When the King was Here and Swinging

CVA 2014-089.0604 – Les Guildermeester (I have no idea who LG is or was), Benny Goodman and Hugh Pickett at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. April 1976.

Benny Goodman (1909-1986) was my musical hero during my high school years. No, those years were not for me the 1930s or 1940s. They were the late 1970s!

Yes, I was and am, perhaps, a bit odd. I was turned on to the musical stylings of the King of Swing some forty years after he made those sounds popular; when he was about a decade from death. But thanks to the magic of LP records, I was able to hear him and his trios, quartets, and other sub-band groups as freshly as when they made those recordings.

Well, I can hear you saying, what has this to do with Vancouver as it was?

I’ve just learned, thanks to the Hugh Pickett fonds at CVA, that Benny and his then-Sextet played Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in April 1976, just shy of his 67th birthday. His sextet on this tour that included Vancouver consisted of:

Vache and Tate were added as soloists and weren’t, technically, members of the Goodman group. This version of the Goodman Sextet had been on a tour of North American locations: Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver. Seattle and Portland were next (and last) on the tour schedule.

Province. 10 April 1976.

There is another element that makes the Goodman Sextet worthy of mention in VAIW. According to the Sun, Goodman was the first registered guest to stay in the new Four Seasons Hotel at Georgia and Howe (Sun, 23 April 1976). Apparently, Goodman was arriving in the city the day before the hotel was due to open and that made him “the hotel’s first guest”. Given that the hotel was due to close in January this year, this forgotten tidbit seems worth noting.

Peter Appleyard, the Brit who made Toronto his home, was the principal media spokesperson during the Sextet’s time in Vancouver. It was his voice, rather than Benny’s, that was in local news accounts of the Vancouver session. I think it was Goodman’s preference not to talk a lot with media types. He much preferred to play . . . and I still prefer to listen to the King swing it!

The album cover art adjacent was, as I recall, from one of my favourite Goodman recordings. It was made in 1967 and features such classics as “How ‘ya Gonna Keep ’em Down On The Farm” and “Autumn Leaves”.

This online version brought back some memories.

Posted in music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1948 Exterior Views of Vancouver’s Grand Old Lady

This is a pictorial post of crops based on some terrific images made of the Old Hotel Vancouver (1916) by Don Coltman in April 1948.

Judging from the titles given the original images, I take it that these were commissioned by T. Eaton Co. — the corporate caretaker of the property (as well as the adjacent York Hotel and International Cinema) until the giant downtown Eaton’s store occupied the space in 1972 (to be succeeded by Sears and then by Nordstrom’s).

There were at least two major major occupants of the Old HV in its final months: the Citizen’s Rehabilitation Council (which housed veterans of WWII) and the National Employment Service (aka the Unemployment Insurance Commission). There was a UIC “women’s entrance” on Howe and a “men’s entrance” on Granville Street (why two entries were considered necessary, I don’t know). The CRC entry seemed to be the former main entry to the Old HV on Georgia Street.

Crop of CVA 586-7067. The principal entrance to Old HV, looking west on Georgia Street. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7046. Corner of Howe and Georgia of Old HV. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7056. Men’s Entrance to Vancouver’s UIC office — on Granville. (Note tracks for streetcars on Granville). 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7010. This seems to have been made in the Old HV’s laundry lane, looking out toward the then-Court House (now the Art Gallery). 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7012. This is a view of the Georgia at Granville corner. The building across Granville is the Old Birk’s building. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7028. A similar view to the one immediately above, but looking south on Granville with the Old HV to the right. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7056. View of the Old HV to the right on Granville. The International Cinema is on the left. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7035. Women’s UIC entrance on Howe. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7043. A gent looking out the window of reception area of the York Hotel (by this time, owned by the same people as owned the Old HV — Eaton’s). 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7037. A UIC clerk? through window on Howe side of Old HV. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7034. Gents visible through windows on Howe side. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7068. Looking east on Georgia through the main entry to Old HV. 1948. Don Coltman.
Crop of CVA 586-7063. A gent looking (wistfully?) out of a window on the Georgia side of Old HV. 1948. Don Coltman.

Nine months after the original images were taken on which the above crops were based, the end of January 1949, the wreckers came on site and proceeded to demolish the Old HV.

Posted in Don Coltman, hotels/motels/inns | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

William Fowler: Early Orchestra Leader in an Innocent Age

Crop of Mil P183 – William Fowler’s Orchestra at the 1st Annual Ball of F. Company 6th Regiment, D.C.O.R. at Lester Hall (1205 Granville). Note: The orchestra is in the orchestra gallery at the back of the hall. I’m not sure which of the men is Fowler. Vancouver, B.C. Dec 15 1911. Bullen & Lamb photo.

William Fowler (1875-1936) was the leader of Fowler’s Orchestra from ca1902 to ca1915. He was the eldest son of James Fowler and Jane Youngson. His sole sibling was his younger brother, Peter. The Fowlers came to Vancouver from England in 1891.

