Hornett vs. Solomon

CVA 677-542 – Harry Solomon’s “New and Second Hand Store (Clothing, Furnishings, Boots & Shoes, Guns, Jewery etc., Trunks & Valises)”. 221 Abbott Street (adjacent to Blood Alley); where Gowon Cafe is located, today. 1906. P. T. Timms photo.

The Process (and Some Findings)

A number of VAIW readers have asked me how I get and develop ideas for my posts. This post presents a pretty typical example, so indulge me as I trace the process:

  • I began with an image (usually a City of Vancouver Archives photo, as in this case, but sometimes an illustration or postcard from another source). Images are nearly always the initial inspiration for my posts.
  • I then try to verify the location in the city where the image was made. CVA claimed that the image shown above was made at 233 Abbott. But I found evidence (see later in this bullet) that Solomon’s store was actually at 221 Abbott. Solomon’s shop was, therefore, on the site of what would become, in 1907, the Winters Hotel building (rather than the Central City Mission, as CVA had averred; Province. 30 October 1907). I narrowed the year the photo was made to 1906 (from “ca1903?” maintained by CVA) by consulting local newspapers, where I found an ad in 1906 that was nearly identical to the “fire sale” sign posted over the entry to Solomon’s shop: “Three thousand dollars worth of mixed stock, consisting of clothing, boots & shoes, etc., slightly damaged by water, will sell positively at a great sacrifice. Property of H. Solomon & Co., 221 Abbott St” (Province. 28 February 1906).
  • I began to track down who “H. Solomon” was. I started by looking for some mention of him in BC vital statistics. Here I found two death notices of men named “Harry Solomon”; one had an online-accessible death certificate while the other didn’t. The Solomon with a death certificate, I concluded, couldn’t be our guy, as he been residing in Vancouver for just three days. The other Harry Solomon (our man, I concluded) had lived to age 45, dying in August, 1925. This would put Harry in his mid-20s at the time of the conflict detailed below.
  • It was disappointing not to find a death certificate online for Harry Solomon, but there were other avenues to explore for information on him. I turned to newspaper listings pertaining to Harry. There weren’t many, but this search led me to the entertaining story that follows.
  • I found out more about Solomon in Census Canada records, notably that the death record for him in BC Vital Stats that showed his age at death in 1925 as 45 was probably wrong. The 1891 Census shows an H. Solomon born to F. and M. Solomon in Germany in 1868. He was the eldest of three kids. The thing that convinced me that this record was more accurate than the Vital Stats record was that Harry’s Dad (F. Solomon) had the occupation of “peddler” — not greatly different from Harry’s second hand shop proprietorship.
  • The story below mentions a gent named Leonard Hornett. According to the news story, Hornett was in Vancouver visiting from his home in Red Deer, AB. Other newspaper clippings established that Hornett was actually a farmer from an unincorporated community near Red Deer called Hill End.
  • I had a look in VPL’s Historical Photos and UBC’s Open Collections for anything that these institutions might have pertaining to Hornett, Solomon, or 221 Abbott Street; nothing much was gleaned from these latter searches.

How Solomon Schvindled Himself

On Friday, 2nd February 1906, Leonard Hornett, who was a resident of the Red Deer, Alberta area (specifically, the district of Hill End, where he farmed), was in Vancouver on a visit. He was out for a stroll along the streets of Gastown when he happened across a second hand shop on Abbott Street: H. Solomon’s store. Hornett saw a leather-lined shooting coat in the window that appealed to him.

I’ll allow the person who reported on this story for the World to take up the tale:

He went in and asked the young man behind the counter what was the price of the coat. He answered $3. “Here is your money,” said Mr. Hornett, and the bargain was concluded and the coat wrapped up. . . .

Mr. Hornett did not want [anything else] and started away. He had not got far [down the street] when the fun began. The people on Water street had a view of a man in a wild state of excitement tearing along the sidewalk, shouting a mixture of Yiddish and English as he ran, in wake of a peaceable old gentleman who did not look as if he would harm even an enemy unless forced to, much less steal anything. When the flying man reached the “old un”, he made a grab at the parcel he was carrying, shouting as he did so, “Vat a shame. Vat a shame. He would ruin me. Oh! my peautiful, peautiful goat.”

The old gentleman had hold of the string of the parcel and at the first [jerk] it did not break but after a short tug of war during which the air was filled with Yiddish expostulations and objurgations the string gave way and Mr. Solomon, for it was he, fled back to his store hugging the coat to his bosom like a long lost child. In a few moments he rushed out again and pushed $3 into the old gentleman’s pocket . . . . If Mr. Solomon expected Mr. Hornett to come back and raise his bid he was mistaken. Mr. Hornett told his troubles to Detective Waddell and had a warrant for theft sworn out against [Mr. Solomon]. . . .

Mr. Solomon took his place in the box and removing his hat after being sworn he leaned over and proceeded . . . . “You see it was shoost dis vay, chudge,” said Mr. Solomon solemnly and impressively. “I had to go out for a few minutes and I ask Mr. Kattlefat, he is my frent, chudge, not my glerk, to vatch the store for me. Ven I come pack I fount he had sold the peautiful goat dat I refused seven tollar for day before yesterday for tree tollar! I vent after the goat and give the man back his moneys.”

“What do you value the coat at?” asked the court.

“Eight tollars, your honour.”

“And a man with your accent and in your business refused $7 for it?” asked the magistrate, in a tone of sarcastic surprise.

When the laugh subsided the magistrate decided that Solomon was responsible for what his agent had done. The coat was Mr. Hornett’s property. The $3 belonged to Solomon.

“Here you are, lad,” said Mr. Hornett. “It’s been in my pocket ever since; thou might have had it before if thou’d liked.”

Province. 5 February 1906.

The Hornetts and . . . Kattlefat?

Leonard Hornett Sr. and his wife, Sarah Stockbridge, emigrated to Canada from England in 1891. The couple retired from farming in Alberta in 1919 when they moved to Vancouver. Sarah died in 1931; he married a second time, to Edener Smith, in 1932. Leonard died in 1944. It was noted in local newspapers that at his death at age 93, he was BC’s oldest automobile driver (Province. 3 January 1944).

Hornett’s son, Leonard Jr. lived in Vancouver. It was likely Jr. whom Sr. was in town to see in 1906. Leonard Jr. was a job printer in partnership with. Mr. Bolam at that time. He married Beatrice Andrews in 1905 in Vancouver. Later, he worked for Keystone Press. He died in Vancouver in 1957 at the age of 79. Leonard Sr. and Sarah also had three daughters.

I wasn’t able to track down “Mr. Kattlefat” in the vital statistics records and there is no listing of “Kattlefat” in any local newspaper, except for the article quoted above. Chances are that either Harry Solomon wasn’t able to pronounce the name or the newspaper reporters didn’t hear/spell it correctly; the Province reporter had the “frent’s” name as “Candlewax”!

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Some 19th-Century Lingo Related to Marriage and Singleness

This brief post is a tour of three odd Victorian words and phrases that pertain to marriage and singleness and that were employed in early Vancouver newspapers.

CVA 2018-020.3612 – A pioneer bachelor’s hall, Vancouver, 1890.

Bachelor’s Hall

The photo above shows a bachelor’s hall in Vancouver in 1890. This seems to have been, in the earliest years of the city, a type of doss house. The early bachelor’s halls were frequented by seasonal workers, of which Vancouver had its fair share (forestry workers, especially).

 CVA 371-739 – [Exterior of F.W. Hewton’s residence at 544 Burrard Street] ca1903.

I’ve found evidence of bachelor’s halls at:
– 935 Hornby St. — Province 19 Nov 1898.
– 1041 Robson (corner of Thurlow) — Province 11 Aug 1904.
– 544 Burrard (also the Hewton School of Music) — Province. 17 Dec 1906.
– East side of 5th (today’s Selkirk) Street, north of Moosomin (today’s W. 73rd) Ave (in Eburne/Marpole) — 1916 Henderson Directory.
– 2118 W. 41st Ave (updstairs) — 1920 Henderson Directory.

Most of the above locations were not, I suspect, halls in the sense of the initial photo (with two or more men to a bed). I got the impression that most of these had one bachelor per room.

”Keeping Bachelor’s Hall”

This was a phrase used in Vancouver, which could be a longer way of saying that so-and-so is a bachelor; could also be a way of saying, in today’s colloquial, “I’m batching it for awhile.” For example: “My family are away on a visit at present, and I am keeping bachelor’s hall out at the house” (Province, 24 Feb 1900).

A “Benedict”

A benedict is “a newly married man, especially one who was previously a confirmed bachelor.” An example of this: “Surely Cupid himself . . . [w]ill be present to wish every maid a matron and every bachelor a benedict . . .” (World, 8 Feb 1907).

“Goin’ to the Hymeneal Altar, and We’re . . .”

A hymeneal altar pertains to a wedding or marriage (since this is a family blog, I won’t get into other etymological sources of this phrase). A usage example from the Vancouver Daily World: “Speaking of a doctor getting married, calls to mind the fact that a certain well-known Granville Street disciple of Aesculapius [Greco-Roman god of medicine], who has dabbled considerably in provincial politics, is soon to lead his betrothed to the hymeneal altar” (World. 3 Aug 1893).

Why the author didn’t simply say “A Granville Street physician is getting married soon,” I don’t know. He/she must have been paid by the word!

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Those Musical (and Tragic) Clays

The Musical Clays. Milton and Amy Clay, and between them, Reginald. Percy is on far left. Harold isn’t in this photo (nor, for that matter, is Gwendoline; she probably wasn’t born when this image was made, but in any case, she never seemed to ‘count’ as one of the “Musical Clays”. Vancouver Sun. September 13, 1952.

Prof. Milton Clay his wife, Amy and their boys, Percy, Harold, and Reginald made quite a splash during their time in Vancouver. Milton, who was an unabashed promoter of himself and his family, made sure that from their arrival in Vancouver, the Clays were widely known as “The Musical Clays”. 

The Clay family [1] emigrated to Canada from England, settling in Vancouver in 1905. It was widely reported for many years that the Clays had had a large audience in the ‘motherland’ and, specifically that eldest son, Percy (who was scarcely 7 when they arrived in Vancouver), was known in England as the ‘World’s Wonder’ for his ability to play several instruments (4 at that time; 10 by the time they began performing here). These reports seem to have been largely fictitious, encouraged by Prof. Clay’s public relations juggernaut. I was unable to track down any reports in newspapers published in England of Percy performing there, nor, for that matter, of any of the Clays doing so. 

Within a few months of their arrival, the Clays were living in their home, 850 Helmcken Street, which also served as the HQ of the English Academy of Music, of which Milton was principal. According to a later report by Reginald, his father had as many as 110 pupils per week, with the first arriving at 6am and the last leaving at 10pm (Sun, 13 September 1952). Clay’s English Academy would be one of two local institutions (the Vancouver College of Music was the other) that was certified to train students for music exams set by Trinity College, London.

In 1906, Milton launched a “musical carnival and diorama” of the Russo-Japanese War. Central to this was Clay’s 18-piece banjo, mandolin, and violin orchestra and songs with questionable titles, today, such as “Happy Jappy Soldier Man” and “Soldier Boys are Only Toys” (World. 15 Sept 1906). According to the Vancouver News-Advertiser:

“There was not a single vacant seat at the Opera House” for the first performance and that “traffic was snarled [by horses and buggies, presumably, as this was prior to there being automobiles in the city] between Robson and Georgia on Granville by the attending throng.”

Vancouver News-Advertiser 30 Sept 1906 quoted in Vancouver Sun 13 Sept. 1952.
Chilliwack Progress. 30 June 1909.

By 1909, it occurred to the ambitious Prof. Clay that the Musical Clays may find a new and appreciative audience in the northern regions. In the summer, the Clays set their faces north via steamship from Vancouver. They played such places as Whitehorse, Granville (north of Dawson City) and Port Essington (between Terrace and Prince Rupert; now a ghost town).

If Vancouverites had seemed hungry for music, the miners, loggers, and fishermen of the North were starved for it . . . . [T]he concerts put on by the Clays were jammed. After each performance the family was showered with gifts, including a fair number of gold nuggets.

Sun. 13 September 1952.

Once back in Vancouver, Amy became active in several groups noted for their “women’s work”, including the Daughters of England (of which she was president for awhile), the Red Cross Society, and the women’s auxiliary of the Great War Veterans Association. She seemed gradually to be stepping away from public appearances with the Musical Clays as the boys grew older.

Meanwhile, most of Milton’s time, seemed to be dedicated to his English Academy and the musical instruction of other people’s kids, and the presentation of regular “musicales” where his students showed off what they’d learned. When he wasn’t kept busy with the Academy, he had purchased a summer resort property sometime around 1920 that was situated 3 miles north of Horseshoe Bay. It would become known as “Clay’s Landing”.

Around the time of the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco (1915), the earlier craze for the mandolin and banjo was starting to fade and was replaced by a new fad: a love for Hawaiian and Spanish guitars. Reginald was an early convert to the Hawaiian guitar and he and his brothers started a dance band that featured that instrument. The boys appear also to have had a short-lived Saxophone orchestra (Province 16 October 1920).

Percy and Reginald were married on the same day in 1923 — a double wedding. Percy married Bertha Tribe; he indicated on the marriage certificate that his occupation was “musician”. Reginald married Helen Nelson; he showed his occupation as “music teacher”. Harold married Muriel Epps in 1924.

On 28 October 1924, in the Province newspaper, there appeared this shocking notice:

I hereby give notice that I, Milton Clay, 1249 Davie Street, am not responsible for any debts contracted by my wife, Amy E. Clay, who has left her home without just cause. — Milton Clay

Province. 28 October 1924.

It is pretty clear from this that Mr. and Mrs. Clay were having serious marital problems and that Amy had moved out of their home. There was no other public announcement or legal action (such as divorce) taken by either of them.

The next mention of Amy in the local newspapers was on March 31, 1927.

She died on March 29, in her 50th year, at Vancouver General Hospital. Her death certificate is not available online and the cause of her death was not specified in her obituary. The obituary did show her address at the time of death as 2510 Marine Drive East. At that time, Milton was living at #5-1035 Granville Street.

Things went from bad to worse for the family. On December 24, 1927, Milton went missing after heading out on the water with a rented rowboat:

The Vancouver music teacher is believed to have been drowned Christmas Eve about 3 miles from Horseshoe Bay [Clay’s Landing, I presume], which point he left in a rowboat for Sunset Beach. The boat, with its oars and a club bag was later found adrift off St. Mark’s Summer Camp beach, a short distance from the professor’s objective, and it is presumed that while attempting a landing at the small wharf he lost his balance and was drowned.

Victoria Times Colonist. 2 January 1928.

Milton Clay’s body was never found and there was no public funeral, as far as I can tell. The only pubic statement was one made by someone whose initials were B.B.C. It was published in a local newspaper a year after he was presumed drowned. (Poetry wasn’t B.B.C.’s strength).

IN LOVING AND AFFECTIONATE MEMORY of Prof. Milton Clay, who passed out of my life on December 24, 1927. “There came a mist and a blinding rain and life was never the same again.” — B.B.C.

Province. 24 December 1928.

But fate wasn’t finished with the Clays yet. In 1956, Gwendoline (1907-1956), the “unmentioned Clay” who had seemed to be more interested in sports than music, passed away from breast cancer (she’d been married to Wallace Parker since 1937). And a year later, a few months after he moved to Kelowna after a career as a postal carrier, Percy (1897-1957) committed suicide — by, of all things, drowning in Okanagan Lake.

Reginald (1898-1985), of all of the family, was the only one of the kids who stuck with music as a full-time career. He was a music teacher for many years, dying at the age of 86. Harold (1900-1986) was the last of the Musical Clays. He also died at age 86 after having had a career as a sign writer in Vancouver.


  1. The idea for this post came from Neil Whaley, who saw potential in the Clays for a good story. Good eye, Neil!

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Vancouver’s Junkmen of the Thirties

Jewish Museum & Archives of B.C. L.25110 – Harry Halpern some time after he’d left the occupation of junkman. ca 1960.

This is an atypical VAIW post. It consists largely of an extended verbatim quotation from a long-forgotten West End Vancouver newspaper, called the West End Breeze. The subject of the quote is the junkmen of the 1930s who, with horse and wagon, went through the back lanes of the West End collecting and buying junk for the purpose of selling it to junk dealers. These junkmen were, in fact, early recyclers in the city.

The Breeze was a weekly community newspaper, edited by former Vancouver Sun reporter Myrtle Patterson Gregory (1898-1981) and published in 1932-33. Vancouver collector Neil Whaley has the only known copy of the paper, a bound edition from Gregory’s family. He has graciously made his copy of this article available for use on VAIW.

Myrtle Patterson Gregory started the Breeze as a way to work from home while raising two children. The book Women Who Made The News, by Marjorie Lang, says that Gregory was reputed to be the highest paid female reporter in Canada in the 1920s — at $25 a week. When the Sun started Edith Adams Cottage, Myrtle headed it with a staff of university-trained home economists.

”Any Joonk?” Call Europe-Born Junkmen Who Ride West End Lanes Day After Day

“Any oldt clothe’, any oldt shoe’, any oldt bottl’ — Any Joonk? –“

Vibrant foreign voices from Russia, Poland, Germany — sing-song this cry of wares-to-buy along our West End lanes to an accompaniment of scraping wagon wheels and plod-plodding of horses’ hoofs – minor notes in the rich symphony of West End life and so familiar that we lend to them only a subconscious ear, overlooking entirely the possibilities for human interest. Human interest in sordid “junk”? Human interest, even drama!

“Ja, this garten,” a German junkman said longingly one Spring day as he looked at table and chairs under a blossoming tree. “Ja, this garten, it iss like mein home in Bavaria. Meine frau and my little girl are there. I work to bring them here . . . .two years I work . . . . but now,” a despairing shrug, “hard times.”

Depression hits even the junkmen. Not so many bottles. People are not entertaining so lavishly. Not so many old shoes or old clothes — people are wearing them, not selling them. Even things which in the old days they were glad to have carried away for nothing, they are trying to sell to the junkman for as many pennies as possible.

Ben Gold refuses to be downcast. You’ve heard him in the lanes. He cries his “Any old junk?” call as do the others, but three or four times every block he breaks into a curious chant — “Doo, doo, doo-doo, doo-do-o-o!” (After four years, the words are still unintelligible to this writer).

“Gold, he like fon,” explains one of his contemporaries. “He get tired of same old call, so he put “You Hoo Hoo Hoo” after it — for fon.”

Not two or three junkmen, but ten or more, ply their trade through the West End lanes. Imagine never seeing the West End streets except where they intercept the lanes, briefly. Riding all day on a high wagon seat through lanes — eight miles of lanes a day. Four times towards the Park, and four times east towards Granville. Lunches, wrapped in brown paper, are eaten along the way. On short winter days, a red lantern beside the driver’s seat is lighted for the last couple of miles.

Every junkman, or practically so, owns his own horse and wagon. Harry Halperin [Halpern], on the West End “beat” for 2 years, drives “Baby,” who has been traveling though our lanes for 4 years. “Maggie” is another old faithful. On fine days, junkmen and horse start very early in the morning to make their daily round — for the early birds get the best junk!

Any old clothes? A junkman will buy a good suit for $5 and he will sell it for $7.50 at his special market. He pays 1c a pound for rags. Any old shoes? They are worth 50c a pair to the junkman, allowing him to make a small margin of profit. Any old bottles? Fifteen cents for a dozen is the standard price offered to private vendors in the West End and the junkman will re-sell them to the International Junk Company on Main Street, allowing himself a percentage. Earnings of the junkman average about $3 a day, although they may range from a few cents on a poor day to $10 on a lucky day when women are selling their husbands’ old suits.

Bottles are thus started on their return trip to breweries, wineries and manufacturing concerns. Rags become “wipes,” “shoddy” and material for making into fine papers, wallpaper and roofing. Iron goes back to the foundry, and other metals are gathered up for re-smeltering. Rubber can be re-used. So can farmers’ sacks. The junkman is the important link in the reclaiming of these materials.

Among the best known of the junkmen, in addition to Ben Gold and Harry Halperin [Halpern], are M. Hammer, Jerry [Joe?] Sapoznick, E. Schwartz, T. Jacobson, Ben Baltman, F. Kurtz, S. Kurtz, A. Fagan.

Heat does not deter them from the daily grind . . . . nor wet weather.

“Rain?” asked one younger man with expressive hands, “What does eet matter? We mus’ mak’ de leeving!”

West End Breeze. July 8, 1932

Most of the men listed in the article were of Jewish ancestry. There were a couple of non-Jewish gents. Jacobson was probably from a Slavic country (possibly Finland). But, judging from the death certificates I was able to find, most of the others were “Hebrews”. Benjamin Gold (1884-1949) spent 20 years as as a “junk dealer”. He came from Russia. Joe (I couldn’t find any indication of a Jerry) Sapoznick (1897-1973) was also from Russia. The other three junkmen for whom I was able to find death notices were all from Poland. Max Hammer died in 1947 at age 91. Benny Baltman (1879-1955) lived to 75. And Harry Halpern (not Halperin) (1902-1980) lived until he was 78.

This need hardly be said, perhaps, but none of these junkmen lived in the West End in 1932. They lived, principally on Powell, Union, and Jackson streets. In other words, they lived in the East End and worked in the West End.

I was thrilled to find the photo of Harry Halpern shown above at the Jewish Museum & Archives site. And also the following blurb about his early life, published in the Vancouver Sun in the year of his death:

Harry Halpern was born in Poland in 1902, worked as a butcher, then came to Canada in 1930.

” . . . . I saw an old man driving a horse and a wagon. And I said to him, “What are you doing for a living?” He said “I buy shmatas“. That means rags in Jewish, old clothes. He knew I noticed he was Jewish, and I was Jewish. I said, “Listen, can you take me in your wagon, and show me the town?” He said, “Oh I don’t want partners.” I said, “I don’t want to be a partner, just show me the town. I’ll sit with you in the wagon and you go around.” He said, “Okay. But I promise you I’m not going to give you nothing.”

I went with him to Twelfth Avenue, to the lane. And you know what he did? The first thing he said was “Junk! Rags! Bottles!”

I said, “You’ve got to do that?”

He said, “Well, if I’m not going to do that, nobody will know I’m a junkman.”

Mein Gott, I said to myself, I’ve come to Vancouver to do things like that!”

Vancouver Sun. 4 January 1980 (Halpern’s was one of the Sun’s “Voices from the East End”).
(Note: This quotation is from the first few minutes of Harry Halpern’s contribution to the Jewish Museum & Archives Oral History Project. For Halpern’s full interview, contact the Jewish Museum & Archives of BC.)

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‘Knight of the Brush and Broom’ and Curator of What Would Become MOA

UBC Archives Collection. “Old Bill” Tansley (far right) talking with some of the students on UBC’s Fairview campus. 1920.

William Tansley (1859-1951) was a UBC janitor starting in September 1916, in the period when the school was located in the Fairview district (at what is today Vancouver General Hospital). When Tansley accepted his position at UBC, it was another in a succession of several jobs that he’d held. Doubtless, he didn’t suspect that he would retire from UBC as the Curator of its museum.

A Varied Resume

Bill Tansley was born in England at Stoke-on-Trent, the son of a pottery maker, William Sr., and Emma Stanway. His grandfather sent him to a branch of the School of Science and Art in Hanley, England for a couple of years. His love was art. Unfortunately, he didn’t have too much additional formal training. But I suspect he would say that he had all the training he needed to get along. Much of his later learning was self-taught.

His resume of jobs was varied (Province 14 Jan 1939), to put it mildly:

1870s: Left England for North America. Spent a couple years at Cranford, NJ working as a terracotta worker, a printer and felt maker.

ca1878: Contracted malaria and spent some time in St. Luke’s Hospital, New York. Once he recovered, he shoveled coal and loaded pig iron on the docks at Perth Amboy, NJ. When dock workers struck for higher wages, he returned to NY where he worked as a decorator of toys.

1886: Returned to England, working at Milton where his family was living, as a house painter and decorator. Married Annie Elizabeth (1866-1930). (Bill married his second wife, Bessie, a year after Annie’s passing).

1890: Worked for a greenhouse manufacturer and was later made foreman of the glazing department.

ca1891: Went to London where he worked for a bicycle manufacturer. He lived near the Hugh Myddleton School, which offered university extension classes. He attended classes in French, economics, geometry, and art.

ca1900: Opened his own bicycle shop in Yarmouth, England.

1903: Left England for Canada, settling in Dundurn, SK where he was a house decorator and taught art at night school.

1904: Left Saskatchewan for Vancouver, where he worked in the carriage works of Tupper and Son and later for Lobb & Muir, blacksmiths, on Westminster Ave. (Kingsway). He left that job after he became ill with lead poisoning.

CVA Bu P669 – Group portrait in front of Lobb and Muir Blacksmiths at 2410 Westminster Avenue (Kingsway). ca1906. This is about the time that Tansley was working for them; the gent standing just behind the little girl appears to me to look like Bill Tansley.

1910-1914: He next worked for A. M. Ross & Co. Realtors for a while. Realty was booming, so he opened his own office; his health failed again, and he was forced to withdraw from realty work.

ca1915: Worked for awhile for BC Telephone and BC Electric (doing what isn’t known, but it seems likely it consisted of painting — one of the few themes — and one of Tansley’s loves — among several of his jobs).

’Knight of the Brush and Broom’

In September 1916, Tansley took a job at the recently opened UBC. He was a night watchman and janitor in the Arts/Library Building at Fairview. He assumed this job at the age of 57 — an age at which most men would be thinking of retirement.

William Tansley pictured in UBC’s Third Annual, 1918. Tansley was sometimes referred to as a ‘Knight of the Brush and Broom’ and on other occasions as ‘Curator of the Dustpan’. UBC Archives.

In 1917, he went onto the day shift. That meant that he could have more contact with the students (and get a decent night’s rest)!

“I enjoy the association with the students here,” he said in answer to a question. “I like the conversation and the discussions which university men often promote when they get together, and I have made many valuable friendships in the course of my work.”

The Province. 4 March 1922.

It seems the sentiment was mutual. Male students referred to him, affectionately, as “Old Bill”. Female students reportedly called him “Mr. Tansley”, with equal regard. At the end of the 1920-21 session, the students took up a collection for Tansley, presenting him with a bucketful of money. He invested the cash gift in a set of books called Original Sources (The Province. 4 March 1922).

Curator of Nascent Museum of Anthropology

In 1927, Dr. Frank Burnett donated his sizable collection of materials from the South Seas to UBC and Tansley was made the curator of the collection. How did Tansley and Burnett connect?

Mr. Tansley had first met Dr. Frank Burnett when he arrived [in Vancouver] from Dundurn [SK] with a letter of introduction to the firm of Burnett, Horne & Co. [Insurance Brokers]. When the doctor left his valuable collection of native curiosities to the University in 1927 what was more logical than that his old friend “Bill” should be placed in charge of it.

The Province. 14 January 1939.
CVA Out P647 – Dr. Frank Burnett surrounded by his collection of South Seas’ artifacts. 192-.

The Burnett Collection was established on the first floor of the Main Library and was formally known as the Burnett Ethnological Museum (sometimes referred to casually as the UBC Museum) The Burnett Collection would later form the core of the Museum of Anthropology (MOA). It consisted of “curious relics, rated as the most complete representative Polynesian collection in the world . . . . Among the exhibits are figures of Polynesian gods, native implements, several skulls, and samples of native dress” (UBC Student Handbook: 1929, p. 73).

Tansley made his own contribution to the UBC Museum. He offered a scrapbook compiled during each of his years at UBC (1916-33) showing newspaper and other information pertaining to students, former students and events at the University over the years. I see that his scrapbook and one of “Old Bill’s” paintings are now part of the William Tansley fonds at the UBC Archives.

In 1941, Tansley retired from UBC after 14 years as curator and 11 years as janitor. He was 83. He died almost a decade later at 92. He was survived by his second wife, Bessie Cox (1884-1963).

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Playograph Adds Zing to World Series

CVA 99-4059 – Crowd watching baseball results from the block on Pender St between Cambie and Beatty.
1931. Stuart Thomson.

The image shown above was encountered by me yesterday when I was researching a forthcoming post. When I saw the photo, I noticed that CVA’s description of the photo’s locale was wrong. It wasn’t “Hastings Street and Beatty Street” as they claimed [1]. It was actually the block on Pender between Cambie and Beatty. The buildings to the left in the image show those of the former City Hospital which, by 1931, was the site of the City’s “relief offices” (where today there is a parkade at the corner of Cambie at Pender). This is not an often-photographed block.


Later, it occurred to me to ask myself where exactly the crowd was looking? If they were accurately described by CVA as “watching baseball results” versus simply “listening” to them over some sort of public address system, then what were they watching? And where were they looking ?

Starting with the World Series of 1925 and continuing for most years after that through World Series 1931, there was an American invention in town called the Playograph. For the first few years (1925-1930), this was the exclusive domain in Vancouver of the Province newspaper. Only in 1931 did the Sun get on the bandwagon and get a Playograph of its own.

The Playograph (shown below) appears to our modern eyes to be a pretty banal thing — basically a scoreboard.

Province 6 Oct 1929.

The playograph is one of the latest devices in baseball boards. It shows every play from the time the ball leaves the pitcher’s hands until an “out” is registered or a run scored. It pictures the progress of a runner once he reaches first base, and also gives the running box score.

The Province, 5 October 1925

The Playograph was part of a system that included a special leased telegraph wire to the field in which the game was being played; it also had an audio component. A “baseball expert” would call the game for the fans that gathered before the Playograph board. And they would watch as hitters scored runs. And this audio information would be supplied in up-to-the-minute fashion, almost as quickly as it was seen by folks who were able to attend the actual ball game!

What Held the Crowd’s Attention?

But where were Vancouver ball fans looking in the image above? Where was the Playograph located in 1931?

CVA Str N164. Crop of Lion gargoyle at 2nd story of Edgett wing, Province building, Pender Street view.

This is where my brain needed some adjusting.[2] Partly because this city block was infrequently photographed in the 1920s and ’30s, I had a skewed notion of where the Province (and Sun) offices were located. When I think about the Province office, I typically think of it as the 7-storey building at Hastings and Cambie (shown here just above the cenotaph) at the site now occupied by the Vancouver Film School (aka the Carter Cotton building). It is easy to forget that the Province also occupied printing offices in the “Edgett wing” — shown here at the 420 Cambie entrance. What I overlooked, however, is that the Edgett wing is a three-dimensional structure with facings on Pender Street, too!

