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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1972

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City of Vancouver Archives, opened in 1972. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

City of Vancouver Archives, opened in 1972. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

In 1972, the NPA’s reign was over, the City Archives were officially opened, Gastown got a facelift and workers were guaranteed a minimum wage of $2 an hour.

By Chuck Davis, The History of Vancouver


Team worked

On December 13, 1972 Art Phillips led his TEAM players to a big win in city council: Phillips was joined by eight TEAM aldermen, ending 35 years of NPA domination. Gordon Price, who heads the City Program at SFU, says “there was no more significant year for Vancouver than 1972.” May Brown, who will be a council force in the future, won election to the Vancouver Parks and Recreation Board. You can get some sense of the changes at The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website.

Left Turn

It was a year for the left in BC. On August 30, 1972 Dave Barrett and the NDP won the provincial election. Barrett, a 43-year-old social worker from Coquitlam, became the province’s 26th premier, would serve to December 21, 1975 when Bill Bennett, son of the man Barrett defeated, defeated him in turn. Barrett was born in Vancouver October 2, 1930, and worked as a social worker. He would be Leader of the Opposition from 1976 to his retirement from politics in 1983.


On December 29 the Vancouver City Archives, in a building named for the late archivist Major J.S. Matthews, were officially opened at Vanier Park by outgoing Mayor Tom Campbell. It would be impossible to write on Vancouver history without the City Archives. The Major is responsible for the core of the collection. The archives, under the direction of Leslie Mobbs, is a great (and free) place to visit for anyone interested in local history.

Minimum wage

A new minimum wage of $2 an hour went into effect in B.C. on December 4, 1972. Labor minister Bill King made the announcement, and said that further increases to $2.25 and $2.50 would take place in two stages over the following 18 months. (The minimum wage today is $8 an hour.)


The Don’t Make a Wave Committee changed its name to the Greenpeace Foundation. Greenpeace III (originally the Vega) sailed to French Polynesia to protest against French atmospheric nuclear tests. The boat, a 12.5-metre hand-built ketch, belonged to David McTaggart, chairman of Greenpeace International from 1969 to 1973. The Vega was retired when McTaggart retired after being severely beaten, with others of his crew, during the 1972 protest.

New Viaduct

The old Georgia Viaduct, opened in 1915, was dismantled and a new one built this year. Bridge engineer Robert Harris wrote about the old span: “A classic product of low bidding ($494,000) and meagre supervision, it was never a sound bridge. Streetcar tracks were laid but never used. Every second lamppost was removed to save weight. Much blacktop was used to fill mysterious sags and hollows in the deck. People passing below were injured by falling concrete, and concrete spans were propped with timber. The bridge was replaced by the parallel Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts in 1972, each carrying three lanes of one-way traffic.” The alignments of the two new viaducts suited the city’s downtown one-way street policy, with Georgia eastbound, Dunsmuir westbound. The two structures cost $11.2 million.

DeCosmos Village

DeCosmos Village, the city’s first co-op housing development, opened at East 49th Avenue at Boundary Road within the Champlain Heights neighborhood. The designer was architect Francis Donaldson. The development was named for an early BC premier. Champlain Heights was the last undeveloped acreage within the city limits to be built up. Writes architectural historian Harold Kalman: “The showcase residential community was planned in the early 1970s, with curved roads and cul-de-sacs serving a mix of housing types and income levels. The City retained ownership of the land, leasing it to developers. This stucco-and-wood housing co-op, inspired by the idea of European townhouses around a public square, provides a comfortable, human scale.”


The TRIUMF cyclotron, operated in conjunction with U Vic and the University of Alberta, was built at UBC. This facility, the largest of its kind in the world, continues to attract top-notch researchers despite occasional funding cutbacks. The name TRIUMF was coined to represent Tri-University Meson Facility, and is still used, although six universities are now involved, and another seven are listed as associates.

Also in 1972

From an article by Aaron Chapman, published in the Courier December 16, 2004: “On an early and rainy Tuesday morning, March 14, 1972, an older man in an old bathrobe, pajama bottoms and sandals walked into the side lobby of the Bayshore Inn in Vancouver. Surrounded by a half-dozen bodyguards and staff, the tall, oddly dressed gent casually strolled around the nearly unoccupied lobby, commenting, ‘This is pretty nice.’ He moved into the elevator with the men and up to the penthouse suite where he would remain unseen, never leaving his single room for the duration of his six-month stay. Howard Hughes had arrived in Vancouver.” A few minutes after his arrival he stood at his penthouse window to watch a seaplane land. The last time Hughes had viewed the harbor was in 1945, when he piloted Vancouver actress-turned-Hollywood star Yvonne de Carlo on a flight over Vancouver. This time, local photographers began a stakeout, but without success because Hughes was soon ensconced in a blacked-out bedroom. He was here for six months.

