Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Five Roses Flour Sign

The neon Five Roses Flour sign is a Montreal landmark. Erected in 1948 atop the Ogilvie flour mill in the Old Port, the original sign read "Farine Ogilvie Flour", named after the Scottish family that owned the mill. The sign was changed in 1954 in favor of advertising the Five Roses brand of flour rather than the Ogilvie family business.

The sign read "Farine Five Roses Flour" for over 20 years, until the Bill 101 language law forced the removal of the English word "flour" in 1977. (Ironically, the English words "Five Roses" are acceptable to the French-only law because they're a brand name. This type of linguistic duality is totally representative of Montreal...) The sign's final transformation in 1977 is what we still see today: "Farine Five Roses".

In 1993, the Ogilvie Flour business was sold to U.S. multinational Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), who sold it to the J.M. Smucker co. earlier this year (2006). ADM still owns the building atop which the sign is perched, and, naturally, doesn't want to continue promoting a brand it no longer owns. The sign was then switched off, with plans of dismantling it.

Public outcry from Montreal citizens and heritage activists lead to the sign being switched back on, temporarily, until it's owners make a final decision regarding it's future. The city of Montreal refuses to get involved because the sign is private property. It is also in a state of disrepair, and would require major investing for it's restoration. The outlook looks bleak...

I consider the Five Roses sign a piece of industrial art and not simply advertising. It hearkens back to the golden days of Montreal neon signage. It must be saved, it's as much a landmark as the illuminated cross on Mount Royal. To lose the Five Roses sign would be to lose a part of Montreal history...


The Five Roses sign is located in close proximity to where the main entrance of Expo 67 was. I have come across 2 photos from Expo where we see the Five Roses sign (pre-Bill 101, with the word "flour" still intact...)

Click here to view Five Roses T-shirts on sale at Montréalité.com. Click here to try the Five Roses anagram game, via the Save Farine Five Roses blog.

images: (top, circa 1950's)
(bottom, Expo 67) FOS Productions

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Supremes

The Supremes were one of Motown's signature acts in the 1960's, and one of the best known girl groups in musical history. Formed by Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, the girls shot to stardom out of the poverty-stricken Brewster-Douglas Projects of Detroit, Michigan.

The Supremes' first few singles went unnoticed, but then in August 1964, they released "Where Did Our Love Go", which became their first #1 hit. The group had a total of 12 #1 singles between 1964 and 1970, and often appeared on such television shows as Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan.

Though Florence Ballard was the group's founder and original lead, Diana Ross came to the forefront and overshadowed Ballard early on. Producer Berry Gordy was aware that Ballard's voice was far more powerful than Diana's, but considered Diana's voice to be fresher and more commercial.

Tensions rose as Berry Gordy lavished all his attention on Diana Ross, and the situation was further complicated by a romantic liaison between the two. Personal problems and depression lead to Florence Ballard's dismissal in 1967, and Diana Ross left for a solo career in 1970.

As a child, I was always captivated by the look and sound of The Supremes. I have always loved their fabulous matching gowns and bouffant hairdos, not to mention their perfect little dance choreographies.

Original Supreme Mary Wilson recently put some Supremes gowns on exhibit. A montage of this exhibit can be viewed here.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Michèle Richard at Expo 67

At the private party I attended on September 3rd, I finally got to ask Michèle Richard the question that I had been dying to ask her! I got to ask about her impressions and memories of Expo 67.

Michèle told me that the French pavilion had set out an exquisite buffet for her and her entourage upon her visit to the Expo site in the month of June, 1967. Michèle also told me that she had fallen under the charm of the exotic pavilion of Algeria. The Algerians had given her the gift of a beautiful hand-made bracelet. It is a bracelet that Michèle treasures to this day...

At this same party, I had obtained an original 1967 newspaper document detailing Michèle Richard's visit to Expo, including many photographs, the best of which can be seen here.

