It was 1967. While the Summer of Love was taking San Francisco by storm and bringing free love, flower power and sitar music into mainstream American culture, my family was at the Expo World’s Fair in Montreal. I was four.
I have a sketchy memory of a large, musty tent and mud and rain. And I remember the panic of getting separated from my parents, if only briefly, in the crowds. But more than anything else, I thought I remembered a miniature wooden roller coaster just for kids. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have let me ride it, but I do remember thinking it was the coolest thing my young eyes had ever seen.
These two images led to a lifelong hatred of crowds and love of roller coasters.
Or maybe I only wanted to remember the roller coaster. I searched and searched and couldn’t find any reference to it. I was more disappointed than I expected to be. All these years I had held onto those two memories as foundations of the person I eventually became, the dichotomy of me: the simpering wimp who is afraid of everything, and the brave soul who straddles the roller coaster and plunges into the fray to rescue the fair maiden.
And then, at last, I discovered a dusty archive deep in a Google list that said there was “a miniature roller coaster that climbed and dipped on the sides of Pumpkin Hill” at La Ronde amusement park during Expo 67.