Vancouver in the 70s: chronicle of city's formative years

The infamous Gastown riots, the formation of Greenpeace, and the inaugural season of the modern Vancouver Canucks are just some of the many events that defined Vancouver in the 1970s — and would shape the city's future.

New book showcases a seminal decade of Vancouver's rich history

Protesters march on Granville Street against the war in Vietnam, October 30, 1970. (Glenn Baglo)

It's the decade that saw the formation of Greenpeace, the birth of the modern Vancouver Canucks, and a legendary Led Zeppelin lunch-time concert at Eric Hamber Secondary (or so they say).

The 1970s were a vibrant time in Vancouver, and according research librarian Kate Bird, it's also when the city began to forge the identity that it carries today.

She chronicles the decade in her new book, Vancouver in the Seventies.

Spanish Banks lifeguards Jim Harris and Glenn Schultz demonstrate an amphibious beach buggy and walkie-talkies to Bonnie Stefanko and Lois Tomlinson on June 19, 1974. (Ralph Bower)

"The kind of thesis in the book is about how the decade of the 70s is one of such change for the city — and we wanted to show that progression from hippies and protesting at the beginning, to all the infrastructure changes that happened in the city," she said.

Bird says Vancouver's arts scene took off in the 1970s. It became a destination for big acts like The Doors and Led Zeppelin, while churning out renowned artists including Chilliwack and Prism. Independent arts clubs, like the Western Front, also came into their own.

Vancouver-born Dorothy Stratten, Playboy Playmate of the Month for August, at the Bayshore Inn on July 12, 1979. She was murdered a year later, at the age of twenty,
 by her estranged husband. (Bill Keay)

Major developments for the city included the Pacific Centre, the Sears Tower (now known as Harbour Centre), the SeaBus, and the origins of Granville Island.

"It was just beginning to change in that way," she said. "By the end of the decade, the city was poised to host the world at Expo '86," she said.

Supporters of Leonard Peltier at a month-long mini-occupation at the Vancouver courthouse during his extradition hearings on May 17, 1976. (Glenn Baglo)

Bird worked with the Vancouver Sun for 25 years, managing images and archives. She says she noticed a breadth of fascinating historic pictures stemming from the 70s.

"It was a boom decade when we had over a dozen staff photographers at the Sun alone — they shot more than 4000 assignments every year," she said.

Disco dancers at the opening of Daddy Long Legs at the International Plaza Hotel in North Vancouver on July 31, 1979. (Bill Keay)

"I've worked with this collection for so long and I just loved it — I wanted the real world to see it.

"This is just a drop in the bucket of what there is," she added.

“Kitten Girls” worked as cocktail waitresses at the Kego Club in Gastown on March 21, 1972. (Glenn Baglo)

Bird honed the collection down from thousands of pictures to under 200. She'll be launching the book officially on Friday, October 14 at the Fox Cabaret

And beginning Thursday, October 13, the Museum of Vancouver will exhibit photographs from the book. 

17 year-old future CBC host Gloria Macarenko wins Miss PNE, onstage with former B.C. premier Bill Bennett. (Vancouver in the Seventies)

With files from CBC's Our Vancouver and On the Coast

To listen to the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Vancouver in the Seventies: an explosion of culture

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