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Making northern B.C. a roadside attraction – let’s talk

Prince George in the 1970s

The popularity of roadside attractions along highways in northern B.C. and the Cariboo region and how they were transformed by motorists is the subject of the next Archival Connections Speakers Series talk at the University of Northern B.C.

The free lecture, entitled Making Northern British Columbia a Roadside Attraction: Automobility, Modernity, and Landscape Experience, takes place on Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. in Rm 8-164 in UNBC’s Teaching Lab Building.

Author Dr. Ben Bradley is a cultural and environmental historian of western Canada, who has written extensively on car culture, parks, and historic sites, will examine motoring’s crucial role in shaping common experiences of the region’s landscapes and communities.

It shows that the motoring public’s travel patterns, viewing habits, and popular tastes inexorably affected the places they passed through.

It also emphasizes that the costs and benefits of this transformation were unevenly distributed: some places in B.C. accelerated ahead in the fast lane, while others were bypassed or left stranded off the road. 

Yellowhead Pass, Moose Lake, Addie, 1970s

“Dr. Bradley will present a fascinating perspective linking the development of northern BC and the Cariboo to the consumer interests and needs of the motoring public. Such a unique perspective will be sure to inform and delight audience members,” says Erica Hernández-Read, Interim Head of the Northern BC Archives at UNBC.

Like much of the province, northern B.C. and the Cariboo were transformed by automobility during the years 1925-1975, both concretely and in terms of how they were perceived by visitors and residents.

A new geography of competition emerges along highway verges, as businesses offered food, gas, lodging, and more to the motoring public. Roadsides came to be festooned with scenic pullouts, viewpoints and a constellation of natural and historical attractions. Even seemingly anti-modern sites (and sights) such as pastoral rural scenes, wilderness parks, and heritage sites were intertwined with a complex network of fixed infrastructure and flexible consumer technology.

Quesnel, 1960s

Bradley’s current research projects include a history of roadside fruit stands in southern B.C., and a socio-cultural history of (im)mobility and rural modernity in the Robson Valley and Yellowhead Pass.

He is the author of British Columbia by the Road: Car Culture and the Making of a Modern Landscape (2017) and co-author of Moving Natures: Mobility and the Environment in Canadian History (2016).

Williams Lake, entrance arch

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