cva 289-003.361 - calithumpian parade - bathing beauties july 1, 1926

CVA 289-003.361 – Calithumpian Parade on Dominion Day (or Canada Day, as it has less prosaically been known since 1982) . Float of Jantzen swim wear (fn1). July 1, 1926. Many Dominion Day parades (notably in 1925) were identified in press reports as being calithumpian in nature. Just what was meant by that reference was left, largely, to readers’ imaginations.

What on earth is a “calithumpian” and what is its relevance in a blog about how Vancouver once was?

An article in the Woodstock (Ontario) Sentinel-Review, had this to say:

According to the Thamesford [Ontario] Calithumpian website, the word Calithumpian is an old English expression that is defined as a spontaneous clown parade or a party held after a public hanging. .  .

11 May 2017 Woodstock Sentinel-Review 

Celebratory public hangings?² Has this family-oriented blog taken a wrong turn?

Fear not, gentle reader. Read on.

The first press report mentioning Vancouver “calithumpians” seems to have been in an 1890 edition of the Vancouver Daily World. In a detailed account of the 1890 Labor Day events, it was noted that there had been a parade (or “procession”):

An interesting part of the procession, although not prepared by the [planning] committee, was a crowd of calithumpians mounted on fiery charges and fitted up in the most grotesque costumes. Colored men [probably not black men; more likely, white guys in ‘black face’] and clowns were the favored styles of masquerade. They kept good order and seemed to give the spice and variety to the procession. Some of their horses were fitted out with men’s trousers and braces [suspenders, presumably].

8 September 1890 Vancouver Daily World

This clipping is noteworthy here for at least three reasons. First, “calithumpians” is used in this report to refer not to the parade/procession, but to a subset of the participants. Second, these participants were identified as “colored men and clowns…[and] horses fitted out with men’s trousers and braces.” And third, the calithumpians were not ‘official’; their participation wasn’t planned, but seemingly spontaneous.

In 1925, it was announced by the Dominion Day planning group, that the parade associated with the occasion that year, would be calithumpian in nature. It seems that the term had fallen into disuse since the late 19th century, and the author of an article in the Vancouver Sun posed a good question at the outset of his piece:

What is a calithumpian parade? That is the question being asked by thousands of Vancouver citizens following the announcement by the committee in charge of the Dominion Day celebration that such a parade will be one of the great features of the mammoth display proposed for the celebration of Canada’s natal day in Vancouver. Well, one description is that  it is a boisterous, noisy and spectacular compilation of entertaining public features, pleasing to the eye. . . [It] resembles the Mardi Gras, which has made New Orleans famous, and will be the first parade of its kind held on the Pacific Coast. It consists of a burlesque of every known animal, prehistoric or existent, birds of the air, fowl of the earth, fish of the sea. Every animal from an elephant to a cat will be represented. Throughout the parade, fifty to seventy-five clowns – amateur and professional – will contribute their antics to the general revelry.  Hick bands, colored minstrels, wonderful impersonators of public and private citizens, will also be on the programme.

27 April 1925 Vancouver Sun

The Province (in a piece published 8 June 1925) pointed out that the Dominion Day parade of 1925 would have “floats [that] will be historic, fanciful and funny. . . and will be the most elaborate in design ever attempted in the city. . . [and] the committee has been informed that thousands of visitors will come to the city from the United States for the celebration, and it is expected one of the greatest crowds on record will be on hand. . .”

Post-1925 press mentions of calithumpians referred exclusively to parades (not participants).  And these reports nearly always referred to parades that a present-day Vancouver resident would instantly recognize. There would be clowns, floats and marching bands, as opposed to the earlier typical participants – soldiers, horse-drawn wagons, and (in 1890, at least) horses fitted out with men’s trousers!

Another new element of the 1925-and-later parades was that they seemed to be designed to appeal to outsiders as compared with earlier parades which were principally for residents. Perhaps that was the most significant meaning of the 1925-and-later calithumpian parades: they were ‘thumping’ the tourism drum.

cva 149-04 - section of dominion day parade on cordova street between abbott and cambie looking east july 1 1887 j a brock photo

CVA 149-04 – Section of Dominion Day Parade on Cordova Street. July 1 1887. J A Brock photo. A pre-1925 parade, consisting principally of soldiers marching and horses drawing wagons. It seems that the calithumpian nature of the 1925 Dominion Day parade was the turning point – floats, bands, and clowns were in the ascendancy.


¹The corporate slogan of Jantzen for a number of years (displayed on the float) was “The suit that changed bathing to swimming”. For more on Jantzen and its connection to Vancouver, see here.

²The last public execution in B.C. was in 1959 at Oakalla Prison, in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.

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Valentin Shabaeff’s Lost Art in the Hotel Vancouver

Update (Originally published December 2018)


The artist, Valentin Firsov Shabaeff, would have been about 86 when this photo was taken in December 1977. It was taken at the home of Vladimir and Svetlana Rajewsky in Montreal. Shabaeff is sitting in front of his painting, Wealth of Canada. The photo has been kindly provided by Irina Rajewsky (daughter of V & S Rajewsky). Irina is the current owner of Wealth of Canada.

Mini Bio

Valentin Firsov Shabaeff (1891-1978) was born in central Russia. He was admitted to the Moscow Art Academy at the age of 16, where he studied for five years; subsequently, he studied at the Imperial Academy of Art in St. Petersburgh for four years. After this formal training, he travelled for three years in Japan, China, and Indonesia prior to moving to the U.S.A. in about 1925. He moved to Canada in 1929.

He lived mainly in the Montreal area during many of his years in Canada. However, he was known to move around quite frequently to various locations in Ontario and Quebec.

He married his first wife, Grace Dempster (b?-2009) in September, 1946. She is described in press reports as being a former school teacher of Montreal and Toronto. Valentin and Grace had a daughter together, Agnia, born in 1950. The marriage was dissolved at some point and Valentin married Sonia Shabaeff (her pre-marital surname is unknown by me).

Shabaeff in Vancouver

Valentin Shabaeff spent 1939-40 in Vancouver. He was in the city principally to create art for the current Hotel Vancouver in anticipation of the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the city in May 1939. The Royal Couple would be staying at the hotel.

While he was in Vancouver working on his contributions to the Hotel Vancouver, he taught elementary drawing at the Vancouver Art School (Jack Shadbolt and P. V. Ustinov were teaching intermediate and advanced drawing, at the school, respectively). Shabaeff had a studio, which also served as his residence, at #60 – 429 West Pender (in the still-standing Hutchinson Block).

Two Panels in the Cafe of the “Golden Inn”²

The best documented work by Shabaeff was in the hotel cafe; it consisted of panels at opposite ends of the room.

In the splendid cafe, Valentin Shabaeff, Russian-Canadian artist of great reputation, now living in Vancouver, has created two wonderful panels in gold-leaf and Venetian red for the ends of the room.

— Vancouver Sun. April 29, 1939

Whether the panels were made of metal or some other material, isn’t clear to me. I’m inclined to believe that it was metal, given the appearance of the panels in photographs and the mention of “gold-leaf” above, but I’ve not seen any documentation explicitly confirming that.³ 

Primary Panel

The primary panel was at the end of the cafe space where the podium would be situated (if there were a speaker at an event).

Irina Rajewsky, upon reading a much earlier version of this post, contacted me to let me know that she had a Shabaeff painting on which the principal cafe panel was based. The painting, called Wealth of Canada, was originally owned by her parents, Vladimir and Svetlana Rajewsky and today is owned by Irina. She offered to send me a photograph of the Wealth of Canada; it appears below.


Wealth of Canada, a 2.5×2.5m oil painting  on linen by Valentin Shabaeff, ca1938. This served as a preliminary effort by Sbabaeff to work out some of his ideas for the work of his (shown below) in the cafe of Hotel Vancouver. This photo of Wealth of Canada has been kindly provided by Irina Rajewsky, its current owner.

Wealth of Canada is a much busier work than the hotel panel which was based on it. While there appear to be five indigenous figures in WoC, there are two in the hotel panel, and both those in the panel are bearing fruit above or near their heads. I make no pretence to be expert in identifying indigenous people, and I suspect that Shabaeff wasn’t much of an expert in that area, either. The teepee in the upper left corner (as well as the brave on horseback) speaks to me of plains natives; but plains people, in my opinion, would have been very unlikely to have had access to the exotic variety of fruit held above the heads of the central figures in WoC.

Happily, these hints at plains people didn’t make it into the hotel panel. The clouds and sunbeams were introduced in the Hotel panel and the cloud formations are complemented well by the mountains/foothills landscape as well as the seascape.

Shabaeff HV3

This is one of the panels by Valentin Shabaeff that was in the cafe of the Hotel Vancouver. According to Irina Rajewsky, this work was based on the Wealth of Canada oil painting.

Secondary Panel

The other panel in the cafe was at the opposite end of the long, narrow room, above the doors through which diners would have entered. The photograph shown below was made of a Shell Oil Co. banquet held in the room. The second image shows a close-up of the panel (it is a crop of the first photo).

cva 586-5271 - shell oil banquet group don coltman 1944-2

CVA 586-5271 – Shell Oil banquet group Don Coltman photo. 1944.

crop of cva 586-5271 - shell oil banquet group don coltman 1944

Crop of CVA 586-5271.

This panel appears to consist of mirror images of a female human (indigenous?) figure. The grain theme surrounding the primary panel was echoed in the secondary panel.

Hotel Lobby

There is just one reference, that I was able to find, to Shabaeff’s work in the Hotel Vancouver lobby. A caption in February 11, 1939 Vancouver Sun (the photo is too poor to merit reproduction here) claims that the artist was working on “a Neptune and Steamship theme” for the lobby.

I was able to identify lobby art that appeared to be “Neptune”, but nothing that seemed to speak to a “steamship” theme. Neptune appears above the main lobby entry in the photo below. Neptune appears to me to be composed of similar material as that of the cafe panels.


Library and Archives Canada (Mikan No. 3355696) New Vancouver Hotel. Main entry to the lobby (Georgia St entry). 1939.

Shabaeff Neptune in HV3 lobby-2

Crop of the above image showing artwork near the ceiling of Neptune (center, by Shabaeff) and indigenous artwork (flanking Neptune, not by Shebaeff, I’m assuming).

I assume that the “Mermaid” figure (also in the lobby) was part of Shabaeff’s Neptune theme.


Library and Archives Canada Photo (Mikan No. 3356700). Vancouver Hotel – No. 3 lounge, ground floor. 1939. I would consider this to be part of the hotel lobby. Note Mermaid panel.

Hotel Ballroom

Shabaeff’s remaining art work for the Hotel Vancouver was perhaps the oddest. It was located in the ballroom. It was odd because the subject matter of this painting was outside of Shabeaff’s ‘wheelhouse’; the George III period really wasn’t his thing.

The Vancouver Sun had this to say about the mural in 1939:

At one end of the ballroom is the stage. At the other end is a large mural painting by Valentin Shabaeff. It is an outdoors scene, costumed for the  George III period, in which the Adam brothers rose to fame, and beautifully worked out in color.

— Vancouver Sun. May 27, 1939

So, the ballroom art was a painted mural of  English ‘lords and ladies’, I’m assuming, who were dressed in the style of the George III period.

CVA 595-4 - C.A.R.E.B. 14th Convention - Hotel Vancouver - Oct. 20-23, 1957 - Vancouver, B.C. 1957 Sunday Photos

CVA 595-4 – C.A.R.E.B. 14th Convention – Hotel Vancouver – Oct. 20-23, 1957 – Vancouver, B.C. 1957. Sunday Photos. This image was made in the Ballroom (from the stage platform, I suspect), looking towards Shabaeff’s mural on the far wall. Unhappily, only part of the mural is visible above, but this is the best image I could find of it anywhere.

VFS Mural in part from Sunday photo of CAREB's 14th Convention

The above is a crop of the previous Sunday photo of Shabaeff’s ballroom George III-style mural (in part).

Why would a mural in the style of the ‘mad’ King George III be thought to be honouring to George VI? Who can say what the motivation was to create this mural. One thing remains pretty clear, however: this subject would not have been Shabeaff’s choice if he’d had any say in the matter. It seems plain to me that he was told to paint such a scene.

All Gone

All of the art created by Shabaeff for the hotel (as well as most of the work created by other artists for the opening of the hotel in 1939 – including that of Beatrice Lennie, Jock Macdonald, and Lawrence Smith), is gone, today. It was lost during demolitions to renovate the hotel; probably most of them went during 1960s ‘improvements’ when the hotel was part of the Hilton chain.

Shabaeff died in 1978. I couldn’t find an obituary, but according to Irina Rajewsky, he was killed by a drunk driver who veered onto a downtown Montreal sidewalk upon which Shabaeff was walking.



¹Several of these bio details came from a feature article about Shabaeff in the Ottawa Journal, March 23, 1957.

² In the Hotel’s earliest period – particularly prior to its opening and for about a year after – it was known as the “Golden Inn”. (When the prose was really purple, it was sometimes called the “Great Golden Inn of the West”). I suspect that the “Golden Inn” name was conferred by the press (or perhaps by the PR people attached to the hotel) as way of distinguishing the new HV from the older one which was still standing at the SW corner of Granville and Georgia. The moniker may have been due to the appearance of the new hotel’s exterior due to the copper on its roof. The copper later changed appearance from its initial ‘golden’ colour to green. The Hotel Vancouver seems not to have been referred to as the Golden Inn in the local press after 1939.

³There is a hint in an article in the Vancouver Sun that his panel work (both in the cafe and in the lobby) may have been composed of bronze. This is by no means certain, however: “[Bronze] was used in the new hotel for many purposes — office fixtures, ornamental cornices and canopies, doors, balustrading, rails….In every case the metal was cast, wrought and finished in Vancouver…” (Vancouver Sun, May 27, 1939).

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The Spider and the Fly: Personality Politics at FBC – 1905

postcard showing interior of fbc hamilton:dunsmuir-side1 copy

Postcard showing the choir loft and organ of First Baptist Church, Vancouver (Hamilton and Dunsmuir), ca 1900.


It was the spring of 1905. First Baptist Church was still worshipping in the modest wooden building on Hamilton and Dunsmuir, but they had purchased the lot on Burrard and Nelson and were beginning to raise funds to build there.

The pastor, J. W. Litch, was new – he’d been in the job for just a few months following a year-long pulpit search made necessary by two years of disagreement over the previous pastor whom the congregation had ultimately urged (politely) to ‘hit the bricks’. This disagreement had caused more than 50 of the longest-standing members to march out of FBC in loyalty to the former minister; they’d formed a new church, called the West End Baptist Church.

And, to top it all off, there was a major fire in the Hamilton and Dunsmuir building that spring!

The officers and pastor of FBC surely had a full plate. One would have thought they’d have had neither energy nor inclination to engage in personality politics.

It Begins

From the minutes of FBC officers, March 14/05:

Pastor Litch… explained his position taken with the choir in regard to qualifications for [choir] membership, stating that he had requested the members to refrain from all questionable amusements, such as card playing, dancing, theatre, etc., which had resulted in a few of the members leaving. Also stating that he believed the rule of the church to the effect that the choir be made up of Christians, should be rigidly enforced.

Litch’s second point – that all choir members ought to be Christians – doesn’t seem unreasonable.

His first point, however, creates in my imagination a bizarre spectacle — of a choir loft filled with tenors wearing old-fashioned card-players’ visors and dealing hands of gin rummy while the sopranos ‘cut a rug’ with guys in the bass section!

Surely not.

Officers’ meetings for the next two months were consumed with negotiations with the West End Baptist Church and fire insurance companies.

However, by May, the pastor and officers had apparently recovered and were ready again to ‘do battle’ with the choir. But they had, by then, narrowed their target from the choir to an individual: organist/choirmaster, Mr. John Alexander.

A report of certain actions on the part of the choirmaster in criticizing the pastor and officers in choir practice and elsewhere was given (verbally) to the meeting and the following motion… was carried: The Secretary [to the Board of Officers] be instructed to request Mr. Alexander to meet the officers in this office on Monday evening next for the purpose of explaining certain matters.

I wonder if Mr. Alexander recited a line or two from the famous children’s cautionary verse as he went to this meeting:

“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the Spider to the Fly,
“’Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show you when you are there.”
“Oh no, no,” said the Fly, “to ask me is in vain;
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”
                                                                                       (Mary Howit, 1829)

Here is how the minutes record the meeting:

The chairman stated that he understood Mr. Alexander had at times, in choir meetings and elsewhere, questioned and criticized the pastor and officers and especially on Friday evening last, when… on several occasions [he] had spoken disrespectfully of the pastor and his judgement in the selection of hymns etc. and also that Mr. Alexander appeared to be generally dissatisfied and asked him if he wished to make any statement in regard to the matter.

Mr. Alexander denied ever having said anything except what would be justified in ordinary conversation. Claiming he had a right to express his opinion on any matter or individual and refused to make any statement without a definite charge laid and by some individual.

The officers ought to have called a halt to ‘the inquisition’ at this point and waited for a convenient opportunity to fire Alexander. Labour laws were much laxer in those days; it would not have been difficult.

But they seemingly couldn’t stop themselves. Everywhere they turned that year, there were crises over which they had little control: the West End church, a fire, debt on their current building, and the prospect of massive debt for a new one. But here, at last, was an issue they thought they could control!

Unfortunately, the subtlety of the spider was lost on them. They simply turned up the heat:

The chairman asked Mr. Alexander:

1. Have you spoken at the choir meeting in a way that would lead the [choir] members to think you did not respect the pastor… ? Mr. A. refused to answer.
2. Did you not one Sunday morning take issue with the pastor in regard to a certain hymn that was to be sung and prolong the discussion unduly past the hour for opening the service? Mr. A. could not recall it.

Mr. Litch came in at this point and asked several questions in regard to Mr. Alexander’s attitude on several occasions, but Mr. Alexander could not recall any occasion upon which he had acted or spoken in a manner that was not justified by the occasion…

Two months later, in late July, the officers wrote to choir members with the suggestion that “a vacation of three months should be given” during the summer. It is normal practice, today, for the choir to take a break during the summer months, but I gather from this that it wasn’t the norm in the early 1900s.

It seems that Mr. Alexander took his (no doubt, unpaid) ‘vacation’ along with other choir members. But he was no fool; he knew that the nursery rhyme always ends with the spider killing the fly. And so, in late September, Mr. Alexander chose to fall on his sword; he resigned.

Thus ended a sad case of how minor issues can be nursed into major ones; and of how personality conflict can take on a life of its own and become a form of vanity.

But wait! The tale is not quite over, yet. Mr. Alexander had one final card to play which he must have known would drive Pastor Litch and FBC officers nuts.

An advertisement was quietly placed (and paid for) in The Province by a gentleman with a Scots accent. It read:

screen shot 2019-01-16 at 4.44.26 pm

The ad was accurate in every detail and contained neither slur nor disrespectful comments: the sort of music favoured by First at that time (especially in the evening services), was evangelical choruses – particularly those by popular composer Ira Sankey. Likewise accurate was the proscription against card-playing and theatre-going, although First probably was not well-pleased to have this tidbit appear in a newspaper.

Predictably, the officers were furious. They contacted The Province to learn all they could about who placed the ad. An investigation of the matter was even launched (although it seems cooler heads ultimately prevailed and it was called off), and they wrote their own ad correcting Alexander’s.

In his ad, Alexander appears to have done what he consistently claimed of all of his alleged comments about the pastor and officers: nothing more than was justified by the occasion!

This piece was originally written by VAIW’s author in 2011.
It is reproduced in this form with just a few editorial changes.

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Missing?: Monument to First City Survey Stake

mon n32 1952?

Monument to the first survey stake that CPR Land Commissioner, L.A. Hamilton, drove at SW corner of what is now known as Hastings and Hamilton streets. The monument was erected on the front of the former Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building at 300 West Hastings (the earlier site of the Inns of Court building) in April 1953. Created by Sydney March. Unknown photographer, ca1952.

This monument was created in 1952 to honour the driving of the first survey stake by CPR Land Commissioner, L. A. Hamilton, at the site (300 Hastings Street; SW corner of Hamilton and Hastings) from where the city would be laid out into what we know today as the streets of downtown and the West End.

When the initial Inns of Court building, the first non-indigenous man-made structure on this corner, was demolished and was replaced by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce building ca 1950, the monument (created by Sydney March) was set into the Hastings street side of the new building.

When the bank, in turn, was demolished in 2015, the word on the street was that the new owner of the site had indicated that the monument would be retained in a public place somewhere on the building.

However, the new building (the SFU Charles Chang Innovation Centre) has been fully built and open now for about a year, but there’s still no sign of the monument in the new structure. I cannot see the plaque anywhere on the building’s exterior. It’s possible that it is inside the foyer of the building, but the door is always locked and so, if it is in there, it isn’t accessible to the general public — for whom the plaque surely was designed.

So what has become of the commemorative plaque?

cva 778-142 1974

CVA 778-142 CIBC building at 300 West Hastings (at Hamilton) with the monument showing to the left of the front entry to the bank, 1974. (Photo cropped by author).

str p306 - [major j.s. matthews and william n. cooper examine the spot where the first survey peg was driven to mark the c.p.r. townsite in 1885] bill cunningham photo, 1953.

Str P306 – Major J.S. Matthews (City of Vancouver’s first Archivist) and William N. Cooper (manager, CIBC) examine the spot where the first survey peg was driven to mark the C.P.R. Townsite in 1885. Bill Cunningham photo, 1953.


Demolition of the CIBC building, March 2015. Author’s photo.

300 w hastings - sfu innovation centre

SFU’s Charles Chang Innovation Centre building at SW Corner Hamilton and Hastings. 2019. Author’s photo.

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‘Bailey Bridge’ in Downtown Vancouver, 1944

Updated (First Published August 2015)

CVA 586-3200 - Hotel Vancouver 1944 Don Coltman photo.

CVA 586-3200 – Hotel Vancouver 1944 Don Coltman photo.

This photograph shows a 240-foot Bailey Bridge (1 of 2 by Don Coltman; the other image appears below) spanning Georgia Street at Howe Street in 1944.

Zooming on the image reveals a sign on the structure identifying it as “Bailey Bridge Class #2(? or 7?) Dual Carriageway”. Initially, I assumed that “Bailey” was after a local British Columbian (e.g., Vancouver professional photography pioneer, Charles Bailey). But I later learned that while Bailey is indeed a surname, it wasn’t for a B.C. resident, but for British engineer, Sir Donald Bailey; furthermore, the name of the bridge isn’t a unique identifier, but instead is a type of bridge (created by Bailey) which was commonly used during and after WWII in Europe and elsewhere. The Bailey was developed in 1940 and was adopted by the Allies in 1941. It was a modular means of spanning a water or land gap with a structure that could carry vehicles as large and heavy as tanks. The bridge was carried by engineers in 10-foot panels and was constructed where needed.

The structure shown in these photos was erected within a 10-hour period by Royal Canadian army engineers in 1944 as part of ‘Army Week’ for the 7th Victory Loan campaign. It was able to carry a load of up to 50 tons. Construction began at midnight on November 1. The bridge0 was in service for pedestrians and vehicles, reportedly, by 10 a.m. Apparently, the Bailey Bridge had only just been released from the ‘secret list‘. (Vancouver Sun, 1 November 1944)  The Bridge’s opening ribbon was cut by Hollywood luminary, Gail Patrick.

The bridge proved so popular with Vancouverites, who flocked to walk across it or drive beneath it (on Georgia) or across it (on Howe), that engineers decided to leave the bridge up for about 24 hours longer than had originally been planned. It was dismantled on the evening of November 3rd.

CVA 586-3202 - [Walkway over Georgia Street] 1944 Don Coltman

CVA 586-3202 – [Walkway over Georgia Street] 1944 Don Coltman.

The pictured Bailey Bridge was not the only one to be constructed in Greater Vancouver. One other Bailey Bridge (of a different sort) was erected over Georgia Street in May 1945, just a few months before the War’s end. This one was an 80-foot spanner that was able to bear 70 tons. This bridge, evidently had a similar PR function – serving to boost Victory Loan contributions. This bridge was opened by Edgar Bergen, of Charlie McCarthy fame. This bridge was dismantled later on the same day of its erection (Vancouver Sun, 3 May 1945).

Bailey Bridges have been utilized in the Vancouver area for non-PR purposes since the War. An example was in the aftermath of the 1949 flood of the Capilano River in West Vancouver (Vancouver Sun 28 November 1949).

For additional info on Bailey Bridges, consult this page. A fascinating article of the contribution of a Canadian to Bailey Bridge variants may be found here: “Kingsmill Bridge in Italy”, by Ken MacLeod.

Posted in architects, bridges/viaducts, Don Coltman, street scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

First Foot!

CVA 586-7136 - Hudson's Bay Co. Shoe Clinic, Granville St. - shoe repairing 1946 Don Coltman

CVA 586-7136 – Hudson’s Bay Co. Shoe Clinic, Granville St. – Shoe Repairing, 1946. Don Coltman.

Jack Stead

Jack Stead (1926-1990)

The ‘first foot’ tradition is one that I first became aware of as a pre-teen when a family friend, who was a Canadian of Scots ancestry, would arrive at our front door on New Year’s Day – shortly after midnight – to wish us a ‘Happy Hogmanay’ and to claim (safely) that his was the ‘first foot’ to cross our threshold on the first day of the New Year!

Another family friend, Kathie, had this additional information to share regarding the first foot custom:

My Mom talked about first footing and how my brother Jim had to come in first because he was ‘dark hair’; he was good luck. Fair-haired people weren’t such good luck; they needed to bring salt across the threshold. Mom used to say Hogmanay was always a big celebration when she was growing up in Scotland.

It seemed apropos, therefore, today to show this post-war photo of HBC’s shoe repair department. Surely a necessary stop in those days after a night of too much ‘first footing’!

Baffle your friends. Wish them Happy Hogmanay!

This post is dedicated to the memory of Jack Stead – our family’s First Footer.

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First Baptist’s “Living Room” to be Demolished

Update (first posted October, 2018)

Hobbit:Rivendell still stand DEMOLITION

Wrecking machine atop the remnants of the Youth House and the FBC rental building that stood in front of it on Nelson Street. Note: Hobbit House (left) and Rivendell Apts (right) are visible in background. Those two structures are expected to be demolished soon. December, 2018. Author’s photo.

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hold, and that means comfort.”

— J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.



Hobbit House at 1025 Nelson Street (just west of Burrard), was demolished by First Baptist Church during the first week of December, 2018, as part of the church’s plan to build a 57-storey residential tower on the site. October 2018. Author’s photo.

Hobbit House (1972-2018) is actually considerably older than 46 years. It was built as a residence much earlier¹ and, until it was transformed into Hobbit House (1025 Nelson), served as a rooming house. It became a coffee house ministry of First Baptist Church in 1972. It hasn’t had its coffee house function for a number of years and it has a date with the wrecker probably before the end of 2018 as part of First Baptist’s redevelopment plans to place an enormous residential tower on the property in the next few years.

Screen Shot 2018-10-03 at 12.31.58 PMHobbit House was the brain child of Rev. “Padre” J. Willox Duncan (then, Visitation Minister and later Minister Emeritus until his death in 2002) and Rev. Roy Bell (Senior Minister, 1970-1981). The church budgeted $24,000 for the refit of the old residence.

When Hobbit opened in 1972, 40 volunteer staff were trained by Bell. Programming included film presentations (Monday nights), tea times (Thursday afternoons), handicapped gatherings (Wednesdays), and youth gatherings (Friday/Saturday nights). By 1974, there were, on average, 400 people/week coming through Hobbit’s doors and there were more than 60 committed volunteers. A Sunday lunch was added that year; that would remain a feature of Hobbit’s programming for much of of its remaining ministry life.

By 1987, average attendance at Hobbit was about 250/week, 15-20% of whom were ‘guests’ (i.e., neither members nor adherents of FBC).

FBC #2 656

Some of the “Tuesday Lunch Bunch”, volunteers who would prepare the soup/sandwiches for whoever showed up. These volunteers, as I recall, were always smiley and friendly and became good friends among themselves, as well, I’m told. Photo courtesy Linda Zlotnik. n.d.

As he was preparing to leave FBC and Hobbit leadership in 1988 (to accept a ministry call at Kitsilano Christian Community Church), Rev. Jeremy Bell described Hobbit as “the church’s living room” into which the West End community was invited.

The number of people using Hobbit continued to drop in the ’90s, as did the number of volunteers. At the same time, the ministry became more institutionalized and, as a result, less volunteer-driven.

Hobbit Brochure_


Finally, in 2002, the Hobbit ‘Director’ position was changed to FBC’s ‘Hospitality Coordinator’ and in 2005, two of the longest-standing Hobbit programs were dropped: the Sunday lunch and Friday dinner.

Hobbit House continued to be a viable location of ministry activities for a few years after 2005, but it was no longer FBC’s “living room”. It was more like the church’s “basement” — a place where the family could meet, but not a place into which you’d invite the neighbours on a regular basis.

Before the end of 2018, Hobbit House – together with the church’s two rental properties, one on either side of Hobbit, plus the Youth House² – are expected to be demolished to make way for the residential tower which the church has decided will be built on the lots west of the church building.


“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”

— J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.



¹Interestingly, there is no record of 1025 Nelson Street in the online Historical Vancouver Building Permits database. This may be due to the fact that the online records begin in 1901. There is evidence in the 1898 city directory that 1025 Nelson Street was extant in that year. I was briefly excited to see that an early resident of 1025 was Norman Caple (a notable early Vancouver photographer). I was pretty sure that I’d seen a photo of the Caple family in front of their home. But upon checking CVA (and VPL and the Royal BC Museum), I saw that the family image I recalled was at one of their earlier homes (on Hamilton Street).

²The rental property to the west of Hobbit is today known as The Rivendell (1045 Nelson); this is a 1954-built 3-storey walk-up apartment block of which so many could be found in Vancouver at one time. The Rivendell was known as Geneva Apartments at the time it was purchased by FBC ca.1998. The church has owned 1021/23 since 1988.

Well before my day, there were also homes, presumably resembling 1021/23, on the lots where the FBC and YMCA parking lots are today; these were at 1011, 1015, 1017, and 1019 (the church structure itself was at 1009 Nelson until the 1930s, I believe, when the address was changed to 969 Burrard, instead). When these lots were purchased by the church isn’t clear (with the exception of 1011 Nelson, which was bought in 1956). The church maintained a manse at 1017 Nelson in the earliest years of the new church building (Nelson and Burrard). This home housed only one pastor as far as I know: Rev. Dr. H(enry) Francis Perry (July 1909-February 1915). (There were other church-owned residences for FBC ministers, I’m certain, but that subject will have to await its own future post.)

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Details of the Artistic Life of Rolph Blakstad


This is a sequel to the previous post, MIA: The Loss of a 20-foot Painting. In this post, we will sketch a few of the biographical details about artist, Rolph Blakstad, and his wife, Mary Isobel Blakstad (nee Leiterman), during their time in Vancouver.

Early Years

Rolph (aka Rolf) Kenneth Blakstad (1929-2012) was the only son of Peter and Olive Blakstad. Peter (1884-1967) and Olive (1897-1981) were born and raised in Norway and they later came to North America where they met and married. Peter was an architect, master builder and craftsman; Olive, as far as I can tell, didn’t work outside the family home.¹

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 4.02.45 PM

Ralph Blakstad (1947). The Island (painted in tempura). Image reproduced from Artmaking in Two Vancouver High Schools 1920 to 1950 by D. Wendy Louise Stephenson. UBC Ph.D. thesis, 2005.

Rolph was born August 24, 1929. He had one sibling, an elder sister, by the name of Gloria Solveig Blakstad (1922-2001). She married Rollie Pearson (an engineer who specialized in building bridges), and the couple made a home, with their two boys, in San Carlos, California.

Rolph grew up and attended public schools in Vancouver, graduating from Kitsilano High School in 1947. He was artistically involved there, producing art work for school yearbooks and being involved in the high school Decorating Club.  The school also gave him an entrée to the Vancouver Art School, located near the Marine Building downtown, on Saturday mornings. One of Blakstad’s pieces from his time at Kits High appears at right.

Early Fifties

Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 8.25.47 PMAfter graduating from Kits High, Rolph began an undergraduate course of studies at UBC (B.A. ’51). In 1950, he designed the set for the UBC Players Club’s production of the Robertson Davies play, Eros at Breakfast. In 1951, he designed the set for another Players Club production, The Male Animal, a James Thurber comedy.

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 12.47.28 AM1951 would be a ‘red letter’ year for Rolph. That was the year he graduated from UBC with an Arts Degree. He was also awarded the Emily Carr Scholarship (in the sum of $1200) which he would apply to studies of old master artists in Florence, Italy later in the year. He would leave for Italy in the Fall accompanied by his bride, Mary Leiterman (1929-1996), another UBC graduate, whom he married in August.

In 1952, Rolph and Mary moved from Florence to London, where he worked for the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments.

They returned to Vancouver from Europe sometime in 1953 and Rolph got work as a set designer with CBC Vancouver television station affiliate, CBUT.² In a letter from Mary Blakstad to her sister, Elaine Campbell, in May 1954, she mentions that:

Rolph has been working on a design for a mural for the entrance hall of the TV building. It will be above the switchboard – 6 x 12′. TV is the theme, of course, and he is doing it in a rather realistic style.

— Excerpt of a letter from Mary Blakstad to
Elaine Campbell (nee Leiterman), dated May 20, 1954.
Excerpt kindly provided by Sabrina Blakstad.

RKB Head of a girl Portrait of a Woman oil on canvas, signed and dated, Blaksted 56 Top right. 23.5x20 in. Sold 2011

Rolph Blakstad. Head of a Girl. Graphite on wove paper.

