1944 to 1980: The Beginning
Houle’s story began in 1944 when Lionel Houle and his father realized their dream of opening an electrical store. This store, which they named Houle Electric, provided electrical products and services to the residents of Port Alberni. In 1951, with nothing but a pickup truck and a utility trailer, Lionel left the Island and relocated to Terrace. Four years later in 1955, Lionel moved to Kitimat, which up until then, was a closed town for Alcan employees only. Despite many layoffs and the threat of bankruptcy, Lionel managed to keep Houle operational through subsidies from other enterprises, including a local furniture store.
Lionel received a break in 1959, landing a considerable project with Bird Construction to help the government relocate the inhabitants of Aklavik to the new town of Inuvik. The project involved building 150 homes, a hospital, nurses’ residences, and an RCMP station office. A year later, Lionel and his family moved again, this time to Strathmore Avenue in Burnaby. To keep costs down, Lionel’s used a converted yellow school bus in the backyard of his home as an office. It was not until 1963 that Lionel would relocate from this humble school bus office to a genuine commercial office on Joyce Street in Vancouver.