Hal Tennant June 1 1967


Hal Tennant June 1 1967


Hal Tennant

IT's JULY 31, 1965, and one of the islands where Expo will stand is just taking shape. The trucking contractors are doing their damnedest to get that fill hauled down to the riverfront and dumped into the cofferdam. But a little mob of wildcat strikers are doing their damnedest to stop them. As one convoy of trucks tries to get through, the strikers pelt them with sticks of dynamite, which explode like giant firecrackers. When another convoy tries to run the gauntlet, a speeding car zooms past, a .38-caliber automatic points its ugly little snout out of one window toward the trucks and—bang! bang!

Nobody's hurt, but obviously these wildcatters are playing for keeps, and Gerry Germain, project manager for Walsh Canadian Construction, is just about out of his skull. He's got to turn in another of those weekly progress reports, but this time, with the news he's got. those guys in the Expo office are just going to have to face a few realities.

“Please note," his memo begins, “that construction of our cofferdam, as shown on network No. 0-29-1 1-500, Nodes 35-36. has now been delayed six days due to current trucking strike . . .” He tells how they kept the trucks moving for just four hours that Saturday, what with all the violence, and then he tries to be reassuring: “As soon as labor conditions

permit, we will resume construction activities on this project.”

But Colonel Edward Churchill, Director of Installations for the Canadian Corporation for the 1967 World Exhibition, is not at all reassured. The Colonel, as he is respectfully known up and down the ranks at Expo, didn't build 192 airfields all over wartime Europe by listening to excuses. His reaction is pure automatic reflex.


You have to spell things out like that in big fat capital letters, The Colonel has found, or some people just don't get the message. Even a message as plain as this one: Here we are, building the biggest fair the world has ever seen. We hope it will also be the greatest. But whether it turns out great or ghastly, we’re bloody well going to build it on time. We have to create even the land we're to build on, or most of it, and we’ve got 100 buildings to put up, including a lot of wild-looking structures calling for unusual techniques, and we’ve got to provide the whole lot of them with roads and sewers and water and electrical power and fire protection and telephones and special communications systems and air conditioning and whatever else they need. And we’ve got about half the time we ought to have to do the job. But nothing is going to stop us from meeting that deadline. Not dynamite or .38-caliber automatics or strikes or blizzards or civil-service regulations or international protocol or shadflies or committees that recommend further study or memos that plead for more time or architects who argue over designs or editorial writers who tell us we’ve bitten off more than we can chew or know-it-all computers that predict we can't possibly make it earlier than 1 969.

Months later, with headquarters moved from Place Ville Marie to the Expo Administration Building, just across a stretch of river from the man-made islands, The Colonel seems at first glance to have fitted all too comfortably into a Pentagon-style operation.

And haven't the empire-builders done their work well here! By the time it’s over. Expo will have employed something like 10,000 to 12,000 people, and most of the whitecollar crowd work (or. in some / continued on page 77

continued on page 77

EXPO continued from page 20

Maybe you could fall off a stage! Security: “Build a fence”

cases, put in their time) in this one huge building with its three stories of three enormous wings each. That means there are nine vast floors, their outside walls lined with almost-identical rows of offices and their inner cores filled with row upon row of precisely identical desks, occupied mostly by leggy young French-Canadian gris in miniskirts.

But what do all these people do all day in among those 2,000 desks and 1.500 filing cabinets? Some of the girls, as you can plainly see. sit reading paperback books and filing their nails, i In one section the girls return after a holiday weekend to find a simple greeting chalked on the office blackboard: WELCOME BACK TO MORE SITTING AROUND.) Mind you. a good many of the girls are working quite steadily and a few are working very hard indeed. (By a recent count. Expo had 275 stenographers and 159 clerks helping 54 division heads cope with three million sheets of paper per month By the end of this March. Expo had shipped 17,867,174 informational pieces all over the world in seven Languages, plus Braille.)

What do you do with money?

You're bound to find drones, of course, in a hive the size of this one. but Expo is an especially wasteful operation because it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and many people are assigned jobs nobody has ever tackled before. Even trivial problems can be tricky to solve when they’re unprecedented. What, for instance, would you plan to do with the daily output of manure from the horses of the King's Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery from Britain and La Gendarmerie Française from France? Pay somebody to haul it away? Why, that’s like paying somebody to haul away money! Okay, then — sell it! But wait a minute! That's foreign manure. Do you really want to get into the manure-importing business — clearing everything through Customs, satisfying the health authorities ... ? But there’s got to be a solution! And there is: you find a mushroom farmer who'll worry about the health-department tests and haul the stuff away without money changing hands either way.

