Recording is of an interview with former Mayor William “Bill” Lewarne, conducted by Rod Fowler. Bill Lewarne 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 Lewarne’s business and political careers, and memories of growing up in South Burnaby in the 1930s. Bill Lewarne talks about his parent’s origins, his family and community struggles during the Depression, the interurban, his education, war service, and joining his father's business. He describes the start, operation and expansion of the family ice cream business, and how business life compared to political life. The interview explores the role of politics in community affairs, his political activities, the history of the BVA, and his involvement in various community organizations. To view “Narrow By” terms for each track, expand this description and see “Notes”.
William Alfred “Bill” Lewarne was born in Burnaby in 1926 to Ethel Cecilia Leer (1899- ) and Alfred Lewarne (1893-1962). The family, Ethel, Alfred and their three children Patricia, Beverley and William, moved to a house on Nelson Avenue in Alta Vista in 1931. Ethel still lived in the family home in 1990. Bill Lewarne attended Nelson Avenue School and South Burnaby High School (1932-1944). His father Alfred worked at Colony Farms as a dairy inspector and then for the Port of Vancouver Dairy before being laid off early in the Depression. The family struggled until in 1936 Alfred started his own ice cream business. After graduation Bill was in the army for two years, taking a refrigeration course under the veteran’s training benefit, before joining his father’s business. Three generations of the family operated the successful company, expanding from wholesale, retail and distribution of ice cream products into refrigerated warehouses and the wholesale ice business, until the business was sold to its competitor Dairyland in 1989. Bill Lewarne entered politics in 1965, first with the Nonpartisan Association (NPA) and then as a founder of the Burnaby Citizens Association (BCA). He served as an alderman on Burnaby Council 1973-1975 and 1977-1981 and as Mayor 1981-1987. In 1979 he ran for provincial office for the Social Credit Party against Rosemary Brown but lost.
Bill Lewarne married June Lawrence and they had three children Robert, Leslie and Janice. He was active in many organizations: Burnaby/Willingdon Liberal Association, Seton Villa, Irish Fusileers of Canada, Lions Club, Rotary Club, Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, and the Burnaby Hospital Foundation, and continued to be active on the Board of the BCA. Bill Lewarne died in 1995.
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 ten of interview with Bill Lewarne
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