Vancouver in the Seventies

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Vancouver in the SeventiesFred Herzog, Foncie, Selwyn Pullan, Michael de Courcy, Bruce Stewart, and Angus McIntyre were just a few who took up a camera in the Vancouver of the ‘70s, and were documenting images of everything from buildings to the changing skyline, and from neighborhoods to neon. They also put a spotlight on people—the famous, the quirky, the strange and the ordinary.

At the same time, newspaper photography was coming of age. Cameras were more flexible, film was faster, and money was flowing.

An old home on Pacific Street near Thurlow with high-rise apartment building behind. December 28, 1979. George Diack/Vancouver Sun (79-2149)
An old home on Pacific Street near Thurlow with high-rise apartment building behind. December 28, 1979. George Diack/Vancouver Sun (79-2149)

Kate Bird, a recently retired photo librarian for the Vancouver Sun, has pulled together 149 black and white pictures, shot by Vancouver Sun photogs during that decade.

“We were trying to make it feel like a newspaper collection and show the access that photo journalists had in covering the news, whether that was accidents, crime, politics, business, entertainment or sports,” she says.

Kate moved to Vancouver from Montreal in the ‘70s, studied photography, and knows the city intimately. Many of the photos that she curated for Vancouver in the Seventies, reflect the Vancouver’s dark side.

Vancouver in the Seventies
Vancouver-born Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten at the Bayshore Inn. July 12, 1979. Bill Keay/Vancouver Sun

There’s the heartbreaking photo of 20-year-old Playboy bunny Dorothy Stratten, taken just months before her murder. Poet Pat Lowther is shown sitting on a desk top shortly before having her head smashed in by her husband. And, there’s the picture of the underground Port Moody bunker that held 12-year-old Abby Drover for 181 days.

The underground bunker in Port Moody where twelve-year-old Abby Drover was held for 181 days after being abducted by her neighbour Donald Alexander Hay. September 7, 1976. Rob Straight/Vancouver Sun (76-2979)
The underground bunker in Port Moody where twelve-year-old Abby Drover was held for 181 days after being abducted by her neighbour Donald Alexander Hay. September 7, 1976. Rob Straight/Vancouver Sun (76-2979)

It’s not all dark though. There are some wonderful photos that range from a line of airport telephone booths, to a five-year-old Justin Trudeau, Rod Stewart in his prime, and Muhammad Ali.

With electric trolley buses and neon signs as a backdrop, Granville Street glows at night. January 3, 1975. Ralph Bower/Vancouver Sun (75-0026)
With electric trolley buses and neon signs as a backdrop, Granville Street glows at night. January 3, 1975. Ralph Bower/Vancouver Sun (75-0026)

“The city changed so much in the ‘70s,” says Kate. “There was so much building and an unbelievable level of infrastructure with the Pacific Centre, Granville Mall, Harbour Centre, the Bentall Centre, the Museum of Anthropology, and the CBC building. The numbers of new buildings radically changed the skyline by the end of the decade.”

Broadway Street, between Trafalgar Street and Blenheim. The Grin Bin posters and prints, Chris’ Billiards, The Hamburger Joint. October 5, 1972. Steve Bosch/Vancouver Sun (72-3291)
Broadway Street, between Trafalgar Street and Blenheim. The Grin Bin posters and prints, Chris’ Billiards, The Hamburger Joint. October 5, 1972. Steve Bosch/Vancouver Sun (72-3291)

It’s both fascinating and frightening that four decades later, we’re still revisiting a lot of those same themes: demolition of heritage buildings and places (Birks, the Strand Theatre Hogan’s Alley—wiped out during the ‘70s), housing affordability, legalizing marijuana, worker’s rights, gender equity…

 

Students at Sir William Dawson elementary school in the West End. The 1913 school was demolished at the end of the school year. May 11, 1972. Peter Hulbert/Vancouver Sun (72-1526)
Students at Sir William Dawson elementary school in the West End. The 1913 school was demolished at the end of the school year. May 11, 1972. Peter Hulbert/Vancouver Sun (72-1526)

Kate’s currently working on a second photojournalism book called City on Edge: A rebellious century of Vancouver protests, riots and strikes. It will come out this September.

If you’re in Vancouver, I highly recommend the Vancouver in the ‘70s exhibit at the Museum of Vancouver. It runs until July.

The grand opening of Eaton’s department store at Georgia and Granville, anchoring the new Pacific Centre mall. February 8, 1973. Vladimir Keremidschieff/Vancouver Sun (73-0422)
The grand opening of Eaton’s department store at Georgia and Granville, anchoring the new Pacific Centre mall. February 8, 1973. Vladimir Keremidschieff/Vancouver Sun (73-0422)

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

 

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6 comments

  1. The other demolition of a historic school in the early ’70s was Mount Pleasant, built in 1888 at Broadway and Kingsway. Kingsgate Mall had just opened on the site when I started work on an alternative local newspaper called the Mount Pleasant Mouthpiece, supported by a federal LIP grant. The poverty of the area then belies the boosterish confidence that many in Vancouver had at that time.

  2. What happened to the sculpture that was in front of Eaton’s for years? It was by the same artist who did the piece in front of the Vancouver Museum.

  3. I can remember walking along Robson and the biggest retail store was European News. Not a Starbucks in sight. Oil Can Harrys on Thurlow. The Bay theatre on Denman. Paul Belmondes barber shop on Robson across from the Safeway. Pizza Patio on Davie as well as Fresgoes on Davie. I washed dishes at the Metro Broiler in the Burrard Building. (across the street from the Retinal Circus). I worked at Centenial Pharmacy (Bute and Robson). My mom and dad had an account at the Red and White grocery on Robson. I worked at Mcds on Robson at Bidwell. Mcdonalds closed at about 11pm and our crew was sitting in the Blue Horizon drinking beer by 1130. (most of us were all of 17)
    Life in Vancouver in the 60s and 70s was fun and memorable .

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