Memories of Lougheed Drive-In Swap Meet captured in pictures

A vendor with his wares at the Lougheed Drive-In Swap Meet photographed by Bill Jeffries in the summer of 1978. A selection of his photos of the Burnaby event will be exhibited at the Bob Prittie Metrotown library branch Dec. 3 to Feb. 17. - Bill Jeffries/City of Burnaby Archives No. 528-016
A vendor with his wares at the Lougheed Drive-In Swap Meet photographed by Bill Jeffries in the summer of 1978. A selection of his photos of the Burnaby event will be exhibited at the Bob Prittie Metrotown library branch Dec. 3 to Feb. 17.
— image credit: Bill Jeffries/City of Burnaby Archives No. 528-016

Fans of the former swap meet held at the old Lougheed Drive-In can relive the memories, thanks to a donation of photos to the Burnaby City Archives.

Two years ago, Bill Jeffries, the former curator of Simon Fraser University Gallery, was downsizing and decided to donate 129 film negatives to the archives.

The images, taken during the summer of 1978 at the swap meet, have since been scanned and uploaded onto the Heritage Burnaby website and a selection of photos are set to be exhibited Dec. 3 to Feb. 17 by the Burnaby Art Gallery at the Bob Prittie Metrotown library branch.

Jeffries, city archivist Arilea Sill and Burnaby Village Museum assistant curator Tom Gooden will speak about the exhibit, the donation and the swap meet on Monday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the library's program room.

In 1978, Jeffries, now 67, had just graduated from the fine arts program at the University of British Columbia when he started visiting the swap meet on Sunday mornings that summer. Occasionally he ran his own stall, selling items such as books, but he always took photos of the people and wares he came across.

He'd developed a love for such events while living in California and after visiting the Rose Bowl Swap Meet in Pasadena.

"I loved going there. It felt like relief from the slick plasticness of Los Angeles."

His photos of the Burnaby swap meet show a laid back atmosphere that seems right out of a movie from the 1970s, people wearing t-shirts and tank tops, men wearing nothing but cutoff shorts leaning against cars and vans from the period.

"It's like a link to the past, people getting together to barter, have fun together," Jeffries recalled. "It was a totally fascinating place. You could hunt for bargains, you could learn about things you didn't know about, crazy fashions, people actually talking to each other.

"When you go to a shopping mall now you're not going to be interacting with all these people. I would've talked to 500 people every time I went there."

The Lougheed Drive-In operated from about 1951 to 1981 when the property was sold. It was located on the south side of Lougheed Highway between Gilmore and Madison avenues where condo towers are going up today, said Gooden.

It's unclear how long the swap meet operated but it was one of the ways, including farmers markets, that the owners of local drive-ins used to bring in income during daytime hours when movies weren't being shown, Gooden said.

"It was very ephemeral," he said. "It's a group of people getting together at a spot to do business for the day and then [at the end] everything gets loaded in a truck and disappears."

Sill said the images are a great example of the sorts of items the archives is always on the lookout for. Until Jeffries made his donation, there was no photographic record in the archives of the swap meet.

People tend not to think of material from the 1970s to the present as being of any historic value, Sill said.

But "we do want to have a record 30, 40, a hundred years from now of this period."

For his part, Jeffries is happy to know his photos are now accessible to the public.

"They're up on the web now which would never have happened if I owned them."

As for the demise of the swap meet itself, "We kind of traded it for eBay, that's what's happened," he said with a laugh, referring to the online auction site.

"Rather than being out, getting exercise, breathing fresh air, meeting humans, rubbing shoulders with them, now we sit at home at our computers trying to find things and having it shipped to us and going 'yay, I didn't need to drive anywhere.'"

• Bill Jeffries: The Lougheed Drive-In Swap Meet, Summer 1978 is at the Bob Prittie Metrotown branch library, 6100 Willingdon Ave., Burnaby from Dec. 3 to Feb. 17.

Jeffries, Sill and Gooden will speak about the exhibit on Monday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m. at the program room of the Metrotown library. Admission is free.

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