Kickoff to centennial year more low-key than celebrations set for Tuesday evening
The launch of Centennial Year 50 years ago was largely confined to New Year’s Day with a ceremony at the Charlottetown Hotel just before the start of the traditional levees. There was limited official revelry at midnight New Year’s Eve to usher in 1964, the centennial of the first conference on Confederation. It was left to various public dances and private parties to greet the New Year at the stroke of midnight.
On that New Year’s Day in 1964, a huge birthday cake donated by F.W. Woolworths, and illuminated by 100 candles, was presented to Premier Walter R. Shaw, which was cut and served to the premier’s guests at his levee at the Charlottetown Hotel. P.E.I. political and religious leaders were in attendance for the cake cutting, which was carried in by army, navy, RCAF and RCMP.
Thousands of citizens were expected to take in levees, mostly in Charlottetown, but at other Island locations as well. A town crier read a proclamation that declared “Centennial Year to be recognized, commemorated and celebrated by religious observances, historic occasions, cultural and education activities, athletic and sporting events, and other public entertainments.”
Premier Shaw said “we are witnessing today a wonderful piece of pageantry, a fitting prelude to the program to come in the present year.” The official cake was cut by Lt.-Gov. W.J. MacDonald with assistance from Charlottetown Mayor Walthen Gaudet, Mayor B.H. Yeo of Montague and deputy mayor George Key Jr. of Summerside who were called upon to blow out the candles. The premier was heard to say, “The men have a husky lung capacity.” He then called upon the Lt. Gov. to cut the cake, gave him a sword and urged him “to grasp it with vigor, and plunge it into the vitals of this magnificent cake.”
Mayor Gaudet said, “It is a great pleasure to express to the nation and the province our bountiful thanks for the plans that are laid on for this year. We at city hall and all our citizens look forward to every week and month of the year that lies ahead.” Dr. MacKinnon said the success of the year “depends on all of us and support of the entire province is needed for Centennial Year to be a success.” He quoted Canada’s first Prime Minister Sir John A Macdonald’s advice on celebrations “don’t be too stuffy, have a good time as well.” The centennial men’s choir under the direction of Royston Mugford sang The Island Hymn to conclude proceedings.
It was noted the city would be hosting numerous national events such as the Dominion Drama Festival at the new Fathers of Confederation Memorial Building, the Macdonald’s Brier men’s curling championships at the Forum and the Canadian newspaper managing editors conference. Lt.-Gov. MacDonald held the first levee to start the day at Government House in the morning while the premier held his from 3-5 p.m., where following a custom started in 1960, and unlike all other levees, women were admitted!
There was great excitement at all Island hospitals to welcome the first baby of 1964. The centennial committee was to award a sterling silver Centennial Memorial Cup to the first baby born.
This year’s events to launch the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown conference gets started a day earlier than 50 years ago. The New Year’s Eve countdown takes place Tuesday evening as the city partners with P.E.I. 2014 Inc. in hosting outdoor New Year’s Eve celebrations on historic Great George Street in downtown Charlottetown in front of Province House National Historic Site which has just seen the completion of a $2 million renovation project.