In 1955, Rolph was invited to submit a piece of his work to the National Gallery. The decision as to which piece he’d choose is described in a letter from Mary Blackstad to Elaine Campbell:

Rolph was very busy painting all over Christmas. He took time out to eat Christmas dinner and hardly time to open presents. He was getting some paintings ready for Lawren Harris to see. Mr Harris came up to see Rolph’s work and suggest two paintings to submit for the selection being sent from Vancouver to the National Gallery exhibit. Rolph had 2 nice ones finished. Both quite large heads of a woman in different styles. They are quite different from Rolph’s other work. These are much more realistic.

— Letter from Mary Blakstad to Elaine Campbell (nee Leiterman). Dated January 17, no year shown, but it seems probable it was 1955.
Excerpt kindly provided by Sabrina Blakstad.

He sold his Head of a Girl to Canada’s National Gallery in 1955.

Untitled Brock Hall Mural and “Kitsilano Garden”

cdm.arphotos.1-0028806fullBy late 1955 or early ’56, RKB had completed the 20-foot square, untitled forest scene that was purchased by UBC’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) – for $300, reportedly – and hung in what served as the AMS space, Brock Hall’s lounge, from the late ’50s until the SUB (Student Union Building) was constructed in 1972. It is this lost work that was the subject of the previous post. I’ve been able to establish the creation date of December 1955 or January 1956 for the Brock Hall mural with help from an excerpt of correspondence written by Mary Blakstad:

Rolph has been painting quite steadily and has his work in several exhibitions. He will be showing with 3 other Vancouver artists [Bruno Bobak, Joseph Plaskett, and Gordon Smith] in an exhibit at the Toronto Art Gallery early in the new year. And he has just finished a 3 man show [in addition to Blakstad, Herbert Gilbert and Ronald Kelly] at the University gallery [UBC] and has contributed to many other exhibits. He is also working on a mural for the university student lounge. (Emphasis mine).

—  From a Christmas card dated December 7, 1955
from Mary Blakstad to Janet and Olaf Pedersen (family friends).
Excerpt kindly provided by Sabrina Blakstad.

The Brock Hall mural has been missing for decades. The most recent direct reference to the mural was in a letter from the Chair of the Senate Committee on University Art to the Students’ Council president in May 1968. An excerpt follows:

At the last meeting of the Senate Committee on University Art which has the task of looking after works of art on the campus, the question was brought up of the disposition of the large mural by Rolf Blackstad now hanging at the south end of the Main Lounge in Brock Hall.

The mural was commissioned eleven or twelve years ago and was paid for out of student funds. My committee has therefore no jurisdiction over it but the Committee felt that this was a very handsome piece of work and that it would make an excellent focal point in a room in the new Student Union Building (it is our understanding that Brock Hall is going to be turned into offices, and therefore the mural will in all likelihood have to be removed from it present location).

— Excerpt of a letter from Sam Black, Chair, Senate Committee on University
to David Zirnhelt, President, Students’ Council, UBC. May 17, 1968.
Excerpt kindly provided by Tessa Grogan, AMS Archives Assistant.

The December 7, 1955 letter from Mary Blakstad to the Pedersens mentions the Brock Hall mural (the “mural for the university student lounge”) and also another painting which was apparently being worked on by Blakstad at about the same time (for the “exhibit at the Toronto Art Gallery”, today known as the Art Gallery of Ontario). This Toronto Art Gallery work appears below.


Rolph Blakstad, 1956. Owned by Olaf and Janet Pedersen of Vancouver for many years. Known as the “Kitsilano Garden” painting by current owner, Sabrina Blakstad. Photo courtesy of Sabrina Blakstad. Note: the trees shown in the bottom right corner (in abstraction) look to me as though they were Monkey Puzzle Trees. Sabrina Blakstad has confirmed with her aunt, Phyllis King (a sister of Mary’s), that there were such trees in the yard of the Kitsilano Garden.

Verso of Blakstad's Kits Garden work

Back side of Blakstad’s “Kitsilano Garden”. Shows part of a ripped Art Gallery of Toronto label. Photo courtesy of Sabrina Blakstad. Elsewhere on the back of this painting, according to Sabrina Blakstad, is pencilled $85.

The subject matter as well as the remembered palette of the Brock Hall mural seem to have been very similar to that of Blakstad’s “Kitsilano Garden”. June Binkert, secretary to the UBC President’s Committee on University Art, who searched in vain for the missing work until she retired in the early 1990s, recalled that the Brock Hall mural was “in shades of pink, red, blue, and green”  — not unlike the palette that was used on the Kitsilano Garden shown above (UBC Reports. November 29, 1990, p. 10.) In the absence of a colour photograph that shows the Brock Hall mural, therefore, the Kitsilano Garden work may offer some clues as to its appearance.

Sabrina Blakstad’s aunt, Phyllis King, Mary Blakstad’s sister, believes that the Kitsilano Garden work is an abstract rendering of the mid-’50s home rented by Mary’s and Phyllis’ parents, Douglas and Mattie Leiterman at 3857 Point Grey Road. Rolph and Mary lived in the attic of this house when they returned to Vancouver in the 1953-’56 period. Phyllis and then-husband Allan King, also shared the attic of the home. Sabrina Blakstad reported a conversation she had with Phyllis:

Phyllis said she seems to remember the garden ran down to the shore – the house fronted onto the street, but at the back the garden was very big and the bottom of the garden got a bit wild and went down to the water.

— Sabrina Blakstad recalling a conversation she had with Phyllis King (nee Leiterman) in an email message to the author, November 2, 2018.

tumblr_mk82nweD9J1qc7pjjo2_r1_500The house that was attached to the Kitsilano Garden seems to have been the subject of another Canadian artist, Frederick H. Varley (shown at right). This work, called From Kitsilano was made in 1932, well before the Blakstads’ or the Leitermans’ time there.

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 6.36.35 AM

Map Data: Google 2018.



The Kits Garden and the house were demolished not too long after the Blakstads left Vancouver to live permanently in Europe. The property was purchased by Jericho Tennis Courts and the home (and garden) was re-developed by the early 1960s into the area that today is populated principally by several tennis courts.

After Vancouver

rolph-blakstad-portraitIn 1956, Rolph and Mary Blakstad arrived on the Spanish island of Ibiza and remained there for the rest of their lives. Although he continued to create art in Ibiza, their move there seemed to prompt a real shift in Rolph’s interests. In the late ’50s and 1960s, he freelanced as a film maker. His last career shift entailed Rolph establishing an architectural firm in 1967 which today is run by his son, Rolf, and is called Blakstad Design Consultants.

Rolph Blakstad died April 2, 2012 in Ibiza.


¹I’m very appreciative of information generously provided by Rolph and Mary’s daughter, Sabrina Blakstad, about her parents and extended family.

²CBUT was founded in December, 1953. The initial headquarters for the CBC affiliate was at 1200 West Georgia Street (at corner of Bute) in a converted former automotive dealership called Consolidated Motors.

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MIA: The Loss of a 20-foot Painting


UBC 1.1/2648-2. The Brock Hall Lounge on UBC Campus. Chamber Music concert. 1960. No attribution. This photo shows the complete art work discussed in this post on the far wall. (Note: A crop of the artwork from this image appears below in this post).

This is a tale of discovery. Of learning what a painting was called, who created it, and, perhaps, what became of it. The story began with the photo shown below.


Canadian Congress of Corrections meal at UBC, May 24-29, 1959. Fred Sunday photo. Author’s print.

I have a peculiar passion for Fred Sunday’s panoramic images. I don’t know why, exactly. More often than not, they don’t have much of a historical story to tell (at least, not to me). They are principally group shots of huge numbers of people, quite often taken on the steps of the Vancouver Courthouse (today’s Vancouver Art Gallery).

But the photo of the Congress of Corrections meetings (a gift from my old friend, Wes) was different — initially, mainly because of where the image was made; later because of a bit of an art mystery buried within it.

Sunday identified the photo as having been made at UBC campus, but didn’t specify the building. I am familiar with many of UBC’s buildings as they were in the early 1990s, when I was doing graduate work there, but I did not recall a space that matched the one portrayed in the panorama.


So I approached UBC archivist, Erwin Wodarczak, who has helped on other occasions to identify images of structures on campus. He knew immediately where my photo was made: Brock Hall

cdm.arphotos.1-0028806fullWhile I was ‘batting a thousand’ with Erwin, I inquired if, by chance, he could identify the art which was just visible on the far wall of the image. Sorry, No. But he had a suggestion: Contact the staff at UBC’s Alma Mater Society (AMS) Archives.

I heard back the next day from Tessa Grogan, Archives Assistant at the AMS. She wasn’t able definitively to identify the painting or the artist. But she did point me in the right general direction² with the first article I saw that seemed to refer to the painting. It was in The Ubyssey, March 9, 1956. It is reproduced in part below:

Polled Students Hate New Painting

The most favourable reaction to the new painting hung in Brock lounge is apathy. In a poll of Brock Loungers, taken at noon Thursday, the mildest comment received was “I can’t stand it.”. . . . One student excused the artist saying “it’s so big he couldn’t get close enough to see what he was doing,” while another congratulated him, saying “he deserves commendation for his salesmanship.”

The fact that the painting is title-less inspired many aspiring young art critics to attempt naming it. Possible titles ranged from “Drunken Peacocks During Mating Season” to “Navel Contemplating Tangerine Orange.”

Several students said that, due to a sign hung directly under the painting, they were under the impression that the title is “Lounge Will be Closed at 1:00 p.m. Today . . . . “

I’m not a huge fan of abstract art, but I must say that my reaction to the painting couldn’t be in greater contrast to that of those mid-’50s students: I really like the piece! 

The paragraph which includes the typically ‘studenty’ witticism about naming the piece “Drunken Peacocks…” made me wonder if they might have been referring to the painting that appears in my photo. But before I could take my “wondering” any further, I’d need more evidence; and, ideally, it would be good to discover the name of the artist.

In Search Of . . . the Artist

I went to UBC’s Open Collections website to search for other mentions of ‘painting’ or ‘Brock’ around the mid-’50s. It didn’t take too long before I hit pay-dirt by finding this wee blurb in the 1955 Alumni Chronicle

“UBC graduate Rolf Blakstad, B. A. ’51, will take time out from his C.B.U.-TV designing [at the time, C.B.U. was the local CBC station] to paint a 20′ mural for Brock Hall . . . .”

Ubysseynews-1.0124923This was a breakthrough. But not conclusive. So I kept plugging away with my search. Now, however, I was equipped with a possible artist’s name: Rolf Blakstad.

Next, I found a write-up in the September 20, 1955 issue of The UbysseyIt is shown at right. The article revealed that the Blakstad painting was square and very large (20 by 20 feet). That seemed to link up with the painting shown above.

By the time I’d finished reading the September Ubyseey article, I was all but certain that the Blakstad painting and the one that appeared in the first images in this post were one and the same.

But I wanted more than ‘all but’ certainty, so I began to see what information I could glean from the other end — about Mr. Blakstad. Was it possible that he was still living?

Rolph-BlakstadFrom to a Google search, I learned that Mr. Blakstad had been living (since shortly after painting the “untitled” image) on the island of Ibiza (just off the coast of Spain).  It seems Blakstad had been in business as an architect on the island for many years and, most recently, had been working with his youngest son, whose name is Rolf (as opposed, confusingly, to his father’s apparently new-ish name spelling of Rolph). Mr. Blakstad, Sr.  (b. 1929) seemed still to be living, so I tried sending an email message c/o his son at Blakstad Design Consultants. Sadly, I have since learned from his son that Mr. Blakstad passed away in 2012.


So I pressed ahead with whatever I could learn in Vancouver. I had sent an email to UBC’s art gallery, the Belkin Gallery, at an earlier stage of my research — before I thought I knew the name of the artist. I decided I should update them, now that I had Mr. Blakstad’s name. I had a reply from Jana Tyner at the Belkin saying they had found nothing, yet, to help me with my search, but they appreciated having the artist’s probable name.

Meanwhile, I spent most of a morning at VPL at the task of looking up art auction records from the 1970s and ’80s. Nothing.

I was looking in newspaper databases to see if there were any clues there, when it occurred to me that I hadn’t done a check of the UBC Open Collections website using Blakstad’s name. So I tried that. There wasn’t much on the results page that I hadn’t seen before, but there was one entry from November 29, 1990 which I’d never seen. I didn’t have high hopes, as 1990 was from a period substantially after Blakstad had left Canada for Ibiza. Chances were that it pertained to another Blakstad, unrelated to the artist.

But the article proved to be the big eureka moment of the search:

I read it. And then, not quite believing what I’d read, I re-read it.

June Binkert had been, it seemed — a year before my wife and I had arrived at Vancouver and 28 years before I’d laid eyes on a photo of the art work — every bit as obsessed as I’d become with tracking the thing down!

I inquired of Jana at the Belkin Gallery if Ms Binkert were still living. Alas, no. Apparently, she’d made no headway in her 1990 campaign to unearth the painting.³ And nobody else has taken up the case since her retirement that year, evidently.

But Jana did have a copy of a piece of correspondence which Ms Binkert had sent around to multiple contacts on campus, asking if anyone had seen the art work. With that I will conclude this post.

Perhaps I will have cause at some point to write an update to this post, should someone someday unroll Blakstad’s officially untitled “stylized forest scene” within some darkened storage space.

For now, this will need to remain an unfinished story.


From the records of the UBC Art Committee. By June Binkert, Secretary to the President’s Committee on University Art. n.d. (1990).


¹The chamber group was playing in what was then called the Brock Hall “lounge”. Sometime in the 1970s or ’80s, the lounge was modernized and divided up into office space for counselling and other services. Erwin has said that in the last 10 years or so, the partitions were removed during renovations that served to open up the space again. What was originally called the lounge can serve, once again, as a social/reception area.

²One of Tessa’s helpful services was directing me to several photos that better showed the entire painting. Those images included the first one that appears in this post.

³According to a follow-up article in UBC Reports in 1991, the campaign didn’t turn up any good information on the painting. Binkert is quoted: “No one seems to know what happened to it. I would have thought that someone would have seen it after all these years.”

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Pierre Elliot Trudeau in Vancouver: 1976

Update (First Published July 2014):


UBC Library Digital Collections. Trudeau tours Museum of Anthropology June 1976 (Also in image: Douglas Kenny (UBC President 1975-83), left, and Arthur Erickson (MOA Architect), right.


UBC Archives Photograph Collection. Trudeau (with unidentified man) at the commissioning of the 520 MeV cyclotron at the TRIUMF particle accelerator facility at UBC. February 9, 1976. No photo attribution.

I’ve been remembering, recently, the dominant national political personality during my formative years, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. I found this rather good photo in UBC Library’s Digital Collection of his June 1976 visit to UBC. Here, he is visiting UBC shortly after the official opening of the Museum of Anthropology’s new facility (along with UBC President, Douglas Kenny, and MOA architect, Arthur Erickson). The main reason he was in town was for the official opening of the UN Habitat Forum.

Trudeau made at least two trips to Vancouver in 1976: the later trip in June, and the trip portrayed below, in February, of an inspection by federal officials of Habitat, then under construction.

2011-130.0269 - Dignitaries [8 of 15] Feb 1976 (Al Clapp, PET, Barney Danson, Hugh Keenleyside, Ron Basford) Erol Baykal photo

2011-130.0269 – Dignitaries at Habitat Forum [8 of 15] Feb 1976 (Al Clapp, PET, Barney Danson, Hugh Keenleyside, Ron Basford). Erol Baykal photo

2011-130.0408 - Feb 9th Trudeau on site family + 2nds [1 of 11] Feb 1976 Erol Baykal photo

2011-130.0408 – Trudeau on site of Habitat Forum shaking hands with Habitat designer/carpenter Michael Malcolm in Hangar 6. Feb 1976. Erol Baykal photo

If you would like to engage in a bit of time travel, you will find below a couple links to CBC’s digital archive collection that pertain to PET.

First, here is a CBC Radio episode from 1957 (more than a decade before Trudeau became national Liberal Party leader) called “Fighting Words” (complete with the today-bizarre remarks by the host pertaining to ‘civilizing the Eskimos’). This quiz show, hosted by Nathan Cohen, tested guests’ knowledge of quotations. In this episode, guest panelists included Trudeau and his ultimate nemesis, Rene Levesque. (But political careers were in the future; at the time, Levesque and Trudeau were both journalists).

And, secondly, this is a salute to PET’s passion for foreign affairs: a report on his trip in 1973 to the People’s Republic of China, including a visit with the ‘Great Helmsman‘, who would die in 1976, leaving in his wake the messy succession problems  – remember the ‘Gang of Four‘? – which typically occur upon the passing of dictators.

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The Musical Occupations of Horace W. Harpur

CVA 677-178 - [Horace] Harpur's Orchestra ca 1900

CVA 677-178 – Harpur’s Orchestra. ca 1900. Horace would have been the gent seated at the piano (second from left) with his eyes closed to the camera’s flashbulb. I’m forced to make “educated guesses” at the names of the others (based on a couple of press accounts): from left: Bob Chance (violin), HWH (piano), Johnny Rushton (cornet). and Ed Stillwell (percussion).

Horace William Harpur was a prominent Vancouver organist, pianist, and band leader in the 1890s and beyond.


H. W. Harpur was born in England in 1869 to Rev. George Harpur and and Miriam Browne. Rev. Harpur was initially a Congregational minister and later was Vicar of South Clifton in Nottinghamshire (a Church of England post, I presume).

The first year that mention is made of Horace Harpur in Vancouver directories is 1891; so he seems to have come to the city as an adult of about 22 years. It isn’t clear what musical training he received before emigrating. His occupation is described in the 1891 directory as a “musician” at Carter’s Temple of Music — located, for awhile, at the New York Block on Granville near Georgia St.

In 1894, Harpur was married to Annie Barker (also born in England) by pioneer Congregational minister, James W. Pedley. Horace was 24; Annie 20.  One of the witnesses¹ at their wedding was Fred W. Dyke, another early Vancouver musician who would start his own music business in the city and would become director of music at the Vancouver Opera House. Harpur and Dyke would in 1901 be two of eight charter members of the Musicians Mutual Protective Union, Local 145 of the American Federation of Musicians.² (Fred Dyke and his brother, George, figure significantly in Harpur’s career).

Horace and Annie had a family of five: Reginald (1895), Norah (1897), Constance Miriam (1899), Harold (1901), and Vega (1905). For a few of their early years, the family resided at 247 Georgia (roughly across the street from what is today the CBC building), but by the early years of the 20th century, they were living at 974 Cardero (a home that is still standing today). Annie and Horace would live out their lives at the Cardero St. home.

Church Organist

In the middle and later 1890s, the Harpurs were affiliated with (if not members of) the Congregational Church (500 Georgia St), where Horace was the organist for a time.

Harpur, like other musicians of his day, couldn’t afford to tie himself too closely to any single Christian church. Judging from occasional press references in the Vancouver Daily World, while he initially played organ for the Congregationalists (which also included responsibility for leading the choir each week), he later moved to the better-attended Anglican churches in the city which were probably in a better position to remunerate him than was the relatively small Congregational church.


Crop of Ch P31 – Interior of First Congregational Church Vancouver, B.C. 1890. Note: The diminutive organ, where Harpur doubtless played, is in the centre, front of the sanctuary, flanked by a few hard chairs that were probably occupied by choir members during services

At a concert in 1896, to raise funds for the new organ at Christ Church (the church didn’t yet have cathedral status; that happened in 1929), Harpur was one of the featured organists. He rated pretty well in this delightfully brutal review in the Province:

The sacred concert held in Christ Church last week . . . was very largely attended, a substantial sum being contributed at the offertory towards the organ fund. Parts of the programme were most enjoyable, but the items of which it was composed might with advantage have been reduced by a third; nine organ solos in one evening are a weariness to the flesh, especially when only two or three of them are worth listening to at all. The playing of Mr. Horace Harpur was good, particularly in Shubert’s “Pensees Musicales No. 2” and also in “Spanish Chant” (Smart), though I must confess to a strong antipathy towards the ragging out of a simple air in thirds and runs and trills and all the other musical contortions known to one’s childish days when “Home, Sweet Home with variations” was par excellence our “show piece” . . . .Mrs. Burns-Dixon sang the same two solos from the “Messiah” in which we heard her last winter. The first one “He Shall Feed His Flock” was passable if a trifle flat, but over the second “How Beautiful are the Feet” let us draw the veil of silence.
The Province 4 April 1896, p. 230

At least Harpur’s playing wasn’t found so wanting by the reviewer (as was poor Mrs. Burns-Dixon’s singing) as to merit the “veil of silence” treatment!

Music Teacher

In order to feed and house his growing family, Harpur couldn’t rely solely on the income from various church organist positions he held over the years (at the Congregational Chuch, and later at St. James Church and Christ Church).

By 1896, his occupation appeared in city directories as “music teacher”. In 1897, Harpur joined the 5-person faculty of Vancouver Music Academy, the city’s first private conservatory. It had been started by Fred Dyke’s brother, George (Fred wasn’t on staff; he was busy earning a living as an entrepreneur at a music shop in the Arcade; this was located where the Dominion Building is today); the Academy continued until 1902, when its name was changed to the Vancouver Conservatory of Music.³

Harpur continued to offer private music lessons until about 1926.

Dance Band Leader

Screen Shot 2018-10-10 at 11.50.53 AMWhile his teaching gig was a source of steady income, Harpur became best known from the late 1890s until the outbreak of the War, as the leader of “Harpur’s Orchestra.” This was essentially a dance band of four or sometimes five players. One of the earliest appearances of a band of which Harpur was part (but not identified as the “leader”, per se) was at a reception held in Vancouver for the fifth Canadian Prime Minister, Sir Mackenzie Bowell in 1895. The band comprised, in addition to Harpur, Fred Dyke, W. Brand, Fred Cope, and J. Grant. The orchestra’s play list for the reception was included in the press account of the reception in the Vancouver Daily World. This was unusual. Equally uncommon was for the press to report who was playing in the band. The only other occasion I could find (in addition to the 1895 reception) was the 1902 Easter Ball sponsored by the Victorian Order of Nurses: H. W. Harpur (piano), John Cronshaw (clarinet), Charles Baylis (cornet), and F. Highland (bass) (VDW 2 April 1902, p. 5).

Harpur was evidently a capable composer in addition to his other musical abilities. Neither of his two compositions that we can identify today have survived the test of time, however. One was the item mentioned above – the waltz which he called Dream of the Sea. It was published in Vancouver by Fred Dyke in 1895.¤ The other was published in 1916 by an unknown publisher and was called The Army of the Empire.∞

Great War

This raises the surprising fact (to me, at any rate) that Harpur enlisted in 1916 – two years into the Great War – to join the 231st Battalion as band sergent. That unit was apparently later broken up, however, and he was drafted to the 72nd Battalion of the  Seaforth Highlanders. He was getting pretty long in the tooth for such things (he was 47); he plainly wanted to ‘do his bit’ for King and country.

He survived the war (better than did his eldest boy, Reginald, who was “severely wounded” at Passchendaele). Upon returning home to Vancouver, Horace picked up the band ‘baton’ again for the a few gigs. But, judging from the few press accounts of Harpur’s Orchestra in the post-war years, there wasn’t as much interest in employing his kind of band to play their kind of music. He seems to have finally put away his baton by the year of Annie’s death: 1933.

Final Occupation

In 1927, Harpur took up a new occupation. It was still music-related, mind you, and drew upon skills he likely already had: he became a piano tuner and repairer. He seems to have tuned pianos for much of the rest of his life; certainly until 1934.

Horace died in 1937.


¹The other witness at their wedding was Eva Fewster. She was a music teacher. There is evidence here that Eva and Annie Harpur maintained a friendship for a number of years following the wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Harpur; also that the Harpurs maintained a connection with the Congregationalists at least as late as 1912.

²BC Federationist. 6 July 1912. The charter members of the union were: W. H. Harpur  (misspelled in the Federationist as “Harper”), W. Brand, R. Chance, Fred T. Cope, C. Frey, and J. H. Smith.

³Dale McIntosh. History of Music in British Columbia: 1850-1950. 1989, p. 180. The first staff members of the Academy were: George J. Dyke (violin, guitar, mandolin), A. P. Freimuth (violin, viola, wind instruments, orchestra), Miss H. Bremer Bruun (piano), Miss M. Carr Walton (singing), and Horace Harpur (organ, piano, theory).

¤McIntosh, p. 234, 247.

The Morrisey Mention, November 30, 1916. “Military Mention“, p. 1. Digital copy available from UBC’s Open Collection.


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Park Lane

CVA 113-5 - Apr 3 - North side False Creek looking east from Park Lane 1913

CVA 113-5 – North side False Creek looking east from Park Lane. April 1913. This is the only photo identified by CVA as being of or from Park Lane.

Park Lane was one of the early residential districts in Vancouver; it later was a proposed ‘red light’ district; the homes of the Lane were destroyed to help make way for the Union railway depot; the depot ultimately also succumbed to the wrecker; and it is set to become the site of the new St. Paul’s Hospital within a few years.

Like Mayfair, London?

According to Vancouver’s first archivist, J. S. Matthews, Park Lane was originally a fashionable residential district in early Vancouver — hence the swish name after the street in the Mayfair district in London, England.¹

“Wait,” I can hear you muttering. “Where was this fancy lane?”

Would you believe it was a single block stretch just east of Westminster Ave (behind what is now the 1000 block of Main St, between Prior St at the north and what is today known as National Ave. at its southern extreme? The residential dwellings were located principally on the east side of Park Lane (which is now called Station Street). This meant that the homes had a water view. And, according to Matthews, they also had ready access to a lovely beach.²

“Hold on,” you interject. “This is too much! A water view and a nice beach?! This is the block behind the Ivanhoe Hotel, isn’t it? That’s nowhere near any water!”

Nope, you’re quite right. Nowhere near water since ca1914, when this part of False Creek was filled in with land that was formerly part of the “Grandview Cut”. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Here is a map to help you get your bearings in the very different pre-1914 landscape that included Park Lane.


Vancouver Fire Insurance Map Book. Dakin Publishing Co., San Francisco: November 1889. UBC Rare Book Room (not available online).

You will notice on this very early fire insurance map that “Park Lane” was identified as  “Park Ave.” This is the name used in the 1890 city directory, too. It was changed to “Park Lane” by 1892, however, and remained so until the City officially changed the name of the street to Station Street in 1926 (quite some time after the first train left Union station in 1918).

I wish there were photos of Park Lane which I could include to give some sense of the homes that made up the neighbourhood. But I haven’t been able to find any. The closest I could come (with thanks to Robert) was the drawn map shown below (1898).

CVA - Crop of Map 547 - Panoramic view of City of Vancouver, 1898. Vancouver World

CVA – Crop of Map 547 – Panoramic view of City of Vancouver, 1898. Vancouver World. Annotations are the author’s.

Screen Shot 2018-09-28 at 3.17.27 PM.png

My impression from reading classified ads in editions of the Vancouver Daily World from the 1890s and early 1900s (advertising homes for sale or rent along the Lane), is that there was quite a variety of homes along the lane. Everything from “shacks” to a 9-room (Victorian-style?) home — complete with wharf extending into False Creek.

NIMBY to NIMMP (Not in my Mount Pleasant!)

Life along Park Lane seemed to proceed normally until 1906. That was the year that City Council decided to get into the moving business. Not furniture moving, mind you: people moving!

Until this time, prostitution in Vancouver was kept to E. Pender St. (called Dupont, at that time); this was known as the “restricted district” (what we’d call these days, the “red light district”). From what I can discern, prostitution at the time was not principally a street-walking occupation. It was, if you’ll pardon the expression, more of a “cottage industry” — carried on within dwellings (aka, brothels).

So, the City decided to move the ladies of E. Pender elsewhere. But why? There was very little attention paid to this (to me, obvious) question in press accounts of the time. Which leads me to believe that the answer was believed at the time to be self-evident. That led me to the conclusion that it was the usual reason: money (and in Vancouver, that has always meant the same thing as real estate values). I suspect that the value of real estate in E. Pender had risen recently and that led the city to kick out those who were not likely to be contributors to further escalation.

Whatever the reason(s) why the ladies weren’t allowed to remain on E. Pender, they were being told to move to the new restricted district.

Guess where?

Yup, Park Lane.

A brief public furore ensued upon the city’s decision to move the ladies to the Lane. The owners and residents of Park Lane didn’t seem to object to the City’s proposal. (Or if some of them did, they didn’t make loud noises about their concerns).

The main source of the loudest concern seemed to come from another neighbourhood: Mount Pleasant. Mount Pleasant was just across the Westminster (Main St) Bridge from the Lane and, so,  just a few minutes away from the Lane by horse (or a few minutes more by shanks mare). What were the concerns of the denizens of Mount Pleasant?

  • Those who were making the loudest noises believed that prostitution generally was a social evil and that the ladies ought not be welcomed in Vancouver anywhere.
  • But if the ladies must be somewhere within the city, they certainly shouldn’t be in Park Lane. The reason: Park Lane was just off Westminster/Main, the bridge of which at the time was really the only means of easy access between Mount Pleasant and downtown.
  • Therefore, the major motive of those in Mount Pleasant whose knickers were in a twist over the re-location of the ladies to Park Lane was not greatly different from those who wanted them out of E. Pender: Money (or, what amounts to the same thing, “trade”).  Mount Pleasant residents were afraid that the presence of this “moral depravity” just on the other side of the Westminster Bridge would serve to reduce the quality and quantity of trade that made its way up to Mount Pleasant.

According to this site, the noise-makers were effective in getting the City to change its policy regarding the move of the restricted district. It would remain in the E. Pender vicinity for the time being;  however it would move off that actual street to Canton and Shanghai Alleys.

In any case, Park Lane had a very limited lifespan going forward.

Goodbye Park Lane

Park Lane residents had just a few years from the proposed move of the restricted district before their homes had a date with the wrecking ball.

By 1912, the City of Vancouver had a deal with the Great Northern Railway (and Northern Pacific) that involved the GNR infilling part of False Creek and then establishing a Union depot on the infill (later, Canadian Northern Railway would do likewise just south of Union station; the CNR station is now known as the Pacific Central Station).

Infill and depot construction was underway by 1914, and the first train to leave the completed Union station (Fred Townley, architect) was a Northern Pacific train on January 1918. By 1965, Union Depot had evidently served its purpose; it, too was demolished.

2010-006.103 - Wrecking Great Northern Depot - Vancouver eb 1965 Ernie H. Reksten copy

2010-006.103 – Wrecking Great Northern Depot – Vancouver Feb 1965. Ernie H. Reksten. The photographer would have been standing with his back to (and parallel with) Park Lane for this photo.

2010-006.104 - Great Northern Depot 1965 Ernie H Reksten

2010-006.104 – Great Northern Depot. 1965. Ernie H Reksten. This photo was made from a more oblique angle (toward the south – closer to the (then) CNR Depot. Union Depot’s freight sheds are visible running roughly perpendicular with the depot.

Since the demolition of Union depot, the land has been largely neglected. In recent years, it seems to have been used as a surplus lot for automobile dealers.

But plans are afoot for the former Park Lane and its waterfront. St. Paul’s Hospital will move to this site by about 2024.


¹Elizabeth Walker. Street Names of Vancouver. p. 116

²Walker, p. 116.

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Turn On Your Headlights for Car Service

Update (First Published October 2017):

CVA 1376-17 - White Spot [drive in] restaurant [850 Burrard Street] 1952? Werner Leggenhager

CVA 1376-17 – White Spot Drive-In Restaurant with Lunch Counter at 850 Burrard Street. 1952? Werner Lenggenhager photo.

This is an unusual photo.

I’ve seen other photos taken from Smithe or thereabouts on Burrard Street (such as the one that appears below) with the White Spot neon signage displayed. But this is the only image I’ve seen of the actual lunch counter and parking lot where folks could switch on their headlights and receive ‘car service’.

This outlet of the now-ubiquitous restaurant chain seemed to have been located where the Scotiabank Theatre is today. The image above was taken with the camera facing northeast (you can make out the Hotel Vancouver in the background).

The photo was made by Werner Lenggenhager (1899-1988), who, according to CVA’s very brief bio, was a Seattle man who once worked for Boeing. The photo bears the marks of a non-resident. It just isn’t the sort of shot which most Vancouverites in the 1950s would have taken the trouble to make.

This link shows Jack Cullen (and occasionally with his wife and also with his cigarette!) doing ads for White Spots and other businesses for KVOS Bellingham (now a station of Me-TV).

Thanks, Werner!

Crop pf CVA 2008-022.045 - [Downtown Vancouver street scene with BC Hydro building] 1958

Crop pf CVA 2008-022.045 – Downtown Vancouver street scene with BC Hydro building and neon White Spot signage. 1958.

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Professor Alan C. Cairns

UBC Archives Photo. UBC 44.1:2270 - 1993

Prof. Alan C. Cairns, Political Scientist. (1930-1918). UBC Archives Photo. UBC 44.1/2270 – 1993

The fact that Professor Alan Cairns was on the faculty of UBC’s Political Science Department was one of the principal reasons that I came to Vancouver and UBC to do my M.A. And so it is with sadness that I join others in reporting his passing on August 27, 2018 (b. 1930).

You may hear his address to the 1998 UBC Convocation on the occasion on which an honorary degree was conferred upon him. His remarks begin at about the 16 minutes, 40 seconds mark. Needless to say, his remarks lasted longer than the requested “2 to 4 minutes”; he took 10 minutes, still substantially less than the 50 minutes which he considered his due!