The first gig of Fowler’s Orchestra seems to have been the grand opening in 1902 of the Colonial Hotel. The Colonial Hotel still stands today, however these days it is known by a different name: the Yale Hotel (1300 Granville).

In 1907, at age 32, Fowler married Ellen Elizabeth Horsfield (age 21) in Vancouver. Like William, Ellen (1885-1952) had been born in England (although she was a much more recent arrival; she came in 1904). William and Ellen would have one child, Jane.

Fowler’s Orchestra played many Masonic [1] events. I assume this was partly because Masonic lodges were in such abundance and had a substantial membership at the time; also partly because Fowler was a Mason. But I should point out that Fowler didn’t seem to discriminate against other groups. For example, he took on jobs for Roman Catholic groups (e.g. the Knights of Columbus ball, and the opening of St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church hall in 1911 in Kitsilano).

Among the many news accounts of the events at which Fowler’s orchestra played, I’ve chosen the one shown below. It is a good example of period language and of the mood and priorities that seemed to prevail in the city prior to WWI.

The second ball of the series given by the Girls’ auxiliary [this seems to have been a group which was fundraising for VGH] in Lester hall last night proved a most delightful affair. The gaily decorated hall presented an almost fairylike scene. The walls and galleries were almost entirely hidden from view by a profusion of delicate paper flowers and blossoms, while from the gold and red draperies festooned from corner to corner overhead, large imitation roses were suspended by fine wire giving them the appearance of having fallen and being caught in mid-air. The hall was comfortably filled for dancing, about 250 guests being present, while the music played by Fowler’s orchestra was excellent. Amongst those present were . . .[a list of what appears to have been most of the ladies present, along with a description of what each was wearing! For example:] . . . Mrs. C. S. Douglas, gowned with white net over satin . . . Mrs. S. S. Taylor, vieux rose satin with handsome steel bugle trimming . . . . [etc.]

The Province. 5 February 1910.

Other groups that Fowler’s orchestra played for included the Sons of Ireland, the Lancashire Old Boys (which typically met in O’Brien’s Hall on Hastings near Homer), Sons of St. George, Sons of England, the Cooks and Waiters of Vancouver (a trade union group), the Jolly Club (!), Musicians Mutual Protective Union (of which Fowler was a life member), and the British Isles Public Schools Association (which seems to have been composed of ‘old boys’ who had attended ‘public schools’ in Britain — what we’d call ‘private schools’ in North America; their wives were welcome at dancing events).

The admission charge (presumably to cover the cost of the orchestra and catering of ‘dainty’ sandwiches) for dances of the sort that Fowler’s Orchestra played during this period tended to be less than $1 per person. There were different rates for different genders: typically at Fowler events it was 50 cents for gents and 25 cents for ladies. I’m not sure why the gender differentiation. Perhaps it was due to there being more guys than gals in the city and the organizers wanting to encourage attendance by ladies so that there would be enough dancing partners to go around.

World. 17 December 1915.

One of the final events that Fowler’s Orchestra played was for the Vancouver General Hospital’s New Year’s reception in 1915. VGH had officially opened in 1906, but the first nurses’ residence wasn’t opened until 1915. Fowler et al set up in the dining room of the nurses’ buildings.

At the end of 1915, it was announced that William Fowler would take on the managerial reigns of the Ross Music Store (334 West Hastings). He didn’t seem to keep this job very long, however; perhaps a single year. After that, it seems, he retired. Despite being a popular early orchestra leader in the city Fowler, it seems, was not well known — at least not by members of the Fourth Estate. In his 1936 obituary, the writer seemed to be at such a loss at what to write about the band leader that he devoted a whole paragraph of the four-paragraph obituary to pointing out that William was the son of James Fowler, who had superintended construction of several CPR Empress steamships.

Little did the citizens of Vancouver then realize that the relatively carefree days that preceded the 1914-18 war would not return. It was inconceivable that the war would claim some 60,000 Canadian lives and that many more would suffer mental and physical disabilities as a consequence.

By 1918 and beyond, the party was definitely over.


[1] Some of the Masonic groups were known by names that are still recognizable, such as the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), and some that are not, such as the “Sons of Hermann” and “Lodge Merrie England”!

Posted in Bullen & Lamb, music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Block of Libraries


In 1925, Mrs. A. J. Davidson would start a little bookstore business across the street from the home shown below (later she would move the business next door to the home, later down the block a few doors; it would never be far away). She called the bookshop, perhaps with a vain hope of exclusivity, The Library.

CVA 1376-517 - [Clearing the lot at 2818 and 2820 Granville Street] 1928_
Crop of CVA 1376-517 – Workers clear front of lots at 2818 and 2820 Granville Street (east side of street between 12th and 13th Avenues) for construction of commercial space. One of the businesses at front would be The Stanley Library, not to be confused with The Library, another bookshop, initially located across the street. By the time this image was made, The Library had moved across to the east side of Granville, right beside where Stanley Library would be (note ad on The Library’s wall, cheekily facing the home). 1928.

