British Columbia Passenger License Plates
1931-1951

A special thanks to Tom Lindner, Dallas Doyle, Pierre Delacote and Ron Garay for providing many of the plates pictured.

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Oakalla Prison (Burnaby)Quite to the surprise of the Thompson Heating and Ventilating Company, the province announced in 1930 that it would be undertaking the manufacturing of the 1931 license plates itself after having contracted with J.R. Tacey & Son for the sum of $14,000 to have Tacey move and install all of its plate making equipment - "including the erection of all shafting, belts, and pulleys necessary for power-transmission" - at Oakalla Prison and to supervise the production of 30,000 pairs of license plates.
In making this announcement, the Attorney General also advised that "the contract for necessary steel has been let. Various British Columbia firms have been asked for quotations on the necessary enamel and paint."
More regarding the political machinations behind this change in the contract can be found in Tales from the Back Bumper, which is available for purchase by Clicking Here!.

One of the most visible aspects of the transfer to Oakalla is, not surprisingly, the re-emergence of the dies used by Tacey throughout the 1920s. The new Plate Shop at Oakalla would use Tacey's slanted dies for the first two years (1931-32) before switching over to the straight dies for the next three years (1933-35).

1931

Ron Garay Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:
1 to 115,000
Registered:
79,699
Over-run:
(not applicable)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
Oakalla Prison
Dimensions:
338 mm x 148 mm
Material:
Metal
Comments:
Similar to 1926, the 1931 plates are a notoriously bad paint year with the white paint used on the background commonly discoloured.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Ron Garay Collection
Ron Garay Collection
     
Shown in the photo at left is the longer six-digit plate first issued by the province in 1931.
(SOURCE: City of Vancouver Archives)

1932
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:

1 to 120,000

Registered:
73,725
Over-run:
(not applicable)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
Oakalla Prison
Dimensions:
340 mm x 149 mm
Material:
Metal
Comments:
....
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
4-digit
Ron Garay Collection
     
The "Lost in Oakalla" Plates
The main cellblock at Oakalla Prison had been constructed between 1912 and 1915, and other additions were subsequently added to the complex over the next 50 odd years, including the Westgate Annex which had been constructed between 1963 and 1964 and housed the Plate Shop, shoe repair shop, tailor shop and warehouse space.
Prior to being relocated to the Westgate Annex, the Plate Shop had resided somewhere else in the prison (where, we here at BCpl8s.ca do not exactly know) and when Oakalla was eventually demolished in 1991, the province brought in specialised contractors who, in taking the structure apart, found a number of 6-digit 1932 license plates packed between a wall.
Shown at left is Oakalla Prison being demolished in 1991.
Above is a 1932 "lost in Oakalla" plate.
Not surprisingly, these plates are easily identifiable by the water damage resulting from 60 years behind a damp wall. It is assumed that these were surplus plates that were never shipped to Motor Vehicle Branch offices in the Vancouver area.  

1933
1-digit
Ron Garay Collection
Dave Hollins Collection
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:

1 to 99,000

Registered:
71,439
Over-run:
(not applicable)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
Oakalla Prison
Dimensions:
342 mm x 149 mm
Material:
Metal
Comments:
6-digit plate No. 111-111 is thought to be a one-off sample given the declining number of registrations and plate order for only 99,000 sets in 1933.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Ron Garay Collection
Ron Garay Collection
Neale Hankins Collection
     

1934
1-digit
3-digit
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:

1 to 92,000

Registered:
73,997
Over-run:
(not applicable)
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
Oakalla Prison
Dimensions:
342 mm x 148 mm
Material:
Metal
Comments:
Another difficult paint year as the paint used for the blue background tends to be discoloured.
Unknown if a 6-digit plate was ever made for this year (unlikely).
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Ron Garay Collection
Ron Garay Collection
     
1935
1-digit
2-digit
3-digit
Issuing Statistics
Initial Series:

1 to 96,000

Registered:
96,867
Over-run:
105,000*
Issued:
Pairs
Manufacturer:
Oakalla Prison
Dimensions:
348 mm x 149 mm
Material:
Metal
Comments:
Another difficult paint year as the paint used for the white background became easily discoloured.
* Estimate / Unconfirmed
Ron Garay Collection
     

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1904-1912  | 1913-1914  |  1915-1917  |  1918-1923  |  1924-1929  |  1930  |  1931-1935  |  1936-1939  |  1940-1948  |  1949-1951
1952-1954  |  1955-1963  |  1964-1969  |   1970-1978  |  1979-1985  |  1985-2001  |  2001-2014  |  2014-2023  |  2023 and beyond

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