My Summer of Love – Part 1

As winter transitioned to spring during my first year at Gonzaga University, a dormitory neighbor who knew about everything that was cool, told me about a music festival planned for Monterey California that summer. The lineup of performers convinced me I needed to go. First I needed to find where was Monterey and how to get there. Reality interfered with my plans, however.

The Monterey Pop Festival took place in the middle of June, too soon to earn enough from a summer job to pay for the trip and accumulate some money for the fall semester. Also, the chances a summer employer would hire me and agree to my taking a week off right away were pretty close to – if not exactly – zero. I decided my best plan would be to use the summer’s earnings to buy a car. That plan lasted until I heard about Expo 67 in Montreal, commemorating Canada’s centennial. And why not visit New York City, too? It’s right on the way. Well, sort of.

I put aside $300 from my summer job for the trip. Airlines at that time, attempting to build lifetime customer loyalty with baby boomers, offered half-price stand-by fares for travelers between ages twelve and twenty-one. Round-trip Portland to New York City cost $150, leaving $150 for food, lodging and entertainment. Vince Chiotti (pronounced Quixote), a friend since grade school, said it sounded like fun.

We made the standby flight to Kennedy airport with no problem. We accepted an offer to share a cab with a couple. They got off at their destination, paid their fare, and we continued on our way. We became concerned and then worried as we watched the taxi’s meter spin. The driver graciously let us out near a subway stop. As we tried to figure out how to navigate the subway, we also realized the taxi driver had not reset the meter when the first passengers got out, thus collecting twice for the first part of the trip.

The next morning we boarded a Greyhound for Montreal. We arrived late afternoon with no idea about where to find inexpensive – make that cheap – lodging in the last week of August in the city hosting a world’s fair. We wandered about, asking strangers for suggestions. We were seriously considering spending the night in a nearby park, when someone suggested we check out an old convent/school that had been converted to a hostel.

Rooms rented for six dollars a night. For a dollar, a male person could have a bed on the fourth floor. The top floor of the building was filled with bunk beds constructed of unfinished lumber. We paid for two nights. Very shortly after claiming our beds, we determined that there was no system to keep track of who was there and who had paid. We stayed a week. Several Canadians tried to convince us that Toronto was a good place for draft-age Americans to move to.

There were no showers on the fourth floor. Dormitory guests went down to the second floor – no elevator – to bathe. For a fifty-cent fee, plus a twenty-five-cent deposit, a person could rent a towel. We kept our eyes out for towels discarded by other guests, presumably wealthy guests, by our standards anyway. We redeemed enough towels to recoup our lodging expense.

United States pavilion

Expo 67’s theme was “Man and His World,” probably not a slogan that would be used today. The United States and Russia competed for the most grandiose pavilion and chest-pounding exhibits. The U.S. drew Vietnam War protesters, The U.S.S.R. celebrated fifty years since overthrowing the czars. While waiting in line for one exhibit, I munched on a candy bar. I walked over to deposit the wrapper into a trash receptacle and returned to the line. A young worker, carrying a broom and long-handled dustpan, came up and told me not to do that. If people threw their rubbish into the container instead of the floor, he said there would be no job for him.

Most everything was posted in English and French. Wandering around in a Franco-dominated neighborhood, we saw no English, giving me the opportunity to test my high-school French. We also saw “Vive le Quebec libre” graffiti.

Habitat 67 – factory-built units assembled on site

Expo 67 was endlessly interesting and offered enough food from carts for penurious young tourists more interested in cheap than healthy eating. The fair’s amusement-park section, La Ronde, is today a Six Flags park. Our tour of the Canadian pavilion ended at the British Columbia exhibit. Somehow they had brought in pine trees with scents reminding us of home in the Pacific Northwest.

We split up leaving Montreal, Vince to Ithaca to visit an uncle, me to Staten Island where a WWII friend of my father lived. Before boarding, the passengers carried their luggage to a baggage handler. When I made it to the front of the line, he reached around me and my duffel to take other passenger’s bags. I realized the others had the bag in one hand and a quarter in the other. I dug into my pocket was on my way to New York City. Vince and I would meet up in a couple days.