While on the subject of Michèle Richard and Expo 67, check out this ultra-rare video of her rendition of Un jour un jour, the french version of the Expo 67 theme:

image source: personal collection

The Pavilion of Japan

Located on Île Sainte Hélène next to the Netherlands pavilion, Japan's pavilion resembled a modern, concrete log cabin. The pavilion was divided into 3 distinct sections and sought to blend traditional Japanese elements with modern Western influences.

Visitors took an escalator to the top section and moved gradually down to ground level. The general theme was Japan in Progress with a sub-theme at each level:

Harmony with Nature demonstrated how Japanese people lived in a land where every square foot was precious.

Harmony with Tradition was essentially a large room decorated in a mix of traditional Japanese style with modern (1967) interior design. The walls were in a shoji-like lattice pattern with Japanese ornaments, dolls and flower arrangements displayed on shelves. Mod purple chairs sat amidst green wall-to wall carpet. The result was both serene and striking...

Harmony with Technological Advance showed Japanese innovations electronics and industrial machinery, with displays of cameras, radios and motorbikes. It was in this section that visitors could observe an ultra-modern computer that automatically replied in Japanese to any message given to it in English, and a TV-phone reminiscent to the one presented in the Telephone Pavilion.

The one truly traditional part of the pavilion was the garden. Visitors could rest in this tranquil oasis of shrubs, flowers and running water.

An annex in the same style of the pavilion housed the Japanese restaurant. Visitors could sample exotic Japanese fare such as shrimp and vegetable tempura and green tea ice cream.

I simply love the Harmony with Tradition room. Those groovy purple chairs are fab!

photos: (1) (2-3)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Space Exhibits at Expo 67

The 1950's and 60's saw a general enthusiasm for space exploration, and by 1967 the U.S. and the USSR were engaged in a fierce race to put a man on the moon.

At Expo 67, both these countries attempted to convince visitors of their superiority in the field of space technology by featuring special space exhibits in their pavilions. These exhibits proved very popular and lineups were long...

The U.S. Space Observation Deck

The U.S. pavilion used it's highest platform (9 stories high) for it's space exhibit entitled Destination Moon. The platform was reached by escalator, the longest one in existence in 1967 at 125 feet. Suspended from the ceiling of the pavilion were several actual Apollo and Gemini capsules (including the Freedom Seven Mercury capsule). A 3-man command module, and a model of the Surveyor space craft were also on display. The entire exhibit was enhanced by photographs, films of blast-offs and sounds of recorded conversations between astronauts, as well as models of space suits and examples of food used by astronauts.

The USSR Space Gallery and Cosmos Hall

Like their American counterparts, the USSR also placed their space gallery at the highest point of their pavilion's exhibition area. Several dozen sputnik models (each designed for a specific purpose) were suspened from the ceiling. Set on a backdrop of simulated surfaces of the moon and Venus was a fire-blackened model of Yuri Gagarin's space capsule. Cosmos Hall, a 60-seat spherical theatre in which visitors were taken on an imaginary journey to Mars, was very popular but required reservations...

History tells us that the the U.S. Apollo 11 space mission would eventually win the race, landing on the moon on July 20, 1969.

photos: FOS productions

Saturday, September 9, 2006

The Frito Bandito

The Frito Bandito appeared in 1967 as a commercial mascot for Fritos Corn Chips. Cartoon legend Tex Avery (the man behind Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck) created the Frito Bandito while voice actor Mel Blanc (also of Bugs/Daffy fame) developped his voice.

The Frito Bandito was a Mexican bandit, complete with mustache and sombraro, brandishing pistols and singing "Ay-aiy-aiy-aiy-aiy! Oh, I am the Frito Bandito" to the tune of the traditional Mexican favorite Cielito Lindo. The Bandito would steal Fritos Corn Chips (often at gunpoint), to which the commercial voice-over would suggest buying an extra bag of Fritos and hiding it from family members because "there may be a Frito Bandito in your house..."