The Playograph was on an upper storey of the Pender side of the Edgett wing (see photos below; note, in particular, the lion gargoyles in common in the photo of the Province Playograph and the Edgett wing. That is where most of the crowd was looking — northwest toward the Province Playograph on the Pender Street wall of the Edgett wing.

The Province Playograph mechanism mounted on the Pender Street side of the Edgett Wing of the Province Building at Pender and Cambie. (Note the lion gargoyles). The Province. 6 October 1925.
Str N164 – View of Pender Street east of Cambie Street, showing the Bekins Tower (formerly the World Tower and ultimately to become the Sun Tower). Note the Edgett Wing (Pender St side) of the Province building at left foreground. Note also the Sun building on the north side of Pender across the street from Bekins Tower. 1927. W J Moore.

What About Those Looking North?

Some people in the crowd (mainly those who appear in the 99-4060 photo below) appear to be looking, principally, to the north (versus the northwest). What was going on there?

Crop of CVA Str N164 showing the Sun building on north side of Pender (across the street from the Tower, which would become in 1937 its primary HQ). The signage locates “The Sun” — where the Pendera apts are located today,

Once again, I needed to adjust my brain to the layout of the city in the latter 1920s and early 1930s. When I saw that the Sun jumped onto the Playograph bandwagon in 1931, I assumed that the Sun was located in the Sun Tower (aka, World Tower, aka Bekins Tower). But I was mistaken. As you can see in the 1927 image above, it was the Bekins Tower in the 1920s. The Sun didn’t become the principal tenant of the Tower until 1937, substantially after the Playograph had become a memory in Vancouver.

Where was the Sun office in the late 1920s and early ’30s? Its building is just visible in Str 164 in the left, middle-ground, two buildings west of the Lotus Hotel (where the Pendera residences are today). It is clearer in the crop of that image shown at the right.

So those in the crowd who appear to be looking north were looking at the Sun Playograph which was on the Sun building, located almost directly across Pender from the Tower.

Playograph’s Passing

The Playograph had limited utility and attractiveness to Vancouver ball fans and 1931 seems to have been the final year it was featured by either the Province or the Sun. It seems that radio broadcasts of baseball games had become commonplace and, with that, the appeal began to fade of gathering with your neighbours at a central location to watch changes to a glorified scoreboard. It was the first step towards the isolationism that would eventually come with television.

But in the early years of the Depression, and a good two decades before televisions were available for purchase, the Playograph contributed to the entertainment of thousands of Vancouver ball fans.

In conclusion, I’m reminded of another American export (in addition to the Playograph device and the World Series of baseball). Radio journalist, Paul Harvey, used to wrap up his syndicated broadcasts on our local radio station when I was growing up in the ‘70s with a simple sentence that seems apt here: “And that’s . . . the rest of the story.”

CVA 99-4060 – Crowd watching baseball results. Camera facing east and south down Pender and Beatty. The Bekins Tower is the structure at corner of Pender at Beatty. 1931 Stuart Thomson.


  1. Hastings and Beatty is an impossible address. Beatty dead-ends at Pender; it doesn’t intersect with Hastings.
  2. I am indebted to Tom Carter for his help adjusting my thinking about the urban landscape during these years. He lives in the neighbourhood of the World/Bekins/Sun Tower and was very helpful in straightening out my understanding of where the Sun and Province offices were in 1925-31.

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‘Brood’ of Seven Baptist Churches

First Baptist Church (FBC) had, as one of its early objectives, the planting of daughter churches in the neighbourhoods of the city as it gradually grew. The focus of this post is on the churches of that ‘brood’ and, specifically, the buildings they occupied over the course of their lives. I’m not including the history of First Baptist’s buildings in this post, as I have pretty thoroughly dealt with FBC’s history elsewhere in multiple posts of this blog.

The content in this post was first presented by me at a Vancouver Postcard Club meeting in June 2018. Although the format is different (a post versus a PowerPoint presentation), the information is largely the same.

First Born: Mount Pleasant Baptist

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (MPBC) had initial, temporary church homes on 2nd Ave (1890) and in the Good Templars Hall (1891). On May 10, 1891, several members were dismissed[1] from the ‘mother’ church, FBC, so they could form the nucleus of MPBC. FBC offered Mount Pleasant Baptist $200/yr (for how long isn’t clear) and a pulpit chair and a pulpit Bible to support the new church’s first pastor, Rev. A. B. Lorimer.

Building 1 (1904-1908): 7th Avenue near Quebec Street

The first building would be on 7th Avenue, adjacent to what, by 1911, would be the Mt Stephen apartment block (today called Quebec Manor). In 1908, this building was sold to the Salvation Army.

PAN N161A – Crop of Mount Pleasant from the Lee Block, Broadway. Mount Pleasant Baptist’s Building 1 is located to the right of the Mt. Stephen apartment block. 1913. W. J. Moore.

Building 2 (1908-1910): Kingsway near Main

MPBC bought their second building from the local Presbyterians. This structure was at 2340 Westminster Road (now Kingsway near Main); this is the site, today, of Mt Pleasant Community Centre and the branch library of VPL. MPBC was at this location for just a couple of years.

Ch P62 – Boys’ Brigade and Band in front of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church at 2340 Westminster Road (Main Street). This was MPBC’s Building 2. ca1892 Bailey Bros.

Building 3 (1910-1990): SE Corner of 10th Avenue at Quebec Street

In 1909, MPBC approached Toronto architects, Burke, Horwood & White (the firm used by FBC to design their Burrard & Nelson building) to design a new building for them at the SE corner of 10th Avenue and Quebec Street. The building would be of the Tudor Revival style and have a seating capacity of about 650.

The building was destroyed by fire in 2004. But the Baptists had called it quits and moved out by 1990 due to diminishing numbers of attendees and donations. By 1996, a new church (a Pentecostal one) occupied the building. Today, a condo development is on the site of the former MPBC structure.

CVA 780-225 – Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (Building 3) at SE Corner 7th and Quebec. 1976.

Second Child: Jackson Avenue Baptist

The congregation that ultimately became a Baptist church in the East End, began as a Sunday School mission of FBC. It started in a carpentry shop, later moving to a space on Powell Street, and finally to Harris Street (today’s East Georgia).

Building 1 (ca1894-ca1898): On Jackson Avenue

The first building occupied by Jackson Avenue Baptist Church (JABC) seems to have been a re-purposed residence (versus a purpose-built church structure). It was somewhere on Jackson Avenue, but exactly where it was is a bit of a mystery.

JABC’s Building 1. From a lantern slide. n.d. First Baptist Church Archival Collection.

Building 2 (1899-1952): NW Corner of Jackson and East Pender

By 1898, JABC was growing beyond the capacity of their first building and so JABC bought the former building of the local Presbyterians, Zion Presbyterian (NW Corner of Jackson and Princess (East Pender). JABC, for a while, was known as Zion Baptist.

Building 2 of JABC (NW corner of Princess and Jackson). n.d.
First Baptist Church Archival Collection.

JABC, like most of the people of Strathcona – the community in which it was situated – was not rich. By the late 1940s, its membership had dropped significantly. Therefore, in 1952, JABC merged with another (also dwindling) Baptist church in the East End, East Hastings Baptist, to form a new church: Ward Memorial Baptist Church (in memory of Rev. Albert W. Ward). It continues to operate today at 465 Kamloops Street

CVA 786-48.15 – 499. Former JABC’s Building 2, converted by this time to be a Chinese Public School.
East Pender at Jackson Street. 1978.

Third Child: Fairview Baptist

Fairview Baptist Church was typical of the offspring of FBC in that it began as a Sunday School. In 1902, Mrs. E. Peck offered her home at Maple and 3rd Avenue for a Sunday School. The school met there for 2 years.

Building 1 (1904-1909): Maple and 4th Avenue

In 1904, 20 members of First Baptist ‘got their letters of dismissal’ and formed the nucleus of Fairview Baptist; they also built their first building at the corner of Maple and 4th Avenue. FBC’s historian William Carmichael claims that the first building was built for $500. But the Vancouver Heritage Building Permits site tells a little different story. The building permit indicates an estimate of $1000. The architect/ builder was R. E. Scarlett.

Building 1 of Fairview Baptist at 4th and Maple. The photo was made a few years after the church had moved on. At this time, it had become a Heating and Plumbing enterprise.
(First Baptist Church Archival Collection, ca 1910-14).

Building 2 (1909-1924): Fifth Avenue and Arbutus

In 1909, Fairview pulled up stakes. It isn’t clear why. FBC historian, William Carmichael, claims it was “because of the laying of the street car tracks on Fourth Avenue”. This doesn’t further my understanding much, however. Was there a safety concern for the kids?

Fairview built a new structure on 5th Avenue at Arbutus. It was designed/built by Samuel Buttrey Birds for about $5,500.

Fairview Baptist Church. I’m guessing that this was Building 2 (5th at Arbutus). ca1910-20.
(UL 1624 03 0259. UBC Library).

With the move to Arbutus and 5th, Fairview Baptist seems to have undergone a period of identity crisis, given subsequent name changes. In ca1913, after being near Fifth Avenue for a few years (although the address was actually 2029 Arbutus), it started calling itself “Fifth Avenue Baptist Church”. In 1918, scarcely five years later, the name was changed to “Kitsilano Baptist Church”. The church building address didn’t change with either of these name changes.

In 1922, following a tumultuous period for “Kitsilano Church” (there was at least one significant split of the Kits congregation), Kits amalgamated with Central Fairview Baptist to form, wait for it . . . “Fairview Baptist”!

Building 3 (1924-1951): 12th Avenue at Fir

In June 1924, Fairview moved into a brick building at 1605 W 12th (NW corner at Fir). In 1949, Fairview briefly and temporarily joined with Chalmers United Church (Hemlock at 12th).

Building 4 (1951-present): 16th Avenue at Pine

In 1951, Fairview opened the building which houses the church today, on W. 16th Avenue near Pine.

Fairview Baptist Church Today (Building 4): 16th Ave Near Pine.(Google Street View).

Fourth Child: Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist

Rev. J. Willard Litch, ca1910, approached the prominent (and generous) Baptist, John Morton, about endowing a new church in the Cedar Cottage district of Vancouver at 27th Avenue and Prince Edward. Morton agreed. Litch wanted to name the church after Morton, but Morton demurred. He instead suggested it be named after his second wife, Ruth Morton (nee Mount). Three weeks after Morton made his endowment to Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist Church (RMMBC), he died (April, 1912).

Ruth Morton Memorial Baptist Church. (ca 2013. mdm photo).

In 2014, RMMBC amalgamated with 19th Avenue Christian Fellowship (formerly the Metropolitan Tabernacle) to form a new congregation that meets at the former Ruth Morton building. It is known as Mountainview Christian Fellowship.

RMMBC/Mountainview has continuously met in the same building from the start.

Fifth Child: South Hill Baptist

Building 1 (1908-1909): South Vancouver Municipal Hall

As usual, this church plant had its start as a Sunday School. It began in the home of the Frank Birketts in 1908. Later, it moved to the South Vancouver Municipal Hall.

CVA – Bu P322 – Exterior of South Vancouver Municipal Hall. 1911.

Building 2 (1909-1912 ): East 50th and Frederick

In 1909, a small building was erected (to which FBC donated $200) at the corner of East 50th and Frederick Street (just a block off Fraser). There don’t seem to be any publicly-available photos still existing of this building.

Building 3 (1912-1970): East 50th and Frederick

The small building was replaced with a more substantial one that was dedicated in October 1912 (same site).

South Hill Baptist Church.This was the second South Hill Baptist bldg at E. 50th and Frederick. (Building 3).
CVA – SGN 1029. ca 1912. W. J. Moore photo).

The church still stands today (although with some modifications) as the South Vancouver Pacific Grace Mennonite Brethern Church. South Hill Baptist ceased to exist in 1970. The majority of the remaining congregants (some 35) joined Killarney Baptist.

The Sixth Child: Broadway West Baptist (Collingwood and 7th)

Due to a greater population density in western Kitsilano by 1913, a Sunday School was started in a small store at 3417 West Broadway. In March, 1915, 25 FBC members helped form the nucleus of Broadway West Baptist Church (BWBC). BWBC met in the store until their building was finished ca1923 at Collingwood and 7th Avenue.

Broadway West Baptist Church at 7th Ave. and Collingwood.
(First Baptist Church Archival Collection).

Broadway West considered changing their name since they were no longer located on Broadway. The new name they decided on was a mouthful: “Broadway West Baptist Church Seventh & Collingwood.” That remained the legal name for the balance of the church’s life (which seemed to end by the mid-1990s).

The former Baptist Church building still stands today. It is occupied by a Pentecostal congregation, Redemption Church.

The Last Kid: West Point Grey Baptist (11th Avenue near Sasamat)

In December 1926, 12 members of FBC met at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Wilbur Watson to plan the formation of a church in their neighbourhood of West Point Grey. The initial temporary home of the church was a Presbyterian building on 4th Avenue east of Sasamat. The first pastor was a former FBC assistant pastor, J. R. Turnbull.

On September 10, 1932, dedication services were held celebrating the move of West Point Grey Baptist (WPGBC) into their building located at 11th Avenue near Sasamat. The FBC choir presented the special music, and then-FBC pastor Rev. Elbert Paul gave the address.

In 2020, West Point Grey merged with Lord’s Peace Chapel (formerly located in Marpole).

WPGBC has been at the same site since 1932.

11th and Sasamat (Google Street View)


  1. There was nothing at all pejorative about the word ‘dismissed’ when used in this context; dismissal simply meant that members were free to request membership at another Baptist church. For more on Baptist membership transfer, see here.

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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 in 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, Nancy Haines, into the family.

Nancy spent several early years (approximately age 5 to 8) in the Empire Building. Part of the time during those years was spent in her father’s studioº (either for her Saturday morning piano lesson or at her Dad’s ‘music evenings’ when his students would perform and she would attend – sleeping on someone’s lap, more often than not – to save the cost of a babysitter); part was spent in elocution training with a ‘Mrs. Thompson’.

Nancy describes the Haines studio: He had an “upright piano shoved against the far wall. The studio would hold four or five people in a pinch. No desk. And he had a key to the common bathroom on that floor. There was a radiant electric heater on the floor of my Father’s studio in the winter; I remember the bright red filament glowing and reflecting on the curved metal case on the back. I also remember a single large pull-up window that looked out on the ‘well’ between the Empire’s wings. Dad didn’t have a street view from his studio.”

She also has described some of the sights, sounds, and odours of the building, in general:

From the Hastings entrance, there were stairs up from the street to the 2nd floor — the hallway at the top went straight north to the other end of the building AND to the west – with  studios along both hallways on both sides. The ceilings were high (I recall pipes running along the tops of them), causing sounds to be sort of lost up there. There was a glass panel in the upper part of each of the studio doors. The panels were not transparent; you could see light and movement through the glass,  but no clear image of anything or anybody. There was lettering on the glass. The floor in the building creaked a lot — so much so that I can still ‘hear’ it in my memory. There was a ‘walking’ runner down the middle of the wooden floors in the hallways. The Empire elevator was at the north end of the building. The stairs wound around the black iron cage that housed the clanking elevator and cables.

The smell of the building was ‘old’; it was similar to the smell of a building I would later spend time in — that of Lord Roberts School (I believe the janitors oiled the wooden floors in the hallways to prevent them drying out).

You could hear ‘hollow’ sounds emanating from the studios – a cough, a piano playing, a singing voice – as you walked past them. I can’t imagine – with all the sounds I heard every Saturday for 3+ years – that there was anything resembling sound-proofing in the Empire. The Empire was a busy ‘people’ building, with long-remembered sights, smells and sounds that are dear to this old lady.

Frank Haines died at age 64 in 1944 of a heart attack.

After Empire

The Empire was demolished in 1980. In about 1985, it was replaced with a glassed-in, circular public structure as part of the Grant Thornton complex (adjacent and to the north), which was located where the St. Francis Hotel once was. The structure isn’t long for this world, however. The corner is due for redevelopment along the same lines as the NE corner of Georgia and Howe: more retail space will be the result.

NW Corner of Seymour and Hastings where Empire bldg once stood

NW Corner of Seymour and Hastings where the Empire Block once stood. 2017. mdm photo. In the Summer of 2018, this public meeting place in turn was destroyed, sadly, to make way for additional commercial space.


¹I didn’t take the research beyond the mid-1950s as I didn’t have access to Vancouver directories beyond that period. At the time this research was underway, the Special Collections department of VPL (where post-1950s directories are held) was closed for construction.

²In 1942, John Goss had space at the Empire, apparently prior to establishing himself and his studio on Granville Street. And for the better part of the 1920s-1940s, Miss M. P. and Miss B. Cave-Brown-Cave hung their music teaching shingle at the Empire.

³ As is often the case with things we vow never to do, he did return to England on at least two occasions: in 1915 when he was hospitalized due to a wartime injury; and for a visit in 1922.

ºI’m delighted to report that a photo of an interior of a music studio in the Empire is available in SFU’s Digitized Collection here. It shows the studio of Dr. Albert Gittins, whose studio was on the same floor as — and looked quite similar to that of — Frank Haines’ studio, according to Haines’ daughter, Nancy.

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Gone . . . But Not Forgotten: Used/Antiquarian Bookshops (1970-2020)

This post pays tribute to used and antiquarian bookshops (and their booksellers) which existed between 1970 and 2020 and are no longer operating in Vancouver. It will not include existing shops such as The Paper Hound, MacLeod’s, Albion, People’s Co-op, Lawrence, Stillman’s, Spartacus, Antiquarius, Michael Thompson, Wilkinson’s Automobilia*, etc. In order to qualify for inclusion in this post, the shops listed need to be out of business and to have been located within Vancouver’s city limits.

Each listing shows the shop’s name, the approximate dates it was in business (in decades), the shop’s proprietor (if known) and its address(es).**


A-Aabaca Book Bin (1970s-1980s) – Proprietor: Lloyd Cartwright. 1247 Granville. By 1988, it was purchased by Skip Mabee. See: Fraser Book Bin and ABC Book & Comic Emporium.

Aabaca Book Bin at 1247 Granville. CVA 779-W00.07.
Albert Eddy, Nan Vie photo.

Aardvark Books (1970s-1980s) – Founder proprietor: Albert Eddy. Started in business ca 1971 at 4185 Main. By 1979, it was at 4331 Main. By 1982, ownership had changed to Fred Miller. By 1989, the name of the shop had changed slightly to Aardvark Books & Comics. There were several video machines in Aardvark by Miller’s time.


ABC Book & Comic Emporium (1990-2010s) L. Skip Mabee, proprietor. 1247 Granville. It was bought by Mabee in 1988 after it was sold a couple of times after Ted Fraser sold it. By ca2000, the shop had a date with re-developers and it was moved over to the east side of Granville. Within a short time, it was moved yet again by Mabee to Broadway just west of Granville, where it remained until 2012. See: Fraser Book Bin.

Abraxas Books (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. 3210 Dunbar.

Cartwright of A-Aabaca
Book Bin.

Acorn Books (1980s-1990s) Don Stewart, proprietor. (Catriona Strang managed it for Stewart for about a year and then Renee Rodin took over). 321 W. Pender. Acorn was a low-end version of Stewart’s main shop, MacLeod’s Books.

Ahrens’ BooksJohn Ahrens (1960s-1980s), proprietor. The shop was located at 756 Davie. It had a reputation as a chaotic (book-wise) meeting place of book people.

Ahren’s Books on Davie Street at Howe, 1981.. CVA 779 W03.24.

Ainsworth Books (1930s-1990s)A. J. Ainsworth established his shop at 321 W. Pender in 1939. He was the third generation of his family to be in the book business; he had learned the business from his father in England. A.J.A. died in 1950 at age 75. One of his daughters, Doreen Crombie, took over the business. Crombie sold the shop in the 1980s. Russ Cunningham took over from Crombie; the shop continued under the Ainsworth name and at the same location until ca1995, when it apparently folded.

Arcanum Books (1990s-2000s)Kevin Dale McKeown, proprietor. Was open in Vancouver from 1998-2006. Location: 317A Cambie Street (one of the retail spaces beneath the rooms of Danny’s Inn). Arcanum was originally opened in Burnaby in 1969 with Everett Foley, proprietor. It had several locations just east of Boundary on Hastings, the last being where Brown’s Books is today until McKeown bought the business and moved it to Vancouver. Specialties: Religion, philosophy, metaphysics, miscellaneous conspiracy theories and inexplicable phenomena.

Ashley’s Books (1990s-2000s)Ashley Offill, proprietor. 3754 W 10th. Specialties: history, art, literature, psychology, eastern religion. See: Baehr Books.

Baehr Books (2000s) – Scot Baehr, proprietor. 3754 W 10th. Specialties: history, literature, art, psychology, science fiction.

Beland’s Bookshop (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. 3315 Kingsway (at Joyce). Specialties: pocket books, magazines, comics.

Belly Button Books and Novel Cafe (1980s-1990s) – Collectively owned, but according to his obituary, James C. Campbell was “very involved” in the business. He died of AIDS in 1994 and, from what I can tell, the bookshop didn’t outlive him by long. 109 W. Cordova. Generalist shop.

Better Buy Books (1960s-1990s)Ron Webber, proprietor. 4393 W. 10th. A UBC-area source of used books. I recall finding many supplementary, out-of-print books there when I was working on my M.A. at UBC in the early 1990s.

Bidwell Books (1980s-1990s)Dalia Sinius (later Dalia Dargis), proprietor. 824 Bidwell. This wee shop felt to me very much like a West End neighbourhood bookstore (at a time when the West End was more truly a neighbourhood). Specialties: architecture, boating, cooking, philosophy.

The Blue Heron (1980s-90s) Alma McIntyre, proprietor (Stephen McIntyre‘s wife). At 8321 Oak St. in 1990. By 1992, at 3516-A Main. Specialty: books about antiques/collectibles. Not sure how long this shop lasted, but it hasn’t been in business for at least a decade. Alma McIntyre died in 2005.

Black Sheep Books (1990s)Trent & Denise Highnell, (later, George Kroller), proprietors. 2742 W. 4th Ave. When Renee Rodin decided in 1994 to sell R2B2 Books Books, the Highnell’s bought it and renamed it Black Sheep Books. It was operated by them for 4 years, after which George Kroller bought it and ran it for another 3 years under the same name. Black Sheep’s specialties: alternative literature, poetry, drama.

Bond’s Bookshop (1930s-1990s) – A generalist shop run by Francis Carradice (originally) and later by Ed Bowes. In the 1930s, it was located at 575 Dunsmuir. Gordon Bowes bought the Dunsmuir shop and put his son, Ed (Ted) Bowes, in charge; he was then 20. By 1969, it had moved to 523 Dunsmuir. In the late ’70s, it had moved to 579 Richards. By the 1980s, it had moved to 319 W. Hastings. It was in business there until the early 1990s, I believe. Ed Bowes died on January 21, 2021.

The Book Basket (1960s-1970s) Ted Fraser. 1070 Robson.

The Bookends (1970s-90s) – Proprietors: Gwenne and Earle Huston. 937 Davie.

The Bookends at 937 Davie. Photo courtesy Doug Sarti.

The Book Mantel (1990s) and Coffee Bar Bonnie Murray, proprietor (1990); Cynthia Brooke (1994). At 1444 Kingsway (1990); 1002 Commercial Dr. (1994). Specialities: feminist lit, poetry, philosophy.

In Almadene?!

The Book Mantel (1980s-1990s) – Was co-owned by Frank Davis, who also owned Frank’s Records next door. The Mantel had two locations: one at 2551 Alma (near 10th Ave., approximately where Buntain Insurance is today); the other in Kerrisdale at 2065 West 41st. The shop seems to have closed ca1990. Davis died in 2017. Specialties: Classics, art, music, theatre, poetry, philosophy, natural history and science.

Busy ‘B’ (1920s-1970s)George Biswanger, proprietor. The shop started in 1926 at 706 Seymour and advertised itself as selling “2nd hand goods”; books were not specified. It moved by 1927 to 540 W. Pender. By 1955, it had expanded to become two shops, both called “Busy B Book and [postage, presumbaly] Stamp” store at 445 W. Pender and 508 Richards. Biswanger died in 1966, but Busy ‘B’ carried on through the mid-1970s. It seems to finally have folded by ca1975.

Carillon Books (1990s)George Carroll, proprietor. 1926 W. 4th Ave. (1994). 822 Howe St. (1996). In 1998, the shop moved across the inlet to North Vancouver. I patronized Carroll’s Howe shop. I remember being on a Tchaikovsky kick in the late ‘80s and purchasing from his shop the full orchestral score of one of T’s piano concertos.


Chef Bell Cookbooks (1980s) Lionel Bell, proprietor. The shop was located at 335 W. Pender in 1982. In 1983, he moved his “2000 cookbooks” to 434 W. Pender. He custom-built bookshelves for this space which I’m certain are the ones still in Criterion Books, the succeeding shop in that space (which is now also defunct). Bell died in 1989.

Shows Chef Bell’s Coookbooks entrance (to the 2nd floor) at 434 W. Pender. This is the space most recently occupied by Criterion Books. CVA 790-1852.

Collectors’ Books and Records (1980s-1990s)David Grannis, proprietor (later, Andy Stone). 648 Kingsway.


Colophon Books (1980s-1990s) James F. McIntosh, proprietor. This shop was located at 407 W. Cordova. It was an excellent general shop. I remember with fondness browsing through the stacks in his second-floor shop. McIntosh died in 2019.

Colophon Books (upstairs) on Water Street. CVA 790-2118.

Connoisseur Art Books (1980s-1990s) – Proprietor, Charles Anderson. 5957 W. Boulevard. Specialties: art, collectables.

Criterion Books (1990s-2000s) Lance McCaughran, proprietor. 434 W. Pender. I suspect that the custom bookshelves in this shop were the same ones constructed by Lionel Bell when he owned Chef Bell Cookbooks at this location in the 1980s. McCaughran retired ca2015 and sold most of his general stock to Don Stewart (of MacLeod’s Books). Stewart took over the space as one of his book storage locations.

EP Books (1990s)Ed Peasgood, proprietor. 4495 Dunbar. Specialties: mystery, children’s, Christian studies/spirituality.

Evelyn’s Book Shelf (1950s-1970s) – 3075 W. Broadway. This was the self-proclaimed “largest bookshop in Kitsilano“ during its time. Not enough is known about this bookstore. It seems to have been a major force in its day.

Falstaff Books (1970s) – Co-owned by William Hoffer and Van Andruss. 4529 W. 10th Ave. The shop opened in 1972 and closed after a year.

The Fiction Co. (1990s) Gordon McRae, proprietor. 425 Abbott. Generalist shop.

Fraser Book Bin (1940s-1970s) Ted Fraser, proprietor. 6184 Fraser; also at 1247 Granville. The 1247 Granville location first became Fraser’s in 1946. In 1963, Fraser and his manager were charged with “possession of obscene material for the purpose of publication, distribution or circulation.” Fraser appealed all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, but was ultimately convicted and fined $3,400. Skip Mabee took over the 1247 Granville site in 1988 and changed the name from A-Aabaca Book Bin (the interim name of the shop between Fraser’s and Mabee’s proprietorships) to the ABC Book & Comic Emporium.

Fraser Book Bin (No. 2) (1990s)Brian Wright & Gerri Ironside, proprietors. 4750 Main. By 1996, the name of the shop had changed to Fraser Books.

Margaret Gabriel, Bookseller (1990s) – 3036 W. Broadway. Gabriel ‘packed it in’ with a closing out sale in 1995. Specialties: religions of the world, children’s, and 12-step books.

Hermit Books (1990s-2000s) Sharon & Eileen Hansen, proprietors. 2509 W. Broadway. Specialties: poetry, eastern and western religion/philosophy, fine arts, women’s studies.


William Hoffer Books (1960s-1990s)Hoffer had his first bookshop on Water Street in Gastown in 1969 while he was an SFU student (Province 25 Oct 1969). Hoffer had a shop at 3293 Dunbar, briefly, in the early ’70s. In the mid-1970s, he opened a shop with Van Andruss called Falstaff Books, at 4529 W. 10th Ave. His fourth location was on the second floor (#104) of 570 Granville. His final bookselling location was at 58/60 Powell St. Hoffer had a reputation as a ‘difficult’ person. But he could be charming and generous as well. He left Vancouver and his book selling business for Russia. He married there. Hoffer died on Vancouver Island from cancer. There is an amusing Hoffer quote that pertains to his Dunbar shop: “It was an unnerving experience, trying to operate a bookshop in a largely working class neighbourhood in a short terrace of shops. Across the street there was a small cafe, the owner of which had a son who had been aboard an alien space craft. Very few people came into the shop, but occasionally I would notice faces pressed like snails’ feet against the plate glass windows.” (From Hoffer’s book catalogue, STIGMA #80).

Hummingbird Books (1970s) – Proprietor: Albert Eddy (the same person who founded Aardvark Books ca1971). 337 W. Pender (second floor) starting in ca1978.

Kirkwood’s Fine Used Books (1990s-2000s)Carol Kirkwood, proprietor. Was established in Marpole in about 1994 at 8662 Granville. By 2000, it became Characters Fine Books and Coffee Bar and moved to the west side of Granville at 8419 Granville.. The shop ultimately was the victim of high rent charged by the landlord and they called it quits ca2008. I lived in Marpole when Carol Kirkwood started Kirkwood’s Books and I faithfully returned to the neighbourhood shop after it became Characters (and we’d moved to Burnaby).

Kitsilano Bookstore (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. 2887 West Broadway.

Reginald Lissel, Bookseller (1990s) – 434 Homer. Specialties: science fiction and literature.

McIntyre. Bill Cunningham photo

Stephen McIntyre Books (1940s-1980s) – Was involved in the used/antiquarian book trade from the 1930s until his death from lung cancer in 1984. Initially, he was a book scout, but by the 1940s, he was a book dealer. The first of his shops of which I am aware was at 340-B Cambie; where the 340 Pub is today. In the 1970s, he was at 833 Davie. Later, he moved to a shop at 319 W. Pender. He traded in the occult and science fiction, but was best known as a generalist.

Makara Books (1990s)Barbara Draskoy, proprietor (later Barbara Stefan). 2868 W. 4th. Specialties: metaphysical and oriental philosophy.

William Matthews, Bookseller (1980s) – His shop was at 434 W. Pender in the early ’80s, presumably before Lionel Bell took over the space in 1983. Bill was Terry Rutherford‘s business partner in the 1970s. He has been on Vancouver Island for several years. He recently bought The Haunted Bookshop in Sidney.

