Unlocking North Vancouver History

A Riveted Community: North Vancouver’s Wartime Shipbuilding

Quitting Time, Burrard Dry Dock

The number of North Vancouver’s shipyard employees exploded with the sudden demand for merchant vessels. Ranks swelled from a few hundred to many thousands. In 1942 and 1943, up to 14,000 people worked at Burrard Dry Dock in three round-the-clock shifts, more than the number that ever worked at well-established eastern Canadian shipyards. A whistle signalled shift changes. Passenger ferries to Vancouver and streetcars for north shore residents stood ready to meet the crowds pouring out of Burrard and North Van Ship Repairs. It is said that the ferries got so full, the men would have to hang off the sides and sometimes lost their cash wages that way. This picture shows a sea of hats at quitting time. Their various styles indicate different ethnic and class backgrounds. The men are heading for numbered gates to punch out on time clocks linked to their employee numbers, which were worn as a distinctive brass badge.

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Burrard Dry Dock workers move toward the men’s shipyard exit at quitting time; women workers used a separate gate. The sign announces Thursday as payday for the day shift.

The men are entering the time-clock office on the shipyard’s west side. The ferry dock and streetcar stops on Lonsdale Avenue were nearby.

This is in 1944. The building was erected in 1941 and expanded a year later to handle the huge number of employees, their time cards and payroll.

Since many young men had joined the armed forces, many older men and teenaged boys worked in the shipyards to ensure that wartime production goals were met.

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