This true story begins with a false memory, though one I was certain was 100% accurate up until late last month.
On the eve of its 35th anniversary, I was recounting the time my grandmother, Bubi Fran, piled my two older brothers and me into the back of her Datsun so that we could bear witness to history: We were off to see a helicopter attach the final piece -- the antenna mast -- to the top of Toronto's iconic CN Tower. "It was a day I would never forget…" I started telling my niece Emily, as she listened with wide-eyed amazement.
"Oh really?" interrupts Emily's father, my brother Marty, in a voice best described as skeptical amusement (never a good sign.) "Continue," he urges. "I'm interested to hear how this ends."
And so I do. "The skies were gray but our hearts were light with anticipation," I say, turning my attention back to Emily, "as dozens of cars waited at the base of the CN Tower for a special military helicopter to arrive. We heard it long before we saw it," I continue, covering my ears to illustrate the loudness of that long ago moment.
"Straining our necks looking through Bubi's rain-lashed windows, we were trying to catch the first glimpse of the giant helicopter until suddenly, there it was — piercing the thick clouds with its mighty blades, swooping down over us with antennae pieces dangling from long chains like great whales. We honked our horns and cheered and shouted, and then the helicopter flew back up into the clouds and out of view. It was the most amazing sight I had ever seen, and then we went for ice cream. So basically, best day ever."
At this point applause wouldn't have been out of the question. Emily is grinning ear-to-ear, but so is Marty (never a good sign), and since he was also in the car and is two years older than me, he has a very different, and some would say more accurate take of that long ago day.
"That's a great memory Amy," says Marty, "but here's what really happened." He then explains (with great mirth I should add), that while we did go to see the top being put on the CN Tower, "And you're right in that it was a rainy day, but it was very foggy too," he says. "In fact, it was so foggy that after waiting an hour, they announced that they had to call it all off due to weather." Dramatic pause. "So you never actually witnessed the top being put on the CN Tower. Also," he adds, "Bubi Fran never had a Datsun."
So, all these years later it turns out my recollection was based on one part true memory and three parts 1970s-era news coverage. What a creative young mind I had! Still, be it truth or fiction, the CN Tower was and remains a large part of Toronto's collective identity and more specifically, part of my everyday life in an enduring and endearing way.
A Tower to Top Them All
Built out of necessity in response to the downtown core's sudden boom in steel-famed skyscrapers in the 1960s (including the six tower Mies van de Rohe designed Toronto-Dominion Centre), while ushering Toronto into the modern era, these new builds also interfered with the city's telecommunication signals. The Canadian National Railways (CNR) proposed a solution: erecting a communications tower where height was the structure's raison d'etre. As plans took shape and it became obvious that in order to tower over all of the city's other towers, the proposed CN Tower may in fact become the world's tallest, the blueprints were altered to achieve this lofty goal.
Books from the Author: