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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1982

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yin5_1982_canuckscentral_rogerneilsonCoach Roger Neilson and his Stanley Cup finalist Vancouver Canucks. Photo courtesy of Canucks Central.

This important year saw the temporary Arts, Sciences and Technology Centre – the precursor to Science World – open downtown. The groundbreaking for the Skytrain Expo Line also occurred and the Vancouver Canucks reached the Stanley Cup finals.  Serial killer Clifford Olsen also pled guilty to the murder of 11 Vancouver-area children.

Compiled by John Calimente (with permission from Chuck Davis)
Photos compiled by Erick Villagomez

Precursor to Science World opens

The Arts, Sciences and Technology Centre opened in an interim space on Granville Street on January 15. The dream of establishing a science centre had begun in 1977 under the leadership of Barbara Brink, the Junior League of Greater Vancouver and the City of Vancouver. A set of hands-on exhibits known as the “Extended I” had been displayed in venues around Vancouver prior to the opening of the Centre. In six years, the temporary centre at the corner of Granville and Dunsmuir attracted more than 600,000 visitors. Another 400,000 benefited from the centre’s outreach programs which travelled around the province.

The demand for a permanent venue was clear; the only obstacles which stood in the way were finding a location and securing funding. Both campaigns were successful. Today, it’s known as Science World at Telus World of Science. The big silver sphere began life as the Preview Centre for Expo 86, so it’s been a city landmark for almost 25 years.

Transpo 86 announced

Premier Bill Bennett announced on April 1 that a world exposition called Transpo 86 would be held in Vancouver. The name was later changed to Expo 86. He also announced that a trade and convention centre would be built.

Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society established

A group called Canadian Ecumenical Action, meeting in the basement of Chalmers United Church on Hemlock at West 12th Avenue, established the Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society in December. The group included Reverend Val Anderson, later a member of the B.C. Legislature, and the first Executive Director of the Food Bank, Sylvia Russell. Within a few months, the Food Bank would move into its own warehouse, and would distribute food each week through five depots, mostly in churches.

Food banks were born in BC when a continent-wide recession that had started in the late 1970s and continued into the early 1980s hit resource-based economies such as BC’s especially hard. In response to the needs of newly laid-off workers, churches, trade unions, and other socially aware organizations started to collect food from persons who were better off to distribute to those in need.

Vancouver Canucks reach Stanley Cup finals

There was no joy in Vancouver (or in the rest of Canada) on May 16 when the Vancouver Canucks were defeated by the New York Islanders in the quest for the Stanley Cup. Not even “Towel Power” had helped. It was the closest the Canucks had come to hockey’s top prize. But they had been beaten in four straight games by the Islanders, and the team was inconsolable. The fans were not. A piece by the Vancouver Sun’s Ian Haysom was headlined CINDERELLA HEROES LOST STANLEY CUP BUT WON OUR HEARTS. “Stan Smyl,” Haysom wrote, “eyes red, choking back the tears, said: ‘Yes, it hurts. I guess it hurts a lot.’”

“Tthe miracle on Renfrew Street” had begun under interim coach Roger Neilson (filling in for Harry Neale who had been suspended after getting into a fight in the stands in Quebec) and the heroic goal tending of “King” Richard Brodeur. The Vancouver Canucks beat Calgary 3-0 in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, then took out Los Angeles 4-1, but ran into trouble in game two of the Campbell conference final against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Canucks were losing 3-1 in the third period and were frustrated by a series of calls by referee Bob Myers-including a disallowed goal-so Neilson showed his dismay by hoisting a white towel atop a hockey stick. Players Gerry Minor and Tiger Williams joined in and “towel power” was born. Although the Canucks received a bench penalty and went on to lose the game the sarcastic gesture galvanized the team and when they returned to Vancouver the fans were ALL waving white towels. Towel power was born.

Children’s Hospital completed

In 1975 the re-elected Social Credit government committed to building a children’s hospital somewhere in Vancouver. By 1976 they had chosen a location at West 28th Avenue and Oak Street. In 1977 Health Minister Robert McClelland broke ground at that location, and the hospital was completed in 1982 at a cost of $60 million. It had 320,000 square feet of space and 250 acute care beds, an adolescent unit, a modern isolation facility, a rehabilitation unit, a 10-bed psychiatric unit and a 60-bed special care nursery.

