When we were kids, my family planned a different vacation experience every summer. Sometimes we would travel by plane and other trips by car, usually during the first two weeks of July.
One summer our destination was Montreal, Canada. My parents had friends who lived in Montreal and they had invited us to visit during Expo ’67, Canada’s World’s Fair. This International and Universal Exposition ran from April to October in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s centennial.
To maximize our vacation time, we flew to Canada instead of driving. My family stayed in a hotel with a pool. I do not remember a single thing about Expo ’67. We must have walked through the exhibits and pavilions and eaten lunch on the one or two days at the event, but I have no memory of it.
What I do remember about that trip to Montreal was climbing the stone steps to Saint Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal. Canada’s largest church, this national shrine was a famous destination for people from around the world who came to St. Joseph’s to pray to be healed and cured of their illnesses.
As a little kid, I was fascinated by the hundreds of canes, crutches, braces and other paraphernalia lined up inside the church. Apparently, miracles had occurred after praying in this church because the sick and the lame were able to leave their devices behind and walk back down the stone steps without any assistance!
Another highlight of that family vacation to Montreal that I particularly remember was going to visit the Midgets Palace. While we cannot possibly imagine such a tourist attraction existing in 2019, this establishment had been a destination for tourists from around the world since 1920.
According to the internet, a Canadian man named Philippe Nicol was 36 inches tall and traveled the world as part of the Barnum & Bailey circus. Philippe and his 40-inch tall wife, Rose, married in 1913 and moved to Montreal with the money they had earned over the years. They had a three-story townhouse built featuring a first-floor apartment with customized small scale furniture, appliances, piano, grandfather clock, etc. The enterprising Philippe opened the Palais des Nains (Midgets Palace) where tourists paid a fee to watch the Nicol family go about their daily lives.
On my 1967 Montreal trip, we observed the tiny furnishings, memorabilia and old photographs of the Nicol family in this unusual apartment. (The Midgets Palace closed in 1990.)
On our last night in Montreal, my parents’ friends offered to babysit my brother and me at their apartment to give my parents an evening out. Rita and George lived in a high-rise apartment building in the center of the city. Their apartment had a small balcony from which we eagerly gawked over the railing for a few minutes before being ushered back inside to the air conditioning.
As a treat, Rita offered us some popcorn. But this was not American popcorn. This was a bowl of bright pink neon colored popcorn! My brother and I declared this “too weird” and politely said, “No, thank you.”
Next, Rita announced that we were having pizza for dinner and we were happy to hear that. When the buzzer sounded and the delivery man showed up at the apartment door, we were immediately disappointed to see pizza covered in sliced green peppers! Ugh! I did not like green peppers under any circumstances. We were New York kids and to us, normal pizza toppings included pepperoni, sausage or meatball.
Seeing our faces, I’m sure that Rita offered to remove the green pepper slices from the pizza so that we wouldn’t starve while in her care, but it was not good pizza.
Just before writing about this childhood trip to Montreal, I decided to Google pink popcorn. I discovered that Lucky Elephant Pink Candy Popcorn has been a popular snack in Canada since the 1950s. This pink candy-coated confection is available at carnivals, concession stands and small grocery stores!
Kim Kovach is more adventurous in trying unusual foods as an adult. kimkovachwrites.com