BY LORETTA HOUBEN
The lure of the open road in the summer months beckons to all who are ready for fun and adventure! Even when automobiles were new, people wished to pack up and go exploring. The Model T Ford car was available for purchase in 1908, 110 years ago, although at first the ordinary working man couldn’t afford a car.
By the 1920s, automobile ownership and use increased, especially for holiday travel. The price had fallen dramatically so more people were choosing to buy a car, and the concept of camping with one became popular.
According to the 1927 BC Directories, there were a total of 11 auto camps in Vancouver and the vicinity, including one in Central Park in Burnaby, which “provided every facility for the convenience of motorists.”
One such camp existed from 1927 to 1946 in the Collingwood area. After finding a Renfrew Auto camp postcard image online, I turned to the BC Directories for more information.
The Renfrew Auto Camp was listed at 21st Avenue and Renfrew. In 1930 the address was listed as 3690 Renfrew. Edgerly Payne along with J. Flander were the first owners. I checked out where Edgerly Payne lived, and was surprised to discover he lived at 3177 East 22nd Avenue, a few blocks from the camp. In 1945 my paternal grandparents bought this house, and my dad grew up there.
In later years, Mrs. K. Ellen Leighs was the proprietor of the camp, remaining until 1946, the last year the camp existed. When auto camps first became popular, tents were available, then cabins or bungalows. A common open space, or court, provided safety and a place to park the car.
Motels, a word combining motor and hotel, took over and became popular in the 1960s. Kingsway had a number of motel courts. You can see the last remaining auto court motel, built in 1946, at 2400 Kingsway near Nanaimo. The name, 2400 Court Motel, reflects the address. There are tiny white bungalows on a green lawn on three acres with picnic tables and a place to park your car. For more information, you can read about the history of auto courts on this website.
Loretta Houben is a long-time resident of Collingwood and a frequent contributor to the Renfrew-Collingwood Community News.
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