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Friday fun post: 1950 Buzzer showcases the heart of the traffic light system

The Buzzer from July 7, 1950 showed the lamppost that controlled traffic lights in Vancouver's business district.

Here’s another classic Buzzer for our first sunny Friday. The July 7, 1950 issue spent most of its time discussing the lamppost that controlled a key part of Vancouver’s traffic light system in 1950!

Here’s the tantalizing introduction :

The city’s most complicated lamp-post stands near the Courthouse on Howe Street. It looks like a thousand others around town as you walk by. Only this lamp-post ticks, quietly and without pause, day in and day out, 365 days a year.

If the ticking ever stops, look out!

Like a heart quitting, it would create almost instant paralysis . . . all over downtown Vancouver traffic would bog down and clot.

For this lamp-post, ladies and gentlemen, houses the devices that control and coordinate traffic lights throughout the city’s chief business area.

The Buzzer goes on to describe the light system’s operation in great detail, and there’s lots of then-new facts about how the city’s traffic flows worked: Seymour and Howe were two-way streets and carried just 800 vehicles a day, and the opening of the Granville Street Bridge was highly anticipated — it would boost Seymour and Howe’s capacity to 1800 vehicles a day!

(Question: does anyone know where this lamppost might have been? Would be neat if a remnant is still there!)

And also, let’s test out the WordPress poll plugin, that is purported to work on the blog now! You should also be able to see it in the right hand sidebar, if you’re on the actual Buzzer site.

What would you like to see in the Friday fun post?

  • Jewels from the Buzzer archives (48%, 31 Votes)
  • Polls (42%, 27 Votes)
  • Other (suggest in the comments?) (9%, 6 Votes)

Total Voters: 64

Consider this a rehash of last week’s small discussion, but now with a quantitative element! Feel free to make suggestions for Friday fun post content in the comments.


  • By peter, June 25, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

    It’s all good! I was highly entertained by the buzzer mystery question a few weeks ago — mystery photos would also be good.

  • By Dave 2, June 26, 2010 @ 12:19 am

    You don’t have to choose, alternate between polls and jewells

  • By Cliff, June 26, 2010 @ 4:40 am

    This is just a hunch, but I think that it’s on the west side of Howe between Robson and Georgia. I think closer to Robson where the entrance to the skating rink is.

  • By Ric, June 26, 2010 @ 10:17 pm

    The best idea for Friday fun post would be the polls. They are fun and it also gives other people a chance to see what do other people like.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, June 28, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

    Dave 2: Hmm, I don’t think I worded the poll very well. I meant that we could have both polls and good Buzzer stories, not one or the other!

  • By Reva, June 29, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

    I love both the polls and the neat historical Buzzer articles. I also really enjoy the trivia question posts where we have to guess when/where/what a particular thing is. I’m glad you’re not going to choose only one type of Friday fun post to feature because they’re all neat!

  • By Dave 2, July 1, 2010 @ 12:57 am

    The blurb about the Property Taxes is interesting, “The Buzzer” was obviously a more partisan outlet for the private BC Electric company in those days…

    “But we would like to make
    one point . . . if the B.C.
    Electric were publicly owned,
    we wouldn’t be paying out
    that $288,000. (Or any halfmillion
    in franchise fees, for
    that matter.)
    Yes sir, we’d save the
    $288,000 and the half million,
    because a publicly-owned
    system pays almost no taxes.
    But you wouldn’t save anything
    . . . your property
    taxes would go up—you’d be
    paying your tax bill and ours,
    That’s a point to consider,
    next time the public ownership
    crowd talks about “taking
    over for the good of the

    This is interesting, in hindsight. 12 years later, they *were* taken over by the Provincial Government, BC Hydro is currently running TV ads where their history starts with WAC Bennett. Yet when this Buzzer was published, BC was governed by the Liberal/Conservative coalition, nobody would have thought that 25 months later, they’d be swept away by a Kelowna Conservative backbencher named Cec Bennett and a rag-tag group of populists running under the “Social Credit” banner, a brand which would survive 40 years, then disappear almost overnight.

    Does anyone know if it’s true that as a public company, BC Hydro (or the various transit companies spun off since then) don’t pay Property Tax? Does Coast Mountain have to pay tax on the land the electrical substations occupy (eg King Ed and Maple)? and what was meant by the “halfmillion in franchise fees,”

  • By ;-), July 5, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

    When I was young…. I thought this was the most advanced pole…,-123.128114&spn=0,0.005708&z=18&layer=c&cbll=49.190078,-123.128113&panoid=Ha0xhp5X2KgaS1dpARCU4g&cbp=12,89.79,,1,10.42

    In Richmond, on Sexsmith… Drivers would need to stop the bus and step out to push a simple button on this pole to cross busy Sea Island way. I don’t know if there is a similar pole in Metro Vancouver, but I always thought it was neet.

    This was before road sensors were common.

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