How To Organize One of The Greatest Montreal Events of All Time

It’s all about the Mad Men.

Par Carmen Desmeules

Expo 67, held in Montreal in 1967, was a resounding success that is still celebrated with  enthusiasm 50 years later. Having brought about much of the city’s vibrant cultural, artistic and culinary flair, it comes as no surprise that the team behind the event was nothing short of extraordinary itself.

They were nicknamed “Les Durs”, or: The Tough Guys and they were Expo 67’s very own Mad Men. “Mad” because they accepted the enormous challenge of putting together a universal exhibition in less than four years, while normally, they would’ve needed at least ten.

  • Pierre de Bellefeuille, Director of Exhibitors
  • Jean-Claude Delorme, Legal counsel, Secretary
  • Dale Rediker, Director of Finance
  • Andrew Kniewasser, General Manager
  • Yves Jasmin, Director of Information, Advertising and Public Relations
  • Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien, Director of Operations
  • Edward Churchill, Director of Installations

Les Durs would meet on Wednesday evenings at each other’s homes to discuss and evaluate the progress of their enormous project. They left politics completely out of their discussions, and were entirely devoted to their respective tasks, to the impossible mission they had of building islands, pavilions, infrastructure, an amusement park, bridges and much more, in record time…

“All the department heads were present,” Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien recalls. “Andy wanted to create an Executive Committee. But it’s important to understand that we only had three and a half years to complete the task at hand. Andrew Kniewasser, the General Manager, was of German descent. He had an iron fist approach, and he’s the one who came up with the name Les Durs. There was a very collegiate spirit within our group.”

According to Yves Jasmin, “Kniewasser thought of forming a team because he was a former football player with a strong sense of team spirit. In football, it’s important to have a cohesive group. And to create that cohesion, he created Les Durs. We needed to be beyond politics, and couldn’t have just anyone telling us what to do, whether he’s a Senator or other.”

“When someone told us to work with someone specific, we were reminded not to let anyone influence our decisions. It was our job to organize the Exhibition. It isn’t because they’re paying for it that they can tell us how to get it done! We helped one another. And we always had this feeling that if we were being attacked, we could show our teeth.”

Les Durs completed their impossible mission despite the numerous obstacles, many of which came from anglophone media…

Source : Interviews with Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien and Yves Jasmin, 2016.

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