But by about 1928, Mrs Davidson had a competitor on the block. The owner of the home at 2818 Granville was Mrs. Maud Leslie, a widow. Mrs. Leslie’s daughter*, Miss Lorna-June Leslie had an entrepreneurial drive and wanted to run her own little book and china shop. Start-up capital was doubtless an issue for June Leslie; if she was going truly to be an entrepreneur she wanted to own the property rather than be forever beholden to a landlord. So the Leslies decided they would capitalize on the front yard of their residence** and have June’s Stanley Library built on their home property. This was not by any means the first such residence/business mash-up in Vancouver. Indeed, in the downtown area (Denman Street, e.g.) this early variant on densification was fairly common. I don’t know whether a rezoning permit from the City was required in 1928.

CVA 1376-521 - [2820 Granville Street - the Stanley Library %22June Leslie's store%22] 1933
CVA 1376-521 – The Stanley Library, 2820 Granville. 1933.

Mrs. Leslie and June lived in the home at 2818 Granville for a couple of years, and then moved, presumably preferring to collect rent on the property.

One of the most remarkable things about this tale is that the home remains on the site today, its exterior at least, apparently substantially unchanged.

Maud and June Leslie’s former home (2818 Granville) poking up behind Black Goat Cashmere and Daniel Chocolates, as it appears today. It isn’t clear to me whether the home is still used as a residence. But judging from a parking sign in the laneway (“Rear Entrance ONLY for Employees and Deliveries”), it doesn’t seem likely (Note: The concrete tower in left background of image is Chalmers Lodge, a seniors residence). 2016. Author’s photo.

What became of the apparent rivalry between The Library and Stanley Library? Who outlasted whom? Stanley Library seems to have remained in business for 17 years (1928-1945); a Mrs. Raymer took over the business in 1943. The Library, on the other hand) endured for more than a quarter century (1925-51); a Mrs. Kirby had assumed the reigns by the mid-1940s.

Even more interesting, perhaps, is that one block in the South Granville/Fairview area was able to sustain two independent bookstores for the better part of 20 years. How things have changed.


*I haven’t been able to establish beyond a doubt that Maud was June’s mother, but it seems to me to be all but certain.

**The home was built ca1909 for Fred Deeley by a J. Curtis for about $1,200.

Posted in books/reading, businesses, street scenes, yesterday & today | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Earle Hill: From ‘Dainty’ to ‘Cave Man’ Music

CVA 99-4556 – Earle C. Hill and Hotel Vancouver orchestra in Spanish Grill Sept 20 1933 Stuart Thomson.

Earle Hill (1887-1955) was a noteworthy orchestra leader in Vancouver in the late 19-teens and the ’30s and ’40s.

Earle Channell Hill was born in 1887 to William and Vella in Vanvert, Ohio. He played the violin. He had his first performance opportunity when he was in high school in Ohio, by playing Brahms in a hotel lobby with a string trio he’d assembled. He later played for vaudeville theatre in various Ohio locations and also joined the Cleveland Philharmonic Orchestra.

Earle Hill. Cropped image taken from the cover of sheet music for “Sittin’ Around”. Tom Carter collection.

Shortly after that, a friend of Hill’s who’d left Ohio for Canada, wrote to him, suggesting that he come up to Winnipeg where he could probably find performance work. He took his friend’s suggestion, and he went to Winnipeg in about 1912 where he worked at various small music jobs, but then he heard of an opportunity at the Canadian National Railway’s (CNR’s) Hotel Macdonald (1915- ) in Edmonton. Together with his brother-in-law, Calvin Winter (organ) and Frank Emde (cello) they formed the Macdonald Trio and played the hotel for about three years (1915-18). The three also offered studio classes in violin, cello, and piano as well as “orchestral classes” at the Majestic Theatre building on Jasper Ave. in Edmonton.

In late 1918, Hill was offered the job of leader of the Hotel Vancouver orchestra (succeeding Oscar P. Ziegler — the first VSO conductor — who had recently died). Hill’s music stylings were described in the local press as being “tasteful and dainty.” Hill was even vice-president of Vancouver’s Clef Club — an organization which had as one of its aims to eliminate jazz music (World, 5 June 1920).

He stayed at the Hotel Vancouver for just a couple of years; by July 1920, he was orchestra leader at the Barron Hotel (SE corner, Granville at Nelson). A typical programme at the Barron included selections from Grieg, Verdi, and Beethoven. Pretty longhaired stuff.

1921 saw Hill making a departure, both physically and musically. He returned to Winnipeg where he was employed to succeed E. Joseph Shadwick as the conductor of the “Famous Capitol (Theatre) Symphony Orchestra”, where his group would play for the silent films of the day. By about 1925, the name of the group was changed, at Hill’s suggestion, to the “Famous Capitolians”. The new name had such cache that the management group in charge of Western Canadian Capitol Theatres (Famous Players) changed the names of all of the Western Capitol orchestras to match that of the Winnipeg theatre.

