitting idle on unemployment (which I never applied for during my years in the “job market”).

I headed north to work on the WAC Bennett Dam, in Hudson’s Hope) on a tip from my brother, who was living with me at the time, and working in engineering, his field (mine was government).  After things warmed up enough, I game my notice (relieving me of living in a dormitory and eating in an all-male dining room), hopped in my car and toured Edmonton, Calgary (a childhood home), and back to Van for a family reunion.  Then I headed to SF, taking along another GM layoff buddy going to a conf. there.

After he headed back north, I kept going south, to LA, where I stayed with a Toronto-born GM coworker, Hugh McClean, in his apartment.  He was a bartender at a club on the Santa Monica pier.  There I met another of his Toronto friends, and we went for a tour of Universal Studios one day, where we met two young women, one of whom became my wife of 47.5 yrs ago (yes, we celebrated that exact date just a few weeks ago).  I took the two of them, staunch NYCers, camping in the more rugged west (they had never worn jeans or slept outdoors) who agreed to let me give them the southern Rockies tour, ending in Denver (where I finished high school) instead of Las Vegas as they had planned, although we did stop in Las Vegas where I hit the jackpot on a 25-cent slot machine.  We then did the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Mesa Verde, Durango CO, and even tiny Frisco, where the diner had a clever sign under the clock: “We don’t worry about this clock being stolen; our employees never take their eyes off it.”

They flew home from Denver, and I headed east by car to see Expo 67, as well as other sites and people along the way.  I promised to drop by Maryann’s home on Long Is, on my way.  I got as far as Medina, near my alma mater of Oberlin, where my mother’s sister lived, and I got her OK to leave my car there, since my money was running out faster than planned. I switched to hitchhiking, the mode I used for all my travel during my college days, to go home for summer, and to visit friends (of mine or my mother’s, another Oberlin grad, as was this sister).

I then headed south to visit a different brother, serving with the U.S. Army in Ft. Gordon GA, near Augusta (maybe that where I get my strong interest in golf — he got drafted via some slopping paperwork with his Selective Service board, considering his dual U.S.-Canada citizenship — same as me and three of our other siblings have.)

I also stopped along the way in Washington DC to visit a fellow Obie I knew through theatre work.  I then headed to NY , staying, as promised for several days with Maryann and her sister, Stephanie.  Then I continued due north to Montreal, staying with a Vancouver friend in a shared apartment, to attend, for a week, the many wonders of Expo 67.  The Habitat exhibit, including the reams of paper plans Moishe Safdie created shared with the most ardent visitors in a shack at the exhibit’s base, took me a whole day.  I also looked up another Obie grad, a French major from Ohio whom I had dated and at whose house in Springfield, OH, my appendix ruptured in 1963, who was a tour guide at the U.S. Geodesic dome, itself quite an attraction.

My tentative destination, when I stepped out on autoroute 40 with my bag and my thumb, was getting back to my car in Medina, in order to end my trip in style in Toronto, where my GM managers, said, when I was being laid off, the company had more opportunities.  I always “loved” cars, and so that seemed as good an idea as any for an end point, after something like 5000 miles (8,000 kms).  I had another family to stay with, the McInnes’, another acquaintance of my family that my mother had assiduously sent Bradshaw Bulletins to every Christmas, so their door was open to me, to allow me time to find a job and an apartment (or more likely part of an apartment, given my budget and frugality, another quality I can thank my mother for).

Even before I found GM’s zone office, looking for a job, the company found me.  I was sitting with an employment officer at some jobs agency.  While the agent assigned to me begged leave to use the toilet, the guy at the next desk came over, and poached me, asking, “So, I just heard you had worked for GM in Vancouver?”  When I said yes, he quickly gave me a GM name and phone # to call the next day, after he first gave his GM contact my particulars).  I got the job.

The year was advancing through the later days of summer.  I bunked with the Santa Monica GM co-worker whose family home was in Toronto.  I stayed with him and his parents until I found an apartment to share along the Yonge Street subway, a good link to my job downtown.

I ended the year inviting Maryann up for a weekend, which she cancelled at the last moment, saying only that something had come up (after which I heard nothing further for weeks . . .  I was thinking. Hmmm.  Did she start dating someone else?  This long-distance romance is perhaps too low-powered)

In thinking back, the Safdie exhibit in Montreal was probably biggest influence in my life.  I was drawn to housing and planning and transportation ever since, although with quite a bit of interest in freedom of information, electoral reform, and futures thrown in.  And I guess my second equally short — and final — stint with General Motors may have helped me consider a new role for cars, a la Vrtucar carsharing.

Maryann & I did get together in Toronto the next summer (1968) while I was on assignment in Niagara Falls, tending to a sick dealership and had my own motel suite — far more suitable than a shared apartment for romance).  I did a very non-GM thing: I brought along my Honda 50 and used it to commute to the dealership instead of my company car.

I toted it, on the back of my 1954 rust-free Chevy to Ottawa, after I “laid off” GM and joined the Company of Young Canadians in Ottawa on January 6, 1969, where I got Maryann up for another visit (I had added to its roof a “new American flag” (“$”) on its roof, composed mosaic-style from bottle caps from the O’Keefe brewery in Lebreton Flats).  In November, we sort of eloped, as neither of our families were represented, and honeymooned in a motel near Wakefield  (which M demanded be changed after one noisy-neighbours night, and we came back to Ottawa to stay the other two days — before she had to get back to her job to give two-weeks notice — to the Richmond Inn on Richmond Rd — it’s still there).  We spend our two remaining days picking out furniture in the Glebe apartment I had rented.

 

p.s., My only encounters with law enforcement during that 5,000 miles, were in Canada: a motorcycle policeman in Montreal while standing on the shoulder of Autoroute 40 with my thumb out (and having to figure out his French), and while crossing the border at Buffalo, when I admitted I was hitching.  The second required me to pay a fine, a serious assault on my $$ solvency.

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