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How I met the Queen in a Canadian cornfield

By sglines in Culture
Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 08:14:34 PM EST
Tags: canada, trudeau, queen of england, 1973 (all tags)

In the summer of 1973 I hitched a series of rides from Boston through Maine and New Brunswick to my mother's house in Pictou County Nova Scotia. It's hard to describe the location any better than that because she originally lived in a hamlet called Poplar Hill ... until the Poplar Hill School, a one-room schoolhouse across the street from my mothers house, closed. From there her address wandered from RR2, Meadowville to RR2 Scotsburn and finally to RR2 in the unincorporated county of Pictou. Civilization had abandoned Poplar Hill. All my mother would say was that she was four miles up the Tony River road between Tatamagouche and Antigonish.

Since there wasn't a lot to do in Poplar Hill I decided to hitch a ride to the PEI ferry and to spend a couple of days at my favorite beach, Cavendish Beach on the northern shore of Prince Edward's Island. Cavendish Beach reminds me of the Cape Cod Seashore without tourists. Cavendish is a five-mile long expanse of brilliant white sand and (relatively) warm water. My plan was to hike in a couple of miles and camp for a couple of days before heading back to Boston.

The ferry ride to PEI was uneventful and a single hitched ride got me to Charlottetown. The road to Cavendish beach is a straight shot out of the city on a small two lane paved road known as provincial highway 15. Calling it a highway is generous. I once got a ride the last mile or so to the beach on a hay wagon. It's that kind of a road. It's not the kind of road where you are likely to encounter a traffic jam.

But a traffic jam is exactly what I ran into that summer morning. About 10 minutes out of the center of Charlottetown traffic stopped. We were about 15 cars back so I got out, threw my backpack over my shoulders and marched to the front of the line of cars where a single Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman in full red regalia had stopped traffic. I asked what was going on and with a flourish befitting his full-dress uniform pointed to the middle of a cornfield and said, "The Queen is arriving!"

There was a small road to the right that looked more like a farmers driveway than the entrance to the Charlottetown airport but that's what the sign announced so up the driveway and into the cornfield I went backpack and all. At the top of the small hill, about a ½ mile up was the terminal. It was a small cinder block building about the size of three garages. There was no one in sight but on the tarmac there was a small roped off area that looked like it had been set up for a reception. I walked over to the corner of the reception area, dropped my backpack and waited. Fifteen or twenty minutes later a caravan of limousines arrived and out popped a dozen or so little men in top hats and tails. I remember them all being extremely short because I could see over the tops of their top hats when they lined up next to me. No one said a word. Alice, Alice are you

Another ten minutes had passed before a Canadian Forces helicopter set down about 30 yards from where we were standing. Pierre Eliot Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada and his wife Maggie hopped out and walked over in our direction. I had long hair, a long beard, was clearly out of place and grinning from ear to ear. Trudeau looked at me grinned, shook his head and walked off to greet the leader of the little men in top hats. Maggie stifled a big laugh. There were a few more minutes of milling about before an Air Canada jet buzzed the field. This was the signal, apparently, for things to happen.

A Canadian forces truck arrived and men in fatigues hopped out dragging rolls of red carpet. They quickly ran a length of carpet from where the aircraft was expected to stop back in our direction. It didn't quite reach so they moved the reception area forward 15 feet. No one said a word. When the Air Canada aircraft taxied in our direction the pilot opened the window and held out a British flag. I never knew until that moment that they could open the windows on those airplanes. The plane stopped precisely in front of the red carpet. The cabin door opened and a set of stairs emerged from the aircraft landing precisely on the edge of the red carpet. After what seemed an awfully long time a dozen or so women in black came tumbling out of the aircraft. I guess ladies in waiting wear black. After another very long spell Prince Phillip emerged from the aircraft saluted every uniform in sight and shook hands with Pierre and Maggie Trudeau.

After pleasantries all round the Prince, the Trudeaus and the collection of ladies in black formed a cordon leading in my direction along the red carpet. When all was set the Queen emerged from the aircraft and descended the stairs. She shook hands with the Trudeaus who bowed and curtsied then formed up behind the Queen who was followed by the Prince, the Trudeaus and the ladies in black last. She came straight towards me!

