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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1966

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The Centennial Fountain at Hornby and Georgia. Photographed here in 1969, it was built in 1966. Item # CVA 780-62.The Centennial Fountain at Hornby and Georgia. Photographed here in 1969, it was built in 1966. Item # CVA 780-62.

In 1966, Grouse Mountain’s first skyride started, two important city attractions opened and it was a popular year for fountains.

By Chuck Davis, The History of Vancouver
Photos courtesy of Vancouver Archives

Tom Campbell was elected mayor of Vancouver December 14, 1966, served a couple of turbulent terms, and would come to be known as “Tom Terrific.”

Bank of British Columbia

The second Bank of British Columbia—the 1960s version—received its federal charter December 14, 1966, exactly one year after the Senate banking committee rejected B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett’s proposal to create a B.C.-based bank, with the provincial government as a major shareholder.

Bennett was disenchanted with Canada’s eastern-based financial establishment and those feelings were shared by many in B.C.—including Bennett’s political opponents. He felt financial institutions headquartered in Toronto and Montreal could not understand the pressing need to finance private development in B.C. (He once tried unsuccessfully to convince one of the big chartered banks to move its head office to Vancouver.) “Vancouver is farther away from the head office of a chartered bank than any other city of comparable size in the whole free world,” Bennett had told the banking committee in July 1964. But the committee was concerned about the influence the B.C. government could have on a new bank if it was the major shareholder so it turned Bennett down. But in March 1966 the committee approved a different, totally private, proposal for a new Bank of British Columbia. The bank would begin full operations in 1968.

Grouse Mountain Skyride

The first Grouse Mountain skyride was opened December 15, 1966 by Premier Bennett. It carried 50 passengers. (Ten years to the day later, Bennett’s son, Premier Bill Bennett, would open Grouse’s “Superskyride,” which more than doubled the uphill capacity.)

On the same 1966 day, the busy Premier Bennett opened Centennial Fountain, built on the Georgia Street side of the Vancouver Art Gallery, to commemorate the union of the crown colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver’s Island (sic) in 1866. “In full flow,” writes Elizabeth Godley, “the Centennial Fountain (marble, ceramic and glass tile; 15 feet high), pumps 300,000 gallons of water an hour. Robert H. Savery, a landscape architect with the provincial department of public works, drew up the basic design, and artist Alex Svoboda, of Conn Art Studios in Toronto, devised the sculpture and mosaics.”

The installation of this and several other fountains in Vancouver this year prompted an outburst by alderman Aeneas Bell-Irving. “There is one thing we don’t need,” he said, “and that is more fountains, because God has given us a perfectly wonderful supply of rain.” Bell-Irving suggested bonfires would be more appropriate.


Bob Dylan performed at Vancouver’s Agrodome March 26, 1966. This would be his last North American concert for eight years! He would start a world tour on April 13, but on July 29 (after concerts in Sydney and London) would be badly injured in a motorcycle accident when the bike’s brakes locked and he was thrown to the ground. He spent a long time convalescing.

St Roch locked in ice in the Arctic in 1942. Item # Bo P305.St Roch locked in ice in the Arctic in 1942. Item # Bo P305.

St. Roch

The St. Roch historic site opened June 23, 1966 adjacent to the Maritime Museum. The tough RCMP schooner, which had gone through Arctic waters twice (making it the only ship to traverse the Arctic in both directions), and which had gone through the Panama Canal (making it the first ship to circumnavigate North America), was put on display and made available to tours.

MacMillan Space Centre

The H.R. MacMillan Planetarium opened September 13 in Vanier Park in Vancouver, a gift from the forest products company executive. Today, it’s known as the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre.

Roedde House

The City of Vancouver bought the Gustav Roedde House in 1966 and made it the centrepiece in what came to be called Barclay Heritage Square, bounded by Barclay, Nicola, Haro and Broughton Streets in the West End, and which features nine historic houses built between 1890 and 1908. Roedde House at 1415 Barclay was built in 1893 for Vancouver’s first bookbinder, Gustav Roedde. It’s operated by the Roedde House Preservation Society, a non-profit volunteer group, and has been handsomely restored. There are guided tours and afternoon tea.

Also in 1966

Hollinger Inc. was incorporated January 3, 1966. At its peak Conrad Black’s Hollinger Inc. would control more than 150 dailies and 350 weeklies in Canada (including the Vancouver Sun and the Province), the United States, Britain, Israel and Australia. More than half of Canada’s daily newspaper circulation ended up in Black’s hands. But then it all started unravelling.

On January 7 the Right Reverend James Francis Carney became the first Vancouver-born Catholic (born June 28, 1915) to be named a bishop. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop today. On January 8, 1969 he would be appointed Archbishop.