Brendan M. Moss, Esq. (1980s-2000s)Moss was formerly an auctioneer. He had an antique map and print shop. In 1986, his shop was at 402 W. Pender (#804). In the late 1980s, the shop was at 101 W. Pender. By 1990, the shop had moved to a basement unit at 332 Water Street (formerly, Cloth Hall; today known better as (Le Magasin). I am not certain when his Water Street shop closed, but was probably ca2005.

Murray’s Books (1950s-1980s)Murray Hughson, proprietor. 856 Granville (1954-1974). Hughson died in 1971. The shop carried on for about a decade after his death under the management of Peter C. Lawrence. The shop moved to 942 Granville in 1974 due to high rent. It closed in late 1980.


The Mystery Merchant Bookstore (1990s) – Proprietor: Christa Pritchard. 1952 W. 4th Ave. Specialties: Mystery, true crime, detective, espionage fiction (used and new).

Narnia Books (1990s) David & Joanne Anderson. 5585 Dunbar. A small generalist shop with a specialty in Christian literature. I recall my wife finding a couple of unusual John Buchan-related items for me at Narnia.

Octopus Books (1970s-1980s)P. R. Brown (“Brownie) and Juils Comeault, proprietors. The two proprietors bought Octopus Books on the 2200 block of West 4th from Bill Fletcher in 1977. 2705 W. 4th Ave. Specialties: literature, journals. Comeault died in 1983 and shortly after that, Brownie sold West to Renee Rodin and poet Billy Little. The new owners changed the name of the shop (at the same address as West was at) to R&B Books.

Octopus Books East (1980s-1990s) – P. R. Brown (“Brownie) and Juils Comeault, proprietors. Brownie and Comeault bought this second store in 1980. Both East and West stores were popular literary and social centres. Comeault died in 1983 and Brownie decided to focus on Octopus East. It traded in used and new books and magazines and was a regular site of readings and workshops. Finally, after 17 years of running East, 11 years on her own, Brownie closed the shop in 1994. 1146 Commercial Dr.

Paul’s Books (1970s) – Proprietor unknown. Denman and Robson. Became the Sunset Book Exchange in mid-70s.

Richard Pender Books (1970s)Van Andruss, proprietor. 445 W. Pender (1974); 438 Richards (1975-76). It appears to have closed ca1976.

Octopus Books on West 4th. CVA 790-1428.

Proprioception Books (1980s-1990s) Ralph Maud started the store in the early 1980s (1956 W. Broadway) as a sort of replica of the library of poet, Charles Olson. Lisa Robertson bought the shop in 1988 and moved it to 432 Homer (1993). She closed the store in 1994 after the rent at her Homer location tripled in two years (this is a not-uncommon but disturbing theme among used bookshops and among small businesses generally in Vancouver). The term “proprioception” was a favourite of avant-garde poet, Charles Olsen, thus the name of the shop.

R&B Books; later R2B2 Books Books (1980s; 1990s)Renee Rodin (and, for a year, with Billy Little), proprietor. Rodin and Little bought the former Octopus West store at 2250 W. 4th Ave. in 1985 and named it R&B Books. There was a bad fire at R&B at around Christmas of that year; the building was destroyed. The shop moved to a small space at 2742 W. 4th Ave. and changed the shop’s name to R2B2 Books Books to convey that it was R&B Books, ’round two’. Little left the store within the year and Rodin carried on until 1994. She sold the shop to Denise and Trent Highnell who renamed it Black Sheep Books. R2B2’s specialties: Art, poetry, literature. (See: https://bcbooklook.com/2008/03/13/bookselling-remembering-r2b2-a-na-f-s-story/)

Rutherford. Rick Loughran photo.

Terry Rutherford (1990s) – She had her first Vancouver shop with Bill Matthews at the former location of Falstaff Books: 4529 W. 10th. This shop specialized in science fiction. Later, Rutherford worked at Star Treader Books. She later opened a mystery/detective shop at 432 Homer. She then moved to 415 W. Pender before leaving Vancouver for Port Moody where she took on a book and paper restoration business. She later moved to Eastern Canada where she continued her restoration business. Rutherford has recently moved back to B.C.

Shows Richard Pender Books for the brief period (1974) when it was located next door to the Niagra Hotel (today, the Ramada) at 445 W. Pender. Today, Richard Pender is part of MacLeod’s shop which also includes the space in this image where the Luggage shop was. CVA 778-270.

Secondo Music Store (1990s) Chris Held, proprietor. 2744 W. 4th Ave. Used and out-of-print classical music and books on music.

Star Treader Books (1970s-1980s) – Was located in the mid-1970s at 4325 W. 10th. It was gone from there by ca1982, moving to 434 W. Pender. Its second location was taken over in ’83 by the shop run by Lionel Bell. Specialties: fantasy/science fiction.

Terminal City Books (1990s)Judy Fraser, proprietor. 231 Main. Specialties: science, trades and mechanical books.

We Call With Cash (1950s-1970s) – Proprietor unknown. The shop first appeared in 1955 Vancouver directory and continued at least until 1977. 3621 W. 4th Ave.

West Coast Books (1990s) – At 3209 W. Broadway. Later, near the 1100 block of Granville (east side). A generalist shop.

Joyce Williams Antique Prints and Maps (1980s-2000s) – From 1984 and into the 1990s Williams had her shop at 346 W. Pender. Her shop later moved to Yaletown for a number of years.

West Coast Books at its Granville Street downtown location. CVA 790-1803.

Y’s Books (2010s-2020) – Pam Townsend and David Gagne, proprietors. 4307 Main Street. Y’s opened 2013 on Main at 27th and seems to have succumbed to COVID in Spring 2020, closing its Vancouver space “indefinitely”. The shop was small, but it appears not to have had any specialties; it was a general shop. Shop closed February, 2020.

Yoga Vedanta Metaphsyical Bookstore (1960s-1970s)Ursula Sylvia Hellmann (founder) and (later) William Balderstone, proprietors. The shop was apparently initially on Robson (opening sometime after 1957) and moved later to Georgia just east of Granville. Balderstone apparently did psychic readings on CFUN radio. Not sure what year it closed.

Zona Arq (or Arc) (1980s) – Proprietor unknown. Was located at Broadway & Alma. It lasted for 1-2 years in the 1980s.


*Wilkinson’s Automobilia (specializing in automotive-related books, magazines and shop manuals) has closed their Main St. warehouse, recently, given the COVID-19 pandemic. They have an online presence, however: https://www.eautomobilia.com/.

**Principal sources for the information in this post are various editions of Guide to the Secondhand & Antiquarian Bookstores of Greater Vancouver, The Province, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver News-Herald, and of course the City of Vancouver Archives photo database. I am appreciative of details provided by Kim Koch, Rod Clarke, Neil Whaley, Jason Vanderhill, Catriona Strang, Renee Rodin, Don Stewart, Kevin Dale McKeown, Angus McIntyre, Erwin Wodarczak, Peter Findlay, Joscelyn Barnard, Doug Sarti, Gary Sim, Bill Reimer, and William V. Lee.

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Lending Libraries: Private Sector Fills Public Gap

Before there was a network of branch public libraries in Vancouver, the demand for inexpensive reading material was met in large part by the private sector. Not principally by new or used booksellers, but by an entirely different category of for-profit book provider — book lending libraries. We in the 21st century are so accustomed to equating “libraries” with “public libraries” that it takes a while to conceive that a library can be a for-profit venture!

In 1929, there was only one VPL branch in addition to the central library at Hastings and Main: the Kits branch at 2375 W 4th Avenue (today, the site is part of a Safeway parking lot). That was it. If you lived in Marpole or the West End or most any other Vancouver neighbourhood, there was no public library within relatively easy walking distance.

1929 was also the year of the stock market crash that started the Great Depression. For the better part of a decade, most Vancouverites had precious little disposable income for books and other non-essentials. Thus, there was a market niche to be filled by the private library.

The details of how private libraries did business are very sketchy. I suspect many would have had a 1-year membership card (see the Eaton’s card below) which a client would purchase and then have a ‘license to borrow’. Other libraries, like the Spencer’s Lending Library (left), had daily and monthly fees.

It seems that independent private libraries obtained their stock principally from wholesale book distributors and sources of deaccessioned public library books (Province, 26 Oct 1930).

One thing seems certain: the proprietors of these private libraries didn’t become wealthy!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that many of the libraries listed below got started around 1929. And I don’t think it a coincidence that private libraries faded to black, for the most part, by 1955, just when the VPL system had bolstered its network of public libraries to seven branches.

Today, private lending libraries in Vancouver are a thing of the past and alien to most of us.

CVA 303-1 Vancouver Public Library – Kitsilano Branch, ca 1929. At the time, this was the only branch public library in the VPL system. Kits branch was opened in 1928.

A List of Private Libraries

I have attempted to identify as many private libraries as I can, including the rough period during which they were in business, where the library was located (and when) and the names of the proprietors.

Abbott Library (1928-33) – 916 Robson. Proprietor: Mrs. May Abbott (1928-1930). In 1928, the address in the directory was 914 Robson. In 1931, the library became Abbott Book Store.

Blenheim Lending Library (1929-37) – 3353 W. 4th Ave. (1929-34); 3639 W 4th (1934); 2252 W 4th Ave. (1935); Proprietors: Miss D. Millar; R. H. Hague [1896-1958] (1931); H. Martin (1932); Miss M. Richardson (1933-35); Mrs. B. C. Scott and Mrs. M. H. Mason (1936-37).

CVA 1376-521 – The Stanley Library, 2820 Granville. 1933.

Cosy Corner Library (1932-46) – 1307 Commercial Drive; 1830 Commercial Drive (1940-41); 1303 Commercial Drive (1941-42); 1022 Commercial Drive (1943-46). Proprietors: Mrs. M. M. Shoebotham [1888-1958] (1932-39); Mrs. M. J. Henderson (1940); M. W. Corbett (1941-45); F. Carothers (1946).

Dunbar Heights Library (1931-38) – 4311 Dunbar Street. Proprietors: T. Smith (1931-35); Miss E. M. Watson (1936-38 ). Name change to Dunbar Heights Book and Stationery Lending Library (1935-36). Name change: Dunbar Lending Library (1937-38).

Good Companion Library (1933-41) – 1405 Robson. Proprietors: Mrs. Charlotte M. Cole.

Harlequin Lending Library (1929-1940) – 1194 Davie Street. Proprietors: Miss M. Harvey (1929-31); Miss A. Van Kleeck (1932- 33); Miss L. J. Taylor (1934-38); Mrs. F. M. Riddell (1939-40).

15 June 1933 West End Breeze. Courtesy: Neil Whaley*. According to this clip, the VPL system shut down during July and August in the 1930s!

Hudson’s Bay Company Books and Lending Library (1915-ca1949 ) – Granville and Georgia. Part of HBC department store.

Kerrisdale Book Nook (1928-1955+) – 2166 W. 41st Avenue. (1928-40); 2176 W 41st Avenue (1941-51); 2135 .W. 41st Ave. (1952-55+). Proprietors: W. S. Bosworth (1928-31); Mrs. H. Blair (1932-34); J. A. Henderson (1935-39); H. M. Jewell (1940-47); Mrs. C. T. Crossing (1948-55+).

The Lending Library (1933) – 2425 E Hastings Street. Proprietor: C. C. Backhus.

“Western House [Private] Library” stamped over “Collingwood Public Library Association”.* Image made from the fly leaf of a book at The Paper Hound Bookshop with permission of the proprietors.

The Library (1925-51) – 2820 Granville Street (1925-1933); 2830 Granville (1934-35). Proprietors: Mrs. J. R. Davidson (1925-36); Mrs. D. M. Kirby (1937-51). This library was named “The Library” perhaps with the vain hope of exclusivity!

E. D. Macfarlane’s Circulating Library (1933-47) – 2606 Granville. Proprietor: Erle D. Macfarlane.

Mayfair Library (1932-35) – 1540 W. 41st Avenue; 2166 W 41st Avenue (1935). Proprietor: J. A. Henderson (1932-35).

West End Breeze, 16 Sept 1932. Courtesy: Neil Whaley*

Modern Lending Library (1932-42) – 1009 W. King Edward. Miss Proprietors: Miss P Blake, R. Sidaway (1932-34); Mrs. E. Denton (1937-38); Miss M. A. Baum (1939-42). Name change to Modern Book Shop in 1943. Proprietor remained Baum. Address still 1009 King Edward. No mention of there being a lending library associated with the shop, so assuming the library became a bookstore.

Oak Street Lending Library (1930-41) – 3129 Oak Street (1930-35 ); 3216 Oak Street (1936-41). Proprietors: Mrs. M. McTavish (1930-37); Mrs. M. I. Scott (1938-40); Mrs. E. Cool [1884-1958] (1941).

Oxford Book Shop and Lending Library (1929-54) – 2164 W 4th Avenue (1929-1934); 1039 Granville (1935-37); 1540 W 41st Avenue (1938-52); 5737 Granville (1953-54). Proprietors: Miss D. Dashwood [1881-1950] (1929-31); Mrs. M. I. C. Key [1898-1985] (1932-34); S. B. Farmer (1935-37; Miss G. Carfrae (1938); S. B. Farmer (1939-40); Miss G. Carfrae (1941); G. R. Ellingham (1942-54).

Point Grey Lending Library (1929-55) – 5510 Dunbar Street (1929); 5525 Dunbar St (1931-34; 5691 Dunbar Street (1935-38); 5557 Dunbar (1939-55). Proprietor: F. S. Robinson (1930-55).

Popular Lending Library (1929-42) – 4479 W 10th Avenue (1929-34); 4489 W 10th Avenue (1935-37); 4451 W 10th Avenue. Proprietors: Mrs. M. F. Vulliamy [1886-1963] (1929-36); Miss D. Howden (1937); Mrs. D. Arnott (1938-39); Mrs. N. C. Clarke (1940-42).

Eaton’s Book subscription membership card 1935. I suspect a card similar to this was necessary to borrow books from other private libraries in Vancouver. However, it could not have been a membership card for Vancouver, as Eaton’s didn’t have a Vancouver store in 1935. The department store came to Vancouver in 1948 after buying out David Spencer, Ltd. MDM Collection.

Ridgewell Lending Library (1929-54) – 3494 Dunbar. Proprietors: Mrs. Alice G. Ridgewell [1876-1960] (1929-31); H. Gatenby [1895-1969] (1932-54).

Spencer’s Leading Library (1934-48) – Hastings and Richards. Part of the Daivd Spencer, Ltd. department store. Spencer’s was purchased by Eaton’s in 1948. Presumbably, Eaton’s established their own local library then, although I can’t confirm that.

Stanley Library (1934-44) – 2820 Granville Street. Proprietors: Miss L. J. Leslie (1934-42); Mrs. H. Raymer (1943-44).

Western House Library (1933-51) – 957 Denman Street. Proprietor: Miss Louise Grant (1933-51).

Windsor Lending Library (1932-33) – 916 Robson (1932); 1056 Robson (1933). Proprietors: Gwendolyn P. Jones (1932); Percy James (1933). Windsor library was sold to Percy James of Kensington Arts in 1933. The library seems not to have been retained with a distinctive identity following the merger, however.

Ye Booke Nooke (1929-55+) – 1063 Denman Street (1929-32); 1187 Denman St. (1933-57) Proprietor: Mrs. Elsie W. Beach [1888-1969] (1929-55+). Claim made in 1932 ad that non-members could borrow books for 3c/day, with a minimum charge of 5c. “The monthly [membership?] charge for adults is 65 cents,and for children, from 6 to 14 years, 25 cents.” (West End Breeze, Sept 16 1932)*. “….Mrs. Beach has 5000 new and proven books upon her shelves.” (West End Breeze 6 Oct 1933)*.

Yew Lending Library (1931-55+) – 1508 Yew. Proprietor: Miss O. A Wilde (1931-55+).


*Neil Whaley has very kindly granted me permission to reproduce clippings and information from the West End Breeze , a four-page community newspaper published between 1932 and 1933. Neil has a bound edition of the Breeze — quite possibly the only such copy extant — which was the editor/publisher’s copy. “The format was that there was one real story of a reasonable length (perhaps 500 words) and then everything else was one-paragraph blurbs which talked about businesses in the West End — who not so coincidentally advertised in the WEB.” (Email message from Neil Whaley to MDM).

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John Jenkinson: Photographer

CVA 242-02: Portrait of John Jenkinson, ca1902.

John Jenkinson (1871-1936) described himself on his marriage certificate as an electrician. His occupation in the early years of the 20th century was as a lineman for the CPR and later for the BCER (BC Electric Railway). He worked his way up to a meter reader, and then as a meter inspector for the BCER. By the time he died in 1936, he had been promoted to superintendent of the metering department. He was a player of lawn bowls, and he loved to sing with the choir at Christ Church and with the Western Triple Men’s Choir. But I believe Jenkinson’s legacy lies in none of these occupations and activities. It was as an amateur photographer that Jenkinson shone and, in my opinion, continues to shine.

CVA 242-04: Portrait of Ellen Jenkinson, ca1910, wearing one of the voluminous hats which she seemed to favor.

John Jenkinson was born in Lancashire, England to William and Priscilla Jenkinson. I presume he trained as an electrician in the Motherland. He came to Canada in 1898, settling in Vancouver and here he married Ellen Johanne Anderson, who was a native of Copenhagen, Denmark (1875-1951), in 1902. The couple had one child together, Olga (1904-1980).

For a couple of years before he was married, John boarded at a home on Eveleigh Street. But soon after he and Ellen were wed, they moved to 992 Howe (Howe and Nelson). This seems to have been a house with a couple or more suites within it (by the time the photo below was taken by Yates in 1959, the main floor was a retail space and the space above it was residential).

Bu P508.6 – [Exterior of building at the North East corner of Nelson and Howe Street] 1959, A. L. Yates photo. Oddly, there are no Jenkinson images online at CVA of this home when they were living there.

From what I can tell, John and Ellen were never wealthy. It seems likely that they enjoyed a middle-income lifestyle, but nothing extravagant. A meter reader’s job was to check the amount of electricity used by a household as recorded on the meter attached to each home. It was the job of the meter inspector to certify electricity meters were functioning accurately.

I’m assuming (pretty safely, I think) that the photographer in the family was John. Olga was too young to have made most of these images, and I doubt that Ellen would have been the photographer, given the relatively sexist attitude to the hobby in its early days.

Many of Jenkinson’s photos were exteriors and interiors of homes that he didn’t own. I am very impressed, in particular, with how he was able to get ample light in his interior shots. That would have been among the biggest challenges of his day.

CVA 242-11 – Exterior of 1260 Barclay Street, ca 1901.

The residence shown above and below was 1260 Barclay Street, at the time, the home of F. F. Burns, son of John Burns, Sr., who also seems to have lived there. F. F. Burns was a metal merchant in the city.

CVA 242-13 – Interior and exterior views of 1260 Barclay Street, ca 1901. The decor in this room screams Victorian! Complete with the stag above the fireplace.

The home shown below was a near neighbour of the Burns place. This home belonged to Adolphus Williams at 1139 Barclay.

CVA 242-10.15 – Mr. Williams house at 1139 Barclay Street, ca 1901.
CVA 242-10.16 – Williams’ drawing room, ca1901.

The image below is one of my favourites among those made by Jenkinson. It is an unusual photo of English Bay that clearly shows the slide into the Bay (and the kids climbing back up to the platform)!

CVA 242-14.2 – View of English Bay, ca1901.

And here is another of my favourites, showing the Elders, Stanley Park superintendents, sitting very stiffly in front of their Park cottage.

CVA 242-05 – Stanley Park [with Mr. Elder, Park Superintendent and his wife, in front of their cottage at entrance to Stanley Park.], ca1900.

To conclude, I’ll show an exterior and interior of the Jenkinson home that John owned when he died. It was certainly a few of steps up from 992 Howe, but it didn’t have the pizzazz of the Burns place. This home was on the corner of 15th Avenue and Burrard.

CVA 242-19 – North and west facades of John Jenkinson’s home at 1796 West 15th Avenue, ca1927.
CVA 242-22 – Interior of 1796 West 15th Avenue, far end of living room with piano, ca 1927.

I suspect that Jenkinson’s connection to these home-owners who allowed him access to the interior of their homes was his (and their?) church: Christ Church. I have confirmed that Adolphus Williams was affiliated with Christ Church. But haven’t been able to confirm that either Burns or Elder were.

Of course, it could be that the explanation is simpler. He might have gotten to know these families during his time as a meter reader — reading their electricity meters!

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Lest We Impress: Georgia Medical-Dental Building


CVA 99-3749 - [Georgia] Medical Dental Building [at 925 West Georgia Street] 1929 Stuart Thomson photo

CVA 99-3749 – Georgia Medical Dental Building at Northwest Corner Georgia at Hornby. 1929. Stuart Thomson photo. (Note: The angle from which this image was taken makes the  ground level on the right side of the wooden construction zone fence appear to be lower than the street on the left side. But it isn’t. Photographer Thomson was probably inside the construction barrier of the 3rd Hotel Vancouver shooting from near the top of the fence line; Thomson was the official photographer of the hotel’s construction.)

It is all too easy to impress the present onto the past. Especially in cases where there has been an attempt made by contemporary architects to ‘nod’ to a prior building that once occupied a lot (which I consider praise-worthy). A good example of this is the Georgia Medical-Dental Building (MDB, hereafter; 1929; McCarter & Nairne, architects), which was demolished by implosion in 1989, and the Shaw Tower at Cathedral Place (SCP, hereafter; 1991; Merrick, architect), which stands on the lot today.

When I recently happened upon the image above, I was initially disturbed by the apparent narrowness of the old MDB. It appeared to me to be only half as wide as it ought to be.

At first, I thought that perhaps when work started on the structure, the economic downturn of the Great Depression forced the builder to focus on building just the southern slice; that the northern half would be built later to create the square footprint that I assumed was ‘natural’ for the structure.

But that was not the case.

The next image revealed my error: MDB had an ‘L’ footprint, not the square one that I’d assumed it had. My assumption was due, in part at least, to my expectation that the older building would have had the same sort of footprint as today’s SCP has.

vpl 12176  View looking east on Georgia from Burrard Street. 1930. Frank Leonard photo.

VPL 12176 View looking east at the Georgia Medical-Dental Building from Burrard Street; this reveals that the structure had an “L” footprint, not a square one. 1930. Frank Leonard photo.

Features in Common and Differences

There was an attempt made by the architect of SCP (Paul Merrick, 1991) to replicate some features of the Medical-Dental building. Common features include:

  • ‘Nursing sisters’ on the corners of the buildings;
  • ‘Step-backs’ at higher floors;
  • Use of materials having contrasting colours (on MDB, use of differently coloured brick; on SCP, use of glass and concrete);

There are many more differences between the past and present occupants of the northwest corner of Georgia at Hornby than there are commonalities:

  • MDB had an ‘L’ footprint, SCP has a square one;
    Bu P179 - [Exterior Georgia] Medical and Dental Bldg. Vancouver BC [925 West Georgia Street and parking garage under construction] 1929 Leonard Frank photo.

    CVA 99-3749 – Georgia Medical Dental Building at Northwest Corner Georgia at Hornby. 1929. Stuart Thomson photo.

  • MDB had an appended, above-ground, 4-storey garage attached to the Hornby arm. SCP has an underground parking garage;
  • There was a single step-back at the 10th floor of the MDB. There are several step-backs on SCP;
  • MDB had 17 floors. SCP has 23;
  • On MDB, there were just the ‘nursing sisters’ as exterior ornaments and they appeared only at the 10th floor step-back and were of terra cotta. The nurses on SCP appear on the northeast corner just a couple of stories up and also higher on the building at the step-backs; there are other exterior ornaments on SCP, including griffins. The nurses and other ornaments on SCP are made of fibre glass;
  • MDB had a blunt roofline with lighter bricks near the roof to contrast with darker brickwork below. SCP has a chateaux-style roof (which, together with the griffins, is probably a nod to the architecture of its near neighbour, the Hotel Vancouver).

A griffin and other ornaments (including a rain diverter) on Shaw Tower at Cathedral Place (taken from Hotel Vancouver). c2013. Author’s photo.


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The Golden Decade of Dance Bands (1920s)

In this post, I plan to list all of the ’20s ‘dance bands’ (referred to at the time, typically, as ‘orchestras’) I can identify. These will include Vancouver-based musical groups as well as those that had their base elsewhere. Each listing will include the name of the group (having a minimum of three players), the leader and all the personnel I can identify who played with each group.

The list will not include any of the large orchestras that played in Vancouver (e.g., the VSO, Home Gas Orchestra, Scottish Orchestra) nor will it include any of the theatre orchestras that played in the city (e.g., the Capitolians, Embassy Theatre orchestra).

In short, the post will be a research piece about those smallish groups of musically gifted men and women who entertained their contemporaries while they were enjoying a meal (and, I daresay, tapping their toes to the beat) or dancing up a storm to their melodies.*


The Aitch-Bee Trio (ca1919-28) – E. G. Warne (violin); W. B. McQueen (cello); W. A. Storey (piano). “Playing daily at the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Restaurant.” 1925: By this year, was called “The Hudson’s Bay Trio”. Storey was out; Frank Nichols (piano) was in.

Ambassador Cafe Orchestra (ca1925-26) – Leader: Frank Maracci (violin, sax, trombone); L. Martin (trumpet); Len Wilson (banjo); Martin H. Beliger (sax, clarinet); H. Zweifel (sax, clarinet); F. E. McComb (drums); William Sodeburg (piano). 1925: By this year, Martin, Len Wilson, McComb and Sodeburg were out; Tug Wilson (trumpet); Frank Hamilton (piano), and Harry Hamilton (drums) were in. AKA “Ambassador Cafe Bluebird Orchestra”.

Ambassador Cafe Orchestra – Maracci’s Bluebirds – CVA 99-3500 1942, Stuart Thomson photo.

Tom E. Andrews – Leader: Andrews; J. H. Wilson; Fernie Quinn; Art Thomas; Thomas Crawford. Played Cotillion Dance Hall (Davie and Granville).

Arcadians (1920s-1930s) – Leader: Frank Nichols; Bob Levie (sax, voilin); Toby Kent (banjo); Betty Warne (violin); Archie Peebles (trombone, accordion); Johnnie McNair (drums). The band seems to have folded by ca1935.

Belcarra Orchestra (1926) – Leader: Billy Millichip (drums); Jean Goodheart (piano); Don Raino (banjo); Bill McLean (sax).

Frederick Brown and his Orchestra – Leader: Brown; A. W. Delamont (trumpet); Harry Stocker (clarinet); R. S. Ralph (trombone); G. H. H. Keeling (string bass); G. M. Jolley (percussionist); A. Osbaldeston (piano). Played at the “Pan”.

Calvert Trio (ca1925-35) – Joy Calvert (violin); Minnie Beveridge — later Freda Setter — (cello); Una Calvert (piano).

Canadian Pacific Jazz Symphonists (ca1925-29) – Leader: Olive E. Beaton (piano); Ethel Planta (violin); Will Edmunds (cello); Gaston Somny (banjo); Robert Griffiths (contra-bass); Alex Donaghy (sax, clarinet); Paul LaMoureaux (sax, clarinet); Carl Tossell (trumpet); Art Clarke (percussion). Played at the Indian Grill and Ballroom, Hotel Vancouver. AKA: “Ollie Beaton and Her Orchestra,” “Canadian Pacific Symphonists”.

Lawrence Crawford “Kathleen” Orchestra – here aboard the “Alice”. Crawford doesn’t appear here (he was the one behind the camera, I think). UBC Open Collections. 1929.

Canadiens – Leader: Les Crane. Lloyd Mansfield, Jean Pomeroy, Bus Totten; La-Vern Walton. Played the Belmont Cabaret. In one of their ads they make the claim that they are “Just five boys trying to get along.” This group seems to have been from somewhere other than Vancouver.

Canary Cottage Orchestra – Leader: Wes Mortimer (trumpet); Jerome V. R. Clifford (piano); Allan H. Rice (sax); Art Strachan (sax, clarinet); Ewart Riedinger Jr. (drums); Fred Ross (banjo); Harry Hills (sax, bass). Played the (Indian) Grill, Hotel Vancouver. AKA: “Erdodys Canary Cottage Orchestra”. Wes Mortimer was a one-armed trumpet player. When Canary Cottage broke up, Mortimer was the concert master for Calvin Winters’ Capitolians for a number of years.

Cassidy and his Orchestra – Leader: Lafe Cassidy (trumpet); Marion Stafford (piano); Forrest Moneingo (sax, clarinet, trumpet, piano); Vernon Dale (sax, piano, violin); Karl Cassidy (sax); Hal Underwood (sax, clarinet, trumpet, banjo); Frank Roach (percussion). Played the Cabaret at Belmont Hotel. 1925: By this year, Stafford, Moneingo, Dale, and Karl Cassidy were out; Buck Dale (piano), Ken Evans (trombone), and Bert McGee (banjo) were in. By 1927, only Lafe Cassidy and Frank Roach remained of the original group. Others were: Harry Spees (trombone, violin); Walter Romerra (sax, clarinet); Harold Gard (piano); Chic Inge (banjo, sax).

The Cavaliers – H. Edwards (banjo); Stanley Robertson (sax), E. A. Griffiths (drums); W. Kenning (piano). By 1925, Edwarads was out; H. Swaboda (banjo) was in.

Criterion Orchestra. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

The Charleston Four (1925) – Leader: Frank Nichols (piano); Eddie Austin (sax, clarinet, violin); Toby Kent (banjo); Art Newman (drums).

Columbia Concert Orchestra – Leader: Walter De Lowe; Mrs. Francis Knight (violin); Marie Armstrong (violin); Ernestine Walters (flute); Enid Kimball (trumpet);Faye Leonard (clarinet); Virginia Barnard (cello); Was Kimball (trombone); Harrie Grether (bass); Lois Carpentier (percussion); Edith Dupree (piano); Gladys L. Collins (vocal soloist).

Columbians – Leader: Harry Hamilton (percussion, sax); West Gilland (sax, clarinet); Harry Karr (sax, clarinet); “Tug” Wilson (trumpet); Charles Pawlett (violin, banjo); Frank Hamilton (piano). Played the Alexandra Dancing Pavillion.

Harry E. Hamilton who (together with his brother, Frank) appears regularly in this list. Photo courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

Court Orchestra – Leader: W. Garden (piano); S. Kyall (banjo); George Northey (sax); A. Kingcombe (cornet); Len Holland (xylophone, piano, accordion); A. Peebles (trombone); N. Northrup (drums).