Hill led his Famous Capitolians in Winnipeg until May 1931 when he agreed to lead an orchestral group in the CPR’s Royal Alexandra Hotel in Winnipeg. He was at the Royal Alex for just a matter of months.

In autumn of 1931, Hill accepted a return call to Vancouver. His first job was with the Strand Theatre Orchestra. In 1932, he would lead the Orpheum Theatre Concert Orchestra. And in 1933, he would return to the Hotel Vancouver — this time playing the Spanish Grill (see featured photo above), where his group would provide dance music on Wednesday and Saturday nights (from 9.30 p.m. to 1 a.m.; “No cover charge, $1.50 supper included”!) He seems to have been attached to the Hotel Vancouver until ca1935.

Hill took a 3-year sabbatical from Vancouver starting in about 1936. (1) This period seemed to mark a fundamental change in the kind of music on offer from Hill’s orchestras. He accepted a position as the leader of the band attached to Winnipeg’s branch of the Cave Supper Clubs. It would be known as “Earle Hill and the Cave Men”, and it would not be known for its dainty renderings of Greig!

When he returned to Lotusland at the end of 1938, it was to take on the job as the band leader of Vancouver’s Cave Supper Club (626 Hornby). The Vancouver Cave advertised itself as being “Vancouver’s Newest and Most Novel Cabaret. Gay informal dancing and floor shows of distinction. Dance to Earle Hill’s scintillating rhythm.” With his Vancouver Cave position, he left the ‘dainty music’ of his earlier professional life behind for good.

Hill played the Cave from 1938-44 and then, abruptly, stopped performing. In 1945, he took a job as a department manager at Kelly Piano. That was followed by various other posts with music shops in the city.

In a profile on his life written a few years before his death, he attempted to explain why he quit leading bands in the mid-’40s: “If I put my head in a lion’s mouth and I get an idea that it is thinking of closing its mouth, I take my head out, to make it easier for him. But I still get the urge to put it back again.” (Sun, 9 January 1951)

He resisted the urge, however, and died of heart failure in 1955 at the age of 67.

Earle Hill and His Cave Men at the Winnipeg establishment of the Cave Supper Club. 1937. Source.


(1) Hill’s first wife, Leona, died in 1934 at the age of 38. He married his second wife, Marion, in 1942.

Posted in music, stuart thomson, theatre/vaudeville/cinemas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Former U.S. President Tours Vancouver…in About 30 Minutes

CVA 99-1276 – Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (left, lifting hat) with Mayor L.D. Taylor (right, hat in hand) walking west on Cordova Street, outside CPR Depot. (Note: The boy who is right up against the coattails of TR reminds me of the newsboys in this image featured in an earlier VAIW post). July 18, 1915. Stuart Thomson photo.

When former U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, came to Vancouver on July 18, 1915, he was in town for about half an hour. The Roosevelt party, according to press accounts, consisted of three people: Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, Mrs. Roosevelt (Edith Kermit Roosevelt), and Teddy’s secretary, W. J. McGrath (a Dalhousie University graduate). The group was on the way to Seattle where they would attend the Panama-Pacific Exposition. They had come via Banff, where they spent two days. The Vancouver stop was truly a ‘whistle-stop’; his train had arrived in the city from Banff at 9.25 a.m. and he had to be on his Seattle-bound ship at 10.00.

Although Teddy was in Vancouver scarcely half an hour, he managed to fit into that time an impressive schedule of hat-raising, glad-handing, speech-making, autograph-signing, and motorcading! One could be forgiven for thinking he planned to run for office north of the 49th parallel!

The image above, made by Stuart Thomson, in my judgement is a brilliant piece of camera work. It deserves to be more widely acknowledged as such. The boy approaching Roosevelt and Taylor (from the right foreground) is dressed in a suit which appears to be a match for that worn by TR (how, by the way, were these guys able to tolerate three-piece suits in mid-July — even if they were summer weight?). The boy’s hat is a bit different from TR’s, but it is a junior sized version of an adult hat, not like the soft caps worn by other boys in the image. The boy seems to be captured in the process of raising his hat just as TR is raising his own head gear! And the look of bemusement on TR’s face caught by the camera is classic, brilliant Thomson timing. It would be challenge enough to get this scene right today, much more in 1915. Bravo!

The quote which follows is taken from the Revelstoke Daily News. It is a more succinct recounting of Vancouver happenings than anything that appeared in Vancouver papers regarding TR’s time here (local accounts included far more info — of a picayune sort — than a present-day blog reader would wish to slog through. Trust me).

VANCOUVER, BC, JULY 18 — Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt was welcomed here this morning by about 3,000 citizens. Wearing a summer suit and a big panama hat, the big Bull Moose stepped off the train jauntily when he was greeted with rounds of cheers. He was met at the depot by a large committee of prominent businessmen as well as Mayor Taylor (1) and members of the city council. For a few minutes he was busy handing out autographs and in reply to Col. Worsnop’s (2) greeting said:

“I am proud at the showing that Canada has made in the way of helping Great Britain. Will you see that my regrets are expressed to the soldiers in the city that I could not stay and see them and express my appreciation of Britain’s noble work in the great war [Ahem, umm Teddy, I think you mean Canada’s noble work].”

