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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1970

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Burrard and Georgia in May, 1970. Item # CVA 447-363. Photo by Walter E. Frost.Burrard and Georgia in May, 1970. Item # CVA 447-363. Photo by Walter E. Frost.

In 1970, Greenpeace was born and the brand-new Vancouver Canucks hit the ice. The city also lost a very important individual who was essential for recording the history of Vancouver.

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


Greenpeace was born. This entry is based on a web site from Rex Weyler, who has written a book on the group. See here for more information.

“In 1969, a few days after the United States detonated a one-megaton nuclear weapon at Amchitka Island in the Alaskan Aleutians, the Don’t Make A Wave Committee had been organized in a Vancouver living room. The participants were a small number of people who thought such weapons should not be allowed to make waves through the oceans or atmospheres of the world ever again.

“Committee members included Paul Cote, then a UBC law student; Bill Darnell, a field worker for the federal government’s Company of Young Canadians; Terry Simmons, a member of the Sierra Club studying at Simon Fraser University, and two older men, James Bohlen and Irving Stowe. Bohlen and Stowe had left the United States to protest the Vietnam War as well as the nuclear buildup. Bohlen had once designed rocket engines. Stowe was a Quaker and a lawyer. They talked and argued.

“One of the arguments was whether to concentrate the committee’s efforts in protesting against another Amchitka test planned for the fall of 1971, or to expand their efforts to fight against all threats to the environment.

“As he left one meeting, Stowe, a gnome-like man in his late fifties, said ‘Peace.’ It was the traditional greeting or farewell of those involved in the peace activist movement. ‘Make it a green peace,’ said Darnell, the youngster from the CYC.”

That was the inspiration for the group’s new name: Greenpeace.

Go Canucks!

On October 9, 1970 the brand-new Vancouver Canucks played their first regular season NHL game. They played the Los Angeles Kings in the Pacific Coliseum and came out at the wrong end of a 3-1 score. General manager Bud Poile blamed it on the players’ nervousness. Still, Toronto-born defenceman Barry Wilkins, 23, scored one for the Canucks’ 15,062 paying fans, and Vancouver’s first NHL game was history. (Tickets ran from $3.50 to $6.40.) The team’s first captain, their second pick in the expansion draft, was Orland Kurtenbach (who later coached the Canucks). Their fourth pick was defenseman Pat Quinn (who would take over the team in 1987). The first coach was Hal Laycoe and G.M. was Norman (Bud) Poile. See this site for more.


On February 15 a strike began at the two major Vancouver dailies, The Vancouver Sun and The Province. A daily newspaper called The Vancouver Express appeared, and would be published from February 21 to May 12. It ceased publication when the strike ended. Copies of the Express are on microfilm on the 5th floor of the Vancouver Public Library. Marc Edge’s 2001 book Pacific Press has fascinating details on the birth (and death) of the Express.

Roberts Bank

The first CP Rail computer-commanded coal train from Alberta reached Delta’s new Roberts Bank superport on April 30, 1970. An excerpt from an earlier version of the Westshore Terminals Ltd. website read: “The first customer was Kaiser Coal, (later Kaiser Resources Ltd., B.C. Coal and Westar Mining), which had developed a new coal mine at Sparwood in southeastern B.C. and entered a partnership agreement with Japanese Steel Mills to operate a deep-sea dry bulk terminal at Roberts Bank.

“The first ship to sail from Westshore was the Snow White which left for Japan on May 4, 1970 with 24,289 tonnes of metallurgical coal. Westshore Terminals, as it was known, was officially opened by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and B.C. Premier W.A.C. Bennett on June 15, 1970.”


Major J.S. Matthews in 1961. Item # Port N941.2. Photo by Williams Bros.Major J.S. Matthews in 1961. Item # Port N941.2. Photo by Williams Bros.

Major Matthews passes

Vancouver city archivist James Skitt Matthews died in Vancouver October 1, 1970, aged 91. We lost a giant when Major Matthews died. The city of Vancouver owes a huge debt to the Major: he and his wife Emily started the city’s archives in 1933. For more than three decades he relentlessly and tirelessly amassed photographs, artifacts, books, newspapers, magazines, civic records, diaries and more. You can see it all at the City Archives.

This web site and my forthcoming book, not to mention all the post-1933 books on local history, rely heavily on the work the Major did.


