British Columbia Passenger License Plates
1964 - 1969

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The period between 1931 and 1976 is considered to be the Prison Era when BC plates were manufactured by inmates at Oakalla Prison in Burnaby.

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In an astounding about-face from its editorial printed a mere four years earlier decrying “the folly of doctoring up licence plates to suit boosters and promoters” with slogans and emblems, the Vancouver Sun commended Quebec's introduction of its “La Belle Province” slogan on its 1963 license plates by asking “why not British Columbia?”

The Sun's editorial staff noted that “almost every one of the United States has adopted this simple but effective form of huckstering - The Empire State (New York), Water Wonderland (Michigan) and so one ... Now what could B.C. be?”

Nine days later, on August 30, 1962, the provincial government answered the question by announcing that the 1964 license plates would include the slogan “Beautiful”.

It was reported that the decision to use the “Beautiful” slogan was “prompted by [the] growing popularity of [the] provincial government's quarterly brochure “Beautiful British Columbia””, which had begun publication in 1959 and would play a major role in the development of the province's tourism industry throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

It was further announced that the colours for the 1963 and 1964 plates would be blue and white; “a clear-cut color scheme everyone should welcome” after the wild colours of 1959-1962.

Yet, in another head-scratching about-face, the Vancouver Province newspaper, a reliable supporter of all license plate slogans and emblems in years past, splashed cold water on the “Beautiful” slogan:

Whether this added word will refer to the licence plate or to the province is in some doubt, but in any case it is hardly a tribute to original thinking. Would any province or state admit to anything else?

This platitude is surely unnecessary for enlightenment of B.C.'s residents. Will the sight of it in foreign lands spur pilgrimages to British Columbia?

Fortunately, the die, quite literally, is not yet cast. Can someone not come up with a work or phrase with a little more meaning and originality?

Of course “someone” could!  Cue Harry Duker:

The Vancouver Province's plea had “renewed [Duker's] dormant hope that eventually a suitable name will be added to British Columbia licence plates ... [and] I have never changed my belief that the word 'Totemland' most adequately describes our province.”

Duker noted that “Totemland” comprised the same number of letters as “Beautiful” and could easily be made to fit on a license plate and anyone who agreed with him should write to the B.C. Government Tourist Bureau at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria.

While Duker would write a few more letters to the newspapers in support of “Totemland”, the slogan question went cold for the remainder of 1962 and 1963.


In August of 1963, the province confirmed that the colour of the 1964 plates would be the reverse of the 1963 plates, so blue numbers and letters on a white background and that the plates would, in deed, carry the “Beautiful” slogan.

It was anticipated that over 700,000 license plates would be required, but less than 600,000 (573,750 to be precise) of these would be for use on cars and that prisoners at Oakalla had already begun to work on the new plates (as of August 1963).

Earle Westwood, now the Minister of Recreation and Conservation, would later announce that blue and white would be the permanent colours used on BC license plates, similar to the colours used on the B.C. Toll Authority ferries (shown at right).

Tom Lindner Collection

Not surprisingly, given its 1962 Editorial (see above), the first to make hay out of the new slogan was the Vancouver Province newspaper and its columnist Eric Nicol, who, in mid-January of 1964, proclaimed it “plug ugly” (meaning extremely unattractive, or the opposite of “Beautiful”);

Whether I like it or not, the government has turned my private automobile into a carrier of promotional literature. Well, I don't like it. I resent it to pieces.

If it is an offence to deface the registration plate of a motor vehicle, I suggest that these new plates are defaced before they are even bought, mucked up by a maudlin adjective that is as distinctive as having four wheels on the car.

The back end of my car is already a billboard for the car dealer that sold me the bucket of bolts. Now the government is adding its two-bits' worth of braggadocio ...

If the government is allowed to get away with this one word of plug via licence plate, we may be sure that the space will soon be expanded to give free rein to chamber of commerce lyricism.

Mark my words, by 1980 the licence plate will as big as a card table, like the signs now abaft taxicabs, bearing a whole paragraph of tourist drum-beating.