Mass-market skiing began at Whistler with the opening of the first ski lift (today’s “Creekside”), south of the Village, on February 15, 1966. The gondola up the mountain’s north slope and the development of adjacent Blackcomb would ensured the resort’s enormous growth.

Health Minister Eric Martin opened the 132-bed Richmond General Hospital on February 26. The hospital was next to a cow pasture. The first patient would be admitted March 17 and the hospital’s first baby was born later that day.

Teck Corporation (mining development and exploration) was incorporated under that name April 2. In 2001 it would merge with Cominco, and the new firm would be called Teck Cominco.

On Vancouver’s 80th birthday—April 6, 1966—a “Paint-in” began at the Courthouse Fountain site. Hoardings were built around the space on which the fountain was being installed, and, with encouragement from Mayor Bill Rathie, amateur and professional artists began to paint on them in a wide and wild variety of styles. It became a cultural phenomenon, much covered by the media.

May 11, 1966 was a dark day for baseball’s Vancouver Mounties, who had re-entered the Pacific Coast League in 1965. The Mounties’ Santiago Rosario hit catcher Merritt Ranew of the Seattle Rainiers in the head with a baseball bat during an on-field brawl. Ranew played his last game in 1969 for the Seattle Pilots, so he seems to have come through.

The Queen of Prince Rupert made its first voyage May 20. Built in Victoria it was, at the time, the flagship of the BC Ferries fleet. Their web site says “the launch occurred prematurely, probably due to a boy (accidentally?) pushing the launch button.”

Abbotsford’s Matsqui Institution opened in May for the custody and treatment of drug addicts. This medium security facility was built to hold 312 inmates.

BCIT’s first 400 graduates received the two-year National Diploma of Technology on June 17, 1966.

The Grouse Mountain Restaurant opened July 1, 1966.

On July 16 West Vancouver’s Elaine Tanner, 15, was named Amateur Swimmer of the Year by the Canadian Amateur Swimming Association. This was one in a string of honors for “Mighty Mouse.” She won four golds and three silvers at the 1966 Commonwealth Games, an individual Games record for women that still stands. At 15 she was the youngest person ever named as Canada’s Athlete of the Year. Later, at the Pan-American Games she won two golds and three silvers, then went on to the 1968 Olympics and won two silvers. Tanner retired from competitive swimming at age 18, the best woman swimmer in Canadian history.

The library of the Vancouver Estonian Society was opened October 2 in Meie Kodu, the Estonian Community Centre, at 6520 Oak Street. (A small library had been established in 1952 in a private home.)

The first annual Christopher Columbus banquet, sponsored by the Sons of Italy, was held October 29.

The 54th Grey Cup game was played in Vancouver November 25. The Saskatchewan Roughriders defeated the Ottawa Rough Riders 29 to 14.

The Queensborough Bridge, a $4 million high-level highway bridge built by New Westminster and opened in 1960, was bought by the provincial government in November 1966. It was built over the North Arm of the Fraser for access to New Westminster’s suburb of Queensborough at the east end of Lulu Island, and to the Annacis Industrial Estate to the south. It has since become a feeder to Route 91 and the 1986 Alex Fraser (Annacis) Bridge. It had been a toll bridge, but the province removed the tolls.

The Department of Social Planning was established by Vancouver City Council in November 1966. To quote from the City Archives site: “From the beginning its mandate or purpose was to plan, develop, coordinate and integrate health, education, welfare, recreational, and community renewal programs and to foster self-help and community-betterment programs.”

A six-cylinder, 125-HP La France pumper (fire engine) that had been placed in service at Number 11 Fire Hall in Vancouver on May 25, 1928 was retired December 8, 1966 after 38 years. In the summer of 2004 the Vancouver Park Board would hire a group of students to refurbish it. It is now ‘assigned’ to Stanley Park Fire Department where children have the fun of ‘driving’ old Shop No. 77 to fires.

The Medicare bill was passed by Parliament in 1966.

View of the Bentall Centre and the Melville Building under construction in 1966. Item # CVA 780-18.View of the Bentall Centre and the Melville Building under construction in 1966. Item # CVA 780-18.

The first of what are now five Bentall Buildings went up in downtown Vancouver. Architects for the 22-storey One Bentall Centre were Frank Musson and his partner Terry Cattell.(Musson Cattell Mackey had been formed in 1965.) The construction of Bentall Centre, four towers that went up from 1966 to 1982, would form the biggest superblock development in western Canada.

St Paul’s Hospital opened its intensive-care unit this year.

Angelo Branca, about 63, who had been a judge on the BC Supreme Court since 1963, was appointed to the province’s highest court, the BC Court of Appeal.

Dr. Vivien Basco began practicing radiation oncology in Vancouver in 1966. Her 1991 Order of B.C. citation reads, in part: “Dr. Basco introduced lymphography into British Columbia and was the first to use radiotherapy techniques in the treatment of Hodgkin’s Disease; she was instrumental in launching the first national clinical study of that disease.”

