History Tidbit: Duff Pattullo

Comments 8 by Rebecca Bollwitt

My personal history with Pattullo goes back about 29 years however the name played an important role for me in high school biology. I used to be able to remember that the knee cap was called the “patella” since it was like a bridge between the femur and tibia (at least in my mind it helped, anyway).

All silliness aside, since the Pattullo Bridge is in the news and affecting lives and commutes more than ever since a fire shut it down days ago, I thought I would discover more about this infamous crossing and the man after which it was named.

Duff Pattullo (left) with Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King
and J-A Godbout from McCord Museum

136 years ago, Thomas Dufferin Pattullo was born in Woodstock, Ontario. He traveled west during his formative years and began working in Dawson City government (and was ‘acting assistant gold commissioner’) until he moved to Prince Rupert in 1908 to work in real estate and insurance. He was elected as a Liberal party MLA in 1916 as Minister of Lands Responsible for Forestry and was leader of the opposition from 1928 until 1933 when he was elected Premier of BC. He was the top man in our province until 1941.

Faced with the tremendous economic and social problems of the Great Depression, Pattullo was innovative in extending the role of government. His frustration with the limitations of provincial power led to a battle with Ottawa that resulted in a reappraisal of Canadian federalism. After an inconclusive 1941 election, he rejected a coalition with the Conservatives and was rebuffed by his own party. [Canadian Encyclopedia]

1937: Archives# Br P29.

1937: Archives# Br P70.

On November 15th, 1937 Duff Pattullo ceremoniously cut a chain-link barrier to officially open the crossing from New Westminster to Surrey, named in his honor.

Construction of the Pattullo from NW Heritage

In brief remarks he told the assembled throng the bridge was a “thing of beauty”. Words other than “beauty” spring to the minds of drivers these days for that bridge. At peak times on the Pattullo 3,700 vehicles an hour (a car a second) speed along its narrow, curving lanes, each just three metres wide each, some 61 centimetres or two feet narrower than today’s standard. [Vancouver History]

A luncheon was served later that day at the Queen’s Park Arena.

In July of 2008, Translink approved the plan to put a toll on the new crossing that would replace the Pattullo however when the bridge as we know it was built it was also tolled and earner the nickname, “Pay Toll O“.

Thomas Dufferin Pattullo himself was laid to rest in Royal Oak Cemetery in Victoria (side note) it’s also where you can also find the final resting place of Frank and Lester Patrick – the brothers who helped found modern hockey and bring it to Vancouver.

Pattullo was a ground-breaking leader in our province and his legacy lives on in the legislature and in our history… albeit most famously through his namesake bridge which has an uncertain future.

8 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. breeWednesday, January 21st, 2009 — 6:42am PST

    Nice post. FYI though, I tried using the “send to my phone” feature via Tagga and the text message I received was about “tactical paintball gear.”

  2. TylerWednesday, January 21st, 2009 — 6:46am PST

    They were saying that the bridge sees (or was it saw) 80,000 commuters on it every day. Now those 80k people have to go over the Port Mann or Alex Fraser 🙁 have I mentioned how much I like to Telecommute! lol

  3. Jason LeeWednesday, January 21st, 2009 — 7:10am PST

    Nicely researched historical tidbit. Hopefully it’ll play useful in a trivia game.

  4. rachael chatoorWednesday, January 21st, 2009 — 7:53am PST

    Love that Rebecca, nice work! I am born and raised here so I love to learn the history and browse over old pics of our area. I will be watching for further installments!

    ( how are things going with the Twestival by the way? still happy to come play and donate some funky kids shirts etc. I have a new tune/video on my blog.. )

  5. TawcanWednesday, January 21st, 2009 — 9:33am PST

    I certainly didn’t know about Pattullo or the history of the bridge. Very cool.

  6. KimmWednesday, January 21st, 2009 — 1:40pm PST

    It sucks that 80K people now have use another route to get from point a to point b, until the bridge is fixed. Thankfully, I stopped having to use that bridge for my weekly commute months ago.

  7. Pattullo Bridge To Open Monday » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittSunday, January 25th, 2009 — 11:02pm PST

    […] more of my Pattullo posts…. History Tidbits, Duff Pattullo, and more. Tweet This Digg it Add to del.icio.us Stumble it Add to […]

  8. Jim HoneyfordMonday, January 11th, 2010 — 2:13pm PST

    Duff Pattullo was a relative of mine so enjoyed your posting. I’ve lost an e-mail I just received from Judy Todhunter, another Pattullo relative. Hoping she sees this and contacts Senator Jim again. Thanks

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