Behind the real estate cavity shown above, there is the beginning of a story about a Vancouver personality. The cavity is, I’m convinced, the location in the 1920s of the Hotel Martinique Smoke Shop at 1184 Granville Street. Today, the wall on the left is part of the Howard Johnson Hotel, the same wall facing the photographer of the 1926 image below where Borden’s Evaporated Milk is advertised. The structure on the right of the 2014 photo is the former Bank of Nova Scotia at Granville and Davie; today, the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
So what is the story behind this empty space? Well, according to Vancouver Noir – an excellent history of the city’s seamier side – the Martinique Smoke Shop was the headquarters of Ab Forshaw – the “lynchpin of the gambling and bookmaking network in the city”. (1) I’m guessing that the smoke shop was an early HQ; later, he moved up in the world (literally and figuratively) by renting the entire top floor of the Vancouver Block along with eight others who, with him, constituted a gambling/bookmaking consortium known as ‘the big nine’.
Forshaw was pretty good at staying out of the public eye. But in 1952, things began going pear-shaped for him. He was a central figure in a huge bookmaking conspiracy trial in Vancouver that year. I couldn’t see any evidence that he did jail time, but it is possible justice was meted out in a somewhat more ‘rough and ready’ fashion. Three hours after giving testimony at the bookmaking trial, Forshaw was slugged and robbed at his home in West Vancouver (he lived on Robin Hood Drive, by the way!) Then, in 1955, Forshaw was charged by California authorities with manslaughter in connection with the death of “Vancouver tennis ace”, Billy Green, while driving an automobile in that state. (2) As far as I can tell, Forshaw was never convicted of of the charge.
Albert Edward Forshaw died in July, 1972. Of a heart attack.
(1) Vancouver Noir. Diane Purvey and John Belshaw. Vancouver: Anvil Press, 2011, p. 152.
(2) I have had no success tracking down anything else about Billy Green. If anyone can fill me in on his story, I’d appreciate it.