Also in 1982


On January 14, serial killer Clifford Olson pled guilty to the murder of 11 Vancouver-area children and was sentenced to life imprisonment. The RCMP will pay Olson’s family $100,000 in return for Olson revealing where his victims’ bodies were buried.

An arsonist’s fire heavily damaged Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park on January 16. The fire destroyed, among other things, the signatures of hundreds of performers and the names and dates of shows, all pencilled on the old wooden walls. The fire-setter was never found, but the old Bowl was rebuilt and shows continued to be presented.

The second annual Peace March on April 24 draws 35,000 participants.

On November 20, Vancouver was declared a “nuclear free zone” in a plebiscite, and voters also approved Sunday shopping.


Alan Morley, journalist, died in North Vancouver on October 6, aged 77. He was born August 15, 1905 in Vancouver but grew up in Armstrong and Penticton. He supported himself through UBC in the early 1930s writing for The Vancouver Sun, then wrote for 21 other newspapers before returning to the Sun in 1957. He worked there until his retirement in 1970. He wrote The Romance of Vancouver (1940), a collection of his historical columns, and in 1961 wrote Vancouver: From Milltown to Metropolis. It’s still our favourite of the book-length histories of Vancouver because of his story-telling ability and his affection for the city.

On November 12, Clarence Wallace, shipbuilder and former lieutenant-governor, died in Palm Desert, California, aged 89. He was born in Vancouver, Constance Brissenden writes, “on June 22, 1893. On leaving college, he joined the family business, Burrard Drydock. (See the entry on his father, Andy Wallace, in our Hall of Fame.) He served overseas during the First World War from 1914 to 1916, was wounded at Ypres. In 1918 he became secretary-treasurer of Burrard Drydock, and in 1929 was named president. During the Second World War he built North Sands and Victory ships and converted other vessels for war use. He was awarded the CBE in 1946 for his wartime efforts. Wallace was lieutenant-governor of BC from 1950 to 1955, the first to have been born in the province.” See a history of Wallace Shipyards here.

Olympic medallist Percy Williams died in Vancouver on November 29, aged 74. He was a double gold medallist at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.When he came home to Vancouver in September, 1928 the city went a little nutty. What Williams, a King Edward High grad, had done-and what no Canadian track and field athlete has done since-was to win two Olympic gold medals at the same games. He came out of nowhere at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics to win both the 100-metre and the 200-metre races.

“Perhaps the most remarkable home-coming in the history of British Columbia,” said B.C.’s Premier Simon Tolmie. Thousands of people jammed Granville Street from the CPR station to Georgia Street to cheer 20-year-old Percy on. “The demonstration affected spectators,” one newspaper report said, “to such an extent that they tore up the contents of waste paper baskets, and sent the fluttering scraps out over the crowds as confetti.”

Percy’s race wasn’t a fluke: He won the world record for the 100-metre dash in 1930, and held it for 10 years. Only an injury kept him from succeeding at the 1932 Games.

The sports fraternity in B.C. was shocked by the sudden death of sprinter Harry Jerome, 42. He was riding as a passenger in a car northbound over the Lions Gate Bridge on December 7 when he suffered a seizure, and was dead when brought minutes later to Lions Gate Hospital. Jerome had been at Vancouver General Hospital just four days earlier after suffering a series of brain seizures. Born on September 30, 1940 in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, he began running at North Vancouver High School. He won a scholarship to the University of Oregon. T

he first to simultaneously hold world records for the 100-metre and 100-yard events, Jerome was also co-holder of the 100-metre world record for eight years after setting the mark of 10 seconds flat in Saskatoon in 1960. He won a bronze medal at the 1964 Olympics, gold medals at 1966 Commonwealth Games and 1967 Pan-American games. He competed in the Olympics in Mexico City in 1968, retiring the same year. Jerome was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 1966, the Canadian Amateur Athletic Hall of Fame in1967 and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1971. He received the Order of Canada in 1970.

Muni Evers’ 13-year career as mayor of New Westminster ended after seven terms. Evers, a pharmacist, was first elected in 1969. When he announced his retirement Evers told The Royal City Record: “I’m very satisfied with my term. I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I’m close to it.” He was grinning when he said it, but the consensus was that he had been a very good mayor. Evers died in 2004.


