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A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1979

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View of Burrard Street from Pender Street. Item # CVA 780-45.View of Burrard Street from Pender Street in May, 1979. Item # CVA 780-45. 

In 1979, a former premier and a local hockey star passed away. It was also the year that the Granville Island Public Market opened and possibly the start of Hollywood North.

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

WAC passes

On February 23, 1979 former premier W.A.C. Bennett died in Kelowna, aged 78. See a good brief biography here. On May 10 the Social Credit party was re-elected under Premier Bill Bennett, W.A.C.’s son.

Granville Island Market

On July 12, 1979 Granville Island Public Market opened, and became an immediate hit, one of the great Vancouver experiences. Some 10.5 million people visit the island every year now, and a big chunk of them go to the market for its meat, fish, produce, snack bars and more. It’s in a building erected by the Island’s very first tenant (1916), B.C. Equipment Ltd.  Part of the offbeat charm of that building is the travelling cranes that hang from the rafters, kept by the architects. The Island’s architecture has won design awards for Hotson Bakker, the coordinating architects, and others who worked on various projects.

Whitecaps win!

The Vancouver Whitecaps pounded out a dramatic win over the Tampa Bay Rowdies in New York on September 8, 1979 to win the North American Soccer League Championship. Trevor Whymark scored both goals (one off each foot) in Vancouver’s 2-1 victory. “Whymark has been,” Jim Taylor wrote, “the catalyst, the trigger, the missing piece in the marvellously improbable soccer story that has taken Vancouver by the heart and squeezed it as no other sports event has before.”

100,000 fans greeted the team on its return.


Vancouver street photographer Foncie Pulice took his last picture September 27, 1979. Foncie and his Electric-Photo camera had been a familiar sight on city streets for a jaw-dropping 45 years. He’d begun as a 20-year-old away back in 1934 as an assistant to street photographer Joe Iaci, and had taken millions of photographs since. (It is quite possible Foncie Pulice photographed more people than anyone who ever lived.) “I said I’d retire at 65, and I kept my word,” he said in a November 21, 1979 interview in the Province.

Foncie’s camera, made of war surplus materials, is preserved at the Vancouver Museum. It’s part of their 1950s gallery, and is accompanied by a slew of Foncie’s Fotos.

Foncie Pulice was the last of the street photographers. He died January 20, 2003 at age 88, but his work lives on . . . everywhere.

Inside the CPR Station in July, 1979. Item # CVA 780-61.Inside the CPR Station in July, 1979. Item # CVA 780-61. 

End of an Era

On October 27, 1979 the last scheduled passenger train departed from the CPR station at the foot of Granville Street. Trains had been arriving and leaving from this handsome building since 1912. The cliche is irresistible: It was the end of an era. For 67 years the handsome building had been the site of arrivals, reunions and farewells. Today it’s home to the SkyTrain Waterfront Station and Western Express.

Also in 1979

On May 22 the Vancouver Sun won a long-running case against GATE, publishers of Gay Tide newspaper. It began in the mid-1970s when the Sun refused to run a two-line classified ad promoting Gay Tide. GATE had won a B.C. Human Rights Commission complaint and a subsequent challenge by the Sun in B.C. Supreme Court, but the decision was reversed in the B.C. Court of Appeals. Finally, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the Sun’s favor.

Frederick "Cyclone" Taylor in 1919. Photo by Stuart Thomson. Item # CVA 99-778.Frederick “Cyclone” Taylor in 1919. Photo by Stuart Thomson. Item # CVA 99-778. 

On June 9 “Cyclone” Taylor, OBE, hockey player, died in Vancouver, aged 95. Frederick Wellington Taylor was born June 24, 1883 (or was it 1884, or 1885?) in Tara, Ontario. He played with the Ottawa Senators in 1909 when they won the Stanley Cup, and was the key player with the Vancouver Millionaires when they won the Cup in 1915. (They beat Ottawa in three straight games, during which Cyclone scored seven goals.) It was his speed on the ice that earned him his nickname.

Richmond celebrated 100 years since incorporation as a municipality June 16 and honored its pioneers who had lived in the community for more than 60 years.

Surrey Council “invites one and all” to the city’s 100th Birthday Party Centennial Week at Bear Creek Park August 6.

The Province first appeared on a Sunday August 12, 1979.

The Village of Belcarra was incorporated August 22, 1979. It covers just over five-and-a-half square kilometres, and the population is an estimated 2,000. It’s policed by the Coquitlam Detachment of the RCMP, and there is the Sasamat Volunteer Fire Department.

In August 1979 Richmond hosted the three-day 1979 B.C. Summer Games, the first to include disabled athletes.

Kent Prison in Agassiz opened in August. This maximum security institution houses 313 (original capacity 234) prisoners. Inmates are kept under a constant level of high surveillance. More than  half of the prison population are housed in the protective custody wing, separated from the regular population for the duration of their sentences.

In October 1979 Presentation House on the North Shore presented Eric Nicol’s two-act comedy, Free at Last.