The undersea company Can-Dive was founded by Phil Nuytten (pronounced ‘newton’). Nuytten started diving when he was only 12, designing his own scuba equipment. At 15 he opened a scuba diving store on Fourth Avenue in Vancouver—the first in Western Canada—and was making good money as a freelance diver even before he finished high school. He flew up and down the coast on lucrative diving work and earned his first million by age 31. He founded Can-Dive Marine Services to supply divers to Shell Oil, then searching for oil off the west coast of Vancouver Island. He then got contracts with oil companies exploring in the Beaufort Sea and off the East Coast. His best-known product will be the Newtsuit, which allows divers to work at 300-metre depths without having to undergo decompression after resurfacing.

The Clifford J. Rogers, the world’s first purpose-built container ship, was sold by the White Pass and Yukon Railway Co. Since 1955 (when she was built in Montreal) she had served between Vancouver and Skagway, carrying 168 8×8×7-foot metal containers. In 1967, with a different name, she sank suddenly with some loss of crew near Bermuda.

Construction began on the mammoth, fully-automated $20.4 million Saskatchewan Wheat Pool elevator in North Vancouver. It would open in 1968. The five-million-bushel terminal in North Vancouver was the most expensive single capital project handled by the Wheat Pool up to that time.

The Marpole Bridge, originally (1902) a CPR crossing carrying the Vancouver and Lulu Island Railway over the North Arm of the Fraser River, was heavily damaged by a barge. The bridge, now leased by the Southern Railway of B.C., would be rebuilt with full main-line capacity, and a longer, hydraulically operated swing span, and go back into operation in 1967.

Book notes: Paddy Sherman’s biography of Premier W.A.C. Bennett, titled Bennett, was published. Author James Clavell, who had moved to West Vancouver in 1963, had an international best seller in Tai-Pan. Author Christie Harris had a hugely popular title in Raven’s Cry, which relates the history, some of it mythological, of the Haida from 1775.

Magazine notes: Playboard first appeared in 1966. Started by Vienna-born theatre enthusiast Harold Schiel and his wife Irene, it began life as a program guide for the Vancouver Little Theatre. Over the years Playboard became part of the theatre- and opera-going experience for Vancouverites, with a mix of movie industry news, theatrical trivia and guides to current productions. It is now produced by Alan Slater of Archway Publishers in Richmond. Crux: a Quarterly Journal of Christian Thought and Opinion, a quarterly published at Regent College on the UBC campus, first appeared. Link, a weekly student newspaper published by the Student Assn. at BCIT, appeared. Metropolitan Pensioner, a monthly publication of the Metropolitan Pensioners Welfare Association in Vancouver, first appeared. Ski Trails, published eight times a year by Raipub Enterprises Ltd. of Vancouver, first appeared. West Coast Line: A Journal of Contemporary Writing and Criticism, published three times a year out of SFU by the West Coast Review Publishing Society, first appeared. It contained contemporary poetry, fiction, essays and reviews of modern literature. International in scope, its emphasis was on Canadian writing.

In 1966 Frederick Hubert Soward, historian, retired from teaching at UBC. He had been teaching there since 1922, at the age of 23. He was called the university’s “boy wonder.” Soward headed UBC’s history department from 1953 to 1963 and was dean of graduate studies from 1961 to 1965.

The CBC produced The Bill Kenny Show, produced by Elie Savoie. Kenny was an original member of the famous singing group of the 1940s and ’50s, The Inkspots. Regulars on this light entertainment/music series headlined by Kenny were The Accents, Fraser MacPherson, Marty Gillan, Judy Ginn and Fran Gregory.

The North Vancouver Recreation Centre opened at 23rd and Lonsdale, jointly funded by the City and District as a Centennial Project.

Betty and Rolly Fox moved to Port Coquitlam from Winnipeg. Among their children: eight-year old Terry.

The Guildford shopping centre opened in north Surrey.

Leon Ladner, lawyer, 82, retired from the UBC Board of Governors. He had served as a UBC senator from 1955 to 1961, as a governor from 1957.

John M. Buchanan, president of B.C. Packers president, was elected chancellor of UBC. He would retire from that post in May, 1979.

BCIT began evening programs in its Extension Division.

Director/producer John Juliani, who, according to the Province “pioneered experimental theatre in Vancouver during his days as theatre head at Simon Fraser University,” began Savage God, an experimental theatre company. The productions were so notorious one local critic accused Juliani of corrupting innocent youth.

The Metropolitan Co-op Theatre Society, which had since 1963 been hosting a variety of community theatre groups, began producing its own work. They’ve been one of Vancouver’s most prominent community theatre companies ever since, producing an average of 10 shows per season. Their headquarters is the 366-seat Metro Theatre Centre at 1370 SW Marine Drive.