Criterion Orchestra (ca1923-29) – Dick Gardner (percussion); Harry Tarlton (piano); George Bush (banjo); Don McMillan (sax). Played the Hippodrome at English Bay. This group appears to have been one of the most stable bands of the 1920s, in terms of membership.

New Criterion Orchestra (ca1929-?) – Leader: Dick Gardner.

Don Flynn and his Orchestra – Leader: Flynn (piano); Fernie Quinn (sax); Boyd Lewis (banjo); Leslie Hulme (drums); Tug Wilson (trumpet). Played Cotillion Dance Hall.

Frank and his Orchestra – Leader: Frank Nichols (piano, violin); Betty Warne (violin); Toby Kent (banjo, violin): Ernie Anderson (sax, clarinet, banjo); Archie Peebles (trombone, piano, accordion); Eddie Anderson (percussion); Eddie Austin (sax, clarient, banjo).

Charlie Galloway – Leader: Galloway (violin).

Billy Garden and his Orchestra – Leader: Garden.

Vancouver Sun. 1928.

Get Acquainted Club Dance Orchestra – Leader: Frank Nichols (piano); Carl Tossell (trumpet); E. S. Austin (sax, clarinet); Toby Kent (banjo); Archie Peebles (trombone); Romeo Perry (percussion). Played at Dominion Dance Hall (339 W. Pender).

Earl Gray & his Orchestra – Leader: Gray; Earl Gibson (piano); George Eichhorn (percussion); Kenneth Cramer (bass); Brayton Frankhorner (banjo, violin); Ted Huffin (trumpet, mellaphone); Gale Claggett (trombone, trumpet, euphonium, sax); Paul McCrea (sax, clarinet, guitar); Henry Belland (sax, clarinet). Played the Hotel Vancouver Grill Room.

John Harper’s Hotel Georgia Concert Trio – Leader: Harper (piano); Helene Ainsworth (viola); Freda V. (cello). Freda’s surname wasn’t legible in my source.

Hastings Park Pavillion Orchestra – E. Couling (violin); J. H. Younghusband (cornet); C. Gaunt (trombone); A. G. McLeod (drums); F. Parsons (piano).

Earle C. Hill Orchestra (ca1920-?) – Leader: Hill (violin); George Bush; others unknown. Played Barron Hotel Restaurant and Cafe DeLuxe (147 1/2 West Hastings) 1920. Judging from the photo below, Earle Hill also played the Spanish Grill at Hotel Vancouver.

Earle C. Hill Orchestra. This photo was made at the Spanish Grill, Hotel Vancouver. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

Hotel Georgia Orchestra – Leader: Harry Pryce (piano, cello); Harry Karr (sax, clarinet); Fernie Quinn (Sax, clarinet); Wes Mortimer (trumpet, sax); Bill Arstad (trombone); George Anderson (sax); Charlie Pawlette (banjo, viola); Harry Hamilton (drums, sax, piano).

Harry Pryce

Hotel Vancouver Quartette – Leader: Olive Beaton (piano); Ethel Planta (violin); Will Edmunds (cello); Robert Griffiths (bass). Played the Oval Room, Hotel Vancouver.

Howard’s Orchestra – Leader: Arnold Howard (piano); William McLean (sax); Harvey Nixon (drums).

Tex Howard and his Orchestra – Leader: Howard (drums); Emerald Krantz (piano); John Bowmer (sax, banjo); William Stewart (trumpet, banjo, slide cornet); West Gilland (sax, clarinet); Hollis Rich (sax, clarinet, guitar); Gale Claggett (trombone, sax, trumpet, mellophone, euphonium, banjo); Lucian Gerhardt (sax, trumpet, mellophone). This group was from Seattle.

Hughie’s Colonials– Hughie (piano); Freddy (banjo); Charlie (sax); Jack (drums). Note: Surnames of players are unknown to me.

The Revellers (l-r?): Teddy Duncan, Eddie Camel, George Gossen, Vincent Cashmore, Homer Woodworth. April 1928 at Kent Piano House on Granville Street. MDM Collection.

Dwight Johnson and his Orchestra – Leader: Johnson; Arthur Most (trombone); Claude Burch (trumpet); James Whippo (trumpet); Bob Dickson (sax); Ray Johnson (piano); Alfred Taylor (clarinet, sax); T. W. Porter (sax); Wally Marks (drums); Prentice Gross (banjo); Ralph Dougherty (string bass, tuba). This was an American band, advertising itself as “the Southland’s finest” and “direct from Hotel St. Francis, San Francisco” (he was also reputed to come from Portland).

Ted Lander’s Orchestra (ca1928-29) – Leader: Lander (sax, trombone); Vic Ross (piano); George Hackett (trumpet); Don Raino (banjo); Henry Anderson (sax); Bev White (percussion).

Percy Lee’s Country Club Orchestra – Leader: Lee (piano); Art Griffith (trumpet); Bert White (drums); Harry Hill (Sax); Herb Roach (Banjo); Claude Hill (bass, clarinet, trumpet); Alf. Olson (bass, clarinet); Alex. Pitts (banjo); Billy Duncan (drums).(Note: Not all of these people played together at the same time). Played the Pavilion at Bowen Island and on Union Steamships’ “Lady Alexander”.

This may be the Criterions or perhaps Earle C. Hill’s orchestra. George Bush appears in this as the banjo player. This is probably the Elk’s Hall. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.
Slides from a light box similar to the one that appears in the photo above beneath the elk’s head. Tom Carter’s Collection, n.d.

Frank Maracci & his Peppy Orchestra – Leader: Maracci (violin, sax, trombone); Roland Tibb (trumpet); Harry Hamilton (drums, sax); Don Flynn (piano); Charlie Pawlette (banjo); Fernie Quinn (sax, clarinet). AKA “Maracci’s Mean Melody Men”.

Frank Maracci’s Bluebirds – Leader: Maracci (violin, sax, trombone); William Sodeburg (piano); F. E. McComb (percussion); H. Zweifel (sax, clarinet); M.Seliger (sax, clarinet); M. Howell (trumpet). Played at Ambassador Cafe.

Melody Boys – Leader: Art Thomas (banjo); Billy Reeves (piano); Fernie Quinn (sax, clarinet); Ronald Tibb (cornet); Romeo Perry (percussion). Played Cotillion Dance Hall.

Morgan’s DeLuxe Players– Leader: Reg Morgan (drums); Carl Nelson (banjo); Ed Sasserville (sax); Bob Koehler (piano). The DeLuxe players probably played the Cafe DeLuxe (at 147 1/2 W. Hastings).

CVA 99-1233.1 – Moroan’s DeLuxe Orchestra ca1925. I assume that the players identified above are the same ones who appear in this photo, although it’s not possible for me to confirm whether pianist Koehler appears here, due to the outdoor location; he may have been one of the two sax players pictured).

Mark Morgan’s Orchestra (1922-24) – Leader: Morgan. Typically played at the Moose Hall (535 Homer) for dances.

Olympians – Leader: Victor Ross (piano); Leslie Hulme (drums); Jack McLean (sax); Frank Bolney (violin, banjo). 1925: Wally Griffiths (trumpet) and Bill McLean (sax) are then in; Jack McLean seems to be out.

The Originals (ca1929-?) – Leader: George Bush (banjo); Don McMillan (sax); Gil Mullen (piano); Len Inglesdy (violin); Jean Baker (drums); Jack Barlow (trumpet); Newton Keith (sousaphone). Played Lester Court in 1929.

The Originals. hand-painted sign ad. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection, n.d.

Parker’s Orchestra – Leader: W. E. Parker (trombone); Francis Collins (sax, trumpet, clarinet, banjo); George Jones (sax, clarinet); Sherlie Denhof (trumpet, sax); Polly Butler (piano); Spencer Adams (percussion). Played at the Breaker’s Cafe (556 Seymour).

Patricia Cabaret Orchestra – Leader: E. B. Austin (violin); F. M. Arstad (sax); E. M. Anderson (drums, xylophone); F. Nichols (piano).

George D. Peter and his Orchestra – Leader: Peter (piano); Charles See (sax, clarinet); Wally Griffiths (trumpet); Ernie Whiteside (drums). 1925: By this year, Whiteside was out; Art Clarke (drums) and W. W. Perks (banjo) were in. By later in 1925, Clarke and Perks were out; Billy Millachip (drums) was in.

“Princess Kathleen” Orchestra (ca1928-35) – Leader: Lawrence Crawford (violin); Harry Pryce (cello); George Cratch (piano); Arthur W. Clarke (trumpet). 1925: By this year, Pryce and Cratch were out; J. Kellaway, and W. A. Storey were in.

Fernie Quinn and his Orchestra (1926) – Leader: Quinn (sax, clarinet); Jerry Hughes (piano); Bill Arstad (trombone, sax); Jack Prowse (drums); J. H. Wilson (trumpet, banjo). Played the Cotillion Dance Hall.

The Ramblers – Leader: Al Spencer (piano); Jack Towell (sax); H. Kenney (sax, clarinet); K. Roach (banjo); Les Aves (drums). The studio orchestra of Radio CJOR (which broadcast from their studio in the St. Julien Apartments (which would ultimately become the Ritz Hotel).

The Revellers (1928) – Teddy Duncan; Eddie Camel; George Gossen; Vincent Cashmore; Homer Woodworth.

Society Hoboes (ca1925) – Alf Hall (piano); Harry Coombs (sax); Leroy S. Harvey (percussion); D. Raino (banjo).

The Tickletoes – Leader: Eddie Bressler (piano); Charlie See (sax); Wally Perks (banjo); George Hackett (trumpet); George (Andy) Anderson (bass); Bev. White (drums); Len Chamberlain (sax). 1925; By this year, Hackett and Anderson were out. AKA “The Tickletoe Orchestra.”

Time Kyllers (1926) – Bun Cooper (banjo); Art Wasey (bass); Newt Keith (piano); Nix Nixon (drums).

Frank Hamilton, 1922. Courtesy of Tom Carter’s collection.

Bill Tweedie’s Orchestra (ca1927) – Leader: Tweedie (piano); Eddie Morris (sax, clarinet); Nels Griffin (sax, clarinet); Bob Smith (drums); Ralph Johnson (trombone); Bert Prima (banjo); Dick Croft (tuba); Harry Mayfield (trumpet).

Tug Wilson and his Live Bunch of Boys – Leader: H. J. “Tug” Wilson (trumpet, banjo); Bill Arstad (trombone); Jerry Hughes (piano); Jack Prowse (drums); Claude Hill (sax, clarinet). Played the Cotillion Dance Hall.

Calvin Winters Orchestra (1921-22) – Leader: Winters. Played gigs at Cotillion Dance Hall (Davie and Granville). This group pre-dates Winters’ time leading the Capitol Theatre Symphony Orchestra (not included in this list).


*Principal source: BC Musician, a serial of the BC Musicians’ Mutual Protective Union, Local 145 of the American Federation of Musicians. These are available for reading on microfilm in the Special Collections room of VPL (Central Branch). Also consulted: Vancouver Daily World, Vancouver Sun, and The Province, History of Music in British Columbia. Dale McIntosh. Victoria: Sono-Nis Press, 1989. Tom Carter’s images, provided for this post, have been hugely helpful. Additional details provided by Robert Moan and Neil Whaley are gratefully acknowledged.

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Dominic Charlie

CVA 480-572 – Dominic Charlie. Nov 27, 1912.

I didn’t know who Dominic Charlie was when I came across these photos of him in the “incarcerated persons” section of CVA’s files. Here, he was a man in his mid-20s who had been nabbed by the local constabulary.

He had a couple of booze-related charges in the early years of the 20th century. The first charge was in 1905, when he was fined $25 for possessing whisky (a much higher fine than that for actually drinking the stuff) (World, March 7, 1905). [1] He was charged again in 1910, when he was arrested for drunkenness, but he turned this to his advantage by pointing the finger of blame toward a Chinese gent by the name of Wing Sing who he said supplied him with Scotch. Sing earned three months hard labor on the charge of “supplying liquor to an aborigine.” Charlie got his freedom on a suspended sentence for pointing out Mr. Sing to police (Province, January 17 1910).

It isn’t clear on what charge Charlie was arrested in 1912. But after his 1912 arrest, it seems that Charlie was no longer subjected to liquor-related charges. By the 1920s, he was charged again. But this time, the charge became a test case of the Indian Act. Charlie was charged with spearing salmon in the Capilano River which passed through the land of the Squamish nation, of which Charlie was a member. It was Charlie’s position that the Indian Act superseded the authority of the Fisheries Department in North Vancouver, which claimed that native peoples didn’t have the right to spear salmon out of local waters, whether or not those waters ran through reserves. Charlie was ultimately found guilty of the charge on appeal, but the penalty was just $1.

Dominic Charlie in his native “Santa” outfit. Sun. 8 December 1948.

By December 1948, Charlie had transformed himself into the “first Indian Santa”, impersonating the elderly elf not by putting on a red suit and beard, but instead by donning a traditional headdress and jacket for the St. Paul’s Indian Christmas party (Sun. 8 December 1948).

By ca1952, Charlie was in his 60s and had become a chief of the Squamish people. Legal challenges were in his past, and he seemed content to be involved in native ceremonial events and to do the occasional (and, reportedly, pretty accurate) weather forecast using traditional methods. He worked at sawmills in the area until he turned 73.

There is a “Legend of the Sea Serpent of Burrard Inlet” as told by Charlie (along with other legends by others) here. Charlie was also a gifted artist who sculpted a 7-foot serpent that stood in West Vancouver on Marine Drive for many years.

When he was well into his 80s, Charlie began going to night school to gain some English reading and writing ability.

Charlie was born on Jericho Beach sometime in the 1880s. He died in 1972.


  1. This seems to be an instance of treating native people as though all are susceptible to the charms of alcohol (which is, of course, absurd). A related policy seems to have been the Indian List, which is described in Barry Mayhew’s article “Are You On the Indian List?”, British Columbia History, Vol 41, No.2 (1988). p.9+

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Jean Campbell Haynes (nee Archibald)

I came across Jean Archibald yesterday when I was at The Paper Hound Bookshop. Not in person, mind you. She died in 1974. But I encountered her through her bookplate on a book that I purchased. Kim Koch, one of the owners of The Paper Hound pointed out the bookplate to me and remarked that Jean might be a worthy subject for VAIW. I headed home and did a bit of research to see if there was enough information about Jean’s life to make it post-worthy; and, to my surprise, there was! There are relatively few biographical notes pertaining to women on this blog, so it is my great pleasure to present this one.

Jean Archibald’s (home-made?) bookplate. It was pasted in a collection of short fiction entitled A Century of Detective Stories, with an introduction by G.K. Chesterton. Her book collection seems to have consisted largely of true crime, sci-fi, cats and Egyptology.

Jean Campbell Archibald was born in 1911 in Vancouver, following the marriage of her parents, Arthur George Archibald and Muriel Mae Smith a year earlier. She was the eldest of six kids. While in Vancouver, A. G. Archibald was a shipper with F. R. Stewart & Co., a grocery supplier, and later a partner with Parkinson & Archibald Wholesale Fruit Merchants. Arthur died very young (age 49) in 1929.

There was a period between about 1915 and 1927 when the Archibalds were in Calgary (where her Dad was working with a dairy firm — possibly Foremost Dairy). Jean took most of her schooling there and in 1927, she was awarded a “gold medal” for achieving the highest marks among high school students in Alberta.

Following Arthur’s death shortly after the family moved back to the Lower Mainland from Alberta, Jean was tasked with raising her younger sibs and so had to abandon her plans of going to university. Her mother went to work raising chickens and selling the eggs.* Later, both women went to work for Bowman Storage. Oscar Bowman, the owner, was Muriel’s brother-in-law. Jean did secretarial and book-keeping work for Bowman; Muriel was a dispatcher. The women shared accommodation at the (still standing) Quebec Manor in Mount Pleasant.

CVA 99-5380 – Bowman Storage moving truck and driver in front of house at the corner of Hudson and Laurier Avenues. ca1918. Stuart Thomson. Bowman Storage was headquartered at 829 Powell Street at this time.
Vancouver News-Herald Jan 12 1952, Colin Haynes is in front row leftmost. He is with 9 other blind men who swam regularly at the YMCA pool.

It isn’t clear for certain how Jean met the man that she would marry. But I like to think that they met while serving together on the board of the Co-operative Society for the Visually Handicapped (a precursor to the CNIB?). In 1953, Colin Haynes was vice-president and Jean Archibald was secretary. Colin was blind (brought on by MS, apparently). They were married in Blaine, WA on November 23, 1955.

Jean died relatively young at age 62 in January 1974. Colin lived until 1980. Less than a year before her death, Jean had a letter printed in The Province in response to a query by a reader as to whether there was a local Sherlock Holmes club. I reproduce her letter below. I think it represents a clue as to her true range of literary interests beyond what is available today to an amateur biographer:

Courtesy: Shawna Archibald, Jean’s niece, n.d.

I wonder if your reader is thinking of the Baker Street Irregulars, a group formed in the 1920s and, as far as I know, continuing today. The group published the Baker Street Journal from New York. To become a member one had to write a thesis dealing with some aspect of Holmes’ career and these stories were printed in the journal. I don’t believe there is a Vancouver branch but it would be fun to have one.

— Jean C. Haynes, Vancouver

Province, 10 March 1973


*My thanks to Shawna Archibald, niece of Jean for her help in filling in some details pertaining to Jean’s life and for supplying the photographic portrait of Jean shown above.

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Earliest Public Rooftop Gardens in Greater Vancouver

CVA 1399-390 – Photo of Leonard’s Cafe on West Hastings near Granville St. 192- A1 Commercial photo. Leonard’s Coffee Palace had by this time (the 1920s) become Leonard’s Cafe and the roof garden apparently had been filled in.

Until I began to research this subject, I’d assumed that the first and only public rooftop garden was the one atop the Hotel Vancouver #2 at the SW corner of Georgia and Granville.

But I was quite mistaken.

Leonard’s Cafe

The business which has the distinction of having the first rooftop garden in the city wasn’t a hotel — it was a cafe; or to describe the establishment as the proprietor did in the City Directory, it was Leonard’s Coffee Palace near the SW corner of West Hastings and Granville. They had another outlet at the Hastings Arcade (at the NW corner of Hastings and Cambie; the Dominion building stands there today). The Leonard’s outlet with the rooftop garden was established in 1906.

The Province blew the city’s ‘horn’, along with Leonard’s, with a ‘call and response’ introduction to their article on the opening of the roof garden:

“Come, let’s go to the roof garden.”

“Roof garden? Where? Didn’t know Vancouver had one.”

“Oh, yes, Vancouver is a city of progress; has everything that any of your cities in the East have, and the latest of these is the roof garden.”

Province, 12 May 1906

Indeed, the newspaper made so bold as to borrow from Babylon in describing the cafe as having the “hanging gardens of Vancouver.”

For all of this presumed hyperbole, however, very little was said about the decor on the roof. Nothing was said of the types of plants in the garden. In fact, the only thing that was said of the roof garden pertained to the view. It evidently had a northern outlook, as the “excellent view of the inlet” was extolled (World, 11 May 1906).

Most of the description was given over to detailing the various beverages which were available on the roof: everything, apparently, from punches, frappes, egg drinks, and “fancy beverages” (which included such exotic-sounding delights as “Cupid’s Idea” and a “Maringo Flip”). Most of these were 10-15 cents a serving.

Leonard’s cafe rooftop garden seems not to have lasted long. I suspect this was due to questions of efficiency. Patrons were likely to sit and order drinks from the uncovered roof only on warm, sunny days. The number of such days in Vancouver are relatively few.

David Spencer’s

CVA 7-4 – Mrs. Catherine Quiney, her family and friends on David Spencer’s roof garden. ca 1910 James Luke Quiney photo.

Next to jump on the roof garden band wagon, in 1908, was Spencer’s Vancouver department store, just a couple blocks up Hastings from Leonard’s. From what is visible in the photo of Spencer’s roof above, their garden appears to have been rather underwhelming. All that is visible are a few planters filled with somewhat ragged-looking plants.

The World said of the new roof garden:

There are two passenger elevators and one freight lift. The Elevators will travel to the roof where, according to present arrangements, a roof garden will be installed where ladies can leave the children in safety while shopping.

World, 2 May 1908

Vancouver’s Edwardians had different notion than today’s post-millennial parents as to what was “safe” for kiddies, I think. Sticking your bairn on the roof, with little in the way of fencing to keep them safe from taking a tumble probably wouldn’t be embraced today!

Spencer’s roof garden seems to have been mothballed by sometime in the 1930s. The final ad mentioning the garden was in 1929 (Province, 10 June 1929).

Interestingly, a rooftop garden was never set up at the downtown Vancouver Hudson’s Bay Co. department store. And it seems to have been the 1940s before Woodward’s established a “sun deck” on their Vancouver store’s roof (see below).

CVA 586-4026 – Woodward Stores Limited sun deck on roof of store on the corner of Hastings Street and Abbot Street. 1945. Don Coltman photo.

The Palace Hotel (North Vancouver)

CVA 371-778 – Exterior of the Palace Hotel (2nd Street, 1 block from Lonsdale Ave.), North Vancouver. ca1911. Roof Garden appears to be located on the back side of the Hotel, where the wooden superstructure appears.
Province, 23 May 1910. Grand Opening of the Roof Garden. In this photo, folks appear to be seated on the front edge of the roof. Whether the garden extended this far is unknown.

The Palace Hotel in North Vancouver was the next in line [1]. The North Vancouver structure was under construction by ca1906. But it wasn’t until 1910 that the roof garden was finished and ready for opening (Province, 23 May 1910). The roof feature was described in ads as being a “very special added attraction and “brilliantly lighted” at night.

In June 1909, a reception was held to formally celebrate the opening of the Palace. Most of the celebration seemed to be focussed on the roof garden. There was a live orchestra on the roof: Harpur’s Orhcestra, a band described in an earlier post (Province, 22 June 1909).

The Palace (after 1949, the Olympic) Hotel was demolished in 1989. [2]

Hotel Vancouver #2

PAN N120A – [View of the second Hotel Vancouver’s roof garden] July 1916. W. J. Moore photo.
VPL 21578 – Hotel Vancouver roof garden. 1923. Dominion Photo Co.

The 1916-established Hotel Vancouver roof garden was by no means the first roof garden in Greater Vancouver, but there was no debate that as far as bling per square foot was concerned, it was unrivaled. This was a real garden. There were impressive trellises on which were vines and there were also (in season) roses. In its ads, the hotel wasn’t satisfied describing the roof garden as being the best in B.C. nor even the best in Canada. No, it was touted as nothing less than the “finest Roof Garden on the Continent”. And who could challenge such an undefined claim?

The Hotel Vancouver, briefly evidently, even had rooftop golf links! It was announced in June 1916 that

Outside of New York city, there is probably no other town in America that has a roof-garden golf links. Winnipeg had an indoor golf links and so has Vancouver. The local indoor golf links are located in the basement of the Hotel Vancouver, but the management is now considering installing an apparatus similar to the one used for indoor golf on the roof of the Hotel Vancouver. The added advantage[s] of having the links on the roof are many, but the chief one is that the players will be out in the open air.

Sun, 3 June 1916

I am not aware of any photographs (nor press articles) pertaining to either the HV’s basement nor its rooftop links (if ever management decided in favour of establishing roof-based golf). I have to wonder about insurance issues should players on the roof have balls go over the edge and land on pedestrians and automobiles below!

The rooftop garden of Hotel Vancouver was demolished with the rest of the structure in 1948.


  1. There was a Palace Hotel in Vancouver at one time, too. It was located where the Merchant Bank later was — at the NW corner of Carrall and Hastings. The Vancouver Palace later moved down Hastings a bit, just a couple doors west of the Rex Theatre.
  2. The claim was made in the North Shore News in 2020 that the Palace had B.C.’s “first rooftop garden”. We’ve established above that that claim was mistaken. However, it may have been the province’s first hotel roof garden.

Posted in cafes/restaurants/eateries, hotels/motels/inns | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Few Photos Showing Changes to Our Urban Landscape Over the Past Decade

Happy New Year!

I’m not going to devote much text to this post; it is a slideshow, for the most part. The photos are my own made in Greater Vancouver over the past ten years. The photos have a story to tell; the story is about rapid redevelopment in the Metro area.

Some for better, some not so much.

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The Shack

CVA Bu P315 – Exterior of the Ferguson Building – S.W. corner of Hastings and Richards Streets. ca1889. C S Bailey photo.

There was a time, evidently, in Vancouver’s distant past, when office space wasn’t at a premium in the downtown core. The building shown above was developed by and named in honour of A. G. Ferguson in late 1888. When I first saw this photo, I assumed that both of the upper stories of the block were always for office space. But I had reason to change my mind — slowly — over the course of several days of research.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What caused me to look into the Ferguson Building were three words that I noticed while browsing the 1889 city directory: “res, The Shack”.

Reference to a “shack” in early city directories was typically derogatory and was often accompanied by the word “Chinese”. Also typically, buildings so described were of wood frame construction and weren’t meant to endure for long.

But The Shack seemed to be a residence that was quite different — mainly because of the residents. My search for listings of residents of The Shack revealed that they seemed typically to be of “occidental” heritage (versus oriental) and that they were all gainfully employed in good jobs, in several instances by the CPR. Here is a list of the residents of The Shack with their occupations:

  • G. McL. Brown, Ticket Agent, CPR
  • A. H. Buchanan, Accountant, Bank of Montreal
  • Allan Cameron, Clerk, General Freight and Passenger Department, CPR
  • H. E. Connor, Local Freight Agent, CPR
  • Albert John Dana, Purchasing Agent, CPR
  • A. O. Leask, Leask & Johnston
  • S. O. Richards, Barrister, Innes & Richards
  • H. B. Walkem, Assistant Engineer, CPR
  • Samuel McLean, Steward of The Shack (the manager of the residence?)
  • Ote’ Ki, Assistant, The Shack (an Asian person — judging from the name — who was assistant to the manager?)

Where was 419 Richards? I needed a photo of the place, preferably ca 1889 for this “Photo-Historical Journey”! This proved difficult. The odd-numbered side of the 400 block of Richards was evidently close to the SW corner of Richards and Hastings. But the only structure at that corner in 1889, as far as I could tell from City of Vancouver Archives photographs, was the A. G. Ferguson building. That couldn’t be the site of The Shack, could it? After all, it appeared to be constructed of brick? Weren’t shacks in Vancouver typically wood frame and of impermanent appearance?

It turned out that The Shack had to be part of the Ferguson block. There were no other logical contenders. I believe the entry to The Shack at 419 Richards was a few steps up Richards from Hastings (see annotation to the photo above).

But some sort of proof that The Shack was located at the Ferguson would be nice. I finally found the nearest thing to proof that I could get from the World:

On the corner of Richards Street, is the elegant A. G. Ferguson Block, approaching completion . . . . The building has a frontage of 78 feet on Hastings and runs back 73 feet on Richard[s]. It consists of three stories, with a fine entrance in the centre, the entrance to the offices and rooms upstairs being on Richard[s] Street. The height from the floor level to the ceiling on the ground floor is 16 feet. The first floor offices have a height of 14 feet from the floor level to the ceiling, the next flight above being so arranged as to be used for sleeping apartments.

Daily World, 31 December 1888 (emphasis mine)

So, if I’m reading the newspaper account accurately, I take it that The Shack was located on the top floor of Ferguson.

The Shack seems to have lasted for just a single year (1889). By 1890, I assume, the demand for office space had ramped up and the floor which had housed The Shack was renovated to be suitable for the working lives of office dwellers.

The Ferguson building was demolished sometime between 1904 and 1910. It was sold by A. G. Ferguson’s estate the year after his passing in California in 1903. The Weart Building (which still stands) was constructed in its place in 1910-11.

Posted in Charles S. Bailey, homes/apts/condos | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vancouver’s David Spencer Department Store

This post is about David Spencer, Ltd.  This was a now-long-gone but once much-loved 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 Simon Fraser University’s first downtown Vancouver campus.

I make no pretence to present anything approaching a complete 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 called, was 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 describe 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 then also owned 516-536 Cordova.

Van Map with 1912 Goads Insurance Map overlaid.

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 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).

By the time the 1920 city directory was published, the way that Spencer’s referred to itself had changed to simply “Departmental Store”. 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, Spencer’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
Spencer’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 Spencer’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 Spencer’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 Spencer’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.,” said Gordon Poppy. He also noted that 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 , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Yaletown’s Grocery Hall of Fame

207-43 – “Grocery Hall of Fame” 1241 Homer Street. Nov 1982. Elizabeth Walker photo.

In 1979, a Grocery Hall of Fame was established in Yaletown at 1241 Homer Street. The founder was Bill Spaner. He was then (and, evidently, still is) a food broker with a business called Tempo Sales. The Curator of the Hall was Cal McLeod. Tempo Sales and the Hall shared the site, with the Hall being open at no charge only on Sundays, initially, and Tempo being Spaner’s for-profit concern on other days of the week.

The Hall of Fame was a museum of grocery-related artifacts. These included (to name just a few) labels, tins, advertisements, posters, magazines, wartime ration books and coupons, kitchen utensils, and soft drink dispensers.

The Homer Street site opened in May 1979 after Spaner convinced the City not to demolish the 70-year-old rooming house on the property, called the Glenholme. The Hall of Fame had earlier been located at a decidedly poor location: Annacis Island! (Province, 10 July 1983). He bought the Homer Street building and land for what today seems like a phenomenal bargain: $175,000! It cost him twice that to remodel the building (Sun, 24 September 1979).

CVA 207-44 – Elek Imredy (sculptor of the iconic “Girl in a Wetsuit” at Stanley Park) and old time clock during Vancouver Historical Society tour of Grocery Hall of Fame. Nov 1982. Elizabeth Walker.

Spaner grew up in Winnipeg and came to Vancouver when he was 16. He worked as a displayman for Canada Packers and later became promotions manager for Puritan Foods. He and a partner began Tempo Sales in 1967 and he bought out his partner’s share of the business in 1972 (Sun, 15 May 1981).

CVA 207-46 – Frank Williams and Jill Rowland during Vancouver Historical Society tour of Grocery Hall of Fame. Nov 1982. Elizabeth Walker.

There are a number of images in the City of Vancouver Archives of members of the Vancouver Historical Society visiting the Grocery Hall of Fame in November 1982 (three of which are reproduced here). The photos were made by Elizabeth Walker, former President of the Vancouver Historical Society (1962-63), former head of the local history division at Vancouver Public Library, and author of the invaluable Street Names of Vancouver (1999).

