YVR Vancouver Airport Spotting Report and airport review 1960

As an avid fan of Vancouver airport going to back to my firs visits of memory in the summer of 1967, as an adult and life long aviation fan, I have long held a fascination of the history of my hometown airport. I have endeavoured to collect original colour 35mm slides taken at YVR back in the 1950s and 1960s prior to the opening of the new terminal building in 1968. As such, I prepared this video report to share my wonderful old time memories and colour slide images of YVR from the good old days. If you have any old 35mm colour slides of YVR or aircraft from the 1950s and 1960s, I would be happy to hear from you by email to henrytenby at gmail dot com. I am pleased to present a special report of YVR in the 1950s and 1960s from local aviation historian Jerry Vernon, which is presented below the video.

The YVR terminal buildings as you say in the above video, the large TCA/Air Canada terminal building is still there as the South Terminal. My comments are more about the other building.

As I recall, that was sort of an “interim” terminal, and everybody was crammed into it before the larger glass-enclosed building was built. The original Vancouver air terminal was built in the mid-1930s. Tom McGrath’s book “History of Canadian Airports” has a photo of it in 1937, with Lockheed 12A CF-CCT at the completion of its Trans-Canada Flight in 1937.

That original terminal had a control tower built in the center of the building. The old terminal burned to the ground in 1949 and was replaced in 1950 by a “temporary” building, which I believe is the one that CP, PWA, etc. were still using in 1960. This building did have a tower included. Not sure when the separate structure was erected.

The “North Terminal” was extended in 1952 and on July 1, 1957, the “West Terminal” (now the South Terminal) was opened. The old North Terminal was expanded again in 1963, and eventually torn down when the existing main terminal was built in the middle of the airport in opening in 1968.

So, I would have flown in and out of that old terminal in 1957 when I flew in a PWA Canso (one of two they had) over to Tofino and back for some BCTel work.

I would have also flown out of it in 1956, when the RCAF allowed me to fly to and from Toronto for my RCAF Tech Officer Summer training at Camp Borden. Normally, we had to travel by train, but I had already travelled both ways by CNR in 1954 and both ways by CPR in 1955, so I managed to sweet-talk the Orderly Room into paying me my travel claim in cash and letting me make my own way.

The way it worked was that they assumed I was on the train, so paid me the train fare, the price of a lower berth, meals and tips for the porter (25¢ by day and 50¢ by night), taxi, etc. In theory, I was on the train for 4 days each way, so I was taken on strength and struck off strength accordingly. In fact, instead of spending most of the week on the train and arriving at Borden a day or so early, I flew the TCA North Star red-eye to Toronto on a Saturday night, took the local train up to Borden on Sunday and was ready to start my course on Monday. The cost worked out about the same…my travel claim worked out in the range of $100 – 120 and the North Star fare was about $100 – 110 each way, plus I shipped my duffel back home on the train when I flew in 1956.

In 1961, when I flew to and from Winnipeg in a TCA Vanguard, I would have flown out of the West Terminal.

Then, when I went to Hawaii by CPAir Britannia in 1962 and 1963, it would have been out of that “temporary” North Terminal that must have stood there for about 13 years.

As I recall, there was a period of years, after the air terminal operation had been moved to the present location, when the current South Terminal was converted into a Cargo Terminal, then back to what is it now for the smaller local airlines.

The convertible parked in front of the South Terminal is a 1960 Pontiac. I thought at first it was a 1960 Buick, but the back end isn’t quite right. I had a 1959 Buick 2-door hardtop, with the big wings, but they toned them down and rounded them off a bit in the 1960 model.

Kerrisdale Taxi, I don’t remember them, but in that time frame there were less than 400 Vancouver taxi licences, spread over a great many small operators. Between 1950 and 1980, the number of taxi licences remained frozen at 363!! I can see at least 4 Kerrisdale Taxi vehicles in the photos in your video above. They are 1958 Pontiacs, we had the same models as company cars at BCTel at that time. The flashy red car is a 1958 or 1959 Dodge.

The airport taxi concession was held for many years by MacClure’s Taxis, based in the Marpole area, who also owned Airline Limousines Ltd.(or was their name Airport Limousines??) MacClure’s have been around since 1911 and are still in business. It may be that Kerrisdale Taxi was owned by MacClure’s or were later absorbed into MacClure’s. What I found by looking them up was that MacClure’s / Airline Limousines had the exclusive airport pickup concession from 1968 to 1980, so perhaps before that it was a free-for-all for anybody to pick up at YVR?

A report I found stated: “By the boom years of the late 1920s, the city had dozens of rival taxi companies, names that have mostly disappeared from the public memory. There was ABC Taxi and BB Taxi; Fifty Cent Taxi and Fred’s Dollar Taxi; Frisco and Hollywood; Owl and Sun; Canadian and Dominion; Commercial and Webster’s Peerless; Devonshire and Kerrisdale; Mikado and Nabata; Queens and Empress and Royal City; Ready and Roamer; De Luxe and Gold Band.”

The 1950s and 1960s were time of consolidation in the Vancouver taxi business, and most of the small operators became part of the bigger fleets of MacClure’s, Yellow, Black Top/Checker and Advance Taxis. The owner-operators became shareholders/co-owners in the larger taxi companies and that is the way it still is, as far as I know.

Getting back to the photos in your video, as far as I can recall, the doors did indeed empty out onto the tarmac and passengers went out and up the portable airstairs into the aircraft as you stated.

When you show the Super Connie photo with the Okanagan hangar in the background, you say this is facing South. This is actually facing West and that old Okanagan hangar was there for a long time, I think it is still there along Agar Drive, on the way into the FBOs on the West side. Have a look at the later photo of the TCA DC-8, with the same hangar in the background.

The old TCA schedule in your video: note at the end of the list of Vancouver flights there is a North Star red-eye service in each direction. That is the reverse of the flight I look in 1956 to Toronto. Left YVR late at night, one stopover in Winnipeg and into Toronto early the next morning. The exhaust flame of the Merlin engines was very spectacular at night!

Fares as I noted above, the one-way North Star fare between Toronto and Vancouver was, as I remember, $110 in 1956. Almost exactly the same as the RCAF paid me to, in theory, take the train for four days including fare, birth, meals, tips, etc.

Have another look at that photo of the United Airlines 720. Are you sure it is 1960, the same as the others? See the hangar in the background, just ahead of the tail of the 720. That is not the RCAF wartime hangar, it is the first hangar that Air Canada built over on the North side, and I don’t think it is anywhere to be seen in the earlier 1960 photos that show the other side. I think you slipped a non-1960 shot in there! (Note: I checked the actual slide and it was actually taken in July of 1961, so Jerry is correct in pointing out it could not have been taken in 1960.)

And then Ron Moor sent me the following comments:

Hi Henry I really enjoyed your video presentation of the old airport. I started working there with United Airlines in 1962. Just a couple of points. United had its own check in counter and offices in the West terminal along with Trans Canada Airlines.US Customs had a small office behind the counter. Checked in passengers exited out and down a covered walkway to an enclosed building where US immigration were located and the waiting room called Gate 6. All the time I was there they never used the Canadian Pacific airlines North terminal. I thought you would enjoy this.

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