The first purpose-built Martial Arts Centre, or dojo house, outside Japan opened March 18 in Steveston.

On April 1, 1972 the Pacific Great Eastern Railway became the British Columbia Railway. In 2004 BC Rail would be sold to the Canadian National Railway.

On April 20 bulldozers demolished squatters’ huts at “Four Seasons” site near the entrance to Stanley Park. The site would become a park in 1977.

Muhammad Ali was defending the North American Boxing Federation heavyweight championship when he won a 12-round decision May 1 over George Chuvalo at the Pacific Coliseum.

The Rolling Stones held a concert June 2 at the Pacific Coliseum, a riot broke out and 21 police officers were injured.

The Girl in Wet Suit sculpture off Stanley Park. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Girl in Wet Suit sculpture off Stanley Park. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Elek Imredy’s Girl in Wet Suit sculpture was unveiled June 9 on a rock off Stanley Park. (She’s often misidentified as a mermaid. Check her feet. She’s got a couple.) There’s an interesting article on the sculpture, and its Hungarian-born creator, here.

Western Canada’s first multilingual radio station, CJVB, started by Jan van Bruchem, signed on June 18, 1972 at AM 1470. Today, under new owners and known as Fairchild Radio, most of its programming is in Cantonese and Mandarin. You can also check out for more information.

Sydney, Nova Scotia-born (May 23, 1947) Gary Bannerman, a Province columnist, was lured away by radio CKNW to become one of “The Investigators.” He and Shirley Stocker and a large cast of others would conduct hundreds of ratings-boosting investigations.

At 9:58 in pitch-black darkness on Tuesday night, August 22, 1972 a nurse named Fran Cannon, 30, stepped into the waters of Georgia Strait at Neck Point, just north of Nanaimo. Waiting for her just offshore was the Charlotte Strait, a tug owned by Rivtow Straits, and a smaller boat aboard which was Fran’s husband, Dennis. Fran was determined to be the first woman to swim across Georgia Strait. At 1:05 on Wednesday afternoon, August 23 Fran stepped ashore at Davis Bay, almost exactly 15 hours after she’d started. Why’d she do it? “Dennis and I had a friend, Mike Powley, who was the first man to swim the Strait. That was in August of 1967. I just wanted to be the first woman to do it.”

“A network of underground pedestrian ways,” wrote Art McKenzie in The Province on September 8, “is being developed in the downtown core of Vancouver that may ultimately allow shoppers to move between the various sectors on foot or by moving sidewalk or escalator free of the discomfort of weather and the hazard of surface traffic.” The two major developments cited were Royal Centre and Pacific Centre. One of the projects being discussed was a tunnel from the Hotel Vancouver east to Pacific Centre, but a Canadian National Railway official (the CNR ran the hotel then) said that had not been considered seriously. “But,” the paper reported, “there will definitely be a tunnel from the present courthouse to the Pacific Centre.” Hasn’t happened yet.

John “Gassy Jack” Deighton’s body, which had lain in an unmarked grave in New Westminster’s Fraserview Cemetery for 97 years (he died in 1875), was finally located. A headstone was erected September 30, thanks to the Gassy Jack Memorial Fund. Daniel Wood, a local freelance writer, had gone looking for Jack’s final resting place and after a long search—ending as Daniel spotted a tiny bare spot in the cemetery grass which he pried open with his fingers—found it.

In September of 1972 full nudity was decriminalized in BC, and immediately nightclubs began to feature totally naked dancers.

We began using permanent licence plates on our cars in B.C. November 10, using stick-on tabs to indicate the year.

Abbotsford was incorporated November 17, 1972.

Construction at Maple Tree Square in Gastown in 1972. Item # CVA 780-591. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives.

Construction at Maple Tree Square in Gastown in 1972. Item # CVA 780-591. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives.

Three governments granted money for the beautification of Gastown. Utility wires were buried, trees were planted, and old-fashioned street lights—modeled somewhat after the originals—were installed. Subtle, unobtrusive touches were added: the chain-linked bollards between the sidewalks and the roadways, for example, are there to discourage jay-walking. That they happen to look good is a bonus. The streets were paved with brick. The city’s planner for Gastown, Jon Ellis, said it was the first time a North American city had torn up good streets to rebuild them in the old style.

Davey (David Lambie) Black, golfer, in his late 80s, was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. He was the golf pro at Shaughnessy Golf Club from 1920 to 1945. See his obituary entry for March 26, 1974 at The History of Metropolitan Vancouver for a fuller description of his long and distinguished career.

Neighborhood pubs were approved by the provincial government in 1972, breaking the hotel industry’s monopoly on the sale of draft beer.

The musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris opened at the Arts Club Theatre, in a co-production with David Y.H. Lui that changed the face of entertainment in Vancouver. Over its initial run it drew 40,000 people to the Art’s Club Seymour Street theatre—even selling out 11 a.m. Sunday matinees! The show starred Leon Bibb, Ruth Nichol, Anne Mortifee, Pat Rose and Brent Carver.

Joan Sutherland performed in the title role of Lucrezia Borgia for Vancouver Opera. It was her debut performance in this role.

The Vancouver Opera Guild began its Opera In The Schools program, designed as an introduction to opera for children in grades 1 to 7. The program brought more than 1.5 million people to the world of opera.

Griffiths Gibson Productions, which had started June 26, 1967 (with Brian Griffiths and Brian Gibson) expanded to become Griffiths Gibson & Ramsay Productions Limited, with the arrival in the firm of Miles Ramsay. They went on to become one of Canada’s leading commercial jingle studios.

Swiss-born Rene Dahinden, with the help of journalist Don Hunter, wrote Sasquatch, a summary of his 20 years’ research into the Sasquatch.

Penticton-born novelist E.G. Perrault published his second novel, The Twelfth Mile, described as “a suspenseful tale about a West Coast towboat operator.”

Bill Millerd became the Arts Club Theatre’s artistic and managing director. He still is!

The insanely surreal CBC radio program Dr. Bundolo’s Pandemonium Medicine Show began. Taped before university students, who revelled in its irreverent and raunchy humor, it would last to 1980, then move to CBC-TV for two seasons. The show was produced by Don Kowalchuk, and written by Jeffrey Groberman and Dan Thatchuk (the latter now known as Colin Yardley). Stars included such folk as Bill Reiter, Steve Woodman, Norm Grohman, Marla Gropper and Bill Buck.

Impresario Sam Feldman launched S.L. Feldman & Associates, and before long the one-time doorman commanded the majority of club and concert business west of the Manitoba/Ontario border.

Bridge Marker, a sculpture by George Norris, was installed at the west end of the Georgia Viaduct. It consisted of liquid-filled glass spheres designed to reflect traffic patterns.

Byron Black’s film Master Of Images was released. Says Michael Walsh: “Puckish conceptual artist Black offered his personal take on the state of cinema with this non-linear tale of a young woman (Lulu Ulul) who flees the city for some karmic readjustment and experiences a kaleidoscopic 1960s-style happening.”

Richard Walton’s film In Pursuit Of . . . was released. Walsh describes it: “Private girls-schoolmates (Cecilia Smith, Celine La Freniere) learn about life and love in this upbeat, mildly moralistic romantic comedy.”

Universal Studios released The Groundstar Conspiracy, directed by Lamont Johnson. Simon Fraser University provided a futuristic background for this science fiction thriller. Walsh writes: “A CIA spymaster (George Peppard) uses an amnesiac scientist (Michael Sarrazin) to trap the foreign agents responsible for blowing up a U.S. space research centre (Simon Fraser University).”

The movie Another Smith For Paradise, directed by Tom Shandel, was released. Writes Walsh: “In this fictional examination of ethnic ambition, a dynamic Ukrainian-Canadian stock promoter (Henry Ramer) plans a grand gesture to impress Vancouver’s WASP Establishment. Besides Ramer, the cast list includes many well-known local performers: Frances Hyland, Otto Lowy, Sam Payne and Pia Shandel.”

The literary landscape of the province was mightily enhanced this year when Howard White began the periodical Raincoast Chronicles, telling the stories of B.C. pioneers. They became a successful series of books, and by 1974 his company, Harbour Publishing, would be up and selling.

The Public Archives of Canada published The Great Vancouver Fire of 1886 by J.S. Matthews, city archivist.

Mitchell Press published The Ladners of Ladner: By Covered Wagon to the Welfare State, by Leon J. Ladner. Great title.

Construction of Pacific Centre started.

The boat-building Wallace family sold Burrard Drydock to Cornat Industries of Vancouver.

City Stage began running lunch-hour theatre out of a donut shop in the West End.

Karen Magnussen won a silver medal in figure skating at the Winter Olympics in Japan.

Vancouver’s Bruce Robertson was outstanding at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, swimming the second fastest time ever. He won a silver medal in the 100m butterfly, second only to Mark Spitz. Combined with his bronze medal in the 4×100 medley relay, Bruce brought home two of the five medals Canada won at the 1972 Games.

David Miller of Vancouver won Olympic gold in yachting on September 8.

Lars Hansen, a 6-foot-10 centre from Coquitlam’s Centennial Secondary, led his high school’s basketball team to the B.C. title. He would go on to play four seasons at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The UBC men’s basketball team won its fourth national championship.

The North Vancouver Museum and Archives collected the holdings of the lower mainland’s first museum, which had been at the Moodyville Mill. The museum features outstanding early photos and changing exhibits of lively social and industrial life, including the shipyards that fitted out 70 per cent of the Victory ships for the Second World War.