Marilyn Horne returned to Vancouver to star in the VOA’s production of Il Trovatore.

The 718-seat Centennial Theatre Centre opened at 2300 Lonsdale Ave. in North Vancouver. One of many theatres built across Canada as part of the country’s centennial celebrations, the Centennial is home to the North Shore Light Opera, the North Shore Chorus and the Greater Vancouver Operatic Society.

Sculptor George Norris created a striking piece called Spirit of Communication for the lobby of the Pacific Press building. “Norris,” writes Elizabeth Godley, “used old newspapers from Vancouver’s history, as well as foreign-language papers, to form a decorative collage in the form of typographical plates. These collages were then photo-engraved in copper.”

Gerhard Class created a BC granite monument to the Old Hastings Mill at the north foot of Dunlevy Street, site of the original mill. The Vancouver Historical Society commissioned the monument for $1,500 as a centennial project. (The store at the mill, spared in the Great Fire of 1886, was moved in 1930 to Pioneer Park at the foot of Alma Street.)

Carver Tony Hunt created the Kwakiutl Bear Pole at Horseshoe Bay.

The Chapel of the Epiphany was dedicated at Anglican Theological College on the UBC campus.

The B.C. Muslim Association was established in Richmond.

The Hanseatic, which had suffered fire damage, was scrapped. This ship was important in Vancouver history because she began her active life in 1930 as the Empress of Japan, the CPR’s finest trans-Pacific liner. She was requisitioned as a troop ship in 1939 and became the Empress of Scotland. After the war she returned to CPR service in the North Atlantic, then was sold in 1958 and renamed Hanseatic.

A Canadian-born Seattle businessman, Stan McDonald, who had developed a taste for cruising with a charter ship serving the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, chartered two larger Italian ships in 1966 and set about building his company Princess Cruises: Alaska in the summer, Mexico in the winter.

A number of prominent athletes were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame this year. They included:

* Harry Winston Jerome, sprinter, born September 30, 1940 in Prince Albert, Sask. Jerome was the first to simultaneously hold world records for the 100-metre and 100-yard events. He had won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics and gold at the 1966 Commonwealth Games.

* Robert “Bob” Johnston, 1868-1951, known as the “grand old man of rowing”. New Brunswick-born, he moved to West Vancouver in 1888 and started rowing in 1889. Rowing was at the height of its popularity and he competed before thousands. In Johnston’s final race, he won the $1,000 purse by beating former world champion John Hackett by 4.5 lengths. He coached the Vancouver Rowing Club which won a bronze medal in the 1932 Olympic double sculls event. “A keen, cigar-chewing coach of champions.”

* Frank Alexis Patrick, 1885-1960, hockey player and builder. With his brother Lester, he brought professional hockey to the West Coast. The brothers built the first two artificial ice rinks in Canada.

* Lester (Curtis Lester) Patrick, 1883-1960, hockey player and builder. With his brother Frank, he brought professional hockey to the West Coast, constructed indoor ice rinks and developed NHL rules, including unrestricted passing in the central zone, the blue line, and the penalty shot. Lester Patrick conceived the play-off series and continued to influence NHL hockey as manager of the New York Rangers (1926-39) and as coach in 1946.

* William John “Torchy” Peden, cyclist. A “flame-haired youth who led the pack like a torch,” he was famed during the Depression as “a six-day immortal” bicycle racer, winning Vancouver’s first such event in 1931. With brother James Douglas Peden, Torchy won races across North America, setting a world record of 38 victories that lasted 28 years.

* Scotland-born David Lambie “Davey” Black, golfer. He moved to Quebec in the early 1900s, moved west to become the golf pro at Shaughnessy Golf Club from 1920 to 1945. He won four national titles, the first in 1913; in 1928, he won the first B.C. Open. In 1929, with Duncan Sutherland, he beat Walter Hagen and Horton Smith at the Point Grey Golf Club; in 1935, again with Sutherland, he bested the great Bobbie Jones, who was partnered with Davie’s son, B.C. amateur champion Kenny Black.

Department store founder Charles A. Woodward (1852-1937) was named to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

The University Players’ Club was disbanded after the launch of UBC’s theatre department.

The Lions Bay Water Improvement District was created, an umbrella agency that not only collected and distributed the water from the mountainside but also dealt with garbage, recreational facilities and fire protection.

Bobby Ackles, 28, was named the BC Lions’ director of football development. He had joined the Lions in their founding year, 1953, at the age of 15. He would go on to become general manager and, later, president and CEO.


Chuck Davis is a Vancouver writer who has written, co-written, or edited 15 books. Most of them are on local history, and he describes his next book, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, as the capstone of his career.