ACC - Constitution Govenrment and SocietyOne of my fond recollections of Professor Cairns (and he would always be that to me —never Alan!) were his regular quotations of baseball great, Yogi Berra.

My personal favourite of all of his written work is “The Judicial Committee and its Critics” (one of his essays in Constitution, Government and Society in Canada).

I will remember Professor Cairns as being (like other mentors of mine, Professor Akira Ichikawa of the University of Lethbridge and Professor Ken Carty of UBC) a gentle humanist.

This account by Michael Valpy is a good summary of Professor Cairns’ varied life and work.

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Alfred Lafond

CVA 14-1 - Crowd at the site of Champion and White warehouse (935-941 Main Street) after destroyed by fire July 1912

CVA 14-1 – Crowd at the site of Champion and White warehouse (935-941 Main Street) after destroyed by fire. July 1912. Lafond’s Pool Rooms (909 Main) would have been just north of this.

Alfred Lafond was born in Quebec to Joseph and Genevieve on March 1, 1849. Alfred married Azilda (b. 1863). In 1883, a daughter was born to the couple. They named her Lodivine. A son, Albert, was born in 1896.

Alfred travelled west when he was in his 50s. It isn’t clear whether his wife and family accompanied him, although Lodivine died in the Lower Mainland (she was married to Henry Joseph Allen).

Lafond first came to the attention of the Vancouver public in 1902.¹ He seems to have landed work as a “hotelkeeper” or manager (not the proprietor) of the Golden Gate Hotel (the building still stands today as an SRO with the Two Parrots bar at street level) at SE corner Granville and Davie Street. Lafond received his 5 seconds of fame that year, with some sort of new board game that he’d invented. I’ll allow the Daily World to explain:

Lafond’s Invention — Alfred Lafond, who resides at the rear of the Golden Gate hotel, Granville Street [at 662 Davie], has invented a game board, which looks likely to ere long become very popular. On the centre of the board are four gongs over a similar number of round holes. A red billiard ball is placed at the head of the table, and the game is played with a white ball. On the right side of the table is a small groove in which the white ball is placed. Then it is struck with a cue and runs up on the board, and descending finds a place in one of the holes or goes below into one of the eight pockets. Should the white ball strike the red one, it counts double. The tally is attached to the board, and the whole affair is unique. Mr. Lafond intends placing the game on exhibition in one of the city stores shortly.
— Vancouver Daily World, 23 June 1902

I don’t know about you, but I find this explanation of the game and its rules to be inscrutable. It seems as though it is a variant of billiards, and I suspect that the ‘board’ would have dimensions near the size of a pool table (and that, presumably, one would place the board atop such a table). What the “gongs” were  – they are mentioned but once – is beyond me! A check of Canadian patents did not reveal  an application for a patent by Mr. Lafond for this game. I think the Daily World was right: the whole affair was unique (but not necessarily saleable)!

I’m don’t know how long Lafond remained at the Golden Gate, but by 1909 he evidently had moved to a home in a lane-way just off Westminster Avenue (later, Main Street) and had started his own pool hall (Lafond’s Pool Rooms). Perhaps he’d been unsuccessful in getting local shops to accept his new board game, and decided that having his own pool room was the only way to persuade the public of its worthiness. Or perhaps by 1909, he had come to the conclusion that his inventiveness wasn’t so remarkable, and his pool room just had the usual range of games typically found in such an establishment.

His home, interestingly, was located on an alley-way named in his honour. Elizabeth Walker, author of Street Names of Vancouver had this to say about Lafond’s self-named alley:

LAFONDS ALLEY. An unofficial name, only listed in the 1909 city directory, after  Alfred Lafond, proprietor of Lafond’s Pool Rooms (909 Westminster Avenue), who lived in Lafond’s Alley, which lay between Prior Street and False Creek on the west side of the present Main Street.
— Elizabeth Walker. Street Names of Vancouver. Vancouver Historical Society, 1999, 67.

I’ve tried in vain to find a photo of Lafond’s Pool Rooms or his alley. The closest I came was the CVA image above showing the 900 block of Main (taken from the rear, apparently) after the major commercial fire that destroyed the Champion and White warehouse in 1912. It is impossible to tell from this image whether or not the properties of Lafond’s alley were damaged in this fire, but I suspect not. My best guess is that the alley-way was a bit north and west of the Champion and White locale and that it ran parallel (in east/west orientation) to what today is called Millross Road (see 1912 Goad’s Insurance Map overlay on the present-day Van Map, shown below).

The only thing that can be said for sure about Lafond’s Alley, in addition to the info offered by Walker, is that there were about four other residents in the lane (according to the 1909 directory): James Haywood (wharfinger), W. Fraser (wharfinger), Michel Carriere (Vancouver city employee), and someone designated only by his surname: Cawss (laborer).

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 6.07.55 PM

Whether the alley properties were damaged by the 1912 fire (or perhaps redeveloped out of existence shortly afterwards) or not, it is pretty clear that neither Lafond nor his pool establishment stayed for long on Main Street. By 1910, Daily World classified ads indicate that he’d moved to Steveston. Just what took him to Steveston isn’t clear. The classified evidence is summarized below:

  • 16 August 1910: FOR TRADE — One good-size mare, which will foal late, sired by one of the best Hackney horses in the country; for a working horse, or will take a good fresh cow. Enquire Alfred Lafond. Steveston, B.C.
  • 29 September 1910: FOR SALE — One good second-hand pool table, one box bowling alley new.² A Lafond, Steveston.
  • 31 March 1911: FOR SALE — Good second-hand pool table and two pair of guinea hens. Alfred Lafond, Steveston, B.C.
  • 25 February 1911: FOR QUICK SALE — Pool table, $100. Alfred Lafond, Steveston, B.C.

By early 1911, Lafond seemed increasingly desperate to sell his pool table (could this have been the same table on which he invented his un-famous board game?). He was probably anxious to sell it because he was getting ready to pull up stakes and leave not only Steveston, but B.C.

The next time we were able to track Alfred, in 1913, he turned up in the town of St. Albert, Alberta . . . deceased. I don’t know what took Lafond to Alberta. He was in his middle 60s by the time of his move; perhaps he was unwell and had gone to stay with a family member in St. Albert (which had a significant french-speaking population).

Azilda Lafond died in Quebec in 1944.


¹There was another A. Lafond in Vancouver, much earlier, evidently (by 1888). This seems to have been an (unrelated?) person named Albert. He appears as a barber and also as a jewelery repairer in early city directories.

²I think it’s safe to say that this was not a game of Lafond’s invention. Similar ads appeared in the 1907-1920s period (mainly in American newspapers). I had no idea of the cost of the ‘one box bowling alley’ until I came across an ad (which may have been self-serving to some extent) of a used version for sale, “new $450” being offered for $75.

This is entirely speculative, but it occurred to me that the miniature bowling alley which once was in St. Philips Anglican Church in Dunbar (and, according to my source, is still present there) might have been of this “one box” variety. Does anyone have further clues on this subject? (A friend who was associated with Chalmer’s Presbyterian Church – as it then was – indicated that when doing renovations of that structure, a not dissimilar bowling feature was there. It is today long gone).

Note: A U.S. patent was sought in 1890 for a “toy bowling alley“. Might this be the one box bowling alley?

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1930s View Down Richards Street

Images 2592/3 present unusual northward views of Richards Street. They show a commercial strip in the early 1930s that was ignored by many photographers.

Who do we have to thank for these atypical views? Photographer, Stuart Thomson? Well, not really. Thomson received the commission to make these images. But the commissioner was Col. John S. Tait of the Tait Pipe Co. (26th Ave. and Nanaimo Rd.), probably as record shots of the firm’s work manufacturing the telephone poles (which also served as lamp standards) along Richards St. Unfortunately, the telephone poles didn’t survive into the 21st Century (nor even into the late 20th century)!

CVA 99-2592 - [Richards Street scene (showing telephone poles taken for Col. Tait)] 1931 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-2592 -Richards Street scene (showing telephone poles taken for Col. Tait). 1931. Stuart Thomson. (Notes identifying buildings were added by author).

St. Amdrew’s Presbyterian Church (shown at right foreground in Image 2592 above) was at Richards and Georgia (demolished in 1934). Dunsmuir Hotel (Richards and Dunsmuir) is extant but has been boarded up for years; I suspect its days are numbered. The Weart (aka “Standard”) Building (SW corner Richards and Hastings) is extant and remains a going concern. The tall-ish structure just this side of the Weart is the Lumberman’s Building which also still stands and is in use today (509 Richards – known in the 1930s as the North West Building). Gordon Craig Radios was at 637 Richards.

The Vancouver Bindery (650 Richards) apparently published local, small press volumes. One of the titles they published, which is still doing the rounds today, is The Mysteries of  Angling Revealed (1937).

Beneath the the Vancouver Bindery sign is a horizontally-oriented sign which probably indicated the presence of an antique shop nearby. Although it isn’t designated as anything more than “Hersey, B. C.” at 660 Richards, in the 1931 directory, Robert Moen has pointed out that in later directories (e.g., 1934), the business at this address is described as an antique shop. It was owned by Bertram Hersey in 1931, evidently. But by 1934, his wife, Ethel, (who was separated or divorced from Bert by then) had taken over the business. Bert took on work as a furniture upholsterer. (Thanks, Robert, for your help with that!)

CVA 99-2593 - [Richards Street scene (showing telephone poles taken for Col. Tait)] 1931 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-2593 – Richards Street scene. 1931. Stuart Thomson.

Image 2593 seems to have been taken from the east side of the 500 block of Richards. The horizontal laundry sign seems to be advertising Excelsior Laundry (556 Richards).  Two businesses which are extant along the 500 block of Richards were on the block in 1931, although not visible in these photos: St. Clair Rooms (577 Richards; today, a hostel) and B.C. Stamp Ltd. (581 Richards).

CVA 778-372 - 500 Richards Street east side 1974

CVA 778-372 – 500 Richards Street east side. 1974. Note: There is still evidence in this photo of antediluvian B.C. alcohol regulation which required separate entries for “gentlemen” and “ladies and escorts” into locales where liquor was served.

The “Marble Arch Hotel” is the once (in the 1930s) and future (it has been given its original name, again, in recent years following a renovation to make it over into an SRO) “Canada Hotel” (514 Richards). The hotel is the tallest building on the right side of Image 2593.

The “Western Trophies” building (522 Richards) – two doors south of the hotel – was in 1931 “Kingsley Rooms”, the sign for which is visible in Image 2593. The 3-storey block between the hotel and Kingsely Rooms was, according to the 1931 city directory, Love’s Furniture at street level (520 Richards) and above the shop, Shirley Rooms (520-1/2 Richards). However, Love’s Furniture, in Image 778-372 appears to have given way to expansion by the adjacent hotel; whether or not Shirley Rooms was likewise swallowed by the Marble Arch isn’t clear, but seems likely.°


PR brochure. Author’s collection.


PR brochure. Author’s collection.

In the 1970s, when Cathedral Square was built on the NE corner of Richards at Dunsmuir, neither of the two multi-storey buildings south of the Canada Hotel survived.∞


°Interestingly, perusal of later editions of the City Directory indicates that both Love & Co. and Shirley Rooms continued to exist at this location at least until 1935.

∞I learned while writing this post that Cathedral Square hides a BC Hydro substation beneath it. This was a progressive (and relatively early) development that must have inspired current planners in considering installing other downtown substations beneath Emery Barnes Park and the Lord Roberts School Annex.

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500th Post: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Stanley Park - Leth Acquisition

“Stanley Park” ca1960s. Author’s Collection. In fact, it shows part of the garden of Queen Elizabeth Park on Little Mountain in Vancouver. QEP is a former quarry. It was named in honour of Queen Elizabeth II’s mother, aka the Queen Mother, in 1939. (A tip-off that this may be QEP was the presence of the Gunnera (the enormous leafy plant in the centre foreground). Gunerras still can be found in QEP.

I purchased the framed image above (complete with functioning thermometer!) at an antique shop when I was in Lethbridge, AB, recently.

The label of “Stanley Park” on the photo bothered me from the outset. But I bought it anyway (for $5) since Stanley Park has changed a lot over its history and I don’t pretend to be an expert on past developments in the Park.

A collector and friend, Neil Whaley, suggested that the image might be of Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island. But upon looking at older images of Butchart, I didn’t see any water features similar to those that appear in my image.

88599 QEP

VPL 88599. Postcard of Queen Elizabeth Park. quarry garden. n.d. George Weinhaupl.

So I focused on Queen Elizabeth Park on Little Mountain in Vancouver.


The undated VPL postcard shown above seems to be a pretty close match with my Lethbridge acquisition.

CVA 371-1031 - [The rock crusher at Little Mountain Quarry] 1908-10

CVA 371-1031 – The rock crusher at Little Mountain Quarry. 1908-1910. This is an image of QE Park in its time as a quarry.

For a different angle on the park, see this ‘60s CBC Vancouver “Morning Show” documentary starting at about the 18 minutes, 50 seconds mark. Those of you who mourn the death of the Social Credit party perhaps might enjoy the interview with Vancouver Parks Board commissioner, Grace McCarthy. (Those of you who aren’t fans of McCarthy might still ‘enjoy’ listening to her already practiced political natter in response to Ross Mortimer’s questions). I found myself smiling during this documentary. There is a remarkable contrast between the slow-moving, detailed (and very well-spoken, Brit-influenced language from Mortimer; I think the last of these less-than-photogenic but well-spoken male hosts was Norm Perry, formerly of Canada AM) and today’s very fast-moving and less grammatically-conscious docs.

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How Victory Square and Its Cenotaph Came to Be


CVA 784-084 – Victory Square, 1986. The platform nestling amid the four tall trees was included in the Square in 1921. It was established for community singing one night each week (VDW 9 August 1921). This platform has also been used to advertise radios in the 1930s (see next photo).

From the vantage of 2018, it is all too easy to look at Victory Square and assume that one or two sentences can amply sum up the history of the place. One might say, for instance, that Victory Square was the first site of the Provincial Courthouse and that, after the ‘new’ courthouse was built on Georgia Street (between Hornby and Howe), the space became a memorial for Vancouver’s ‘boys’ who died in WWI. It has been the principal City site of Remembrance Day services since then. Those lines are an accurate but, I’ve discovered, incomplete representation of the history of the space.

CVA 99-4143 - Radio Sales Company giant radio at Victory Square 1931 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-4143 – Radio Sales Company giant radio at Victory Square 1931 Stuart Thomson.

Before the War

The first post-city-incorporation structure on the site of what today is known as Victory Square was the provincial courthouse (1890-1913). The building wasn’t loved. Indeed, it was thought by many to be an eye-sore (VDW 30 April 1918).

Duke of C and Y P21 - [The Courthouse decorated for the reception of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York] Sept 1901

CVA: Duke of C and Y P21 – The first provincial Courthouse decorated for the reception of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York. Sept 1901. The camera was at the northwest corner (roughly at Hastings and Hamilton).

By 1906, work had begun on the new courthouse and while the old one would continue to be used for judicial purposes until the Georgia Street site was ready for occupation (1913), debate began in earnest as to what would become of the former courthouse and the prime real estate on which it sat.

As is the case whenever valuable property is up for grabs, there were rumours swirling about. One was that T. Eaton, the eastern Canadian department store magnate, wanted to acquire the land from the province to establish a Vancouver store (VDW 10 February 1906). Another was that the Great Northern Railway had offered to purchase the land and that they had plans to build a hotel on the site that would rival the CPR’s Hotel Vancouver (VDW 4 October 1906). Whether there was any truth to either of these rumours is impossible to know.

There were plenty of proposals on what to do with the site:

  • Vancouver’s Art, Historical and Scientific Society, which was the ancestor of the Museum of  Vancouver, made a pitch to the province that the former courthouse become a local museum (VDW 13 August 1908). The local museum instead spent its early years housed in Carnegie Library’s upper floors (Main and East Hastings).
  • UBC (or McGill University/Vancouver, as it then was) proposed to the provincial Minister of Education that the old courthouse serve as the temporary home of the university until the province could get a start made on building the Point Grey campus. The institution was unhappily housed in the fairview huts on the property today known as Vancouver General Hospital.
  • One of the most popular proposals was one fronted by businessman Ed Hewitt, and architect R. Mackay Fripp. The idea hatched by Hewitt and Fripp would have involved the acquisition by the city of the courthouse property, of Central School immediately to the south of it (where VCC is today), and of the block south of Central School for the development of a civic centre; this would include city hall (5 January 1914). The civic centre shown on Illustrated Vancouver (and dated 1922) appears to be the same concept.

As part of the 1909 municipal election in Vancouver, a plebiscite question was put to residents as to whether they favoured the City acquiring the property. Although I don’t know what the specific percentages were, city residents were apparently very much in favour of the province handing over the site to the city (VDW 18 January 1909).

H-02678 - Premier Richard McBride with Attorney General William John Bowser. Royal BC Archives ca. 1911

Royal BC Archives – Item H-02678. Premier Richard McBride with Attorney General William John Bowser, ca. 1911.

But the Conservative provincial government under Premier Richard McBride did not, evidently, feel greatly pressured by this municipal plebiscite. In 1912, Attorney General William Bowser announced that the province would sub-divide the courthouse property and sell the properties to private interests (VDW 22 June 1912). (I’ve seen estimates for the total value of the land ranging up to $1 million at this time. Doubtless, today, it would be off the charts value-wise.)

The outrage in Vancouver upon publication of this announcement was palpable. The Daily World  described Bowser’s plan as being “high-handed” and a “grievous injustice to the city.”

Great War and Change of Government

Happily, McBride’s government didn’t rush to implement their announced sub-divide and sell policy.

By 1915, for the first time in print as far as I can tell, a linkage was made between the Great War and the former courthouse site (the courthouse had been demolished in October 1913):

His Honor Judge Grant . . . referred to the losses sustained by the Canadian regiments, and said he thought it would be a fitting action of the government and patriotic societies combined for the purpose of erecting a monument to those of Canada’s sons who fell in the war. His honor suggested the site of the old courthouse as a spot suitable for such a tribute to the gallantry of the heroes of the war.
— VDW 26 April 1915

In September, 1916, the Conservatives were voted out of office and the Liberals under Premier H. C. Brewster were voted in. The new government (partly due, no doubt, to the changed circumstances of the Great War) showed signs of a different attitude to the question of handing over the old courthouse property to Vancouver.

By 1917, the legislation transferring the land — by a 99-year lease — to the city was introduced in the Legislative Assembly.

In the kind of peculiar twist that sometimes happens in politics, former Attorney General William Bowser (who by this time was on the Opposition benches) proposed that the bill be amended to remove the provincial lease of the property for 99 years to the city and instead make the land grant to the city absolute!

Mr Bowser said that he had read in the press that revival meetings are now being held on the old Vancouver courthouse site, and he jocularly remarked that perhaps the revivalists were preaching against the sins of the last government.
–VDW 11 May 1917

It isn’t clear from press accounts whether the bill was amended to grant the city clear title or whether the 99-year lease arrangement was left in the legislation. But it hardly seems to matter, today. I cannot believe any provincial government would snatch the property back from the city. (And, in any case, the 99-year term passed a couple of years back with no mention by the Province of having a go at ‘our’ Square, as far as I know).¹

Getting from Square to Cenotaph

Once the debate over whether the City owned the former courthouse property was over, there was still the question of what the site would be called and what sort of memorial would be erected to honour ‘our boys’.

The name of the site was settled by Council in 1919. Initially, the park was to be called “Memorial Square”, but that was thrown out (one person described it as being lugubrious) in favour of “Victory Square”. Work went ahead (under the city’s Parks Commission²) on the Square’s garden and sidewalk features. The park itself was viewed as something separate from, although related to, the war memorial. Multiple city sub-committees were tasked with sorting out which of several proposals for a war memorial would be implemented.

The possibilities included the following ideas (these ideas were for placement in Victory Square; not all memorial proposals were to be located there; one proposal, for example, was for a memorial to be on a boulevard in the middle of Georgia street! (VDW 8 March 1922)):

  • City Hall with public auditorium and monument; brass memorial tablets within.
  • Deadman’s Island as a site for a memorial; according to critics of the scheme, a very costly option.
  • Building, the lower rooms to be used for rest rooms, with tablets bearing the names of those who enlisted in B. C., with names of the fallen specially marked. Upstairs to be an auditorium.
  • Building with a public silence room suitable for memorial services. Also a rest room for veterans and dependants decorated with memorial tablets and stained glass windows.
  • City Hall with public auditorium; seating 4000 to 5000 people.
  • Joint proposal of Charles Marega and L. Townley for a single-storey building “suggestive of a Greek temple”. This idea was proposed and modelled while the War was still being fought. The model did the rounds, including being displayed at City Hall, but nothing came of it.
  • Tower with bell chimes. Ground floor chapel for between 300-500 people with a good organ. On the interior walls, brass tablets bearing the rolls of honor. (A drawing of the tower appears below).

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 2.47.45 PM

By the end of 1922, the decision was made to go with a simple cenotaph in the northeast corner of Victory Square. This would be costly enough, as it turned out (I cannot imagine the cost of the tower with chapel and chimes!). It was budgeted at $8,000, funds for which would be privately raised. The Canadian Club gave oversight to the Cenotaph project (VDW 23 January 1924).

Victory Square was opened, with its cenotaph, in 1924.


¹Perhaps I shouldn’t be so confident. This imaginary, futuristic press report (datelined May 5, 2016) appeared in the Vancouver Daily World on May 7, 1917:
“Victoria, B. C., May 5  —  A large delegation from Vancouver, headed by the mayor of that city met the provincial executive today to urge that a renewal of the lease of Memorial Square be granted to the city. The lease was originally granted nearly 99 years ago, and expires in the course of a few weeks. The ground was then known as the Old Court House site, but it is not now known how it attained that name. The delegation urged that this was the only open space on Hastings street from the Post Office to the Burnaby cemetery, and that the whole intervening district was closely built up. It would be a calamity if, as had been suggested, the Soldiers’ Memorial were removed and the site sold for commercial purposes. Premier Wowsir said in fairness to the rest of the province the site ought to be sold. Its value was estimated at $25,00,000. He would, however, be willing to let Vancouver have it for $23,000,000 payable in the city’s debentures at 4 per cent. The delegation withdrew very much disappointed. Interviewed afterwards, his worship, the mayor, said that as a general election would be held in a few months and as there seemed a general disposition to return a new government in view of the fact that the present administration had been in power 32 years, he thought no further action would be taken until it was found possible to make representations to Mr. Wowsir’s successor.”

²While the Parks Commission was apparently responsible for implementation, the planning of the Square was done by the architectural firm of Sharp & Thompson (VDW 23 January 1924).

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Speculations on a Black ‘House of Ill Fame’


Crop of Plate 5 of Vancouver Fire Insurance Map Book. Dakin Publishing Co., San Francisco: November 1889. UBC Rare Book Room (not available online). Note: “Negro Ill Fame” near bottom left corner (enclosed by my red box) of this crop.

When I was browsing through a fascinating, very early fire insurance map book of Vancouver in UBC’s rare book room, recently, I noticed a label that took me aback: “Negro Ill Fame”.  I knew what “ill fame” denoted (a ‘house of ill fame’ or prostitution). However, the location of the house struck me as peculiar.

This post is a record of what I’ve learned about the house of ill fame to date. It is not the ‘last word’ regarding the house (I hope!). This post is intended to strike up a historical conversation on the subject.

Here is what I think I know, as of now:

  • It was located, east/west, about halfway between Carrall and Columbia Streets and north/south about a block south of Pender, just about where Keefer would ultimately be.
  • It was a wooden structure, and larger than I would have expected (compare it with other ‘DWG’s (dwellings) and the Chinese laundries in the same alley).
  • It was near the ‘shore’ of False Creek. (The infill of the False Creek seems to have been a more gradual enterprise than I had formerly thought. Compare the shorelines in 1889, 1901 and 1912 maps).
  • It appears to have been accessed via an un-named alley (at least officially un-named; perhaps locals had a name for it). ‘Canton Alley’ and ‘Shanghai Alley’ were nearby. But this lane seems to have been nameless.
  • The block of Pender running parallel to the lane-way had a reputation for being a neighbourhood in which one could readily find a house of prostitution. These houses, however, to the best of my knowledge, were racially non-specific.
  • It appears to have lasted in this location just a brief time. This may have been because the area was taking on an increasingly Chinese flavour and becoming, later, a rail hub for the Great Northern Railway (GNR). It could also be that the location was found to be unsuitable for attracting the clientele the house was, presumably, targeting (black males). It could be that this segment of the population was increasingly being pulled away from this area, perhaps attracted to what would gradually become Hogan’s Alley  – southeast of this location, roughly at Main and Prior.
  • The proportion of Blacks in B.C. in 1901 was much less than 1% (0.003%). I’m assuming that since Vancouver was the largest urban centre by that year, that the proportion was about the same for the city.¹
  • No photos of the house nor its neighbours seem to be avaiable in public archives.

Library and Archives Canada. Crop of Plate 11 of Goad’s Fire Insurance Map of Vancouver. 1901. Note that the area of the former house of ill fame had become even more dominated by Chinese dwellings and institutions. (e.g., there was now a Chinese Theatre in the area).

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 2.15.22 PM

Crop of Goad’s Fire Insurance Map: July 1912. From VanMap (City of Vancouver). By 1912, the former home to the Chinese Theatre and Chinese businesses south of Pender had been taken over by railway-related buildings.

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 2.53.18 PM

Google Aerial View showing my guess as to the location of the 1889 house of ill fame in Sun Yat Sen Gardens. Note: In 1974, there was a “Keefer Diversion”, which cut through what is now Sun Yat Sen. This traffic shortcut was found to be redundant by the 1980s and so was removed when S-Y-S Gardens was created in 1986.


¹The same source, BC Black History Awareness, shows that population demographics for blacks in BC, as a proportion of the total population, have remained substantially less than 1% throughout census-taking history in B.C. (1871-2016). Indeed, the number of blacks in B.C. only began to exceed 1,000 in 1961. (Thanks to Jenn Friesen for asking a series of questions that led me to pursue this info).

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Bully Off!* Very Early Ladies’ Grass Hockey

cdm.langmann.1-0053444.0057full-.WmA Bauer Photo Album=n Vancouvrer Hockey Teamjpg

UL_1015_0057,UL_1015_0057. UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections, Uno Langmann Collection.William A. Bauer Photo Album. Vancouver Ladies Field Hockey Team. The caption, according to UBC staff reads as follows (my speculations as to first names appear in square brackets): “Teaplov (?), [Bessie?] Lawson, [Constance] Hamersely, [Kate] Burpee, Philpot, [Jonia?] Johnson, [Maud] Bauer, [Josephine?] Boult, [Sarah?] Selwyn, [Nellie?] Lawson, Campion.” December, 1900. Photographer (presumably) is William A. Bauer.

The photo shown above is of the Vancouver Ladies Grass Hockey team as it was in December 1900. The photo is from the album of William A. Bauer, a brother of one of the players, Maud Bauer.¹ This is among the earliest photos available today in public archives of BC grass hockey teams. Jason Beck, curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame, whom I consulted, pointed out that “organized sport of any kind in Vancouver was very limited prior to 1895.” And that was roughly confirmed in my review of news reports of Ladies’ grass hockey (later “field hockey”) matches; I wasn’t able to find accounts dating back earlier than 1897.²

Ladies’ Grass Hockey went from apparently having only three teams (representing the cities of Vancouver, New Westminster, and Victoria) in its earliest years in B.C. to having several teams by the early years of the 20th century. By 1919, for example, there were (in what we’d today call Greater Vancouver) teams representing UBC (known as the Varsity team), King Edward high school, King George high school, Britannia high school, Vancouver Normal School, North Vancouver teachers, South Vancouver teachers, as well as the cities of Vancouver and New Westminster. Not all of the teams competed against each other. (For a contemporary list of women’s field hockey clubs in the Lower Mainland, see Field Hockey BC’s site.)

Early matches (certainly the popular ones of Victoria vs. Vancouver) were played at the Brockton Point grounds in Stanley Park.

cdm.langmann.1-0053444.0018full-WmA Bauer Photo Album

UL_1015_0018,UL_1015_0018. UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections, Uno Langmann Collection. William A Bauer Photo Album. The City of Vancouver ladies’ grass hockey team. In action, I’m guessing, at Brockton Point in Stanley Park. ca1891-1901 (although I think it is safe to bring the earliest likely year in the range up to 1897). Photographer (presumably) is William A. Bauer.

Plainly, the uniforms of these very early teams are in stark contrast with those worn by today’s teams in B.C. and elsewhere. The equipment has likewise has changed over the decades. The wooden ball used in the early years, for example, is today made of plastic.

There was an early cup dedicated to be held by the winner of “friendly” ladies’ grass hockey matches in the early years. The Wilkerson Cup was provided by Mr. William H. Wilkerson (a Victoria watchmaker) for the winning team among (at least) three clubs: Vancouver, Victoria, and New Westminster (Vancouver Daily World, 21 October 1913).³

b-03501_141 - Item B-03501 - Victoria High School Girls' Hockey Team, Cecilia Green in white blouse. 190-

Item B-03501. Royal BC Archives. Victoria High School Girls’ Hockey Team, Cecilia Green in white blouse. 190-. The cup in the foreground, I’m assuming, is the Wilkerson Cup. My impression is that Victoria teams were most often victors against Lower Mainland teams. Photographer unknown.

VDW 16 Dec 1897

VDW 16 Dec 1897


One feature of the early grass hockey rivalry between city teams in Vancouver and Victoria was the inclusion of a dance or “ball” to be held following the match. The home team would host their opponents.



Item B-03482 - Victoria High School girls' grass hockey team; posed with the bus from the Hotel Vancouver during a field trip ca1901

Item B-03482. Royal BC Archives. Victoria High School girls’ grass hockey team; posed with the bus from the Hotel Vancouver during a field trip. It seems likely that the girls were in Vancouver for one of the early matches with Vancouver, to be followed by a dance at the Hotel Vancouver. ca1901. Photographer unknown.


* The “Bully Off” was the way play was started (or restarted mid-game) between opposing grass hockey teams. It was similar to the “face off” in ice hockey or the “drop ball” in soccer. It involved two players from opposing teams alternately touching their sticks on the ground and against each other’s sticks before attempting to strike the ball. The bully off, reportedly, has not been used to start field hockey games since 1981.

¹Miss Maud Bauer (of the Vancouver field hockey team) shouldn’t be confused with Mrs. Maud Bauer (who became William’s wife in 1907). To help limit the confusion (I’m assuming), Mrs. Bauer was known by her middle name (Ruby) for most of her married life.

²One of the earliest accounts I found was in the 2 April 1897 edition of the Vancouver Daily World. This very brief report is reproduced in its entirety: “With sweet success upon their brows, the Vancouver ladies’ hockey team went down to Victoria to-day to play a team of that city to-morrow, having vanquished that of New Westminster on Wednesday. The players were accompanied by a number of friends, the party comprising: Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Burns, Misses Smith, Boultbee, Boult, Philpot, M. Philpot, Bauer, (2) Taylor, Sully, Farron, Wilson, Revely, Marstrand, Rogers, and F. Crickmay.” Although some of the same surnames appear in this list as are in the caption of the 1900 photo shown initially in this post, it was impossible for me to suss out who among these were players and who were rooters (or “friends”). And the paragraph, likewise, was unhelpful in determining the first names – and thus identities – of these very early players. The meaning of the parenthetic numeral “(2)” is – if not a typographical error – a mystery to me.

³According to another, earlier, account by the Daily Colonist, the Wilkerson Cup was for competition among more than just the two clubs. According to this source, it was played for by Victoria, Vancouver, Vancouver High School girls club, the Vancouver Normal School, and McGill-BC (an early abbreviated descriptor of what became UBC; this had been accomplished by BC legislation in 1908 but, evidently, the Colonist was living in the past in 1910!)  (Daily Colonist 19 March, 1910).

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Three Early Seafood Nosheries

CVA 99-3895 - Hotel Pennsylvania [at 412 Carrall Street] 1931 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-3895 – Hotel Pennsylvania (at SE corner Carrall and Hastings) and adjacent to it, Old Country Fish & Chips at 6 East Hastings (street level in the Desrosiers block); just a few doors east on Hastings was the Only; and just about a block north of here was Oyster Bay Cafe at the SE corner of Cordova and Carrall (kitty-corner from the Boulder Hotel). At the time this photo was made, Vancouver City Hall was in the Holden Building (the 10-storey structure adjacent to the Desrosiers block), so I expect that city employees made up a large proportion of the seafood customers at these three nearby restaurants. 1931. Stuart Thomson.

Once upon a time in the City of Vancouver there were three major seafood restaurants in the vicinity of Hastings and Carrall Streets. Yes, I said three not only the Only – which was one of the three and certainly the most recent of them to close its doors. There was also Old Country Fish & Chips just a few doors west of the Only on Hastings and Oyster Bay Cafe just a block north from the other two on the SE corner of Carrall and Cordova. I’ll give less attention to the Only, as its story is pretty fully detailed elsewhere.

Oyster Bay Cafe

This was certainly the earliest of the three to be in business. It seems to have been the first restaurant in Vancouver run by George Clayton Leonard, who would become well known as the proprietor of the local coffee shop concern that would be established a few years later and be known as Leonard’s Cafe.¹ While Leonard cut his teeth at the Oyster Bay Cafe, he didn’t own it for very long. Within about 6 years, he seems to have sold the seafood restaurant. It had a string of owners over its 50+ years in business. It ultimately closed in about 1948.

