See What Tofino and Ucluelet Was Like in the 1960s

Have you ever wondered what it was like in Tofino and Ucluelet 50 years ago? If you’re already familiar with our photolog video series, you know how fascinating it is to tour British Columbia as it once was, frozen in the 1960s. (And if this is your first photolog… well, get your popcorn, because you’ve got some catching up to do!)

(If you do not see the video above, view it on YouTube.)

Our latest BC Time Machine takes our intrepid viewers on a journey to the West Coast of Vancouver Island during a time of significant transition for the area – 1966. Highway 4 from Port Alberni to the coast, also known as the Pacific Rim Highway, had been built just a few years prior, in 1959, as a logging access road. You’ll notice in the video that the highway was still dirt and gravel back in 1966, although the road between Ucluelet and Tofino is paved. It wasn’t until 1972 that Highway 4 was fully paved, making it Canada’s first paved road to the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.

This winding road takes you past many landmarks of the west coast of Vancouver Island. Bonus points for getting us a final count on how many Volkswagons you spot!

The “Junction” – 0:50

Long Beach – 1:18-2:28

Defunct entrance to 1993 Clayoquot Peace Camp – 4:51

Kennedy Lake – 5:16 – 7:00

Vintage West Coast Rain/Roadkill?/Stop the car/Clear the camera lens – 9:13-9:16

Port Alberni (Highway 4)– 14:22 – 15:15

Old Alberni Highway 15:14 – 15:50

Coombs (Sorry, no goats on the roof just yet!) – 19:35

Parksville – 20:30

The highway continues to change more than 50 years later. Highway 4 will experience a modern transition starting in 2018, with plans set to widen and straighten the 1.5-kilometre stretch at Kennedy Lake, located 14 kilometres east of the Ucluelet-Tofino junction. This section is known for its sharp curves and poor sight lines, which you can experience in the photolog starting at around 5:32.

What are Photologs?

“Photologs” were created to capture road condition information across the province and give our engineers the ability to study a particular stretch of road without having to travel into the field. The original photologs were collected by rigging a camera onto the dash of a car that took still images every 80 feet or so and then running them all together as a single film.

Looking back on these old reels reveals a lot more than just pavement condition. The camera installed onto the dash of a car and driven over 9,000 km of BC highways captured some incredible glimpses of our province during the heyday that was the 60’s. So sit back, relax and watch this glimpse of a world long gone by in the rear view mirror.

Are you patiently waiting to see footage of a particular BC highway that we haven’t shared yet? Let us know in the comments below.

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23 Responses to See What Tofino and Ucluelet Was Like in the 1960s

  1. John Douglas Busswood on January 4, 2019 at 11:07 am

    Tofino Highway is one of the prettiest you will find anywhere in the World. I was born in Tofino in 1955 to Doug and Florence Busswood. My Mom and Dad moved to Tofino after my Dad returned home from World War 2 and there were no jobs in Vancouver. The trip in those days was typically one full day to get to Port Alberni, stay overnight, then the Lady Rose or Uchuck to Ucluelet, and finally the dirt road to Tofino.

    My Father, together with some of the others in Tofino, saw the need for a road/highway from Port Alberni to Tofino and Ucluelet. At the time there was a Provincial Meeting planned for the BC Chambers of Commerce in Nanaimo. It was decided that for a publicity stunt, my father Doug Busswood and Walter Guppy would hike from Kennedy Lake to Port Alberni. They overnighted in Linesman cabins along the way and were picked up at Sproat Lake and driven to Nanaimo so they could make their appeal to the Chamber of Commerce for the road to the West Coast.

    Their appeal opened up enough interest that “the powers that be” authorized some further study. My Dad and Walter Guppy made 2 more return hikes from Tofino to Port Alberni taking government surveyors through the route that would eventually become today’s highway to the West Coast.

    My Dad had the original blueprints for today’s highway in our home for the 46 years that they lived in Tofino. When my Mom (Tofino and Western Canada’s 1st female Hospital Administrator) and my Dad moved to Vancouver they donated the blueprints to the Village of Tofino where they lay today.

    I was always proud of my Fathers contribution to open up the West Coast to better commerce, safety, and security. And… I was always proud that when the Tofino General Hospital burned down and there was talk of rebuilding it in Ucluelet, that is was my Mom and Dad who lead the charge to have it rebuilt in Tofino not only to serve Tofino, but also but also to serve the various First Nations Communities along the West Coast.

    The contributions of some of the early pioneers on the West Coast have left a lasting impression that many people today take for granted. Although I have made my adult home Vancouver I return often to Tofino. As the saying goes… you can take the boy out of Tofino, but you can’t take Tofino out of the boy.

    • tranbceditor on January 7, 2019 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks so much for this wonderful bit of history John! You should be very proud of your family’s history in the area – it is a special place and one countless people are grateful to visit every year. We appreciate you taking the time to share this with us – these are the stories that we love to hear and we hope that the folks reading this will learn from. BC is an amazing place and one we are proud to call home. 🙂

      • John Busswood on January 8, 2019 at 9:26 am

        Thank you tranbceditor… yes, initially when they opened up the logging roads to public traffic we were only allowed to use them after M&B’s operating hours. This was due to safety issues with the massive logging trucks and narrow mountainous gravel roadways. Still, deaths did occur. There used to be a gas station/restaurant at about the mid point of the highway but when the proprietors entire family was killed it broke his heart and he eventually abandoned the property never to be replaced. It took many, many years to upgrade safety issues, widening, and eventually paving the road. We always celebrated every extra mile of paved road over the years.