Pressure from advocacy groups such as the National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee forced Frito Lay to retire the Bandito in 1971. All traces of this character have been erased from Frito Lay company records.

Racial stereotypes aside, I must admit I find the Frito Bandito kinda cute in a Speedy Gonzales sort of way... Others must share my opinion because Frito Bandito T-shirts and paraphernalia can be purchased here.


The Expo Hostess

Expo 67's hostesses were responsible for the reception of the more than 50 million visitors that came through Expo's turnstiles. They played a pivotal role in the success of Expo 67.

As early as 1965, a nation-wide selection process began in Canada to fill the positions of the 200+ hostesses required for the Canadian and provincial pavilions, as well as "general" Expo hostesses.

Each participating country was responsible for hiring their pavilion's hostesses. These women became ambassadors of their own cultures at Expo 67.

Though not politically correct by today's standards, physical appearance played a very important part in the selection of Expo hostesses. One pavilion went so far as to hire only former Miss Canada winners and contestants! (I wonder if there was a swimsuit competition?) Official hostess training also included makeup lessons!

Beauty aside, these girls needed to be intelligent, friendly, and quick to answer any question that a typical Expo visitor could have. (I imagine that these girls also had to be able to withstand un-funny jokes and comments from leering old men...)

A little known fact is that a small amount of young men were also hired as hosts, mostly for late-night duties and information booths. A total of over 1500 young men and women hosted at Expo 67, some even putting their studies on hold to work in Montreal during Expo's 6-month run.

Another interesting note is that while pavilion hostess uniforms were styled in the latest fashion by their countries' leading designers (hats and gloves a were a must), the waitresses that worked in the pavilion restaurants were usually in traditional costume...

photos: library and archives Canada

Monday, September 4, 2006

Michèle Richard Happening

On Sunday, September 3rd, I was fortunate enough to attend a very special event. By know you know how much I love Michèle Richard, so imagine my being invited to a private party for fans of hers, held at the home of her #1 fan...

And the best part? A personal appearance by Michèle Richard, herself!

Maryanne Frégeau has been collecting Michèle Richard newspaper clippings, record albums and memorabilia since 1966, when she was a teenager. Throughout the years her collection has grown to mammoth proportions (you have no idea) and she's been fortunate enough to become close personal friends with Michèle.

I met Maryanne at a Michèle Richard show at the Montreal Casino (which is, by the way, housed in the old France and Quebec pavilions from Expo 67...) Maryanne spoke of having a party for her biggest fans, and let me tell you, I made sure to get invited!

Radio-Canada was there to film this special event, and highlights will be broadcasted Monday, the 18th of September at 10 am.

image: invitation designed by yours truly!

Friday, September 1, 2006

The Telephone Pavilion

The Telephone pavilion was located on Île Sainte-Hélène, right next to the pavilion of Iran. It was sponsored by the Canadian telephone companies with the theme of Canada and Communications as it applied to Expo's theme of Man and his World.

The main attraction of the Telephone pavilion was a movie entitled Canada 67, produced by the Walt Disney Company and filmed in state-of-the-art Circle-Vision 360°. The 18-minute film about the wonders of Canada in 1967 was projected on nine screens which surrounded the audience. The sensation of "being there" made it one of Expo's must-see films, and lineups were long...

When the film was over, visitors were invited to sample some novel innovations of the telephone industry:

The Enchanted Forest invited children to sit on toadstools and phone their favorite (Disney) cartoon characters.

The Picturephone Set let visitors use a futuristic Jetsons-like phone to see the person they were calling.

Logic and Memory Games was a fun series of games and quizzes involving telephones.

The Future looked towards innovations in telephone shopping and banking, which were unheard of in 1967. (The exhibit even spoke of call waiting 25 years before it became a household standard...)

photos: (from top) 1-2:
3-4: FOS productions