She kept it straight. She had the most faint outlines of a pleasant smile across her face but her eyes were focused at infinity. If she saw me she never let on. I bowed politely, she nodded her head, the little men in top hats and tails bowed politely, she nodded her head. Behind her Prince Phillip made a concerted effort not to notice me until he was well past when he finally turned his head, we made eye contact and he let out a quiet chortle then proceeded on nodding to the little men in top hats as he passed. The Trudeaus were beside themselves and were obviously having trouble keeping from having hysterical fits. Pierre Trudeau was so obviously not looking at me that he almost ran over the Prince. Soon everyone was nestled in their limousines and rushed off with RCMP escort. I walked back down the road and hitchhiked to the beach.


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How I met the Queen in a Canadian cornfield | 29 comments (17 topical, 12 editorial, 2 hidden)
Cool. (none / 0) (#1)
by Hiphopopotamus on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 07:55:07 AM EST

Actually, that was interesting because there 2 icons, at least for some of us.

I'm In LOVE!

Of course those windows open (none / 0) (#2)
by Adam Rightmann on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 08:56:50 AM EST

didn't you see Airplane?

PEI (none / 0) (#4)
by circletimessquare on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 10:06:09 AM EST

canada's tonsils

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

What a great story. (none / 1) (#5)
by rusty on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 12:19:19 PM EST

Well, anecdote really, but it's a good one. When was this? What the hell was the Queen doing arriving at a tiny country airport?

Not the real rusty
The Queen in PEI (none / 0) (#8)
by sglines on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 02:27:40 PM EST

I think she was there to celebrate the centenial of PEI joining Canada ... but I'm not sure really.

[ Parent ]
She's pretty loyal to us (none / 0) (#14)
by Hiphopopotamus on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 08:46:19 PM EST

She's shown up to thousands of useless events in Canada, an in even more useless places, too. That's why we love her so much.

I'm In LOVE!
[ Parent ]

see my comment below (none / 0) (#16)
by tolomea on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 01:55:37 AM EST

which was supposed to be a comment here, but I clicked the wrong post a comment link again

[ Parent ]
Enjoyed this (none / 1) (#11)
by Teocanacatl on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 07:50:30 PM EST

and will vote it up.

I'm happier than a tornado in a trailer park.
Why did the Queen land in a corn field? (2.40 / 5) (#12)
by United Fools on Tue Jan 08, 2008 at 07:55:40 PM EST

Is the Queen somehow associated with the aliens?

We are united, we are fools, and we are America!
Queenly visits to Canada (none / 0) (#15)
by tolomea on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 01:53:46 AM EST


1973 June 25 (Arr. 1:20 p.m.)
July 5 (Dep. 10:50 p.m.)

to participate in events marking the R.C.M.P. centennial, the centennial of P.E.I. in Confederation, the tercentenary of Kingston, extended tour of Ontario.

Bonita and I almost moved to Pictou (none / 0) (#17)
by MichaelCrawford on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 04:32:06 AM EST

We toured around there in 2000, when we were in Nova Scotia for a friend's wedding. In the end we bought a house in Maine, but later moved to Truro, Nova Scotia, not far from Pictou.

Looking for some free songs?

Magnificent story (none / 1) (#20)
by mybostinks on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 09:06:22 AM EST

I enjoyed it.

Are you sure it was 1973? (none / 0) (#22)
by BJH on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 09:34:27 AM EST

There's this one:

1973 June 25 (Arr. 1:20 p.m.) - July 5 (Dep. 10:50 p.m.), 11 days
Toronto, Cobourg, Kingston, Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, London, St. Catherines, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Scarborough, Brampton, Malton, Ontario; Charlottetown, Summerside, Mount Carmel, P.E.I.; Regina, Sask.; Calgary, Alberta - to participate in events marking the R.C.M.P. centennial, the centennial of P.E.I. in Confederation, the tercentenary of Kingston, extended tour of Ontario.

But it doesn't mention Nova Scotia. There was one in 1976 that does, though:

1976 (For XXI Olympic Games joined by Prince of Wales, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward)
July 13 (Arr. 9:15 a.m.) - July 25 (Dep. midnight), 13 days
Nova Scotia - New Brunswick - Montréal (XXI Olympiad)

Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

It was PEI (none / 0) (#24)
by rusty on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 10:24:14 AM EST

Read again -- after passing through NS, he says the story takes place near Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Ah, right. (none / 0) (#25)
by BJH on Wed Jan 09, 2008 at 12:17:23 PM EST

I skimmed that part and was under the impression it was near his mother's place. OK...
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

[ Parent ]
How I met the Queen in a Canadian cornfield | 29 comments (17 topical, 12 editorial, 2 hidden)
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