It isn’t completely clear what it was that motivated Spaner to move the Hall of Fame out of Yaletown, but move it he did by 1990. I suspect that he was offered a lot of money by the condominium development that is today on the site of the former museum.

The Grocery Hall of Fame moved initially (in 1990) to 9500 Van Horne Way in Richmond and later to the rear of Spaner’s residential property at 6620 No. 6 Road. As of 2014, Tempo Sales was still in business at No. 6 Road. There is some evidence that the Hall of Fame continues to operate today at the same location, but it is hard to be sure whether it has survived COVID-19.

If any VAIW reader can confirm the current status of the Grocery Hall of Fame, I’d appreciate it if you would comment below.

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The First VAIW Post (February 2014): 1885 Brockton View

1885 Wat P38 - [View of Brockton Point from the foot of Thurlow Street]  L A Hamilton

This photograph (CVA Wat P38) was the work of Lauchlan A. Hamilton. In my judgement, it is one of the most attractive early images available from the digital collection of the City of Vancouver Archives (CVA).

Mr Hamilton lived in Vancouver for fewer than five years, but those years were important, as was his contribution. He was Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) land commissioner during a period in which the CPR had a lot of authority and he became one of the first aldermen of Vancouver’s Council. As land commissioner, he surveyed and named Vancouver streets in the central business district and the West End (including, immodestly, Hamilton Street).188- Port P147.2 Hamilton

Where was Mr Hamilton standing when he made this image, vis-a-vis today’s Vancouver? If you walk behind the Vancouver Convention Centre to the seaplane terminal at the far western end of the pedestrian walkway and look toward Brockton Point at Stanley Park, you are probably as close as you can get today (without getting wet).

There were some surprises for me in this image of Brockton Point. The first was that it is attributed to Mr Hamilton. This is one of only two digital photos in the CVA collection (other than a couple of family snapshots) that are attributed to him. I believe he made several drawings and watercolours that are in the CVA’s non-digital collection. So he was an amateur artist, evidently, but not a recognized amateur photographer. There are a good many un-attributed photographs in CVA’s digital collection from the period that Mr Hamilton lived in Vancouver, however. So who knows how many of those ought rightly to be attributed to him?

Another surprise was that there were so few mature trees in what would become Stanley Park (in 1888). I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, however, as it is well known that in the pre-Park years (1860s-1880s), it was logged aggressively.

There also appears to be evidence of settlement of some sort in what would become the Park. It is pretty far in the background and so is quite fuzzy, but there appear to be temporary (tent-like?) structures along the shore. I believe a military reserve was established there during the 1860s, and there was likely still some native settlement there in the 1880s.

Hamilton managed to convey with his camera a scene that might very well have been painted. And the age of the image (nearly 130 years, now) has done the image a favour; with the passing of time, the emulsion near the surface of the photo has begun to break down a bit, thereby creating what would be referred to in complimentary terms, in antique painting circles, as a “crackle finish”.

Posted in biography, boats/ships | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Do CNR Depot and Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden Have in Common?

The Chinese Tennis Club was at both locations!

2008-010.2265 – Chinese Tennis Club group portrait at their first location just south of the CNR Railway Depot (now known as Pacific Central Depot). The gent seated in front row, center, wearing a clerical collar is presumably Rev. Ivan Wong, Club secretary in 1940 (and pastor to the United Church Chinese Mission at East Pender and Dunlevy). Photo made 1939.

A brief chronology of the Chinese Tennis Club:

  • 1936: Chinese Tennis Club was established. The Club was affiliated with the B.C. Lawn and Tennis Association. The Club played other clubs in that association (including Jericho and Stanley Park clubs) and also played other pacific coast clubs (including cities in the so-called tri-cities (Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland). Original membership of Club was about 20-25.
  • 1937: Club had 63 members.
  • 1938: Club had four clay courts just south of the CNR Depot; the court site was presumably leased from Canadian National Railway. The courts seem to have been located roughly where long-distance buses park today at Pacific Central Depot. The Vancouver Chinese Tennis Club was the only Chinese tennis club to have its own courts among Pacific coast cities.
  • 1939: Membership: 80
  • 1941: New courts and clubhouse at 550 Carrall Streeet were ready in July. According to the Charles Louie interview cited below, all of the funds for materials were raised by the Club and the labour on the courts and clubhouse was done by Club members.
  • 1946 (Vancouver’s Diamond Jubilee Year): Pacific Coast Chinese Tennis Championships were held in June at the Club courts on Carrall Street. Players from San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle participated. The tournament was officially opened by Chinese Consul-General to Vancouver, Hon. Li Chao and Vancouver Mayor Jack Cornett (Sun, 29 June 1946).
  • 1949: Late in the year, the Club was disbanded. This was due to City of Vancouver expropriation of the land on which the clubhouse and courts were situated in order to extend Keefer Street through to Carrall Street. (I suspect, but cannot prove, that a contributing reason was the development of part of the site by the new Marshall-Wells wholesale hardware). The Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden was situated approximately at the same location as the Chinese Tennis Club when it was opened in 1986.

One of the great constants among those on the executive of the Chinese Tennis Club was Charles E. Louie (1908-1977). He was President of the Club from its inception until it disbanded. Jack Chan was another regular member of the executive. He was for several years the Club’s tennis instructor.

The Club would each year hold a season opening and closing dinner/dance, often at the White Rose Ballroom, and occasionally at the Peter Pan Ballroom (both on West Broadway).

2008-010.2271 – Second (and final) Chinese Tennis Club site at 550 Carrall Street. Near the site of the future Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden (578 Carrall Street, 1986-present). ca1941.


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Ernest Augustus Muling, French Chef


Vancouver Tourism Guide 1905 Ad
Ad in Tourists’ Guide of Vancouver, BC. 1905. This illustration of Muling is the closest thing I could find to a photographic portrait.

Ernest Augustus Muling (1861-1949) was a Frenchman by birth (in Blumenau), an Englishman by nationality, and a chef by profession.

He came to Vancouver from Brisbane, Australia where he seems to have spent his twenties and early thirties and where his first two children were born (May and Madeleine, also known as Madge); Ernest’s wife, Annie (1868-1942) was born in England.

His career in Vancouver was on-again-off-again. He would work for a year or more at a hotel or hotel restaurant, and then he would be described for a year or two subsequently (in the Vancouver directory) as a “caterer” — restaurant lingo, I presume, for “self-employed”.

His first experience of the restaurant business in Vancouver was at the Strand Hotel‘s King Edward Silver Grill (ca1905-06). The Strand was mid-way down the south side of the 600 block of West Hastings. He was catering (and traveling in Europe for a few months in 1907) during the 1907-11 period. (A June 1912 clipping noted that Ernest Muling had recently “assumed charge of the Wigwam Inn” (World, 17 June 1912); however, this seems to be the only claim in the local press of this and so I’m assuming it was either a very short-lived appointment or was a press error).

In 1912, Ernest was the proprietor of the Trocadero Grill. The Trocadero was on the south side of the 100 block of West Hastings (at 156 W. Hastings). He catered in 1913.

He was the proprietor of the Langham Hotel at 1115 Nelson Street in 1914. The Langham was what we’d call today a “boutique” hotel. Located just west of Thurlow on Nelson, the charming little hotel building (and its single family dwelling neighbours) is no longer there; in its place today is a concrete multi-residential behemoth.

Starting in 1915, Ernest had moved on to the Grosvenor Hotel Cafe. The Grosvenor was at the SE corner of Howe at Robson. He remained there until 1917/18.While he was working at the Grosvenor, the Mulings lived there. In 1919, he catered again.

CVA 780-415 - [Buildings along Nelson Street at] Thurlow [Street]1966-2
CVA 780-415 – Buildings along Nelson Street at Thurlow Street, including the Langham Hotel (the three-storey brick building in foreground). 1966.

In 1920, Ernest was a chef with the Canadian Pacific Railway. What precisely this meant is opaque to me. Whether it meant he was cooking for the staff of the CPR, working in one of the CPR’s public eating establishments, or cooking on a train, isn’t clear.

The CPR job seems to have been his final one in Vancouver. There is no further record in the city of Ernest, Annie, May (or the two boys who came later: Edward, who apprenticed with BC Electric Railway for a couple of years and who seems to have gone to California, dying in San Francisco; and Richard, who took up work as an electrician while in Vancouver).

Mrs. Muling, for at least a couple of their early years in Vancouver (1908-09), seems to have been the first manager of the Gresham rooming house at SW corner of Granville and Smithe. The rooming house was built in 1907-08 and began operation in late 1908 (Province, 12 December 1908). The Gresham is still known by that name and is at that location, today.

While living here, the Mulings participated in dog shows with their dachshund, “Tackle”, on at least one occasion winning best in show for that breed (Sun, 11 Oct 1912).

By 1921, the Muling family seems to have pulled up stakes.* They ended up in Australia again. Whether they went there directly or took a more circuitous route, isn’t clear to me. But most of the family, including Ernest, appear to have died in Camberwell (a suburb of Melbourne, today).

VPL 7601 – Grosvenor Hotel at Howe & Robson Streets. 1915. P. T. Timms photo.


*Madeleine (aka Madge) married Charles Simpson Scott in Vancouver. She seems to have been the one Muling to have “stuck” here. She died at the ripe age of 93 in 1989 in North Vancouver.

Posted in cafes/restaurants/eateries, hotels/motels/inns, stuart thomson, timms, yesterday & today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kolster’s Radio Musicians

Publicity Postcard: Kolster Musicians – CKWX Radio, Vancouver. n.d. (1929?) K. G. McKenzie (619 Granville) photo. The announcer standing at the microphone is CKWX manager/announcer, Harold W. Paulson. MDM Collection.
Publicity Postcard: Kolster’s Musicians (rear of postcard shown above with notes).

The eight-person musical group shown above is Kolster’s Musicians. They were a group of Vancouver people who were assembled to play music on CKWX Radio (Vancouver) for their principal sponsor, Kolster Radios. Kolster was a U.S. brand radio, distributed in B.C. by the Canadian Fairbanks-Morse Company, Ltd.

The program always includes a bright march, an overture, a late popular release as well as a group of popular numbers of a few years ago . . . . [T]he listener is therefore treated to a splendid variety of music . . .

Sun, 14 Sept 1929

An identifiable member of Kolster’s Musicians seems to be pianist and band leader (later the musical director of CKWX’s Concert Orchestra), Harold A. Copley (ca1893-1941) (Province, 6 July 1930). Copley was was formerly the organist at St. Saviour’s Church (Sun, 14 Sept 1929).

The host pictured at the CKWX microphone was Harold W. Paulson (1899-1983), “director and chief announcer” at the radio station (Sun, 25 Aug 1928).

The others shown in the photo are not identifiable by me. If readers of VAIW recognize someone pictured, please let me know by commenting below.

CVA 99-3810 – Fairbanks Morse – Kolster Radio Window ca1930 Stuart Thomson.
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Ancient Mariners of Carrall Street

CVA 586-1578 – Captain J. H. Palmer, the founder of The Ancient Mariner Rope and Canvas, engaged in making what appears to be a scramble-net or cargo-net. 1943? Don Coltman photo.

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. First stanza. Text of 1834.

As far as I know, none of the proprietors of the Ancient Mariner Rope and Canvas shop had long grey beards, but I’m not so sure that they didn’t all have glittering eyes, especially when the time seemed apt to spin a seafaring tale.

Captain J. H. Palmer, the founder of the Ancient Mariner shop at 225 Carrall Street (near ‘Blood Alley’ and Maple Tree Square in Gastown) established the business ca1941. He lived in the back of the shop. He was a “master craftsman” at rope splicing and in his shop he made ship’s bumpers, rigging, ladders, lifebuoys, and nets.

James Harvey Palmer was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia [1] ca1870 to Jacob Nelson and Naomi Allan Palmer. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, according to Palmer, were also sea captains. Palmer first went to sea at age 15 (ca1885) and by age 19, “he became the youngest second mate in sail on the east coast” He got his master’s ticket (his first captaincy) in Seattle in 1906 (Province, 8 June 1949).

2009-005.462 – Ancient Mariner Rope Works, located in Gastown during World War II 1939-45. W. M. Seivewright (right) and Captain James Palmer (left).

When Palmer established Ancient Mariner Rope and Canvas during WWII, he had at least one assistant. Captain D. J. McDonald was among the earliest. Another was William M. Seivewright, who became a local journalist.

Captain Dan McDonald. The Province, 26 November 1962. Gordon Sedawie, photo.

Palmer had an injury to one of his hands in 1955 and no doubt found that cramped his style as a rope-maker (Sun, 31 December 1955). He sold the business ca1956 to William H. S. Wilson and Captain R. G. Lawson [2]. Lawson died in 1958. By 1962, the Ancient Mariner had adapted to the changing market and was then producing nylon helicopter nets which could handle 2-ton loads of supplies dropped at remote forestry camps. Captain Dan McDonald was still helping out at the Ancient Mariner in 1962 (and, of course, sharing his shipping yarns with whoever would listen; there are a few examples of McDonald’s seafaring tales below).

The business seems to have faded to black by the mid-1960s. Bill Wilson died in 1969.

Steve Roper, Publishers Syndicate. Province, 12 April 1958. Here is a Rime of the Ancient Mariner allusion in comic form. By the way, for those of you who think that the ‘bad guy’, Twitch, is handing Steve a mini-TV, that is actually a camera (a little larger than an iPhone)! (As for the hint as to how the camera could be used as a weapon, I suspect that had to do with the flashbulb that was part of it; to temporarily ‘blind’ Twitch.)


  1. Palmer’s early years are a bit mysterious. In the 1909 U.S. Census he claimed that he had dual citizenship and shows both his parents as being born in Maine. In a 1918 US Passport application, Palmer claims that he was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1870. He was at the time, according to this application, a “Constructing Engineer” in Lima, Peru with “Conchos Temstine Co.”
  2. Lawson was formerly with the Malahat Shipping Co., Ltd. Lawson, in his capacity with Malahat, made an offer in 1954 to the Canadian federal government to blast Ripple Rock (Province, 23 September 1954). Their offer was not accepted. Ripple Rock was exploded by another firm in 1958.

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Flying Saucer Clubs

CVA 180-5942.12 – Flying saucer contactees need french fries, too! Flying Saucer concession stand on P.N.E. grounds. 1964, Franz Lindner.

The 1950s and ’60s were prime time for flying saucer enthusiasts. There were at least two UFO-related Vancouver clubs at that time — one called the Vancouver Area Flying Saucer Club (1956-ca1979) and another at UBC known as the Varsity Flying Saucer Club (1957-ca1963).

MOV H2001.25.23. Vancouver Area club patch.

The first president of the Vancouver Area Club was Margaret Fewster (1917-1986), a gifted contralto and respected music teacher in the city. She described the club as being “not political, subversive or religious, but composed of good, honest and loyal subjects” (Province, 4 July 1956).

Fewster seems to have been the legitimate face of the club. It was founded by Herbert D. Clark (1901-1986), a retired electrical contractor, who sounded a wee bit kookier than Fewster. Clark remarked that the next ‘night watch’ (for spotting locally appearing flying saucers) would be held in September, “unless the solar system brothers advise against it” (Province, 4 July 1956).

In another press report, Clark claimed that the occupants of flying saucers would be in contact with earthlings soon:

They will speak English perfectly, look and dress like any local young businessman and may offer free rides to interested believers in their fantastic planetary vehicles.

Province, 21 June 1956

Clark had a public fit when The Invaders television series was first aired. Instead of accepting that the series was fiction (which was plain; like the later Cannon and Barnaby Jones, it was a Quinn/Martin production), he chose to take it as a (false) commentary on the flying saucer folks:

“It’s absolutely deplorable that they depict (the flying saucer men) as ray gun murderers . . . . They’ve been around our universe for as long as we’ve had recorded history.” Clark said he was so incensed about the series . . . when it was first shown last fall that he wrote a nasty letter to the show’s producers in the U.S.

Sun, 2 May 1968
MOV H2001.25.25. Membership card for UBC club.

The UBC Club was founded by Stuart Piddocke and Gareth Shearman (d. 2013). Piddocke said that the purpose of the club was to investigate and “to find the facts”. Shearman was the president of the club for awhile. “Humor will . . . be included on the agenda.” he said (Ubyssey 4 October 1957). A. T. Babcock (1937-1993), who ultimately became a B.C. teacher, was the club’s Intelligence Officer.

It seems to me that the members of the UBC club were less doctrinaire and, on the whole, took themselves less seriously than did the Vancouver Area club members.

Crop of photo of students signing up for UBC Varsity Flying Saucer Club Totem yearbook, 1958, p 269.

The clubs had a couple of interesting speakers. Daniel W. Fry (1908-1992) was one of the earliest. The Sun reported on Fry’s talk to the Vancouver club:

The stocky associate of men of outer space told [his] tale with a straight face . . . . Not one person in the crowd that jammed two rooms in the Art Gallery laughed. They didn’t even smirk. . . . A room was reserved for 150, but half an hour before his lecture began the crowd overflowed into a second room and into the halls. People shared chairs, sat on the floor, jammed into every inch of standing space, to hear and see ‘the man who touched a flying saucer.

Sun, 29 June 1956
VPL 64238 American flying saucer contactee and metaphysical author, George Hunt Williamson (on right), Feb 1958. Province, Gordon F Sedawie.

Another big-name speaker was George H. Williamson, who spoke to the Vancouver group in 1959. His topic was “The City That Existed Before the Moon.” Williamson’s talk was advertised as being presented by the Chairman of Anthropology at a completely fictitious university: Great West University.

The kind of public enthusiasm for flying saucers that would fill two rooms at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1956 had dissipated substantially by the late 1970s. The Vancouver Area club seemed to fold around 1979. Notwithstanding this, a recent CTV News item claims that Vancouver today is the UFO capital of Canada. Apparently the city has more sightings of flying saucers than any other part of the country.

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Civil Defence Training HQ on Granville Street

Crop of CVA 228-545 – N 13, N 14. May 1953. Lew Parry Film Productions. Shows the current Granville Bridge under construction in 1953 and Vancouver Civil Defence Training HQ in its temporary location (1396 Granville) adjacent to and south of the Continental Hotel at the foot of the Bridge.

The property identified in the image above as Vancouver’s Civil Defence Training HQ was originally occupied by NeoLite — a neon sign company. [1] The space was only a temporary site for the civil defence HQ from 1951-1953 mainly because the real estate was needed by the new Granville Bridge (some of the concrete of which is visible in the foreground of the photo).

What was its Function?

The civil defence training group was committed to keeping Vancouverites and British Columbians as safe as possible in the event of an act of a war or national emergency. [2] A major component of CD was the training of an auxiliary police force. The force was made up of of volunteers who were trained by regular police officers. The auxiliary police had a slogan: “If we never need what we learn in civil defence we lose nothing, but if we never learn what we need, we may lose everything” (Sun, 6 Oct 1951). The civil defence HQ also trained volunteer fire personnel.

By 1961, the range of CD training available had broadened beyond training auxiliary police and fire personnel to include training in first aid, home nursing, and rescue survival (among other courses) (Sun 18 Sept 1961).

In the early years (1951-55, say), civil defence was able to draw a healthy number of volunteers, and was seen as a very important task. This was mainly because WW2 was such a recent memory. Not only were there many former ARP (Air Raid Precautions) volunteers in the city from that conflict, but there were many WW2 veterans living in Vancouver then who had seen with their own eyes what destruction was wrought in European cities in the recent war. These people did not need to be persuaded of the importance of preventing a similar outcome in Vancouver.

Civil Defence Takes a Dive

By 1966, however, civil defence had declined significantly in the city’s priorities. Typically, precious few volunteers could be found in the HQ (by then it had moved to Howe). The civil defence head in Vancouver, Group Captain Alexander Lewis, had this to say:

The public shows no interest during periods of peace. They are like an ostrich — they like to keep their heads in the sand; they prefer to forget war….At the time of Cuba [missile crisis] we were inundated with calls about radio activity and fall-out shelters….I sometimes wonder if the amount of money that is spent and the amount of work we put in is not out of all proportion to the number of people we train.

Sun, 2 Aug 1966
CVA 1184-2733 – Exterior view of the Neolite Co. building with a Perfex bleach neon sign on the roof (prior to it becoming Vancouver Civil Defence Training HQ). 1943. Jack Lindsay.

Group Capt. Lewis wasn’t the only one thinking such thoughts. Such questions had occurred to city aldermen, too. By 1966, the city’s civil defence outlay seems to have been principally for the rental of the HQ at Howe: $600 a month. But even that modest sum was considered by City Council to be too much to pay for civil defence and within a year, the headquarters had been vacated and became the new Vancouver City Police Academy (which had moved from, apparently, an unsatisfactory site on the PNE grounds).

‘Civil Defence’ to ‘EMO’ to ‘Search & Rescue’

In the mid-’60s, the civil defence function performed by the Training HQ and other related groups in the province had changed its name, collectively, to the Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) — a group that seems to have been a creature of the federal government. The EMO seemed not to have much continuing relevance in the City of Vancouver after the late 1960s. But it was relevant in the mountainous area of North Vancouver. In 1972, for example, the following EMO action was reported in the press:

A North Vancouver Emergency Measures Organization rescue crew led three people to safety Sunday night after three were stranded on a ledge on Grouse Mountain.

Sun, 22 Nov 1972

You could be forgiven if you concluded that the reported rescue by EMO volunteers sounded a lot like the sort of thing you hear reported today of North Vancouver search and rescue teams. Indeed, the function of the EMO in North Vancouver seemed gradually to morph into the search and rescue organization that exists today in North Vancouver.

The Continental Hotel being demolished ca 2015. MDM Photo


  1. NeoLite moved to a location at the corner of Burrard and 2nd Avenue after leaving the Granville site. NeoLite was one of several neon sign companies operating in Vancouver at this time. The most famous (and extant) of these firms was Neon Products, which was located on Terminal Avenue.
  2. While the CD Training group was focussed on educating volunteers, another major organization, the Ground Observer Corps, with direct ties to the RCAF, was a more hands-on bunch. The observer corps – a BC-wide, indeed a nation-wide, group of volunteers – were to watch the skies and report in to HQ descriptions of any planes they spotted. The corps headquarters would then check the ground-observed flight info against the flight manifests submitted by each legitimate pilot prior to them taking off. If the airplane reported by the corps didn’t have a manifest and/or it seemed to be suspicious, the RCAF would be ordered, potentially, to ‘scramble’ its fighter planes (Sun, 6 Nov 1954). The headquarters of the corps was at 1363 Howe Street, the same address as the CD Training HQ was moved to after leaving its Granville location — so the two arms of civil defence in Vancouver were at the same site. The Ground Observer Corps folded by 1960, when the same functions it had performed with human observers could be more efficiently carried out electronically. The CD Training arm was mothballed a few years later, in 1967 (Province, 3 May 1960).

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Rev. Arthur J. Hadley: “Let’s Go!”


imgfbc-archives-3_0439My very good friend, Art Hadley, died on Christmas Day, 2016. He had a special connection with Vancouver, although he and his wife, Edna, spent relatively little time in the Greater Vancouver area, recently. In their retirement, they settled in Mississauga and later in Gravenhurst, ON.

Art was a Baptist pastor who seemed to me born for that career with a preacher’s voice that boomed out of his relatively small body¹. He became a member of First Baptist Church (Vancouver) with his parents (Frank and Nellie) in 1946, after serving in the Canadian Navy in World War II. He spent time at divinity school in the U.S. and then became a full-time minister. He served pastorates in Regina, Fredericton, and West Virginia. He also served long and significant terms in New Westminster (Olivet Baptist) and Vancouver (West Point Grey Baptist). 


Rev. Art Hadley and Rev. Dr. Bruce Milne while ministering together at First Baptist Church (Vancouver). Archives, First Baptist Church (Vancouver). n.d.

Later in life, following his retirement from full-time ministry, he served as an interim pastor in Charlottetown, P.E.I. and served two terms at First Baptist Church (Vancouver) as Interim Director of Ministries in 1994-95 and also in 1999-2000. Even in the ’90s, there were still longtime FBC members who remembered Art and his parents with great warmth and he was welcomed at FBC in his largely administrative role, with Rev. Dr. Bruce Milne as the Senior Minister.

It was when Art was at FBC that I first got to know him. I was working in the office at First during his stints there as interim DOM. A memory I have is of knocking on Art’s office door around lunch time. I recall seeing him sitting at his desk with a can of Classic Coca-Cola within easy reach. I can hear his reply to my question as to whether he was free for lunch, as though it were yesterday: “Let’s go!” he’d most often say, and he’d be on his feet in a flash and ready to accompany me.

That will be my enduring memory of Art Hadley.

For a more complete obituary, see below:

A J Hadley Obit

If you are interested in hearing an example of Art’s preaching, there is a sample on Regent College’s audio site (as part of First Baptist Church’s audio archive there). It is his sermon delivered on February 28, 1999 at FBC and is entitled Begrudging Generosity. It’s a free download.

November 2020 Update

Here is an excerpt from a 1951 First Baptist Vancouver minute which I recently unearthed from a number of images I made at the FBC Archives a couple of years ago. It is a copy of a letter written by FBC’s Clerk to the Ordination Council at Cameron Memorial Baptist (Regina) – Art’s first post-seminary charge. The original letter was to have been hand-delivered to Regina by his dad, Frank Hadley.

1951 FBC Minutes. First Baptist Church (Vancouver) Archives.
1951 FBC Minutes. First Baptist Church (Vancouver) Archives.

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Change and the UBC War Memorial Gym

The War Memorial Gym is one of the few buildings on UBC’s campus that has withstood the plans of developers and administrators to demolish and replace structures that show the least age.

As you will see in the photos below, however, there were changes to the plans for a Memorial Gym in the years following WWII. And changes otherwise touched the Gym.

How much longer can the Memorial Gym continue to stand?

A very early artist’s impression of the exterior of UBC War Memorial Gym. From UBC Visitors’ Day brochure. March 2nd 1946. MDM Collection.
A very different artist’s impression of the War Memorial Gym, this time showing an attached enclosure where an envisioned pool, office space, bowling alley etc. were envisioned. The enclosure would not be built when the auditorium was constructed in 1951. The Empire Pool would occupy that space starting in 1954. From UBC’s The Alumni Chronicle, Dec 1948. UBC Open Collections,
Floor plan, War Memorial Gym. Sept 1950. UBC Open Collection.
VPL 43668 British Empire Games outdoor swimming pool (to be known simply as Empire Pool) and War Memorial Gym at UBC. 1954. Province Newspaper.
Aerial View of War Memorial Gym. 1962. Peter Holborne photo. Memorial Hall is clear above. It is the slightly lower attachment to the auditorium adjacent to Empire Pool.
View of War Memorial Gym and General Services Admin Building. 1973. GSAB was built in 1969 and stood until ca2017. GSAB was demolished to make way for new residences for students.
Remembrance Day at War Memorial Gym. 1977. Jim Barnham photo. This shows part of Memorial Hall. There are plaques in this space which show the names of students who fought and fell in WWI and WWII.
Laying a new floor in War Memorial Gym auditorium. 1980.
Student Registration in War Memorial Gym. 1980. Jim Barnham photo.
View of Audience in War Memorial Gym during Billy Graham’s Crusade at UBC. 1984.
Convocation ceremony: Congregation procession leaving War Memorial Gym. Between 1980-1989.
Eastern perimeter of War Memorial Gym (with storage rooms beneath auditorium seats for gym equipment etc.). Jan 2016. MDM photo.
Empire Pool (viewed from Memorial Gym) emptied and ready for demolition. 2016. MDM Photo.
Demolition of the General Services Admin Building with War Memorial Gym in background. ca 2017. MDM Photo. A final concrete vertical pillar had temporarily been converted into a public announcement display and a bench. Later, the land would be re-developed into new student residences.

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Barron/Belmont Hotel

There is a hotel on the SE corner of Granville and Nelson that has stood there for nearly 110 years. It has been known for most of that time as the Hotel Belmont. During its early years, however, it was called the Hotel Barron.

Hotel Barron (1912-1925)

The 6-storey hotel block (with, initially, retail space occupying much of the ground floor) opened in February, 1912. It was a hotel with 120 rooms and was of brick construction.

It was co-owned by Colonel Oscar G. Barron, an American millionaire hotelier, his wife, Jennie Barron (nee Lane), Mr. T. S. Brophy and his wife, Mrs. Brophy (who was Mrs. Barron’s sister). The Brophys were active partners in the Barron Hotel venture, managing the business and living in Vancouver, while the Barrons took a less active role in the Vancouver hotel business and lived in New England (World 6 Jan 1913).

Hotel Barron postcard (n.d.). Courtesy Neil Whaley’s Collection. Note: The person who created the image on this postcard, added a couple of extra stories to the structure. Here, the 6-storey building is shown as having 8 stories.

Oscar Barron died in 1913 from blood poisoning which cost him part of a foot and then a leg due to amputation and, ultimately, his life. “He had served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and on the staff of the New Hampshire governors, hence his title of colonel.” (Rutland Daily Herald (Vermont), 8 Jan 1913). Brophy (who also had the — presumably honorary — title of colonel) and Barron had a hotel partnership near Vancouver dating prior to the establishment of the Barron Hotel. It was the Hotel Fairfield in Seattle at 6th and Madison (currently, the site of the Renaissance Seattle Hotel complex).

There was a second building under Barron/Brophy ownership, a block south (1161 Granville) of the main hotel property (1002-1006 Granville) called — unimaginatively — the Barron Annex. The 5-storey Annex was sold in 1917 and became known as the St. Helen’s Hotel. Today, St. Helen’s is a single room occupancy rooming house.

Barron Hotel Restaurant ad. UBC Totem. 1920. UBC Open Collections.

The Barron Hotel was originally named in honour of two of the owners — Oscar and Jennie Barron. But the Barron Restaurant (a component of the hotel), as part of an early marketing campaign, hinted broadly in its ads that its name had European roots and that it was named for the famous “Le Baron” restaurant in Paris, France. As with many ad claims, this just wasn’t so.

Hotel Belmont (1925-ca1971)

Hotel Belmont Brochure. Inside pages. n.d. (1920s?) MDM Collection.

In 1913, following Col. Barron’s death, Col. Brophy left the Barron. William D. Wood became the manager. In 1916, the Barron/Brophy interests were sold, and by May 1925, the hotel was bought by the Belmont Hotel Company, of which Wood was part. At that time, the name of the hotel was changed to the Belmont.

