The last time I went to the Pacific National Exhibition was about a decade ago when my kids were still small. I’m guessing it hasn’t changed all that much. But I bet 60 years ago it was a whole different story.
Take the prize home for instance. This year’s house is valued at $1.6 million. It’s 3,100 square feet, and comes with something called an “entertainment lounge,” a separate six-seat home theatre, as well as a built-in Expresso machine in the master bedroom. Seriously, you’ll never have to leave the house.
In 1957, things were a lot less complicated. People went out to movies and drank Nescafe in the kitchen. The prize home, at 1,444 square feet, was one and a half times the size of a normal house. It was a single-storey, boxy, early Ranch style house.
It was also less than half the size of the 2017 prize home.
The 1957 house was taken to, and remains at 6517 Lougheed Highway in Burnaby. It originally sat on a concrete pad, but owners have since added a basement, bringing the total square footage to a little over 2,400. It’s assessed at $1.2 million.
There were good and bad things about the PNE in 1957.
First the good. We had Elvis Presley. It’s true. He only ever performed three shows outside of the U.S.—Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. In August 1957, more than 26,000 fans paid $3.75 each, to see him at Empire Stadium.
On the downside, 1957 had beauty queens. In fact, there are 43 Miss PNEs. The last one hung up her crown in 1991.
The first PNE home was raffled off in 1934. It was worth $5,000 and is still at 2812 Dundas Street. Today it’s valued at $1.6 million. The next house was raffled in 1952, and except for the years 1967 and 1968 when the PNE experimented with $50,000 gold bars, there has been a house raffled off every year. They exist in all areas of Metro Vancouver, and the 2017 prize home will finish up in the Okanagan’s Naramata.
With thanks to Helen Lee for her research, and to Elizabeth MacKenzie for access to her 2005 Master’s thesis, and the 1957 PNE prize home floor plan.
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