The images in this post pertain to an historic event I’ve just learned of despite being reasonably familiar with Canadian history: Habitat Forum 1976. The City of Vancouver archives describe the event as follows:
Habitat Forum took place at Jericho Beach Park from May 27th until June 11th, 1976. It was a conference/exposition … in conjunction with the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements, also known as the Habitat conference. According to the Habitat Forum program, found in the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements fonds (AM337), “Habitat Forum is the collective name for the non-governmental activities related to Habitat: the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements.”
Habitat Forum staff and volunteers converted the five airplane hangars at Jericho Beach Park (former air force base) to an exhibition site for the Habitat Forum. They worked at the site from October 1975 until May of 1976 to prepare.
Habitat Forum was a private initiative largely the vision of Al Clapp (d. 2013), a broadcaster and activist. Clapp played a large role as well in founding Granville Island in Vancouver, a revitalized, mixed-use urban space. The internationally known locale also birthed Granville Island Brewery, an early entrant in the craft beer stakes. It still exists, owned today by Molson-Coors.
The Georgia Straight, in a memorial piece on Al Clapp a few years ago, stated this:
Most people remember him as the guy who built the Habitat Forum in five derelict Royal Canadian Air Force hangars down at Jericho Beach. With a secondhand portable sawmill, some horses to haul driftwood from the shoreline, wharf railings that came from the Lions Gate Bridge, and a crew of employment-grant rehab cases, he built a people’s forum to parallel Vancouver’s landmark 1976 United Nations Habitat conference on human settlements.
Lindsay Brown is a Vancouver writer and designer who has written a book on Habitat Forum 1976, and her informative website explains:
Habitat I was the first time the global community had come together in a substantial way to discuss cities & all human settlements: the growing challenges of urbanization, rising inequality, the accelerating human migration from rural to urban areas, urban problems including clean water, sanitation, poverty and homelessness, as well as the nascent field of sustainable urban development and design.
In time, Habitat Forum became better known than the international Conference which inspired it (even as the latter continues periodically in different parts of the world).
In Hangar no. 7 a social centre and bar were installed. The bar, built of attractive blonde and tan wood as much of the interior was, was at the time said to be the longest in the world. Despite the spare construction an atmosphere of amity and warmth was conveyed, in tune with the wider environment – at least it’s one way to achieve it.
The serenity was enhanced by the beautiful murals, probably by the famous Canadian artist Bill Reid. Reid was a broadcaster, jeweler, and artist of partial aboriginal West Coast (Haida) ancestry. Some of his work decorates Canadian currency.
The black-and-white shot shows an intriguing pile of wood barrels in the centre. Did these hold beer? The photo caption states that “tankards of ale” were dispensed, yet the shots of people holding and being served beer suggest standard Canadian blonde beer was served.
Did the barrels, or some of them, contain whisky? This seems unlikely. Vancouver’s civic ethos was not quite as uninhibited as today and the long history of Canadian temperance and irregular prohibition, not far behind.
I think it is more likely the barrels held wine. In fact, one of the images shows barrels marked “Andres”, a venerable winemaker with a pan-Canadian history. One barrel seems to state “Tilford” though, probably from Park & Tilford, a Canadian whisky brand. Also, some shots show bottles of wine on the bar, so wine from the barrel would seem unneeded unless both forms were available.
If some beer was sold from the wood, perhaps a brew was specially made for the event. If so this would pre-date any modern craft barrel-aged beer in Canada.
Hipsters of 2018 will approve the plaid jackets and shirts, exactly like today’s, and the beards. In many ways the 60s-70s really were The End of History. And it started here, or a lot of it, arguably.
As to the pile of parti-coloured beer cases on the old-fashioned cart, it’s old-school all the way: no craft beer was available back in ’76 except any bubbling in hippies’ basements or Frank Appleton’s mind. Appleton is the early, influential British-Canadian craft brewing consultant, I’ve written of him before.
Every single one of those brands is available today, 42 years later. Some don’t sell as well as back then, but you can still get them. If you put the modern cases on a cart they’d look almost exactly the same. In contrast, the hangars and interiors were demolished after the event at the instance, apparently, of the Vancouver Parks Department. Nothing remains.
Vancouver to this day retains a rebellious, anti-establishment spirit. It mixes oddly perhaps with the town’s sky-high home prices and big money business and social circles, but there you have it. A lot of that spirit started around the time these images were taken.
Note re images herein: The black and white image was sourced from the City of Toronto’s archival photo collection, here. The remainder were sourced from the City of Vancouver’s photo archive on Habitat Forum 1976, see here for the group of 31 images pertaining to Hangar no. 7). All intellectual property in the images belongs solely to their lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.