This portion of the interview is about Bill Copeland's childhood in Burnaby and Vancouver, his father's work as a miner, his war service, education, and his three children
Mayor Bill Copeland cutting the ribbon for the opening of the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts accompanied by Jack and Doris Shadbolt and Councillors Doug Drummond and Derek Corrigan, 1995. Item no. 535-0067
Recording is of an interview with former Burnaby Mayor William J. Copeland conducted by Rod Fowler. Bill Copeland was one of eleven participants interviewed as part of the SFU/Burnaby Centennial Committee's oral history series titled, "Voices of Burnaby". The interview is mainly about Bill Copeland’s education, career and experience as a Burnaby firefighter from 1955 to 1987, and his work for the union International Association of Fire Fighters. He talks about his early family life in Burnaby and Vancouver, war service, training with the Federal Fire Service, the organizations he has belonged to, and the careers of his three children. He briefly talks about Burnaby politics and his unexpected election to Mayor of Burnaby. Major themes of the interview, described by track: Track 1: Organizations - Unions; Public Services - Fire Protection; International Association of Fire Fighters; Track 2: Public Services - Fire Protection; Track 3: Elections; Track 4: family history and education; Track 5: Public Services - Fire Protection; Track 6: Elections
William John (Bill) Copeland (1927-2002) was born in Vancouver May 19, 1927. As a young child he lived with his parents on Southwood Street in South Burnaby on a chicken ranch. Bill’s father was a miner and was often away from home. The family moved to Pioneer Mines at Bridge River for a few years and then moved back to Vancouver in 1941 when his father contracted silicosis. Bill served in the navy for about a year near the end of WWII, was in the Canadian Merchant Marine and worked as a pipe fitter, before beginning his career as a fire fighter. He trained with the Federal Fire Service and worked two years at the Wireless Station in Delta. In 1955 he started work as Fire Fighter No. 53 in Burnaby, retiring 33 years later in 1987. Most of his career was spent at the Control Station or Number 1 Firehall, first located at Wiilingdon and Hastings (now No.5 Station) and later on Sperling near Canada Way. Bill worked as a first aid instructor, eventually moving into the training office, and retired as assistant chief. In 1987, shortly after retiring, Bill was asked to run for Mayor for the Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA). Much to his surprise he won. He served with distinction for three terms (1987-1996).
Bill, his wife Ruth, and their three children, Doug and Dan (both firefighters) and Emily (a teacher), lived in North Burnaby on Cliff Avenue, the family home for about 35 years. Bill was active in many organizations including the Cliff Avenue soccer organization, St. John Ambulance, Burnaby Red Cross, and CNIB, among others. He began representing firefighters locally in the International Association of Fire Fighters in the early 1960s, eventually becoming President of the provincial association and then Vice President of the 6th District representing Western Canada.
Rod Fowler returned to university as a mature student in the 1980s after working about twenty years in the field of economics and business computerization in England, Europe and Western Canada. He graduated with a BA from SFU in both History and Sociology in 1987, his MA degree in Geography in 1989, and his PhD in Cultural Geography at SFU. He taught courses in Geography, Sociology, History and Canadian Studies at several Lower Mainland colleges, before becoming a full time member of the Geography Department at Kwantlen University College.
Interviews were digitized in 2015 allowing them to be accessible on Heritage Burnaby. The digitization project was initiated by the Community Heritage Commission with support from City of Burnaby Council.
Track four of interview with William J. Copeland
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