CVA 99-1507 – Barron Hotel Radio Station ca 1924. Stuart Thomson photo.

By 1922, William Downie Wood, confusingly the 19-year-old son of Belmont manager, W. D. Wood, had made a name for himself as an amateur radio operator at the hotel. Wood Jr., a native of Santa Cruz, CA, was granted a special experimental amateur radio operator’s license by the Canadian federal government (Santa Cruz Evening News [California] 8 March 1922).

The presence of an existing radio station at the Barron/Belmont was likely central to the eventual broadcast on CNRV radio (which would ultimately become part of CBC’s radio network) of the Belmont Orchestra from the Rose Room. By the 1930s, the orchestra would be broadcast from the Belmont over local commercial station CJOR (Sun, 30 April 1930).

A Guest Goes Missing

Shortly after the hotel opened as the Belmont, it became the fulcrum of a missing person case that made headlines in local papers for 7 months. Clarence Peppard was a 45-year-old businessman from Minneapolis. He came to Vancouver in December, 1925 to visit his brother who lived in Chilliwack. On December 10, he left the Belmont, where he was a guest, ostensibly on a BCER interurban train bound for Chilliwack. He never arrived at his destination (Sun 16 Dec 1925). The last he was seen was leaving the Belmont and later at a Vancouver telegraph office where he sent a wire to his brother asking that he meet his train upon its arrival in Chilliwack. Someone matching Peppard’s description was seen near Marpole, which borders on the north arm of the Fraser River, on the day he went missing (Sun 23 Dec 1925).

For months, police searched for Peppard or his body, without success. Then, in June, 1926, a body was found just off Kirkland Island on the North Arm of the Fraser. The build of the dead man seemed to match that of Peppard, but decomposition was so advanced that it was nearly impossible to be certain of identification (Province, 28 June 1926). In the end, however, the body was confirmed as Peppard’s (as closely as police technique would permit identification in 1926) (Chilliwack Progress, 8 Sept 1926).

Other Identities and Return of the Belmont

The Belmont Hotel became Nelson Place Hotel in the early 1970s and remained so until it was re-named the Dakota in 1997. It became a Comfort Inn in the 2000s and, in 2017, it was again branded the Belmont Hotel as part of a $12 million renovation by new owners. The new Belmont seems to be aiming to attract, primarily, a millennial demographic, judging from the gallery at their website.

Exterior and Interior images of Nelson Place Hotel (aka Belmont). Postcard. n.d.

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’10 Commandments’ for Church Ushers

First Baptist Church Archives Collection. n.d.

I ran across this wee item in the archival collection of First Baptist Church when I was in the Archives a year or two ago researching another subject. I took a quick photo of this page and then forgot about it until I stumbled across it today.

There is no date associated with the ’10 Commandments’. I suspect that it was regularly reprinted, perhaps with updates, over several years, possibly as early as the 1930s and perhaps as late as the 1980s. I doubt that these commandments were distributed to ushers beyond the ’80s, however. Why? Mainly because of antiquated vocabulary. The periodic references to ‘strangers’, in particular. This was language that was understood (by longtime church members) to refer to non-members of the church. By the time we joined First Vancouver in 1991, strangers were referred to (arguably, less offensively) as ’adherents’. ’Strangers’ had probably been out of vogue in church language for some years before that.

I have never been a church usher, but these ‘commandments’ seem to me to speak of older ushers I have known who took their responsibilities very seriously. One who comes to mind is the late Mr. Lenfesty.

It would be nigh-unto impossible to enforce these rules in the loosie-goosie, do-what-you-like environment that has been present in church services in recent years.

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70 Years of FBC Organists


fbc choir 1915
First Baptist Church Choir, 1915. With the BC Music Festival cups in front of T. Bonne Millar, Choirmaster and Organist of the Church (1911-1921). Courtesy, First Baptist Church Archives.

The early organists at First Baptist Church (1905-1975) are an intriguing collection. One was willful and arguably bad-tempered; another had an unusual name which the press messed up; one was on staff when the Sanctuary and organ burned to a crisp; another was a talented young person whose term was cut short by tragedy; and one formed a folk choir and coaxed a tuneful voice out of the last of the church’s pipe organs.

Not dull at all!

Earliest Days

There was no organ in the tiny chapel building, which was FBC’s first permanent home (just off Main at East Pender). So, the earliest congregational accompanists at First Baptist Church Vancouver weren’t organists, but volunteer pianists. One of the earliest of these was Laura Carlisle (wife of J. H. Carlisle).

The congregation’s first organ — a pump pipe organ, evidently — was donated by a Mr. Jesse Williams when the church moved into its first proper worship building (SE corner of Hamilton and Dunsmuir).¹ I couldn’t find in press reports nor in the church archives much of a description of this first organ. Early FBC organists were paid $15 per month for their services. But this first organ wasn’t, strictly speaking, a solo instrument; the boy who pumped air into the organ — the pumper — was a critical member of the team, although organists and their listeners tended not to remember that, much less pay him anything for his services (W. M. Carmichael. These Sixty Years: 1887-1947, p. 18).

John Alexander (1905)

The first organist/choirmaster identified in FBC’s records was John Alexander, a Scot. He was born to John Alexander Sr. and Isabella McCulloch in Edinburgh in 1865.2 He married Geraldine Boyd in 1891.

Alexander had been the organist for Candlish Presbyterian Church in Edinburgh. He and Geraldine arrived in Vancouver in 1893. He began by offering his services in the city as a vocal trainer and piano instructor (Province, 18 Aug 1903).

Alexander began working at FBC sometime in 1905. The story of his ultimate departure from First is told here. He made his exit by September 1905. After leaving FBC, he took over organ-playing and choir-leading responsibilities for the Congregational Church. He resigned from there in September 1907 to take up a post with a North Vancouver church (Province, 21 Sept 1907).

Aexander had a working life outside the church. He was a North Vancouver municipal councillor and later was an assessor of the municipality (Province, 10 Jan 1918). He died in January 1918.

Georgina M. Malkin (nee Grundy) (1906-07)

Georgina Maude Grundy was appointed to replace Alexander in June 1906 (Province, 2 June 1906). She was born in 1884 in Winnipeg. She married John Philip Davy Malkin shortly after accepting the organist’s job at FBC.

The quality of Mrs. Malkin’s playing, is described in a 1907 feature about the church, as nice, though unambitious — faint praise, to be sure (Province, 6 Apr 1907). She resigned as FBC organist three months later. She died in April, 1967.

Frank R. Austen (1907-08?)

Mrs. Malkin was replaced as FBC organist, briefly, by Frank R. Austen. He apparently had “wide experience” as an organist “in both the United States and Canada” (Province, 5 July 1907). Austen married Miss Burritt in 1909 (Province, 10 April 1909). Mr. Austen seems not to have lasted long at FBC, seemingly leaving within a few months of accepting the post.

T. Bonne Millar (1910-1919; 1920-1921)


T(homas) Bonne (pronounced Bonnie) Millar, began as FBC’s organist/choir director in November 1910. (He must have been frustrated with the local press who couldn’t seem to cope with his middle name; in one press account, a caption under his photograph identified “T. Bone Millar”).

He was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland and, according to a Province article, his uncle, George Taggart, was “the leading musical citizen of Glasgow” (Province, 4 November 1910). Millar was organist of John Street Presbyterian Church, Glasgow, for eight years and served as organist/choirmaster of Mt. Pleasant Methodist, in Vancouver for about three years prior to hiring on at First.

Millar must have been pleased to be employed at FBC when he was, as he took the job just before the congregation moved into their new structure at Nelson and Burrard — with a new (although relatively modest, I suspect) pipe organ. Unhappily, there is very little detail that I could find about the specifics of the instrument, save that it was expected to cost about $7,200.

Millar remained at FBC until 1919, when he accepted a job at the organ for Central Methodist Church in Calgary. The Daily World, in a retrospective piece published on the occasion of his departure from Vancouver, claimed that his place in Vancouver’s music scene “will not be readily filled”:

During his regime at the First Baptist Church the choir has been brought to a high state of efficiency, for two years in succession carrying away the highest honors, in the shape of the Fromme and Steuart [sic; Stewart, actually, I think] challenge cups from the B. C. [Music] Festival, held at Lynn Valley 1915-16…

Daily World. 4 January, 1919, p. 9.

Alas, his time in Calgary which seemed so promising in January, was abandoned in June of the same year, probably due to poor health. He returned to Vancouver where he resumed playing for Mt Pleasant Methodist Church (where he had been organist for a few years prior to taking on the job at FBC in 1910).

It wasn’t long before he was back in the Baptist saddle, though. First Baptist re-hired Millar as its organist and choirmaster sometime in 1920. But his health soon took a negative turn and he was forced to take a 6-month leave of absence from First, which he spent in California. Millar ultimately decided that his health was too fragile for him to continue as organist at First and he resigned again in 1921.

By 1923, to help keep body and soul attached, presumably, he took on the organist’s job at (the less demanding?) Fairview Baptist Church. He also led the Men’s Musical Club (1919-20).

T. Bonne Millar died in 1942 at age 60.

Wilbur G. Grant (1921-1928)

Grantt FBC Organist

During Millar’s health-related ‘to-ing and fro-ing’, Wilbur G. Grant was acting FBC organist/choirmaster. He was confirmed in the job in 1921 upon Millar’s departure for Calgary. Grant was from Toronto, where he trained under organist/conductor, Augustus Vogt. He served as organist at Broadway Tabernacle, Toronto, for a few years. Grant headed west ca1913 and settled in Edmonton where he worked as organist/choirmaster of First Presbyterian Church and later as musical director at Alberta College (later known as the University of Alberta).

Sometime in 1921, he left Edmonton. It may have been for health reasons, as an early Edmonton press report indicated that Grant suffered from asthma. He opened a piano studio in the Fairview district of the City of Vancouver while he and his family resided in the West Vancouver community of Ambleside. Presumably, the Baptists came calling on Grant to serve as acting organist/choirmaster in the wake of Millar’s departure for Calgary (and later, during Millar’s leave of absence). Upon Millar’s final resignation, Grant took over.

Grant played for FBC until 1928.

After leaving First, Grant became organist for St. George’s Anglican Church. He also led the UBC Musical Society (1921-23+), the North Vancouver Choral Society (1925-27), the Point Grey Choral Society (1926-27), and the David Spencer Choir (ca1934).

He died a very young man in 1935 at age 54, after a “lingering illness”.

Evan Walters (1928-1956)

Screen Shot 2019-05-02 at 3.21.48 PM

Evan Walters filled the organ/choir director’s position upon the resignation of Grant. Walters was a Welshman who had recently arrived in the city. He had earned a degree from the Royal Academy of Music, London and led a choir of over 200 voices in one of the largest churches in Swansea, Wales (Sun, 28 Sept 1928).

Walters’ period at FBC saw him play many organ recitals and lead the choir from strength to strength. But after he’d been on the job for about three years the church entered a period of loss and transition. Much-loved pastor, J. J. Ross, resigned the pastorate at the end of 1929 to accept a call to Trinity Baptist, Winnipeg. That sparked an unsettled two-year search for a new senior minister.  But perhaps the greater loss, from Walters’ point of view, occurred on Tuesday, February 10, 1931, when FBC’s sanctuary burned to the ground; the organ went with it.

FBC was determined to build a new and even better sanctuary, quickly. And included in the plans was a new pipe organ. So there was hope amid loss. The organ would be a big-ticket item: $15,000. The sanctuary was completed and the “Mother’s Memorial Organ” was installed in time for the re-dedication service in November of the same year — just 9 months after the fire. Why the “Mother’s Memorial” organ? It was a clever means of fund-raising to name the new organ in honour of congregants’ mothers who had ‘passed on’.

When rooting around FBC’s archive for information on the organ, I discovered (in an unmarked banker’s box beneath a bookshelf) a special book that was prepared during the fund-raising period, showing the name of each donor (on the left page of each two-page spread) and that person’s mother (on the right). A PDF of the book has been created.

The Mother’s Memorial Organ is described in the following blurb in the Dedication bulletin:

It is a three-manual, thirty-six stop instrument, thoroughly modern in construction. It is a model of mechanical skill, quick and reliable, instantaneous response. . . . There are nearly 2,200 speaking pipes in the instrument of wood and metal of various shapes and sizes, and make a rare combination of tone. The organ reflects great credit on the skill and efficiency of the builders and is another tribute to the high reputation of the Woodstock Pipe Organ Builders [which local pipe organ aficionado, Tom Carter, has pointed out was once part of the older firm of Karn-Warren Organ Co., which closed in 1895] (Emphasis mine).

Walters called it quits at First in 1956, having served there for 27 years.

In addition to his work for First, Walters was the conductor of the Burrard Male Choir (1931-44), the Hudson’s Bay Company Choir (1933-40), the Brahms Choir (1935-38), the CPR Male Choir (1934-37), and the Welsh Choral Society (1947-51).3 He also led a mass choir of 1,500 voices, accompanied by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of the 1939 Royal Visit to Vancouver. He was on retainer at Mount Pleasant Chapel undertakers for 34 years (1928-62).

He died in 1965 at age 74, apparently of Leukemia.

Sherwood Robson (1956-1966)

Screen Shot 2019-05-03 at 3.09.24 PM

Sherwood Robson took over the organist’s post at FBC in September 1956. He was well-known around the city as a successful leader of school choirs and of the Vancouver Teachers’ Choir. He also led the Bach Choir (1948-50), the Night School Ladies’ Chorus (ca 1947), and the South Vancouver Olympic Girls’ Choir (ca1937).

Robson finished a 10-year term at FBC in June 1966.

A decade later, Robson conducted a special combined Easter choir of FBC, St. Andrew’s United (North Vancouver), and West Vancouver Baptist churches, singing selections from Handel’s Messiah (Province, 10 Apr 1976). On this occasion, past and present music staff were brought together on a project: Former FBC organist Robson led the mass choir, and past and future FBC organist Carol Barker (formerly Williams) was their organist/accompanist.

Sherwood Robson died in December 1995.

Carol Williams (1967-1968)

Screen Shot 2019-01-10 at 10.53.23 AM
Garth Williams, Violin, Curtis Williams, Cello and Miss Carol Richardson (later, Williams), Piano. (Province. 30 April 1955).

FBC’s Music Committee’s Annual Report in 1967 stated that after interviewing many applicants for the organist/choir director’s position, “we engaged on November 1 [1967], the services of Mr. Curtis Williams and his wife, Carol. We are confident these two competent young people will rapidly develop a progressive approach to our music ministry tradition in a happy and capable manner.” This was a departure for FBC, as the two tasks, which had for so long been taken on by a single person, would now be split: Curtis would assume the job of choir direction while Carol would be the organist.

The Williams’ were evidently keen in their new posts at First and the church was likewise delighted with their work. Then, tragedy. A boating accident in the summer of 1968 claimed the lives of Ed Richardson (Carol’s father) and Curtis Williams. Carol Williams stepped down from the organist’s position.

But Carol was not finished at First — not by a long ways. She would return following her marriage to Larry Barker, as Carol Barker, for numerous appearances on the organ and harp starting in the late-1970s and continuing through the ’80s, and ’90s.

She died in April, 2018.

Darryl Downton (1969-75)

Darryl Downton Organist FBC1

Darryl Downton was selected as the new FBC organist/choir director in May 1969. He came to First from the Canadian Memorial United Church, where he had been the organist. He was offered a one-year contract and began playing at FBC in September, 1969. His contract would be enthusiastically renewed and Downton would remain at FBC for six years.

In 1970, the Sun reported on a noon-hour concert which included Downton playing the Mother’s Memorial Organ. He received a very good review; the organ did not. The MMO was showing her age, some 40 years after being installed.

The concerts are the brainchild of First Baptist’s organist, Darryl Downton, who was one of two soloists on the program. A musician of talent and, as became apparent, considerable courage, Downton wheedled the church’s decrepit 36-rank organ — which he compared to a 1934 Chevrolet — into a fair-sounding performance.

Sun, 9 Dec 1970

An innovation of Downton’s at First was the creation of a folk choir known as the Sunday Singers. Imagine what earlier organist/choir leaders at FBC would have had to say about ‘folk music’ at a Baptist church! According to Mr. Downton, a number of the Sunday Singers remain today in friendly contact with each other.

In 1975, Downton resigned his post at FBC. He picked up the organist’s position, again, at the Canadian Memorial church for a number of years, until retiring.

Darryl Downton died in February 2020 in Vancouver.

Pipe Organ Fades to Black

In 1971, an Organ Committee was established at FBC to evaluate the Mother’s Memorial Organ and whether it had a future at the church; and if so, at what cost. When the committee reported a year later, they concluded that the expense of maintaining the old organ was nigh-unto prohibitive. But, as they hadn’t been charged to make recommendations on buying a new organ, their report took a conservative tack, suggesting that the church spend the dollars necessary to do the most necessary work on the organ (the sort that couldn’t wait any longer) and that church leaders bear in mind that within about 5 years they would need either to do a major overhaul of MMO or buy a new instrument, preferably an electronic organ without pipes.

View of FBC Sanctuary taken from behind the 'Pipe' Screen where pipes were housed at one time - not at the time the photo was taken, howeverr. MDM photo ca 2012
View of FBC Sanctuary taken from behind the ‘Pipe’ screen where pipes were housed at one time, but not at the time the photo was taken. ca2012. MDM Photo.

By the late ’70s, FBC decision-makers had accepted the Organ Committee’s view that the MMO was too expensive to continue with and an electronic Baldwin organ was purchased to replace it. This decision wasn’t exactly embraced by long-term members at First. But it was ultimately understood to be financially necessary.

The Baldwin organ which was bought by First Baptist in the late 1970s, in its turn, was replaced in the early 1990s with the current electronic organ.

The pipe organ had had its day at First; there was no turning back.


¹Jesse Williams had moved to North Vancouver by the time the organ was installed; his membership was transferred to a Baptist congregation in that municipality (which congregation he moved to wasn’t specified in First’s membership book).

2I’m grateful to Robert Moen for his research assistance in tracking down details on the careers of Alexander, Malkin, and Austen.

3Dale McIntosh, History of Music in British Columbia. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1989, pp. 88-90.

My thanks to Mary Cramond, Linda Zlotnik, Erika Voth, Darryl Downton, Anita Bowes, Tom Carter, and Edna Grenz for responding with generosity to my questions related to this subject.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Ay-Laung Wang,
Organist at First Baptist Church for more than 20 years.

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VPL 17587: Consecration Day procession. Aug 4 1915. Stuart Thomson photo.

August 4, 1915 was declared by Vancouver’s civic authorities to be Consecration Day. It would commemorate the one-year anniversary of Canada declaring war against Germany and thereby entering the Great War. In the words of those who were contemporary to the event, the purpose of Consecration Day was “to invoke divine blessing upon our efforts.” (World 29 July 1915).

Local church denominations were asked to hold religious services from 2 until 3 p.m. After that, there was a parade which began at Main /and Hastings and ended at the Cambie Street Grounds. There was a long list of gents invited to speak at the Cambie Grounds (from Charles Hibbert Tupper to the Japanese Consul Abe). Each speaker was asked to speak for no more than 10 minutes. I counted about 27 in the list of invited speakers. If each of them spoke for an average of 10 minutes, the audience would be sitting for about 2.5 hours (World 29 July 1915). That is considerably longer than most sermons — even in 1915!

Proclaiming a day as “Consecration Day” doesn’t seem to me something that would be done today in the event that (God forbid) there were a major war involving Canada as a combatant. The largely Christian demographic of the city has changed, probably permanently, to one that is not.

There is a strong element of blessing associated with consecration [1]. Since blessing is, ultimately, something that comes from God, it seems clear that at least one purpose of Consecration Day was to claim (dubiously?) God’s blessing on our side in the war.


  1. I am appreciative of Nancy Nelson for her help in interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and the use of the English word consecrate. And also of Tim Kuepfer for his help with New Testament use of the word. I should point out that I pulled out a very small part of their responses to me. Thank you both for your help!

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Murray and His Book Store

A Murray’s Book Store printed bag. MDM Collection.

I was delighted when my friend, Jason, presented me with the bag shown above, a year or two ago. Murray’s Book Store wasn’t then known to me. It had gone out of business a few years before I’d started to visit or live in Vancouver.

Murray Gordon Hughson (1908-1971) was born in Harrow, ON to Gordon Hughson and Ethel Duncan. His first career was as a school teacher in the Windsor area. He later was appointed as inspector of schools in Kitchener (Windsor Star, 2 July 1942).

This bookmark was a generous gift from my friends at The Paper Hound Bookshop, Kim Koch and Rod Clarke.

Hughson’s marital history is a little hazy. He married Mary Letitia Isabel Bradish, another school teacher, in London, ON in 1935. Together, Mary and Murray had a daughter in 1943, Nora Kathleen. She died just two years later. Murray and Mary were divorced in January 1970. Assuming his divorce was according to Hoyle, he must have married his second wife, Edith Annie (1914-2009), sometime in the 1970-71 period (I cannot find any documents pertaining to his second marriage; I’m relying on the grave marker for Edith Hughson which is next to Murray’s in Mountain View Cemetery, and on Murray’s death year, 1971).

Hughson’s first appearance in Vancouver was in 1952 (in the City Directory). That same year, he bought the Scenery Shop, a book and souvenir shop at 856 Granville. The Scenery Shop had been in business since the 1920s under different ownership. He owned/managed the Scenery Shop in 1952-53. In 1954, Hughson changed the name and nature of the Scenery Shop to Murray’s Book Store, a ‘new book’ shop.

The following year, Hughson bought Pender Stationery and Bookstore (728 W Pender for most of its life, but at the time Hughson bought it, it was at 810 W Pender), a shop that had been in business since 1915 (Province 26 July 1955). The Pender shop wouldn’t last long. By 1960, the stock in that shop was moved to Hughson’s Granville store and Pender was closed (Sun 23 Jan 1960).

Murray’s advertised itself from the outset as catering to “unusual reading tastes.” In fact, it claimed to have “a tremendous stock of non best sellers” (Province. 30 Jan 1954). Murray’s Book Store became notable for having a strong section of books on technical subjects.

Hughson and Bill Duthie (of Duthie Books) were named directors of the national Canadian Booksellers Association in 1961 (Sun 17 May 1961). 

Murray Hughson died in 1971 in London, England. What he was doing in England isn’t clear, nor is it clear how/why he died at such a relatively early age — he was about 62. It is possible that he was there to marry Edith, as he had received the divorce from Mary the year prior. In any case, his early death in England made for a very brief marriage to Edith.

Murray’s Book Store continued in business for about a decade after his death. In 1972, Peter C. Lawrence became the new owner of Murray’s.

In 1973, there was a fire at the Commodore Cabaret (a business nearby Murray’s) and the books in the shop had some smoke damage. In 1974, Lawrence announced that the shop would be moving from 800 block Granville south to 942 due to rent increases. Murray’s rent at 856 Granville had nearly doubled — from $6/square foot to $14 (Sun 11 Feb 1974).

The shop closed its doors for the last time during the final quarter of 1980. Pity. I feel sure that I would have enjoyed browsing Murray’s.

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Vancouver’s Hippodrome Pipe Dream

Exterior drawing of the proposed Hippodrome for SE Corner, Granville & Pacific.
Province. 25 May 1912.

The drawing above is of the planned Vancouver Hippodrome. [1] It was to have been located on the SE corner of Granville and Pacific at the north end of the Granville Bridge #2 (see image near the end of this post for an attempt to show the Hippodrome in geographical context). [2]

London Hippodrome exterior (as it appeared ca 1900).

The Vancouver Hippodrome was to have been one of several similar theatres across Canada (including — depending on which press account you believe — St. John, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton, Port Arthur, Moose Jaw (huh?!), Regina, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver). But the Hippodrome was never built in Vancouver, nor in any of the other cities in which construction was planned. [3]

The Canadian hippodromes were together to form a circuit for the exclusive use of English production companies to get Canadian eyes on English-produced plays. The plays would originally have been on English stages, so there were no additional set-up costs for the plays. Once the theatres were built in Canada, there remained the costs associated with travel and shipping. Captain Montague Yates was the Canadian representative of Canadian Hippodromes Ltd. (or, as it was later known, British-Canadian Amusement Co.).

The financing of the scheme was to be borne primarily by un-named English ‘capitalists’. Three-quarters of the capital necessary would be provided by them. (Ottawa Citizen 23 Nov 1911). The balance would come from the city in which the theatre was to be built.

Hippodrome decision-makers would also be English. William Holles, a big name on the English stage, would be the stage manager of the Vancouver theatre. Although Montague Yates was the Canadian connection in establishing theatre sites, he doesn’t appear to have had much of a role in the operation of theatres, once they were constructed.


The primary motive of the Hippodrome project was, of course, profit. But profit for whom? The way that the scheme was set up, the bulk of the risk was on the shoulders of the English capitalists. Thus, so was any profit (or loss).

But there were a couple of other motives, apparently.

Yates claimed in an early press report in 1911 that:

[M]any of the best people in Canada do not attend the theatre. . . because they can never be sure whether or not they will have to submit to smut on the stage. We shall give the people the clean English play.

Ottawa Journal. 23 Nov 1911 (Emphasis mine).

I question whether there was anything inherently clean about plays that originated in the Old Country (or, for that matter, anything inherently smutty about Canadian productions)!

According to a later newspaper report, another motive of the Canadian Hippodromes was to prevent the domination of Canadian theatres with American productions (Province 25 May 1912). I find this claim more believable. The number of American plays coming across the 49th parallel was increasing steadily by this time. I doubt that the Hippodrome project was intended to do Canadians any favours, however. I suspect this was more a case of the English capitalists identifying a market niche and attempting to fill it.

Begins to Unravel

Initial signs of the unravelling of the Hippodromes project first became evident in central Canada. An Ottawa paper reported that negotiations by Yates for a theatre site in that city had fallen through:

In Ottawa, as in Montreal and other cities Captain Yates visited, [the plan] called for the investment of Canadian as well as British capital he was supposed to have behind him and this is understood not to have been forthcoming readily. Negotiations for a site therefore have been discontinued . . .

Ottawa Citizen. 28 June 1912 (Emphasis mine).

Endures in Vancouver

In Vancouver, however, the hippodrome plan still had life after the wheels had come off in the major centre of Montreal and in Ottawa (and “other cities”). More than a month after the Ottawa report, the Vancouver Sun was crowing with considerable hyperbole, that the city would soon have, in our hippodrome, “the handsomest playhouse in America”. Details about the theatre that were included in the Sun included (Sun 30 July 1912):

  • Construction: to begin in early August 1912 (it didn’t begin then; indeed, it didn’t get underway at all);
  • Completion: 9 months after work begins;
  • Exterior: Terra cotta;
  • Capacity: 3000 people;
  • Features: 1 royal box; 16 private boxes; promenades; lounging rooms for patrons; ladies’ retiring rooms and sitting rooms; gentlemen’s smoking room;
  • Stage: Dimensions 42 feet wide, 72 feet deep;
  • Estimated cost: $500,000;
  • Architect: Monsieur de H. Duval (London);
  • Managing director: William Holles (London); Holles was a big name in London theatrical circles; he produced and directed many plays there in 1880s-1930s;
  • Productions: Only English theatre companies.
  • Actors anticipated: Sir Herbert Tree (chairman, Theatrical Managers Association, England in 1912; owner of His Majesty’s Theatre, London) was expected to open the Vancouver Hippodrome. Others included: Martin Harvey; Cyril Maude; Fred Terry; Sir George Alexander; Laurence Irving; Mary Forbes; and others.
Crop of CVA 99-2245 – The older (1909) Granville Bridge (north end), ca1926. Stuart Thomson photo. Image adjusted by author with pasting-in of drawing of exterior of Vancouver Hippodrome roughly where it was planned to be built: at SE corner of Granville & Pacific.

‘With a Whimper . . .’

Yates had secured an “option” on the SE corner of Granville and Pacific and was negotiating for the purchase of the property soon thereafter (Province 25 May 1912). It isn’t clear to me whether money ever changed hands for the Granville/Pacific property.

It seems doubtful that any headway was ever made on the construction of the Hippodrome in our city, however. In Spring of 1913, Yates finally admitted that the circuit plan in Vancouver (and thus elsewhere in the nation) was dead. Inscrutably, Yates blamed “Montreal interests” for the failure of the Vancouver theatre. Montreal seems to me to have been a convenient scapegoat. As we have seen, the bulk of the financing came from England; and the balance of capital was to be provided by fundraising in the city in which the theatre was to be located. I can’t see what Montreal funds (or lack thereof) would have to do with the failure of the Vancouver Hippodrome (World 25 March 1913).

My suspicion is that the English investors had developed a severe case of cold feet. Frankly, I doubt that the Canadian Hippodromes scheme would have worked even with several of the major Canadian cities still onboard. The capital outlay for the theatres, plus the shipping and travel and other costs across this very large country would have been staggering. I suspect that this aspect was underestimated by the capitalists.

When all was said and done, the whole scheme seems to have been a pipe dream.


  1. What is a hippodrome? 19th century references were primarily to circuses or to equestrian events or places where such events were held. By the early years of the 20th century, however, the meaning had shifted to refer to a live theatrical location — a playhouse. This was the meaning attached to the Vancouver Hippodrome (and other planned Canadian hippodromes). There was, in addition to the London Hippodrome, a Bristol Hippodrome and a New York Hippodrome (and these are just two examples).
  2. Since the construction of the new (current) Granville Bridge in 1954, Pacific has run beneath Granville (the two streets no longer cross one another on the same level as they did when the older, lower, bridge was still standing).
  3. The drawing of the Vancouver Hippodrome shown at the beginning of this post is the only one of which I’m aware. None of the other Canadian cities seem to have got to the drawing stage.
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Professor Garnett Sedgewick: To the Fourth Power


UBC Archives. Main Library - Akrigg, G. Philip V.; Eagles, Blythe Alfred; Robbins, William; Daniells, Roy. 1965, College library renamed Sedgewick Library.

UBC Archives. “College Library” renamed “Sedgewick Library”, 1965: G. Philip V. Akrigg (left); Blythe Alfred Eagles; William Robbins; Roy Daniells. These gents (all of whom were professors of English except for Blythe Eagles who was Dean of Agriculture for several years) are standing beneath a portrait of Prof. Sedgewick.

In these times when the dollar is king, the norm in development circles is that he/she/they who donates the largest wad of cash to the construction of a building gets it named after him/her/them.