Electronic Arts, today the world’s leading interactive entertainment software company, and with a big staff in its local studios and offices, was incorporated.

Hassan Khosrowshahi, started Future Shop in Vancouver in 1982. He had fled to Canada with his family from his native Iran and a flourishing import-export firm in 1979 when it was evident Ayatollah Khomeini would be taking over. He would build Future Shop into Canada’s biggest consumer electronics retailer. In 2001 Future Shop (91 stores with 7,300 staff) was sold to Minneapolis-based Best Buy Co. Inc., the largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.S.

yin5_1982_empirestadiumEmpire Stadium. Photo via


On November 6, the B.C. Lions played their last game at Empire Stadium, winning against the Montreal Alouettes. Coming up for the team: a new home at B.C. Place Stadium.

Maple Ridge athlete Debbie Brill-the first woman in North America to clear six feet in the high jump (she was 16 at the time)-won gold in that event at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. She’d done it before, in 1970, at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.


Health Minister James Nielsen opened the 120-bed “New Grace Hospital” at 4490 Oak Street site on April 2. It would eventually be named the British Columbia Women’s Hospital and Health Centre.

Construction began on the Expo 86 site on October 7.

The 255-tonne B.C. Place Stadium fabric dome, largest of its kind in the world, was inflated on November 14. It took less than an hour! The Stadium would open to the public on June 19, 1983.

Coquitlam Centre at 2929 Barnet Highway won the Governor-General’s Award for Excellence in Architecture for Edmonton architect B. James Wensley. The centre opened in 1979 and housed a collection of 27 sculptures and other work by B.C. artists.


Groundbreaking started the construction of the original SkyTrain line began on March 1.

The CPR’s Kitsilano Trestle, built in 1886 across the mouth of False Creek and modified in 1903 to allow a swing span, was removed. The CPR’s informally dubbed “Sockeye Limited” used this trestle between 1902 and 1905. (The “Sockeye” ran twice a day between the CPR’s waterfront station and Steveston, then a major fishing and canning centre.) The trestle was also used regularly by the BC Electric’s No. 12 Kitsilano streetcar to Kits Beach, a line that was discontinued in 1949. B.C. Electric freight trains also used it between their freight yards southwest of Chinatown to their other lines south of False Creek.


Surrey’s Centennial Centre Theatre opened on October 22.

The Firehall Theatre opened its doors in 1982. Now known as the Firehall Arts Centre, today more than 35,000 people attend over 340 performances at the Firehall each year, making it one of the busiest venues in Vancouver.

An exhibition titled Cabinets of Curiosities opened at the Vancouver Museum. The show captured the spirit and history of earlier years of the Museum where, with no departments, collections had grown “somewhat randomly.” The public found the result both fascinating and eclectic, and attendance was heavy. The exhibition offered up a nostalgic selection from the very first donation-a stuffed white swan-to First Nations poet Pauline Johnson’s performance costume and a long-treasured Egyptian mummy, displayed for 30 years in error as ‘Diana’ until X-rays in 1951 proved ‘Diana’ was really a boy, about 10 years old.

Leonard Schein initiated The Vancouver Film Festival this year.

Books published in 1980 on local issues include:

Tynehead Memories: History of a Surrey Neighborhood, compiled by the Tynehead Historical Society, was “Dedicated to the descendants of pioneer families who were at one time residents of Tynehead, a small district tucked away in the northeast end of the municipality of Surrey, near the head of the Serpentine River.”

Betty Keller’s life of Indian poet Pauline Johnson was published. Pauline: A biography of Pauline Johnson, won the Canadian Biography Medal for 1982 and was a Book of the Month Club selection for April 1983.


The late Chuck Davis was a Vancouver writer who wrote, co-wrote, and/or edited 15 books. Most of them are on local history, and he described his yet-to-be released book, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, as the capstone of his career. Chuck’s passion for history was contagious and all the information he gathered and wrote about is the priceless gift he has left the citizens of Vancouver.

John Calimente is the president of Rail Integrated Developments. He supports great public transit, cycling, and walking + transit integrated developments + urban life lived without a car.

Erick Villagomez is one of the founding editors at re:place. He is also an educator, independent researcher and designer with academic and professional interests in the human settlements at all scales. His private practice – Metis Design|Build – is an innovative practice dedicated to a collaborative and ecologically responsible approach to the design and construction of places.