The Langara campus of Vancouver Community College, consisting of a five-storey library block and a three-storey instructional block, had been completed in September. The move to the Langara campus was marked by a “great trek” on October 13, 1970. About 3,000 students, teachers, and administrators walked or drove from the old King Edward Centre at Oak Street and 12th Avenue to the new campus at 100 West 49th Avenue. The trek was led by Vancouver mayor Tom Campbell, the provincial education minister Donald Brothers, and Langara’s student council president, and included the Vancouver Firemen’s Band. (Langara would not become a separate, independent college until April 1, 1994.)

The 747

On January 10 a new phenomenon in passenger aviation arose in 1970 and the Sun sent business writer Phil Hanson down to Seattle to report on it. “Almost 30 huge Boeing 747 jumbo jets,” Hanson wrote today, “painted in the colors of half a dozen world airlines line the apron at the Boeing Company’s new complex at Everett, Washington.

“These jets, first of 192 in Boeing’s order book, will trickle into airline service during the next few months to pioneer a new era in mass air travel.”

The first airline to use the 747, Pan American Airways, would introduce them January 22 on its New York to London service. A year after its launch nearly 100 of the planes were being operated by 17 airlines and the number of passengers had increased to seven million. (Air Canada would have them by the spring of 1971, CP Air by 1973.) The 747 changed air travel forever, and made it affordable to millions of people who’d never flown before.

Also in 1970

On January 5 Olympic skiing champion Nancy Greene Raine and Tim Raine had twin boys, Charley and Willy.

David Y.H. Lui brought in his first event as an impresario on February 16, 1970: the Phakavali Dancers of Thailand. For an all-too-brief and luminescent period, Lui would import many distinguished and exciting dance companies.

CFMI-FM 101.1 signed on in March, identifying itself as “FM-One” with an automated rock/country hybrid and Sunday programming of international/ethnic music.

“Marijuana,” wrote Province reporter Maurice Chenier on Page One, August 14, “is alive and well and growing in the Vancouver area, thank you. On Thursday The Province checked out a tip from a young person who claimed that growing the illegal plant is very popular in the Vancouver area. ‘You’ll find a lot of pot—potted or otherwise—growing in the University of B.C. area, in Stanley Park, and up on Burnaby Mountain at the back of Simon Fraser University,’ said the unidentified tipster. ‘The increased police hassle in the last few years,’ he continued, ‘has forced some of us to grow it wherever we can. Some grow the stuff as potted plants and others use out-of-the-way fields. I hear there’s a bumper crop this year. There’s so much around that you can easily say Vancouver’s gone to pot’.” That was 40 years ago.

On September 24 George Wootton, principal of still very young Douglas College, spoke to the college’s charter students from the ice rink of Queen’s Park arena. Classes for the college’s first 1,600 students were temporarily held at high school in the evenings. In late October and early November, classes were transferred to the college’s three campus sites: a remodelled warehouse on Minoru Boulevard near the Westminster Highway in Richmond, a 6.4-hectare campus with 10 portable buildings at 92nd Avenue and 140th Street in Surrey, and a 3.2-hectare campus with 13 portable units at McBride and Eighth Avenue in New Westminster. These portable campuses earned Douglas College the name “trailer park university.”

A $1.5-million Student Activity Centre was completed at BCIT in the fall of 1970. It included a cafeteria, a gymnasium, and several other recreational facilities.

UBC’s student newspaper, The Ubyssey, printed statements and commentary suppressed by other papers fearful of reprisals under the War Measures Act.

Vancouver City Police and hostel dwellers from Jericho clashed in October on West 4th Avenue.

Also in October, unrest continued at Simon Fraser University as the censure of the university by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), a censure which had been imposed in May 1968 for “interference in academic affairs by the Board of Governors”, but lifted in November, 1968, was reinstated. The beef this time: seven faculty members were dismissed from the political science, sociology and anthropology department, described by one observer as “a madcap collection of brilliant New Left academics.”

On November 3, 1970 Vancouver City Council approved the sale of land for multi-purpose development in Champlain Heights, the last large undeveloped tract in Vancouver.

On December 29 North Vancouver’s Chief Dan George was named best supporting actor by New York film critics for his role as Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man. (“Sometimes the magic doesn’t work.”) That terrific performance, funny and warm and dignified, also earned him an Oscar nomination.

The Abbotsford Air Show, a success from its beginning in 1962, officially became Canada’s National Air Show. That first event in 1962 attracted 15,000 spectators. In recent years an average of between 250,000 and 300,000 have turned out during the show’s three-day run at Abbotsford International Airport, 80 kilometres east of Vancouver in the Fraser Valley.