That one sounds sensible but some solutions are downright silly, especially “solutions” to non-problems. The security people, gravely aware of “what these showbusiness people are like." suggest compulsory Wassermann tests for all 25,000 visiting performers and for all Expo employees likely to come in contact with them. Fortunately for Canada’s reputation abroad, wiser heads decide to run the big risk without Wassermanns. But the insult rankles with Expo's World Festival office and so they get back at “those dumb cops over in Security” by telling what happened when one Security man first walked into the newly completed Expo Theatre. He stood behind the footlights gawking at the dangerous - looking drop into the orchestra pit and remarked quite seriously, "Of course you'll be putting a fence across here ...”

Since individuals can't produce a full quota of silly comments and inane decisions, committees are formed to make up the deficiency. One committee rejects a design for the World Festival theatre ticket on the grounds that it looks too much like a theatre ticket. For reasons nobody can quite explain, the paymaster’s group gets

shunted from one location to another with such frequency that old hands lose count of how often they've packed and unpacked, and it's a novelty for anyone in that department to have one telephone number long enough for anyone outside the department to learn what it is.

And you have to be there to be-

lieve what absurd pieces of paper are changing hands. One section head, a woman, won't ride the elevators. “I'm not that afraid of elevators,” she explains, “but these get stuck sometimes, and if 1 got stuck inside one I'd have to spend the next three days filling out forms!” After a time, even the wildest lunacies begin to seem normal. One day, along comes a memorandum entitled. WHAT TO no IF YOU DISCOVER A FELLOW WORKER HAS DIED ON THE JOB. It contains a dozen procedural

steps, each set down in exacting detail. A dozen or more people read it, take note and pass it along, apparently without realizing it's all a gag.

lí seems natural to suppose that Colonel Churchill is a willing part of this bureaucratic nonsense. After all, he's down here from Ottawa, the bureaucrats' Mecca, and from Defense Headquarters at that. (On loan at first, he decides later he might as well retire from the army.) And here he is in charge of Installations. It’s true there are five other main divisions ( Executive, Secretariat. Finance-Administration, Exhibitors, and Operations) but unless Installations gels the buildings up and the exhibits installed in time, the other five divisions won't count for much.

Should so much of the fate of this $8()()-million show rest on the shoulders of this one army colonel? He shows up in civvies, of course, but he might as well be wearing full regalia, the way he struts around like an overweight Jimmy Cagney, dashing off memos with numbered paragraphs, army-style, firing questions and orders right and left, hurling little shafts of fear into the hearts of people all around him, and earning the scorn of the French-language press because his command of their language seems limited to “oui” and “non.”

What's more, he sets up a briefing room. {Oh. come on now! Next thing, he'll have us all doing K.P.!) And he comes on strong w ith talk about something called the Critical Path Method, or CPM. as he calls it.

CPM has its own mysterious jargon (“critical path network.” “milestone date," “event number 139'’) and involves yards of charts covered with lines and arrow's pointing to little squares, circles and hexagons. When you first hear about it, you know CPM has just got to be one of those gimmicks that grev-flanneled management consultants are selling to make their projects sound mysterious, intellectual and expensive. Or maybe it’s the contrivance of some doddering civil servant who got tired of writing 1,000-page manuals with titles like Pencils, Lead, Approved Procedures for the Sharpening Of.

Mind you, the basic idea of the Critical Path Method is simple enough. Every project is broken down into stages. For instance, a proposed pavilion — any pavilion — can be charted through dozens of stages, beginning with “Intention,” followed by “Talk . . . Preliminary brief . . . Concept design . . . Budget . . . Approval . . . Working drawings . . . Tender. .. Star! foundations . . .” and so on. Each stage is allotted a specific number of working days. On the chart, the whole project looks something like a production-flow chart for a factory. A special calendar of workdays is devised, starting with Day I — an arbitrary date in the fall of 1963 — through and beyond Day 878. which is opening day for Expo. (Holidays and weekends are excluded from the numbering.) Every project is to be charted so that each step is set out in terms of these numbered workdays. Then the scheme is programmed on a computer, which acts as a watchdog.

Were they going to build buildings or just draw up charts?