Seemingly forgetting the 1958 "CENTENARY" slogan and that P.E.I. (along with Idaho) was the first jurisdiction in North America to place a slogan on its license plates in 1928, Nicol asked where the idea came from.

He then answered his own question by stating; “from the States, of course. No bureaucratic pea-brain is too small to be impressed by the fact that some American states have yielded to this hucksterism, and therefore, nothing will do but that the Canadian province apes them ... A means of blowing our own horn is standard equipment on most automobiles. We do not need or, I hope you'll agree, want the anything-but-divine afflatus of licence platitudes.”

Two weeks later, the Province along with the Victoria Daily Times picked up the story of Kenneth Froslid, a New York motorist who was protesting the inclusion of a reference to the World's Fair that year in New York City by covering up the slogan and demanding a new pair of plates without the slogan.

Froslid proclaimed that “I've nothing personal against the world's fair. What stirred me up was the arbitrary way the legend was put on the plates in the face of some serious questions of law. The state has no right to compel me - without even asking - to carry free advertising on my car.”

What made the story newsworthy to the Province and Daily Times was that a state supreme court justice agreed with Froslid and that he was entitled to new, slogan-free plates.

Seemingly encouraging its readers to follow Froslid's lead, the Province planted a very suggestive seed by commenting that should “a motorist decide to take matters in his own hands and remove the [“Beautiful” slogan] let him be warned: The Act says the plates remain the property of the Crown.”

This prompted a response the following day from the Superintendent of the Motor Vehicle Branch (MVB), George Lindsay, who “warned that it is a punishable offence under the Motor Vehicle Act to mutilate licence plates, or to cover them up.” Lindsay also reassured motorists that “our plates do nothing more than express the truth.”

Even the Attorney-General, Robert Bonner, waded into the debate to clarify that “the problem in New York arises from the fact that the world's fair is a private venture supported by public bond issue and is not in my understanding an accredited world fair as were the Brussels or Seattle ones with official status. Beautiful describes the province and does not advertise any private venture in our midst. Other provinces and states - more than half those on the continent - engage in B.C.'s new practice.”

While there is no known evidence of anyone actually covering up the “Beautiful” slogan with tape the way Froslid did to New York's “World's Fair” slogan, some motorists certainly talked about it the Letter to the Editor pages of the major newspapers, such as “CONNED AGAIN” (see at right).

Why the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles decided to respond to a crank Letter to the Editor is beyond us here at, but that is precisely what George Lindsay decided to do after reading “CONNED AGAIN”.

Lindsay stated that “disgruntled motorists who obscure the word 'beautiful' from their licence plates could be prosecuted” and that CONNED AGAIN “couldn't have seen the province because it is a beautiful province.”

Not missing a beat, or the chance to sell more newspapers by further engaging its readers in this newest of license plate bun-fights, Eric Nicol's rushed to “CONNED AGAIN”s defence, overwroughtly declaring:

If we accept, mute as mutton, the practice of putting extraneous ukases on licence plates, we may fall under the sway of some mad Caligula in the motor-vehicle registration department ...

The law apparently permits the department to put any slogan it wishes on the license plate. Even the most complacent admirer of this beautiful province should be able to see that this makes the licence plate another medium for the doublethink of Big Brother, for the slogans of the Party of 1984 ...

A few more Letters to the Editor from motorists on both side of the issue followed, including one from “G.W.” in North Vancouver felt it would be a “pity to let the issue drop” as the slogan was unrelated to the purpose of a licence plate and he should not have to display it.

Whereas, a “SUBSCRIBER” from Vancouver (see at right) took issue with Nicol's muckraking and anyone else who would obscure the “Beautiful” slogan on their license plates.

And with that, the controversy petered out. The appear to be no records of any summons to traffic courts for motorists who got caught covering up the “Beautiful” slogan, or any plates that have survived in collections where the slogan was defaced (at the time).