CVA 447-44 - Oyster Bay Cafe Building Carrall Street and Cordova Street ca 1947 W E Frost

CVA 447-44 – Oyster Bay Cafe Building at Carrall and Cordova Streets. ca 1947. W E Frost.

Old Country Fish & Chips

This “chippy” was located on the unit block of East Hastings at Carrall Street (6 East Hastings – where Liberty Market is located today). It was on the street level of the two-storey structure that was built by Magloire Desrosiers at about the turn of the 20th century and known since then as the Desrosiers Block

Old Country was an early entree into the restaurant business for another fellow whose name would become associated with the mainstream restaurant biz in Vancouver: Bert Love (Love’s Cafe and Grill). He seems to have opened the chippy with a partner (John Dobson) in 1916 at 334 Carrall, just a block from the Oyster Bay. However, within a couple years of opening, Bert shed both that early location and his partner. He moved the shop up to the Desrosiers block, where it would remain for the rest of its life. By 1922, Love had sold Old Country to J. S. Johnston, who owned it until the early 1930s. Old Country Fish & Chips closed its doors for the last time in 1933 (when it became the Rex Cafe until the early 1950s). Later, another entrepreneur would try to make a go of running a chippy at this location: The No. 1 Coney Island Seafood Restaurant (see the final photo in this post).

CVA 99-3455 - The Original Old Country Fish and Chips store [6 East Hastings Street] 1923 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-3455 – “The Original” Old Country Fish and Chips shop [6 East Hastings Street]. 1923. Stuart Thomson.

Only Fish & Oyster

the-only.pngThe Only, of seahorse signage fame, was opened in about 1918 – although not as the Only until about 1924.³ It endured for more than 90 years, until 2009. It was owned by Nick Thados and his brother-in-law (I’m assuming) Gust Tohodar and the Thados heirs after Nick’s death. For more about the Only, see the link above and many other accounts of the shop’s story available online.



The Only Seafood Interior (Taken through front window) - Closed. ca 2014

The interior of the Only (taken through front window, before the windows were boarded up, just a few weeks after this image was made). Closed. ca 2014. Author’s photo.

CVA 791-0793 - 412 Carrall Street Jan 1986-2

CVA 791-0793 – Lone Star Hotel (former the Pennsylvania; aka Woods Hotel) and the No. 1 Coney Island Seafood Restaurant (where the Old Country Fish & Chip Shop formerly was located); the Only was still operating a couple of doors up Hastings; but the Oyster Bay Cafe had, by this time, was no more. Jan 1986.


¹Leonard’s local coffee chain seemed to begin in about 1907 as the Coffee Palace and about a year later under his own name. George seems to have engaged in latter-day public relations, however – aka fibbing – when he indicated on later signage that Leonard’s Cafe had been operating since 1892!

²Desrosiers was a tinsmith and built the building initially to house his stove shop. The building has been in a very poor state for a number of years; it is encouraging to see that renovation work has begun on the block, recently.

³The shop was originally known simply under the name of Gust Tohodar. Nick Thodos and his heirs ran the Only for most of its years in business. Before the Only was at 20 East Hastings, there was another seafood shop there, briefly, known as the Vancouver Oyster Saloon. It lasted for just a year or so, starting in 1916.

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Charles Schooley: City Paymaster and Prominent Baptist

Update (Originally posted August 2014):

Charles Abraham Schooley - FBC LIfe Deacon and COV Chief Paymaster

Charles Abraham Schooley. n.d. First Baptist Church (Vancouver) Archives.

Charles Abraham Schooley (1850-1931) was born in Port Colborne, Ontario. He studied law for a couple of years but ultimately withdrew from that course of study due to illness. He then was one of the first men to enter into the moss trade (of all things) while in Florida for a few years. He returned to Ontario where he began working with the Hobbs Hardware Co. of London until he came to Vancouver in 1889 with his recently-wed wife, Kate Eastman Schooley (nee Samons, of Hamilton). When he got to Vancouver, he worked at first as an agent with Imperial Oil Co. and later as a wholesale produce dealer. Finally, in 1905, he became a City employee, working initially with the Treasury department and, two years later, being promoted to the post of Chief Paymaster.*

Schooley became a member of First Baptist Church shortly after establishing his residence here. He served as a Deacon and as Church Clerk for many years. In January 1925, he was made an Honorary Deacon in recognition of his many years of exemplary service.**

When the Schooleys first came to the city, they lived on Howe Street between Smithe and Nelson. By 1908, they’d moved to 2020 Beach Avenue – a home on the south side of Beach near Chilco Street. By 1911, however, the City wanted to create a string of parkland east of Stanley Park and so, as part of that plan, Schooley’s beachfront property was purchased by the City’s Land Purchasing Agent for $13,513.60.

S-5-15 - English Bay [and Beach Avenue West of Chilco Street looking east]  ca1896

CVA S-5-15 – English Bay [and Beach Avenue West of Chilco Street looking east]. ca1896. The Schooley residence at 2020 Beach Ave. would have been along here.

The Schooleys moved to their final residence at 2057 Pendrell Street in 1914.

VW 29 Sept 1922-1

Schooley’s job as City Paymaster wasn’t without drama. On September 29th, 1922 at 10.15am, Schooley and his aide, Bob Armstrong, “were slugged by three auto[mobile] bandits and relieved of a civic payroll of $75,000, while a crowd of terrified Chinese, who were standing by, scattered from a fusillade of three shots fired by the robbers.” (Vancouver Daily World, September 22, 1922). (We will leave to one side the question of whether three shots may accurately be called a fusillade.)

Neither Schooley nor Armstrong seem to have suffered serious injury. City Hall, at that time, was in the Old Market Hall. The two City employees were returning to City Hall from the bank, where they had picked up the payroll.

I originally thought that the culprits were never brought to book for this crime. However, evidence from commenter Mr. Wolfe below shows that at least one of the thieves ultimately was arrested: Ted Hollywood.  Hollywood was reportedly sentenced to serve 14 years ‘hard labor’ in New Westminster’s penitentiary for the 1922 payroll theft and also for aiding in a robbery of the Capital Theatre in Vancouver in February, 1923. (May 4, 1925 – Nanaimo Daily News). For more details on Hollywood’s career of crime, please see Mr. Wolfe’s comment below.

Kate Schooley pre-deceased her husband in 1927. Schooley died in 1931 at the age of 84.

Charles and Kate Schooley seem to have been childless. I had initially wondered whether Jennie Schooley, a teacher at Strathcona School from  1928-1959, might have been their daughter, but I later learned that she was the daughter of another local Schooley: William Francis Schooley.


*These early details of Schooley’s life were found in British Columbia From Earliest Times to the Present: Biographical. Volume IV. 1914. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., p. 819.

**Mrs. Schooley was a devout member of a different church: St. John’s Presbyterian (just a few blocks from First Baptist).

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Victorian Picnic Images of the 1890s

For a summer project, I’ve been systematically viewing all photos available online from the City of Vancouver Archives – starting with the earliest images and gradually working my way forward in time. (This is no small project; the total CVA images online currently number more than 124,000!)

While I was looking at some of the earliest images made in the area now known as Greater Vancouver, I noticed a pattern. Vancouver residents were often photographed in the great outdoors in mixed gender groups, often with food and drink handy (and/or showing some evidence of having imbibed something stronger than tea).

Here are a few examples.

A Pear With Your Tea?

SGN 175B - [Group of men and women assembled for a picnic on the lawn in front of the Vancouver Waterworks Company house in Stanley Park] 1890?

SGN 175B – Picnic on the lawn in front of the Vancouver Waterworks Company house in Stanley Park. 1890?

According to the archive notes that accompany this image at CVA’s office (the notes aren’t online), this image was made “a few feet north of where Lord Stanley dedicated [Stanley] [P]ark in 1889….In 1937 [when the notes were written by Major Matthews, CVA’s first archivist] the locality has not changed much. The trees beyond are almost exactly the same.”

I think it’s unlikely that the spot where the image was made is today remotely similar.  The building that belonged to the Vancouver Waterworks Company is no longer extant, and neither is the company. But the location of the image (probably near Prospect Point) is beside the point, really.

To me, the most striking aspects of this photo are the food and drink available and the fact that everyone in the image is wearing (to borrow my late grandmother’s phrase), their “best duds”.

There seem to be pears on the picnic blanket. I think I see a slice or two of layered cake and partly emptied jam sealers. There also appears to be a tin of something (lunch meat perhaps? tinned tongue? in my limited reading of novels from this period, that seems to have been the tinned meat of choice of the Victorians).

I’m really not qualified to speak about fashion trends. But it is interesting to note that none of the men in the image had hats, while all of the ladies were wearing hats.

My wife is convinced that the fellow near the centre back row of the group was attracted to the lady immediately to his right. I gather that she reached that conclusion because he seems to be looking in her direction. I argued (being admittedly contrarian) that he could just as likely have been looking at something outside of the frame of the exposure. Or at the young woman next to the lady in question. I don’t think I convinced my wife.

“With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm”

SGN 76 - [Thos. Masters, Chub. Quigley, Chas. Macaulay, Miss Drainie, Mrs. Macauley, Miss Wright, Mrs. Chas. Mowatt, Mrs. McIntosh, Miss Lou McLaren and others assembled behind fence rai

SGN 76 – Thos. Masters, Chub. Quigley, Chas. Macaulay, Miss Drainie, Mrs. Macauley, Miss Wright, Mrs. Chas. Mowatt, Mrs. McIntosh, Miss Lou McLaren and others assembled behind fence rail. 189-?

I can’t help it. Whenever I look at this photo, I’m reminded of Anne Boleyn (one of King Henry VIII’s unfortunate, beheaded wives). All of those ladies lined up with their heads propped on the wooden fencing. . . and I find myself humming the 1960 tune by R. P. Weston and Bert Lee about the ghost of Anne walking the bloody Tower of London “With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm“!

The location where this image was made isn’t clear. But if I were forced to guess, I’d say it was somewhere up Indian Arm, perhaps at or near Granite Falls, which was a popular destination for day trips from Vancouver at the time.

Of the images in this post, this one is the only one in which at least some of the subjects are identified by name.

Edward A. (“Chub”) Quigley, I’m pretty sure, was the fellow standing at the centre rear of the group. “Chub” was, according to the local biographical resource, B.C. From Earliest Times, working in Winnipeg until 1892, when he left there for Vancouver. He became a branch manager with coal dealers, McDonald Marpole. He was also a well-known amateur athlete.

Charles H. Macaulay was a real estate broker and financial advisor and was a partner in the firm Macaulay & Nicolls. In June 1898, Macaulay married Miss Ethel Jean Maclaren, a daughter of a mine owner who pioneered B.C.’s Cariboo district. I cannot say which of the gents in the photo is Charles.

“Mrs. Charles Mowatt” was, plainly, the spouse of “Mr Charles Mowatt”. But past that fact, there isn’t much I can say. Charles Mowatt was the son of Alexander Mowatt, of Mowatt Transfer Co. in Vancouver. Charles left the city at some point to move north to Hazleton where he became a rancher. Sadly, he died there in 1926 at age 53 of Tuberculosis.

Which of the ladies shown above is “Mrs. Mowatt”? No clue. I likewise came up empty with “Miss Wright” and “Mrs. McIntosh” and I concluded that identifying the un-named blokes in the image was well beyond my ability!

I was no more able to identify “Miss Lou McLaren”, unfortunately. But I’m pretty certain that I’ve tracked down her marriage record. She was apparently wed in 1919 to an accountant and lists her occupation at the time of her marriage as “Lady”.

If You’re Grumpy, Say ‘Cheese!’

LGN 686 - [Men and women assembled for picnic in clearing] 189- Norman Caple-2

LGN 686 – Picnic in clearing. 189- Norman Caple photo.

The folks who were the subjects of this photo, for all of their wackiness, don’t seem to be having much fun! There are very few of what I’d identify as truly happy faces among this lot.

They appear to be a peculiar group. Of that there is very little question. There are a couple of gents in the back row who appear to be aiming pistols at something. The fisher-woman (approximately centre) seems to be taking little joy in netting a fish of a very respectable size. And the middle-aged lady in the polka-dot top (2nd row, two from the right) looks as though she’s just swallowed something nasty!

A friend who is also a professional photographer had this to say about the Un-Happy Gang:

There are a couple of faces that are close to showing that special twinge of ‘unstabilized’. The top row, the ones with the guns and crazy chapeau selections, have clearly been testing the moonshine to see if it’s ready yet. Looks like it’s ready!

Strawberry Social

SGN 965 - [Men and women eating strawberries at a picnic in Stanley Park] 189-?

SGN 965 – Eating strawberries at a picnic in Stanley Park. 189-?

These folks seem to be enjoying themselves as they pose with ‘tea’ and strawberries. Some of the gents have chosen to go hatless. And some of the ladies (I’m speaking, in particular, to you two in the back row, near centre) ought to have done likewise!

And what would a Victorian gathering be without a guy in drag? Yes, that looks to me very much like a fellow in the long gown, two in from the left in the front row.

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The Mysterious Mr. Langer

“Information on [J. F.] Langer is . . . difficult to find. There’s nothing on him in the City of Vancouver Archives, nothing in the Special Collections Division of the Vancouver Public Library, precious little elsewhere.”
(Chuck Davis, “A Palace of Entertainment: Vancouver’s Orpheum Turns Seventy-Five”.  British Columbia Historical News. Vol. 36, No. 2 (Spring 2003), p. 17.)


Photo from Doug McCallum’s Vancouver’s Orpheum: The Life of a Theatre. Here, Langer appears to be upon his stallion, Salvador.

I was re-reading Ivan Ackery’s memoirs, recently, when I came across mention of a Mr. J. F. Langer. He was the man who built the Orpheum Theatre (B. M. Priteca, architect) and several Vancouver suburban movie theatres (none extant, except the Orpheum).

Why hadn’t I heard of this guy before, I wondered? Surely there must be more to his story.

So I began to dig. And dig. And . . . well, you get the idea. I discovered what Chuck Davis had learned earlier: that the smallest detail about J. F. Langer is hard won (1).

I make no claim to have written the ‘last word’ on Mr. Langer, but I think I’ve filled in a couple of blanks about his life and career.

South Africa

Joseph Francis Langer was born in Langendorf, Germany in 1872 into a Roman Catholic family (how could they be anything but, with their son having given names that paid tribute to two saints?) Who his parents were and what siblings he had, I haven’t been able to determine. The Langer family didn’t stay in Germany long after John Jr. was born, however. By the time he reached the age of 6, the family was settled in South Africa.

During the South Africa years, Langer apprenticed as a bricklayer and began to take on construction work. Many of his jobs consisted of home-building. But there were other projects that supported the South African mining industry, including construction of a cyanide plant. I wasn’t able to find any details about this job, but then (as now) gold cyanidation was an important means of extracting gold in mining operations.

Langer married Henrietta Maria (Hattie) Langer in 1894 in South Africa (her single surname is unknown to me). She bore 10 kids; 7 lived. They were, from eldest to youngest (with approximate birth year): May (1894); Cecil (1895); Dorothy (1902); Basil (1903); Elaine (1904); Ivan (1906); Irene (1919).

Hattie was a couple of years older than Langer (born ca1870). It looks as though Hattie died in the early ’20s, although that is sheer deduction. I could not find any  hard evidence of that.

U.S./Vancouver, B.C./England

In 1908 (when Langer was 36), he left South Africa for the San Francisco/Oakland area. There, he continued to build homes for a living.

Sometime in 1911, he moved to Vancouver. During this first stint here, both his residence and business address appear to have been 1715 Woodland Drive (near East 1st Ave. in the Grandview district). (2) He worked as a general contractor, principally on home builds.

Shortly after the Great War began, he left Canada for England. Why? It seems he was flat broke. He said of his financial status upon leaving Vancouver for England in 1914: “I had no money when I went back” (3). If anything, that was an understatement. The fact is, Langer left several creditors in the Vancouver area. (4)

Langer claimed that he was ‘robbed’ by certain Vancouver interests while working here the first time (5). Precisely which firms Langer was pointing at with this claim is unclear, with one exception: he made it pretty plain that he held the architectural firm of Townsend & Townsend to blame for at least some of his financial woes (6). He doesn’t get into any detail about precisely how these architects ‘robbed’ him. It could well be that his antipathy regarding the firm was an extreme case of the not unusual ‘oil and water’ situation between architects and builders. It strikes me as odd that he lashed out at the Townsends, however, as there is no record in the online list of early Vancouver building permits of any projects on which Langer was builder on the same jobs as the Townsends were architects. Possibly, the online record is incomplete. It just isn’t clear.

Langer’s next nine years were spent in England earning, by all accounts, a lot of money in the construction business; his net worth, by his own admission, was in the vicinity of $2 million toward the end of his time in England (7). According to Douglas McCallum, he was a “pioneer in developing planned suburbs, which included sidewalks, gutters, sewers and street lighting.” (8). Presumably that was what he was what he was up to in England.

Vancouver Again

Setting Up House

By August 1923, Langer turned 51 and that year he took his millions and settled in Vancouver. It seems that his plan upon returning to the Canadian west coast was “not to do anything at all” (9). He was ready to put down tools and enjoy an ‘early retirement’ in the land of the Lotus.

But what was the sense of having millions of dollars and being retired without a classy place to call home, and a wife to lavish his earnings upon? (You’ll recall that his first wife seems to have died by this period).

Shortly after arriving in Vancouver for the second time, he married Jennie Louise Farley (nee Inns). Jennie had just divorced her husband, Harold Farley, with whom she’d had four kids: Jack (1904); Barbara (1906), Harold Jr. (1908), and Frank (1920). Jennie and Joseph were married by a Justice of the Peace in Washington State in May 1925.

In 1924, Langer bought a home for himself and his bride-to-be at 3290 Granville Street (in the tony Shaughnessy Heights district). This was a single family dwelling at the time (in recent years, it has been converted into condominium units). Langer bought the house from  Mr. and Mrs. West, fully furnished. And judging from the value placed on the furniture by West and paid by Langer ($10,000), it wasn’t furnished cheaply (10).

Building Theatres

Bu N332 - [Windsor Theatre at 25th Avenue and Main Street] 1927? W J Moore

CVA Bu N332 – Windsor Theatre at 25th Avenue and Main Street ca1927. W J Moore

According to McCallum, during Langer’s second time in Vancouver, he retained his very fruitful business in England. Apparently, among his assets (not necessarily located in the Vancouver area) were “a gravel pit, a cement plant, real estate and mining interests,” his home at 3290 Granville, a black stallion named Salvador that was so impressive that he’d lend it to the City Police for use in parades, and two cars: a Rolls Royce and a maroon Daimler complete with a matching maroon-liveried chauffeur (11).

By 1925-26, despite his later claim that he had intended to “do nothing” in Vancouver, he had built several (cookie-cutter) suburban theatres: the Kerrisdale, the Alma, the Victoria, the Fraser, the Grandview, and the Windsor. These theatres together, briefly, comprised the Langer Circuit. (12) He built the Orpheum in 1927 and leased it to the Orpheum Circuit.

Ivan Ackery, who would take over the management of the Orpheum, outlines what happened next:

“1928 was to be an important year in my life . . . N. L. Nathanson, representing Paramount Pictures and Famous Players Canadian Corporation, arrived in Vancouver for a big meeting at which he announced that Famous Players was going to take over the Langer Circuit and that included, eventually, the big Theatre . . . that had opened on November 27, 1927 – the New Orpheum.” (13)

Langer suffered serious financial losses in the 1929 stock market crash and he returned to England shortly thereafter to rescue his construction company there. (14)

Bu N331 - [Kerrisdale Theatre building at 2136 West 41st Avenue] 1927 W J Moore

CVA Bu N331 – Kerrisdale Theatre building at 2136 West 41st Avenue] ca1927. W J Moore

Final Years

In 1932, there was a report in the Oakland Tribune that Jennie Langer was filing suit against J. F. Langer for “separate maintenance” of $400/month against him. She said that they had been separated since November, 1931.

In describing her husband’s ability to pay for her support, Mrs. Langer states that Langer owns a $50,000 home in Vancouver, B.C., a $20,000 interest in the Bonanza mine in Amador county, $60,000 worth of stocks and bonds bought during the last year, mining machinery in Canada worth $12,000 and the annual income from England of $100,000. (15)

McCallum maintains that Langer died in 1943 in England. But according to documents I have seen, the year of his death was closer to 1948. (16)

Jennie lived until 1954. During her final years alone, her accommodation in Vancouver changed every couple years, evidently slowly declining in quality — from 4911 Blenheim St. (1938) to 1400 W. 8th (1940) to 1465 W 14th (1942) to 1006 W 16th (1943) to apartment living on the east side at #7 – 111 E 26th Ave. (1947) and then back to the west side at 1336 W 13th (1951) and to 4151 Rumble in Burnaby (1954) then to 7042 Bellcara Dr (with her son, Frank) in 1954 and, finally, to the Home for the Aged in Coquitlam, where she died, later that same year.


1. I am indebted to Robert of westendvancouver for contributing to research for this post.

2. There is an odd twist to Langer’s life during this period in B.C. which I haven’t been able to fit into the narrative. The source is a single paragraph in the Omineca Miner (a Hazelton, BC publication) of January 10, 1914. It reads as follows: “J. F. Langer of the B.C. Contracting Co. has returned from a business visit to Vancouver accompanied by Mrs. Langer. They have taken possession of their new residence opposite the Anglican Church. ” There are at least a couple of interesting features in this brief blurb: First, it seems from this that Langer had a home in Hazelton which he shared with “Mrs. Langer” — presumably not Jennie Farley at this very early stage. Second, it strikes me as odd that  Langer would be buying a property in Hazleton presumably while owning his Vancouver lot at 1715 Woodland, given his story some years later of being stone broke by the time he left Vancouver in December 1914!

3. Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) Joseph Francis Lagner v. McTavish Bros. 1931, Record of Proceedings, p.121. This appeal by Langer to the JCPC of a BC court decision in favour of the McTavish Bros. is a treasure trove of testimony in Langer’s own words. The details of the case aren’t particularly germane to this post, but if interested, they can be found in the early pages of the Record of Proceedings.

4. They included: Everett Sash & Door; Cullen builders’ Supplies & Equipment, Clarke Bros. Hardware; Kydd Bros, Hardware; Wright-Cameron (don’t see this firm in the 1913 city directory); Williams & Co. (this might have been the A. R. Williams Machinery Co.; and Northern Electric.

5. JCPC Lagner v. McTavish Bros. 1931, Record of Proceedings, p.122. Note:  Upon returning to Vancouver in 1923, he made a deal to pay his creditors; this wasn’t for the full amount owed, but for some fraction of that amount.

6. JCPC Lagner v. McTavish Bros. 1931, Record of Proceedings, p.123.

7. JCPC Lagner v. McTavish Bros. 1931, Record of Proceedings, p.123.

8. Douglas McCallum. Vancouver’s Orpheum: The Life of a Theatre. City of Vancouver, 1984, 9.

9. JCPC Lagner v. McTavish Bros. 1931, Record of Proceedings, p.123.

10. BC Reports Langer v. McTavish Bros. 1932, p. 494.

11. McCallum, p9. Ivan Ackery, Fifty Years on Theatre Row, Hancock House, 1980, p. 84.

12. McCallum, p9.

13. Ackery, p.90.

14. McCallum, p.9.

15. “Wife Sues for $400 a month,” Oakland Tribune 4 Non 1932, p.12.

16. Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

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Arcadians’ One-Hit Wonder?

CVA 99-5180 - The Arcadians at San Toy - Avenue Theatre 12 Apr 1918 Stuart Thomson

Cast of San Toy by the Arcadians at the Avenue Theatre (Main and Georgia). (CVA 99-5180 – Stuart Thomson photo).

The ‘Arcadians’ mentioned in the headline do not refer to a 1920s family of cooking ranges, nor to residents of a region of Greece, nor indeed to an obscure race created from the imaginations of the writers of Star Trek

Our Vancouver Arcadians were an amateur operatic and dramatic society established in August 1917. They lasted just long enough to put on a single production. And a year later, the society was all but – if not officially – history.

When the society was formed, the plan was to first perform Niobe and later to perform San Toy: A Chinese Musical Comedy in Two Acts.² I assume that the play which the Arcadians had in mind for their first production was a stage version of the American silent film also called Niobe (it was released in movie theatres in 1915). Their reasoning, I’m guessing, was that the smaller cast required for Niobe would allow the Arcadians to get their collective feet wet prior to tackling the presumably greater complexity that was associated with the larger cast required for San Toy. But before long, it became clear that Niobe would not be produced by the Arcadians; the only production in the 1918 season would be San Toy.

Rehearsals for San Toy took place at the Cotillion Hall (SW corner of Davie and Granville) on Tuesdays and Fridays. After eight months of rehearsing, the musical was deemed ready for its debut on April 12, 1918. (For a plot summary of the musical, see here.)

The review in the Daily World was not glowing. (You can be sure that a production was found wanting if the most positive paragraph speaks of the scenery’s paint work!) A recurrent complaint in the review was that few of the actors were able to project their voices adequately and, of the few who could do so, most did not enunciate clearly. Pretty damning.³

As it was an amateur production, the players were not paid. Box office proceeds after expenses were to be sent to the Returned Soldiers Fund. It was initially thought (shortly after San Toy closed) that $151 would go the Fund. However, more than four months passed without any cash making its way from the bank account of the Arcadians to that of the Returned Soldiers Fund.

CVA 371-527 - [J.B. Leyland] 193- King Studio

CVA 371-527 – J.B. Leyland. 193-. King Studio

An issue was made of this lapse in a September edition of the Daily World. James Leyland, formerly Secretary of the Arcadians (who later would become Reeve of West Vancouver) had this to say in response:

So far as I can gather, nothing has been done, though one week after the  performance a general meeting was held and the balance of $151. . . was voted to the Fund. Since then there has been trouble in the company and wholesale resignations, including the musical director, stage director, secretary, and treasurer, [along] with most of those who originally joined the society. It is only fair to the public that some statement should be made, as the writer is continually being asked questions on the matter; and feeling some personal responsibility, is anxious to put matters right so far as he is personally concerned. I understand the money is still in the bank and there may be an explanation as to why it has been held in the bank so long. If so. . . I should be glad to know what it is.
— James Leyland, late Secretary.

Vancouver Daily World 9 September 1918
(Emphasis mine)

There was a press notice in mid-December 2018 that the Secretary of the Returned Soldiers Fund had received from the Arcadians $68.02 (less than half of the $151 voted to the Fund).

So what happened, exactly, to the Arcadians? What was the “trouble in the company” mentioned by Leyland?

I don’t know. I could find no further mention of the Arcadians in press accounts, after the one-liner acknowledging the payment to the Soldiers Fund. If it hadn’t been for the public fracas over the delayed payment and the letter to the editor from Leyland, we might not have any clue as to what became of the group.

All we can say for sure is that, a year after the society was established, it imploded.


¹ The Arcadians included the following personnel (these are the only members known from among the huge cast of San Toy): R. C. Reed (Stage Director), A. E. White (Musical Director), James Leyland (Secretary), Mrs. Arthur Simmons (San Toy), Mrs. Hugh Baillie (Poppy), Mrs. B. Watson Luke (Maid), Edgar S. Smith (Captain Bobbie Preston), James Leyland (Sir Bingo Preston), E. A. Sheffield (Lt. Tucker), Bruno Francis (Emperor of China), R. H. Baxter (Yen How), J. C. Wallace (Li).

²Music: Sidney Jones. Book: Edward Morton. Lyrics: Harry Greenbank and Adrian Ross (1899). Note: I’m assuming that these credits apply to the San Toy presented at the Avenue Theatre in 1918.

³A “repeat benefit performance” of San Toy was presented a week after the regular showings. This was in memory (and in support for the families of) Edgar McKie and A. N. Harrington, who were prominent members of the theatrical fraternity who had died during the weeks leading up to the regular performances. McKie was a scenic artist who was living and working in Calgary at the time of his passing. He had a hand in painting the sets for F. Stuart Whyte’s Vancouver pantomimes of Aladdin and Robinson Crusoe. McKie doesn’t seem to have been responsible for painting the scenery in San Toy. Adoniran Nehemiah Harrington was the lead stage hand at the Avenue Theatre. He died at the relatively early age of  47. The families of both men were residing in Vancouver when they died.

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Vancouver Bible Training School

CVA 790-0634 - 1601 West 10th Ave

(Crop of CVA 790-0634 – 1601 West 10th. 1985?). This was the campus of the VBTS, built at 10th and Fir (Fairview); it opened in September 1923 nearly debt-free. Because of its slightly peculiar, long and tall shape, it was known affectionately as “the Ark” by VBTS students over the years. By the time this photo was made ca1985, it had become home to Columbia College. I don’t know when the building was demolished, but there is no building currently at this location; just a green space adjacent to an apartment block.

The Vancouver Bible Training School (VBTS) was a child of the Vancouver Evangelistic Movement (VEM). Among the goals of VEM was the establishment of a Bible training school. The school was, accordingly, started in 1918. The first principal of the interdenominational school was Anglican minister, Rev. Walter Ellis (1883-1944).¹ The first home of VBTS was VEM’s downtown office at 121 West Hastings. Within a year or so, it moved to a rented facility at 356 West Broadway (near Yukon). By autumn 1923, however, they moved into their own building shown above at the NW corner of 10th and Fir. Following Ellis’s death in 1944, the principal of the school was mainline Baptist minister, Rev. J. E. Harris.

The school was able to sustain itself as an interdenominational institution until 1956. It was then taken over by the Baptist General Conference (Swedish) denomination and the school’s curriculum became more narrowly defined and the name of the school changed at some point to become the Vancouver Bible Training Institute (VBTI).

VBTI wrapped up operations at this site by the mid-70s, I believe. It then moved to Surrey where it finally closed in 1977.


¹Historian, Robert K. Burkinshaw is the source of most of the material in this post. He has written about the Bible Training school and its influential principal, Rev. Walter Ellis, here. He also devoted the better part of Chapter 3 to VBTS and Ellis in his excellent volume, Pilgrims in Lotus Land: Conservative Protestantism in British Columbia, 1917-1981.

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Spencer’s Details

This post is about David Spencer, Ltd.  This is a now-long-gone but once much-beloved B.C. department store chain with a store located in downtown Vancouver (which most residents of the city today know as the locations of Harbour Centre tower and SFU’s first downtown campus).

I make no pretence in this brief post to present anything approaching a history of the store. I’m just ‘noodling around the edges’ of the Spencer’s story in an effort to present a few details that were unknown by me until recently; some of which, perhaps, were unknown to you, too.¹

What’s in a Name?

Spencer’s (as it was typically referred to) was more formally known as “David Spencer, Ltd.” David (1837-1920) was president of the firm when it was established in Vancouver; it had existed in Victoria for several years prior to its 1907 debut in Vancouver. Spencer’s would continue in business until it was bought by T. Eaton Co. in 1948.

Spencer’s was known by a couple of other handles during the years it was in Vancouver. In the 1907 city directory, it called itself “David Spencer’s Dry Goods Merchants and Manufacturers, Home and Hotel Furnishers”. So originally, it didn’t define itself as a “department store”.

By 1910, it was referring to itself a bit differently. In the city directory of that year it described itself as: “General Merchants, Home and Hotel Furnishers” and also referred to the shop as being a “Departmental Store”. By that year, their property had also grown to include a good deal of the south side of 500-block Cordova St. in addition to the healthy chunk of the north side of Hastings which it had originally bought. They now also owned 516-536 Cordova.

There is a reproduction of this block from Van Map below which shows, overlaid, the 1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map. It isn’t completely clear to me whether the Cordova and Van Map with 1912 Goads Insurance Map overlaid.Hastings properties were connected at that time through some sort of of upper-story bridge, as has been the case over the years with other downtown properties (e.g., the Orpheum Theatre), or whether it was necessary for customers to exit one property and re-enter another (as with the Army & Navy store on East Hastings, today).


By the time the 1920 city directory was published, the way that Spencer’s referred to itself had changed to simply “Departmental Stores”. But as their name became shorter, their appetite for real estate increased. By that year, they had grown to include much of the city block: 507-541 Hastings and 520-530 Cordova.

CVA 789-76 - [Hastings and Richards after heavy snowfall] 1916

(CVA 789-76. Hastings and Richards. 1916.) 500-block of West Hastings.

There was another name associated with Spencer’s of which I was unaware until informed by my friend, Gordon Poppy²: it was also known as the “Diamond S”. I’m unsure of the origin of this name or how/when exactly it came to be applied in reference to the store. But it is clear that it was in use in external communication with customers as early as 1926 (see the first image in the next section of this post). It seems to have been a public relations tool employed by the store to speak of the “diamond” quality standard customers could expect of their wares and service. The cover of the Fall/Winter catalogue, 1928-29, shown immediately below speaks to this.

Spencer's fall and Winter Catalogue 1928-29

Spencer’s 1928-29 Fall/Winter Catalogue. (Courtey: Gordon Poppy).

Re-Development Eyes Exceed Capacity?

By 1926, Spenser’s had acquired all of the property it needed to redevelop their several buildings into a single, mammoth ‘new’ building. An artist’s conception of what management had in mind for this new structure appears below on the front cover of the 1926 Spring/Summer catalogue.

spensers spring summer 1926 magazine

Spenser’s 1926 Spring/Summer Catalogue, front cover. (Courtesy: Gordon Poppy). Showing an artistic rendering of the anticipated “new Vancouver store now under construction.” Spencer’s never actually looked as it appears above.

By the time construction of the new building was finished at the end of 1926, the artistic conception of the structure and reality clearly were different. Compare the image above with the one below (a photograph made in the 1930s).

CVA 1495-32 - [David Spencer's Department Store building on Hastings Street] 193-

(CVA 1495-32. 193- ). The actual ‘new’ building on the corner of Hastings and Richards.

