Lyanne Smith was driving buses in the Lower Mainland at a time when another Trudeau was prime minister.
She and commuters have history.
Smith, who grew up in Surrey, collected things over her nearly 39-year career – old bus tickets, passes, transfers, pamphlets, even company magazines like The Buzzer and The Intercom.
Now, her memorabilia, which hails from the 1890s to the early 2000s, is on display at the Museum of Vancouver’s (MOV) interactive exhibition – All Together Now: Vancouver Collectors and Their Worlds, which runs until Jan. 8, 2017.
“I love the old tickets,” says Smith, now retired and living on Vancouver Island.
She began her career as a Vancouver bus driver in 1975, moved over to SkyTrain field operations in 1985 shortly before Expo 86, then headed south to White Rock shuttle bus operations before finishing her career as a duties manager with transit communications in 2014.
In all, she worked under four umbrellas: BC Hydro, Metro Transit, BC Transit (with its SkyTrain subsidiary) and Coast Mountain Bus Company.
By the 1990s, she had gotten to know some old B.C. motormen and antique dealers, and began to pick up uniforms, belt buckles, lighters and other trinkets linked whatever company ran the buses and trains.
The exhibit includes eclectic curiosities from collectors of Chinese restaurant menus, pinball machines, drag queen memorabilia, 19th-century corsets, concert posters and vintage artificial limbs collected by the son of a prosthetist.
Photo by Boaz Joseph
“The act of collecting is a fascinating way to engage with one’s identity, history and community,” says MOV Curator of Contemporary Culture Viviane Gosselin. “This exhibition enables visitors to enter into the rich, often-unknown worlds of collectors, and to think about how private collections can affect our understanding of the past. In this way, it reminds us of the importance of collectors as memory keepers.”
Smith’s collection – joined by a couple of items from fellow B.C. transit enthusiast Angus McIntyre – goes back further than the companies she worked for. They include the BC Electric Railway and the even older National Electric Tramway and Lighting Company.
She notes that one train ticket in her collection, from 1890, might be the oldest one in existence in B.C.
Although her employment only goes back so far, there’s still much in the way the region evolved since.
“Transit was incredibly different,” she recalls of her work behind the wheel in the 1970s. “When I started, there was still a respect for the uniform.”
Although she hasn’t driven a bus in years, she had noticed – anecdotally or otherwise – the increased traffic and less cordial behavior of passengers and subsequent stress for present-day bus drivers.
Smith says that while she doesn’t miss the day-to-day work, she’s still got certain nostalgia for the things she picked up along the way.
One other thing Smith collected while a transit operator: Norm.
“We met on the job, got married, and here we are,” she says.
“Like Stan and Olive,” she adds, referring to characters in a 1969-73 British sitcom called On the Buses.
Whittling down her possessions in the last several months, Smith has donated some of her items from the exhibit to the MOV’s permanent collection.
But she still finds herself occasionally browsing the odd antique store.“I thought I was just done collecting, but I don’t think you ever are.”
The Museum of Vancouver is located at 1100 Chestnut St. at Vanier Park. The museum is open each day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closes at 10 p.m. on Thursdays. Admission is $15 for adults, $11 for students, seniors and kids aged 12-18, and $5 for kids aged eight to 11.