47 years ago right about now, Selkirk Secondary in Kimberley was abuzz with excitement. The Selkirk band, under the tutelage of Ralph Yarwood, had been invited to perform at the World Exposition Fair — Expo ’67 — in Montreal.
Kimberley rallied behind the Selkirk High band. Fundraisers were organized and voila, enough money was raised for the plane fare, meals and transportation at Expo.
Our Grad Class of ’67 had also sewn the largest Canadian flag ever (measuring 300 feet by 180 feet). A story and photo called “Our great flag,” with all of us holding it, appeared in Time magazine on Page 3, May 2, 1967. I remember it was one giant sewing bee there in the gym.
Everyone at Selkirk High School knew that popular student and musician Mike Turner (known to many of us as M.T.) was going to hitch hike from Kimberley to Montreal to see his friends play.
The Selkirk band left for the airport in Cranbrook, with Mike Turner headed to Jim Bob’s (now the Husky) with his duffel bag taped with one word — EXPO.
And the word circulated around school a few days later: “M.T. has made it to Montreal.”
We were thrilled. Mike’s hitch-hiking feat indeed personified the Spirit of Canada in 1967, the year of our country’s 100th birthday.
In Mike’s own words:
“I left Kimberley about one week ahead with the plan to be at the opening of Expo ’67. I remember telling my mom that it took 37 rides to get to Montreal and it took six days to get there with a stopover at my aunt’s place at Bell’s Corners near Ottawa. One ride — the longest of all the rides going or coming back — was from Regina through Kapuskasing, Ontario, and down to North Bay with a semi-tractor driver. For years I kept in touch at Christmas with that driver.
“Ontario generally was the worst province for getting long rides. Ontario has such a massive land area with many small towns, so most folks were not going great distances. I do remember one bitterly cold night on a dark road near Iron Bridge, Ontario. After several hours with no rides, an Ontario Provincial Police officer stopped and gave me a ride to a better spot down the highway. My hitch-hiking fortunes changed almost right away.
“Also, another thing I do remember about the spring of 1967 — there was a horrific snow storm across the prairies. Ranchers lost hundreds of cattle in the deep snow. It was not ideal hitch-hiking conditions.
“Once I got to Montreal, I went to find the school band in Point Saint Charles. The band had been put up in a renovated bowling alley. They had done a great job compartmentalizing sleeping areas in there and it was quite cozy. I watched the Selkirk High band play three times out of their five performances.
“Some days I hung out with my friend Ed McKenzie, who had a video camera. That video we shot would be gold today. Of course later on, Ed McKenzie and Guy and Randy Marchi formed the horn section of our band the Blue Velvet Brass, later the Brass, which we took on the road two years later.
“The nightlife around Expo and surrounding area was magical. There were many bands with the James Brown and Wilson Pickett style. Stookie (Ron Stocknow) and I closed a few of those bars down and walked back to base.
“A word about Expo itself. Entertaining, educational, great food and warm wonderful people. Going back to British Columbia took considerably more rides than the outbound trip. It seemed like I was never going to get out of Ontario.
“As a hitch-hiker and Canadian, I gained a tremendous appreciation for the expanse and beauty of this country. It wasn’t until fairly recently I saw Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P.E.I.”
We held a pep rally at the Selkirk gym to welcome back our Selkirk band from Montreal and our “road warrior” Mike Turner, who had recently arrived back from his hitch-hiking journey. Our 1967 Class President, Joe Rokosh, called Mike up to the stage and presented him with Dr. Scholl’s foot powder, band-aids and other products to help M.T. on his next “road trip”.
There were many students from our ’67 class who went on to be great citizens of Canada. Here are but a few:
Bill Graham’s daughter Judy (Rogers) was the manager of the City of Vancouver for many years. I saw her on TV when Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee awarded Vancouver the 2010 Winter Games. Mr. Rogge called Judy up to the podium in Switzerland to accept. I was very proud of my 1967 grad classmate that day.
Craig Lytle is a doctor in Maple Ridge, B.C., and has been practicing there for 40 years. Dr. Lytle recently delivered his 9,000th baby. He is the quintessential family doctor. Craig’s dad Russ Lytle was a long-time Kimberley City Council man.
Rosanne Hedquist (Cox) has been living in San Francisco where Rosie is a manager for the Olympic Golf Club, a prestigious course located near Golden Gate Bridge. Rosanne is good friends with PGA golfer Freddy Couples. Rosanne’s mom Rose taught Grade 1 and 2 to pretty much everyone in Kimberley.
Joe Rokosh is a world-class mining engineer and geologist. Roky is based out of Panama where he “commutes” to the mining fields of the Andes in South America. Joey keeps his family cabin in Wasa and visits often.
Pam Kalnyiuk (P.K.) flew for Air Canada for 35 years and kept the family home in Kimberley. Pam has a Kimberley Alpine Resort ski pass and also is a Bootleg Gap golf member, and is a dyed in the wool Kootenay Ice supporter.
Ed McKenzie was a freelance writer and photographer for the Kimberley Daily Bulletin while we were at Selkirk. He went on to a career in BC Ferries. Ed, or “Scoop” as he was known in Kimberley, now is a motivational speaker and life coach with his wife here in B.C. and the U.S.
Mike Turner (M.T.) has resided in Cranbrook for many years working for Global News, CBC TV and CBC Radio. Fittingly, his birthday is July 1 — Canada Day.
Canada was a very special place to be in 1967.