The Steveston Museum opened December 16 in a 1905 building, which had been a bank, then a doctors office. The Steveston Historical Society also operates a post-office there.

In The Province for December 21 Consumer Alert columnist Chuck Poulsen wrote, “In a month or so, supermarkets should be serving up a large batch of rabbits for sale. Chinese rabbits. For Canada Packers, it will be the first test run of the low-cost, imported rabbits which are expected to sell for about half the price of the B.C. bunnies. The Chinese rabbits will be coming at a time when a government survey predicts that we’d eat rabbits faster than they multiply if there was a reasonable supply and the price wasn’t too much higher than chicken.”

The Office of the Ombudsman was established this year by provincial legislation. The Ombudsman receives inquiries and complaints about the practices and services provided by public bodies. He or she can investigate to determine if the public body is being fair to the people it serves.

Tsutae and Hanako Sato, who together ran the Vancouver Japanese Language School (from 1906 to 1942), established scholarships in Japanese studies at UBC.  In 1978 Tsutae Sato was awarded the Order of Canada.

Ballard Power Systems was created in 1979. Dr. Geoffrey Ballard developed the fuel cell technology that led to the creation of the company, but would leave it in 1997. In 1999, with Paul Howard, he would form the company General Hydrogen. Time Magazine would name him a Hero of the Planet in 1999. He said, at a recent conference, “It will take a combined effort of academia, government, and industry to bring about the change from a gasoline economy to a hydrogen economy. The forces are building and progress is being made. It is of major importance that a change of this magnitude not be forced on unwilling participants, but that all of us work together for an economically viable path to change.”

The Maple Leaf schooner under construction. Item # Bo P176.3.The Maple Leaf schooner under construction. Item # Bo P176.3. 

The wooden auxiliary schooner Maple Leaf began to provide educational/environmental cruises between the Gulf of Georgia and Alaska. She is the oldest B.C. vessel in the Canada Registry of Ships. She was built at Vancouver Shipyard in Coal Harbour in 1904 for lumber baron Alexander McLaren, and was the first vessel to fly the colors of the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club in an open race. (From 1916 to 1979 she was used in the halibut fishery under the names Constance B and Parma.)

The provincial government sold the buses it inherited from the BC Electric Company to Pacific Coach Lines.

Hassan Khosrowshahi and his family fled Iran during the Ayatollah Khomeini unrest and came to Vancouver. He opened a small office equipment shop on West Broadway. In 1983 he will incorporate Future Shop Ltd. and build it into a giant Canadian enterprise, employing more than 10,000 people in 90 locations across Canada.

Svend Robinson was elected MP for Burnaby-Douglas, the youngest member of the NDP caucus (born March 4, 1952).

Pauline Jewett was elected as an NDP Member of Parliament for New Westminster-Coquitlam. She will serve in that capacity until 1988.

George Laverock became the producer for programs featuring the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, and the orchestra would go on to become the most recorded in Canada.

Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation got a new name: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

Vancouver city council reinstated Joe Philliponi’s licence to run the Penthouse. On December 31, 1975, the club had been closed by the vice squad, and in 1977 Philliponi was charged with living off prostitution but the conviction was quashed.

These books appeared in 1979. Details on their writers can be found here.
* Son of Socred, by Stan Persky. Persky’s first book asked in its subtitle: Has Bill Bennett’s Government Gotten BC Moving Again?
* Exploring the Coast by Boat, by Freda Van der Ree, was a comprehensive guidebook to 51 boating areas in the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound. It has had numerous printings since this first appearance. Van der Ree travelled extensively with her family, both under power and under sail, in both summer and winter.
* The Delta Centenary, 1879-1979: a Pictorial Review of Delta’s First One Hundred Years, Corporation of Delta.
* Above the Sand Heads: First Hand Accounts of Pioneering in the Area Which, in 1879, Became the Municipality of Delta, British Columbia.  Narrated by T. Ellis Ladner; prepared for publication by Edna G. Ladner.
* Richmond, Child of the Fraser by  Leslie J. Ross under the direction of the Historical Committee of the Richmond ‘79 Centennial Society
* Saints: The story of St. George’s School for Boys by Douglas E. Harker.
* Empire of Time, the first in Crawford Kilian’s Chronoplane Wars science fiction trilogy. It was described by one reviewer as “a nifty page turner about a physically and mentally augmented James Bond type.”

Michael Walsh, long-time film critic for The Province, gave us The Canadian Movie Quiz Book.

Raincoast Books was established. This company would, in the future, gain the rights to Canadian publication of the Harry Potter books. That would turn out rather well for them. See here for their website.

Several periodicals began in 1979:
* International History Review, a quarterly from Simon Fraser University, examining relations between all states throughout history
* Musick, a quarterly produced by the Vancouver Society for Early Music. It covers medieval, Renaissance, baroque and classical music
* Uptrend: Canadian Penny Market Newsletter was published every three weeks by Yorkton Continental Securities Inc.
* Wildlife Rescue, a quarterly for members of the Wildlife Rescue Association of British Columbia. It reviews the organization’s activities in wildlife rehabilitation and education.

