In 1966, the opening of Montreal’s rapid transit service was welcomed with a TV show and a song that praised the mayor who helped bring it to life.

Welcome to the first installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.

Next week, the Montreal Metro system will retire the last few of its original trains: The sleek, rubber-tired MR-63 models—based on the design of the rolling stock of the Paris Metro—will go on an official goodbye tour, the very last ride taking place Thursday on the Blue line. (A few are being put to creative new uses above ground throughout the city.)

MR-63s have been in service since the system opened on October 14, 1966. On that day, Montreal TV viewers were greeted with this spectacle: “The Tube That Jean Built,” in which Mayor Jean Drapeau takes his city’s new metro out for a spin while a beloved broadcaster quite literally sang his praises.

“The Tube That Jean Built” aired on Montreal station TV-12 on the day of the transit system’s long-anticipated debut (longtime CityLab readers may also recall it from a previous story). In this clip, Canadian actor and TV host Jack Curran belts out a tribute to the mayor (in his tuneless spoken-word delivery) over the melody to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”:

This tube is your tube, this tube is my tube

Henri-Bourassa to Place d’Armes station

From Papineau street down to Old Atwater

This tube was made for you and me

For 50 years now we’ve known a subway

was sorely needed in this fair city

Our city fathers kept fit explaining

‘We’ll build it soon just wait and see’

This tube is your tube, this tube is my tube

Ripped through the city by hard rock miners

Costing $213 million, no raise in tax for you and me

Now I can ramble beneath the city

Soon to Longueuil, Saint Helen’s Island

I get around where underground there

is rapid transit now for you and me

This tube is your tube, this tube is my tube

I fight no crowds now or traffic tie-ups

And all around me, Montrealers shouting

This tube was built by Jean Drapeau!

Drapeau was indeed a larger-than-life political figure. He dreamed big during his 29 years in office, landing the 1967 World’s Fair and a  Major League Baseball franchise. He also helped the city win the 1976 Summer Olympics, which went spectacularly over budget and left the city in debt for decades (A commission eventually determined that Drapeau was to blame for much of the cost overruns.)

The former mayor definitely had a propensity for bread and circuses; he also historically opposed public housing and showed little support for local artists. But the creation of Métro de Montréal remains something worth singing about. The Métro station at Saint Helen’s Island—mentioned by Curran in the song—was renamed  in honor of Drapeau in 2001.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A view of traffic near Los Angeles.
    Transportation

    How Cars Divide America

    Car dependence not only reduces our quality of life, it’s a crucial factor in America’s economic and political divisions.

  2. Equity

    CityLab University: Inclusionary Zoning

    You’ve seen the term. But do you really know what it means? Here’s your essential primer.

  3. Equity

    The ‘War on Poverty’ Isn’t Over, and Kids Are Losing

    Federal spending on America’s children is heading down, and the drop in funding could be dramatic.

  4. A child plays in a city-sanctioned encampment for homeless families in San Diego.
    Equity

    A Family Dispute: Who Counts As Homeless?

    A bill designed to expand HUD’s recognition of homelessness reveals a split between advocates on who counts as the most vulnerable population.

  5. Life

    Don’t Throw It Away—Take It to the Repair Cafe

    This series of workshops aims to keep broken items out of the landfill, and it might help you save a few bucks, too.