Sixty years ago, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip opened the Deas Island (now George Massey) Tunnel, then regarded as one of the engineering marvels of the British Empire. What if their majesties returned today?
It was July 15, 1959, when Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip joined B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett to open the Deas Island Tunnel. The footage is grainy, but exists on Youtube.
That was a long, long time ago. Her Majesty was 33 years old, and just seven years into her reign. It was the same year Fidel Castro took over as Prime Minister of Cuba. Dief the Chief was Prime Minister of Canada. President Eisenhower admitted Alaska and Hawaii as the U.S.’s 49th and 50th states. Ben-Hur and Sleeping Beauty were the hot movies. Bonanza became the first TV show to be broadcast in colour every week.
A lot has changed in the world, but the tunnel and the Royals are still here. I couldn’t help but think of what would happen if their majesties visited the tunnel today…
BEGIN SCENE: Philip and Elizabeth are in the backseat of her favourite vehicle, a Land Rover. They are being driven by their chauffeur. They are stuck in tunnel traffic, heading northbound, as six lanes eventually whittle themselves down to one.
PHILIP: Honestly, Elizabeth, I could drive us…
ELIZABETH: Philip, we’ve had this talk – your driving days are done.
PHILIP [Pouts]: Well, I could probably walk faster than this traffic. [Looks out the window] Elizabeth, have we been on this road before?
ELIZABETH: Yes, dear, many years ago, in 1959. We opened this road with a fancy tunnel. It was quite a marvel.
PHILIP: Apparently the new crossing is as well – given this interminable lineup of traffic to get onto it. We’ve been here for half an hour already!
DRIVER: I beg your pardon, Your Majesty, but this is the same tunnel you opened in 1959.
ELIZABETH [Astonished]: No, it cannot be. I remember Premier Bennett showing it to us, and he’s been gone some 40 years now.
PHILIP: Wacky, they called him.
PHILIP [As their car finally enters the tunnel]: Oh my. This has not aged well. Is that cement flaking off? Is that a crack? And another? And is that rebar poking through? Elizabeth, this cannot be right.
ELIZABETH [Looking very concerned]: I believe it is! Driver, are we sure this is safe?
DRIVER: 80,000 vehicles use this tunnel every day, Your Majesty. And it’s the only way to get you from the ferry to the airport on time.
PHILIP: That’s not an answer! Why haven’t they replaced this yet? Hasn’t it been 60 years?
DRIVER: The previous government tried – but the new one cancelled a new bridge that would have opened in a couple of years. Now there’s no plan, no budget, and no relief coming. We’re all nervous, Your Majesty, but just pray there’s no earthquake as we drive through.
ELIZABETH [Clutching door]: Earthquake?!? GOD SAVE THE QUEEN! Times like these make me wish I wasn’t just a constitutional monarch. Shame on you, Great Great Grandmother Victoria, and your responsible government! This tunnel should have been retired a decade ago!
PHILIP [Trembling]: Is that light ahead?
DRIVER: Yes, Your Majesty.
PHILIP: Oh thank God.
ELIZABETH: We’re going to make it, Philip.
PHILIP [Exhaling sharply]: Let’s never to do that again. Driver, you are never to take us through this tunnel again.
DRIVER: Yes, Your Majesty.