It has been years since I went to the Ex, the CNE, or to use its full name, The Canadian National Exhibition. I'm thinking the games and rides cost much more than 5 cents nowadays. But, back then, I would anxiously watch the change my mother got for her shopping, and search for those all important nickels that would be added to my 'Ex' bank jar.
The Ex was a big deal. It still is even though it has changed some. People used to camp outside the Princes' Gates to be the first in. They were given free entrance and gifts and much media attention. There were the rides and games of chance. The Alpine Way with cable cars that soared over the grounds so you didn't have to walk all the way back. The Bulova Watch Tower that soared tall over the buildings so you could keep track of time - and even go up to see the view over the lake (it seemed tall at the time). The fashion shows - I loved those models who stood frozen for hours no matter how many times you tried to distract them with your funny faces and comments. We'd have to plan our visit to include the free taping of Elwood Glover's Luncheon Date (a television interview show). There were the buildings that showcased all the newest gadgets and designs of the 1960s and 1970s, with ballots to be filled out at most booths. I would fill out every single ballot I came across. Even the ones for a full set Encylcopedia Britannica. One year, I actually won! It was a little confusing, since I didn't keep track of what I was filling out, and in the end, it turned out you had to be 16, so the brand new 1970 Singer sewing machine (whew, not the encyclopedias!) went to my mother. The best, of course, was the Food Building with its free samples. And those Tiny Tom donuts that you could watch being made and covered with sugar and cinnamon, then eat fresh and hot out of a little bag before getting back in line for more. The free samples are long gone. As is the Alpine Way, Elwood Glover, Luncheon Date, the mannekin models, and new car shows.
But the rides and games of chance are still there. And the Tiny Tom donuts. And new this year, some
But the opening of the Ex is bittersweet, for it is also a marker for the 'end of summer'. It always ends on Labour Day weekend and the next day it is back to school. It is a slippery slope to autumn and Thanksgiving. Last night, when the temperature dipped down to a respectable and comfortable 18C, one of the guys I work with, after filling his car with his newspapers, pulled on a warm sweatshirt over his long sleeved t-shirt. "Hey, what can I say" he laughed, when he saw my face, "I'm from Jamaica. It's cold!"
Today, the Ex opened for its 132nd year. It is the end of summer.