Thursday, 27 August 2015

Thursday, or Thereabouts - August 27, 2015

Meet me at the Fountain

All this week thoughts of the CNE (the Canadian National Exhibition or just The Ex) have been running rampant through my brain. I even asked my Facebook friends if any of them wanted to go with me to the Ex. No takers! Probably just as well - the Ex I truly wanted to go to was the one I went to in the 1960's.

The Dufferin Gate ca. 1960

Back then a bus to Jane and Bloor followed by two streetcars, got my older sister and I to the entrance at the Dufferin Gates. Once inside we had strict instructions from Dad, "Meet me at the fountain," so that was our first stop.

Then it was on to the Midway, passing by the Press Building, the Better Living Centre, the
Grandstand, and the Food Building. I'm not sure why but the Food Building was rarely if ever, a permissible stop along the way. Perhaps it was the crowds. Perhaps neither Dad (nor Mom on those few occasions that she came with us) trusted the quality of the offerings. Perhaps it was because they really didn't want us to have a taste of what we could not afford. Popcorn, candy floss and for a real treat an ice cream waffle or maybe a Tiny Tom donut are the only Ex-foods I recall ever eating.

The Midway 1966

But who cares? I was there for the rides. Being all of 8 years old my faves were pretty tame: the Ferris Wheel (in later years even the double Ferris Wheel), the carousel and it's souped up sister the Derby Racer, the Dodge 'ems and something called the Polar Express. The games of chance were always a huge disappointment for me. It looked so easy to get that dime onto a plate, or shoot down big yellow ducks as they moved across the shooting gallery, but I never even came close. And I wasted way too many dimes trying.

I well recall the year, Dad gave my sister and I $5 to spend on rides (rides back then were 25¢) while he went off exploring some of the buildings. My sister, six years my senior, had different tastes when it came to rides. Not only did she con me into going on the Wild Mouse, she put me in the front seat of those little two seater cars. It was the first and last time I would ever be on a roller coaster. Sheer terror!

The Wild Mouse, 1965

Fast forward ten years to 1975 and my time at the Ex was a little different. I went with my cousin Claire, who had come over from England for my wedding. We passed through the same Dufferin Gates then took in a hunter jumper competition in the Colosseum. Only then did we work our way through the Midway of rides, side shows, and games of chance.

Claire won not one but two prizes: at a shooting gallery she got all her ducks in a row and won a plush purple mouse a bit larger than a football; and then at a coin toss won a humongous plush polar bear.

Done with the Midway - there was no way I was letting her win anything more and we couldn't get on anymore of the rides with the thing either - we hauled the bear and the mouse over the bridge to Ontario Place.

Two attractive single women in their early twenties, one hugging a white bear and the other carrying a purple mouse walk into a bar...  Let's just say we garnered a lot of attention. From the savoury to the unsavoury, from the tailored suits to the stubble-faced sleazebags, we met them all. We refused all come-ons politely, then firmly. But when pressed too hard, we packed up the bear and mouse and moved on to the next bar.

We ambled, after a fashion, through the marina, took in an IMAX show at Cinesphere, and had wine with dinner in the restaurant with white table cloths. We oohed and ahhed loudly and giggled all the way through the fireworks. By now the bear had acquired a name, "Whiskey", as had the purple mouse, wait for it... "Mousey-mouse-mouse".

My Dad, Claire, Whiskey & Mousey-mouse-mouse, 1975

Yeah, well we lugged our menagerie back across the bridge to join the boisterous crowd heading for the streetcars. We hung on tight to the big bear and made it from streetcar to the subway, but missed the last bus home and had to walk from Kipling Avenue. As my late mother told it, she heard us long before she saw us. I personally have no idea what she was talking about.

Let's go to The Ex!
Meet me at the fountain...

...but beware of a bear and a mouse - they lead you astray and are very loud too!

©2015 April Hoeller


  1. Sue Beauchamp-Broomhead28 August 2015 at 00:26

    Great memories. I was just at the CNE with my husband today! Enjoyed it as much as ever.

  2. Oh April...THANK you for this post dotted with giggles:) The ducks in a row, popcorn and candy floss, the bear and the mouse...fabulous stuff. I'll be coming back to read again:)

    1. So many memories! My Dad worked his summers with the Conklin Circus. He was a barker with the sideshows in the 1930's. When we went to the Ex, he would regale us with tales of his experiences with the carnies (performers). In the 30's these sideshows had some 'freak shows' featuring dwarfs, giants, & deformities, some real some done with mirrors. No such thing would be tolerated now but it was all part of circus life back then.
      Thanks for joining me at the Ex.