Why did the managers of Spencer’s choose to scale down their 1926 ambitions for a full-block Spenser’s emporium? That isn’t clear to me. Gordon Poppy has suggested (and this was my original thought, as well) that it was due to the stock market crash and the consequent Great Depression that followed. The problem with that hypothesis, however, is that the timing doesn’t work. Construction on the new building began in early 1926; it was finished (with a smaller structure than originally planned) by the end of 1926 or (at latest) early 1927. The stock market crash, however, happened in October, 1929; that puts the crash a good two years into the future from when Spencer’s managers had to have decided to go with a smaller building. So it seems safe to rule out the stock market crash as the stimulus for downsizing Spencer’s ambitious 1926 plan.

My best guess is that management decided that the cost of linking all of their properties under a single roof was simply too expensive.

CVA 99-2271 - Taken for Duker and Shaw Billboards Ltd. [Hastings Street looking east from Seymour Street] ca 1926 Stuart Thomson

(CVA 99-2271. ca 1926. Stuart Thomson photo). This is the only image I could find that shows the new Spencer’s building under construction (on north side of Hastings at Richards).

Native Figure ‘Standing’ on Hastings Canopy

The native ‘welcome’ figure shown below was fastened atop the canopy at the Hastings entry to the new building in 1936 (beneath the vertical Spencer’s sign), during Vancouver’s Diamond Jubilee. Today, the figure is part of the collection of the Royal BC Museum (Victoria). At the feet of the figure there is a note that an “Indian Exhibit” was located on the 5th floor of the store in that year.


(Courtesy: Gordon Poppy. Photographer unknown). [1936]. Note the “S” enclosed in a diamond at the bottom of the vertical Spencer’s sign above the arcade canopy on Hastings St. The first “S” in the name (not visible above) was likewise enclosed in a diamond shape. (Note: VPL has a photo that seems to be identical to this one. That photo identifies the photographer as Leonard Frank).

Neo-Roman Speculations . . .

The view shown below is looking at the NE corner of Spenser’s, at Seymour and Hastings. There is a building just beyond the Molson’s/Seymour block which has a neo-Roman appearance.

CVA 586-4015 - Street scene [outside David Spencer Limited - 515 West Hastings Street] Sept 1945 Don Coltman

(CVA 586-4015. Sept 1945. Don Coltman photo). This is a view of the NE corner of Seymour at Hastings (of the Molson’s block of Spencer’s, in the foreground), taken in the days immediately following the end of WW2.

According to the city directory for 1945, there are only two candidates that could then have occupied this building: an ice cream shop or the Spenser’s flower shop. The building looks like too serious a structure to have housed an ice cream shop; so I’m concluding, tentatively, that it was home to Spencer’s floristry department, in this period.

I’ve noticed that this building is just visible in shots made as early as 1906 on VPL’s historical photo site. There are no hints in city directories of that time as to what the building was; this caused me to speculate whether, early in the history of the Molson block, this may have been a Seymour St. entry to Molsons (sort of a back door?).

If anyone can add any facts regarding what the neo-Roman structure was, I’d appreciate hearing from you via a comment to this post.

VPL 5196 - Molson's Bank at NE Seymour & Hastings. 1906. P T Timms photo.

(VPL 5196. Molson’s Bank at NE Seymour & Hastings. 1906. P T Timms photo).

CVA 180-0401 - Spencer's Flower Shop floral display 1932

(CVA 180-0401. Spencer’s Flower Shop floral display at the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE). 1932).

Window Displays

Displays produced by Spencer’s for their windows were, in my opinion, the best around, bar none. (Compare with a window produced by one of their competitors, Hudson’s Bay Co., here, for example). In terms of creativity, material, and time invested, it is difficult, even today, for me to look at Spencer’s windows with anything but awe.

CVA 1495-12 - [Spencer's Department Store ] arcade [window display] 1926 Harry Bullen

(CVA 1495-12. 1926. Harry Bullen photo). The “arcade” below the vertical “Spencer’s” signage on Hastings St. (at the ‘new’ building.

For natural displays, like the Easter scene shown below, “we used real landscaping: grass, flowers, etc.,” says Gordon Poppy. He also says their mannequins were wax, eyes were made of glass, and eyebrows were composed of human hair.

CVA 1495-36 - [Spencer's Department Store window display] 193- Dominion Photo

(CVA 1495-36. 193-. Dominion Photo). A view into the short side of the island window.

part 2 garden window

Easter Scene at Spencer’s. Dominion Photo (Colour). n.d. A view through a long side of the island window. Courtesy: Gordon Poppy.


¹For a little more info pertaining (indirectly) to Spencer’s on VAIW, see here and here. For more about Spencer’s from other sources, consider viewing Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s page on the store, this Dunsmuir Street segment of a movie of the 1927(?) Spencer’s Toy Parade, and this concluding segment of the same parade following Santa up Hastings to Spencer’s Hastings Street canopy and entry (in which Santa enters the store by unconventional means that would definitely NOT be applauded by the Worker’s Compensation Board, today).

²Gordon began his working life as a Spencer’s employee. I’ll allow him to tell the story of his early working years: “I started working for David Spencer, Ltd. on July 3rd, 1945 as a summer job. I had been taking a course on display and sign-writing from Frank Vase at the Vancouver School of Display at nights, while I was at high school attending Vancouver Technical School. As Spencer’s had always had the reputation for the best displays in the city, I was glad to get this opportunity to work there. VE Day had just passed, and one of the first windows that I was involved with was the VJ Day displays. I was asked if I would consider staying on in the fall. As I needed two more years of high school, I stayed on at Spencer’s and completed my schooling by attending King Edward School (at Oak and 12th) at night, while working in the daytime. . . .  I continued with David Spencer’s until the chain was bought by the T. Eaton Co. in late 1948. Most of the employees continued on with the new owners. I stayed on until 1991 with Eaton’s.”

Posted in department stores, Dominion Photo, Don Coltman, Harry Bullen, street scenes, stuart thomson, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Zion’s Friend and Rebel

Chicago Tribune. 23 June 1901 p. 6 Portrait of Geo. A. Fair

Chicago Tribune. 23 June 1901 p. 6. Portrait of Rev. Geo. A. Fair

John Alexander Dowie’s divine healing movement had a connection with Vancouver’s Baptists, briefly, in the person of Rev. George Armour  Fair, the pastor of Jackson Avenue Baptist Church (aka “Zion Baptist”) in 1898.

George Fair was born in March, 1866 in Woodslee, Ontario to Thomas and Elizabeth Fair, who were farmers and Baptists. George seems to have left the farm by ca1890 and never looked back.

Fair married Mattie Alcinda, an American, in Yakima, WA in 1893 and together they had at least two children: Eccevenit¹ was born in 1897, during their time in Victoria, B.C. and Virginia Victoria in 1901.²

Fair did his training at Knox College and later at the English Theological Seminary.³

Jackson Avenue Baptist

The ‘East End’ mission church of First Baptist Church, Vancouver, would be known, officially, as Jackson Avenue Baptist Church. In December 1893, 31 members of First Baptist expressed interest in forming the nucleus of Jackson Avenue Church and were granted letters of dismissal from the mother church so that they could join the East End church at its inception in January 1894. The initial church building seems to have been formerly a residence located at some (now unknown) location on Jackson Ave. Within the first couple of years, however, the church outgrew their first building and it bought the former building of the Zion Presbyterian Church on the corner of Jackson Avenue and Princess Street (East Pender, today). For several years, Jackson Ave. Baptist referred to their church as Zion Baptist.

Jackson Ave Baptist Ch.

Jackson Avenue Baptist Church (aka Zion Baptist). Formerly Zion Presbyterian. On NW corner of Princess and Jackson. n.d. Courtesy: First Baptist Church (Vancouver) Archival Collection.

Sometime in 1898, Fair was called to become the pastor at Jackson/Zion. His ministry there would prove brief. By July of that same year, Fair “left the church . . . [and] with a portion of his former flock, organized a “non-denomination” group, which apparently held to a “Pentecostal” variety of doctrine.” (Richards, p.98)

In fact, the theology that Fair had adopted and led his congregation into was early Dowieism.

Dowie and Fair

John Alexander Dowie was originally a Congregational minister from Australia. By 1888, however, his theology had changed some. His religious convictions became focussed upon divine healing and he established an International Divine Healing Association in Melbourne.

Over the next couple of years, Dowie was engaged in a missionary venture up the west coast of North America, from Mexico to B.C. According to James Opp, in August 1889, Dowie reached Victoria, where he held his first Canadian divine healing mission. (Opp, p. 93)

It isn’t clear when George Fair first was exposed to Dowie’s brand of faith. We know Fair was in Washington State for some of the early 1890s (he was married there in 1893), and there is some evidence that he was in Victoria (his eldest daughter was born there) in 1897. But whether in Washington, B.C. or elsewhere, it is clear that Fair was, by 1898, well and truly ‘bitten’ by Dowieism.

By the 1890s, Dowie had taken another step away from Congregational (and Baptist) theological orthodoxy, and towards developing his own, self-serving cult. From this period, Dowie was based in the Chicago area – specifically in his own Zion City, Illinois. Zion had a “Home” (for non-medicinal healing), a “College”, a “City Bank”, and a “Zion Land and Investment Association.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 Oct 1899, p.1). The name of his church had changed along with his HQ location. No longer was it called the International Divine Healing Association. It was now the Christian Catholic Church (CCC; the “Catholic” component of the name was not a favourable nod towards Roman Catholicism, which Dowie regarded as hopelessly apostate; but rather had the original meaning of “universal”). The creed of the CCC, succinctly put, was: “Obey Dr. Dowie, pay your tithes, let the doctors and all medicines alone as you would his Satanic majesty, no matter how ill you may be, and — pay your tithes.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 Oct 1899, p.1).

Fair in Rebellion

By the summer of 1899, George Fair was publicly, openly critical of Dowie. His issues with Dowie were not, however, theological in nature. As late as July of that year, he’d been quoted in the press spouting Dowie’s line that medicine is sinful (and so, likewise — by extension — were pharmacists, general practitioners, and surgeons). Fair’s problem with Dowie was that he collected the wealth and the power of his religious movement exclusively unto himself.

In 1899, Fair was the “branch leader” (or the CCC minister in charge) in Philadelphia. He wrote to Dowie expressing his disappointment in Dowie’s actions and demanding that he step down from his position as General Overseer of the CCC (Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 Oct 1899, p.2). The outcome of Fair’s letter was predictable: he was fired by Dowie from his CCC post.

Dowie — in a collection of his addresses given in the latter months of 1899, and titled, provocatively, Zion’s Holy War Against the Hosts of Hell in Chicago included this thrust directed at George Fair:

The Fable of the Mice and the Buzz-Saw

Have you ever seen a great big buzz-saw at work?
Voices –– “Yes.”

Dr. Dowie –– Did you ever see it plow, like a “sharp threshing instrument having teeth” through a great big log of timber? Do you not think that Zion-at-work is something like a buzz-saw?
Voices –– “Yes.”

Dr. Dowie –– Did you ever see a lot of little mice running about a saw-bed? Did you ever see some of the mice get upon the log? Did you ever hear one of the mice whose name is Fair say “Buzz-saw, stop! If you don’t stop, I’ll bite you”? (Applause and laughter.) Don’t you think it might be bad for the mouse? Do you think the General Overseer will stop the buzz-saw?

That is all I have to say about Fair. (Laughter and applause)

Any member of the Christain Catholic Church in this building who sympathizes with George Armour Fair, stand to his or her feet. (No one arose.) Any one in this whole house, just speak out and say that you sympathize with him, and we will know just how many sympathizers he has. Any one in this house who is a member of the Christian Catholic Church, stand on your feet and say you sympathize. We would protect you whilst you spoke. We would like to see you. Is there one?

All who are absolutely ashamed of his wicked conduct, stand to their feet. (As far as could be seen, no member of the Church remained sitting.)

Have you confidence in your leader still?
Audience (unanimously) –– “Yes.”

Dr. Dowie –– All who say the opposite, say No, (No response.)

The wicked lawyers who are looking on can take note of that. (Loud applause.) All the mice who want to bite the buzz-saw take note. (Laughter.)

––J. Alexander Dowie. Zion’s Holy War Against the Hosts of Hell in Chicago, pp91-92.

Dowie After Fair

After Dowie fired Fair, Dowie and the CCC experienced a downturn. Dowie’s wife and family left him at some point. And he suffered a stroke in 1905 from which he spent time recuperating in Mexico. While he was in Mexico, Wilbur Voliva, Dowie’s right-hand man in the CCC (and a proponent of “flat earth” theory) deposed Dowie from his position in the CCC. Dowie died in 1907.

Fair After Dowie

The Fairs in 1900 were living in Chicago and he was a clergyman with First Baptist Church, Chicago Heights. In July 1901, Fair left Chicago to accept a call to minister in Sioux City, Iowa. In October 1902, he resigned from Immanuel Baptist in Sioux City.

In February 1903, Rev. George Fair returned to Vancouver where he preached at the Royal Theatre. It isn’t clear to me which congregation he was preaching for. Divine healing was not down as one of his specific topics, however!

According to 1910 U.S. census records, the Fairs were living in Seattle and George was selling real estate for a living.

1920 U.S. census records show George Fair as an inventor that year (although just what he invented, if anything, isn’t clear). They were in Detroit that year and every subsequent year, evidently, until his passing in 1951. In 1930, he seems to have returned to his initial vocation as a Baptist preacher; but by 1940 (at age 74), he was retired.

He died on 31 January 1951.

Jackson/Zion Church After Fair

Jackson Avenue Baptist/Zion Baptist, like the Strathcona neighbourhood in which it was situated, was never a wealthy church. And, by 1952, the membership had dropped significantly. So Jackson Avenue merged with a later-established east end Baptist church – East Hastings Baptist Church – to form together a new church: Ward Memorial Baptist. It continues today at 465 Kamloops Street.


¹The name they gave their first-born is, in fact, made up of two latin words (ecce venit) which translated mean “Behold, He comes”. Evidently, by the time Virginia came along, the parents had learned a thing or two about the unkindness of freighting kids with names that amount to mini-sermons!

²Some sources record the birth of a son, John Fair, also in 1901. The historical record of a son born to the Fairs is inconsistent, however.

³Thanks are due to Robert of WestEndVancouver for info regarding Fair’s postsecondary training.


Carmichael, W. M. These Sixty Years: 1887-1947: Being the Story of First Baptist Church, Vancouver, B.C. Vancouver. 1947.

Cummings, Leslie J. Our First Century: 1887-1987. Vancouver. Updated: 2002.

Opp, James. The Lord for the Body: Religion, Medicine & Protestant Faith Healing In Canada, 1880-1930. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. 2005.

Richards, John Byron. Baptists in British Columbia: A Struggle to Maintain “Sectarianism”. M.A. Thesis. UBC. April 1964.




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No Bull! The Conversion of Black Motors to Black’s Restaurant


Originally posted April, 2017

vpl 80449 Black Motors gas station, Georgia & Richards Streets. pumps, cars, sign, Holy Rosary Cathedral 1948 Tom Christopherson photo. Part of a Series 80449-80449D
VPL 80449. Black Motors gas station, NE corner at Georgia & Richards Streets. Service station and parts dept components of Black Motors. Looking north. 1948 Tom Christopherson photo.

The NE corner of Georgia and Richards is currently occupied by an office block (475 W Georgia). The building itself is not remarkable. It is distinguished by a sculpture of a life-sized bull which eyes the property kitty-corner from the building (Telus Gardens).

The first occupant of the corner in the earliest years of the City was St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church. The large church building would remain on the site until 1937, when it was demolished and the congregation moved with the congregants of Wesley Methodist Church (SW corner Burrard at Georgia; also demolished) into their new, combined quarters at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church (SW corner, Burrard at Nelson).

It isn’t clear to me what occupied the site of the Presbyterian Church in the decade immediately following the church’s demolition. It probably served as a parking lot until the postwar years.

vpl80441 Black Motors auto dealership 1948 Art Jones

VPL 80441. Exterior of Black Motors Parts and Service Depts (at Georgia and Richards). 1948. Looking north (with a steeple of Holy Rosary Cathedral in background). Art Jones photo.

In 1948, the Ford automobile dealership/service station shown above was established on the corner. Black Motors had two locations about a block apart: its sales location at the corner of Dunsmuir & Homer and the site shown above at Georgia and Richards. The dealership continued to do business at Georgia and Richards until about 1952. From that year, it appears that the two sides of the automobile dealer’s business were consolidated at the Dunsmuir and Homer location.

vpl 80442 Black Motors auto dealership parts department 1948 Art Jones

VPL 80442. Interior of Black Motors auto dealership parts department. 1948. Art Jones photo.

Whether the Georgia and Richards property was sold or not, isn’t clear. But the business certainly changed: from car dealership to restaurant: Black’s Restaurant (note the apostrophe-s attached to the restaurant’s name).

VPL 83253

VPL 83253a. Interior, Black’s Restaurant, 686 Richards Street, Counter. 1951 (the date was supplied by VPL, but I think it was probably ca1953; City directories continued to show Black Motors at both locations through 1952). Looking south to an auto dealership across Georgia St. Dick Phillips photo.

Whoever owned the restaurant – whether a new owner or George Black, the president of Black Motors (or a member of his family) – they seemed to have excellent advice on how to convert the dealership into a restaurant. The counter area, in particular, looks like it was a brilliant redesign of the original parts department.


VPL 83253b. Interior, Black’s Restaurant, 686 Richards Street, Dining Room. 1951 (the date was supplied by VPL, but I think it was probably ca1953; City directories continued to show Black Motors at both locations through 1952). Looking south. Dick Phillips photo. (Note: This image was photographed from the negative and was taken while the negative was lying on bubble wrap; hence, the mild distortion in the image).

Behind where the photographer was standing to take the counter photo, was a dining room in what, I’m guessing, was formerly the service department of the dealership.

Black’s Restaurant, didn’t last long. By the early 1960s, the space had become home to an auto upholstery outfit. And by the mid-’60s, the building that had housed Black Motors and Black’s Restaurant had been demolished to make way for . . . (you guessed it) . . . a parking garage!

The office building on the corner today was constructed in 1976. The Bull sculpture (Fafard), “Royal Sweet Diamond”, has been on the site from about 2000.

Bull is back

Royal Sweet Diamond is back! October 2018. Author’s photo.

(Fall 2018 Update: The Royal Sweet Diamond sculpture has been returned to the site! It was in absentia for awhile, but apparently not permanently.)

Posted in Art Jones, automobiles, cafes/restaurants/eateries, churches, Dick Phillips, Tom Christopherson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Flirtation by Postcard?


I purchased this postcard from a dealer, recently. It was not an expensive card, but the view of the (then-new) World Building, the long-gone water tank on the extant warehouse structure behind the World, the view along West Pender Street toward Central School, and the street scene in the foreground, all appealed to me. I didn’t even read the intriguing message on verso until much later!

I’ll transcribe the message:

Miss Francis Cox
Upper Dyke Village
Kings Co., N.S.

Do you know who this card is from? If you do write me at 1012 Eveleigh St. Vancouver B.C. This is the lattest [sic; he probably meant “tallest”, but crossed the t’s] office building in the British Empire. Height is 278 feet [The World was, briefly, the tallest in the Empire; it lost this distinction during the year as this postcard was mailed to Toronto’s Canadian Pacific Building].


Once I’d read the this, I was puzzled by what it meant. Who would send such an obscure and unsigned message on a postcard clear across the country?

I took the card to a roundtable meeting of the Vancouver Postcard Club and posed my query to that body of more experienced postcard aficionados. Everyone present felt sure that this message represented a form of ‘flirtation by post’.

My research, until then, had consisted only of looking in the 1913 city directory to see who was living at the Eveleigh Street address cited in the message. The person’s name was Guy C. Anderson.

After having had the benefit of my fellow club members’ wisdom regarding the nature of the message, I headed to the public library for a root around in Ancestry’s Library Edition. I learned a number of interesting facts there:

  • Guy Carleton Anderson was born on July 22, 1877 in Massachusetts to James and Elizabeth Anderson. Guy’s parents were both born in Nova Scotia and it seems likely that the family returned to N.S. for visits during his growing-up years. Such visits probably explain his connection with Miss Cox.
  • Immigrated to Canada in 1891;
  • Was a ‘machinist’ (later a ‘mechanic’) by trade;
  • Considered himself, at different stages of his life, a Methodist and a Church of England adherent;
  • According to the 1891 Census (Guy was 14 (!) at the time, and living in Vancouver), that year, Guy was lodging with a young couple (both 23) by the name of Edward and Mary Lipsett (they would go on, in later years, to assemble an enviable collection of Native and Oriental artifacts; the collection later was donated to the Museum of Vancouver, and remains there), Henry Newbury (23), and several other other Andersons: Earl (50) and Lizzie (50) (who may have been Guy’s uncle and aunt; probably guardians to Guy and his siblings, also lodging with the Lipsetts: Jessie (17) and Roy (12).

In 1904, Guy married Phoebeline Keith; she had been born ca1888.

The postcard was sent by Guy to Miss Frances Cox (note: Frances was the correct spelling) in 1913, when Miss Cox would have been about 21 (she was born in 1892).


The communication was probably an innocent flirtation out of which nothing came – due to distance and/or Miss Cox’s disinclination to play along.¹ But who can say, for sure.

The Andersons seem to have headed for San Francisco shortly before Canada joined WWI. There are papers indicating that Guy was registered for the American draft in WWI and WWII. They seem to have lived out their lives in San Francisco; Phoebe died there in 1960 and Guy in 1962.

Frances doesn’t turn up in the official record of Guy and Phoebe Anderson. Frances married Roy Pennington Caulkin and died in Kentville, N.S. (year unknown by me).

Here is a great question from a reader of VAIW: Why did Miss Cox (later Mrs Caulkin) keep Guy Anderson’s postcard, if he meant nothing to her?! 


¹There is no evidence that I could find of a familial relationship between Guy and Frances, but it’s possible that Frances was a cousin or other relation of Guy.

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“Old Books” Seller

Str P94

Crop of CVA Str P94. 509 W. Georgia (between Seymour and Richards). Wm S. Dagnell, “Old Books” Seller. ca1916. No photo attribution is given by CVA, but I suspect this may be Stuart Thomson’s work, as Dagnall’s shop was just west of Thomson’s shop at this time.

I am a sucker for antiquarian and used book stores. And so, when I stumbled upon this, to me, hitherto unknown bookshop, I naturally investigated to learn as much as I could about the seller. There wasn’t much to learn, unfortunately, as the shop was in business for only about a year during the Great War.

The proprietor was William S. Dagnall. He seems to have immigrated to Canada with his wife, Emma and their 5 kids in 1909 from the U. S. (whence Emma and all but one of their kids were born). Dagnall began his time in the city as a bricklayer (according to the 1911 census) and kept working at his trade for roughly the next 5 years.

In 1916, then in his late 50s, and perhaps musing that there had to be easier ways to earn a living than laying bricks for the rest of his days, he decided to open an “Old Books” store at 509 West Georgia (north side of the block between Richards and Seymour, more or less where Quorum Fashion Emporium is located today). As mentioned earlier, Dagnall stuck it out as a used bookseller for only about a year; by 1917, he chucked the used book business for vending cigars a couple of blocks away at the Labor Temple Cigar Store (on Dunsmuir at Homer). This alternative work occupied him for a couple of years. But by 1919, Dagnall was back doing what I can only assume was steadier and more lucrative work as a bricklayer. He spent the next twenty years (from 1920-40) earning his daily bread by working at his trade. In 1940, he appears in the city directory as secretary for the Masons, Bricklayers and Plasterers Union and by 1942 (by which time he’d have been about 84!) he is shown as “retired”. On November 5, 1945, William Dagnall died.

I can only deduce from Dagnall’s brief sojourn into used book-selling entrepreneurship that he discovered what so many others over the decades have learned (albeit, in many cases, not nearly as quickly as did Dagnall): That unless you are specially talented and have a taste for the long hours and very often little return and that (probably most of all) you find that you have a true love for the occupation and the odd personalities whom you attract as customers — that the used book-selling business is best left to personal flights of fancy!

Mil P107 - [Military honour guard on Georgia Street between Seymour Street and Richards Street] 1918-21 Stuart Thomson

CVA – Mil P107 – Military honour guard on Georgia Street between Seymour Street and Richards. This view looks up Georgia Street a short time after Dagnall had vacated the “Old Books” shop; it seems to have been taken over by a taxidermist (although the street numbering within this block appears to have changed). 1918-21. Stuart Thomson

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NWA - IHP0215 Building Site- Vancouver BC ca1910

NWA – IHP0215. Building Site- Vancouver BC ca1910. Photographer unknown.

I ran across this photo amid the holdings of New Westminster’s Archives when I was researching another subject. The image struck me as worth paying attention to for a couple of reasons: First, it was unlike any photo I’d seen of this area in any other B.C. archive (including the City of Vancouver Archives); 2) Second, it appears to be a photo made (by an unknown amateur, I’m assuming) of a demolition site. Early demo scenes were not typically photographed. Perhaps they were considered to be like the ‘dirty laundry’ of urban life – unavoidable, but not something many would want as a photographic subject!

The fellows in the photo seem to be working at the final stages of demo: salvage. Most of the gents appear to be standing on what might be a piece of the concrete foundation of the old building. There is a horse on the left side of the image, and several men with bars for leveraging remaining materials having salvage value from the earth.

What is the location of this site?  Well, we are looking (on the right side of the photo) at the back side of the Carter-Cotton building at the SE corner of Hastings and Cambie. The camera is facing the east side of the first Courthouse building and has captured a few of the buildings on the north side of Hastings. The Inns of Court, on the south side of Hastings at Hamilton, is also just poking out from behind the right corner of the courthouse.

Therefore, it seems that the lot on which the demolition is happening is on the site of the former News-Advertiser building (built ca1890; demolished ca1910) and the future site of the Edgett Block at the NE corner of Cambie at Pender (built ca1911 – present).

The News-Advertiser would move across to the west side of the courthouse (later, Victory Square) at the NW corner of Pender at Hamilton into the structure which is still there today — the former Pappas Furs building.

The business that would move into the much larger future building on the demo site would be H. A. Edgett’s grocery (on street level). By the early 1920s, however, the building  would become home (briefly) to Buscombe Importing Co./Buscombe Insurance and later (by 1925) to the Daily Province newspaper. The newspaper HQ would move from there, but the structure remains. Today it houses several offices, including the Architectural Institute of B.C.

SGN 1457 - [News-Advertiser publishing office building at the corner of Cambie and Pender Streets] 1900? Norman Caple

SGN 1457 – BEFORE: The News-Advertiser publishing office building at the NE corner of Cambie and Pender Street. 1900? Norman Caple, photographer.

Bu N516 - [The Province buildings at Pender and Cambie Streets] 192-? (Date is CVA-attributed)

Bu N516 – AFTER: The Edgett/Province building at Pender and Cambie Streets. 192-. Photographer unknown. Note: The archway (what I’d call the pedestrian bridge) connecting this building and the Carter-Cotton building behind it (over the lane) was not installed until 1924, according to this source.

 Selected Sources

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The Age of Aquaria

CVA 180-5198 - Fisheries building Pacific 191-?

CVA 180-5198 – Fisheries building. 191-? Home to the first Vancouver Aquarium (at Hastings Park).

You may have been under the impression (as was I) that the only location of Vancouver’s Aquarium has been where it is today: at Stanley Park. This misapprehension is abetted by the current aquarium’s lack of acknowledgement of its forbears on its website. In fact, there have been two prior locations of Vancouver aquaria: at Hastings Park and English Bay.¹

Hastings Park (1915-1930s)

The initial call for the construction of an aquarium on the exhibition grounds of Hastings Park came in 1910 from the Vancouver Exhibition Association (VEA – the early decision-making body for what would ultimately become the Pacific National Exhibition). The VEA applied to the federal Fisheries ministry for permission to establish a “fisheries building” or aquarium in Vancouver, but the feds turned them down. The reason given was the prior existence in New Westminster of a fisheries building. [Vancouver Daily World 3 April 1910].

By April 1911, however, the VEA was crowing about plans being in place and funding promised for the construction of “an aquarium worth seeing” in Vancouver:

The Vancouver Exhibition is to have an aquarium. Not a dinky little pool with some tame gold fish swimming leisurely around, but a real concrete aquarium with a glass front and all the fixings big enough to keep sharks in if necessary. . . . The new aquarium will be about 150 feet long, with a plate glass side, in order to permit the public to get a good view of the denizens of the deep [VDW 18 April 1911].

The description above would prove to be more fantasy than anything. No sharks, as far as I can tell, ever occupied the Hastings Park aquarium (although, by 1924, there was a report of a family of alligators residing within a glass enclosure adjacent to the aquarium; they were donated by a Florida-based carnival).

By 1914, promised government funding was in place to construct the $1500 aquarium at the exhibition grounds, and it seems to have been operational by 1915.

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What was the function of the Hastings aquarium? As with most exhibits at the Park, a primary function would have been to promote the product. Yes, fish and other sea critters were perceived at the time primarily as products. Conservation, research and education (a few of the prime directives of today’s Vancouver Aquarium)  would have been viewed as a trifle odd by the folks running the fisheries building. In addition to product promotion, the aquarium was viewed as a means to encourage tourism to the City.

It isn’t clear to me precisely when the Hastings Park aquarium wrapped up operations, but it almost certainly had faded to black within a year or so of the start up of the new aquarium.²

Bathhouse Years (1939-55)

CVA 99-2118 - English Bay scene 3 Aug 1930 Stuart Thomson photo.

CVA 99-2118 – English Bay scene 3 Aug 1930 Stuart Thomson photo. Haglund’s aquarium was initially restricted to the west wing of the concrete bathhouse. Later (1941), permission was given by the Parks Board for Haglund to expand into the east wing, too. The CVA photo has been annotated by the author.

Seattle’s first aquarium manager and well-known restaurateur, Ivar Haglund, ran Vancouver’s second aquarium. The Vancouver Parks Board leased Haglund roughly half the space (the west wing) of the dis-used concrete bathhouse at English Bay (built 1909) [Vancouver Parks Board, Minutes, April 13, 1939].

By October, 1939, the new aquarium was ready to open and was dedicated by UBC President, Leonard Klinck. He “expressed the idea that this aquarium contained the nucleus of one of the most valuable educational features of the City” [VPB, Minutes, Oct 13, 1939]. In December, 1940, VPB granted Haglund permission to sponsor a series of high-grade, entertaining and educational” talks pertaining to aquarium life [VPB Minutes, Dec 13, 1940]. And in March 1941, Haglund announced that CKWX radio was starting a weekly quiz show called “Fish for the Answers”. It would be produced in cooperation between the Aquarium and the Vancouver high school science department [VPB, Minutes, March 28, 1941]. These developments are indicative that education was gradually becoming a function of Vancouver’s second aquarium.

In February, 1941, the Parks Board granted Haglund permission to expand beyond the west wing of the old bathhouse and into the east wing. The West End Community Centre had formerly been housed in the east wing [VPB, Minutes, Feb 28, 1941].

By 1944, the Parks Board had had 5 years of a Haglund-managed aquarium and were in the mood to assess the period and to begin to look to the future:

Five years have proved fairly conclusively that the present location in the old abandoned bathhouse at English Bay is not suitable for a successful operation.  In the winter months, a creditable exhibition of marine life can be maintained. But in the summer, when a good patronage is available, many of the most attractive species, including octopus, sea-anemones and many types of fish are unable to live as the water is too warm and lacks the necessary salinity. It is planned to find a new location, preferably in Coal Harbour, where the water is nearly consistent as regards temperature and salt content [1944 VPB Annual Report].

By roughly the time of the second aquarium’s 10th anniversary, the Parks Board made it clear that it wasn’t interested in a longer-term commitment to the bathhouse site; the lease with Haglund would be continued on a year-to-year basis “pending construction of a new aquarium.” [VPB, Minutes, Feb 6, 1950].

In 1953, the Parks Board was quite critical of the quality of exhibits at the aquarium and, in response, Haglund requested permission to temporarily close the site until he could acquire better exhibits [VPB, Utilities Commission Minutes,  Feb 2, 1953].

Doubtless, Haglund could read the writing on the wall and, in 1955, he reported to the  VPB that he’d closed the site permanently in October [VPB, Minutes, Dec 19, 1955].

VPL 40141 - ( Third) Vancouver Aquarium opening (at Stanley Park). June 1956. The Province Newspaper.

VPL 40141 – (Third) Vancouver Aquarium opening (at Stanley Park). June 1956. The Province Newspaper. (Just what the mounted horse is doing in this image is unclear to me!)


¹I am indebted to Vancouver historian and collector, Neil Whaley, for opening my eyes to the existence of these other aquarium sites. His research into this subject has been invaluable in writing this post.

²For greater (national and international) context on aquaria and fish culture, see this very helpful resource by Wiliam Knight. The first Vancouver aquarium is mentioned and there is a photo included of it (from the Library and Archives Canada collections) which isn’t in this post.

Posted in aquarium, Dominion Photo, Don Coltman | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not ‘Cricket’ (Nor True to the Story)!

CVA 180-1141 - Victor David Neon Signs parade float 25 Aug 1941 (PNE Parade?)

CVA 180-1141 – Victor David Neon Signs parade float 25 Aug 1941.

The Vancouver firm best known for producing neon signs in the city is Neon Products. But when I was flipping through a 1948 Sun business directory yesterday, I came across  another firm that was active in the city: David Neon Signs.

