centennial symbol medal.jpg1967 was an exciting year for every elementary school Canadian child and, from my youthful perspective, it felt like a great year to be Canadian.

At Arthur Hatton Elementary School our music teacher wrote the words to a new song on the blackboard. I vaguely remember a piano in the room. The sheet music to a song by Bobby Gimby was open on the piano. But I know memory is a funny thing. Maybe it was a tape recorder or a 45 record on a player. Arthur Hatton was a new school and pretty high tech. It had all the bells and whistles. 

The class lined up, tallest kids at the back. The music teacher sat at a right angle to us, conducting from the piano, keeping her eye on one of the tallest boys. He was doing an unconvincing job of mouthing the words.

Every music period we practiced “CA-NA-DA, We love thee…” in unison. Her plan was simple. She was going to teach the song to all the kids in her music classes. The whole school was going to sing the song at an assembly.

My brother and sisters came home humming the tune. Inspired, our mother, a former school teacher, gathered us around the kitchen table. That year we were going to send a piece of Canada to our grandparents in England. She told us to write short essays about our lives, what we liked most to do. I’m pretty sure she helped the youngest, Joey, with his assignment.

queen medal.jpgMom had it figured. There was time to rehearse after school and before supper. There was a deadline. Dad had a trip planned to visit his mother and stepfather. Mom convinced Dad to tape us on his not-to-be-touched-by-children’s-hands reel-to-reel tape recorder to take as a gift to his mother. “CA-NA-DA, We love thee…”

We made the deadline. I don’t remember if there was a responding tape that made its way to Canada, but I remember there was a complication. The recording speed was different in England. The tape had to be converted. Perhaps there was a message back, but that’s where my memory fails me. It was a long, long time ago.

Near the end of the year there was an essay contest open to kids throughout the school district. The topic was What Centennial means to me. I ran across my entry in an old trunk last year, searching for something else. My mother had saved it for me. I unfolded the legal foolscap paper. It was cursive writing, penned in blue ink, big letters as if I had hoped my big hand would lend importance to the entry. It was three pages long. My handwriting has changed.

The essay was accompanied by a black and white newspaper photo taken at a school assembly. I had placed first and won $100.

The prize wasn’t the only highlight of the year. It was an exhilarating time. In July we gathered for cultural days at Riverside Park and tasted foods from around the world. I wasn’t lucky enough to take in Expo ’67, but classmates came back with stories of a summer adventure in Quebec.

For those of us who were sedentary, the Centennial Train came and went. I don’t remember the event, but I do remember the Centennial Caravan and my family eagerly lining up to see the joined tractor trailers with exhibits that told the Canadian story. It all seemed magical to me. It was an innovative approach I had not seen before….museum stories on wheels!

What was my personal centennial project besides writing my first essay? To take a French course before it was compulsory. I was concerned hearing about Charles de Galle’s speech in Montreal ending with and emphatic "Vive le Québec libre! Vive, vive, vive le Canada français! Et vive la France!"

In my young mind I needed to learn this other official Canadian language. Fifty years later, I’m still working on that project.


Trumpeter and songwriter Bobby Gimby was born in Cabri, Saskatchewan, in 1918. In 1967 Gimby, 'The Pied Piper of Canada', achieved national fame with CA-NA-DA, the most popular song of Canada's Centennial celebrations. Awarded an Order of Canada for his song, Gimby donated his royalties to the Boy Scouts of Canada. Read more...

From the Niagara Railway Museum: The Confederation Train was sponsored by the federal government for Canada's Centennial Year. Both CN and CP contributed equipment to the train including a locomotive each. The train consisted of 13 cars of which 6 were exhibit cars which told the history of Canada from early exploration to the present.  Read more....

From the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Celebrations, activities and events of all kinds were held across Canada in 1967 to mark the 100th anniversary of Confederation, and promote the country’s achievements, history and cultural heritage. The federal Centennial Commission funded thousands of special events and activities, such as the Centennial Train and Caravans, the Centennial Medal, and numerous music and sporting events across the nation. A focus of Centennial Year was the immensely successful Expo 67 World’s Fair in Montréal, which was visited by 50 million people. Read more...