This appears not to have been the case at UBC in the relatively recent past, with two libraries, a reading room, and a lecture series named in honour of Professor Garnett Sedgewick (1882-1949). Prof. Sedgewick was the first head of the English department and he lectured on Chaucer and Shakespeare. There is no evidence available online that he left a substantial sum to the university upon his passing.

The first image (above) is of “College Library” at its renaming as “Sedgewick Library“. This original Sedgewick Library was located in the east(ish) wing (exterior shown below) of the Main Library.  This space was occupied by the Special Collections Division of the library when I was at UBC in the early 1990s. (And, if memory serves, was where graduate students deposited completed theses).

UBC Archives. 1965. College Sedgewick Library entrance Main Library.

UBC Archives. Sedgewick Library entrance. 1965.

The next two images show the Sedgewick Undergraduate Library (exterior and interior) as I knew it when I was a student at UBC. The night shot shows a library skylight — one of the few photographable exterior elements of the library, since one of the principal defining features of ‘Sedge’ was that it was an underground library.

There was a 1960s feel at Sedge. This isn’t surprising, given that it was built in the early 1970s and opened in 1973.

Today, the Koerner Library stands where “Sedge” once was.

UBC Archives. 1977. Main Library at night with Sedgewick Library skylight in foreground.

UBC Archives. Sedgewick Undergraduate Library skylight in foreground. 1977.


UBC Archives. 1978. Student in Sedgewick Library.

UBC Archives. Student in Sedgewick Undergraduate Library. 1978.

This next image shows the Sedgewick Memorial Reading Room in the Main Library. (Note: Main Libary was at the site which today is known as the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.)

UBC Archives. ca 1953. Sedgewick Memorial Reading Room (in Main Library).

UBC Archives. Sedgewick Memorial Reading Room (in Main Library). ca1953. The portrait of Prof. Sedgewick that appeared later in the first image in this post in the former College Library was in the Memorial Room first, just above the hearth.

There was also a Sedgewick Memorial Lecture series. The first lecturer was Professor A.S.P. Woodhouse of the University of Toronto who spoke on the subject: “Milton: Man and Poet” in 1954. 

The first Sedgewick Memorial Lecture was delivered by A. S. P. Woodhouse in 1954. U of Toronto Archives, 2005-62-2MS.

The first Sedgewick Memorial Lecture was delivered by A. S. P. Woodhouse in 1954. Source: U of Toronto Archives, 2005-62-2MS.

There were several Sedgewick lectures over the years, spanning at least from 1954 until 2005. The lectures were not always annual, however. This must be one of the most, if not the most, enduring memorial lecture series at UBC.


Garnett G. Sedgewick in his prime. UBC Archives Photograph CollectionUBC 25.1/70. ca1930.

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J. W. Freeston, Photographer


CVA 1504-10 - [An unidentified shoe company's annual family outing] ca1920 J W Freeston

CVA 1504-10 – Emil Olcovich Shoe Company’s Labour Day picnic in Santa Monica canyon, California. 1919. J.W. Freeston, photo.

The panorama image shown above was made by B.C. professional photographer, John W. Freeston (1887-1923) in 1919.

He married Florence Mary Hall (ca1874-1944) ca1904 in England. He and Florence had two daughters (Elsie May and Kathleen Mary) and one son (Eric Walter). U.S. Census records put John and Florence in California during 1920-21. Indeed, Robert Moen has learned that the shoe company of which the subjects of the panorama were employees was the Emil Olcovich Shoe Company of Santa Monica. The photo appears to have been made in the Santa Monica Canyon on Labour Day, 1919, when the company was there for a staff picnic.

Early in May, 1923, Freeston was admitted to the New Westminster Hospital for the Insane (known by locals today by the shorthand, “Woodlands”).  He was diagnosed soon thereafter with General Paresis. He slept poorly throughout his stay at Woodlands; rest was possible primarily through medication. Although his physical condition was considered good when he was admitted, scarcely two months later, it had deteriorated significantly. By the afternoon of July 30th, 1923, he was dead. He was 39 years old. Cause of death was recorded as “Exhaustion of General Paresis”.

Note that Freeston appears at both extremities of the panorama. The images are both of him, but his pose is quite different. In the leftmost portrait, he is holding the umbrella with both hands; however, in the rightmost one, his right arm is raised (in greeting?) while his left arm seems to be supporting the umbrella. I have been asked by a couple of people how Freeston was able to pull this off. I believe the answer is in this link. I think this still applied in 1919, when Freeston made this image. 

Here is another panorama by J. W. Freeston and made, in my opinion, from First Baptist Church tower, looking north.


¹I’m indebted to David Mattison of Camera Workers, Robert Moen of WestEndVancouver and Peter Findlay for their generous assistance with this post.

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Crèches (1912-1932)

VPL7153. 752 Thurlow St. The first site of the crèche. 190-? P. T. Timms

Crèche is an old-fashioned term that referred — in the early years of the 20th century — to a day nursery for the kids of working moms. [1]

Typical husbands were assumed to be in the workforce and women to be working out of the home, caring for kids and keeping ‘the home fires burning’. But by the early years of the 20th century, it was dawning on some people that although this model was typical, it wasn’t universally true. Some husbands were unable to work for physical or other reasons; and some moms no longer had husbands — due to being widowed or to husbands’ drunkenness, abandonment, or other reasons.

Thus, it became expedient, in the period before there was a universal social safety net in Canada, for moms to seek employment. And yet, to do that meant that their kids either must be left at home alone or with a friend or relation who would care for them. Finding a child caregiver who was a friend or relative in a big city was problematic. Many moms came from other places and had few contacts here.

And so some wise and thoughtful people saw the importance of providing a form of institutional help for such moms and their kids. Notably, the Crèche was not initiated by the civic government. It was a creature of groups of people — mainly women’s groups, such as the IODE and the YWCA. The City was an early funder of the Crèche, however, although it didn’t take over the entire project until just before the Crèche moved out of the Thurlow house.

For three years (1912-15), the Crèche was based out of the Vancouver Women’s Building at 752 Thurlow Street. Moms would drop off their kids at the Crèche in the morning and pick them up again on their way home at the end of the work day. The kids would receive two square meals each day at the Crèche — lunch and supper. The Crèche charged 10 cents per day per child or 25 cents for three children — not to cover the real costs for the services provided, but as a way of reducing the sense among the moms that they were accepting charity. The rate of 10 cents/child was maintained at least until 1927. A body known as the Associated Charities (a Vancouver civic body) was at the head of the Crèche.

After the Crèche had been operating for 10 months, a report on its progress was submitted. A total of 4772 children had attended and of that number, there were 114 families and 143 individual kids. Children of working mothers from birth up to school age were admitted. In addition to the day care facility, there was also an Employment Bureau at the Crèche which was available to moms.

At the time of the 10-month report, it was noted that the Crèche had outgrown the Women’s Building. In 1915, the Crèche moved from 752 Thurlow to 1154 Haro. It remained there for scarcely two years. Early in 1917, it was shifted to the former City Hospital building at 530 Cambie (at Pender), putting it nearby other City Relief offices.

CVA 99-225: 1154 Haro Street, 1919 Stuart Thomson. This was the second site of the City Crèche from ca1914-ca1916. In December 1916, this became the Foundling’s Hospital (a sick kids hospital for those under 2 years of age) and the Creche was moved to SE corner of Cambie and Pender.
CVA Re N1.2 – Former City Hospital (530 Cambie at Pender) being used as a relief office, including the third site of City Crèche. July 1932.
CVA Bu P48 – Group portrait of children and supervisors at the third site of the City Crèche – S.E. corner of Pender and Cambie Streets, the site of the former City Hospital. ca1916. W J Moore.

The City Crèche was a press darling, especially as the Christmas season approached. Articles that were dripping in pathos would then begin to appear.

But not everyone was a fan of the Crèche. Various aldermen regularly publicly questioned why Vancouver was supporting it. Typically, city councillors were vexed at the cost of the Crèche.

The Crèche’s cost was the principal reason for its abandonment in 1932. That year saw the establishment of the Vancouver Foster Day Care Association. This put pre-school kids of moms who were working (or looking for work) in Foster homes. This proved to be much less expensive than the Crèche model. In recent years in Canada, day care of various sorts has become the purview of other (non-civic), levels of government.


  1. A crèche could mean, depending on context, a nativity scene (which is the more commonly used definition today) or a foundling’s hospital (a hospital for orphans, but by the period covered in this post, essentially a sick kids hospital).
  2. The Women’s Building fades to black for the rest of this post. However I should point out that the original wood frame building shown at the beginning of this post was replaced in 1926 with a concrete building which would house the women’s groups until 1940 (the original home wasn’t demolished, it was moved to the rear of the lot). In 1941, the 752 Thurlow Street property was sold to the Salvation Army and later to Oil Can Harry’s cabaret. In fact, the new 1926 Women’s Building stood until it was demolished to make way for the Carlyle condominium building in 1988 (Changing Vancouver).
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The Beers

VPL 1012 Interior of Easthope Brothers (Ernest & Percy) Gasoline Engines Launch and Boat Builders. 1908. PT Timms photo. Easthope Bros seems to have occupied the 1705 W Georgia space just prior to Western Machine Works, so I’m guessing the interior of WMW appeared similar to this.

William James Beer and Fannie Philips lived at 623 Richards Street — across Richards from the Holy Rosary (Roman Catholic) Church (as it then was), roughly on the land occupied later by the Dunsmuir Hotel. The neighbourhood was a ‘churchy’ one. In addition to Holy Rosary at the northern end of the 600 block Richards, there was St. Andrew’s Presbyterian anchoring the southern end of the block. The Congregational Church was a couple of blocks southwest of there. And First Baptist Church was then nearby at Hamilton and Dunsmuir.

William was a machinist by trade, and co-founded, with A. H. Thatcher, Western Machine Works at 1705 West Georgia Street. Fannie worked ‘at home’. The couple had come to Vancouver from Ontario; they were married there in 1890 [1]. They had two children in Vancouver, boys: Lyle (born 1893) and Leland Harold (born 1895).

On January 14, 1902, Fannie died at home of causes unknown to me [2]. She was 33 at the time. Her funeral was taken by Rev. L. Norman Tucker, Rector of Christ Church Cathedral. (Fanny was Anglican; William, Methodist).

A little over 13 years later, on July 13, 1915, William was struck by a “jitney” (an unlicensed taxi automobile) and died “almost instantly”. While nothing was said in the press about how Fannie died, William’s death was covered in detail.

Stepping from the curb to catch a Fraser avenue street car at the corner of Pacific and Granville street near the north end of Granville Bridge yesterday morning, William Beer . . . was killed almost instantly by a jitney driven by R. W. McClellan . . .

According to eye-witnesses the victim stepped from the curb on the west side of the bridge approach [this was the Granville bridge that preceded the current structure] to board a [street] car that was going north and was about to turn east along Pacific. A jitney had drawn up near the sidewalk and stopped. Mr. Beer stepped out from in front of this towards the standing street car, but just as he reached the open roadway between the standing jitney and the street car the motor car driven by McLellan came through. Mr. Beer endeavoured to go back but the car struck him fracturing his skull, and according to one witness carried him some distance before it was stopped. Dr. R. C. Boyle passing at the time ordered the man to the hospital and although G. Vaner in another automobile raced to that institution [VGH, presumably], the unfortunate man passed away before reaching the south end of Granville Bridge.

Sun. 14 July 1915
Crop of CVA 99-2234 – North end of the Granville Bridge. The site of William Beer’s demise in 1915. ca1925, Stuart Thomson photo.

If the description above strikes you as confusing, don’t feel badly. It was unclear to the jury, too. They had to go to the site where the death occurred and be shown exactly what had happened and where. However, it seems to me that Beer had been trying to catch a waiting street car and, when stepping into the street to do so, was struck by a jitney that was dodging the street car.

Mr. McClellan, the jitney driver, was found “not guilty” by the jury of the manslaughter charge brought by the Crown.

William was 40 at the time of his death. Leland was “living in the city” at the time of his father’s passing; Lyle was in the Army Medical Corps in Esquimalt. So, mercifully, the boys were not youngsters at the time of their Dad’s death; although when they lost their Mom, they were just 9 and 11.

Lyle and Leland both enlisted in the Great War. Leland, however was spelling his surname with an ‘s’ at the end. Leland succeeded his Dad in running Western Machine Works on Coal Harbour. Lyle was shown in he 1945 Vancouver directory as being “retired” (age 52), but from what, isn’t stated.

Leland died in 1937 (age 43). Lyle outlived Leland, dying at home (723 Hamilton, a rooming house) in 1950 (age 57) of a heart attack. There was no obituary in the local papers at Lyle’s death. Indeed, the “informant” for Lyle’s death certificate was an anonymous bureaucrat at the vital records office. Evidently, there were no next-of-kin to fill in the blanks as to Lyle’s life. Lyle never married.

Leland married Constance Graham in 1923 and together they had a daughter: Louise Elizabeth Beers, born in 1926. She became a nursing student at the University of Oregon. In December 1951, she married Neville Clegg Jones in Seattle (he was a medical student at U of O whose parents lived in Kelowna). Louise died in September 2004 in West Vancouver (Sun, 21 Sept 2004). Neville died in November 2017. Louise and Neville had two sons: Owen and Ian, both of whom married.


  1. My thanks are due to Robert of westendvancouver.wordpress.com for his help tracking down the marriage certificate for W. J. and Fannie and for help with other details in this post.
  2. Fannie’s death certificate is not available online and, as the microfilm section of VPL is currently closed (due to COVID restrictions), I’m unable to view it.

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The Wild West: Early Shooting Galleries

CVA Sp P74 – The interior of a shooting gallery on Cordova Street ca 1901.

A shooting gallery in late 19th and early 20th century Vancouver was a quite different place than is conjured by that term 100 years later. A shooting gallery in early Vancouver had nothing to do with illicit drugs. It was a commercial establishment where men could fire guns at targets.

Shooting galleries were sometimes incorporated into penny arcades. Penny arcades typically had penny- or nickel-operated machines for viewing “moving pictures” (which were called mutoscopes), strength testers, and automated musical instruments like player pianos or automatic banjos. If a shooting gallery wasn’t, strictly speaking, a penny arcade, many of them also had at least a player piano to create a bit of background music to the din of gunfire.

I did a rough survey of where most shooting galleries were located over the years between 1890 and 1930 and found that they were principally in the 100 blocks of East Hastings and East Cordova and the unit blocks of West Cordova and Water Streets. To help put this in context, allow me to cite some of the other businesses in a couple of these blocks in 1912.

On the 100 block of East Hastings there were three theatres (Rose, Crystal, and Pantages), at least three good hotels (including the Irving), the public library, several restaurants, a shoemaker and a couple of billiards halls. And on the unit block of West Cordova there was a theatre (the Grand), two booksellers (Cordova and Peoples), several shoe and clothing shops, and various restaurants. I share this to make it clearer that these were not down-at-the-heels blocks (as is true today, to a degree); this was a neighbourhood in which people of the time would regularly stroll without giving a second thought to their safety. [1]

Shooting galleries were lumped into the same category as bowling alleys, as far as civic licensing authorities were concerned. License fees were $10 annually. These were the fees in 1892, and it’s possible they rose in subsequent years. But even in the context of 1892, they seem to me to be low.

Licenses issued by City of Vancouver. 1892 Williams Illustrated Official BC Directory, p. 573.

It isn’t clear to me what criteria were used by the City in determining how much to charge a business for its license. But it is plain that the criteria did not include threat of injury or possible loss of life. You’d look a long time in local press accounts to find a case of a bowler who was hurt or killed inside an alley ($10) or at a junk dealer’s establishment ($100), to say nothing of a theatre ($100) or a pawnbroker’s shop ($300).

But the risk of loss of life or limb at or nearby a shooting gallery was very real, as I hope to show below.

Danger to Neighbours

Fraser’s Missiles

Percy Fraser, in 1910, had a business that occupied part of the ground floor space that was shared with a shooting gallery on Cordova, not far from Abbott. Fraser filed an injunction against shooting gallery owner, Valentine Straube.

[I]t was stated that a stenographer in [Fraser’s] employ had been nearly shot by bullets coming through the wall and when Mr. Fraser was sitting at his desk on Thursday the plaster from the wall fell upon it as the result of a missile coming through.

World, 15 Jan 1910

The injunction was granted by Mr. Justice Gregory; it restrained Straube from carrying on a shooting gallery at his premises on Cordova Street. (This wasn’t Straube’s first scrape with the law; he’d been convicted on at least three previous occasions for running a gaming house having slot machines).

Lee Sing’s Close Call

In March 1918, Lee Sing, a Chinese resident, was sleeping in his residence at the rear of 113 East Pender. He was woken by a bullet which went past his bed and into the wall. The police were informed of this.

Investigations were made by a representative of the law and the hole made by the bullet was found, but on its probable course being traced, it was found that it had come from a shooting gallery which is operated near the home of the Chinaman. A few words with the proprietor of the gallery resulted in steps being taken to eliminate the possibility of stray bullets in the future, and Lee again retired in safety to his couch.

World, 5 March 1918

The casualness with which this incident was treated by police of the time is remarkable. This may have been partly due to the race of the victim (not that that is any excuse).

Danger to Employees

The Troubling Case of Millicent McGregor

I imagine that 99% of the clientele at shooting galleries was male. Thus, it isn’t surprising that these establishments typically wanted to hire girls as a way of attracting punters.

Province. 21 August 1915.

An ad similar to the one above probably attracted the attention of a young girl who had been raised in Victoria and was looking to make some “good wages” in the big city of Vancouver. Millicent (Milly) McGregor got herself hired at the Wellington Arcade at 106 East Hastings Street. On August 26, 1923, the following episode happened:

A Russian named Andrew Karpensko and several companions were said to have entered the place with the intention of engaging in target practice. In some manner one of the target rifles was discharged, and the bullet lodged in the neck of Miss McGregor, who was the attendant in charge of the place. Karpensko was arrested and was held by the police for several days, but was released later. It was expected at first that Miss McGregor would recover.

Province, 9 April 1924

But Milly didn’t recover. She succumbed to her injury, caused by a .22-calibre bullet, eight months later while at Vancouver General Hospital. She was 19 when she died.

1930s and Later

By the mid-1930s, it seems, shooting galleries in the downtown core were falling out of fashion and falling afoul of civic decision-makers, probably partly due to the McGregor mess.

From the 1930s through the 1970s, shooting galleries seemed to be restricted to midways at exhibitions such as the PNE (the Straube family had a corner on Hastings Park’s shooting galleries for a number of years). Live rounds were still in use, mind you, and it wasn’t unheard of for someone to be hurt in shooting gallery incidents. By the 1980s, with the advent of more sophisticated video technologies, it became less important to have guns that fired real (versus electronic) bullets.


During the 19-teens, there were some merchants who were vocally opposed to having shooting galleries in their neighbourhoods. But their rationale had nothing to do with public safety. The reason given by those who were opposed was that the galleries often included player pianos in them and this “hurdy-gurdy” racket was an offence to their ears.

In the late 1920s, presumably partly in response to the McGregor incident, there was some talk of banning women from working in shooting galleries. But, even if this idea had “legs” (and it didn’t), it wouldn’t have been a solution to the real problem. The gender of the attendants wasn’t the issue. The real problem was the fact that live ammo was being fired in a pretty densely populated area — and that the civic authorities didn’t have the guts to do anything about it.


  1. There was also a shooting gallery (and a bowling alley) included in the basement of the Beatty Street Drill Hall when it was under construction ca1900. There was also a shooting gallery at the Vancouver squad HQ of the B.C. Provincial Police.
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Gordon Poppy

I regret to report, for those of you who are not already aware of it, that Vancouver’s gentleman-artist-historian, Gordon Poppy, has passed away. Gordon has had several mentions in VanAsItWas over the years, including this one which featured Gordon’s window displays in 1954 in which the B.C. Lions were featured.

As a final tribute to my friend, this post will share some other images which he was generous enough to allow me to produce while I was visiting him at his home about a year ago. These are of other Eaton’s window displays with which he was involved over the years.

This display was evidently intended to encourage onlookers to “Look Your Best This Easter”. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
I’m not sure whether or not this was part of the same year’s display above. But it certainly emphasizes bunnies! n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
As does this one! n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
The handwritten caption says it all. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
I’m not sure whether this one was also part of the Eaton’s “British Promotion” or if this was a Christmas display. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
This is the first in a series of four photos showing the results of vandalism at Eaton’s windows. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
Tidying up the mess left by vandals. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
Sweeping up. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
“Come on, me dearie, this is no place for you to hang about.” n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
This toadstool display (with mice and the ubiquitous bunny) was another Easter window. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
This window was probably meant to celebrate the onset of spring (and spring fashions). n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
I’m assuming this one was a Christmas window. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
Probably not celebrating any special season. Likely just to advertise the clothes on these hip chicks. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
A window featuring some of the technology which Canada brought to the war theatre? n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
I think this was one of Gordon’s favourite displays. The characters in the window were composed principally of handkerchiefs. n.d. Gordon Poppy Collection.
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Wilson’s 1907 Cadillac

CVA 180-1546: Old automobiles in 1949 P.N.E. Opening Day Parade passing in front of partly demolished Hotel Vancouver #2 at Georgia near Granville. Note: The middle vehicle shows the McAdam family driving the 1907 Cadillac. 1949, Artray photo.

Dr. Thomas Haddow Wilson was the first owner of the 1907 Cadillac which I was privileged to view, recently.

Wilson was born in Kitchener, ON in 1869. He graduated from medical school at the University of Manitoba in 1897 and the next year went to Vancouver where he practiced medicine. Thomas was a Presbyterian and his bride, Clara May Mitchell (an American) was a Baptist. They were married in First Baptist Church at Hamilton and Dunsmuir in August 1898 by the first real minister there, Rev. W. T. Stackhouse. Wilson died in 1927 at the early age of 58. His funeral service was taken by Rev. J. J. Ross (First Baptist) and Rev. J. S. Henderson (St. Andrew’s Presbyterian). Clara May died in 1962 at Trail, BC, where she lived from 1937. (Both Thomas and Clara May were buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Vancouver).

During some of his early Vancouver years, Wilson lived at the NE corner of Hastings and Dunlevy until the Patricia Hotel was built by him on that site. He moved to 1142 Chilco Street (aka ”Chula Vista”) in 1913 (which he also built), where he lived out his days. Clara May and Thomas had two kids: Anna Marjorie and Frank Lloyd. Frank became a physician living in Trail. Frank died in Trail in 1982. Marjorie died in Vancouver in 1983.

Wilson first registered his 1907 Cadillac in September 1908. He then renewed its registration in 1909, 1910, and in 1911. Where Wilson bought the car isn’t clear, but presumably it came from a local dealer. There were a limited number of Cadillac dealers in Vancouver in 1907-08. Terminal City Garage was one, located at 300 Howe, across the street from Orpheum II. Another was W. M. Stark’s Vancouver Auto and Cycle (108 E. Hastings).

Wilson seems to have sold the Cadillac sometime between 1910-14. The second owner, David McAdam, registered the Cadillac in 1914. McAdam lived in Murrayville, which vintage car expert, Peter Findlay, describes as “a very long drive for this car.” It has remained in the family since that date, being passed down from David to his son, Quinton, who worked hard to get the Cadillac up and running in time for the 1949 PNE (it is Quinton, his wife and daughter who appear in the middle vintage car shown above).

The Cadillac runs on a single cylinder, so it sounds unlike any other automobile I’ve ever heard. There is a clip of the Cadillac running here.

A recent photo of the Cadillac appears below.

1907 Cadillac in Greater Vancouver, 2020. MDM Photo.

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Orpheum Quartet

Orpheum I (55 West Cordova): 1904-05

Opening of first Orpheum at the former Crystal Theatre. Province. 28 Sept 1904.

The first Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver opened on October 3, 1904. [1] It had formerly been the Crystal Theatre (1903-04) at 55 West Cordova (there is a parking garage there, today). The proprietors of Orpheum I were Evenson & Russell.

At the opening of the first Orpheum, vaudeville acts included the Anderson sisters (child comedians), The Rustics with a sketch titled “Fun on the Farm” which included “lifelike mechanical animals”, and vocalist Joe Bonner singing “Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder” (Province 3 Oct 1904).

Little else is known of the Orpheum’s first location and as far as I can tell, no photos still exist. It ceased to operate as the Orpheum by the summer of 1905.

Orpheum II (805 West Pender): 1905-13

Crop of CVA 73-2-Vancouver, B.C., 1911, H. O. Dodge photo. Aerial image of Orpheum II at NW corner Pender & Howe. (Formerly People’s Theatre and Alhambra Theatre). This is where the Stock Exchange Building is located today.

In late 1905, there was a deal worked out between (Timothy D.) Sullivan & (John W.) Considine Vaudeville Syndicate and a rival syndicate, the Western Vaudeville Managers Association, whereby the former People’s Theatre (earlier, the Alhambra Theatre) at NW corner of Pender and Howe would become the ‘new’ Orpheum Theatre.

The name of the former People’s Theatre was not settled at that time, however. It was initially announced by Sullivan and Considine that the former People’s would be named the Grand Theatre. However, they ultimately changed their minds about that since another of their properties (on Cordova) was already so-named and they didn’t want to create confusion among the public as to which theatre was being referred. So, it was decided to name the Pender property the Orpheum Theatre (Province 11 Aug 1906). [2]

In March 1906, S&C announced plans to rip down the former People’s Theatre and to build a brand new theatre building for an estimated $100,000 (Province 16 March 1906). Considine announced that it would be constructed of steel, brick and concrete (as opposed to the wood frame construction of People’s) and that it would have a seating capacity of about 2000 (Province 16 March 1906). Considine optimistically claimed that with the new house “There should be no quibbling with the building inspector or the civic authorities…for it will be made just as thoroughly fireproof and as safe as modern ingenuity and [C&S architect] Mr. [J. J.] Donnellan’s long experience in designing buildings of this kind can suggest” (Province 15 March 1906). [3]

But sometime between March and August, S&C changed course. A decision was made not to demolish the former theatre and build a completely new one. A “bunch of contracts in connection with the remodelling of the Orpheum were awarded today by Architect Donnellan” (Province 11 Aug 1906; emphasis mine). Plans for the remodelling included no fewer than 15 exits from the theatre (not including fire exits), and seating capacity of over 1000 (Province 11 Aug 1906).

City of Vancouver Building Inspector, George McSpadden said at the time that he was “well pleased” with safety features planned for the theatre (Province 11 Aug 1906). But a month later, McSpadden had changed his tune. He complained the theatre was 5 inches out of plumb and that there was a significant bulge at the centre due to the removal of an iron tie rod (20 Sept 1906).

There seemed to be a growing personal rift between Donnellan and McSpadden, as it was reported days later that Donnellan was “impatient at the delay in opening the theatre, and says rather sarcastic things about Building Inspector McSpadden” (Province 25 Sept 1906).

These ‘shots’ from McSpadden and Donnellan were the first of many from S&C and the City for about 3 months. While there was much talk about fire escapes and the bulge in the Howe Street wall, the basic issue in my judgement seems to have been that the principals — McSpadden and Donnellan — rubbed one another the wrong way, thereby turning what should have been a ‘mole-hill’ into a ‘mountain’.

By early December 1906, the City decided it would allow the Orpheum to open conditionally upon the following (none of which, as far as I can tell was ever disputed by S&C):

  • installation of 2 iron posts; and a tie-rod;
  • substitution of an iron fire-escape for a wooden one;
  • a promise that the wall facing Howe Street would be made as plumb as possible;
  • and an illustration (”for a few doubting aldermen”) of the rapidity with which the theatre could be vacated (Province 11 Dec 1906).

Finally, 12 months after S&C took over the Orpheum on Pender, it was allowed to open to the public on December 17, 1906.

Interestingly, the Pender building operated as the Orpheum for seven years without a public safety incident. George McSpadden eventually left his job as City Building Inspector to become a city alderman. The Pender building was demolished in 1913 or 1914. In its stead, there was an auto supply house for some years, followed by the Stock Exchange Building in 1929.

Orpheum III (761 Granville Street): 1913-1927

CVA 99-5150 – Interior of Orpheum III. Flashlight of audience, Feb 1918. Stuart Thomson photo.

On St. Patrick’s Day, 1913, S&C put on their first vaudeville performance in the space that had once housed the Vancouver Opera House. Presumably, Sullivan & Considine were hoping that a little Irish luck would rub off and that the City building inspector wouldn’t create a big stink akin to that at their previous theatre. (The city inspector — who by this time was not George McSpadden — gave S&C thumbs up!)

Before I began the research for this post, I had thought when the Orpheum moved over to the Opera House, that very little was changed. But I was mistaken. Said the World upon the Orpheum’s opening, “Very little of the old structure now remains, with the exception of portions of the two side walls…” (World 8 March 1913).

Cross-section of the S&C re-building of the old Vancouver Opera House into Orpheum III. Courtesy: Tom Carter Collection.

Orpheum III was the first Orpheum (and perhaps the first of any theatre in Vancouver) which was built to house services in addition to the theatre. The Orpheum ‘office building’ (751 Granville) was “a modern five-storey steel, concrete, terra cotta and brick office and store building known as a class “A” fireproof structure” (World 8 March 1913). This served as a mortgage helper since the lease payments from other businesses in the Orpheum Building would help pay down what must have been substantial debt incurred by S&C in building the theatre.

The architect of Orpheum III was J. J. Donnellan (who, reportedly, also designed local theatres such as the Lonsdale, Panama, National and Columbia (and, of course, did the rebuild on the Pender Orpheum). The sum spent by S&C on Orpheum III varied widely depending on which newspaper you read. One claimed they spent upwards of $250,000; another said $400,000; and yet another claimed $750,000!

For a couple of years, starting in 1914, there was considerable to-ing-and-fro-ing in the ownership of the Orpheum. A little over a year after Orpheum III opened, it was bought from S&C by Marcus Loew (Sun 17 June 1914). During the period that Loew owned the building, it would be known as “Loew’s Theatre (Formerly Orpheum)”; while it was Loew’s Theatre, it remained a vaudeville theatre. A year later and the Orpheum had been bought back from Loew by Sullivan & Considine (Province 17 May 1915).

No sooner had the local press reported that S&C was owner once again of the Orpheum, however, than there was another report (a month later) that the Orpheum Theatre & Realty Co. of San Francisco had bought out S&C’s interest in the Theatre (Province 29 July 1915). [4]

The Orpheum III adopted a mixed format with a few months of each year dedicated to vaudeville and the balance of the year to concerts, speakers, and motion pictures. This policy was adopted for awhile in Orpheum IV, as well.