Four months later, in announcing the colours and design of the 1965 license plates in July of 1964, the province settled the slogan debate:

60 years later, the “Beautiful” slogan remains the oldest license plate slogan in use amongst the Canadian provinces, while its introduction also marked the last time that Harry Duker (shown at left in 1968) came forward publicly to advocate for his beloved “Totemland” slogan.

Duker had come to Vancouver from Missouri in 1907 to play baseball for the Vancouver Beavers in the northwestern league. When he was cut from the team as a player, one of the teams directors is reported to have said “that kid's got the gift of the gab, let's send him out to sell advertisements for the program.”

From this, Duker parlayed his advertising skills into an outdoor billboard business that he sold for $300,000 in 1928 (on the eve of the Great Depression), and promptly retired at the age of 42.

Duker would spend the next 50 years in community service, volunteering on various board and committees, including the Vancouver Parks Board, Vancouver Tourist Bureau, BC Committee on Human Rights, Metro Commuters' Council, BC Automobile Association, Greater Vancouver Communities Council, as a founder of the Vancouver Aquarium and, of course, the Totemland Society.

When Duker died in March of 1982, his family held his funeral service at the Simmons and McBride Funeral Home (Mount Pleasant).

The irony of this decision, and likely unbeknownst to Duker's family at the time, was that Edward Simmons (being the Simmons in “Simmons & McBride”) had been the most vocal opponent of Duker's quest to get “Totemland” included as the slogan on BC license plates in the 1950s!

Simmons (shown at right), was no slouch either when it came to membership in various groups and clubs, including the Gizeh Temple, Vancouver Lodge, Knights of Pythias, RCMP Veterans Association, Terminal City Club (Life Member), Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Canadian Club and the Vancouver Board of Trade and Junior Chamber of Commerce.

At the time of Duker's death in 1982, Simmons had been dead for eleven years, having passed in March of 1971.

For eagle eyed plate collectors, the introduction of the “Beautiful” slogan was not the only new addition to the plates that year. For whatever reason, it had been decided to go with a smaller die for the provincial name (“BRITISH COLUMBIA”).

Even more interesting is that the old, longer “BRITISH COLUMBIA” die used as early as possibly 1952, but certainly from 1955 through to 1963 would re-appear throughout the 1964 series - and there is no rhyme nor reason to its use. Don't believe us? Take a look at the No. 58-000 plates shown below. This is one of the only known examples of where the different dies appeared on the same plate number.

Palindrome: "a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward as forward" - and also a fun subset of license plate collecting for the truly dedicated.

A fun posting on social media in 2024; a Mudlarker walking along the Fraser River today found an old 1964 BC plate that appears to have been unearthed along the banks of the river by shifting currents (or something like that). All things considered, for potentially being buried along the banks of the Fraser for the past 60 years, the plate is in not that bad a shape!

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With the slogan and colour issues now set for the remainder of the decade, there was little to report at the beginning of each year.

1965 was, however, the first year that plate No. 600-000 would be issued (a new high), there was renewed chatter over the merits of permanent and reflective plates, while a minor change at the Motor Vehicle Branch was implemented to encourage people to pick-up their plates in-person as opposed to mailing in requests.

This was because it was estimated to be more efficient to issues plates over the counter than by mail (in terms of staff time and money).

So, to encourage motorists, the Branch announced that mailed requests - estimated to number around 32,000 per year - would be issued a license plate number above 567-501 (as shown by Dianne Ward, MVB Clerk, at left). In previous years, mail requests had received low numbers.

For those motorists who had received a number from 2 to 3,000 in 1964, they had until the end of January 1965 to re-claim it, after which it would be assigned to one of the 800 people on a wait list maintained by the MVB for low number requests.

To stymie thieves, motorists were also reminded to keep their expired 1964 plates indoors until March 1st so the plates could not be used on stolen vehicles.

Finally, the Trail Chamber of Commerce (of all organizations!) channeled a 1930s marketing vibe and suggested the 1966 BC license plates should be green and include an evergreen tree emblem!



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Staying with the policy of rotating blue-and-white colour schemes, the 1966 license plates were the reverse of the 1965 colours and, despite continued chatter, would not use reflectorized paint or become permanent.

