From May 2 until October 13 1986 there was an international exposition in Vancouver with the theme “Transportation and Communication: World in Motion~World in Touch”.
World fairs used to be a big thing, enabling people to look at different pavilions and cultures without travelling. Canada has hosted two, with Expo 67 being held in Montreal during Canada’s centennial year. Expo 86 coincided with Vancouver’s centennial year, and it was the last world’s fair held in North America in the 20th century.
The story of how the north shore of False Creek between the Granville and Cambie Street Bridges was transformed from an industrial working harbour into a fair representing 54 countries and a number of corporations has already been told. So too has the awful reality that people in Single Room Hotels (SRO’s) were displaced for Expo visitors. Rooming house hotels were subject to an Innkeeper’s Regulation and not the standard Tenancy Act, meaning that long-term tenants could be evicted on just a week’s notice.
But there was a sweetness too in this Expo 86, where families and young people could gather outdoors and linger in public spaces, and stay on the grounds until late at night when a laser show was projected over False Creek. There were activities and parades, and a musical star or two came to notice, including K.D.Lang and Rita MacNeil.
And there are the remarkable personal photos now resurfacing after thirty years. Harvey Cheung’s Dad Steve was an English instructor at Vancouver Community College’s King Edward Campus for many years. Both his parents volunteered for Expo 86 (Harvey still has his Dad’s official Expo tie). Steve Cheung’s photo documentation of the fair brings to life the vibrancy, colour and social life that the fair provided.
That’s Steve Cheung outside the China Pavillion in 1986. And these are his images in this post, of many of the iconic structures and views that formed this fair.
There is a mystery too~ in one of Steve Cheung’s photos is a man wearing a red sweatshirt with “Microsoft” printed on the front. In March of 1986 Microsoft had gone public with an initial price of $21.00 a share, but was still not a popular brand. Who was wearing the red Microsoft shirt?
If you were a kid, you would know UFO-H20 the interactive water play fountain. Using a new process of purifying the water the water molecules bonded in a way that allowed for water to stream differently. Back then it was innovative.Now this fountain is in a hot springs resort in Terrace, B.C.
Photo Images~ Steve Cheung
Expo 86 brought in the rapid transit line,rebuilt the Cambie Street Bridge and invited the world to visit. Despite its temporary nature, it captivated Vancouver for one magical summer, and was the transformative event that marked Vancouver being known more internationally. Thanks to Harvey Cheung for allowing Price Tags to print these spectacular images.
If you have stories or memories of Expo 86, please add them into the comments. We’ve included the original “promotional” video for the fair~all 45 minutes~below.