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From one Metro Vancouver institution to another: a retired bus operator on Army & Navy

I Love Transit - Angus McIntyre

Retired bus operator Angus McIntyre on his first day of work in 1969.

After temporarily closing like other retailers in March to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, Canadian department store Army & Navy recently announced their closure is now permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts proved to be insurmountable. This ends the Canadian institution’s 101-year run that began in 1919 as Canada’s first discount department store.

Just like Woodward’s and Eaton’s before that, Army & Navy holds a special place in Metro Vancouver’s collective hearts.

TransLink’s part of a storied history of transit in Metro Vancouver than spans more than a century — it celebrates its 130th anniversary this June 27. Our buses today and streetcars before that brought generations of families to Army & Navy.

Retired bus operator Angus McIntyre was no different. He steered his way through four different employers during his 41 years as a bus operator. His incredible journey began in 1969 when he went to Army and Navy to purchase a pair of Oxford shoes for his job interview with BC Hydro, which operated transit in Metro Vancouver between 1962 and 1973.

Read his guest post on what Army & Navy meant to him and transit.

Angus McIntyre

By Angus McIntyre

I shopped occasionally at the Army and Navy downtown, when skid road was an area of the city that was a bit rough, but still considered approachable by most people.

When I moved out on my own at age 19, I bought kitchenware at the Army and Navy.

At age 21, I didn’t have a lot of money, and I needed to buy a pair of black Oxford shoes in July 1969 to go for my job interview as a bus driver with B.C. Hydro. The shoe department of the Army & Navy was in a separate building on the south side of Hastings, next to Wosk’s huge appliance store. They had an affordable pair of shoes and I got the job.

Once in training, we were supplied with a changer, a transfer punch and a change fund of $120. An instructor said the best thing for our supplies, including rolls of tokens and coins, was a tackle box from the large basement fishing department at the Army & Navy. I bought a Canadian-made Beach tackle box, which sat on the front dash of the bus next to the bracket for the changer and transfer clips.

I worked the Nanaimo bus in the evening for many years, and one of my regular passengers worked in the shoe department of the Army & Navy. He always dreaded the huge annual shoe sale, which involved bringing in the inventory and dealing with massive crowds that showed up for the sale. When he boarded the bus to head home, he would give a run-down of the day’s events.

I bought a bicycle in 1970, and about a year later met another cyclist during a rainfall. He had on a lightweight, waterproof jacket and pants that he wore over his clothes. I asked where he bought it, and he told me to go to the Army & Navy. I made the purchase, and it lasted for many years.

In the 1970s the Christmas rush downtown was always very busy, and all the department stores filled with shoppers. A visit to the Army and Navy or Woodward’s usually included a snack or a meal at the Only Seafoods at Hastings and Carrall. Over the years I also shopped occasionally at the Army and Navy store in New Westminster, which was in the former Eaton’s building on Columbia Street.


2 Comments

  • By Sean Nelson, May 18, 2020 @ 4:43 pm

    Army and Navy was often viewed as a “downscale” store by some people. One of my favourite TV commercials showed someone pointing a microphone at people coming out the front door of the downtown store and asking them what they bought. Each person, as they clutched a large shopping bag prominently emblazoned with “Army and Navy”, would answer “Oh, **I** don’t shop at Army and Navy!”

  • By Gouri Soni, May 19, 2020 @ 8:51 pm

    yup i’m tottaly agree with you :)

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