Passing to the automobile that was in wait for him and which whisked him round the city at 40 miles an hour for 20 minutes — for he had only 25 minutes to stay [some accounts say 35 minutes] — he met a number of Highlanders, whom he saluted….

“Men of this country,” he said, “at the front have fought and died honorably. It is lamentable that they should die but the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church and I say that no national fabric can be built until it is cemented by the blood of those willing to make the sacrifice of their lives for an ideal. Every man will walk with head higher with pride when thinking of the manner in which the Canadian sons have responded to the great call,” a statement which was received with cheers….

Revelstoke Daily News, July 19, 1915 (By Daily News Leased Wire from Vancouver, BC) – Emphasis mine.

This raises a couple of questions in my mind.

First, what was the nature of the 40 mph, 20-minute whiz around Vancouver? Where did Roosevelt’s motorcade go? Well, it seems pretty clear that it didn’t get anywhere near the 100 block of West Hastings, as is implied by information accompanying the final photo below from CVA. A paragraph in the Vancouver Daily World maintains that the motorcade went only to Stanley Park:

A few moments later Colonel Roosevelt was in Alderman Kirk’s car in which, accompanied by Mrs. Roosevelt and the mayor, he took a trip around Stanley Park.

Vancouver Daily World, 19 July 1915

Secondly, why on earth did Roosevelt engage in his loquacious (and to my 21st century mind, insensitive) remarks pertaining to Canada’s contribution to the ongoing Great War? I’m referring to his comment about how “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” (Note: This is a misappropriated quote from early church father, Tertullian. . . a pacifist! This was spotted by my friend, Tim. Thanks, Tim.) Almost as shocking as the fact that he said this is the response of the crowd. . . they cheered?!

This, indeed, was a different time.

Crop of CVA 99-1277 – Teddy Roosevelt speaking to crowd, evidently outside of the CPR Depot. July 18, 1915. Stuart Thomson photo.
CVA 99-1278 – Teddy Roosevelt standing in back seat of car, speaking to crowd in front of CPR Depot. July 18, 1915. Stuart Thomson photo. Classic auto expert, Peter Findlay, has identified the car shown above (with its distinctive windscreen design) as being a 1914 Cadillac. The steering wheel is also distinctive — known as a ‘fat man’ variety.
CVA 1477-652 – “Part of motorcade during Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Vancouver. August 1914.” This description is the one given by CVA. I don’t think this is accurate for a number of reasons: (1) according to VDW, the 20-minute motorcade of TR went through Stanley Park; (2) early automobile expert, Peter Findlay, in reply to a query from me, maintains that the vehicles shown in this image look more like 1910 than 1915 models; (3) early fashions experts puts the clothing worn by the people in this image at closer to 1910 than 1915. (The autos in this photo are proceeding in a westerly direction down the 100 bock of West Hastings — they are just passing the Ormidale and Fleck Blocks.)


(1) Members of the committee included the following (according to The Province):

Mr. Jonathan Rogers, president of the Vancouver Board of Trade; Mr. George E. Graham; Mr. W. A. Blair, secretary of the Vancouver Board of Trade; Mr. Justice Morrison; Col, C. A. Worsnop; Sir Charles Hibbert Tupper; Mr. F. W. Peters, General Superintendent of the C.P.R.; Mr. I. N. Miller, Jr., president of the American Club; Mr. C. E. Tisdall, M.L.A.; Mr. A. H. B. Macgowan, M.L.A., Mr. H. H. Watson, M.L.A.; Mr. H. H. Morris, president of the Vancouver Bankers’ Association; Mr. J. M. Bowell, collector of customs; Dr. F. F. Wesbrook, president of the University of British Columbia; Mr. F. Carter-Cotton, chancellor of the University of British Columbia.

The Province, 19 July 1915

Mayor L. D. Taylor was not included among the wealthy/influential types who composed the Roosevelt welcome committee. So LDT, ever crafty, met TR’s train at Mission, and rode with TR into the City, thereby beating the committee at their own ‘welcome’ game!

(2) Colonel Worsnop had written to TR inviting him to meet with him and his Vancouver Seaforth Highlanders and deliver a speech. TR, however, sent a reply expressing his regret that his brief time in the city would not allow it.

Posted in stuart thomson, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Avon Theatrical Productions: A Checklist

Crop of CVA’s LGN 999 – Night scene showing ‘old’ Pantages on 100 block East Hastings — what would become, in 1952, the Avon Theatre. 191- BCER.

The Avon Theatre was originally known as the Pantages, from its opening with that name as a vaudeville house in 1908 (on south side of East Hastings between Columbia and Main). It was identified less formally as the ‘old Pantages’ with the opening in 1917 of a ‘new’ Pantages (on south side of West Hastings between Carrall and Abbott; demolished 1967). With the opening of the ‘new’ Pantages, the ‘old’ theatre was known variously as the Royal, the State, the Queen, and the State again.

