Trip with Bob and Kathy

In the Spring of 1971, we were planning a trip to Canada, mainly to see Niagara Falls. Our old neighbors from Smithfield Street, the Counsellors, with whom we had become quite friendly, talked us into making it a two couple affair. {As a parenthesis, if we knew then what would transpire at a later time with them and another couple, we might have decided against it}.

I guess that the Quinton School District had a spring break at Easter, I don't remember now, but I know we went in mid to late April and were gone about a week, so we probably left on April 9th (Good Friday). The weather in South Jersey was very spring like with temperatures in the 60’s and low 70’s, however, as we moved north ward, it was obvious that upper New York was a bit colder. In fact, we stayed the first night near Buffalo and it was snowing as we left Interstate 90. We had made pretty good time with Bob and I taking turns driving Geri’s and my 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Bob and Kathy had a late 60’s Malibu, but it was a convertible and our car was more spacious. Bob commented many times how much he liked driving our car and he was amazed at the gasoline milage our V8 got (about 19 city and 26 highway, pretty amazing for those days when gasoline as still under 35 cents a gallon).

The next morning was cold and clear and we made it to Niagara Falls on the Canadian side well before lunch. In fact, we ate in the rotating restaurant in the tower alongside the falls. After lunch, we donned the raincoats and went through the tunnel that allows you to look at the falls pretty close up. I regret that we didn't take a trip in the Maid of the Mist, but in those days funds were limited and there were only so many things we could spend our money on. I don't remember where we ate but i do remember finding an inexpensive motel not far from the city center and we had an uneventful night. 

The next morning we awoke to find that everything was covered with a dusting of snow, including the car, but we had decided to head for Toronto driving along Lake Ontario.  We passed through Toronto since we wanted enough time for Montreal and Quebec sight seeing and were not impressed. I’ve been back since and it is just a large metropolis to me, I’m sure there are interesting things to do or see, but since I’ve just passed through both times, I couldn’t tell you what.

The roads were good and we had no problems until we stopped at a gasoline station in the middle of nowhere (actually in the middle between Toronto and Montreal). Filling with petrol was no problem, but we needed to use the bathroom. The girls were afraid to go ask and Bob was pumping gas so I went in and asked where the bathroom were. The old gentleman told me in French that he didn’t understand English. I knew only a couple of phases in French, but I did know Le Toilette and used it. He still maintained that he didn’t understand. At this point, I pantomimed washing my hands, and still he shrugged as if to say, Huh? Finally, I pantomimed pulling down my zipper and pulling out you no what. While doing this, I stated I guess I’ll have to piss on your floor and suddenly his English was good enough to show me where the bathrooms and the keys to them were. At the time, a large francophile movement was underway in Quebec  province, so I understand, but to expect US citizens to know French was not reasonable.

We managed to arrive in Montreal right at rush hour with me driving and having no idea where to go. We had not seen a decent motel or restaurant and finally we pulled into a large parking lot for Jarry Park which was the home of the Montreal Expos (the area had been built for the Montreal World Exposition of 1969 (?)). A passing motorist must have seen our distress and pulled in shortly thereafter and asked if he could help. We explained that we wanted to find a motel and restaurant for the night. He told us that the best bet would be on Saint John street and gave us directions to get there. So, not all French Canadiens were rude and unreasonable about English speakers!! In fact, most were quite gracious. After he pulled out, Bob and I wanted to see if the park was open and found an outfield door open so we wandered into right field. Baseball season was to open the next day, but the Expos would start the season out of town. Good thing since the field was half covered in snow. Following his directions, we were on our way, after a few moments we crossed Rue de Sainte-Jacques (oh he told us the directions in English, but I guess he had forgotten that most of the signs no longer had English on them!). Geri said, “There it is you passed it”. I said “No, that was St James street”. A minor argument ensued and finally we bet $100 that I was wrong (at this, 45 years later I still have not received my winnings). Shortly the Rue de Sainte-Jean appeared and of course this was our destination.

We enjoyed our stay and took in some sights and somewhere along the way, Bob and I began talking in a fake French accent which drove the girls crazy. Of course, we would not quit! The drive to Quebec was on a clear, cold day and we enjoyed the St. Lawrence river as we followed it. We toured the old fortress in Quebec and drove around the old city. Once again, people were nice to us giving directions, etc. That night we stayed outside of the city on our way back to the US. The motel was on a main highway, but the area was sparsely populated with only a small town nearby. After dinner and going back to the room, Bob and I decided we would like a beer, so we set out looking for a liquor store to get a six pack. We were unable to find a place and after quite a bit of searching decided to return to the motel. On our way back, we spotted a Tavern with an advertising sign and joked that we should have gone there (you’ll see why in a moment).

Back in the room (we had adjoining rooms), the girls wanted to know why we had been so long and Bob said, “You’re lucky we’re back so soon after what we saw!”, of course then we had to tell them that we had seen a bar advertising topless dancers. The girls immediately wanted to go and of course, Bob and I would not want to disappoint our wives so we packed up and drove back. (These places were not very common in those days and certainly not in South Jersey). The place was a bit of a dive and did indeed have four dancers who were the only other women in the place. Everyone else, except Bob and I were French Canadian men and appeared to be of the rough sort. No one bothered us, though and at least we could get a beer along with the entertainment. Everything was okay until the girls got up to go to the ladies room and as they passed some of the men, they were greeted with rude gestures and comments. Bob and I decided that it would probably be best if we left and we did much to the protests of the girls!

The next day, we reentered the US into New York and since we were four young people with long hair, etc. our car was searched including our luggage (dirty underwear and all). Since all we had to declare were some opened packages of Canadian cigarettes, eventually, we were on our way. It was mid afternoon and we had decided to drive down through Lake Champlain going from island to island and then into Vermont. The problem with our plan was that it began to snow as we drove onto the first of several islands and eventually it got worse and worse. Visibility was almost non-existent when we found a lodge with vacancies. Though it was only about 4 PM, we had had enough. The lodge was great and had a large dining room and bar with a great big fireplace blazing away. The meal was great and by next morning the roads were clear and we headed south through Vermont and made it home by early evening(we didn’t make many stops).

When we got to Quinton, the girls put their collective feet down, NO MORE FRENCH ACCENTS!

Davdan @ 2008-2018