Angus McIntyre’s Vancouver

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Last week I had the pleasure of having tea with Angus McIntyre and a chat about his 40-year career as a Vancouver bus driver, his love of street lighting, urban history and transportation systems.

Angus McIntyre, 1973
East Georgia from Campbell Avenue. Note the tram tracks and switches down East Georgia. Angus McIntyre photo, 1973

Angus was given his first camera at age eight—an Argus with the little window and the roll through numbers. By the time he moved to Vancouver ten years later, his skills and his equipment had markedly improved and his photos of Vancouver in the 1960s and ‘70s are outstanding.

Angus McIntyre, 1973
Zions Grocery, 622 East Georgia. Angus McIntyre photo, 1966

Angus discovered Strathcona by accident one day in 1966 when he misread an address and wound up on East instead of West Georgia. He came back the next day with his camera and shot Zions Grocery. “You could see it was a beautiful house at one time and they’d converted it into a store. The old fashioned Pepsi Cola sign and 7 up were still on it,” he says. “It had closed and I wondered what happened and that was another reason just to document some of this.”

Angus McIntyre, 1969
#8 DAVIE southbound, Howe and Pender, 1969. Angus McIntyre photo.

Angus had always wanted to be a bus driver. In 1969, at 21, he was hired on the afternoon shift, and many of his photos were taken in the early hours of the morning after he finished work.

In 1973 he photographed Hawks Grocery with his tripod. “I knew they were ripping out the tracks and taking out the street lights and destroying the character of Strathcona and I just wanted to document it,” he says. The building is still there, repurposed into one of several row houses.

Angus McIntyre, 1973
Hawks Grocery, 1973. Angus McIntyre photo

East Georgia was originally known as Harris Street and the name was changed when the viaduct became a continuation of Georgia.

“Before they completely blitzed this neighbourhood all the sidewalks had Harris on them. They were all thrown away,” he says. “Strathcona had survived the urban renewal and it was this wonderful preserved piece of the city’s history and the city had no respect for that at all, they just went in and ripped out anything that was historic—they took out the rails, the street lights, the wood blocks and they never consulted the people.”

Angus McIntyre, 2015
a house in Dunbar was still affordable in 1977 on a bus driver’s wages of $3.40 an hour. Angus McIntyre in front of his house December 2015

Changes to the city were slow at first, says Angus. “In the early years the city had a small town feel, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the big changes really started happening,” he says.

Angus says that when he moved to Vancouver in 1965, 80 percent of the city had incandescent lighting.

Angus McIntyre, 1974
Lotus Hotel on Abbott Street in 1974. Check out the street lights. Angus McIntyre photo.

“All the main trolley routes, all the major arterial streets had incandescent lighting and it was spectacular, this wonderful, warm, comfortable lighting with neon everywhere,” he says. “It was dazzling there was so much neon in the city. There were animated signs, there were things that moved, just colour everywhere and the light reflecting off the streets made for a magical time and place.”

Angus McIntyre, 2015
Angus managed to save this neon sign. Angus McIntyre photo, 2015

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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17 comments

    1. Hi James! And thanks for your nice comment. Angus is a member of the Vancouver Historical Society, and I’m just surprised that I’ve never met him before or knew of his work. He’s so interesting that I’ll be running more later (couldn’t fit it all in) and with his permission, more of his photos on FB

  1. Wow Eve. I wasn’t aware some of Angus’s work, including my personal favourite, “East Georgia from Campbell Street” in 1973, was shot in colour. As far as I can recall, all the images in Angus’s 2012 Nite Owl show were reproduced in B&W, including the one mentioned, which I proudly own. All great nonetheless! So glad I was able to bring Angus to your attention a few weeks back. Cheers Charles Keillor.

      1. Indeed Eve, he is a very fine fellow . I had a nice chat with Angus in the Spring of 2013, when he was kind enough to attend the opening of my “Lotus Land: Architecture & Infrastructure” art show in Deep Cove. Angus also had some amusing comments on the quality of various types of transit buses over the years, as he has pretty much driven them all!

  2. Wow. I love the photo of Hawks Grocery – the shop was operated by my great grandfather and his uncle in the 50s, so I always love coming across these little artefacts of my family history.

  3. Always wonderful to keep re-discovering the treasures of my friend and happily retired co-worker Angus! Glad to see his photos come alive again and again! 🙂

  4. love the Hawks Grocery photo…My brother Richard Rooney owns one of the row houses…the one next to the store. I think he has a copy of this photo.

    My Mom worked at Buckshons when we were kids and we used to drive down Hawks past this store on the way home to our wartime house at Boundary Road…..

    ….the Renfrew project one time known as ‘Diaper Hill’ but never to us…we had never heard that name when we lived there. Another part of Vancouver History…that area was built for the returning veteran’s. Have you done a story on that yet?

    Pretty sure the buildings at Georgia and Campbell are still there…isn’t that where there is an art Gallery.??

    Love your blog!

  5. What a great time it must have been in the 60’s and seventies in Vancouver, like a circus glow with the neon lights. I have heard that Hastings Street near Woodward’s was awash in neon in the early years, some remnants were still hanging on the old buildings when I moved here in the early eighties, especially just east of Cambie St. I wonder if there are any pictures around…

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