The movie A Man, A Woman And A Bank, directed by Noel Black, is described by Michael Walsh as “a caper comedy with a Gastown setting. Its focus is on two high-tech robbers (Donald Sutherland, Paul Mazursky) and the non-technical distractions provided by a local beauty (Brooke Adams).”

The movie Prophecy, directed by John Frankenheimer, appeared. Wrote Michael Walsh: “Though caused by industrial pollution, the horrific mutations that an environmental scientist (Robert Foxworth) encounters in the Maine woods also fulfill local Native American legends.”  The Internet Movie Database says about this movie: “Filmed in British Columbia in 1978, Prophecy marked the beginning of ‘Hollywood North,’ the major start to the development of a massive film production business in Vancouver and other parts of the province of British Columbia, in Canada. Since then hundreds of ‘American’ movies have been filmed in the Canadian province.”

Bird of Spring, a bronze sculpture by Etungat, an Inuit artist, was placed at Robson Square (on the stairway near the Art Gallery). The sculpture is a recreation of a tiny 14-cm original by Etungat.

The 460-seat Arts Club Theatre: Mainstage opened in 1979 at 1585 Johnston Street on Granville Island. The Arts Club became one of the earliest landmarks on Granville Island and a personal triumph for Managing Director Bill Millerd who had always dreamed of having a theatre on the waterfront. Now the theatre is home base for a company with three theatres and an adjoining lounge. The company regularly tours its shows throughout the province.

The 240-seat Waterfront Theatre opened in 1979 at 1410 Cartwright on Granville Island. This was originally the home of Carousel Theatre, the New Play Centre (now Playwrights Theatre) and the now defunct Westcoast Actors. The Waterfront is now primarily a rental venue and home to Carousel, which produces three shows for family audiences each year.

The David Y.H. Lui Theatre, opened by Lui in 1975, closed. During its brief, but notable, life theatre goers enjoyed major appearances by Dame Joan Sutherland, the National Ballet of Canada, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and others. The building later became a nightclub, Richard’s on Richards.

Arts Umbrella began. To quote its web site: “Since our inception in 1979 with only 45 students, Arts Umbrella has grown to now reach more than 30,000 young people annually. Our Granville Island facility hosts more than 260 classes each week, ranging from general courses to pre-professional training in theatre, dance, painting, sculpture, architecture, film, new media, photography, and more.”

A study showed that Surrey had become “Vancouver’s bedroom,” as more than 50 per cent of its residents worked elsewhere. In 1879 almost everyone who lived in Surrey worked there.

Vancouver’s new courthouse and Robson Square complex, designed by Arthur Erickson, was  completed. The complex changed the face of downtown.

North Vancouver High School closed, having served the community for 69 years. On the closure of the school the new gym, named after Principal Mickey McDougall, became part of the North Vancouver Recreation Centre.

In White Rock Tom Kirstein, a chartered accountant, and a friend, Chip Barrett, wondered aloud: why not have a sandcastle competition? That led to White Rock’s famous Great Canadian Open Sandcastle Competition. With prizes amounting to $10,000, and scores of teams competing, the annual event drew international attention, attracting crowds estimated at 150,000 to the waterfront. Unfortunately, by 1987, community dismay at the crush of people, unruly elements, and rising police costs would force the cancellation of the competition.

Greenpeace began to go international. Greenpeace organizations in Australia, Canada, France, Holland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States formed Stichting Greenpeace. Today, Greenpeace International is  headquartered in Amsterdam.

The International Plaza Towers were built, at 71.6 metres and 26 storeys the tallest buildings in North Vancouver District.

Nathan T. Nemetz became Chief Justice of British Columbia. He will hold the post until 1988.

George Pedersen became president of Simon Fraser University. He will hold the post until 1983. During his tenure part-time studies for mature students and the school of engineering science, which concentrates on new technology, began. He also launched cooperation with BCIT to establish downtown classes in rented office space.

The Continuing Education Division of Vancouver Community College introduced a Court Interpreting program, the first of its kind in Canada.

A totem pole carved by Don Yeomans, a Haida native and a graduate of Langara’s fine arts program, was erected near the college’s main entrance.

Terry Fox began to participate in a in a wheelchair-basketball team, after being recruited by Rick Hansen. Part of Terry’s self-designed exercise routine was pushing his chair up Gaglardi Way, a long, steep climb up Burnaby Mountain toward Simon Fraser University at the top.

Police seized a little brown book at the apartment of a well-known Vancouver prostitute. In it were 800 names of men, a who’s who of high society, including a high-ranking member of the B.C. judiciary. Wendy King pleaded guilty to keeping a bawdy house and was fined $1,500. But the notebook was sealed by a B.C. Supreme Court Judge, the names never revealed.

Bobby Ackles, assistant general manager of the BC Lions, was promoted to general manager. He will hold that title until 1986.


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.