For a while it looks as though getting his staff to set out willingly along the Critical Path is going to he as tough a job for The Colonel as building Expo. I mean, are we going to get busy and put up buildings or are we just going to have rooms full of guys drawing production charts? “At first," says Andrew Hoffmann, an architect who co-ordinates work on La Ronde amusement park. "I thought it was the biggest nonsense I'd ever seen." At that stage. Holtmann is no minority voice, and there are lots of other things for people to beef about. The briefing room is a regular nightmare, with The Colonel lacing into people who haven't kept to their schedules (and sometimes into people who have but haven t explained tiuickly or clearly enough). And anybody looking for something to hate in The Colonel doesn't have to look hard. There's that broad, bulldog face under those fierce, bushy eyebrows, that raspy voice, surprisingly high-pitched, that infuriating habit he has of cutting in on what you're saying. Before you finish answering one question, he's peppering you with three others. Just mention that some contractor has been having a little trouble getting something done on time and—-zoom!—The Colonel's on the phone to the company president. insisting on answers, demanding action, before you can even explain that the whole problem is already ironed out.

In a conference: collapse

If only he'd stop and listen, just for once! But The Colonel won't stop for anything. Sometimes you wonder it he ever has lunch without conducting a meeting at the same time. Has he ever gone out to dinner and lingered over his coffee? Does he even allow himself time to go to the bathroom?

When he is first appointed to the job. The Colonel is a bachelor, and so he takes a room in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, right across the street from Place Ville Marie. He comes down out of his room each morning about eight, walks a few steps through the pedestrian tunnel beneath Dorchester Street, and rides the elevator to his office. He gets his meals sent in and works from early morning until late evening —to midnight, sometimes — without once setting loot outside. And in those days, he’s working a seven-day week.

Of course all that drive, drive, drive has to catch up with him. The strain shows worst ol all when he arrives at work on the morning of November 5. 1965. The Colonels

secretary, Yolande Beaumier, definitely not a member ol the nail-filing, paperback-reading, miniskirt set. seldom tails to say exactly what site thinks. "You look terrible, she tells him. "Didn't you sleep last night? Two hours later, in the middle of a conference. 1 he Colonel collapses. Diagnosis: exhaustion.

Installed in a hospital bed and ordered to rest. The Colonel soon has a map and pointer sent in. and almost before they realize what's happening.

the doctors and nurses are getting regular pep talks on how Expo is shaping up. Later a colleague chuckles. “The Colonel did a bigger selling job for Expo in the hospital than our salesmen have done in the field.” Once he's home for further recuperation. the Colonel has Expo people running in and out with maps, blue-

prints. documents and letters. Even so. he has slowed his pace: for a while he's down to a four-hour workday. When he eventually returns to the office he's given a couch and told to lie down and rest for at least half an hour a day. The Colonel is glad to get a couch: he never lies down on it. of course, but it's great for

spreading out blueprints and charts.

As the months go by. people around Churchill begin to see some merit in the Critical Path. CPM. as everybody calls it by now. does make it possible for supervisors to co-ordinate one project with another. For instance, you can order concrete trucked in on one day for several buildings and know they'll all be ready to take it. Crews installing sewer lines can be told it's okay to block off such and such a road on a certain day. because building

“He packs 5,000,000 things in his mind—and remembers”

crews are scheduled around that interruption. There are gaffes, of course. One day a section head staring idly out of his window notices a bulldozer pull up where a crew has just laid sod. An animated conversation ensues; obviously the bulldozer driver is being told to keep off the new lawn. He sits behind the wheel until the sod crew leaves. Then he drives across their

law'll and scoops out a big _________

hole. A truck pulls up and its crew unloads a tree and plants it in the hole. A few hours later, another truck arrives. Its crew digs up the tree and trucks it away, leaving the lawn just as it was before the bulldozer arrived.

But C ritical Path is enabling Churchill’s people to prevent little gaffes from becoming big blunders. As the weekly progress reports pour in. the (PM charts are consulted, and computers programmed with all the basics keep track of what's on time and what isn't. Even the briefing-room sessions are proving useful. They keep people on their toes and help them avoid wanking at cross purposes.

