About their Journey
Jeff & Tony Whittemore…
In the summer of 1967 two young brothers, Jeff (9) & Tony (11), from Needham, MA, set off on an improbable journey with their family pet, a Shetland pony named King. Tony and Jeff Whittemore were desperate to visit Expo ’67 in Montreal—the largest World’s Fair to date. But their parents couldn’t take them.
Their mother came up with the solution: hitch King to a pony cart and drive 350 miles to Expo ‘67—on their own—at 5 m.p.h.! For Tony and Jeff, it became the adventure of a lifetime.
Their 27-day trek without money or advance accommodations is almost impossible to ponder in the helicopter-parents world of today. But their mom and dad had faith the two youngsters would not only make it to Montreal, but that they’d have unforgettable experiences along the way. Indeed they did!
Not long into their trip the press got wind of the adventure, and by the time the boys reached Montreal they were celebrities. In one telling footnote, Tony recalls a Boston Globe photographer told the boys that they ought to feel honored—his photo of Tony and Jeff was the second color photo to ever run in the Globe. They were featured in newspapers and news shows nationwide, in The New Yorker, and the following September Tony was the mystery guest on the TV game show To Tell The Truth.
The exuberant daily coverage of the Pony Boys’ journey is especially striking against the backdrop of that tumultuous summer: deadly riots in Detroit and Newark; escalating U.S. deaths in Vietnam; war in the Middle East. And on the same page—the Pony Boys make another 10 miles.
But not everyone celebrated the independent spirit of the Pony Boys. Their parents received hate mail and nasty phone calls—accusations of child abuse and worse. They even had to defend themselves against charges they were abusing the pony.
Regardless, they persevered and arrived in Montreal after 27 unforgettable days of joyful adventure and encounters with kind and enthusiastic supporters along the way. The boys were given VIP status upon arrival to Expo, where they held press conferences and enjoyed the fair.
The images here are from a scrapbook kept by the boys’ mother, and includes news articles as well as postcards and letters from both supporters and detractors. Another scrapbook was acquired in 1995 when an estate attorney contacted Jeff to say that his client, who had followed the Pony Boys progress in the newspaper, had left them the scrapbook in her will.