A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1957
[caption id="attachment_7599" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="The Vancouver Public Library opened in 1957. Photographed here on the Robson side in 1974. Item # CVA 778-315."]
Bibliophiles had a new library and a new book store that would prove very popular. In 1957, the city also got a new bridge, one-way streets and a visit from the King of rock'n'roll.
By Chuck Davis, The History of Vancouver
Photos courtesy of Vancouver Archives
On April 15, 1957 a 14-square-kilometre chunk of South Surrey seceded: White Rock was incorporated. It was named for a huge white 486-ton granite rock on the beach, a relic of the Ice Age. There’s a good Wikipedia article on the town and its history here
A new main Vancouver Public Library building opened November 1, 1957 at Burrard and Robson. The location was criticized by some at the time because “there isn’t enough foot traffic.” The sleek, modernist structure was Vancouver's first glass curtain building, designed by architects H.N. Semmens and D.C. Simpson. It was awarded the Massey Medal, Canada's highest architectural honour. This building served until May of 1995 when today’s main branch opened. Almost from the beginning the 1957 building was too small. “The old facility,” Sandra McKenzie wrote for The Greater Vancouver Book
, “was designed to accommodate 750,000 volumes, with seating for 300 patrons. In the intervening years the VPL's collection, which numbers over 1.4 million items, and public demand for the library's services, swelled well past this capacity. Despite seconding the auditorium, several meeting rooms and much of the seating space to shelf space, nearly a third of the collection was stored in the basement, while more than 5,000 patrons a day scrambled for scarce chairs.
“After nearly four decades of use,” Sandra continues, “its transparent facade was gray and grimy, and the well trodden interior was scarcely worth preserving. Despite preservationists' interest in its architectural significance, there was little public sympathy for the building's 50s-style modernism . . . Fortunately, the forces for heritage preservation won out, and the Semmens and Simpson design has gained a second life.” That resulted in a Virgin Records megastore at street level, and a Planet Hollywood restaurant upstairs.
Bill Duthie, bookseller, opened the first Duthie Books at the northwest corner of Robson and Hornby in August, 1957. He had taken care to locate his store near the Vancouver Public Library’s main branch, at that time a few steps to the west. Duthie’s speedily became the most well-known bookstore in western Canada. Weston, Ontario-born Wilfred John Duthie had come to Vancouver in 1952 as the first regional book representative on the West Coast. An innovator, he dedicated an entire floor in his new store to paperback books, a marketing move unprecedented at the time. He was especially encouraging to emerging Canadian writers. Bill Duthie died April 6, 1984 at 63.
[caption id="attachment_7601" align="alignright" width="310" caption="The old Marpole bridge, pictured here around 1900, was replaced this year. Item # SGN 1120."]
Oak Street Bridge
On July 1, 1957, Dominion Day, the four-lane Oak Street Bridge, on Route 99, opened to traffic. It became a vital link between Vancouver and Richmond. (After the bridge opened, traffic began to move several blocks to the east. The business districts along Hudson Street and Marine Drive went into a swift decline.) With the Middle Arm Bridge, this new span replaced the old Marpole swing bridge over the North Arm of the Fraser. The old swing bridge, with its tendency to open at inconvenient times (7,015 times in 1954!), will be familiar to users of Vancouver AMF (Air Mail Field) on Sea Island, now the airfreight and seaplane terminal. The old bridge was dismantled this year.
The one-way street came to downtown Vancouver August 26, 1957. No accidents were reported. “Police and city traffic department officials worked feverishly to instal signs, paint traffic lines and tear down the temporary sign covers.”
predicted a great test of the system “when one of the greatest crowds in city history—100,000—packs Exhibition Park tonight and then heads home on unfamiliar one-way streets. B.C. Lions expect 25,000 for the game with Calgary Stampeders at Empire Stadium. An estimated 50,000 will attend the PNE and other 10,000 will watch racing . . .” But no special problems ensued.
On May 22, 2005 some of the downtown one-way streets reverted to two-way.
Elvis Presley performed one song at a packed Empire Stadium on August 31, and left the stage when fans began to battle with police. He returned to sing four more songs, none of which could be heard over the screaming. The next day, Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, happily read aloud to the media a local newspaper account of the riot.
became a morning newspaper June 17, 1957. One of its stories that day said a team headed by Charles Borden had unearthed “the most remarkable archaeological discovery of all time in BC,” a 2,000-year-old skeleton of a large male native.
Blondie first appeared in the paper that day, announced by a special cartoon drawn by Chic Young, the strip’s creator. It showed Blondie shaking Dagwood awake to tell him they were now in the Province
’s move to the morning came in the wake of the death June 15, 1957 of the Herald
(formerly the News-Herald
.) See the 1933 A Year in Five Minutes
for the story of how that feisty little paper began.
The first gas pipeline was completed to Vancouver this year by Westcoast Transmission. The Canadian section of the line cost $198 million to build and at the time was the largest private financial undertaking in Canada’s history. Built in the summer seasons of 1956 and 1957, the line moved gas from the Fort St. John and Peace Rivers areas 1,250 kilometres to Vancouver and the US border.