        I also remember as a child that the streets of Tofino were all dirt and gravel. It was exciting when they paved the main streets of town, but the road to Ucluelet was gravel and many times washed out with West Coast storms. This made it very difficult for the school bus taking Secondary School students to Ucluelet as Tofino had no High School. It was very rural but also some of the most beautiful you would find anywhere.

        • tranbceditor on January 8, 2019 at 10:59 am

          How sad to hear that story of the store owner John, so heartbreaking. I have taken stills from this video and collected them on our Flickr site here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tranbc/33498701320/in/album-72157653948101092/

          There are a few amazing shots – my favourite being the little girl riding her bike at the government dock in town. It was the last shot taken on the film and really captures the end of the line. Thanks again for sharing your memories with us here, we love hearing them.

          • Ken Norman on January 26, 2019 at 8:59 pm

            Just stumbled upon this while looking for memories of our youth. I was born in Tofino in 1961, my brothers in 63’ and 67’. Traveled that road many times to the get groceries etc at the Coop.. We lived in the old apartments at the airport as dad worked for Transport Canada. Communication was mostly with weather ships i believe. I remember many days on Long Beach hunting glass balls from Japanese fishing boats. We were always successful after big storms! We loved going to work with dad though as all that communication gear was pretty cool. I still recall all the kids that I grew up with there as well and there were quite a few of us! We travelled that old switchback road several times while it was being constructed. First in the 58’ Bug that dad had to chain up some times to get through, then in the new 65’ Falcon we got as the family was growing. Fond memories. Thank you for this.

          • tranbceditor on January 28, 2019 at 11:29 am

            Thanks for sharing your memories with us, Ken. Tofino would have been a spectacular place to grow up! Is it the Kennedy Hill switchbacks you’re thinking of? There are significant safety upgrades happening there now: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/transportation-infrastructure/projects/highway4kennedyhill

  2. tim hackett on September 24, 2018 at 5:11 pm

    The experience in Tofino and the park are totally different today then our experiences in the 1960’s. I was not a hippie but always enjoyed the trip to Long Beach with friends. The road was very slow and difficult, but well worth the experience, once you arrived! I agree that things really changed with the formation of the national park. Thousands of visitors may now experience the coast, which I guess is progress. While still a magnificent place to visit, the wonder and magic of the old the old days has disappeared.
    I never imagine in tthen, that I would years later, develop and own Long Beach Lodge Resort!

    • tranbceditor on September 25, 2018 at 9:19 am

      Congratulations Tim! Thanks for sharing your memories with us. This area certainly has changed over the years, hasn’t it?

  3. ron on February 10, 2018 at 9:59 am

    It was worth the drive in the late 60’s
    Long beach was so enjoyable before the creation of the Park totally ruined it.

  4. Milt. Hepner on January 17, 2018 at 1:00 am

    I was shop Forman .Dept. of Highways (Alberni ) 56-67 and was involved in the maintenance of the equipment when the logging roads from Alberni and Kennedy Lake where joined to create the now Highway no.4 Alb. Tofino. Traveled it many times, winter &summer. Best time 2hr. 20min. Including switchbacks and at night. It was only open from 6pm. till 7:am day time it was only for logging trucks.
    Many stories of happenings in. the early days. ( grader &. truck rollovers driving on
    Long beach from end to end. Great memories.

  5. John O'Bryan on January 16, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    I lived in Port Sept .1966 to Dec 1968 worked on a survey crew for Ministry of Highways surveying from there to Tofino .It is sure a different looking road today .Great memories to be able to look back on keep op the good work .Thank you.

  6. Anonymous on October 4, 2017 at 2:14 am

    the orange bridge is not orange

  7. Jean on May 12, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Omg….. Every year we would camp on Long Beach….. And that road was quite the Experience to say the least…. Great Times….

    • tranbceditor on May 15, 2017 at 9:42 am

      Glad you enjoyed the trip back in time. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  8. Elspeth Henders on April 30, 2017 at 10:25 pm

    Long Beach was more than an annual holiday…most exciting to drive in the convoy with ambulances, food trucks and fire engines at both ends of the long queue of vehicles when the horrible fire occurred on the MacBoe property. Great memories, super flick!

  9. Jim Tait on April 22, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    Great memories; remember driving on the gravel for what seemed to be an never ending day early 60s when I was a kid from Nanaimo. We could actually drive on long beach in those days.

    • tranbceditor on April 24, 2017 at 10:35 am

      So glad to hear you liked it Jim. Thanks for sharing your memories – the road certainly has changed some!

  10. Richard Rootes on April 9, 2017 at 11:13 am

    Volkswagens…

    • tranbceditor on April 10, 2017 at 10:10 am

      Right? So. Many. Volkswagens. 🙂

    • Ian Griffiths on June 30, 2017 at 10:08 pm

      Summer of 69; 59 Volkswagen, surfboard on the roof and three guys lookin for adventure. Meet up wth the locals living in driftwood and plastic shelters on the beach (surf all summer and work cutting cedar shakes all winter). Switchbacks, I remember the switchbacks. Did I miss them in the video?

      • tranbceditor on July 4, 2017 at 4:58 pm

        Not so many switchbacks as there are sharp corners that we can see Ian. Might have been a local logging road?

        • John Busswood on January 4, 2019 at 11:14 am

          Yes… the original Highway was a knitting together of the many logging roads between the West Coast and Port Alberni. The “Switchbacks” were above Sproat Lake and took you back and forth high up the mountain… then back and forth all the way back down to lake level again.
          It was not for many years that they cut the highway through along the lake and made going up and down the mountain unnecessary.

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