More to the point, people are finding that those impossible deadlines aren't impossible after all. Even the crazy-sounding orders from The Colonel's office somehow work out. Such as his idea of landscaping while building construction is still going on. “We just can't wait to do things in the ordinary or logical sequence." explains Gilles Sarault, a deputy director who is also Churchill's chief engineer. Or. as The Colonel himself puts it:

“Virtually nothing in Expo relates to normal conditions." (Eater he admits his Expo job is a lot tougher than building 192 airfields in wartime.)

As bridges span the river, roads get laid and buildings begin to rise — nearly always on schedule at every stage — the fear and suspicion Colonel Churchill has aroused initially begin to give way.

first to respect, then to an _

ad m ¡ratio n approaching awe. Far from the BÍ i ni pish empirebuilder many had supposed him to be. Ed Churchill is proving himself the mover of the action — a cutter of red tape, a toiler of bureaucrats. At times he virtually lays his job on the line by going ahead on his own on some move that theoretically has to have prior approval from Expo's directors.

It isn't that those first impressions of him are entirely false: but there's a great deal more to the man. Most associates still agree, for instance, that he’s a hot-tempered, impatient bully.

"But." says Pierre de Beliefernde, director of exhibits, “to a certain extent he puts on this rough attitude. It gets results."

As it becomes clear that he means what he says about building Expo on time, even if he can say it only in English, the French - language newspapers are won over to his side. Even underlings he has tongue-lashed testify

that he's scrupulously fair. "It's always an impersonal thing with The Colonel." says one. "and 10 minutes after he has blown up. he’ll go on with his business as it he's forgotten all about it.”

Not that The Colonel ever really forgets anything that might be uscfullv remembered. “I've been embarrassed at times to discover he knows more about my job than I do, right down to some trivial detail." says Norman Hay. head of the design division within Installations.

"He has an uncanny ability to pack five million things into his mind — and remember them all.” says Gilles Sarault. the chief engineer. Charlie Gahagan, head of Project Control, is startled to discover that fact during a rare social moment with The Colonel, at a cocktail party. "I wonder,” he says to The Colonel, "if you remember when we first met.” He’s

thinking back nearly five years, to a pretty casual social encounter that couldn't have meant much to The Colonel then or since. "Sure I remember." The Colonel snaps back, "and the bar bill was $22.”

The Colonel puts his mastery of detail to good use in problem-solving. "He amazes everyone.” says Gaston Lambert. Churchill's assistant. "After all. he can't be an expert on everything. yet he will listen to a problem in some field he hardly knows, then make a decision, and everyone will

agree it’s the right decision. They don’t know how he does it.”

But there is one other facet of Churchill’s characters that remains most amazing to the people around him: Here he is, an army engineer who belongs to the generation that gave engineers their reputation as practical, hard-nosed bridge - builders who'd be insulted if you said their work was artistically appealing. Yet here he is, demonstrating an aesthetic sense that would do credit to an artmuseum curator. “He’s a pretty rare

__type.” says Pierre de Belle-

feuille, “a completely competent construction man who has a thorough grasp of the cultural things we’re trying to do.”

Churchill is tough on designers who’d go on redesigning their own works forever if somebody let them: but people w'ho expect to hear him urging designers to sacrifice aesthetics for expedience are startled by his passionate defense of the artist.

“Every time we have not accepted the best aesthetic device,” Churchill says, “we have been wrong.” Yet somehow, more often than not. The Colonel finds ways of combining aesthetics and expedience, and reactions from Operations people —the ones who actually run the show — now range typically from gratitude to delight. Ann Farris, w'ho must supervise handling of all props and costumes for World Festival performers in six locations around Montreal (the Bolshoi Opera alone is bringing 28 baggage cars oí scenery) remembers wringing her hands because Expo Theatre w'as nothing but a set of blueprints only 14 months ago. Now', still amazed, she says, “The Colonel said it would be ready on time and, by God. it was!”

“Without Critical Path,” says Peter Kohl, superviso r o I a concessi o n s setup that includes 70 restaurants, 72 snack bars and 600 other shops, “I wouldn’t have known when I was going to be able to take over any building.” As for The Colonel, now almost a legend around

_ Expo: "He's one of the

few men where the man measures up to the myth."

Today, among visitors who see Expo 67 as an artistic triumph, the people most impressed are those who remember that the whole show was created in about three and a half years —■ half the time it took to create smaller, less-appealing world's fairs of the past. To describe this achievement, they use such adjectives as incredible, monumental and even miraculous.

But insiders who saw Expo get built will tell you the appropriate word is Churchillian. ★