To keep up with all 50 moments highlighted in our anniversary issue, check in here.
Fifty years ago, Western Living was born on a kitchen table, and I can’t think of a more fitting launchpad for the five-decade journey that followed.
As we celebrate this magazine’s half-century of reflecting life in Western Canada, it’s worthwhile to note that its history goes even deeper than that. Its predecessor, Western Homes and Living, still has many a fan for its ’50s- and ’60s-era documentation and celebration of West Coast Modernism. But when it folded in 1970, Liz and Jack Bryan picked up the torch, reinvented, and carried on.
The very first issue of Western Living featured a home designed by Hassell/Griblin and furnished by interior designer Robert Ledingham.
Liz—an editor at WHL—and her husband Jack founded Western Living in 1971, after Liz began feeling disheartened by the lack of B.C.-based magazines. And she soon discovered she wasn’t alone. “When Western Homes ceased publication in May of last year,” she wrote in her first editor’s letter, “its absence was felt by a great many readers and advertisers, many of whom took the trouble to phone me personally and ask if and when it could be started again. Well, here it is.”
Other stories in the first issue included a feature on “supergraphics,” with tips on how to do it yourself (apply tape, paint), and a “Soft and Clinging” fashion feature with designs by Yolanta and Woodwards.
They sat at the table, they dreamed, they made it. “I wrote stories, Jack took photos,” she told us back when the magazine was but a youthful 40 years old. “Type went out for setting and we pasted up the magazine (yes, on our kitchen table) page by page. Looking back, it wasn’t much of a magazine. But Western Living was born, and when something is born, you keep it alive.”
And how grateful so many of us are for that kitchen-table dream.
“Arthurtexture” from November 1992, chronicling the rise and fall and rise of Arthur Erickson.
It’s been a journey going through those 50 years of magazines to create this special anniversary issue. Just how do you distill 50 years and thousands of pages into just one issue? Every decade and every former editor brought their own unique take on what it means to live in Western Canada.
A profile on “The Premiers at Home” included Bill and Lillian Vander Zalm in October 1989—spotlighting both his life in charge of B.C. and hers running the Fantasy Gardens theme park.
For the team here, that distillation was a divide-and-conquer approach, with our editors and art director each bringing a stack of bound copies from the archives to our homes, and using the magic of our iPhones to scan anything that leaped out from the pages. And the discoveries ranged from the familiar—a 1992 story on the legendary architect Arthur Erickson’s career, titled “Arthurtexture”—to the delightfully surprising (a 1989 story on “The Premiers at Home”; a 1971 bathroom with pink and orange cabinetry and vibrant violet counters; so, so many ’70s-steamy hot-tub ads without a stitch of clothing in sight). We regularly stumbled across stories from the past that felt incredibly au courant... like an April 2000 piece on “working when you want, where you want, from your chic satellite office at home.”
In “Second Base” in April 2000, writer Anne Suche admired a few “chic satellite offices from home.”
The 50 moments we’ve highlighted in print, and will be releasing online throughout July and August, are the result of that massive effort, and we could have easily spotlighted tenfold more.
So what does it mean to be a part of a magazine that celebrates where you live, as I have, for almost two decades? It’s everything, really. In the nearly 20 years that I’ve been at this publication, it’s continued to feel like more than just a magazine that lands on our readers’ doorsteps each month. It’s the Western Living you grow up with—the one you see your parents flipping through, that sits on the coffee table to inspire you for the time when you have your own home, your own coffee table. I’ve always been proud of the fact that readers feel a kind of ownership of the magazine; proud that we’ve helped create a community that celebrates life in Western Canada—which we all know is one of the best places on earth.
So, so many naked spa ads in the late ’70s—including this Jack K. Lillie Ltd. spa ad from February 1978.
When Liz and Jack created WL to fill a void, they touched on something that was so very needed, and continues to be.
Coming off of the last year and a half, when our world was both united and fragmented—isolated to stay safe, together in our battle to come back to some form of normalcy again—it feels all the more poignant to be celebrating our togetherness, and where we’ve been for the last five decades.
Our 50th anniversary issue is available now.
Happy 50th WL—with so many thanks to all of you who have been a part of her very long life. May we all come together again over our kitchen tables for many more years to come.