When Flying Was Still Exotic


VPL 27452 Waitresses-stewardesses at the Sky Diner Cafe 1947 Province photo.
VPL 27452 Waitresses-stewardesses at the Sky Diner Cafe 1947 Province photo.

This image is one of several available online at VPL showing Clancy’s Sky Diner Cafe. This unusual cafe took clever advantage of the long, narrow interior space to create the impression of a DC-3 aircraft fuselage. The Sky Diner seems to have been established in the late 1940s and continued to be in business at 776 Granville (near the former Birks building and the Vancouver Block) until, I believe, the 1960s. The Sky Diner was part of a local restaurant food chain which included the various White Lunch establishments.

The following charming vignette about the Sky Diner was offered by Harvie Davidson, in response to a very detailed and helpful history of local eateries written by Mia Stainsby for the Vancouver Sun: “[The Sky Diner] had the tail section of a commercial sized aircraft jutting out from the restaurant and partially protruding over the sidewalk. Inside along the walls, moving scenery passed by rectangular portholes.” I take it that the ‘rectangular portholes’ mentioned by Mr. Davidson are those that appear along the two long walls in the image above.

Remarkably, given the atypical neon signage attached to the structure, there are no exterior images available (at least, none that I could find), solely of the Sky Diner. However, there are some Foncie photos of various Vancouver residents and visitors, collected courtesy of the Knowledge Network, which show the Sky Diner sign in profile, in the background. Here is one:

Foncie’s Corner, Knowledge Network. “May Shopping” 1956. Foncie Pulcie photo.

I’ve noticed recently that Clancy’s was one of a few restaurants at that location. A 1940 photo taken by Joe Iaci of Kandid Kamera Snaps (Foncie’s first employer, made after Foncie had left the firm), shows in the background a neon sign for Chanticleer Lunch with a rooster mounted over the name. A 1946 image (a Foncie/Iaci-like photo but unattributed to them or anyone else) shows in the background the old Chanticleer rooster sign, but the name beneath had been changed to Rooster Lunch. There are no interior shots of which I’m aware showing the interior of the cafe under its Chanticleer/Rooster management, but it seems safe to assume that the decor was not of an aircraft, nor very likely of a barnyard! (“Chanticleer”, by the way, apparently is a reference to a male vocal ensemble, such as the U.K. group, The Kings Singers, or this group. It is also – probably more pertinently – a literary reference to a rooster who appears in the fables of Reynard the Fox).

vpl 21401 Stores on Granville Street. 1923. Dominion Photo.
VPL 21401. Stores on Granville Street. 1923. Dominion Photo. (Note: Chanticleer Lunch, as it then was, appears to have been on far right of the image).

There was another Clancy’s eatery, the “Clancy’s Downtown Restaurant” – from at least 1955-65 – located in the Roger’s Building, adjacent to O. B. Allan Jewellers. See below:

CVA 1385-3 - [O.B. Allan store, corner of Granville and Pender Streets] 1965 or earlier
CVA 1385-3 – [O.B. Allan store, corner of Granville and Pender Streets]. The sign for Clancy’s Downtown Restaurant is adjacent to the Jewellers and seems to be pointing down the stairs which led (and lead) downstairs to the basement. 1965 or earlier.

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14 Responses to When Flying Was Still Exotic

  1. jmv says:

    A great post! I had missed the fact that VPL has this series of photos of the interior; we need to get these scanned in at high resolution, pronto! One of the great lost gems of Granville’s history!

  2. What an amazing place the Sky Diner must have been! As child of the mid to late 1960’s in Vancouver, I don’t recall it. My own Foncie shot with my Mom and 10-year-old me on the way to a movie (the re-release of Old Yeller!) taken in the the fall of 1965, shows the The Uptowner Restaurant or a Murray Goldman shop in the area where The Sky Diner would have been. So sorry I missed it! Thanks for the pictures and a great post!

  3. Richard McKie says:

    Fascinating information. My Mum, Dorothy McKie was manager of the Sky Diner from around 1957-58 until 1964. I loved watching the moving pictures behind the “cabin windows” in the dining room. I believe that they were long murals painted on canvas that ran on a continuous loop. On Saturdays my Step-dad would take me by the restaurant to say hi to Mum, and the cooks would make me up a special plate of silver dollar pancakes. After breakfast we would head down to Pier B/C and check out the ships and the trains. Good Memories!

  4. DW says:

    I only just saw this post while searching for pix of Clancy’s Sky Diner. I remember it well – it was a high point of my childhood dining experience! lol Much preferred it to Scott’s, which was in the same block(?). As referred to in the article, both sides of the restaurant had airplane “windows” and there were canvas loops with scenery painted on it that continuously scrolled past the windows from one end of the restaurant to the other, so you could see the same scenery move past down the full length of the restaurant while you ate.

    • mdm says:

      Thanks for contributing your memories of the SkyDiner! You are correct; it was in the same block as Scott’s (776 was the SkyDiner; 722 was Scott’s – it was a street level tenant of the Vancouver Block).

  5. Richard McKie says:

    My Mum was working at Clancy’s when she met my Step-dad. Apparently he was also interested in one of the ladies at Scott’s (The name Hazel comes to mind) but my Mum won out. He was an English ex-pat who always dressed well and the ladies in Clancy’s were quite impressed. His last name was Wilson and he worked at J.C. Wilson Paper Company on Homer St. The ladies assumed that he was the boss’s son as he always wore a suit when he came in. Turned out the name was just a co-incidence and he worked in the warehouse! He was a great guy none the less.

  6. ROBERT BUTLER says:

    During high school, I worked at Clancy’s Sky Diner during 1960-61. Started as dishwasher, graduated to bus boy, then into the salad and sandwich bar. Great place and people to work in and for.
    My recollection is that Clancy’s and the White Lunch restaurants were run by the same group of people.
    And I definitely recall the Foncie camera guy always nearby taking photos of people on Granville street, rain or shine.

  7. Nelson Kennedy says:

    In your early description you reference the Sky Diner being modelled after a DC 8 fuselage. More likely a DC 3, since the DC 8 was not thought of until 2 decades later. My godfather Alexi Mitchell was the manager there in the early ‘50’s.

  8. mdm says:

    Thanks very much for keeping your eyes peeled for details. I’ve made the change to DC-3.

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