In continuing to encourage in-person registrations, mail order registrations would be issued plates numbered above 590-000 in 1966.

Towards the end of the year, as vehicle registration numbers climbed towards 700,000, the MVB indicated a likely move toward an alpha-numeric serial number (e.g. AAA-000) by 1970, similar to what California and Washington used. More on this in the next page (1970-1978).

Tom Lindner Collection

To celebrate the centenary of the union of the Crown Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia in 1866, the province decided to issue a celebratory windshield decal with each set of 1966 license plates (e.g. over 700,000).

The idea being that “every driver will wear his sticker so B.C.'s birthday events will be advertised, especially outside the province.”

One day after the Centennial Committee announced the stickers, the Motor Vehicle Branch (MVB) clarified that the stickers could not go on a windshield and needed to be placed on a side window.  Apparently the law stipulated that a windshield must not be “unduly” cluttered with stickers.

The irony of the situation was not lost on the local press, who noted the stickers were being handed out by the same department (MVB) that was now saying not to place the stickers where another government department had said it was okay to stick them.

It seems many motorists interpreted the MVB's guidance as it not being okay to place the sticker anywhere on a car as, six months later, the press noted that very few cars were displaying the stickers (anecdotally estimated at only 6% of vehicles).

The Victoria Times decided to ask locals, including the operator or a parking lot who reported that “we don't see many of those around. There are a few, but not many”, a random motorist who claimed “I don't remember getting one” and Laurie Wallace, Chair of the Centennial Committee, who reassured readers that there was “a much higher percentage on cars in the interior and on the mainland.”

A week later, Ray Hadfield, Superintendent of the MVB, advised that the stickers were being made available again and anyone who may have inadvertently thrown out the one that came with their plates could get a replacement by going to the closest licencing office.

On November 25, 1966, the 54th Grey Cup between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Ottawa Rough Riders (yes, they had basically the same name back then) was held at Empire Stadium in Vancouver.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders entered the game having never won the Cup and, in the lead up to the cahmpionship game, Vancouver authorities decided to hold the traditional Grey Cup Parade on the night of November 25, 1966 (a Friday).

150,000 people attended the Parade, but afterwards some of them went wild and police fought three pitched battles with rioting fans (we would like to think it was Prairie folks, but Vancouverites have a history of rioting around major sporting events), arresting 443 in total, while significant property damage occurred.

Of interest, one of the participants in the Parade was the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories (NWT), Bent Sivertz (shown at right), who brought with him the pair of No. 1 NWT license plates for 1966 to use on his car.

When the riot broke out, a “souvenir hunter” reportedly snatched one of the No. 1 plates off of Sivertz's car. The cost to replace the plate was estimated to be $100 (almost $900 in 2023 dollars - which seems nuts!), and since they were to be used for three-years (to the end of 1969) it was decided to retire the number and issue Sivertz a new number.

Fast forward 57 years, and the 1966 No. 1 plate finally re-surfaced, and it was still in Vancouver (in a private collection):


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For certain generations of Canadians, the centennial of the Canadian state in 1967 was a BIG deal (the last good year if you read Pierre Burton ... but we don't read Burton and think his claim is bollocks!).

Nevertheless, the importance of the event can be seen in the fact that half the provinces and territories - including Quebec! - decided to mark the occasion on their license plates. Generally, these commemorations were overt and included text and dates reflecting the event:

British Columbia’s contribution, however, be much subtler. No special slogans were adopted, nor was any reference made to 1867 as Alberta, Ontario and Quebec had done. Instead, BC dropped its blue-and-white colour policy for one year in order to issue plates in the national colours of red-on-white.

Otherwise the basic design of the plates remained unchanged, as did the continued use of the “Beautiful” slogan. Due to the continued growth in car ownership, license plate numbers exceed 700,000 for the first time.

Ron Garay Collection
Ron Garay Collection

Given the significance of the Centennial, competition for the license plates bearing the numbers “1867” or “1967” was going to be intense.

