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. an aerial view of Los Angeles shows the complex of freeways, new construction, familiar landmarks, and smog in 1962.
    Transportation

    The Problem With Amazon’s Cheap Gas Stunt

    The company promoted its TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with a day of throwback 1959-style prices in Los Angeles. What could go wrong?

  2. Warren Logan
    Transportation

    A City Planner Makes a Case for Rethinking Public Consultation

    Warren Logan, a Bay Area transportation planner, has new ideas about how to truly engage diverse communities in city planning. Hint: It starts with listening.

  3. a photo of the L.A. Metro Expo Line extension
    Life

    Why Can’t I Take Public Transit to the Beach?

    In the U.S., getting to the beach usually means driving. But some sandy shores can still be reached by train, subway, and bus.

  4. a photo of the Eiffel Tower with the words "Made for Sharing" projected on it
    Life

    How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

    France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×