David Neon Ad in 1948 BC Buyers Guide Sun DirectoriesThe proprietor of this company was Victor David. The firm seems to have had its start in the early 1930s. The firm remained in business at least until 1955 (when access to VPL’s online directory information peters out) and possibly several years later. There is some evidence that David died in 1976.

The image above makes me chuckle. It seems to represent the biblical “David and Goliath” story, but David Neon has taken substantial literary license. The eventually-to-be King David didn’t slay Goliath (who is a stand-in, here, pretty plainly, for David Neon’s principal competitor, Neon Products) with a huge sword. He used a stone in a sling.¹ And even if he’d had access to a sword as he is shown to have had on the David Neon float above, it wouldn’t seem ‘cricket’ for him to have taken aim at the pelvic region of Goliath!


¹I Samuel 17:50 reads: “So David triumphed over the Philistine [Goliath] with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.” (New International Version). Emphasis mine.


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Menacing Mollusks Munch Maritime Piles

Ad in VDW May 18, 1910 from the Gold Teredo-Proof Pile Co, Ltd Edward Gold, Mgr at 431 Seymour St.

Ad in Vancouver Daily World, May 18, 1910, from the Gold Teredo-Proof Pile Co, Ltd., Edward Gold, Manager at 431 Seymour St.

The beastie shown above has been known as a “teredo,” sometimes with an additional descriptor — “worm” — tacked on at the end. They aren’t worms, although they do bear a striking resemblance; they are mollusks. Technically, they are called Teredo Navalis or, more colloquially, “shipworms”.

Teredos live in and on wood. They were once ravenous for underwater wood stock in the Vancouver area, not only for wooden-bottomed ships, but also for the wooden piles that supported rail trestles and other bridges in the city that crossed relatively high-saline and temperate water.

Teredos in False Creek!

The brief article reproduced below was my first exposure to teredos and the “fearful havoc” they can wreak.


Draw Span Pier Will be Rebuilt — Teredos Work Havoc on Piles — Draw Cants and Bridge  Tenders Cannot Close It Properly — Contract let for $3500.

Cambie street bridge will be closed probably next Wednesday for a period of three weeks until much needed repairs are made to the pier which supports the draw. For some time it has been noticed that the south side of the draw span canted a little and made it difficult to close the bridge. A diver was employed to go down and examine the piles and found that the teredo worm was working fearful havoc and they would require to be renewed at once. The board of works met last night and awarded the contract to Armstrong and Morrison for $3500 and work will start as soon as they can get their material.

— Vancouver Daily World. April 24, 1909.

How do the teredos accomplish their nasty work? For a short video that demonstrates their work more effectively than I can explain it, see here. Essentially, these creatures get their nourishment from wood. They tunnel into timber, and leave in their wake calcium casings in the wood. A piece of wood that has been thoroughly consumed by teredos will be honeycombed with tunnels, rendering it of much reduced integrity. In short, after teredos have finished off a piece of wood, it is of little value or use; it will crumble away in your hands.

It is widely believed in the scientific community that teredos are not native to the Pacific coast; they are believed to have been native to Atlantic/European oceanic waters. But the question as to where the teredos originated has become academic as, due to their ship-munching ways, teredos became, effectively, a worldwide export. Well, not exactly worldwide, but they were found to be up to their wood-munching habits most places where where there was saltwater of high enough salinity (in the 5-45 parts per thousand range) and the water was relatively temperate (in the range of 1-30 degrees celsius).¹

There is evidence from early Vancouver years that teredos were busy whittling away at underwater wood along Vancouver’s coast at least at the following locations:

  • First CPR Wharf: The wharf was built ca1886. In ca1889, according to Arthur J. Ford, a Vancouver pioneer who, in conversation with Vancouver’s first archivist, J. S. Matthews in 1946, said: “This is a section cut from the piles of the first Canadian Pacific Railway wharf at the foot of Granville Street. It was being taken out to be replaced and I was standing nearby and asked them to cut these pieces off for me as I wanted to keep it as a curiosity. I don’t know the precise year, but I should think it would be about 1889. That would mean that the piles were in [Burrard] inlet for about three years.” The ‘section’ to which Mr Ford referred was a “small section of wood, about eight inches square, full of toredo [teredo] worm bore holes.²
  • At Site of Future Lion’s Gate Bridge (where the wreck of the Beaver was for several years beneath Prospect Point): Mr. W. L. Gove reported the following to Matthews in a letter dated March 27, 1950: “My recollection of “Beaver” was when the tide was low, I would climb on to the paddlewheel frame-work and onto the boiler, then search in the sand and under any small rocks for copper rivets, copper nails and some sheet copper. Then, on extreme low tides it was possible to get pieces of beams and parts of the keel with rivets or long bolts in such pieces.  At that time there was no top works of the cabin left. It had been removed to make canes as curios for tourists. If the hull was taken away, whoever took it forgot to take the keel because I pulled up a piece four feet long, eight inches by eight inches. This piece was, as all other wood, below water, perforated by toredos [teredos] and that was about 1913.³
  • Royal Vancouver Yacht ClubThis location (in Coal Harbour) was reported in 1920 to have need of replacement piles due to teredo activity.∞
  • Cambie (Connaught) Bridge: See article from 1909 shown above. This is evidence that teredos were active at least as far east as Cambie Bridge in that period.

Surrey and New Westminster, which were reputed to have fresh water, were apparently free from the ravages of teredos.


Until c1910, the only solution to the ravaging ways of teredos was to replace teredo-tunnelled wood with virgin timber. Around 1910, however, a commercial band-wagon of sorts was started of products that claimed to “teredo-proof” wood. In other words, these companies offered a preemptive solution to the teredo problem.

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 6.01.43 PM

Ad in Vancouver Daily World, May 18, 1910, from the Gold Teredo-Proof Pile Co, Ltd., Edward Gold, Manager at 431 Seymour St. This is the rest of the ad that appeared with the featured illustration (above) of the teredo.

One firm that advertised extensively in Vancouver was the Gold Teredo-Proof Pile Co. Products like that of Edward Gold consisted of a secret paint formulation that, when applied to the surface of wood, allegedly would be a ‘turn-off’ to teredos and they would leave the wood alone. There was another firm with a paint product about which similar claims were made: B&A Anti-Teredo Manufacturing, later called Pipers, Ltd. (after President C.T.W. Piper).

It isn’t clear to me how successful the application of these paints were in discouraging the munching habits of teredos.

Teredos in Vancouver Today?

Today, teredos aren’t believed to be as much of a threat to bridge foundations and boats because the materials composing bridges less often consist much of lumber products (more often of much less teredo-tasty concrete) and the ships that still have wooden hulls do not sail mainly in temperate, higher-saline waters (where teredos are more likely to thrive), but in more freshwater lakes and streams.

However, I’ve been in contact with a friend who is a member of the Vancouver Wooden Boat Society to ask him if he is aware of an increase in teredo activity in the Vancouver harbour. He inquired of some of the older members and reported back that teredos have’t been a big problem here; however as the water temperature creeps upward, it is becoming gradually worse.

Look out, Vancouver… the Teredos (May) Strike Back!


¹This Smithsonian Marine Station site shows these salt and water temperature tolerances measured for toredos in various locations around the world.

²J. S. Matthews, Early Vancouver, Volume 7, p. 132.

³Matthews, Volume 7, pp. 50-51.

∞Vancouver Daily World 6 February 1920, p.14.


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Re-Inventing CPR/Waterfront Station

Fastening a ‘historic site’ plaque to a building doesn’t ensure that everything about the site will be preserved as it was. It is vanity to assume that we, with our contemporary sophistication, are able to still the hands of time (or developers). Historic preservation of a site requires compromise if it is going to have any utility.¹

I was reminded of this when looking at today’s Waterfront Station (yesterday’s third Vancouver CPR Station) and, especially, when viewing a number of CVA’s archived photos of the building. This post will use some of these images to highlight changes to the station over the years.

Look Up . . . Look Waaaay Up

CVA 152-1.094 - [Construction progress photograph of the third CPR station] 26 JUne 1914

CVA 152-1.094 – Construction progress photograph (interior, 3rd CPR station). 26 June 1914. The chandeliers suspended above the main waiting room (and hallway lights in the distance in the east wing) in the image above are no longer present in Waterfront Station; they have today been replaced in some cases with CCTV security cameras. Also, the skylights are gone.

CVA 152-1.214 - [Construction progress photograph of the third CPR station] 28 April 1914

CVA 152-1.214 – Construction progress photograph (exterior, 3rd CPR station). 28 April 1914. View of the roof and skylight zone (beneath wooden slats?) from above. This also affords a better sense of the scale of the entire building and uppermost floors with office space

Lunch Counter

72300492-c1ca-4723-a44e-127362bcaebc-CVA70-02 (1)

CVA 70-02 – Interior, 3rd C.P.R. Station (Waterfront Station). 1973. Art Grice. The sign posted beneath the clock (‘Daylight Saving Time’) in the early 1970s suggests that it wasn’t straightforward to adjust the clock’s time setting! The photographer seems to be facing the eastern wing of the station (where the Rogue Kitchen & Wetbar is today, but another view suggests that the lunch room was actually in the west wing). There also appears to have been a small bank of pay telephones on the Cordova Street wall in the ’70s; a nearly extinct technology today!

Passenger Platforms

NOPE ! Looking EAstward - CVA 152-1.098 - [Construction progress photograph of the third CPR station] 24 NOv 1914 - View is looking west along Cordova St. Photograph shows passenger plat

CVA 152-1.098 – 3rd CPR station exterior looking east roughly from where Cordova meets Howe today. The image shows rail passenger platforms on the exterior of the station situated where the 2nd CPR station had been located until 1914 (demolished that year) and where the Project 200/Granville Square platform ultimately would be built (above the platforms) in the early 1970s. It looks as though (from another photo) to get down to the platforms, passengers would exit the station at the place where today, seabus passengers leave the station to walk across the pedestrian bridge and then descended an exterior staircase. (Note: Cordova St didn’t extend westward beyond Granville at the time this image was made, and would not do so until the 1950s).

CVA 447-182 - CPR Granville Ramp May 1969 W E Frost

CVA 447-182 – CPR Granville Ramp. W E Frost. May 1969. By the year that this image was made, the platforms had been re-purposed as vehicular parking stalls!

Washrooms in the Station. Ah . . . Civilization


CVA 70-02 – Cropped. Interior 3rd C.P.R. Station (Waterfront Station), interior concourse 1973 Art Grice.  Public Washrooms in the eastern wing! What a difference with today. Why there are no public washrooms in this principal public downtown building today is beyond my understanding.

Western Wing Stairway (and Whither Victory)?

Can P34 - C.P.R. Station and Docks, Vancouver, B.C. c1916

Can P34 – Exterior 3rd C.P.R. Station and Docks, Vancouver. c1916. The entry to the west wing of the station was originally at grade with Cordova. Today, the western entryway is much higher and has necessitated (at roughly the same time as Project 200/Granville Square construction?) the building of a major interior staircase up to the western entry/exit to the station. (See 2018 photo below for a view from top of the ‘new’ staircase). The ramp was to allow vehicular traffic to connect to Pier D (which was fated to burn utterly in a fire in 1938).

View from the top of the western wing stairs, looking east within Waterfront Station. 2018. Wes Hiebert photo

View from the top of the western wing stairs, looking east within Waterfront Station. 2018. Wes Hiebert photo.

CVA 99-4224 - Concrete trolley pole 1932 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-4224 – Exterior 3rd CPR Station (just the tip of the west wing visible) looking north up Granville at Cordova Streets. 1932. Stuart Thomson. The station was still at grade with Cordova in the 1930s. Also, note the original position of ‘Winged Victory’ sculpture (Great War, and later also WWII memorial) at the west end of the station. The memorial was moved to the east end of the station, presumably in the 1970s in conjunction with Project 200/Granville Square concrete edifice (specifically, the parking garage), which would have obscured the memorial if it had remained here. This is evident in the 1980s image shown next).

CVA 779-E04.02 - 601 West Cordova Street 1981

CVA 779-E04.02 – 601 West Cordova Street. Waterfront Station (formerly 3rd CPR Station). 1981. Note that Winged Victory has flown away from the east end; she’s ‘gone west’.

Smoking Room and Other Delights

CVA 152-1.217 - [Main waiting room at third CPR station] c1914

CVA 152-1.217 – Main waiting room at third CPR station. c1914. To the right of the cavity through which today skytrain and seabus passengers pass, are two labelled rooms: an Info Booth and adjacent to it, a Smoking Room. What rooms were in the western wing isn’t clear, although I suspect that the Women’s Waiting Room may have been up there.

CVA 152-1.217 - [Main waiting room at third CPR station] c1914

CVA 152-1.217 – Crop of the previous image. I tired cropping the image to see if I could read the sign in the western wing where I suspect the Women’s Waiting Room used to be located. No luck. But in the process, I noticed the tres cool tulip-shaped wall sconces. Those are long gone!

There’s More to the Building Than the Waiting Room!

CVA 152-1.221 - [Employee locker room at the third CPR station] c1914

CVA 152-1.221 – Employee locker room at 3rd CPR station. c1914. The heading of this section, notwithstanding, Waterfront Station certainly doesn’t go out of their way to make the other parts of the building accessible to the general public. The employee locker room shown in this image was probably not a public locale, either. But it is safe to assume that in whatever passes for a similar sort of room these days, these gorgeous wooden lockers are no longer present.

Did  You Know?

Within Waterfront Station, in addition to the main floor (where the ‘main waiting room’/lobby is, there are four upper floors? And (presumably) at least one or two lower (basement) floors – although the latter are not even shown in the public elevators. The building is deceptively large!

CVA 152-1.224 - [Office at the third CPR station] c1913

CVA 152-1.224 – Office inside 3rd CPR station. c1913. Safe to say that the office furniture has been replaced on more than a couple of occasions since c1913. I was granted admission to the upper regions of Waterfront Station on only one occasion back in the late 1980s when I was looking for work in the Terminal City and had an interview (alas, unsuccessful) on an upper floor in the office of a political lobbyist who was seeking a researcher.

CVA 1477-151 - [Visit of Australian Premier Bruce] ca1926 Dominion Photo

CVA 1477-151 – View of the interior of 3rd CPR Station near entry to ticketed passenger area. This photo shows the visit of Australian PM Stanley Bruce to the city in ca1926. Dominion Photo. The Australian prime minister is shaking hands with Vancouver’s Mayor at the time, L.D. Taylor. Bruce seems to be sporting “spats” on his shoes, unlike Taylor. Standing left of Bruce is Mrs. Bruce (wearing ladies’ spats) and Nels(son) Lougheed, a local lumberman and B.C. MLA (soon to become public works minister). Lougheed was the namesake, ultimately, for the more commonly used name for Highway 7.


¹Sean Kheraj made a related point in his excellent 2014 book, Inventing Stanley Park

Posted in Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), railways, stuart thomson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Early ‘Brief Lives’ of Richmond Apts

CVA 780-40 - [View of the Richmond Apartments and the rear of the Hotel Vancouver] Feb 1966

CVA 780-40 – View of the Richmond Apartments (915 Robson) and the south side of the Hotel Vancouver. Looking north-ish up Hornby. Feb. 1966. (Note: The parking lot adjacent to HV is where the hotel’s parking garage is located today and where, just a few years before this photo was taken, the ‘Famous Kitchen‘ was located (along with a couple other single family dwellings).

This post offers brief glimpses into the lives of a few early tenants who lived in Richmond Apartments at the NW corner of Robson and Hornby streets.∞

The Richmond block was built in 1910 (ready for occupation in 1911), just a few years after the Manhattan Apartments was constructed (in 1908) a couple of blocks up Robson. It was designed by Vancouver and Port Townsend (WA) architect W. T. Whiteway for the owner (and eventually one of its residents), Edward Hunt; there were 25 suites of various sizes. The Richmond block was demolished shortly after the image above was taken to make way for the current occupant of the corner,  the 777 Hornby building (built 1969). (I’m fond of this CVA image looking west up Robson from Hornby, with just a bit of the Richmond visible (mainly Eugene Wideman’s tailor shop at street level) as well as the former central branch of VPL under construction at the corner of Robson at Burrard; I figure the image was made c1956).

In 1911, suites were advertised for lease (unfurnished) at rates in the range of $40-50/month. Such a rate range may seem like a ‘steal’ to us today, but when held up to other comparable apartment rates in downtown Vancouver at about the same time, those at the Richmond seem to be on the high side.¹

Lucien  Draize (1888-1956)

Draize CarLucien Draize was born to August Draize and Marie Lochot in France and, presumably prior to leaving the country of his birth, married a woman 10 years his senior from Dijon, Pauline Antoinette Vautret.

Shortly after the century’s turn, the Draizes came to the relatively new country of Canada (he came in 1907; she in 1919). Whether they came directly to Vancouver or came to the city after some time spent elsewhere in the province, I don’t know. We know (from their respective death certificates) that they spent all their time in Canada in B.C. They lived for a couple of their early years in Vancouver (1922-23) in Suite 18 of the Richmond Apts.

Draize was in the business of importing/exporting merchandise. His chief imports were French goods. He worked out of the Northwest Building (today known as the Lumberman’s Building) at 509 Richards Street. M. Draize’s single claim to fame, as far as I could learn, was the advertisement shown here (which appeared once, in the 9 June 1923 issue, of the Vancouver Daily World).

Lucien Draize died at the provincial mental hospital at Essondale a little over 4 months after being committed there. He was 68. Pauline died the year following.

Eldon Sidney Hilliard Winn (1879-1961)

E. S. H. Winn, as he seems to have been commonly known, was born in Coburg, Ontario to James Winn and Jane Mills. Winn travelled from Ontario to Rossland, BC in the early years of the 20th century, establishing a healthy legal practice there.

He came to Vancouver and seems to have resided in various suites, from 1920 until about 1932, at the Richmond block. I’m guessing Winn married Agnes Rowatt (b. Perth, ON in 1879) c1920 in Ontario (as there is no record of them being married in B.C.; and her death certificate indicates that she lived in B.C. for 47 years; she died in 1967).

Winn was a lawyer (in fact, a King’s Counsel) with remarkably good connections (he was a prominent B.C. Liberal). He had the good fortune to be a law partner with someone who would go on to become a B.C. chief justice, J. A. Macdonald. He was appointed by the provincial cabinet to the Board of the Workmens (today, “Workers”) Compensation Board of B.C. in 1917 and, shortly after, became the Chairman of the Board for a very handsome annual salary of $5000 (later, $6500, and later still, $7500). Only two years into Winn’s quango appointment to the WCB and he was, evidently, bored. He assumed in 1919 the chair of the Social Welfare Commission which, according to the 19 November 1919 issue of the Daily World, would involve a number of points of interest: “mothers’ pensions, maternity benefits, state health insurance, and public health nursing.” Merely the foundations of today’s publicly funded health care system!

It isn’t clear to me when Winn retired from the WCB Chair, but there are news items that still refer to him holding that position in 1929. In that year, he also became a member of a federally-appointed advisory board on the Old Age Pensions Act.

Winn was a Supreme Representative of the Knights of Pythias.

He died at 81.

Frederick Neilson James (1870-1956)

Fred James was born to Charles James and Agnes Neilson in Ontario. James headed west in c1906, when he was in his mid-30s. In 1912-13 he was living in Suite 16 of the Richmond Apts.

It isn’t clear to me when he married Florence Vithy (I could find no record of a marriage certificate for them nor a death certificate for her). The only thing I can say with any confidence about Florence is that she pre-deceased her husband.

At some point, James became an officer attached to the Canadian Pacific Steamships line. Before 1913, he was aboard the Empress of India serving as the Purser. In 1913, he made a lateral transfer to the Empress of Asia. He retired in 1944 and died at age 86.

Eugene Wideman (1880-1969)

Widedman tailorEugene Wideman was born in France in the Alsace-Lorraine region. He came to Vancouver in c1911. He resided in the Richmond from its first year of occupancy, 1911, until 1916. He lived in Suites 4 and 21.

He married Blanche Imogene Trenary at some point (I could not find a B.C. marriage certificate)

Widemann was a tailor. He plied his trade, initially, at 654 Granville. Later, by 1915, his shop had moved closer to his then-residence at the Richmond; it was in the same block, but across the street. By 1935, however, after Widemann had long-since moved to another residence, he went ‘home’ to the Richmond — his tailoring business was moved to a retail space in the block at 923 Robson (see the image shown above).

Widemann was predeceased by his wife by a year. He was 88 when he died.

Henri Louis Isidore Aubeneau (1876-1960)

Henri Aubeneau was born to Louis Aubenau and Hortense Quintard in Therrezi, France. He moved to North Vancouver c1910. He lived there for much of his life in Canada with his wife, Marie Moran.

In 1926-28, Aubeneau lived in Suite 4 of the Richmond block. It isn’t clear to me what took him to the Terminal City to live.

His death certificate indicates that Aubeneau was proprietor of the Capilano Suspension Bridge. My friend, Maurice Guibord, has noted, however, that while Henri and Marie bought and operated the bridge for a few years, they didn’t make many changes to it. Maurice also notes that Aubenau had been a sailor and restaurateur at different points in his life.

He was predeceased by Marie in 1953. He was 84 at his death.

William Alvin Randle (c1890-1912)

William Randle was the son of Joseph Randle, a prominent resident in Nanaimo in the early 20th century. Randle was living in 1912, according to print media, in Vancouver at the Richmond Apartments that year, rooming with his friend, George Hunter. I couldn’t find any confirmation in the  1911/12 Vancouver directories that Randle and Hunter were living at Richmond Apts.  At first, I assumed this was either due to a clerical omission or because they rented their suite during the part of the year after the directory collected its information. But a more likely explanation is that William’s sister and brother-in-law, a Mr. and Mrs. Charles Coldwell, who had rented Suite 21 in 1911-12, had sublet the suite to William and George in 1912. Whatever the arrangement, it seems certain that the two men were living in Richmond Apts that year.

In early September, 1912, Randle and Hunter joined up with three other pals, George Hill, Percy Jarrod, and A. Woodworth, to do some deer hunting on Gambier Island. Their first day out, nobody got a single shot off. The next day, they decided to improve their odds and cover greater ground by splitting the five-some: Hunter, Jarrod and Woodworth took one side of the mountain;  Hill and Randle, the other.

I’ll allow Nanaimo Daily News (the town from which Randle originally hailed) to recount the rest of this sad story:

Hill started a deer, and in chasing it, became separated from Randle. He lost sight of the deer and a short time after thought he saw its tawny back in the brush and fired. His shot was answered with a cry. He rushed to the place and found  Randle dead, with a bullet wound in his neck.

Randle was hurrying toward his companion and was crawling under a log and lifted his head to see where Hill was when he received the fatal shot.

With difficulty, the body was carried the five miles through the woods to the beach where it was placed in [a] gasoline launch [and thence transported to the mainland].

 — Nanaimo Daily News, 3 September 1912

Randle was 22.

There was no later indication that I could unearth that this shooting accident was ever found to be anything other than that; no malicious motive was behind the shooting.

Indeed, the cause of the accident seems to have been principally the folly of not wearing bright, readily identifiable gear, so there was little danger of one’s clothing being mistaken for the hide of a deer.



∞The title of this post leans heavily (with thanks) on John Aubrey’s classic biographical work, Brief Lives (late 17th century).  I was reminded of this book (to which standard, this post doesn’t pretend to attain) by reflecting on a literary ‘retail past’ of this corner: it was home for many years to the chief store in the Duthie Book shop local empire.

¹A furnished suite in the Caroline Court apartment block (located — and extant — west of Burrard on Nelson), for example, was advertised in 1915 as being $30/month. And a suite in the Royal Alexandra Apts (located — and also extant, but with a name change to Strathmore Lodge — at 1086 Bute) was advertised, in 1915, at $20/month. The sizes of the suites in Caroline Court and Royal Alexandra weren’t indicated. Both were built in the same year as Richmond Apts, in 1911.


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A Look Back to a Look Ahead to the 1960s


CVA – AM578 – B.C. Hilliam fonds. The Oct. 17-18, 1913 program, “The Queries”, Lonsdale Theatre, North Vancouver. Note: This is one page from the program, the entirety of which appears below.

North Vancouver: ‘1963’


North Vancouver Archives. Accession 1986-015. The Queries, 1914. B.C. Hilliam appears in front row dressed in dark “Pierrot” costume (in contrast to white Pierrot costumes worn by other Queries); I think the woman at left from BCH is Florence Hayward. Photographer unknown.

In 1913, B.C. Hilliam was working for the North Shore News and trying to launch a future career as a professional musician/composer and (ultimately) as a notable comedian. Hilliam was still a relative unknown in North Van and, arguably, a complete unknown across Burrard Inlet in the City of Vancouver.

In 1913-14, Hilliam, together with a number of other amateur actors, assembled a vaudevillian group known as The Queries. This group was from North Vancouver. In one of the earliest performances put together by the troupe – in October 1913 – a playlet was performed, written by Hilliam, entitled 1963: A Futurist Comedy with Incidental Music1963 was Hilliam’s first run at a similar idea which he would undertake two years later in the City of Vancouver. More on that in the next section.

1963, by Hilliam and The Queries, seems to have had three parts to it: a prologue and epilogue (both set in the ‘present day’ of 1913), and the bulk of the play, set in North Vancouver’s ‘future’: 1963. Specifically, the ‘future’ of North Vancouver’s civic politics — a very different future from the 1913 reality, in which the civic council was made up entirely of women (Aldermen Grappleshanks, Gusher, and Peanutz) and among whom was a female Mayor, one Mrs. Shingleton-Drake.


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City of Vancouver: ‘1965’

The Queries finished acting together by 1914. By the end of that year, Vancouver’s Pageant of 1914, had been successfully hosted in the City and with Vancouver’s profile had risen Hilliam’s reputation as a local composer with his tune for the City’s ‘Toast Song’, Here’s a Ho! Vancouver.

In 1915, a new vaudevillian group based in the City of Vancouver was launched: the 1915 Follies — a somewhat loose confederation of amateur actors (‘loose’, in the sense that the Follies had a pretty fluid cast, with the exception of B. C. Hilliam, whose name was synonymous with the Follies).

One of the early Follies performances,  held at the Imperial Theatre in February 1915, was a play called Fifty Years Forward, or Vancouver in 1965 (which I’ll refer to simply as 1965). Although there is no extant script available for either 1963 or 1965, to the best of my knowledge, there are two press accounts of which I’m aware in the Vancouver Daily World  — one on February 20th, anticipating the 1915 production (and based, I assume, on a dress rehearsal of the play attended by the reporter; and one on February 23rd, reviewing it).

Without these press accounts, it would be tempting to conclude that the main differences between 1963 and 1965 were the advance of two years in the titles, and the swapping out of North Van for the City of Van. But we would have missed out on a good deal of difference between the two productions.¹

Play vs Playlet

The most noticeable difference is that of the length of the productions. While the 1913 offering in North Van was described as a ‘playlet’ (it was but one aspect of a full evening of varied entertainment), the 1915 Follies production seems to have been devoted entirely to 1965.

Whether this is as substantive a difference as it at first seems, is open to question, however. While the entire evening in 1915 may have been described as Fifty Years Forward, a number of the components of the ‘longer’ play seem not to have been directly related to the plot of 1965. This seems to be a genre feature of vaudeville; what today might be viewed as ‘padding’ was expected as a warmer-upper of the audience of the time. Such numbers included: the singing of “The Little Kerchief” by Miss Anne Lochead,² a duet by Lochead and Edgar Meyrick of “The Keys of Heaven“, elocution by Mr. E. (Ernest) V. (Vanderpoel) Young of Chevalier’s “The [An] Old Bachelor“, Miss Florence Hayward singing a piece of Hilliam’s own composition, “The Daughters of the Empire”³, and songs by Miss Phyllis Davis (“I’m a Nurse” and “I’ll Make a Man of Everyone of You”²). There was also Spanish dancing by Miss Millicent Ward, and recitation by the entire Follies company of the nursery rhyme, “Three Blind Mice”. And all of these performances happened before 1965 got underway!


In both 1913 and 1915 plays, the ‘present day’ mayor was a Mr. Hamilton. However, the 1963 ‘mayoress’ is a Mrs. Shingleton-Drake, about whom nothing is known by me, except that she presumably was not the wife of Hamilton. But in 1965, the ‘mayoress’ of the future was, indeed, Mrs. Hamilton (the wife of the 1915 mayor). Quite how they got around the 50-year aging issue for Mrs. Hamilton, I have no idea.

One of the lady alderman characters from 1913 was retained in the 1915 play: Mrs. Grappleshanks. The other two weren’t mentioned in either 1915 press report.

“Boundy”, the City Hall janitor in 1963, seems either to have been dropped from 1965, or else was not considered worthy of mention in either press report in 1915.

“Jenkins”, the stenographer in 1963, became a female character in 1965 (the character’s name is unknown by me) and was played by Phyllis Davis. She drew the only critical comment from the reviewer: “Miss Davis is there with the goods, as the mayor’s stenographer, but loses a little bit of her charm by overdoing slightly some portions of the part, as for instance, the gum chewing”. That’s her told!


Nearly the entire cast is different between the 1913 and 1915 plays. The only actor in common to the two productions is Florence Hayward. She was feted by the World in its review of the 1915 play as being the “star of the production. . . whose portrayal of the Civic Charlady in the first part of the comedy is an absolute lifelike character study, and is a scream, her every movement calling forth roars of laughter.”

10 Aug 1915-1

From Vancouver Daily World, 10 August 1915. Henry Anstie caricature by B. C. Hilliam. (Anstie is here dressed in a white pierrot costume; it seems a bit dated for the Follies, and more apt for The Queries).

Florence Hayward was the stage name of “Madam (Florence) Norminton” (1882-1958), who was instrumental in getting Hilliam out of his newspaper day-job and into the North Vancouver theatre scene. She participated in The Queries in North Van with Hilliam and later joined him in his 1915 Follies group.

Betty Cherry (“Alderman Gusher” in 1913) was also using a stage name. Her real name was Harriett A. Parker (nee Franklin) (1887-1970).

A noteworthy member of the 1915 production was Henry Anstie, who played the ‘present’ Mayor Hamilton. Anstie was a stage name; his real surname was Chrimes and he was best known for playing comic roles well.


As I reflected upon these plays, it occurred to me that, although there have been female aldermen in Vancouver, we have yet to have a woman in the Mayor’s chair. In that sense, the plays were ahead of their time — and ours!


¹And this, in turn, causes me to wonder how much detail we are missing out on by not having a script of either or both 1913 and 1915 productions. If any readers are owners of  these scripts or other ephemera relating to these productions, may I encourage you to donate it (or them) to a local civic archive, such as the City of Vancouver Archives?

²Lyrics and music by person(s) unknown.

³I’m not aware of an extant copy of the sheet music for this tune. That it was composed by Hilliam (lyrics by someone else, presumably?), comes from the Daily World (Feb 23, 1915, p. 8). It is possible that it was a variation on another of his compositions as a tribute (at this Follies production) to the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.), specifically the John Jellicoe chapter, to which organization all proceeds from the 1915 production were to go.


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Bridge Tender’s Nightmare Made Worse?

PAN N158 - [View of the reclamation of False Creek Flats showing the reconstruction of Main Street at the bascule bridge] June 30, 1921 W J Moore-2

CVA: PAN N158 – View of the reclamation of False Creek Flats showing the reconstruction of Main Street at the bascule bridge. June 30, 1921. W J Moore photo. Also showing the GNR Trestle Swing Span Bridge. This was the scene of the GNR Trestle and environs about a decade after the accident related in this post. (Cropped, digitally exposure-adjusted, and annotated by MDM.) For a more detailed view, click on image.

Bridge Tenders

There were, once upon a time in early Vancouver, many bridge tenders. Who was a bridge tender? He (I’ve never heard of a female bridge tender in Greater Vancouver) was the person responsible for swinging the span on a swing span bridge or (less commonly in Vancouver), raising the draw on a draw bridge. In the first half of the 20th century, it was more typical than not for a bridge to be designed to accommodate both the traffic that crossed it (be that train, horse-and-buggy, automobile, and/or streetcar) and traffic which passed beneath it (boat craft of various sorts). In those days, bridge engineering technology had not advanced to the stage that allowed the span to be high enough that boats could proceed beneath it while not requiring its crossing traffic to wait.

This post isn’t about the lot of the bridge tender, however. Or, at least, only tangentially. It is about how the manner in which a non-fiction story is told can influence readers to think about an event. And about the people involved.

But more on that later.

The story that follows is a ‘ripping’ tale from the January 10, 1911 edition of the Vancouver Daily World and is reproduced here in its entirety.

Vancouver Daily World – January 10, 1911
(Note: Green Text inserted below is MDM’s; it is included to aid contemporary readers in understanding lingo that, presumably, was understood by typical 1911 readers.¹)

G. N. R. Engine Plunges Into False Creek

Engineer and Fireman of Freight Had Miraculous Escape from Death at Open Drawbridge

In a desperate, heroic effort to save his train this morning just as it struck the open draw on the False Creek Bridge, Great Northern Engineer Doris Baker in charge of engine No. 519 applied the air brakes and the next moment plunged with his engine to the water below and sank from sight.

The water at this point is twenty feet deep. The accident was witnessed by a crowd of people who were on their way to work. Bertram Carroll, on a Fraser avenue car [presumably the ‘car’ was a BCER car crossing on Main Street Bridge], saw the engine go over and yelled to the other passengers on board. Women in the car turned an agonizing glance at the awful sight and uttered up a fervent prayer.

As the engine struck the water with a terrific splash those who were held spellbound at the awful sight caught a last look at Engineer Baker. His jaws were set and he was seen exercising every ounce of muscle as he set the air [brakes] and tried to throw the reverse.