One of the great stories in B.C.’s history began January 24, 1957 when 214 Hungarian refugees (200 students and 14 faculty members) arrived at the Matsqui train station. They were from the Forestry School in Sopron, Hungary. Two months earlier Sopron, and other Hungarian cities, had been invaded by Soviet troops. “Attempts to resist the approaching Soviet tanks,” Professor Antal Kozak wrote, “were futile. About 450 students and 50 professors and their families left Sopron fleeing across the open borders to Austria. Of these, about 250 were from the forestry school. This was not a planned departure . . . The Faculty of Forestry at UBC offered to ‘adopt’ the Sopron University of Forestry and guaranteed its maintenance for five years until the current students graduated.”
By May 1961 the last Sopron class graduated. (They had started their classes in Hungarian, gradually upped the English content as they progressed.) Most of the 140 graduates decided to stay and work in Canada.
The Sopron faculty and students were not the only Hungarian refugees here. At one point in 1957 there were 1,500 Hungarians housed at a camp at the Abbotsford airport. One well-known refugee was sculptor Elek Imredy, born April 13, 1912 in Pest, Hungary. His sculptures have been exhibited in Canada, the US and Europe, including a life-size statue of prime minister Louis St. Laurent at Ottawa's Supreme Court. His most famous work is Girl in Wetsuit
in Stanley Park.
Also in 1957
A contract was let January 21 for construction of a new Second Narrows Bridge.
On February 23 Premier W.A.C. Bennett opened a new school for the blind at Jericho (it was an extension of the existing school).
In April of 1957 “Radio CJOR,” writes Jeff Bateman in The Greater Vancouver Book
, “staged a competition to find a local Elvis. The winner by audience knock-out: Jimmy Morrison. Later that year, Morrison and The Stripes (who originally featured Ian Tyson of Ian & Sylvia fame) recorded Singin' The Blues b/w Your Cheatin' Heart
, a 45 that's regarded as the city's first rock'n'roll recording. Other rockabilly contenders included Les Vogt—whose band The Prowlers was named after Jack Cullen's CKNW radio show The Owl Prowl
—and Stan Cayer.”
B.C. Breweries became Carling Breweries (B.C.) Ltd. on May 1. Two years later it became part of the Carling organization with its head office in Toronto.
On May 3 the first person to be flown to the heliport atop the new main post office was James Sinclair, the fisheries minister. He was met by Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent. The heliport was later closed: the aircraft were deemed too heavy for safety on the roof.
The formal agreement to create Pacific Press was signed May 24. That company would own the physical assets of the Vancouver Sun
and the Province
The Albion Ferry began its service. It would make its final run July 31, 2009, one month after the opening of the Golden Ears Bridge. The ferry made about 80 trips a day, moving 4,500 vehicles. The new bridge beat that in an hour.
A federal election June 10 saw the Liberals under Louis St. Laurent defeated, and Progressive Conservative John Diefenbaker elected as PM. One of the successful Conservative candidates was Douglas Jung, born February 24, 1924, elected for Vancouver Centre, who would become Canada's first Member of Parliament of Chinese descent.
On August 9, 1957 the Richmond Civic Centre opened. City Hall, at 6911 No. 3 Road, was designed by Allen C. Smith and Associates.
CKWX became BC’s first 50,000-watt radio station August 15 as it moved its frequency from 980 on the dial to 1130. For a period of time the message, “This is not CKWX. It used to be," could be heard on the old frequency, advising listeners to change the dial.
The Vancouver Sun
reported August 17, 1957 that American tourists were griping about the money exchange rate: they lost 5 1/2 cents every time they cashed in a dollar!
On September 21 Leon Koerner began the Thea and Leon Koerner Foundation. To quote from the Foundation’s web site: “The Leon and Thea Koerner Foundation provides grants to stimulate and invigorate the cultural and educational communities in British Columbia by enabling institutions, organizations or individuals to undertake programs and/or projects which would not be possible without special assistance. To this end, the Foundation receives and considers grant applications in these four areas: Cultural and Creative Arts; Social Services; Higher Education; Grants in Aid..” There is an excellent article on Leon Koerner and the Koerner family by Rosemary Cunningham in British Columbia History
, Vol. 40 No. 1, 2007.
Also on September 21 the TV series Perry Mason
, starring New Westminster-born Raymond Burr, began on CBS-TV with The Case of the Moth-eaten Mink
. The series would prove immensely popular, run for nine years. It is still seen in reruns more than 40 years after ending.
On October 10 E.M. (Elsworth McAuley) Searles became the first black man called to the B.C. bar.
Earlier this year Anglican priest Stanley Higgs told the newspapers that general manager Cedric Tallis of the Vancouver Mounties baseball club would be in contempt of law if he pursued Sunday ball games. Sure enough, the Mounties were found guilty on October 11 and fined for playing baseball on Sunday.
A new passenger facility opened November 4, 1957 at Vancouver International Airport.
The Vancouver Tourist Association changed its name back to the Greater Vancouver Tourist Association this year.
