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_MG_9163canon obm 1976 wix
Canon Van group elmbridge wix
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Before Canon came to Canada under their own management two other companies distributed Canon cameras here. First was “Pearson, Taylor and Carson Ltd” a Western Canada based company that started selling radios in the 1930’s and quickly evolved into a large and eclectic wholesaler and retailer of electronics, automotive parts, record albums, and cameras. At one point they also owned several Western Canada radio stations, small and large, including Vancouvers well known CKWX in its early days.

After Taylor, Pearson & Carson came Bell and Howell, a large American camera and projector manufacturing company with a history going back to 1907. Bell and Howell had taken on distribution and promotion of Canon cameras in the USA and Canada in 1961. Canon wanted a well known American company such as Bell and Howell to distribute their cameras here in order to give the North American buyer a familiar and respectable name to backup their products. Canon considered this collaboration a necessity at a time when many American buyers looked upon Japanese products with suspicion. This collaboration lasted until 1973 in Canada and 1976 in the USA.


At various times during the Bell and Howell years some Canon models had the inscription “Bell and Howell/Canon” engraved on their name plates. In some less common cases only “Bell and Howell” was engraved on an otherwise completely original Canon still or movie camera. These cameras are relatively rare today.

Bell and Howell Canada’s head office was located in Ontario and managed by Austin Delaney. Don Phillips was Marketing Manager and David Beaching was National Sales Manager. Dave Beaching lived in Vancouver and had met Bert DeFehr while Bert was managing five departments at the Hamilton Harvey Department Store in Surrey, British Columbia. Dave and Bert got on well and after some time and consultation Bert joined Bell and Howell in the spring of 1970.


In 1970 Bell and Howell Canada products included their US built movie cameras, movie and slide projectors, Canon cameras, and Panasonic tape recorders and stereo audio equipment sold with Bell and Howell branding.

Bert DeFehr’s home, which was located at Bennett Rd and Minoru Blvd in Richmond BC, became the western Canada Bell and Howell warehouse where he stored as much as $50,000 worth of stock in his basement. A handsome sum in 1970, enough to buy a new home at the time.  He kept a telex machine in his basement which clattered away incoming orders from the Bell & Howell head office in Toronto, usually at 6:30 in the morning often waking his young daughter who’s bedroom was next to the machine. (if you are too young to know what a telex machine is please go to Dr. Google!) Orders were shipped and received via Loomis courier or more often than not, delivered in person by Bert.


Canon Optics and Business Machines Canada Ltd was incorporated September 13th 1972. The Canadian contract with Bell and Howell was coming to a close at the end of June 1973 and Canon was ready to take over distribution in Canada on its own come July 1st. At this time Bert asked Don Phillips, who had left Bell and Howell and was now working exclusively for Canon, if he could come over to join Canon too. Bert was hired immediately and was soon selling 150% over quota, winning sales awards, and making a name for himself in the west. By early 1974 Bert was promoted to Western Sales Manager (west of Ontario) and at the same time Leo Robichaud became Eastern Sales Manager.

The new Canon head office was located at 3245 American Drive in Mississauga, Ontario which included a warehouse and service center. Canon realized that in a country as large as Canada a western office would also be required. Bert was called upon by Canon management in Japan to find a location close to the Vancouver airport suitable for the new western division facility. This new building would include, like Mississauga, office space, a warehouse, and a camera service center.


Canon Optics and Business Machines Canada Ltd opened its western office in July 1973 at 735 Elmbridge Way in Richmond, British Columbia, a short distance from the Vancouver airport. Bert, besides being Canon's new western sales manager was now also manager of the new rapidly growing office. At the same time a camera service manager and factory trained technician, Yukio Tabiraki, was supplied by Canon, Japan.


Mamoru (Mike) Maeda (1938-2017), nephew of Takeo Maeda (one of the original founders of Canon and president of Canon for several years in the 1970’s) was director of Canadian operations at the Mississauga offices. Mike had come originally to North America to help set up Canon USA in New York in the 1950’s and worked out the original agreement with Bell and Howell for distribution rights. Once he came to overlook the Canadian operation he never left and lived the rest of his life in Canada. Mike was well liked by everyone that knew him over his many years with Canon.

Canon USA history: https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/about/about-canon/canon-history


Gary Cullen worked at Canon Optics and Business Machines Canada Ltd’s camera service center in Vancouver from early 1975 to 1979. Cullen opened his own camera repair business “Shutter Relief Camera Repair” in 1979 which he sold in 1982. It then became “Brighouse Camera Repair”. Cullen went on to create “Canadian Holographic Developments Ltd” and work in the holography/laser industry from 1979-2001.

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