The accident occurred at a quarter to nine o’clock. As the ponderous freight locomotive hit the water a mountain of hot sizzling steam arose enveloping everything in sight as the water struck the fire box.

Human Chain Rescue

“My God, he’s been killed,” went up the cry from railroad men doing track duty. As the engine keeled over Fireman Frank Varrell who was on the other side of the cab leaped to the trestle in safety.

He jumped to his feet and ran to the edge of the draw where the engine had gone down. Suddenly he yelled in ecstasy “He’s alive, he’s alive. Get a rope.”

A score of men clambered to the draw. Baker was seen weakly swimming. A human ladder was formed and he was dragged to the bridge more dead than alive and then rushed to the caboose of his own train. There he was quickly undressed before the roaring fire in the stove in the caboose while oil begrimed “shacks” [slang term for occupants of the caboose] rushed to the nearest drug stores for restoratives.

“Go home,” said Baker faintly, “No, it’s just the chances we take. My back feels terribly wrenched but I’ll be all right tomorrow and I’m going to stay here.”

But a cab was called and he was sent to his home. His injuries are not as yet fully known and many believe he has been internally hurt.

Just how the accident occurred is still a disputed question. “I was on the other side of Engineer Baker,” said Fireman Varrell. “We had been working back and forth, cutting ‘in’ and ‘out’ cars and were bound for our daily run for Blaine [In other words, ‘shunting’ or ‘switching’ cars; selecting rail stock that was to go through to Blaine from that which wasn’t]. Suddenly I heard a whistle. I looked up and saw a boat coming down. I looked ahead and saw there were no flags out [which would have indicated whether the train had the right of way], and so I thought everything was all right.

“Just as the front of the engine struck the draw I felt the draw move. Then the bridge began to move. “Good God, Doris,” I said, “They’re moving the draw. Jump.” I turned a look at him “I’m going to stick and save her,” he muttered.

“Just then there was a crunch of steel, a sickening breaking of timber and I leaped. Just as I did so I was horrified to see the engine off the track, totter and apparently hesitate. Then she listed. It was all happening as fast as lightning plays. Then came a break of iron as the engine parted from the tender [the coal car which is immediately behind the locomotive; it carries the engine’s fuel], and the next second the engine, with Baker at his post, went down to the water and out of sight.

Escape Miraculous

“As I struck the bridge, I slid on the heavy bank of snow and narrowly escaped going into the water myself. A terrific gust of steam arose as the hot coals struck the water. I have never known of such a miraculous escape in my life, and too much credit cannot be given to Baker. His act in sticking by the engine and doing his best to stop the accident is the most heroic act I have ever known of. If he hadn’t put on the air the whole train would have gone into the water. He is the bravest man I know, and I have known a good many. But one thing is sure, it was all the fault of the bridge tender. He evidently didn’t see us and his whole attention was taken up by the boat that was whistling for the open draw.

The bridge was in charge of Sidney Woods, a young tender who is regarded as very careful. His version is that he had two red flags set [in other words, signalling “stop” to the train] and that the engineer and fireman may not have seen them owing to the storm. He asserts the flags will be found in the water. But this the engine crew stoutly deny.

The entire line was blocked and a wrecking crew sent for from Blaine to open up the line. A great crowd congregated and the excitement was intense as the rumor had gotten about that a whole trainload of passengers had been killed.

Contrast: the Province’s Account

The World reporter who wrote the account above seems to me to have focused on composing a good drama – and he has done a great job of that – while being less concerned with having a balanced account of events. The story seems to be tilted to favour the railwaymen and against the bridge tender.²

This becomes more apparent when the World article is contrasted with a report (excerpted below) by a reporter for the Province. While the Province, like the World, acknowledged that the cause of the accident wasn’t wholly clear, the ‘theory’ advanced in the Province seems to me far more balanced than that in the World:

The Daily Province – January 10, 1911

(An excerpt of a Province article about the same accident…)

The freight train which started south at about 8.30 o’clock . . . had been shunting on the trestle for an hour or more. Several times it came almost up to the draw span and on each occasion backed again. About [9.30, I think; the text isn’t clear] a tug was seen approaching the bridge through the haze and in answer to his whistle the [bridge] tender turned his attention to the boat, to give it passage through the draw. At the same time the train approached again but, evidently thinking it was only shunting, the man in charge of the swinging machinery of the span threw it open to allow the tug to pass. When he saw the draw moving out and the break in the tracks looming ahead, Engineer Baker jammed on his air, but, though the wheels responded, the track was too slippery to hold the heavy train of cars and they slid forward, shoving the engine over the brink and dropping it into twenty feet or more of water.

The impression created in the Province report is quite different from that in the World’s account, don’t you think?

In my judgement, this wasn’t a case of one reporter telling ‘the truth’ while another told ‘porkies’.³ The facts seem to be present in both accounts. I suspect that it was a case of the World reporter being perhaps younger, and less-experienced than was the reporter with the Province.

The World reporter directed the blame at the bridge tender by:

  • directly quoting Frank Varrell extensively (including his claim that the accident was “all the fault of the bridge tender”);
  • naming the bridge tender in his report (“The bridge was in charge of Sidney Woods, a young tender . . .”), thus, effectively, publicly shaming the tender.
  • Not giving the bridge tender’s perspective on the accident much ‘time’ in his report (aside from a single brief paragraph at the end of the article).

A Moment of Terror

It seems to me that the oft-cited quote attributed to an anonymous wag about the Great War — that life in the trenches was “boredom punctuated by moments of terror” — would be an apt description, also, of the occupation of bridge tender. And, although no lives were lost in this accident, such an outcome was certainly not out of the question.

I imagine the bridge tender’s heart must have stopped briefly as he saw the engine tipping over the swing span. The account of the accident presented in the World may well have added insult to injury, making the bridge tender’s nightmare that much worse.

This strikes me as an instructive case for the virtue of exercising care before we as consumers of various media reach hasty conclusions about what ‘obviously’ happened during a reported event. Furthermore, this demonstrates the danger of accepting well-told dramatic accounts of events as being ‘true’ while the more ‘boring’ report is assumed to be, somehow, less so.

New Westminster Swingspan Trestle Open (looking beneath the Patullo Bridge)

Recent view of one of the last of the Swingspan Trestles in Vancouver area – New Westminster/Surrey rail crossing of the Fraser – Viewed from beneath the Pattullo and Skytrain Bridges. December 2017 (MDM photo).


¹Most of the railway lingo definitions were sourced from this useful site.

²Mention was made in subsequent World articles on the accident of a forthcoming ‘investigation’ by the G.N.R. into the affair, but I couldn’t find a report pertaining to it nor conclusions reached. There was certainly no indication that there would be an inquiry by any sort of quasi-governmental or independent body. None of the later World articles touched on the question of who (if anyone) was at fault in the accident. Instead all articles I found dealt with the mechanics of the protracted raising of the locomotive from the bottom of False Creek.

³Neither the reporter of the World article nor that of the Province piece was identified.

Posted in bridges/viaducts, railways, W J Moore, water scene | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

One of the Largest Organs West of Winnipeg

Pipe Organ in the former St. Andrew's Presbyterian (New West) and, today, Emmanuel Pentecostal Church, ca1920.Russell Photo Studio

Pipe Organ in the former St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (New Westminster) and, today, Emmanuel Pentecostal Church, ca1920. Russell Photo Studio. (Note: The seat for the pastor is, curiously, raised in this image. This struck me as odd, as it puts the pastor (or pastors – there is room for more than one, here!) well above the pulpit). (MDM Collection)

I purchased this photo at The History Store a couple weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been on a quest to know which church it is/was that housed the amazing-looking pipe organ that appears in it.

What I Knew (or Thought I Knew)

The clues I had to work with were:

  • The photographer was the Russell Photo Studio of New Westminster. Vincent Russell had his New Westminster studio only from 1918-21. (He later established a photo studio in Penticton in the 1930s and in the City of Vancouver in the 1940s).¹ This led me to suspect strongly that the image was made in a New Westminster church.
  • The organ pipes appeared to be distinctive. In all of the images that I’ve perused of church interiors in Greater Vancouver, I never saw another set of pipes with a similar design. The closest set I saw was at St. Paul’s Anglican in Vancouver.² The design on the pipes in my image was similar to that of St. Paul’s, but definitely different.
  • I was pretty sure that this sanctuary wasn’t any of Olivet Baptist’s several structural incarnations. I saw no sign of a baptismal tank behind the choir loft (where Baptist churches normally would have situated it) nor the tell-tale curtain that would typically be drawn across when the tank wasn’t in use.

I looked at every online archive of photos that I could think of and spoke with everyone whom I thought may have some knowledge of where the organ pipes were located. No dice.

Then it occurred to me to contact New Westminster historian, Jim Wolf. And Jim knew! Apparently, the church in question was formerly St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (New Westminster), and today is home to Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.

What I Now Know (or Think I Know)

Emmanuel - Organ Pipes3

Emmanuel Pentecostal Church Sanctuary. February 2018. MDM Photo.

Here are a few bullets about the organ and the building in which it resides:

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian seems to have been one of the roughly 70% of Presbyterian congregations that joined the Church Union movement. Rev. A. C. Wishart was called to St. Andrew’s in 1931 and it seems to me that he must have been the last Presbyterian pastor called to that church. Ultimately (sometime in the 1932-35 period, I’m guessing), St. Andrew’s joined Queen’s Avenue United Church and later sold the St. Andrew’s buildings.

I was told today by the Emmanuel Pentecostal congregant who kindly granted me admission to their sanctuary, that Emmanuel has been worshipping in the former Presbyterian building since the 1940s. Although the pipe organ is rarely used by the church, sadly, I must give considerable credit to the congregation (and to the City of New Westminster) for preserving both Old and New St. Andrew’s buildings.

Here are a few other images made today of the organ and the church building:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


¹Camera Workers.

²Tom Carter suggested that St Paul’s organ pipes might be a match for my ca1920 image. See here for the organ at St. Paul’s.

³Indeed, the design harkens (for me) to the maple leaf that was part of Lester Pearson’s preference for the Canadian flag (initially). A similar maple leaf is also part of Ontario’s provincial flag, today.

Posted in churches, new westminster, Russell Photo Studio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘The Smallest Building’ in Vancouver

Commercial Hotel (Churchill Arms:Pub 340), the little former Barber Shop, and the Cambie Street arm of the Flack Block (MDM Photo, 2018)

Commercial Hotel (Churchill Arms/Pub 340), the tiny former barber shop, and the Cambie Street arm of the Flack Block. As it appeared in early 2018. (MDM Photo, February 2018).

As I spent a recent evening paging through the various editions of Exploring Vancouver (1st ed, 1974, 2nd ed., 1978, and 3rd ed., 2012) by Harold Kalman, I noticed an entry that I must have read at some point in the past, but which I had not really paid attention to. The write-up pertained to the tiny structure which nestles between the Commercial Hotel and the Flack Block on Cambie, just north of Hastings Street.

I’ll allow Mr. Kalman to speak from his 1st and 2nd eds.  He is writing about the Commercial Hotel and only incidentally about the un-named little building² adjacent to it (neither made an appearance in his 3rd ed., for some reason):

This ruggedly textured brick and stone building was long known as the Commercial Hotel¹; the name used to appear on a pointed gable at the top. Ponderous ground-floor arches are now mostly concealed by the new front. The tiny barber shop next door, probably the smallest building in the city, has occupied the gap between the two large structures ever since the beginning of the century. (Exploring Vancouver, 2nd Ed. (1978), UBC Press, p, 36. Emphasis mine.)

A Brief History of Occupants

According to Kalman’s 1st and 2nd eds., the Commercial Hotel was erected in 1896 and was designed by an unknown architect. However, the Biographical History of Architects in Canada identifies the architect as being the same person who designed the Flack Block (which was built later, in 1899), William Blackmore.³

The first mention of the Commercial Hotel in Vancouver directories seems to have been in 1898. Over the years, the street numbering systems along this stretch would vary and different numbers would be assigned to the hotel and to the small structure between it and the Flack Block. In 1898, the Commercial was 338 Cambie. There is no evidence of any building adjacent to it on the south side at this time: neither the tiny building nor the Flack Block. As is shown in the photo below (which is roughly dated by CVA staff as being ca1895), aside from the Commercial, the only other structure on the Cambie/Hastings corner is the first YMCA (located roughly where the Ormidale Block would be built not too many years later, and remains today).

Str P67 - [View of the corner of Hastings Street at Cambie Street] Bailey Bros. ca1895

CVA Str P67 – [View of the corner of Hastings Street at Cambie Street] Bailey Bros. ca1895. (Note the ‘pointed gable’ on the Commercial Hotel, as mentioned by Kalman).

By the time the photo below was taken sometime in the first decade of the 1900s, however, the Flack Block was standing on the corner and so was the tiny building between Commercial and Flack. And, as M. Guibord points out in his comment below, there appear to be three barbering poles out front.

M-3-27.5 - [Flack Block, northeast corner of Hastings and Cambie] 190-?

CVA M-3-27.5 – [Flack Block, northeast corner of Hastings and Cambie] 190-?

There is a difference in how the wee building appeared at this early photographed date and how it appears now. If you refer to the first image in this post, you will note that a curved gable feature is evident atop the wee shop. This wasn’t present in the 190- image, nor indeed, in any of the other photos shown below. (There is a photo taken in the 1980s or ’90s that seems to show it for the first time, however). To look at that feature today, you’d swear it was original to the shop, as it is covered with moss and seems to have generally aged far more than its actual, perhaps, 35 years. Just what function the upper storey performed isn’t clear to me. But I suspect that it was built with the intention of creating a bit of storage space.

In the 1910 directory, there is mention made of Morris Levine, who apparently was the first barber to occupy the little building. In the 1930s and ’40s, the shop was identified anonymously as the “Commercial Barber Shop”. No proprietor was mentioned in the directories that I viewed over these years. And by the ’50s, it was known as the Lux Barber Shop.

Bo P365.5 - [Officers of the Chilean training ship Presidente Pinto at cenotaph wreath ceremony] 1952 Charles Wishart

CVA Bo P365.5 – [Officers of the Chilean training ship “Presidente Pinto” at cenotaph wreath ceremony] 1952 Charles Wishart. Note the signage for the Lux Barber Shop is just visible behind the heads of the Chilean officers.

By the 1970s (probably starting in the 1960s), the “Rose Bros.” had taken over the tenancy of the barber shop. The Rose Bros. appear to have been, probably, father, Samuel (1881-1973) and son, Joseph (1913-1978) — both of whom were born in P.E.I.

Former entry to the smallest bldg in Vancouver on Cambie near Hastings

Gated and locked former entry to the ‘smallest building in Vancouver’. MDM Photo, February 2018.

It isn’t clear to me whether there were other barbering tenants of the small shop after the Roses died.

The building patently is unused today for much of anything except possibly storage. The entry is thoroughly gated and locked to prevent anyone from thinking it might be a suitable place to bed down.

It is even less clear why the little structure was created in the first place. Was there a deliberate decision to allow this space to stand as a “buffer” between the hotel and Flack? Why? If not a deliberate act, was it accidental? Did an early civic surveyor neglect to measure the lots twice (or thrice) and so got either the Commercial or the Flack lots a little smaller than they ought to have been?

We can only speculate. Whatever the actual reason, it seems to have been lost in the mists of time.


¹I’m guessing that the space within the structure is perhaps 100-200 s.f.

²In the 1970s, the Commercial Hotel was renamed the El Cid Hotel and at some later time, it became known as the Churchill Arms/Pub 340. It remains so, today.

³Oddly, the Biographical History identifies the source of this information as being Kalman’s 2nd ed., and claims that the Commercial was built in 1895.

Posted in Bailey Bros., Charles Wishart, hotels/motels/inns, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Remarkable Images of the Springer Album


UL_1449_0103. “Harry [Henry Babington] Cambie and Ruby Springer Walking Together”. UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections, Uno Langmann Collection. [Springer] Family Photo Album, ca1900-1910. Photographer unknown.

The image shown above is a fine example of what seem to me to be the quite ‘modern’ images that comprise the Springer family album that is part of UBC’s Uno Langmann Collection. The photograph above, which probably was taken at Harrison Lake, shows one of the Springer sisters (almost certainly) and, less certainly to me, Henry (Harry) Babington Cambie – Henry John Cambie’s son (HJC is the namesake for one of the major streets and a bridge crossing False Creek in Vancouver) – walking along the waterfront with their backs to the camera. In these early years of photography, it was pretty uncommon for camera operators (either amateurs or pros) to make images of people that were anything other than ‘face on’ and posed. This portrait has neither of those qualities.¹

The Springer brood consisted of three boys and three girls. The children of Benjamin Springer (1841-1898) and Fannie Nias (1854-1874) seem to have arrived roughly every two or three years beginning with Mabel, the eldest, and followed by Eva, Frank, Hugh, Ruby and, lastly, Robert.

Given the number of photographs in which Ruby Springer is identified in this album, it seemed to me possible that a suitor of Ruby’s may have been the principal photographer of family/friends in this album.² The only suitor of Ruby’s of whom I’m aware was the man who ultimately married her — William Alfred Bauer; he wedded Ruby Maud Eliza Springer in December 1907.

My theory that W. A. Bauer was the main photographer of the Springer album fell apart, however, upon discovering that there was another album in the Uno Langmann Collection attributed to Bauer. The photographs in Bauer’s album seem to me to be very different from those in the Springer album. Bauer seems to favour landscape shots, versus the people-dominated images of the Springer album. And Bauer also seemed to bring a greater technical expertise to his shots than could be said of the sometimes blurry and often under- or over-exposed shots taken by the mystery shooter of the Springer images. The images that made it into Bauer’s album were pretty consistently sharp and appropriately exposed. Composition-wise, however, Bauer’s shooting couldn’t hold a candle to the images made by the Springer shooter!

Having rejected Bauer as the primary shooter of the Springer album, I turned to the possibility that Ruby had taken the shots herself (Note: Upon marrying Bauer, she seemed to revert to one of her middle name as her ‘first’ name: Maud. To prevent confusion, however, I will continue to refer to her in this post as Ruby). We have access to Ruby’s shooting style, thanks to the presence in the Langmann Collection of an album attributed to her. A browse through Ruby’s photos in this album, however, reflect such a different style as to make it very unlikely that she was the shooter of the photos in the Springer album. Ruby Springer Bauer tended to shoot wide landscapes with teeny-tiny people in the middle distance or background of the shot, as opposed to the emphasis in nearly every image in the Springer album on people as the main subject.


UL_1449_0089. “Man and woman with a baby.” UBC Rare Books and Special Collections, Uno Langmann Collection. [Springer] Family Photo Album. ca1900-1910. Photographer unknown. Note: This image seems to me to be more typical of a shot made in the 1950s or ’60s than one made in the early years of the 20th century. The dominance in the shot of the baby and the proud parents is remarkable, in my opinion.

The reasoning of the previous paragraphs has led me to the not-very-remarkable conclusion that the Springer album shooter was one of the Springer siblings. Perhaps a little more remarkable, however, is my personal belief that the photographer was one of the two sisters: either Mabel or Eva (rejecting Ruby from contention, as we’ve done, above). The predominance of women and children in the Springer shots is one of the features that leads me to this conclusion. But the other feature is the very relaxed nature of the subjects of the photos; they seem (women and men alike) to truly ‘let their hair down’ in these Edwardian photos in a way that seems improbable to me had the photographer been male (as was the norm at the time).

A good example of the remarkably relaxed subjects is the photo below of a woman (Ruby Springer?) with her back — not to mention her backside — facing the camera whilst adjusting the sail on a boat!


UL_1449_0110. Man and woman adjusting sail. UBC Rare Books and Special Collections, Uno Langmann Collection. [Springer] Family Photo Album. ca1900-1910. Photographer unknown.


¹Whether it is “Harry Cambie,” as identified by UBC as the male subject of the first photo, seems to me to be open to question given that the gent walking along the waterfront seems to have darker hair colour than other images of “Harry Cambie” identified by an album owner with black grease pencil. See, for example, this image from the Springer album.

²Not all of the images in the album are family/friends shots. Toward the back of the album, the ‘feel’ of the images changes quite abruptly, apparently in time and also with a change in the principal camera operator. There are at least three images of groups trudging through and camping in the Chilkoot Pass that were made by Eric A. Hegg, a pro photographer associated primarily with images of the Gold Rush. A long-format postcard of a BC Electric Observation Car taken by local pro, Harry E. Bullen, is also included in the album. Other professional images near the back of the album include one made by the Gidley Studio of Duncan, BC and a couple made by J. A. Brock (a  Vancouver professional photographer from 1886-1890s). For more information on these (and virtually all other) major early photographers in B.C. and environs, please see David Mattison’s fine photographic directory for BC, Yukon, and Alaska, Camera Workers: 1858-1950.

Posted in Eric A. Hegg, Gidley Studio, Harry E. Bullen, J. A. Brock, Photographers, UBC, Uno Langmann Collection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Poodle Dog

CVA 371-865 - [Exterior of The Rustic Dining Rooms Lodging (house) at 318 Cordova Street] c 1901

CVA 371-865 – Exterior of The Rustic Dining Rooms and Lodging House at 318 Cordova Street, ca 1901. Note: There is a ‘reassuring’ note on the window that they have “white cooks only” (presumably; the Asians, blacks and others of colour in the city at that time can’t have found this to be overly comforting!).

This image caught my attention when I was browsing through CVA’s photos recently. The Rustic was located at 318 Cordova St., just a couple of doors west of the extant Arlington Hotel (at the corner where Cordova meets Cambie), today an SRO, I’m assuming.

The Rustic seems from the exterior view to be pretty rustic. I couldn’t imagine what it must look like inside! But, to my surprise, a little more research gave me a pretty good idea of what it must have looked like just a couple of years earlier. I wasn’t expecting to see an interior photo, as it was uncommon for ‘flashlight’ images to be made this early, but there it was: the Rustic’s predecessor at this location, the Poodle Dog Hotel!

Hot P5 - [Interior of Poodle Dog Hotel bar on Cordova between Cambie and Abbott Streets] ca1898

Hot P5 – Interior of Poodle Dog Hotel bar on Cordova between Cambie and Abbott Streets, ca1898. Note: I brightened this exposure digitally a bit, so that we could better see the interior details.

The name of this drinking establishment wasn’t by any means unique. There were other Poodle Dog dining rooms and bars in the B.C. at this time. I found evidence of a Poodle Dog in Nanaimo, for example, and a dining room of long-standing in Victoria. The Victoria restaurant specialized in French cuisine and was owned and operated by a Monsieur Louis Marbeouf.

But the Poodle Dog Hotel on Vancouver’s Cordova Street was decidedly not a French restaurant. Indeed, the image above shows only a bar room. But it was a bar with interesting details. According to a note in CVA’s collection:

The unique Poodle Dog Hotel bar was made of almost every kind of bark, cedar bark, vine, maple twigs, moss and fungus, etc., was built by George Cary for Bert Burton….The owner’s name was spelt out in big letters of maple branch twigs along the front…. [It] was illuminated with coal gas.

Perhaps your eyes are younger than mine and you are able to see Burton’s name spelled out with maple twigs on the front of the bar; but neither my eyes nor my imagination is up to the task, I’m afraid! Some of the detail that I can make out, however, are small pieces of indigenous leather work (in foreground) and (in background) the head of a big horn sheep.

If there are other details that you notice, please comment below.

Posted in cafes/restaurants/eateries, hotels/motels/inns, street scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Views of CPR Right of Way: Before and After 1932

Re-Posted February 2018
(First Posted Jan. 2016)

I was recently struck (again) by what excellent images these two are of 1930s Vancouver. How exemplary of how I often have thought of the ’30s in this city, and how great an exposure in nearly every respect, technically, as well. This was W. E. Frost at his best!

So I decided that I would take the unusual step for VAIW and re-post this two years after it was originally posted. I hope you appreciate and enjoy these Frost photos as much as I do!


CVA 447-285 – Canadian Pacific Railway tracks and Carrall Street. ca 1930 W. E. Frost photo.


CVA GF N3 – C.P.R. right of way between Cordova and Carrall Streets] 1935. No photo credit attributed by CVA. (VAIW Note: This image is so similar to the photo above – in composition, exposure and sharpness – that I’d speculate that it’s also a W.E. Frost photo.)

These two images of the CPR right of way in Vancouver’s downtown east side have features in common. Both photos were made in the midst of the Great Depression, all of the people in the photo are men, all wearing dark suits. (I get the sense from these images of both an economic and an emotional depression). I’d speculate that the photos were made by the same photographer.

But there are differences in these photos: they were made from locations about 1.5 blocks and – more importantly, about five years – apart.

In the first photo, the photographer seems to have stood near the intersection of Carrall and East Hastings and faced north. I reached this conclusion because Lind’s Cafe (330 Carrall, a couple of lots north of the corner of Hastings at Carrall) is to the right in foreground and the Gordon & Belyea building (101 Powell, near the northeast corner of Powell and Columbia) is to the right in background.

Goad's Fire Insurance Map, 1912 superimposed over City of Vancouver's VanMap. Showing the CPR right of way slicing through blocks of downtown eastside.

Goad’s Fire Insurance Map, 1912 superimposed over City of Vancouver’s VanMap. Showing the CPR right of way slicing through blocks of downtown east side.

Both of the photos were taken in a northeasterly direction, but the second one was taken about 1.5 blocks northeast of the first one – from a spot near East Cordova St, between Carrall and Columbia Streets. The Gordon & Belyea building is in the background of this image, too, just visible behind another building near the right frame.

There are rail tracks visible in the first image, but not in the second. Indeed, in the first image, there is even a sign nagging pedestrians “not to walk and trespass on the railway”. (Notwithstanding the caution, a couple of gents are walking along and across the tracks). There isn’t a similar warning visible in the second image; nor are there level crossing signs in the lower one. But, then, neither are there tracks visible in the second image.

The reason there is no track in the second photo is that it was made later (ca1935) than the first one (ca1930); the CPR removed some of the track from the right of way once the Dunsmuir Tunnel was installed in 1932.

Trains henceforth travelling from the main line to English Bay entered the tunnel at a portal drilled in the bluff below Hastings near Thurlow. The track then looped around and travelled directly east along Dunsmuir, veered southeast under the Beatty Street Drill Hall and emerged onto the False Creek flats. For forty years the tracks connected with the railway’s marshalling yards and Roundhouse. (Vancouver The Way it Was. Michael Kluckner, 87).

Part of the Dunsmuir Tunnel was repurposed in 1983 as a component of the Skytrain system. The photo below has not yet been fully catalogued by CVA, but it appears to me to be a scene of the Dunsmuir Tunnel, ca 1983, as it was being modified for the Expo Line of Skytrain; the photo would have been taken somewhere between Waterfront station and Stadium/Chinatown station.

CVA 800-2575 - [Description in Progress] n.d. Alan J. Ingram photo. (DUns tunn?)

CVA 800-2575 – [Description in Progress] n.d. Alan J. Ingram photo. (VAIW Notes: The image appears to me to be the old Dunsmuir Tunnel being repurposed for Skytrain’s Expo Line downtown, ca1983. I have digitally modified the photo to improve the exposure.)

Posted in Al Ingram, Photographers, public transit, street scenes, W. E. Frost | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

NOT a K-Tel Record(*)!


I recently picked up this recording** made by Social Credit, Vancouver Centre MLAs, Herb Capozzi (1925-2011) and Evan Wolfe (1922-2009) as part of their joint campaign¹ for the 1969 General Election. The recording was cleverly called The Record of [fill-in-the-blank]. The candidates were introduced on each side, in turn, by self-described phone-in host, Jim McDonald.² I’m assuming that Wolfe and Capozzi were the only two Social Credit candidates to produce such an album. I so assume because theirs is the only one I’ve encountered.

When I listened to each side of the record, I was under the impression that Wolfe was the incumbent and Capozzi was a new candidate in this election. The reason I so concluded was that, while Wolfe mentioned his experience on legislative committees (e.g., the Public Accounts Committee), Capozzi’s background was cast solely in terms of  his non-parliamentary “business management” experience (e.g, as General Manager of the BC Lions, the first person in that position to bring a Grey Cup “home” to B.C.).

In fact, both men were successful candidates in Vancouver Centre in the previous general election (1966) and in 1969!

These Social Credit gents made some pretty predictable remarks: Wolfe, for instance, warned electors of the dangers that would come from “operating under the heavy hand of state socialism” in the event the Socreds were unsuccessful in forming another government; Capozzi, similarly, commented that, when it came to welfare policy, he favoured “self-help” rather than continuing to support families who had been receiving payments “generation after generation”. (One wonders just how long Capozzi believed that the welfare system had been in place!)

But there was also at least one surprise in The Record. Capozzi advocated that street parking be removed from all major downtown streets. This seems to me the sort of error that a rookie candidate would make³ — thus reinforcing my (mistaken) assumption that Capozzi hadn’t yet served in the provincial legislature.³


*K-Tel records are a Canadian phenomenon of the 1970s. In case you weren’t alive (or were not living in Canada) at that time, here is a page where you can get a taste of K-Tel ads. Go to the 16 minute, 55 seconds point to see the ad for Emotions. And if your blood sugar levels haven’t gone through the roof after that, then Let’s Disco! (immediately after Emotions!) (Note: The scenes in this ad look as though they were shot in Vancouver at English Bay and Stanley Park.)

**This recording is now in the care and custody of the Royal BC Museum.

¹At the time, dual-member electoral districts were common in B.C. With such a system, the two candidates who won the greatest number of votes were elected. This typically meant that whichever party was favoured in a riding won double the seats that would have been the case in a single-member riding. This worked to Social Credit’s advantage in the late 1950s and 1960s. But the tide would turn in favour of the New Democrats in this riding beginning in the next General Election (1972) and would continue to favour the NDP through the 1986 election. Redistribution would result, in 1991, in the disappearance of Vancouver Centre and at the same time, in the practice of dual-member constituencies.

²As of 1970, McDonald hosted a 2-hour show, weekday mornings on CKVN, called “Open Mind with Jim McDonald.” What exactly he was doing prior to 1969 isn’t clear to me.

³This is a jurisdictional mistake. City parking is a municipal responsibility.

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Grace & Claire Corbould

Grace & Claire Corbould, New Westminster. ca 1905? MDM Collection

Grace (left) & Claire (right) Corbould, New Westminster. ca 1905 (?) Note: Grace’s portrait was made by New West Japanese photographer, Paul L. Okamura, Each portrait is identified with handwritten notes – Grace’s apparently by herself on the face of the card; Claire’s on verso.

I recently came across the cabinet card of Grace Milwood Corbould (1886-1969) at Vancouver’s History Store. A week later, upon returning to the shop, I found the smaller card of her elder sister, (Marion) Claire Corbould (1884-1966).¹

These girls were two daughters of legendary New Westminster figure Gordon Edward Corbould (1847-1926) and his wife, Arabella Almond Down (ca1853-94), whom Gordon married in 1877. Sadly, Arabella died in 1894 at the relatively young age of 41. GEC married widow Charlotte M. E. Wright in 1901.

The G. E. Corboulds were a large family: Gordon Bruce, Lillie May (who predeceased her father in 1922)², Nella Alma, Grace Milwood, Marion Claire, Monica Vera, and Charles Edward B. The girls outnumbered the guys in the brood by a ratio of about 2:1. All the kids were by GEC’s first wife, Arabella.

A quick bio of Dad Corbould (GEC) seems in order. He was born in Ontario and first practiced law there in 1872. He was admitted to the B.C. bar in 1882. Two years later, he entered into partnership with Angus John McColl, who later was made chief justice of B.C. One-time B.C. Premier, Sir Richard McBride, served his articles with GEC. Plainly, Gordon Edward had a talent for making connections. In addition to that (or because of it, more likely), he went on to have a political career at the federal level, successfully contesting a New Westminster by-election in 1890; he was returned to the House of Commons in the 1891 general election, and remained a Conservative MP until 1896.

Children of G.E. Corbould. - [ca. 1895]. S J Thompson. Grace C is sitting at far right with dog on her lap. Record ID 18282 New Westminster Archives

Record ID 18282 – New Westminster Archives. Children of G.E.and Arabella Corbould. [ca. 1895]. S J Thompson, photographer. Shown from left to right are: Lillie May, Alma (standing), Vera, Claire. Bernie (Charles Edward B., I presume) is shown sitting on stool, Gordie B., Grace, with “Mickie” the dog in her lap.

Grace M. Corbould married a gent with the improbable name of Vyvyan (sometimes spelled Vivian) Chard Brimacombe (1881-1949) in 1907. (I’m assuming that the cabinet card of Grace was made prior to that, since she signed it with her maiden name). VCB was a banker and was the manager of a branch of the Bank of Montreal upon his retirement. He served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Great War and, when he was demobilized in 1919, had the rank of Lieutenant. The Brimacombes had three boys: Robert Douglas, Edward Chard Corbould, and Rafe Sherme.

Sp P12 - Old Time Cricketers gathered at Brockton Point, Vancouver, B.C. during Vancouver's Golden Jubilee Cricket Week July 4-9 1938 Stuart Thomson

CVA Sp P12 – Old Time Cricketers gathered at Brockton Point, Vancouver, B.C. during Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee Cricket Week July 4-9 1938 Stuart Thomson photo. V. C. Brimacombe is on far right.