When it was revealed that the No. “1967” had been held by Burnaby resident and Vancouver dry cleaning business owner Norman Chan since 1961 or 1962, it was suggested that the numbers (shown at right) be held back for publicity purposes and not be issued.

Full kudos, however, to MVB Superintendent Ray Hadfield who advised that “despite pressure from some unnamed sources, he [intended] to maintain the Branch's established policy by reserving plates 1967 for Mr. Chan.”

By December of 1966, Chan's application to the MVB for the plate was in mail, along with an anticipated 35,000 other applications, and Chan hoped to be issued the number again “to have it when it really means something.”

If you are like us, you're excused for thinking the headline at right was published in relation to a convention of license plate collectors gone-sideways, but it actually relates to one of the most screwy near-riots in BC history!

On the last day of February 1967, which was also the last day that motorists could legally drive with their 1966 plates still on their car, the Motor Vehicle Branch (MVB) office at the Brentwood shopping centre in Burnaby shut their doors 30 minutes early to serve those already in the office. This left over 150 people unable to get their new license plates - and likely guaranteeing they would be fined by the police for driving with expired plates.

When it appeared that a riot was about to happen (doors were being “angrily rattled” and wickets “shook”), panicky MVB staff called the police and four cars of RCMP officers were dispatched to quell the brouhaha.

Brentwood Mall in 1966

The day had not started well when MVB staff arrived at 9:30 a.m. to discover 500 people waiting for them, some for over two hours, but what really caused all the problems was a government ban on over-time which forced the MVB staff to ensure that they closed on-time at 6:00 p.m. - thus locking the doors at 5:30 p.m.

To defuse the situation, the police swapped tear-gas for a friendly announcement; motorists caught with expired plates on March 1st would only be given a warning, but tickets would be given out starting March 2nd.

Generally, over-run plates are not of much interests to collectors, however, in the case of the 1967 over-run bloc, Oakalla used the 1968 base (which was already in production by the time the extra plates were needed).

As a result, plates numbered 700-001 to 720-000 (or 2.86% of all passenger plates for the year) come with the "19" date stamp in the top-left corner.

15 years in the making the Lindner 100 (that is Tom at left) is a run of BC plates starting at the No 1 and proceeding straight through to the No. 100.

With the run now complete (as of 2015), the focus is switching to having as many of the plates be from 1967 as possible.

Postscript: sadly, our friend Tom passed in 2020 and the “Lindner 100” has joined the “Garrison 100” and moved into other collector's hands for safe keeping.


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Returning to the policy of rotating blue-and-white colour schemes after the red Canadian Centennial plates, the 1968 license plates picked up as if the red used on the 1967 never happened and displayed the same blue-on-white colours as the 1966 plates.

Registration numbers continued to climb, surpassing three-quarters of a million plates for the first time, while the usual calls for permanent and reflectorized plates occurred throughout the year. Otherwise, 1968 was a very quiet year.

Ron Garay Collection


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Displaying the reverse blue-and-white colour scheme of the 1968 plates, the 1969 plates incorporated the exact same layout, however, this would be the last year that an all-numeric serial would be used as the total number of car plates made exceed 800,000 for the first time.

It would also be the last year that new plates would be issued annually, as the 1970 plates were to be “permanent” (at least for 3 years) and renewed by decals (see 1970-1978).

Ron Garay Collection

This is one way to put excess BC plates from the 1950s through to the 1970s to good use. I would think these plates added decades to the life of this shed.

In 1957, the Plate Shop at Oakalla began producing license plates for the Yukon Territory. As a result, correspondence between the Territory and the Plate Shop has survived and presents an interesting insight into the manufacturing of license plates at a public facility staffed by prison labour in the mid-1960s.

A common practice at this time was for states and provinces to exchange samples license plates each year in order that they had an example of that jurisdiction's design for law enforcement purposes (e.g. identifying fake plates).

In early 1965, the Yukon's Registrar of Motor Vehicles, H.J. Taylor, received a sample of the Northwest Territories plate for that year, which they concluded had been manufactured by Western Tool & Industries Limited of Manitoba.