CVA. Avon business card given to Major Matthews.

In 1952, a repertory group under the leadership of Sydney Risk (1908-1985), Everyman Repertory Co., leased the former State Theatre building from landlord Jack Aceman (1910-1989) and it was re-named the Avon Theatre. Risk’s company, prior to moving into the Avon, was located at 2237 Main Street (Main at 7th). Everyman put on a total of 13 productions until Risk and his group parted company with the Avon in April 1953.

Jack Aceman and Charles Nelson produced 12 plays from June 1953 until they packed it in at the end of 1955. After that, the theatre was no longer known as the Avon. It was, initially, the Fairview Branch 178 Canadian Legion Social Club, which leased the space from Aceman Investments to stand bingo events. In 1956, the Canadian Chinese American Theatres Ltd. took over the old Avon to present mainly Chinese language films.

The Pantages/Queen/State/Avon Theatre was demolished in 2011.

What appears below is a checklist showing the theatrical productions staged by Risk and by Aceman & Nelson. Only shows put on by these appear below.* In most instances, I have shown the name of the play and the playwright(s), the opening date, the director’s name, the headliners (stars); and supporting cast (probably incomplete, in some cases). In the few instances when I’ve had access to a play’s programme, I’ve been able to add staffing information, as well.

(1) “MacBeth” (William Shakespeare): September 29, 1952

  • Director: Sydney Risk
  • Headliners: Dean Goodman (1920-2006), Dorothy Davies (1920-2002)
  • Supporting cast: Juan Root
  • MacBeth marked the beginning of the 7th season of Everyman Theatre since it was formed in 1946. Prior to this production, Everyman had been playing at 7th and Main Street
“MacBeth” – Avon Theatre, 1952. Tom Carter Collection.**

(2) “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Oscar Wilde): October 13, 1952

  • Director/Producer: Sydney Risk
  • Headliners: Richard Litt, Alma Thery, Ronald Siddons
  • Supporting cast: James Onley, Ted Babcock, Joanne Walker, Gwen Arntzen, Myra Benson, William Hernon

(3) “The Late Christopher Bean” (Sidney Howard): October 20 1952

(4) Double bill: “Down in the Valley”, a folk opera (Kurt Weill and Arnold Sundgaard); and “A Phoenix Too Frequent”, a 1-act play (Christopher Fry) : November 3, 1952

  • Director: Sydney Risk
  • Headliners: Dorothy Davies, Ed McCurdy,
  • Supporting cast: Natalie Minunzie, Andrew Snider, James Johnston, Jessie Richardson, John Emerson, Lee Butcher, Tom Wright, Len Haymen
  • Laurence Wilson (conductor of CBC Orchestra) conducted a 15-member pit orchestra for DITV. A Vancouver News-Herald article pointed out that some of the Avon’s best seats would be sacrificed for the inclusion of the pit orchestra in DITV

(5) “The Play’s the Thing” (Ferenc Molnar): November 17, 1952

  • Director: Dean Goodman; Co-Producers: Sydney Risk, Dean Goodman
  • Headliners: Dean Goodman, Doris Sheridan
  • Supporting cast: Ted Babcock, Stan Jones, Ron MacDonald, Norman Newton, and Juan Root.

(6) “Murder Without Crime” (Lee Thompson): November 26, 1952

(7) “Androcles and the Lion” (George Bernard Shaw): December 10, 1952

  • Director: John Thorne
  • Headliners: James Onley, Georgia Nelson
  • Supporting cast: George Murphy, James Peters, Glyn Jones, Myrna Benson, Russ Crossland, Len Lauk, Andy Snider, Renee Gordon

(8) “Little Women” (Louisa May Alcott): December 26, 1952

  • Headliner: Doris Buckingham
  • Supporting cast: Wendy Cox, Arthur Keenan, Angela Wood, Earl Baerg, Ted Babcock, Andrew Snider, Renee Gordon Eleanor Nicholls

(9) “Tobacco Road” (Erskine Caldwell): January 7, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Cast include: Babs Hitchman, Doug Haskins, Louise DeVick, Ross Mortimer, Ted Babcock, Tamara Dlugo, Douglas Hellier, Jean Robb, James Peters, Russ Crossland, Andrew Snider and George Barnes.
  • TR was described as “adult entertainment”; no matinee performances.
  • There were two special matinee productions of “Rumpelstiltskin” on January 10 and 17 (and probably also on the 24th due to the postponement of Tobacco Road because of the associated public relations fracas).
Program cover from Avon Theatre re-staging of Tobacco Road, 1953. Tom Carter Collection.

