The Summer 20,000 Kids Got Lost In Montreal

By Carmen Desmeules (translated by Emilie Gosselin)

The summer of ‘67 marked the beginning of a new era for Montrealers and Canadians alike, as the 1967 Universal Exhibition was held on Notre-Dame and Saint-Helen’s Islands. There was something for everyone to see, regardless of their gender, religion, race, or even their age…

Being such a large-scale event, it comes as no surprise that many got lost on the site of Expo.

Walt Disney had warned the directors of Expo 67 to pay special attention to children wandering alone on site. According to Disney, many kids were abandoned each year at Disneyworld, in Anaheim, California.

From the Opening Day up until October 29th, 13 091 adults got lost on the site of Expo – wives, husbands, elders and in-laws! For example, an old lady was panicking as she couldn’t find her hotel; a security guard found the information she needed… in the bottom of her purse!

No child was abandoned, and the 24 696 children who got lost on site were indeed found, including a baby on the shore of the Saint-Lawrence. Many people offered to adopt the baby, but its mother finally contacted the authorities to retrieve her child.

At the very beginning of Expo, a young boy went by the centre five times in a row, changing his name each time to benefit from the agents and large amount of toys he could play with there. And the air conditioning!

“The lost children… I lived through that experience because I had family come from the States with their kids and they lost one at 10 in the morning,” recalls Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien, the “Mayor of Expo.” I was happy that the system worked for us, the same as for everyone else. They found the child an hour later. They found him, and it wasn’t a problem.”

So Man and His World was also Child and His World – no drama!

Sources : Expo 67 collection, Library and Archives Canada. Interview with Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien, 2017.

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