Eatons built a new store in Pacific Centre at the southwest corner of Georgia and Granville, having moved up from their previous location on West Hastings (the building now known as Harbour Centre.) The new store’s stark white and mostly windowless facade garnered much criticism. A year later Pacific Centre will connect the Eatons store to The Bay, kitty corner across Granville, with an underground shopping network.

1970 was the common expiry date for leases along False Creek’s south shore. (The city had purchased the 85-acre property from the province, which had in turn promptly sold it to the city for $400,000 and a city-owned site in Burnaby the province wanted for Simon Fraser University.) The decades-long tenure of many industries on the Creek ended. Now the debate over the future of False Creek would begin.

The first part of BC Ferries’ “stretch and lift” program began. Four of its major vessels were cut down the middle so that 84-foot midsections could be “spliced” in. Similar operations had been performed on smaller boats, but this was the first time BC Ferries’ larger ships were subject to such extensive alterations. The fleet was now at 24 ships.

The Lady Alexandra, built in 1924 for the Union Steamship Company, had since 1959 been a floating restaurant in Coal Harbour. She was extensively redesigned this year. In 1972 she would be towed to Redonda Beach, California, to become a gambling hall. She was later storm-damaged and would be scrapped in 1980.

Graybeard, an ocean racer/cruiser designed by Vancouver marine architect Peter Hatfield and owner Lol Killam, began her racing career under the flag of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. She won the Swiftsure Lightship and Victoria-Maui races this year. “Graybeards,” by the way, is the name given to huge waves which circle Antarctica, occasionally capsizing freighters.

A Canadian-born Seattle businessman, Stan McDonald, who had made a modest start in the cruise ship business in 1962 (the year of the Seattle World’s Fair), and had built the business up since then, acquired the 20,000-ton Island Princess. Gary Bannerman, who has written extensively on the cruise ship trade, says the ship was “majestic” by 1970 standards. “P&O responded,” Bannerman continues, “by purchasing a 17,000-ton Scandinavian vessel, and called her Spirit of London (subsequently renamed Sun Princess), the first purpose-built cruise ship ever to enter the fleet. Holland America, the historic Dutch firm, and the super-luxury fleet of Royal Viking Line came next and now new ships seemed to arrive every year.”

B.C.’s Attorney General began licensing gaming conducted by charitable and religious groups and at fairs and exhibitions.

Along the Way: An Historical Account of Pioneering White Rock and Surrounding District in British Columbia by Margaret A. Lang, which had first appeared in 1967, went into a second edition.

Audrey Thomas’ first novel, Mrs. Blood, appeared.

Vancouver writer George Payerle produced a short, experimental novel, his first, The Afterpeople.

Boating News, a monthly publication covering commercial and pleasure boating, first appeared.

Horizons, a corten steel sculpture by Gerhard Class, was installed at 888 S.E. Marine Drive, the address for the Wilkinson Steel Co., celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Norbert Vesak launched his Western Dance Theatre. Writes Max Wyman: “Lynn Seymour came back to dance with him as a guest; hopes grew for the establishment of Canada’s fourth major dance company. But the pressures on Vesak—organizational, financial, negative commentary on his artistic judgment—became intolerable, and the company closed midway through its second season. The day after the close-down, Vesak was invited to make The Ecstasy of Rita Joe for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. It became one of that company’s most popular ballets. Vesak later resettled in California and developed a busy international career as choreographer and director.”

The Fraser Valley Regional Library, covering an area of 4,000 square miles, extending from Richmond to Hope, from Port Coquitlam to Agassiz, and from the international border to the mountains north of the Fraser River, now operated two bookmobiles, each carrying 2,000 volumes and serving 206 stops every two weeks.

In 1970 the entire book publishing industry in British Columbia earned $350,000 in sales.

The building at 6450 Deer Lake Avenue in Burnaby, built in the 1940s as a retreat for Benedictine monks, became the James Cowan Theatre, named for a Burnaby arts patron. The theatre is part of Burnaby’s Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.

A cross-Canada survey showed that nearly 50 per cent of the movie theatres being used in 1948 were out of service by 1970.

Windsor-born artist Carl Chaplin, about 24, arrived in Vancouver and became established as a freelance artist and illustrator. His apocalyptic paintings of major world cities being atom-bombed would make an impact, and a painting of a baby seal with a seal hunter reflected in its eyes would be a huge seller.