(10) “Hamlet” (William Shakespeare): January 28, 1953

  • Director: Dean Goodman.
  • Headliners: Dean Goodman, Mary Matthews
  • Supporting cast: George Murphy, James Onley, Dodd Dalsgaard, Ron MacDonald, William Lawson (among a total of 20)

(11) “Light Up the Sky” (Ross Hart): February 11, 1953

  • Director: Sydney Risk
  • Headliner: Dorothy Davies
  • Supporting cast: Babs Hitchman, Andrew Snider, Bruno Gerussi, Cathy Graham, Frank Lambrett-Smith, Ted Babcock, George Barnes, Don McManus,  Angela Wood, George Barnes, David Jones, Derek Ralston, Bob Haskins, and Jean Robb

(12) “The Hasty Heart” (John Patrick): March 4, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Headliners: Bruno Gerussi, Vivien Brooke-Harte
  • Supporting cast: John Haddy, Harry Mossfield, Doug Haskins, Len Gibson, Alec Denbigh, Guy Palmer

(13) “The Passing the Third Floor Back” (Jerome K. Jerome): March 25, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Headliner: Bill Buckingham.
  • Supporting cast: Jessie Richardson, Frank Crowson, Janet Bragg, Alma Thery, Noel Barrie, Ted Babcock, Bruno Gerussi, Jack Ammon, Dorothy Fowler, Vivien Brooke-Harte, Myra Benson

(14)  Re-opening of “Tobacco Road” (Erskine Caldwell): April 11, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Cast: Ted Babcock, Doug Haskins, Georgia Nelson, Babs Hitchman, Eleanor Nicholls, Doug Hellier, John Leslie, Cathryn Graham, Jean Robb, George Barnes, Jack Ammon
  • Company Manager: Bruno Gerussi; Stage Manager: Dave Jones; Stage Designer: Gary Ness
Program from Avon Theatre re-staging of Tobacco Road, 1953. Tom Carter Collection.

(15) “The Drunkard” — a musical comedy (Timothy Shay Arthur): June 13, 1953 

  • This had earlier been playing at the Cave Supper Club with same cast: John Watson, Cora O’Day, Dorothy London,  Alice Hulet, Elmer Cleve, Maryline Cleve.
  • ALSO on Avon’s Stage were to be 10 vaudeville acts that would include singing, dancing, musical and comedy routines

(16) “Of Mice and Men” (John Steinbeck): October 5, 1953.

(17) “Mr Roberts” (Thomas Heggen): November 30, 1953

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Craig Stevens
  • Supporting cast: Bruno Gerussi, Stan Jones, Art Keenan, John MacDonald, Roma Hearn
  • Set design: Gail McCance
“Mr. Roberts” – Avon Theatre, 1953. Tom Carter Collection.

(18) “You Can’t Take it With You” (George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart): January 4, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies.
  • Headliner: Charles Coburn
  • Supporting cast: Verlie Cooter, Art Keenan, Margot Conine, Eleanor Collins, Wally Marsh, Otto Lowy, Tom Shorthouse, Howard Fair, Eve Newitt, Les Wagar, Bob Woodward, Sam Allman, Nancy Graham, Alma Thery, Rosemary Deveson, Andy Snider, William Gordon, John Maunsell
  • Stage Manager: Les Wagar; Lighting: Tommy Lea; Assistant Lighting: Andy Snider; Properties: Margot Conine; House Manager: Tom Buchanan; Sets: Sydney Risk

(19)  Jan 25 1954 “Moon is Blue” (Hugh Herbert): January 25, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Peggy Ann Garner
  • Supporting cast: Juan Root, John MacDonald, Allan Roughton
  • Sets: Andy Snider; Artist: Victor Miles; Lights: Tommy Lea; Props: Margot Conine; Stage Manager: Les Wagar

(20) “For Love or Money” (Hugh Herbert): February 15, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Victor Jory
  • Supporting cast: Lillian Carlson, Doris Buckingham, Wally Marsh, Margot Conine, Les Wager, Bud Slater, Molly Bellamy.

(21) “Kiss and Tell” (Hugh Herbert): March 8, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Margaret O’Brien.
  • Supporting cast: Lillian Carlson, Doris Buckingham, John MacDonald, Barry Cramer, Derek Ralston, Bruno Gerussi, Hilda Browne, Bobby Johnston, Bud Slater, Rosemary Deveson, Andy Snider, Art Keenan
  • Stage Manager/Sets: Andy Snider; Lights: Tommy Lea; Sound: Bruno Gerussi; Costumes/Props: Margot Conine

(22) “Country Girl” ((Clifford Odets): April 2, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Teresa Wright
  • Supporting cast: Bruno Gerussi, Derek Ralston, Wally Marsh, Barbara Desprez, Lee Butcher, Howard Fair, Al Factor, Bud Slater

(23) “Springtime for Henry” (Benn W. Levy): April 19, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Edward Everett Horton
  • Supporting cast: Mary Matthews, Jack Ammon, Patricia Leith
  • Stage manager/Sets: Andy Snider; Properties/Costumes: Margot Conine; Lighting: Tommy Lea; Set Decorator: VIctor Miles; Doorman: Tommy Buchanan.

