Bill's License Plates Family Historical Page:
British Columbia 1950
to Nova Scotia in 2021
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Last updated August 8, 2021,
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My current license
plate collection comes straight out of family history. My father was a
collector in British Columbia, beginning in the 1950's
and some of the plates I still have today are remnants of his collection. All of this began with our own family plates beginning in 1950,
first with the annual changeover with new numbers, and then with a low number plate that we had each year for several years, and then
later on my father had a vanity plate of his own, and of course I have had my plates as well.
In this page you may see two spellings: the Canadian "licence" and the American "license". As a Canadian I try to maintain the traditional Canadian spellings for this and other things in life, but when it comes to the world of plate collecting, trading, buying and selling, it does seem necessary to use the American spelling simply to more easily allow for on-line searching.
A Family History Note
As far as I can recall my father started collecting licence plates in the same manner that many others did in "the olden days", by holding on to the plates removed from the family car when they were replaced each year, as was the common practise back then. On arrival from Scotland at the very end of 1947, with no driver's licence and no vehicle, it took a while for there to be a family car! The first was I think in 1950. It was an old Studebaker, approximately a 1926 or so, but that did not last at all, and lay derelict at our rural homestead for years. The first car of consequence was a Dodge Business Coupe, approximately a 1940, but perhaps a bit older. This was also acquired in 1950 and fared much better than the Studebaker. That car was used for a trip around down to Oregon and the interior of Washington, something that was unusual in those days, and certainly not something I recall my friends ever getting to do. After that Dad moved on to a small dark green Austin, which was our car for a trip to San Francisco in 1953. Next was a newer Austin, perhaps also an A-40. That car was used in a 1958 trip to Los Angeles, including to Disneyland, at that time situated in the middle of orange groves! That car not long afterwards disintegrated in Chilliwack, BC, and via the friendly fellow operating the repair shop we moved on to a 1956 Morris Oxford Traveller. This was a woody in the real sense, as it actually did have wood strips on the body. That was to be our vehicle through to the mid-60's and was the one on which both my sister and I learned to drive. The first new car was the 1964 Rambler American 330 station wagon, which I also drove as a teenager. By around 1960 my mother had obtained her drivers licence and had taken on ownership of a flower and gift shop, so then began the two-car family life. She started with greenish Ford Consul, and after a collision moved on to a similar bluish one. I drove both of these as well as the Rambler. At the age of 16 or 17 I bought my first vehicle, a 1964 or 65 Honda 90 trail bike, which was street legal but really designed for travel on back trails and roads. I spent a lot of time on the logging roads of Vancouver Island, most of the time on my own, and as I look back many years later I feel lucky that nothing happened to leave me stranded or worse in a place where no one could find me, in an era without cell phones. All of these vehicles had licence plates. For most of its life with us, the Morris Oxford had the 896 plate, which carried on to the Rambler. I only have two 896's left in my possession, those being from 1963 (with a story attached) and from 1967. It may be that one or two of the plates in my BC run could also have been family plates but without the appropriate photographs I am not sure.
As for the collecting of plates, one must remember that in those days licence plates were normally good for one year, then removed and replaced by the next year's plates, one on each end. There was in North America some intermittent use of metal tabs to make a plate valid in the next year or two, or to have window stickers. In the time period I am speaking of, there was a plate for 1950, renewed with a tab for 1951. Then there was a 1952 plate renewed with a tab in both 1953 and 1954 After that, through to 1969, there were entirely new plates each year. This means that there were lots of plates removed and discarded, and in our case Dad started to tack them up on the garage wall, and I mean the outside of the garage. We lived at the very end of a gravel road and while there was not a lot of traffic, the people who did come down the road, usually by mistake or to see what was there, would see the plates on the garage. I do not know how this collection began to expand, but I am sure that my father's very significant collecting gene kicked in and somehow he began acquiring plates from other jurisdictions, and they appeared on the garage. I would estimate this to be around 1958. He was never a huge license plate collector, as it was just a collecting sideline for him, but he did over the years acquire a few very nice plates. Strangely he did not acquire a BC run, which is too bad as it may have been much easier in those days, keeping in mind that 1938 was only twenty years back from 1958! One thing he did do was acquire plates from issuing offices who took in out of province plates from newcomers who turned them in to get the BC plates they needed. He also developed an "in" at the Esquimalt naval base and acquired over time many of the special N plates used by their vehicles, including several N1's used on the admiral's official car. He also had a plate from Princess Elizabeth's car used on her 1951 trip to Vancouver Island. This plate is now on loan to the Qualicum Beach Museum. Later on Dad developed a friendship with Len Garrison, an outstanding licence plate collector who had runs of numbers, runs of years, runs of everything to do with BC licence plates. They certainly traded back and forth, and I am fairly certain that many of Dad's N plates made the transition over to Len as time went on. Following my father's decline and eventual passing in 1994 I acquired what was left of his licence plate collection. I enjoy them very much, but had not done anythng with them until recently. I am a keen observer of licence plates, and unusual numbers and letters immediately catch my eye, and of course I pick out out of province plates as a matter of course. On quite a few occasions, driving down the huge parking lot lanes at DisneyWorld and similar places I have at least half my attention on the plates I am passing by!
As of 2021 I have decided to do two things with my plates. One is to to what I always wanted to do, and that is to acquire a run of plain old BC passenger plates, which is what I should have done many years ago. I had a few, including a chipped 1913 porcelain, but those in the 20's and 30's were in poor condition. I have now decided that it will be sufficient in my advancing age to have a run from 1936 onwards. 1936 was the first year for plates that approximate the now-standard 6" by 12" North American plate. BC reverted to longer plates in the 1952 to 54 series but since then has followed the 6 X 12 standard. I have disposed of my older BC plates and passed the 1913 over to my sister. With the special help of Ron Garay in Penticton, BC I have now assembled the set of plates from 1936, and have turned my attention mostly to Nova Scotia.
Below I am first going to show somen or our vehicles and plates from over the years, and a glimpse of Dad's collection that I had until recently but are now gone to good homes elsewhere. While I was never a real collector, these plates all mean something to me, as I can recall them years ago coming into Dad's collection. On other pages I am displaying my present collection which is in a state of development.
Here is another photo from 1950,
taken at my aunt and uncle's place, the Rosewell, on Qualicum Beach.
This must have
front of our Dodge Business Coupe,
and sister in front of our new to us Austin A-40 Devon.
These cars were made in England from late 1947 to 1951...
what model year this car was I am not sure but most likely a
1950 or 1951, Note the
1952 plate, which I still have. This car took our
family of four to San Francisco in 1953. Though was
only five at the time, I still recall almost getting blown
off the Golden Gate Bridge by the high winds in this small
car. It had a cartop carrier with our tent, to help catch
the wind. Note the QB topper that was first on the Dodge and
then on the next few cars we had. This photo was
my uncle in front of our second Austin, a 1952 A-40
Somerset, somewhere on a road
trip in Washington in 1957.
AFTER THE 896'S
Immediately after the
all-numerical plates, including the reserved low numbers, were
discontinued in B.C. there
Here are three family vehicles
in the period of time after the 896 and all other numerical plates
1972 I was in the navy and this was taken during a
short visit home. The main family car
back home was a white 1970 Chevy II Nova.
Meanwhile, in the late 70's, along came vanity plates.........
Post-script to the
story... I brought 200 or so plates to Nova
Scotia, or they were shipped. I cannot recall, and they sat in file
boxes for almost 20 years.