As a good neighbour, Taylor took it upon himself to write to the Ministry of Northern Affairs in Ottawa advising that the Yukon had been ordering its license plates through Oakalla for the past eight years and, at a cost of 40¢ a pair.  Taylor noted that this represented a considerable saving over what it had previously cost the Yukon to have the plates manufactured by a private firm and that possibly the NWT Government “would be interested in considering the same sort of arrangement.”

Imagine Taylor's surprise when he found out that the NWT was only paying 26¢ for a pair of license plates and 13.5¢ for a single plate. While Taylor would query Oakalla if “it is possible that you miscalculated somewhere in calculating your costs and is it possible that you might review the matter and give us some reduction in the cost?”, he also contacted the Alberta Supervisor of Vehicles to determine what they were paying per license plate.

Oakalla Plate Shop - 1950s

In response, the Business Manager of the Oakalla Plate Shop, J.D. Gibbs, advised that the cost of producing pairs of 1966 plates had been as follows:

Base metal per sq. ft. 0.2190
Repair modification & replacement of dies 0.0198
Packaging 0.0056
Thinners, paints & chemicals 0.0072
Utilities 0.0049
Plant maintenance, lubrication, rags, conveyors, wire, etc. 0.0021
Total Fixed Cost

Moreover, Gibbs advised that:

in an operation such as ours it is extremely difficult to cost the labour. Based on the Dominion Bureau of Statistics the average production cost ratio for labour on any mass produced item is 54%. Obviously we cannot apply this here and, therefore, have established a surcharge for production of 30%.

This brings the cost of 1 pair of licence plates to .33618¢. Obviously, this surcharge can be disputed since the productivity of inmates is naturally not what it would be in the labour market. However, when you add the cost of maintaining some 42 inmates and 6 staff with the interim costs of maintenance staffs and divide it by our total production, 30% is less than the figure that would result. Obviously in an operation such as ours we are not endeavouring to make money but to provide programme for inmates and to develop good work habits.

If we relate the above cost to that of the Northwest Territories plates, there is an obvious variance which I can only assume must be in the cost of steel. I am familiar with the licence plates and the manufacturer who produced for the Northwest Territories and am aware they are paying slightly under .14¢ per sq. ft for steel. The steel, however, is not of the same grade that we have employed here nor does it have the galvanized coating and subsequent application of the exceptionally hard Duracron Acrylic Enamel.

You will recall, I believe, some two years ago I stated the material we would be employing would be satisfactory for a multiple year licence plate for up to 5 years duration. We are using this at present and it has been employed on the plates you have ordered for next year. In the following year, however, we will be employing a one year material, for the Centennial year only, which will undoubtedly reduce the costs somewhat, in that the more expensive type of paint will not be used.

Summarizing, therefore, it would appear that we should be charging .33¢ a pair for the larger plates and .30¢ for the smaller plates per pair. Since the steel for use in the 1966 production year and subsequent issue in 1967 is now out to tender, we should have steel costs in the near future. When received your price can be altered by an variation in the price per square foot.

Taylor eventually heard back from Alberta that it was paying the Provincial Jail at Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta (through the Department of the Attorney General) 20¢ per pair of license plates and 10¢ per single plate.

Taylor would explore the possibility of transferring their order to Alberta but were subsequently advised that “at the time the manufacturing plant was installed at Fort Saskatchewan, it was decided specifically that such plant would be used exclusively for the manufacture of license plates for this Province ... [and] would not be used for other work which might be readily handled by private manufacturers.”

Fort Saskatchewan (Alberta) Plate Shop - 1950s

In early 1966, Oakalla wrote the Yukon Government advising that, “on the assumption that you will be submitting your purchase order for the manufacture of your 1967 Licence Plates, we have purchased sufficient metal to cover your order ... and would appreciate some assurance from you that you will be favouring us with your order.”

Taylor would wait over four months before advising Oakalla that they would be receiving a purchase order for the 1967 plates “in the not too distant future”.

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