Kazuyoshi Akiyama was appointed music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

J.V. Clyne, chairman and CEO of MacMillan Bloedel, and a former judge on the B.C. Supreme Court, was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Burnaby’s old Municipal Hall, opened in 1912, was torn down. It had been shared by the RCMP from 1935 to 1956, then by the library.

A roe herring fishery began on the Lower Fraser for the Japanese market. At $3,350 a tonne it was a lucrative business.

Harold Steves, a great-grandson of Richmond pioneer Manoah Steves—after whom Steveston is named—was elected as an NDP MLA. He had been a member of Richmond Council since 1968, and actively involved in preserving Steveston’s heritage.

The TD Tower at 700 West Georgia Street. Item # CVA 780-13. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives.

The TD Tower at 700 West Georgia Street. Item # CVA 780-13. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives.

There was a huge fuss when the “Black Tower” went up. The TD Bank Tower at 700 West Georgia was not an instant hit with the public. Its glossy black 30 storeys and 127-metre height were greeted with cries of derision and dismay. Then there are those who say it’s quite elegant.

The provincial government delegated responsibility for air quality management to the Greater Vancouver Regional District, creating a regional focus for clean air initiatives. Since then the GVRD has been responsible for air quality monitoring and the regulation of air pollution sources.

A building housing UBC’s Civil-Mechanical Laboratories opened.

UBC won a North American competition with an electrically-powered car, the ‘Wally Wagon,’ named for President Walter Gage (who was a favorite among engineering students).

The Buchanan Tower opened at UBC. It’s a 12-storey office/seminar room extension to the Buchanan Building. Completed at a cost of just under $2.6 million, it’s the tallest building on campus: 150 feet (45.7 m) high. It holds 267 faculty offices and nine seminar rooms.

UBC’s Geological Sciences Building opened. The building is architecturally unique on campus: it’s made entirely of standard-sized pieces fitted together, and has been compared to a ‘Meccano’ set. All of the interior walls are movable (except the dinosaur wall) enabling additions or changes to the building to be made quickly and relatively easily. The Pacific Museum of the Earth, opened June 19, 2003, is here, with one popular exhibit being the 80-million-year-old skeleton of a Lambeosaurus dinosaur. The dinosaur’s name is George.

The Woodward Instructional Resources Centre was completed at UBC, paid for with money given to UBC by the P.A. Woodward Foundation. The Centre was named for Charles Woodward, who founded the first pharmacy in B.C., as well as Woodward’s Department Stores. The complex includes a Biomedical Library, five lecture halls with a seating capacity of 117-500, 14 seminar rooms, Health Sciences Deans’ Offices, the Department of Biomedical Communications and two lecture theatres each with a seating capacity of 700 people.

A 13.7 hectare site in the Lynnmour area of North Vancouver between Lynn Creek and the Seymour River was chosen as the site for Capilano College. A bear was found hibernating in the region when work began on clearing the site for the college’s first permanent facility.

Robin Mayor was appointed principal of the Vancouver School of Art. In 1978 (thanks largely to Mayor’s efforts) it will become independent of Vancouver Community College, and be renamed the Emily Carr College of Art.

BC Business, a monthly business magazine, was launched by Joe Martin of Agency Press. It passed through the hands of several owners, until in 1990 it was taken over by Canada Wide Magazines. Canada Wide has sponsored 1976 in The History of Metropolitan Vancouver.

Many other new publications appeared locally in 1972. They included:
* Beale’s Industry Letter, a resource industry newsletter published 26 times a year. (Today the publisher, Colin Beale, 72, works as a nude model for art classes.)
* British Columbia Medical Association News, a bi-monthly publication for members of the British Columbia Medical Association.
* Capilano Review, a journal of poetry, art work and short fiction published three times a year at Capilano College.
* Discovery, a quarterly publication of the Vancouver Natural History Society.
* Kinesis: News About Women That’s Not in the Dailies, published 10 times a year by Vancouver Status of Women. It covered news from a feminist angle, analyzed government policies, feminist theories and debates within the women’s movement.
* Professional Recreation Society of B.C. Newsletter, a bi-monthly.
* Sentinela, a semi-monthly printed in Portuguese, with news of the Portuguese-speaking community.

The Lady Alexandra, built in 1924 and used for decades to carry vacationers and daytrippers to resorts and vacation spots at Bowen Island and along the southern B.C. coast, had become (in 1959) a floating restaurant in Coal Harbour. Visit now for online reservation. This year she was towed to Redonda Beach, California, to become a gambling hall, for gambling online games visit prediksi hk. A storm later damaged her badly and she would be scrapped in 1980.

The J.H. Carlisle, Vancouver’s first fireboat, built in 1928 at Burrard Dry Dock, was converted to a workboat, and now toils at Port Edward on the Skeena River.


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.