The Vancouver Police Department dog squad began this year with four dogs. Today, all training for the squad is carried out in the city and by their own experts. The team’s expertise has been recognized by other police forces in B.C. and the western U.S., which send their dogs and handlers to Vancouver for training.
Numbered streets came to Surrey in 1957, consecutively upward from the 49th parallel. There is a “0" (Zero) Avenue in Surrey, right on the US border. Step off into the bush on the south side of O Avenue and you’re in Washington. Lost in the conversion were many street names of historical interest . . . but it now became a lot easier for people to find their way around this big city: 317.40 square km (122.5 square miles), the largest city in BC's lower mainland, with the second largest population (395,000 in 2006).
J.V. Clyne, a judge on the BC Supreme Court, was named a director of MacMillan Bloedel. He would later become chairman and CEO until his retirement in 1973.
The Upper Levels Highway was completed on the north shore.
A Mosquito Control Board was formed in Surrey. “The mosquitoes are still fighting back,” says an official.
An industrial area was zoned near Newton. North Surrey, where formerly berry and chicken farms had flourished, became almost all residential.
Burnaby's Historical Society was formed this year and became the driving force behind the creation of the Archives, Museum and the Heritage Advisory Committee.
Westminster Abbey and Seminary was opened at Mission by the Benedictine Order. They had occupied Fairacres in Burnaby.
The Union Steamship Co. closed its hotel, the Bowen Inn, on Bowen Island this year.
Restoration of Fort Langley began as part of the celebration of British Columbia's centennial.
Killarney High School opened.
The Burrard Building, at West Georgia and Burrard, was completed. Architect was C.B.K. Van Norman.
An extension was added to Brock Memorial Hall at UBC.
Construction started on a new 123-bed Centennial Wing at Burnaby Hospital.
The Community Information Service realized their comprehensive card catalogue of community services in the Lower Mainland would be useful to many other agencies and services, so began publishing the Directory of Services for Greater Vancouver
. Today, it’s on line, and is called The Red Book
The British Columbia Thoroughbred
began publishing. It appeared seven times a year, was published by the British Columbia Thoroughbred Breeders Society. The Coupler
began publishing. It was a bi-monthly company newsletter for staff of BC Rail Ltd. And Paragraphic
began publishing. It was a quarterly for members of the Canadian Paraplegic Association, British Columbia Division.
Turner Boatworks, which had started on Coal Harbour about 1897, closed.
The Sandheads #16 lightship at the mouth of the Fraser, there since 1913, ended its service. This two-masted schooner had started life in New York in 1880 as the Thomas F. Bayard, a Delaware Bay pilot ship. (Thomas Bayard was a Delaware senator.) The Bayard was purchased in 1978 by the Vancouver Maritime Museum, which began restoring her to her condition as a West Coast sealer.
Parker Industrial Equipment, a company established by Lloyd F. Parker in Penticton in the 1940s, began to sell Kenworth trucks. Known today as the Inland Group it is now, with 24 branches, the largest Kenworth dealer in the world. It’s headquartered in Burnaby.
[caption id="attachment_7602" align="alignleft" width="220" caption="Stan Leonard, circa 1946. Item # CVA 371-926."]
Vancouver golfer Stan Leonard, who had joined the PGA tour two years earlier, won his first major tournament on that tour: the Greater Greensboro. Later in 1957 he would win the Tournament of Champions.
John Prentice, head of the huge forestry firm Canadian Forest Products, and president of the Chess Federation of Canada since 1955, first represented Canada at the world chess federation (FIDE). He would continue to do so for 30 years.
The Vancouver Museum moved into the old Carnegie Library building when the library moved into its new building.
BC artist B.C. Binning’s external mosaic decoration was installed on the B.C. Electric Building at Nelson and Burrard. Today that building is called the Electra, and houses condominiums. Binning’s delightful work remains.
A mural by Orville Fisher, featuring the figure of Mercury, god of messages and glad tidings, was completed in the interior of the main post office, by the Homer Street entrance.
Deejay Red Robinson moved from CJOR to CKWX.
Dal Grauer, president of the BC Electric, became UBC chancellor.
Four parks in Vancouver were purchased through a bequest in the will of Harvey Hadden, who had died in England in 1931. The parks were on Georgia, Adanac, Woodland and McLean.
Lawyer Leon Ladner was elected to UBC’s Board of Governors. He would serve to 1966.
Basil Plimley, born June 21, 1924 in Victoria, took over Plimley Motors in Vancouver, a company started by his grandfather, Thomas Plimley. Basil would run the company, one of BC’s largest dealerships, until 1986, one of the very few third generation executives of a B.C. business. The Plimley companies would close in 1991, after 98 years.
It’s not solely a local event, but is certainly relevant: on January 26, 1924 the Red Ensign had become Canada’s official flag. Bearing the shield of the Royal Arms of Canada, the flag would be in use until this year when PM Diefenbaker led a campaign to change the color of the three maple leaves on the flag from green to red. Our current flag was introduced in February, 1965.
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.