Claire marrried Frederic (later, he changed the spelling to the more conventional “Frederick”) William Anderson (1883-1955) in New Westminster in 1910. Anderson was a civil engineer. Like his brother-in-law, Vyvyan (and most other young men), he served in the Great War. What remains unclear to me is when exactly he was demobilized. According to his wartime personnel records, it was in 1918. But it seems also that he was elected to the provincial legislature for  the riding of Kamloops during the 1916 general election.² Whatever the explanation for this apparent discrepancy [see Ken’s comment below], he was re-elected in 1920 and continued as a Liberal MLA (and as Government Whip) until 1924. After his political career was over, he took on federal government employment for the Harbour Commission, serving as Resident Engineer in ca1927-30 on a North Vancouver “subway” project which resulted in the Pacific Great Eastern railway line (now the CNR) being submerged beneath the traffic of Lonsdale and St. George’s avenues. Where exactly the Andersons went after leaving North Vancouver in the early 1930s isn’t clear to me, but there are a couple of clues that they settled in the Ladner district (Frederick died in Boundary Bay in 1955; Claire died in Ladner a decade later).

While in North Vancouver, the Andersons lived in what appear to have been pretty tony digs: 1617 Grand Boulevard (what today still looks very nice – the Gill Residence). They had two kids: a girl, Frances Marion, and a boy, William Patrick.


I’d hoped in this post to be able to find enough information to give a more complete treatment of the lives of Grace and Claire Corbould. One of the chronic frustrations associated with writing this blog is the woefully scant number of women whose lives  have been fully explored. The fact remains that if you were a Canadian woman born in the 19th or early-to-mid 20th centuries, and didn’t have a remarkable parentage and/or do pretty remarkable deeds (one exception which comes to mind is E. Pauline Johnson), there isn’t much of a publicly-available historical record remaining for researchers to explore and share.

This proved to be true of Grace and Claire. Although the women in the Corbould clan patently outnumbered the men, the guys in the family got what ‘press’ was available. We are left with little more than the gazes from the photographs of these sisters with their remarkably voluminous Corbouldian hair.


¹The portrait of Grace looks to be untouched and is in pristine condition. It has Paul L. Okamura’s signature mark beneath it. I suspect that Claire’s portrait was likewise made by Okamura, but I think the card has been cropped with scissors for some reason, either by Claire or the receiver of the card. As a result, the signature mark is lost. If you are interested in seeing other photos by Okamura, see here. If you are interested in learning more about Okamura’s story, see here for a very good article written by Jim Wolf for British Columbia History.

²Lillie May, like Grace and Claire, made a good marriage. She was wed to a man named E. O. S. Scholefield, the second B.C. provincial archivist.  He predeceased Lillie May in 1919. There is an interesting little connection between the Scholefields and the Andersons, however. While an MLA, F. W. Anderson had a copper beech tree planted adjacent to the provincial library on the grounds of the legislature in memory of Scholefield and also ensured that EOSS’s widow received a provincial government pension. See this article by Terry Eastwood for B. C. Studies, p. 60.

³Anderson’s Great War records are available online here. 1916 B.C. General Election results are here at p. 366.

Posted in Photographers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Historical Corner: Terminal & Main

CVA 1184-1734 - [Al Deeming Union Oil dealer service station] 1940-48 JAck Lindsay-2

Terminal & (1500) Main THEN: CVA 1184-1734 – Al Deeming Union Oil dealer service station, ca1940-48. Jack Lindsay photograph.

I encountered this image in CVA’s online holdings a couple of months ago. I was initially puzzled as to where this service station was located; but it didn’t take too long for me to realize that this was the SE corner of Terminal Ave. at Main St. and that the buildings just behind the filling station were the structures that remain there today, in the heart of the  former False Creek flats. I have later realized that the industrial buildings are on Heritage Vancouver’s  2015 “Top 10” Watch List and are part of what that organization considers to be historically threatened in the city.

Al Deeming’s Union 76 gasoline franchise is long-gone and last year was replaced with an experimental move toward modular housing. The industrial buildings in the background once housed Neon Products’ site (260 Terminal), BC Valve Company (250 Terminal) and Massey Harris’s agricultural implement showroom (242 Terminal). The structures continue to stand today, although all with different tenants. Today, only Neon Products maintains a business presence in Vancouver (at 1865 Clark Dr.) with its 1940s name.

Van now Terminal and Main

Terminal & Main NOW: 2018, MDM Photograph.

Crop of Can P23.2 -  Main and Terminal Even EARLIER. Perspective view of Canadian National Railway Station, Thornton Park and Service Station at (1500) Main Street at Terminal. ca 1932. Leonard J Frank.

Crop of CVA – Can P23.2 – An even EARLIER shot of the area. A perspective view from the north of Canadian National Railway (today’s “Pacific Central”) Station, Thornton Park, and the Service Station and other businesses (including Massey Harris Farm Implements building) along Terminal near Main Street. ca1932. Leonard J Frank photo.

Posted in Jack Lindsay, yesterday & today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

B. C. Hilliam, Music Man


Bentley Collingwood Hilliam (1890-1968). Portrait from BCH’s autobiography, Flotsam’s Follies. London: Arthur Barron, Ltd., 1948.

B. C. Hilliam immigrated to Canada in 1911 from England, with his mother, when he was 21. Although they initially stopped in Calgary, they moved quickly from there, briefly to Fernie, and finally settled in North Vancouver.

Hilliam had some experience writing for a newspaper in England and he was soon hired by the North Vancouver bi-weekly paper. He worked at this for a couple of years. In 1914, however, Vancouver was in the midst of promoting its first city “Pageant” and Hilliam’s composition, “Here’s a Ho! Vancouver” (aka “A Toast to Vancouver”) was chosen to be included on the program of the Pageant concert in June. “Here’s a Ho!”, with lyrics written by Pauline Johnson (Vancouver’s well-known native daughter who died the year prior to the Pageant), was a hit among Vancouver residents of the time:

Then here’s a Ho! Vancouver in wine of the bonniest hue,
With a hand on my hip and a cup at my lip and a love in my life for you.
For you are a jolly good fellow with a great big heart, I know;
So I drink this toast to the “Queen of the Coast!”,
Vancouver, here’s a Ho! (1)

Screen Shot 2017-12-31 at 4.56.53 PMIt must be said that Johnson’s lyrics don’t travel well into the early 21st century!

But it isn’t an exaggeration to claim that Hilliam’s melody for “Here’s a Ho!” made his name in Vancouver. (2) Scarcely six months after the Pageant, the Chilliwack newspaper was advertising Hilliam as “British Columbia’s foremost entertainer.” Furthermore, a full-scale musical comedy which was written by Hilliam and set in Greater Vancouver would be presented over the 1914 Christmas holidays at the Imperial Theatre (on Main near Georgia Street): “The Belle of Burrard” was met with rave reviews by drama critics and Vancouver residents alike. Hilliam composed  the music and wrote the script for “The Belle” and a local man, Bernard Tweedale, was stage manager.

There were some musical numbers introduced in “The Belle” which were later recycled by Hilliam for use in later productions. One of these poked a bit of fun at the red-hot real estate market in Vancouver at the time. It was called “Lottie Has Lots and Lots of Lots”:

Lottie has lots and lots of lots in all the most outlandish spots;
It takes her a week by motor-car to find out where the new ones are;
In Kitsilano she’s two for sale, and in Lulu Island and Kerrisdale;
At Jericho Beach she owns some sites
and in Fairview, Burnaby, Shaughnessy Heights;
In Newport, Hollyburn, English Bay, in North Vancouver and Point Grey;
Oh — gee whiz! It’s driving ’em fairly dotty,
Scouring the place at a terrible pace
Looking for lots for Lottie! (3)

The Courtney Review Apr 29.1915 UBC

The Courtney Review Apr 29, 1915.

In 1915, Hilliam wrote and composed a series of productions called the “1915 Follies”. The cast of “The Follies” changed somewhat over the course of the year, but Hilliam remained a central figure in each of them and probably was the primary draw. Later in 1915, the company even went on tour across British Columbia, with stops in such locations as Victoria, Courtney, and Kelowna. When they attempted to take the Follies on a trans-Canadian tour, however, they proved less successful, and pulled the plug on the tour after getting no further east than Calgary.

The Follies included a number of noteworthy musical pieces. One of these was a war-themed, patriotic number, with words and music by Hilliam, entitled “The H’Allies H’Owe A H’awful Lot to H’Us”:

Do you want to see a patriotic picture?
Peep into our parlour any night.
See h’our little family h’assembled
Workin’ for the boys who’ve gone to fight.
Mother’s in command of the proceedings,
Lizzy is a kind of h’aide-de-camp.
I collect the h’articles and pack them,
H’assisted by the twins and little Tom.
Sally’s sendin’ cigarettes fot sergeants,
Flora’s sendin’ flannel for the French;
Papa’s busy packing pipes for privates,
Tobacco for the tommies in the trench.
Nelly’s knittin’ nighties for the Nivy,
Never seen the folks in such a fuss,
Though I says it now as didn’t oughter,
The h’Allies ‘howe a h’awful lot to h’us.

Talk about the cleanin’ in the springtime,
Nothin’ to the mess we’re in today!
Sleepin’ helmets dangle from the chair tops,
H’and on the floor a wonderful h’array.
Mother’s in the middle of the debris,
Only head and shoulders can be seen,
Clicking of the scissors and the needles
Minglin’ with Penelope’s machine.
Clara’s sendin’ cholera belts to corporals,
Susan’s sendin’ sweaters to the Serbs,
Gwen is givin’ garments for the gunners,
H’and many of the shirts are brother ‘Erbs.
Ruth is rustling rubbers for the Russians,
No one ever dreams of feedin’ puss.
Though I says it now as didn’t oughter,
The h’Allies h’owe a h’awful lot to h’us. (4)

I know that there was a much more potent connection in Canada with England at the time than is true today. But I have difficulty believing that there were very many Canadians who spoke with this thick, h-ridden, ing-absent (was this a sort of visual cockney?) accent. Vancouver residents, however, seemed to overlook this flaw (if, indeed, they so perceived it), embracing anything produced by Hilliam with great enthusiasm.

In July, 1915, Hilliam was a participant in a Great War fundraising event, sponsored by the Vancouver Daily World, to collect funds for guns for the British Empire and her allies.


“Me” – a drawing from the book, “Chuckles: This Nonsense”, by J. C. Alden, 1920. Drawing of and by the book’s illustrator, Hilliam.

In September, H. Sheridan-Bickers organized a number of local artists, including Hilliam, to perform in aid of the Canadian Patriotic Fund.   The name given to this group of entertainers was “The Smart Set”. The group would perform again in December to benefit the Red Cross Society.

In February, 1916, Hilliam enlisted in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force and was made, initially, a Lance Corporal. He was part of the Canadian Engineers (according to his wartime personnel record, his trade was “registered carpenter”). He was soon given a commission, however, and Lieut. Hilliam was given responsibility for recruitment concerts and Canadian camp entertainment for troops stationed in Canada before they were sent overseas. For this task, he was stationed in Ottawa.

There were at least a couple of occasions during the war when Hilliam was in Vancouver: for concerts in 1916 to benefit the Returned Soldiers Club. One of these was in January (“Y’Olde Time Mastodon Minstrels” concert held at the ‘old’ Orpheum – when it was in the former Opera House on the west side of Granville) . I don’t know what it was that persuaded Hilliam to choose a Minstrel theme for a Canadian wartime fundraiser. The first part of the evening consisted of “Back to Dixie Land”, followed by “I Long to Lay My Head on Mother’s Knee”, and rounded out with “Alabama Jubilee” and “My Little Gray Home in the West”! The other numbers that were performed prior to the intermission were more traditional fare. They included “Looking for Lots for Lottie” (Hilliam) and “Take Me Back to Canada”. Things got weird again after the intermission, though, with music featuring The Coon Band Orchestra!

Perhaps word came down from on high subsequent to the January Minstrel event that the December 1916 fundraiser should be tamer. The December concert (held at the Dominion Theatre at Granville near Nelson) was certainly more like a typical “1915 Follies” or “Smart Set” event: The evening kicked off with “Here’s a Ho, Vancouver!” and concluded with a “Piano Revue (including suggestions of Rubinstein, Mendelssohn, Liszt and Tchaikowsky)”, doubtless with Lieut. Hilliam at the piano.

Following the armistice, Hilliam moved to New York City. He had been introduced to that larger and, presumably, more-critical audience towards the end of the War in a concert presented in NYC’s Hippodrome. He was a huge hit there, too, and he decided to make his home in Manhattan for about six years after the War. Later, he returned to Mother England where he ultimately teamed up with Australian, Malcolm McEachern, to form the musical comedic duo of Mr. Flotsam (Hilliam) and Mr. Jetsam until McEachern’s death in 1945. Hilliam died in 1968.

It is striking to me that Hilliam was able in such a brief period (about two years) and at such a young age (about 25) to captivate the City of Vancouver, an at-the-time relatively unsophisticated town and then continue, from strength to strength, elsewhere in British Columbia, in other parts of Canada, at NYC, and then, together with McEachern and the magic of the wireless, onto the international stage.

I wonder whether Hilliam would have had such a meteoric rise in popularity if he hadn’t moved to Vancouver when he did, where he could get his start in an environment in which there was much less competition for attention than in England.


(1) From: Book of the Pageant of Vancouver. Vancouver Summer Festival Association, June 1914. The Vancouver Pageant was held in June 1914, complete with a concert at the Horse Show Building near Stanley Park and a full-scale parade with many floats). The exuberance shown by Vancouver residents for the city’s first official “summer festival” was muted somewhat by August when Canada joined the Great War. It isn’t clear to me if Vancouver ever repeated her first Pageant in subsequent years (as seems initially to have been the plan).

(2) The full sheet music of “Here’s a Ho!” may be found here. Also on this site there is a midi file of the tune. Parts of the midi seem okay, but part way through for some mysterious reason, the pace of the music slows quite dramatically.

(3) Flotsam’s Follies. by B. C. Hilliam. London: Arthur Barron, Ltd., 1948, p.22. This volume is available in Vancouver Public Library (it is a reference book, however, and so cannot be borrowed; it is retrievable, however, for reading at the Central Branch, with staff assistance, from compact shelving). I highly recommend it as a very good read. Although some of Hilliam’s early recollections seem to me to be less than wholly historically accurate, he is a very good storyteller!

(4) Victoria to Vimy: The First World War Collections of the University of Victoria Libraries: Florence Westman’s scrapbook. This is an amazing mine of Great War recollections collected by one person. Ms. Westman’s scrapbook (see link at the bottom of the webpage) runs to well over 300 pages! Included among those pages are several Hilliam photos, a few of his sketches, wartime programs, including a couple of Vancouver theatre programs from that period, and several newspaper articles in which he is mentioned.

Posted in vaudeville | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

HNY from BC Electric (and VAIW)!

CVA 260-777 - [The B.C. Electric Building at 425 Carrall Street illuminated at night] 1937 James Crookall

CVA 260-777 – The B.C. Electric Building (and Interurban terminus) at 425 Carrall Street illuminated at night. 1937. James Crookall photo.

This 1937 night shot of the BCER Interurban terminal on Hastings at Carrall is, as usual, well done by James Crookall. He was an ‘amateur’ photographer in the sense that he wasn’t a ‘professional’ (i.e., not typically paid to shoot stuff or people), but Crookall was a professional in the looser sense of being one heck of a good shooter! In this image, he makes the best use of the limited light available from neon signs and other ambient light sources.

Today, this building is extant and is home (not inappropriately) to a shop called LightForm. The one big difference in this structure, however, is that the street-level has now been enclosed. No longer do interurban trains coast into and out of there. This is probably just as well, as the traffic entanglements at the junction of Hastings and Carrall, with interurbans leaving and entering the area were significant even in 1937; imagine how little patience today’s drivers would have if there were still a BCER terminus there!

Happy New Year to all my faithful readers!

Thanks for your support in 2017! I look forward to learning more about Vancouver’s past with you in 2018 . . .

Posted in James Crookall, public transit | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A. E. Beck, Pioneer Lawyer

Albert Edward Beck and his mother, Mary Beck (nee Cooper)

Handwriting on the verso of these portraits reads “Albert Edward Beck” and “Mary Beck (Cooper)”. MDM collection.

I recently added these two portrait photos to my collection. When I saw them at the vendor’s shop, I thought that the handwriting on the backs of each looked the same; and I was pretty sure that the surnames scrawled upon each were the same. A little bit of research revealed that the male, Albert Edward Beck (1860-1940), was the son of the female, Mary Beck (nee Cooper).

Pinning down the dates the photos were made was trickier. Vancouver Photographic Company was in business (according to Camera Workers) from 1887-1892; Wadds Bros. from 1892-ca1900. I am guessing from her image, that Mrs. Beck was about 65 when her photo was taken. Since I know from the 1901 census that she was 75 in 1901 (and living in Vancouver with her son and his family), I’m guessing that her portrait was taken ca1892. A. E. Beck’s portrait was made a bit earlier, I think. He was born in 1860 and apparently arrived in Vancouver in 1886 (although his name wasn’t included in the first Vancouver voter’s list, created October, 1886). I’d say from his image above that he wasn’t much older than 25 when it was made, so I’m guessing that his portrait was made ca1888. This guess is bolstered, I think, by an image of him with the Vancouver Eleven Cricket Team which was made the same year. In this image, he appears to be about the same age as he is in the portrait (although his beard is gone; of his facial hair,only the moustache remains).

Sp P6 - [The Vancouver Eleven Cricket Team on the Cambie Street Grounds on Dominion Day] July 1, 1888 (incldg - I am pretty sure - Al Larwill (NOT Larwikk)_

Sp P6 – [The Vancouver Eleven Cricket Team on the Cambie Street Grounds on Dominion Day] July 1, 1888. Beck is in the front row (seated) on the far right. (And Al Larwill makes an appearance, too. Although CVA made a typographical error when inputing Larwill’s name in their online collection. He is standing, second from left).

Beck was a local lawyer in Vancouver’s early years (1888-1907; 1914-33); during the 7-year interim from 1907-14, he worked for the B.C. Electric Railway as their solicitor and claims agent. After his stint with BCER, he returned to private practice until retiring in 1933. Shortly after beginning his practice in Vancouver, he was appointed the Registrar of the B.C. Supreme and County Courts for the Vancouver district. In 1900, he was made Queen’s Counsel (QC).

He did his legal training at Osgoode Hall (Toronto) before he and his wife moved to Vancouver. There is evidence that he articled for local attorney, John Boultbee. He also served as clerk to famous pioneer judge, Sir Matthew Begbie.

In 1887, Queen Victoria’s jubilee year, Beck was appointed to the improbable position of the “Music and Dancing” committee of Vancouver festivities. It’s my suspicion that he was told by John Boultbee (who was also on a jubilee-related committee) that Beck should get involved with this as a way of mixing with others in the community and bringing his name to the fore.

Beck’s early office was at 15 Cordova (adjacent to where the Boulder Hotel would be constructed within a few years) – near the NW corner of Cordova and Carrall. His daughter, (Marion) Elma, would, in Beck’s later years, join him in his practice (his son, Marshall, would take another professional route: accounting). Elma married Henry Lindsay; she died at 80 years of age in 1976 at Ganges, Salt Spring Island.

Str P77 - [F.X. Martin's groceries and provisions, A.E. Beck Law Office and a building society in the Unit Block Cordova Street] ca 1890

Str P77 – A.E. Beck’s Law Office on second floor, ca 1890. (According to early city directories, the address of his practice in this period was 15 Cordova).

A. E. Beck was married to Esther Louisa Marshall, prior to coming west from Ontario. The two of them were both born in that province (he in Sarnia; she in Port Hope). Esther died in March, 1940 and A. E. passed in November of the same year.

Mr. Beck’s parents were John Beck (b England) and Mary Jane Cooper (b New Brunswick). Mary lived with A E Beck’s family in 1901, and presumably continued to do so until her passing. John, I’m assuming, died in Ontario and subsequently Mary came west to stay with AEB and family.

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Boys at the World

CVA 1477-169 - [Large group of boys with lunch bags standing in front of building] 19--3

CVA 1477-169 – Large group of boys with lunch bags standing in front of building, 19-

This photograph by an unidentified photographer is, without a doubt, taken in front of the Vancouver World building (aka the Bekins building and still later the Sun Tower). The date of the photo is unknown, but I’m willing to bet that it was made shortly after the World Building was erected in 1912.

The boys (and young men) in the image look to me like newsboys (no doubt, employed by the Vancouver World newspaper) who had gathered for this photo in the morning shortly before or after delivery of the early edition, with their lunch sacks in hand. The gent at left foreground seems to be trying to gather the lads into good photo-formation. I suspect he is the photographer’s assistant. Poor guy, it looks like a case of trying to herd cats! It’s fun to zoom in on the boys at different places. They look like a bunch of characters!

At one time, there was an eating establishment on the ninth floor of the building called the “Nine Maidens” cafeteria, named for the maidens (aka “caryatids“, creations of the great and prolific Vancouver sculptor, Charles Marega) which enhance the exterior appearance of the building. I have no idea if there is a cafeteria today in the building, but I rather doubt it.

CVA 70-32 - Sun Tower, exterior [Beatty Street facade] detail, 1973. Art Grice-2

CVA 70-32 – Sun Tower, exterior [Beatty Street facade] detail, 1973, cropped by mdm. Art Grice photo.

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Alan Beech’s Final Illusion

Update: December 13, 2017

Alan Beech magician - Eaton's Coastal Currents magazine. R Cobbett photo

Alan Beech, pulling the proverbial rabbit out of a hat. T. Eaton’s Stores “Coastal Currents” (Dec. 1955) magazine. R Cobbett photo. From Gordon Poppy’s collection. Used with permission of Mr Poppy.

Alan Beech was a photographer and photo finisher for Spencer’s and (after Spencer’s sold up) for T. Eaton’s Co. department stores in Vancouver. He was also an amateur magician.

CVA 447-97 - Molson Bank Bldg [N.E. Corner Seymour and Hastings Streets] 1973 Walter E Frost

CVA 447-97 – Molson Bank Bldg. 1973 Walter E Frost.

Alan was in Eaton’s Advertising and Sales Promotion/Display department which was located in the former Molson Bank Building at the NE corner of Hastings at Seymour (the site, today, of Harbour Centre) across Seymour from the Empire Building. Beech’s job was to take photographs of store merchandise for newspaper ads and other promotional organs. He was also responsible for finishing the photos he took in the dark room. But his longtime hobby  was magic.

Alan Eccles Beech was born in Maidenhead, England in 1918 to Dr. Stuart Beech and his wife, Muriel Scamander Clark.¹ Both of Alan’s parents were born in India and his dad was a physician with the rank of captain in the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the Great War.  According to Stuart’s wartime personnel records, he was slight of build (119 pounds!) and “went sick” a month after the Battle of Vimy Ridge in May 1917. There are indications in his records that he was at Vimy for the battle and was “exposed” to something (mustard gas?) which caused a shadow to appear on X-ray images of his lungs. He was sent to London for three months of “home service” in the summer of 1917, which, presumably, is when Alan was conceived. Stuart was demobilized in 1919 and returned with his small family to British Columbia (where he had practiced medicine before the war), settling in Ashcroft for awhile before moving to Salmon Arm in 1924, where he practiced until his death in 1939. Later that year, Alan married Helen Mills and the two of them later settled in Vancouver in the early 1940s.

Alan first became interested in magic when he was a kid, growing up in Salmon Arm. Said Coastal Currents (an Eaton’s corporate magazine with a focus on BC Eaton’s employees), in a December, 1955 profile about Alan:

While still a youngster in Salmon Arm, B.C. Alan staged shows for the neighbourhood children. He moved to Vancouver and here his interest in this pastime was enhanced after seeing a magician perform. He bought all the books he could on the subject and began a diligent practise of the art. He observed ever prestidigitator’s act he could take in, fraternized and compared notes with many amateur magicians.

Alan gave his first magic show in front of an audience on November 18, 1944. Between then and 1976 (the last date for which information appears to be available regarding Alan) he must have performed on several hundred occasions.

He was a member of the local magic club, Vancouver’s Magic Circle, which was (and is) composed exclusively of amateur magicians who hold full-time jobs doing other things and perform only as magic hobbyists. Alan won at least three of the trophies offered by the Magic Circle to its members: in 1952, he won the William Shelley Trophy “for the best stage presentation”; in 1966 he won the Cecil Ackery Comedy Trophy; and in 1976, he was awarded the Wilf Rutherford Trophy for the “best children appeal show”.

I have searched high and low for some indication in the public record of Alan Beech’s death year. But I have turned up nothing. I’m almost prepared to conclude that Alan’s final illusion was that of dodging death. After all, in our world of documentation, if a vital statistic isn’t confirmed in written form, did it really happen?


Extra! Extra! I heard from Robert at WestEndVancouver that he’s been successful in tracking down the date of Alan Beech’s passing: Alan died on September 2, 1998 at age 80. Many thanks, Robert!

CVA 180-2385 - Esso display, the marvel of Marvelube magic show 1953 No attribution. PNE Photo

CVA 180-2385 – Esso display, the marvel of Marvelube magic show. 1953. No attribution. PNE Photo. The magician looks to me (and to Gordon Poppy) like Alan Beech.



¹Our Alan Beech had an uncle who, like Alan’s father, Dr Stuart Beech, was also a physician, and who, confusingly, was also named Alan.

Thanks to Gordon Poppy for sharing this post idea and for filling in some of the blanks pertaining to the life of Alan E. Beech.

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B.C. Maternity Hospital

4430 Beatrice Street - Former site of BC Maternity Hospital and the Butters:Wedgbury home

4430 Beatrice Street (Near Kingsway), as it appears today. Former site of B.C. Maternity Hospital (1922-1930) in Cedar Cottage (East Vancouver) neighbourhood. MDM Photo, 2017.

I’ve recently made the acquaintance of Gordon Poppy. He is 89 years old and he shared with me that he was born at the B.C. Maternity Hospital in the community of Cedar Cottage (in what was then within the Municipality of South Vancouver but today is part of the City of Vancouver). When I told Gordon that I’d never heard of that hospital before, he said it is still standing, although it seems currently to be a single family dwelling.

This called for a field trip to Beatrice Street to photograph the property and not a small amount of desk research. At the end of the day, however, I don’t have much to show for my work on this project. Here are the facts I’ve been able to dig up:

  • In 1920, 4430 Beatrice St. seems to have been the residence of Samuel J. Brown. (The building was vacant in 1921).
  • B. C. Maternity Hospital was initially listed in the Vancouver directory in 1922 and was shown for the last time in the 1930 issue (at 4430 Beatrice St. for all of the hospital’s 8-year lifespan).
  • Mrs. Mary Ann Butters (1861-1946) is listed in the 1920s issues of Vancouver directory as the “Matron” and as resident at “B. C. Maternity Hospital”.
  • After the hospital evidently closed sometime in 1930 (Mrs Butters would have been just shy of her 70th birthday that year), it was occupied by members of the Wedgbury family (Lily Wedgbury was Mary Butters’ daughter) and by Mary Butters for the rest of her days. She died in 1946 at the age of 85.
  • I hunted for a long time to find an ‘official’ mention of B. C. Maternity Hospital. Neither staff at the City of Vancouver Archives nor librarians at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library had heard of the institution nor had they any record of it in their holdings.

Finally, today, while doing a last bit of due diligence, I happened across a mention within the Proceedings of the 30th Annual Convention of the B. C. Hospitals’ Association, August 19-22, 1930. On p.193 of this document in the “List of Licensed Private Hospitals” in the province, Mrs. M. Butters appears as the “licensee” of “B. C. Maternity Home” (note: not shown here as “Hospital”). The list is interesting not only for its inclusion of B. C. Maternity Home, but also for listing several other institutions which were new to me (see below), such as Fairview Convalescent Home and Chatham House Private Hospital (these two were located within a block of each other on West 15th Avenue).

Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 5.47.14 AM

It looks like 4430 Beatrice was a single family dwelling before becoming B.C. Maternity Hospital (according to some accounts, the house was built in 1905, at which time, this section of Beatrice Street was called Banks Avenue). Evidence suggests that as of the early 1930s, the former hospital reverted to being a private residence. As of 1955, the Wedgbury family was still showing in the Vancouver directory as occupying the property (Mrs Butters daughter, Lily Wedgbury, died that year).

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Fuel-Based Buses

CVA 586-4372 - Canadian Street Car Advertising bus shots 1946 Don Coltman

CVA 586-4372 – Canadian Street Car Advertising bus shots 1946 Don Coltman.  The bus was painted in olive or grey (it’s hard to be sure which in this black and white photo). CVA doubtless arrived at the year for this photo from the poster applied (with tape!) to the rear of the bus above: a March of Dimes campaign poster for 1946. The poster at the front of the bus (apparently purposely obscuring the “B. C. Electric Railway” logo) seems to be anti-littering propaganda.

The buses shown above and below¹ are some very early examples of transit that was powered by fuel (rather than electricity, as with the electric railway or trolleys). According to Kelly & Francis in Transit in British Columbia: The First Hundred Years, by the start of WWII, the bus fleet in Vancouver numbered 25:

Transit was so heavily used during the war that the government’s war allocations board in Ottawa became responsible for new bus orders for all Canadian cities. The board was headed by Sig Sigmundson, who later became transportation manager for the BCER. Buses began arriving in Vancouver painted their wartime colours of olive green or grey, and were quickly placed in service. (p. 89)

The location where the buses were parked seems to have been the Cambie Garage which was situated on Cambie between 14th and 16th Avenues (thanks to Angus McIntyre for his comment below which made note of this and other details).

CVA 586-4371 - Canadian Street Car Advertising bus shots 1946 Don Coltman

CVA 586-4371 – Canadian Street Car Advertising bus shots 1946 Don Coltman. The poster at the rear of the bus appears to be for a popular drink: Kik. The poster at the front of the bus seems to be for Vaudeville performances by Lili St. Cyr. Tom Carter has shared with me that, at this time, St. Cyr was playing at the Beacon/Odeon Theatre (on Hastings). Thanks, Tom!


¹These images may be the same bus, photographed from different angles.

Posted in Don Coltman, public transit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Empire Building

CVA 447-322 - Empire Building [601 West Hastings Street] 1951 W E Frost

CVA 447-322: Empire Building [601 West Hastings Street] 1951 W E Frost, photographer

The Empire Building (C. O. Wickenden, architect) was located at the NW corner of Hastings at Seymour from 1889 until the late 1970s. It was initially known as the LeFevre Block, as the structure was built for CPR physician, Dr. James R. LeFevre.

A question which often arises in my mind with such structures is “Who were the tenants who occupied it?” It seems to me that the type of tenants (e.g., lawyers, realtors, doctors, accountants) must surely have created a certain sort of building; a certain sort of atmosphere within.

So I dug into Vancouver directories. Most of the early directories in the pre-privacy-obsessed world of the millennial age helpfully showed not only the name and first initial of the occupants of buildings, but also their occupation. If there was no gender/marital designation (e.g., Miss or Mrs), it was safe to assume that the occupant shown was male (although, whether the person was a bachelor or married was left to the reader’s imagination).

I was curious whether the dominant occupations of tenants residing within the building remained roughly static or varied over time.  Therefore, I divided the Empire’s past into two periods: Early (1891-1933) and later (1934-1954).¹

Early vs Later Tenants

In the early years of the LeFevre Building (as it evidently was known until about 1897) it wasn’t as easy as it became a little later to determine the occupations of those who were tenants; the Vancouver directory did not consistently show occupations in the earliest years. However, some could be deduced. For example, Dr. LeFevre and his physician partner, Dr. Octavius Weld, had offices in the building.  Likewise the architect of the block, C. O. Wickenden, the B. C. Chamber of Mines, the Vancouver Board of Trade, and the New Westminster & Burrard Inlet Telephone Co., Ltd. (which by  the mid-1890s apparently became the B.C. Telephone Co.) rented space there.

What became evident pretty quickly is that the nature of the tenants in LeFevre/Empire changed considerably between the 1890s and the 1920s and ’30s.² In short, it went from being a block that catered primarily to professions and services to one that was dominated by music-related businesses (e.g. teachers, drama schools, elocutionists, and dancing studios). If pressed, I’d say that the single most common occupation in the Empire in the 1920s and ’30s was the music teacher.

Frank Haines

Frank Haines

Frank Haines

One of the Empire’s tenants from 1931 until the mid-’40s was Frank Haines (1879-1944).

Haines was born in England and was a musician, and saw himself as such from his teens onward. He was sent to a school of music in London by his parents at age 12; he graduated at age 18. His instrument was the piano. For the first couple of years after completing his studies, he was pianist to a tenor who spent much of that time touring Europe. Apparently, the pianist and tenor had a major disagreement over something (just what was the subject of their disagreement is long ago forgotten) so Haines quit that job and returned to England.

Shortly after, Haines fell in love with a lady called Alice Alexander. The two ultimately became engaged to marry. But Alice left Frank at the altar – quite literally. Naturally, Frank was angry and heartbroken by this and he left England for the New World, vowing never to return to England.³

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 9.09.05 AMIt isn’t clear just what Haines was occupied doing when he first came to Canada. There is some evidence in Alberta records that he homesteaded near Medicine Hat in 1910. There are unsubstantiated family tales about him working in the U.S. and Canada.  He spent some of the war years in the Canadian forces. He was injured in an automobile accident in France and was subsequently discharged. In 1917, there is evidence that he was conducting Winnipeg’s Imperial Theatre Orchestra (which, in later years, became the Majestic and, later still, the Rialto). Whether he remained in Winnipeg during the ’20s or was elsewhere, isn’t clear. But it is plain from the Vancouver directory that in 1931, he had ‘gone west’ and was living in Vancouver at 905 Davie; and he had a studio in Room 211 of the Empire Building.

Frank married Nancy Marshall in 1932. In 1935, they welcomed their daughter,