Richard Loney began singing O Canada at sbobet88 games.

Writes architectural historian Dr. Harold Kalman, “Around 1970 builders developed a new model for mass-market housing, which maximized floor area and site coverage at an attractive price. Principal living and sleeping spaces were located on the second floor, with utility rooms, garage, and often an ‘in-law suite’ on the ground floor, and no basement. The type may have originated in Richmond, where the high water table encouraged living high above the damp ground. The ‘Vancouver Specials,’ as they quickly became known, spread like wildfire throughout the Lower Mainland. They nearly as quickly achieved widespread unpopularity among architects and aesthetes, who channelled their reaction to the threat they posed into denouncement of their boring flat fronts, boxy shapes, and low-sloped roofs as ugly.” Kalman cites the 6100 and 6200 blocks of Elgin and Ross Streets in Vancouver as good locations to see them.

The Old Spaghetti Factory opened on Water Street in 1970, and its funky ambience drew big crowds to the area. That was good for the Gastown area.

Fox and Fluevog store in 1972. Item # CVA 780-612.Fox and Fluevog store in 1972. Item # CVA 780-612.

Peter Fox and John Fluevog went into partnership in a new Gastown boutique called Fox and Fluevog Shoes. It would become hugely successful.

The striking Sikh Gurdwara (Temple) at 8000 Ross Street, designed by the architectural firm Erickson/Massey, was finished.

The Charles Crane Memorial Library at UBC, using dedicated volunteers, began recording talking textbooks and background materials for blind and sight-impaired students.

Oakalla Prison Farm was renamed the Lower Mainland Regional Correctional Centre.

Alberta Co-op’s poultry processing plant located in Port Coquitlam, marking the start of the Kingsway Avenue industrial park development. The operation processes 25,000 chickens in an eight-hour day.

Maple Ridge’s Debbie Brill, 17, won gold in the high jump at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. There were many more medals to come.

Sprinter Harry Jerome, who had won bronze in the 1964 Olympic Games, and gold in the 1966 Commonwealth Games and 1967 Pan-American games, received the Order of Canada.

Badminton champion Eileen Underhill (née George) and her husband Jack, another champion in the sport, are inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame, the first husband-and-wife team to be so honored.

Writer Ethel Wilson, 82, was awarded the Order of Canada Medal of Service.

The liner Oronsay was quarantined on arrival in Vancouver with typhoid among passengers.

A count of seagulls taken this year by the Vancouver Natural History Society recorded more than 20,000 of seven species. In his book The Birds of Vancouver, John Rodgers wrote that four other species can be seen from time to time. “Gulls cannot dive,” Rodgers wrote. “They swim rapidly, but rarely for long distances. They are web-footed and long of wing, and in the air they are effortless and graceful. By far the most numerous in this area is the glaucous-winged gull, known by its clean white head, pale grey mantle, yellowish bill with a red spot, the white spots on the edges of the four-and-a-half-foot wingspan, flesh-colored legs, and its strident voice. Our only resident gull, it is a species of the Pacific northwest and its only breeding areas in Canada are in British Columbia. Glaucous-wings invade city gardens and garbage dumps for food, and they scavenge on the beaches for anything that looks appetizing. They steal the catches of diving birds and have been known to kill and eat baby ducklings. Those mottled-greyish gulls with black bills seen with the glaucous-wings are first-year birds and do not reach maturity for three years.”

The Classical Joint, which would become Vancouver’s oldest jazz club, opened at 231 Carrall Street in Gastown. It was started by Swiss-born Andreas Nothiger, who would run it for 19 years. Over the years it presented virtually every Vancouver-based jazz musician, and many big names in the field.

Shaughnessy Golf Course in 1970. Item # CVA 1502-294.Shaughnessy Golf Course in 1970. Item # CVA 1502-294.

Alma and W.J. VanDusen quietly donated $1 million this year to rescue the old Shaughnessy Golf Course from a real estate development. This donation, together with government funding, permitted 52 acres to be purchased as a garden for the City of Vancouver. The anonymous donors were eventually identified, and the property became the VanDusen Botanical Gardens.

Elsewhere, but still local

On October 5 in Quebec, FLQ (Front de libération du Québec) terrorists in Montreal kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross, and the “October Crisis” began. On October 16 the Pierre Trudeau government will impose the War Measures Act. On October 17 the FLQ will murder Pierre Laporte, Quebec’s vice premier and minister of labor.


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.