The Skookum Slide – A Slippery Slope into Childhood Memory

Few communities can lay claim to having a large amusement park attraction in their downtown core, but from 1969 to 1973, Richmond could. The Skookum Slide was only in existence for a few years, but is remembered fondly by those who grew up here in that time, despite tales of the occasional bruise or broken bone.

This image, looking south east toward No.3 Road in 1973, shows the Skookum Slide on the right, the back of the Richmond Savings Credit Union in the centre and Wosk's Furniture on the left. The red roof of the Dairy Queen can be seen above the Credit Union. City of Richmond Archives photo 2008 39 2 34.

This image, looking south east toward No.3 Road in 1973, shows the Skookum Slide on the right, the back of the Richmond Savings Credit Union in the centre and Wosk’s Furniture on the left. The red roof of the Dairy Queen can be seen above the Credit Union. City of Richmond Archives photo 2008 39 2 34.

John B. Stokes, President of Super Slide Limited of Vancouver, met with the Director of Planning for the Township of Richmond in late August 1968 and presented his proposal for this new recreational facility. Slides of this type had been operated for several years in California and across the southern United States, but they had not been adapted for the conditions to be found in more northern climates. The Richmond Slide was to be the first in North America fitted with a permanent roof.

Market research indicated that a population of 100,000 was needed to support the operation of the slide. Richmond’s population was only about 55,000, but the company felt that the township’s easy access from South-west Vancouver by car would provide more than enough business to make it profitable.

Tickets for the Skookum Slide.

Tickets for the Skookum Slide. Image submitted to the Friends of the Richmond Archives Facebook page.

Ride prices would be set at one ride for 10 cents, three rides for 25 cents, eight rides for 50 cents and twenty rides for $1.00. Having general approval from the Planning Department, the company, which had changed its name to Skookum Slide Ltd., proceeded to search for a building location in the No.3 Road and Westminster Highway area.

A letter from Skookum Slide President John B. Stokes. City of Richmond Archives MR SE 92 SS7, file 43.

A letter from Skookum Slide President John B. Stokes. City of Richmond Archives MR SE 92 SS7, file 43.

They were wanting to lease a property for at least ten years, but ended up sub-leasing parts of lots from the Richmond Savings Credit Union and the Dairy Queen, a lease which would run out on August 31, 1973.

A plan showing the proposed location for the slide on property sub-leased from the Credit Union and Dairy Queen. City of Richmond Archives accession 5337 43.

A plan showing the proposed location for the slide on property sub-leased from the Credit Union and Dairy Queen. City of Richmond Archives MR SE 92 SS 7, file 43.

Construction of the slide was underway by January 1969 with an opening planned for March 1st.

A clipping from the Richmond Review, January 8, 1969.

A clipping from the Richmond Review, January 8, 1969.

The operation of the slide was very simple, with no moving parts other than the customers, consisting of “boys and girls from 6 to 16 years of age” according to marketing information. Patrons would climb the stairs and ramps to the top of the slide, buy their tickets, be issued a burlap sack to sit on and ride the slide’s three “loops” to the bottom while music played at high volume over the sound system. Once the slide tickets ran out, the Dairy Queen was only┬ásteps away to enjoy a dipped cone or a banana split until Mom and Dad finished shopping at the nearby shopping centres.

Plan of the Skookum Slide. City of Richmond Archives PL 248 COM 5.

The lease ran out in September 1973 and plans for expansion of the Credit Union and Richmond Square Shopping Centre settled any possibility of extending the slide’s lease. The operation was shut down and the slide removed, leaving some extra parking spaces at the Credit Union and a few nostalgic memories in the minds of those who grew up in Richmond in the early 1970s.

Looking north toward the Skookum Slide from Richmond Square. City of Richmond Archives photo 2008 39 2 246.

Looking north toward the Skookum Slide from Richmond Square, 1973. City of Richmond Archives photo 2008 39 2 246.