The theatre underwent several name changes over subsequent years: Vancouver Theatre (1928); Lyric (1935); International Cinema (1947); and again Lyric Theatre (1960). Sometime after 1960, the former lobby even opened as a branch of the Royal Bank (leaving the auditorium/stage marooned behind) (Province 8 March 1969). The building was demolished in 1969 to make way for a series of department stores: T. Eaton’s, then Sears, and most recently, Nordstrom’s.

Orpheum IV (884 Granville Street): 1927 –

CVA 791-1148 – The fourth (and current) Orpheum Theatre on the east side of Granville Street (884 Granville). January, 1986.

On April 3, 1926, local entrepreneur Joseph F. Langer and the Orpheum Theatrical Co. announced their agreement to build the fourth Orpheum for an estimated cost of about $1 million and would have a seating capacity of about 3000 (Province 3 April 1926).[5] Langer would build it and the Orpheum Circuit was to lease it for 20 years but, as is explained in my related post about Langer’s life — linked above — he received some poor advice and sold the Orpheum in 1929. Marcus Priteca was architect on the project.

The fourth Orpheum opened to the public on Monday, November 7, 1927. There was a mixture of vaudeville acts (including juggling, comedy, and dancing) and a feature film (The Wise Wife). During many of the fourth Orpheum’s years, it was a Famous Players movie cinema.

For details of the history of Orpheum IV, I’d recommend consulting Ivan Ackery’s Fifty Years on Theatre Row, his memoirs of managing that theatre (1935-69).

There are many jaw-dropping features of the theatre, even today. My personal favourite is the dome above the auditorium. But there was no painted mural on the dome in 1927. It wasn’t there until 1976, when Anthony Heinsbergen was commissioned to paint his “valentine to the romance of music” (Province 24 June 1976). Province writer, Roy Shields, was apparently part of a vocal minority who, by the 1970s, believed the Orpheum was in “bad taste”, “high camp”, and a “monument to kitsch”.

But I disagree. I join the majority (I suspect) of those of Vancouver as it was in 1927 and beyond who have beheld with admiration and great affection the Fourth Orph!

The dome in Orpheum IV’s auditorium (as viewed from the stage).


  1. Long-time Orpheum IV manager, Ivan Ackery, in his memoirs Fifty Years on Theatre Row, claimed that “Vancouver’s first Orpheum was in the 900 block Main Street [Westminster Avenue at the time, presumably] in what later became a secondhand store and where, for many years, the original proscenium continued to exist in the back of the store. The first vaudeville act to ever appear there was “Power’s Elephants”” (Ackery, p. 128). I regret to say that I was unable to find any evidence to support Mr. Ackery’s claim as to the location of the first Orpheum. I could find no newspaper clippings to support the Westminster Ave. address for any theatre. And I couldn’t find any Orpheum advertised or noted in any way earlier than the inheritor of the Crystal Theatre locale. Ackery was born in 1899 and arrived in Vancouver from the U.K. after WWI, so he couldn’t have been a witness of the first Orpheum. Chances are that he was shown the “proscenium” in what was considered by the owner (and perhaps others) to have once been the Orpheum and was thereby led down one of history’s many ‘garden paths’.
  2. “Orpheum” was not exactly a novel name. It had been applied to theatres in many other cities (Seattle and San Francisco, for instance, both of which were part of the Orpheum Circuit for a time). Within the City of Vancouver, there were several non-theatrical businesses which tied their fortunes to the Orpheum name: There were Orpheum Cafes across the street from both Orpheums II and III; there was an Orpheum Hotel for a time on West Hastings (prior to that, the hotel was called Hamilton House; later it was called the Invermay Hotel); there was an Orpheum Poolroom on Pender, an Orpheum Cigar Store, and an Orpheum Barber Shop.
  3. James J. Donnellan (architect) was a native of Chicago, Illinois.
  4. Local theatre expert, Tom Carter, succinctly describes the fall of S&C: “Mr. Sullivan apparently had been borrowing money to build theatres against other theatres he didn’t actually own (had mortgages on) so it had become a bit of a pyramid scheme. He was also losing his mind – in fact was declared insane in 1913 –  and wandered into a railroad yard and, some say, committed suicide by walking in front of a train. After that, S&C kept their Empress vaudeville circuit but divested themselves of their theatres – the two vultures who picked them up at fire sale prices were Marcus Loew and Alex Pantages. Pantages was already intent on building the new Pantages Theatre at 20 West Hastings so passed on the Orpheum, but Loew swept in.” (Email: Tom Carter to mdm, July 26, 2020, 10.01 a.m.)
  5. Ladies who have taken in a performance at the Orpheum IV will be bemused by the claim that restrooms would be “spacious” (Province 3 April 1926).
Posted in stuart thomson, theatre/vaudeville/cinemas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mistaken Assumption . . .

CVA 447-334: Tip Top Tailors at 314 West Hastings Street (near Hamilton). Adjacent to (west of) the former Commerce Bank (now SFU’s Charles Chang Innovation Centre). 1955. W E Frost.

There’s a building on West Hastings near Hamilton about which I’ve had a long-standing misconception. It’s sweeping facade reminded me so much of a 1940s-style movie theatre that I’ve always assumed that that was the original occupant. [1]

But I was wrong. This building was constructed for Tip Top Tailors in 1948, in the days when Tip Top provided not only clothing for men (as it does today), but also catered to women who wanted to have a “mannish” appearance.

CVA 371-1150: The corner of the Canadian Bank of Commerce at 300 West Hastings; and showing scaffolding for future site of Tip Top Tailors at 314 W, Hastings. 1948, G. Clarke.
Province. 10 Feb 1949.
Province. 26 Jan 1949.

Tip Top Tailors was established in 1909 in Toronto. The first Vancouver shop was at 137 West Hastings (north side of Hastings between Cambie and Abbot) in 1920. The shop moved to the Flack Block (at Hastings and Cambie) and later to 301 West Hastings before building its shop at 314 W Hastings in 1948.

CVA 586-7781: Tip Top Tailors interior. Style (fashion) Show. 1949. Don Coltman.
CVA 586-7779: Tip Top Tailors interior. Style (fashion) Show. 1949 Don Coltman.
CVA 586-8837: This is apparently the mezzanine floor of Tip Top at 314 West Hastings. 1949. Don Coltman.

The first two of the three photos above show a 1949 “Style Show” of some of the women’s wear options available from Tip Top at that time. All three photos show off the truly unusual and exceptional interiors that were at 314 West Hastings.

More than 5000 square feet of aluminum was used on the facade and interior of Tip Top. Anodizing (to prevent rust and corrosion) was done by Western Bridge and Steel Fabricators (Province, 18 Dec 1948).

By 1955, Tip Top had moved out of 314 Hastings. (Tip Top continued at a Granville Street location and, today, continues to exist in several lower mainland locales). By 1960, 314 W. Hastings was home (briefly) to “Drug King Self Serve Supermarket”. From ca1961, after Drug King faded to black, the space has been subdivided for use by various offices. Today, little has changed: 312 is currently an empty office rental, and 314 is a cafe. [2]

It is a shame, in my judgement, that the amazing interior space that once was home to Tip Top Tailors should be, effectively, lost.

Sun. 7 Sept 1960.


  1. It resembles the Vogue Theatre (on Granville Street) with its grand exterior and the sweeping curves of the interior design. I was stumped as to how to refer to the architectural style of Tip Top. However, “Streamline Deco” seems to me to cover off the transitional aspects of the style. For more on this, see here. Thanks to Wes for this link.
  2. Following Tip Top’s exit from this location and the subsequent subdivision, the street address was also subdivided to 312 and 314.

Posted in Don Coltman, interiors | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fowler’s Rose

The ‘Tudor Rose’ wood carving (together with provenance presumably provided by C. B. Fowler on the plaque below) is encased in a very heavy box made of oak and glass. This was generously given to the author a few years ago by his friend, Gordon Poppy, who acquired it sometime following the closure and demolition of the York Hotel (1929-1969), previously the Hotel Vancouver Annex (1911-1929). Author’s photo.

This carving of a Tudor Rose was taken from the tomb of the Duke of York, Tewkesbury Abbey, England, in the year of 1881 when repairs were being made to the tomb. The same year it was given to Major C. B. Fowler, FRIBA., now of this city, but at that time an architect of renown in Cardiff, Wales, by William Clark of Llandaff, Wales, one of the best known wood carvers in England and Wales in that period. The carving is now the valued property of The York Hotel, Ltd.

Text on plaque beneath carving.

Provenance Questions

The provenance offered for the wood carving shown above is provided by the accompanying plaque beneath it. I am assuming that the text for the plaque came, largely, from then-Vancouver architect and giver of the Rose to the York Hotel, Major C. B. Fowler.

Tudor Rose?

The carving appears to me to my Canadian eyes to resemble a Tudor Rose (see link for criteria), although there is no crown denoting the rose as being of the House of Tudor.

William Clark, Welshman?

There was a Welshman by the name of William Clark who lived in Llandaff in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and who, by the time of the 1911 census identified his occupation as a Sculptor Builder.

Duke of York’s Tomb at Tewkesbury Abbey?

It appears very doubtful that the rose came from the tomb of a Duke of York, although it’s possible that it came from Tewkesbury Abbey. I say this because I cannot find any online evidence that any of the (several) Dukes of York were buried in Tewkesbury Abbey. There is evidence that Tewkesbury Abbey underwent renovations in 1881, however. So it’s possible that the carving came from the Abbey at that time.

Major Charles Busteed Fowler

VPL 21042: Portrait of Major Charles Busteed Fowler. 1920. Dominion Photo.
Drawing of Grandview Drill Hall (not built). Province, 7 Aug 1915.

C. B. Fowler (1849-1941), FRIBA (Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects) was born in Cork, Ireland. He trained at the School of Art in Cork. Much of his early architectural career was spent in Wales. He was apparently having a hard time finding commissions by about 1900 and left Wales (and his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Martin) in 1904 to move to London to search (not very successfully) for work.

In 1904 and again in 1907, Fowler was charged in Wales on a warrant for neglecting to monetarily support his wife (who was living – apart from Fowler – in Wales) (Cardiff Evening Express 4 Nov 1904; Cardiff Weekly Mail, 7 Dec 1907).

It isn’t entirely clear if Fowler ever completely disentangled himself from his money and spousal issues, but in 1908 he sailed for New York on the Adriatic. Fowler spent five years in America, getting the occasional commission. Finally, in 1913, he filed a petition to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. His petition was denied for “lack of prosecution.”* Fowler married his second wife, Lillian S. sometime around 1909 (she was mentioned in his 1910 US Census record). It isn’t clear whether she came to the U.S. with Charles; according to the Census, she was born in Wales. She was 25 — half his age.

The Fowlers came to Vancouver in 1913. Here, he entered into partnership with R.T. Perry, a local architect who had articled with Fowler in Wales.

Fowler designed the Oddfellow’s Hall at 1433 West 8th Avenue (it is still there) (Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada). He and Perry also submitted a drawing for the Harding Memorial competition in 1924, but his submission wasn’t chosen (local sculptor, Charles Marega, won the competition) (Province, 9 Dec 1924). Fowler and Perry also submitted drawings for the Grandview Drill Hall in 1914. But, although this submission was accepted, the Federal Government ultimately decided not to build the Hall and the land was turned over to the City of Vancouver which developed it into (extant) Grandview Park on Commercial Drive.

It isn’t clear in what year Fowler made his gift of the Tudor Rose to the York Hotel. There is no record of that in local press accounts that I could find. However, it would have been sometime between 1929 (when the former Hotel Vancouver Annex became the “York Hotel”) and 1941 (the year of Fowler’s death). Probably shortly after the Annex became the York, so that would be in the early 1930s. It is pretty clear that the rationale for the gift of the Tudor Rose to the Hotel was the Duke of York connection, which in the light of what I was able to find, today, seens pretty doubtful.

Major Fowler lived to be 91 and he was a press darling, especially in his later years. He had the vanity that sometimes accompanies very old age. But there is no question that the man was fit. A few days before his 80th birthday, he hiked the Grouse Grind (although it wasn’t then called that). And he was known for competing in Vancouver Sun walking marathons. In his 80s, he came in fifth in one of those races.

Lillian married William H. Martin in 1960; she died in 1964.

The Rose

It Seems to me as though C. B. Fowler had a somewhat muddled understanding of some of the history of the carving which he gave to the York Hotel. It is possible that the rose was removed from Tewkesbury Abbey in 1881 and acquired by William Clark either in Wales or in Tewkesbury. Clark may well have passed the carving onto Fowler in Wales, when Fowler was working there in the mid-1880s or later. The only aspect of Fowler’s story that certainly seems to be wrong is that the rose came from the tomb of a Duke of York at the Abbey.


*Robert, of WestEndVancouver.wordpress.com, looked into Fowler’s money and spousal troubles and his life in America.

Robert has said that “want of prosecution generally means a failure to take legal steps within a certain period of time…The term may have different meanings based on the specific geographic jurisdiction, area of law, or the context in which it is being used.”

Posted in architects, art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nabob’s ‘Harmony House’ on CBC

CVA 1184-2104: An audience at the Orpheum Theatre watching Nabob’s Harmony House broadcast over CBC. 1940-48 Jack Lindsay.

The “Harmony House” radio variety show was the first commercial radio program originating in the West to be put on CBC’s network. It was broadcast live from the Orpheum Theatre, starting in September 1943 [1]. The corporate sponsor of Harmony House was Nabob. Nabob Tea and other products were manufactured and distributed locally by the Kelly Douglas Company (the head office of which was located just east of the CPR deport in the building known today as The Landing and where Steamworks is located) [2]. Harmony House ran on radio from 1943-55 and then on CBC Television for the 1955-56 season.

CVA 586-5270 – Richmond (“Ricky”) Hyslop and his Harmony House Orchestra. 1944. Don Coltman photo.

Richmond (“Ricky”) Hyslop led the Harmony House Orchestra throughout the radio years and the television season. Hyslop, it seems to me, is one of the unsung and, today, pretty much forgotten, music men of Vancouver’s past. He began as a violinist, was a writer and arranger and, of course, a band leader. The Sun gave some idea of his working life on Harmony House:

For 39 weeks through the winter, Hyslop leads 17 musicians, two soloists, Pat Morgan and Suzanne [Sysak], and a vocal group of five through their paces on Harmony House. The program goes on the air Tuesday evenings and gets as far east as Fort William [Ontario] on the Dominion [CBC] Network.

But before the show hits the air he has to arrange the music, handle rehearsals, soothe the temperamental characters, calm down the excitable ones, ginger up the guys who are half a beat behind and generally set the tone for the operation.

A band leader these days is businessman, musician, trainer, father confessor and idea man all rolled into one.

Vancouver Sun 23 Aug 1952

Hyslop had other responsibilities concurrent with those on Harmony House. Not least, he worked on the production of “Here’s Juliette”, also on the CBC Network, which featured Suzanne’s sister, ‘our pet’, Juliette (Sysak). (Both women preferred to use only their first names, professionally).

The Master of Ceremonies and principal male soloist of the show was tenor, Pat (“Buster”) Morgan. He had a long career, and was known when Harmony House moved to TV, as “the best vocalist in Canada.”

CVA 586-3040 – Pat (‘Buster’) Morgan, M.C. and Soloist for Nabob’s Harmony House. 1944. Don Coltman photo.
CVA 586-3044: “Suzanne” Sysak, soloist of Nabob’s Harmony House (sister of another CBC singer, ‘Our Pet’ Juliette). 1944. Don Coltman photo.
CVA 586-8895: An incarnation of the Nabobettes Trio: Margaret (“Bunty”) Wishart, Marion (“Mamie”) Wishart (sister of Bunty), and Vera Zimmerman. 1945. Don Coltman. [3]

The Nabobettes was a girl group composed of different people at different times. They included Mamie Wishart, Bunty Wishart, Vera Zimmerman, and Thora Anders. Thora Anders had a long music career in Vancouver and sung with many groups, including several productions for Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS). She was also closely associated with Barney Potts and his orchestra, ultimately marrying him.


  1. One of the broadcasts, however, on June 5, 1944, was made from the Vogue Theatre.
  2. A reader of this blog has remarked that she can recall the words to the advertising jingle adopted by Nabob. Apparently, they were (in part): “N-A-B-O-B : The very best coffee and tea.” I tried to find an online source of this with the tune, but had no luck. Nabob Tea was sluggging it out in the 1980s with some serious competition (principally, although not exclusively, from Red Rose). As you will see from the links, this slug-fest was carried out by gently mocking the Mother Country. “Pity.” The Nabob brand was ultimately purchased by Kraft. The Nabob character – which isn’t particularly politically correct – has been abandoned in favour of simply including part of a Nabob’s imagined head gear).
  3. Thanks are due to Robert of WestEndVancouver.wordpress.com for his help in identifying the Nabobettes portrayed here.

Posted in Don Coltman, music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Smoking Prohibited at this Smoker!

CVA 586-1588: 201st Battery Smoker, 1943, Don Coltman.

This is a very brief post to point out a couple of interesting aspects of this WWII-era “Smoker” (a social gathering that typically included tobacco smoking and alcohol drinking) of the 201st Battery, held in downtown Vancouver.

First, I should point out that I am not a smoker, but I am inclined to salute these fellows who are smoking in a hall in which it is clearly marked above them “Fire Regulations Do Not Permit Smoking in This Room”. I count at least five in this bunch who are holding cigarettes. I’m feeling a little rebellious these days, so I wanted to point that out!

Second, the room in which these gents were having a cigarette and a beer is no longer in existence. It was known during WWII as “Victory Hall” (The Province, 24 Sept 1943) and was on the property where Salvation Army’s Belkin House is today: 535 Homer (half a block north of Dunsmuir on the west side of the street). How the building appeared in the mid-1970s is shown below. According to Changing Vancouver, the building was demolished in 2001.

CVA 780-39: 535 Homer Street, 1975.

An interesting feature of the room in which the smoker was held (which seems to be the top floor, judging from the Italianate-style windows) is apparent in another photo of this smoker at CVA’s online photo holdings, shown below.

CVA 586-1587: 201st Battery Smoker, 1943, Don Coltman.

No, I’m not referring to the hula dancers.

The items that caught my eye were the paintings on the wall. This was something not uncommon in the 1930s and ’40s. There are examples of wall paintings of this sort of fantasy coastal scenery in other Vancouver buildings of this period. The only remaining such paintings that I can think of, however, are at Commodore Lanes on Granville Street.

These paintings at 535 Homer probably didn’t last into the 1970s, I’m guessing. They don’t appear to have been very high quality even in 1943.

And all of that illicit smoke must have taken its toll!

Posted in Don Coltman, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Mysterious Joseph Langer

Update (June 2020)

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 one J.F. Langer. He was the man who built the present 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 I discovered what Chuck Davis had learned earlier: that the smallest detail about 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 public blanks about his life and career.

South Africa

Joseph Francis Langer was born in Langendorf, Silesia, Prussia (now a village known as Bozonov, located in southern Poland near the Czech border) in March, 1872 to Eduard and Caroline Langer. Joseph was born into a Church of England family (although the family was registered in a Catholic parish). The Langer family didn’t stay in Prussia long after Joseph was born, however. By the time he reached 6 years of age, the family was settled in South Africa in the territory of Transvaal. Eduard owned Langlagate Royal Gold Mining Co. in Johannesburg.

Joseph Langer. Photo courtesy of Susan Oddy. Date unknown.

During his time in South Africa, Joseph apprenticed as a bricklayer and began to take construction jobs. In 1891, Joseph (age 19) went to London where he established his own construction company. By 1893, he returned to Johannesburg where he continued in the construction business. 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.

Henrietta Van Coller Langer. Photo courtesy of Susan Oddy. Date unknown.

Langer married Henrietta Maria (Hattie) Van Coller in 1893 (1869-1932) in South Africa. She bore 9 kids. They were: May Helena, who was known as “Daisy” (1894-1995); Cecil Edward (1896-1962); Ivy Elaine (1897-1899); Dorothy Ivy (1901-1986); Clarence Basil (1902-1979); Elaine Bertha (1904-1937, who died from lymphnoma; an unnamed child who died at birth; Ivan Clifford (1906-1950s?); Dora Caroline (1912-2002). Dora was the last of the children born to Hattie and Joseph; she was the only child born in Vancouver.

San Francisco/Vancouver/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 1909, he moved to Vancouver.  He worked as a general contractor, principally on residential builds.

Shortly after the Great War began, Langer left Canada for England. He said of his financial status upon leaving for England in 1914: “I had no money when I went back” (3). Langer seems to have been telling a ‘porkie’ here. It’s true that Langer left several creditors in the Vancouver area. (4) But, according to his grand-daughter, Susan Oddy, “My mother [Dora Langer] said that the family lived in wealth until the stock market crash [1929]. Joseph may have had some financial ups and downs before that, but nothing serious. Certainly, he retained some of his wealth in his London investments.”

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

Joseph Langer. Photo courtesy of Susan Oddy. Date unknown.

By August 1923, Langer turned 51 and that year he took his millions and re-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.

Upon returning to Vancouver, Joseph and Hattie took up residence at 1715 Woodland Drive (near East 1st Ave. in the Grandview district); Woodland Drive was one of Langer’s planned communities.

A 5-minute walk from Woodland Dr., at Commercial Dr., lived a couple named Jennie and Harold Farley. Jennie and Hattie Langer became friends. Joseph and Jennie became something more than friends.

Shortly after arriving in Vancouver for the second time, Joseph 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). Hattie and Joseph were separated in 1924. Jennie and Joseph were married by a Justice of the Peace in Washington State in December 1925, and he divorced Henrietta on July 2, 1926.

Henrietta died from cancer January 15, 1932 and is buried in Acton Cemetary.

In 1924, Langer bought a new 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.

In 1929, on bad advice, Joseph sold his theatre interests to Famous Players Canadian Corporation and invested in a gold mine. Susan Oddy says: “At the time, gold was the standard currency, so when the stock market crashed, the price of gold dropped way down, too.” He returned to England shortly thereafter in financial ruin.

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)

Langer died in 1948 at age 76 in circumstances that hint at suicide (as far as I know, there was no autopsy). Langer’s body was found beneath the bedroom window which he’d apparently leapt from; it was in the home of his son Basil in England.

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, and I’m very appreciative for her many memories and family records to Susan Oddy, one of Joseph Langer’s grandaughters (born to Dora Caroline Langer and Gerald Oddy in 1948). I’m also appreciative of the notes and records kept by Ken Royston, great-grandson of Joseph, and those kept by Barbara, grand-daughter of J. L. Langer.

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! (In a follow-up note from Susan Oddy, she notes that Joseph and Henrietta did live in Hazelton for a time. No details were provided, however).

3. Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) Joseph Francis Langer 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 Langer 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 Langer v. McTavish Bros. 1931, Record of Proceedings, p.123.

7. JCPC Langer 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 Langer 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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Analog Craig’s List, 1967

Screen Capture from the video: Ron Morrier, hosting “The Trading Post”. CVA – LEG188.7 – The trading post, 1967.

Given that Ron Morrier is best remembered today as the host of All-Star Wrestling, it may be a bit surprising to watch him hosting this 15-minute program. He comes across as a calm, well-spoken, and good-humoured gent.

Joseph Roland DeLorme (“Ron”) Morrier was born in Prince Albert, SK in 1914 to Joseph Eldege Morrier and Marie-Josephine-Emma Gravel. In his youth, he was a soprano singer and a Golden Gloves boxer. At age 14, he went to St. Boniface, MB where he studied at a Jesuit college. Upon finishing there, he re-joined his parents, who had since moved to Montreal. His folks later moved to Edmonton, where Morrier worked in his Dad’s printing shop.

Morrier married Jean Hobson in Edmonton on April 15, 1942 (Edmonton Journal, 16 Apr 1942). *

He got his first radio job in Edmonton. He worked at various radio broadcasting jobs for 26 years. In ca1944, he was a producer with CBC Radio in Winnipeg. From ca1946-1952, he was with new radio station CJAD (800) in Montreal. He did primarily sportscasting there: Blow-by-blow commentary for boxing, play-by-play for football and hockey matches, and Golfing with Ron Morrier. Other radio jobs were in Waltrous, SK and Kingston, Jamaica.

In ca1952-53, Morrier took a brief break from broadcasting, establishing Ron Morrier Radio-Television, a retail sales business.

In 1956, he moved to Vancouver, where he signed on with new radio station CKLG (730), Vancouver’s ‘Good Music’ station. Here, for the first time in his broadcasting career, Morrier wasn’t principally in the role of sportscaster (that job was filled by Al Pollard). He was the morning show man from 8-10a.m. and his show was called — prepare to groan — The Morrier the Merrier.

He worked in Vancouver radio until 1960, when CHAN-TV got its licence and he joined them. With CHAN and later BCTV, Morrier did bingo, travel, and hobby shows, as well as TV auctions and kids’ shows. And, of course, he was the host of All-Star Wrestling.

Oddly, however, his time hosting The Trading Post didn’t receive any local press that I could find. That leads me to conclude that the program wasn’t long-lasting.

There were three things which could not be offered on The Trading Post: clothing, automobiles, and housing. Otherwise, the products on offer seemed to be the same as you’d see advertised in the classified ads in local newspapers. That might explain why The Trading Post didn’t seem to endure: It was duplicating a service offered more efficiently by print media.

Ron Morrier died at 67 in August 1981. He was survived by his wife, Jean, a son, Kit, and a daughter, Michelle.


  • Thanks to Robert of westendvancouver.wordpress.com for spotting an error in the original version of this post. I was showing “Jean White” as being Morrier’s wife. This error was one I carried forward from Morrier’s death certificate.

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Bingarra/Sun Doo Rooms

CVA 203-9 – 800 – 804 Main Street (and 208 Union Street) aka the SE corner of Main at Union. 1968.jpg

The commercial and residential building (shown immediately above and below) has been absent from the Vancouver landscape for about 50 years. It (and most of Hogan’s Alley to the south and east of this corner) were demolished to make way for the new (1972) Georgia Viaduct which would come barrelling through at this point on two gigantic concrete slabs. (In case you aren’t aware of what Hogan’s Alley was, see here for a little of history on the neighbourhood.)

When the apartment first was established in 1910, it was known as Bingarra Rooms [1]. The first proprietors were James and Mary Quinn who had come to Canada from Ireland in 1894. It remained the Bingarra until the mid-1940s, at which time it took a more Chinese name: Sun Doo Rooms.

CVA 203-11: View of the Sun Doo Rooms (the latest name of the apartment) from the rear (on Union Street). 1968.
CVA 216-1.23 – Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaduct concrete ramps running over Main St. (near Union St) looking NE, 1971.
CVA 203-18: 800 block Main Street, 1969. The view from the end of the 800 block Main up to the Sun Doo Rooms/London Drugs shop.
CVA 586-6105 – The view from Union Street rooms in the Sun Doo. You would have looked out at Luck Man Rooms (I think “Black Cat” was an ad for tobacco), on the NE corner of Union and Main Streets and the BC Electric Substation (as it then was) on the NW corner. 1945. Don Coltman.

J. W. Bailey, who bought the Bingarra after James Quinn died in 1922 (or perhaps just prior to his death), relied heavily on print advertisements to get the message out that the apartment was an economical, safe and clean place to live.

Vancouver Sun. 5 July 1921.

In March 1969, the City announced that it would expropriate the land that was home to many blacks and Chinese (and others of various ethnicities), including the land under Sun Doo Rooms. The residents had 4 months to find alternative accommodation.


  1. The source of the name “Bingarra” could be Irish, Australian, or American. It is the name of a townland in Galway; it is the name of a town in NSW in Australia; and it is the name of a well-known stallion in the early 1900s (owned by William Russell Allen of Massachusetts). Given that the first proprietors, James and Mary Quinn, were from Ireland, I’m betting on the Irish connection. (Many thanks to Robert of WestEndVancouver.wordpress.com for digging up this info.)

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Dr. Ray Starr Goodwin

Ray Starr Goodwin with a group of First Baptist Church Young People (predominantly women), 1904-05. First Baptist Church (Vancouver) Archives.

According to handwritten information on the back of this photo, it is an image of First Baptist Church young people on an outing to Deep Cove ca1904-05. The only person named is “Ray Starr Goodwin”, but he isn’t identified except with an “x” on the back of the image and the additional description of being a “16-yr-old boy”. Judging from the apparent ages of people in the photo and the location of the “x”, I conclude that Ray is probably the boy reclining at far left.

Ray Goodwin was born in Port Elgin, New Brunswick to Charles Hadenbroeke Goodwin and Sarah Amelia Lusby on April 12, 1888. In 1891, the family moved west to Kaslo, B.C. in the West Kootenays. Charles was one of the earliest settlers in Kaslo and continued to live there with Sarah until her death in 1934 and his in 1935. Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin hailed from the Maritimes. Ray had two elder sisters: Flora and May.

M-1-66 – A Vancouver, Westminster and Yukon Railway Company train crosses New Westminster bridge. July 1904.

In 1905, Ray Goodwin was living and working in Vancouver (thus, explaining his appearance with the FBC folks on their Deep Cove trip). He is shown in the ‘05 city directory as being a stenographer for the V. W. & Y. R. (Vancouver, Westminster and Yukon Railway). He was only with the Railway for that single year, as far as I can tell. It may have been just a summer job. In any case, I assume that he returned to Kaslo to finish high school after that.

Ray trained for a career in dentistry at the North Pacific College of Pharmacy and Dentistry (a private college in Portland, OR). He moved to Vancouver, BC soon after graduating in 1914. Following his examination and a “full pass” by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia, he began to practice in Vancouver in 1915 at 2190 West 4th Ave (near Yew), and resided at 1922 Venables (near Victoria).

In November 1916, Ray married Emma Augusta Brune, an American. They were married at First Baptist Church in Emma’s hometown of Vancouver, WA. They settled in Vancouver, BC. In ca1918, the Goodwins moved into their new residence at 4485 West 7th Avenue (near Sasamat), where they lived for the rest of their lives.

At about the same time as they moved house, Ray gave up membership at FBC Vancouver and became a member at Fairview Baptist (located at 5th Avenue and Arbutus, at the time). Although their home was situated deep in the West Point Grey district, Fairview Baptist was probably the nearest Baptist church to their home at the time; in any case, it was certainly closer than downtown First Baptist.

When I was looking at photos made by Ray in Kaslo, I noticed that there was a “Howard Green” who was identified in a few of them. I concluded, provisionall