Rocket Ship for the Ages Built by Union Labour

Published by BC Labour Heritage Centre on

Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 280 PNE parade float, 1936. Vancouver Archives, Audrey Gordon photo, CVA 376-78.

For decades, the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) was kicked off with a massive parade through the streets of Vancouver. School children received free admission tickets to the fair with their final report cards. The annual exhibition was more than rides, food booths and chamois salespeople. The PNE and its parade were working class entertainment that showcased handicrafts, agriculture and home arts from around the province.

On August 26, 1936 the Sheet Metal Workers International Union Local 280, won grand prize in the “Parade of Progress” marking the 75th anniversary of the Canadian Pacific Exhibition and the Golden Jubilee of the City of Vancouver.

The rocket was later mounted at the Vancouver Airport where it stayed until 1972 when rust took its toll and it was scrapped. City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1376-360.

A rusted, sad rocket sits at the Vancouver airport in 1974. Courtesy Henri Roubideau.

The replica rocket was built in 1985 and is displayed by the Cambie Street bridge. Eve Lazarus photo.

Local 280 built a replica rocket in 1985 to commemorate the City of Vancouver’s centennial. It was displayed at Expo 86 and then relocated to its current site at Cambie Street and 2nd Avenue. It was removed briefly for construction of the Canada Line.

This video, produced by the BC Federation of Labour in 1988 tells the story of the “Sheet Metal Rocket” from 1936 until 1986 and includes a rare interview with Lew Perry, the original designer.