Does this sound familiar? In Morden, Manitoba, they’ve been nearly three years arguing, amending, petitioning and procrastinating. Now, at long last, they’re about ready for a real whoop-de-do celebration
No DOUBT ABOUT IT: 1967 is going to be a pretty special year for just about everybody in Canada.
Not everybody will get to Montreal for Expo 67 or to Winnipeg for the Pan-American Games, of course. But then not everybody will want to. After all, to some people the most important thing to observe is Canada’s 100th birthday, an event that makes Polish pavilions and Brazilian broad-jumpers seem just a little, well, irrelevant.
A good many people who feel this way live in places like Morden, Manitoba, a town of 3,300, where these photographs were taken.
Morden is a pretty good symbol of the towns and small cities where people who know how to make their own fun are getting ready to celebrate the Centennial. For one thing, Morden is about 70 miles southwest of Winnipeg — just about in the centre of Canada. As well, it’s the site of the federal experimental farm that produced Canada's official Centennial tree, the Almey Rosybloom crabapple, a bushy, decorative variety already planted by the thousands all over Canada, in time to blossom in 1967.
Just driving into Morden for a casual look around, you wouldn’t suspect the Centennial has already created some of the hottest civic issues since 1941, the year they dammed up Dead Horse Creek. While Morden isn’t exactly sleepy (its farm-implement dealers, for one thing, do a thriving business with customers from miles around) it is rather, well, quiet. If you try window-shopping along / continued on page 30
continued on page 30
a small town, people make their own fun
BIG SPREE! continued
Next order of business: how to “Centennialize” a 4-H trail ride
Stephen Street around 10 o’clock of a fall evening, you may wonder whether you're breaking some curfew that everybody knows about but you. In the daytime you can see the whole town in 20 ^minutes and still have time for a leisurely coffee at the Pembina Café. There, the four men in the next booth may turn out to be Mayor Bert Morden (a descendant of the pioneer for whom the town was named) and three of his councillors. Chances are they’re making some informal civic decision over coffee before Bert has to get back behind the checkout counter of his grocery store, just down the street.
If you ask Bert, or Adolph Dack, a spry 72-year-old druggist who is the town’s effusive and energetic Centennial chairman, they'll tell you the Centennial isn't something to be celebrated only on July 1 — it's a year-long festival that ought to start off with a bang on New Year’s Eve and continue clear through 1967. And they’ll explain how they’ll be having a different program chairman for every month of the year, to arrange all the carnivals, sleigh rides, caravans, decoration days, exhibitions, rodeos, corn roasts, fashion shows and sundry other festivities — some special, some “Centennialized” versions of regular annual events.
But what they won't point out is that every
step the townspeople have taken toward celebrating the Centennial has been, above all, undeniably Canadian. Which is to say they’ve spent almost three years arguing and procrastinating, forming committees and passing motions, moving amendments and launching protests, signing petitions and demanding action, viewing with alarm and pointing with pride, and — intermittently — soaring to heights of civic ambition and sinking to depths of civic despair. It’s just the sort of civic therapy every town in Canada seems to need before it can accomplish any worthwhile project.
In fact, with just names and details changed, Morden's Centennial records could be almost any town's:
They’ve had trouble organizing, ITEM: The first Centennial committee’s first act was to order formation of a second committee to decide on a Centennial project, ITEM: The first Centennial chairman later resigned because “there's no Centennial spirit in Morden.” (Adolph Dack started things moving just last summer.)
They’ve argued over projects: Initially, almost every organization had a pet proposal — from the Morden Farmers Curling Club (“Pour a concrete floor in the curling rink”) to the Pinancewaywining Fort Historic Site Board (“Let
us finish our log replica of the old trading post”).
They’ve done some monumental mind-changing. September 1964: Council okays a $150,000 community hall. October 1964: Council has
“second thoughts,” wants a public vote on it. March 1965: Council shelves the plan “for a year” — without a public vote. May 1965: Council approves a decorative fountain — now a reality. Surprise elements: the fountain will be ready on time, at the cost originally estimated.
They’ve bickered over motives. Last August, the Morden Times quoted a federal Centennial spokesman: “It’s no sin to make a dollar during Centennial.” Soon after, Elmo Shareski, a committee member, told Maclean’s about one drawback: “A lot of people are trying to see how much money they can make out of it.”
They’ve fretted over the high cost of culture. Playwright Paul Sigurdson proposed a “creative arts competition” with prizes of $50, $25 and $10 in each category. “The trouble is,” commented chairman Dack, “the first thing they’ll do when they get the money is move to the States.”
In short, Morden, Manitoba, like a thousand other towns and villages across the land, is doing an all-Canadian job of muddling happily through to a Centennial celebration its citizens won't soon forget. HAL TENNANT
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.