How do you maintain a 50-year friendship? 6 pro tips from Expo 67 staffers
'Support the supreme organizer' — and other keys to a lasting bond
Schram was among an elite group of young men and women hired to run the Ontario Pavillion at Expo 67 — the marquee event of Canada's centennial year.
She and her fellow hosts and hostesses recently reunited in Toronto, celebrating their 50th anniversary on another big year for the country. The tight-knit group of friends are now in their 70s.
"I still see their '67 faces, and I sort of put up with their current ones," says Schram with a laugh.
The 'Dos and Don'ts' of keeping in touchIf Schram is any indication, good humour is one key to lasting affection.
But how else does one maintain a multi-person, multi-decade friendship? Despite long distances, busy schedules and diverging career paths, her group has found a way to hold four major reunions and several smaller get-togethers over the years.
As a new generation of Canada 150 staff and volunteers bond across the country, we've fashioned some friendly advice from Schram, and some of her peers, into a short list of dos and don'ts.
1. Do appreciate your moment in history.
"We understood that we were in a special place at a special time," says the retired teacher, ambassadorial spouse and author.
"The international nature of it fused us together."
2. Do figure out what makes you special as a group — and as individuals.
The result? A group of high achievers who shared many beliefs and values. The great foundation, says Schram, was that they all felt they were part of something truly great for Canada.
"Many of our professions reflected that concept: judges, diplomats, senior civil servants," she says, adding that the group also produced artists, CEOs, lawyers and a film producer.
"I think one of our strengths is that we were equal numbers of men and women," adds Eva Innes, who went on to become president of her own consulting firm.
Notably, the men and the women in the group were paid equally. "This was a cutting edge approach in 1967!" says Schram.
Over the years, many have confessed that they once thought they were the "surprise," the "outlier" or the "odd man out." As it turns out, each person in the group brought something unique to the bond and dynamic.
3. Don't leave it all to one lead organizer.Lucky groups have at least one person with enviable organizational skills. For the Ontario Pavillion, that person is Laird Saunderson, former right hand to Ontario premier Bill Davis.
But every friend group should bear in mind that no one person, not even the extremely competent, is all mighty.
"Support the supreme organizer," says Schram, noting that Saunderson has needed the backing of co-chairs, Eva Innes and Jocelyne Côté-O'Hara, and a little team to get their group together over the years.
4. Don't over-reunite.Schram has heard that some groups try to meet annually to mixed results. She advises small gatherings as often as convenient and bigger events with the whole group every five to 10 years.
"These events are better held infrequently," she notes, adding that the rarity motivates those who have to travel long distances.
"It's surprising how meaningful such reunions can be."
5. Do take on new projects.Although the group enjoys getting nostalgic, they've also taken on new projects hinged on their shared values.
For instance, since their youth, they've believed in the importance of learning French. Schram says this was "unusual amongst Ontarians" in 1967.
In 2002, some members set up the Ontario 67 Scholarship at Glendon College, York University's bilingual campus. Since then, they've helped several Québécois students pay for their studies in Ontario.
"We have such wonderful memories of those days we experienced firsthand and of the fair's phenomenal success," Smith, a Glendon alumnus, said at the time. "This is our way of saying 'thank you.'"
6. Don't take your friendships for granted.
Her group's reunions have been getting smaller over the years. On the final pages of their 50th anniversary memory book, twelve names are neatly printed in memoriam.
"I don't know who the last man standing will be. Probably a woman — still organizing!" says Schram with a wistful laugh.
It's a fact of life and friendship, one that should remind us that all shared time is precious.
Looking back, Schram is proud of her peers and five decades of keeping in touch.
"I think we all turned out better than we thought we would," she says.