(24) “Burlesque” (George M. Walters, Arthur Hopkins): May 19, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliners: Jean Parker, Robert Lowery
  • Supporting cast: Barney Potts, Lorraine McAllister, Wally Marsh, Margot Conine, Les Butcher, Barry Cramer, Bob Reed, Rosemary Deveson, Sam Rosen, Andy Snider, Kitt Copping, Jean Duguid, Joy Lowe, Madelain Matthews, Shirley McCowley
  • Stage Manager/Sets: Andy Snider; Properties/Costumes: Margot Conine; Lighting: Tommy Lea; Sound/Prompter: Barry Cramer; House Manager: Tommy Buchanan

(25) “The Show Off” (George Kelly): June 4, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies
  • Headliner: Joe E. Brown
  • Supporting cast: Doris Buckingham, Wally Marsh, Barry Cramer, Rosemary Deveson, Art Keenan, Hilda Brown, Derek Ralston, Andy Snider

(26) “Time of the Cuckoo” (Arthur Laurent): November 12, 1954

  • Director: Dorothy Davies, Ben Strobach
  • Headliner: Miriam Hopkins
  • Supporting cast: Lillian Carlson, Hilda Browne, Rosemary Deveson, Cyril Slater, Sam Payne, Kitty Dutcher, Art Keenan, Robert Johnston, Brian Warkman

(27) “All My Sons” (Arthur Miller): December 11, 1954

  • Director: Sam Payne
  • Headliners: Edward Arnold, Doris Buckingham
  • Supporting cast: Janet Brigg, Mel Richards



*For example, the plays of the B.C. theatrical festival, which was often held at the Avon in February, are not included. Also, “Rumpelstiltskin” — which was a kids-only play that played two or three matinees is not counted separately (although it is mentioned along with “Tobacco Road” above).

**Thanks to Tom Carter for the idea for this post conveyed at a recent coffee meeting and for offering the scans shown above (with the exception of the first and last photos, which came from CVA).

Crop of CVA 790-2339 – Sun Sing Theatre (Chinese language theatre, as the old pantages ended by ca 1984). The building was finally demolished in 2011. 1985?
Posted in theatre/vaudeville/cinemas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stauffer’s and Mitten’s Arctic Club

Arctic Club interior. Phone booths, coat check, staff and members, n.d. The man standing nearest to the camera appears to be Robert White (a bartender at the Arctic Club for several years who was a victim of murder in 1959); Ken Stauffer is the other man standing, farther from the camera. Tom Carter Collection.

The Arctic Club was one of several cocktail and supper clubs in Vancouver in the ’30s, 40s, and ’50s (including the Quadra, the World, and Jean Fuller’s). According to recollections of the Arctic Club at the Vancouver Jazz Forum, it was a “suit and tie” joint where you needed to display a purchased membership card and sign in before entering. It was located at 718 W. Pender (south side of Pender, between Granville and Howe). (1)

In October 1934, notice was given in the local press that the Arctic Club, Ltd. would be applying for a provincial liquor license. The Club was co-owned by Bob Mitten, Sr. (1881-1956) and Ken Stauffer (1910-1978); Stauffer and Mitten both came to Vancouver from Saskatchewan — Mitten in 1929 and Stauffer in 1932. By 1935, Mitten and Stauffer established the Arctic Club. I suspect that the two men met while working for the Liberal Party in Vancouver, as both were active in the party (Mitten Sr. would marry Euphemia Stauffer thereby becoming Ken’s brother-in-law). In his obituary, Mitten is described as an “active campaigner” for the party and Stauffer was the Vancouver party president for awhile (Sun, 6 Nov 1948).

Mitten Sr. retired as a Club owner in 1943 due to ill health and his son, Bob Mitten Jr., ultimately took over his Dad’s share of the business. In 1959, Stauffer and Mitten Jr. bought The Cave supper club (626 Hornby) together from Isy Walters, and ran both night spots for a few years. Bob Mitten, Jr. died while in Hawaii in 1971. Stauffer ultimately sold The Cave to auto dealer, Stan Grozina (1937-2014) in 1973. (2) Grozina was the last Cave owner; it was demolished in 1981.

The alley view of the post-fire Arctic Club and Leonard’s Cafe. 1961. This photo was downloaded some years ago (by Tom Carter) from the “Nostalgic and Sentimental Vancouver” group on Facebook. The photo was supplied at that site by Ken Stauffer’s daughter-in-law, Barbara? Stauffer.

In December 1961, fire destroyed the Arctic Club, which took up the top floor of two buildings (together with a Leonard’s Coffee outlet and the Arctic Barber Shop, which were at street level). In the Club, 40 jobs were lost. Stauffer speculated shortly after the blaze that the Arctic might be rebuilt, possibly on the same site. But that didn’t happen. (3)

A napkin from the Arctic Club. n.d. Tom Carter Collection.

Odds and Ends

  • When the Arctic Club first opened, it had a reputation as a gambling joint with a major poker game. The Arctic Club’s gaming associations seem to have been exclusively during the 1930s (Sun, 19 Mar 1947).
  • Robert White, a bartender at the Arctic, was murdered in his West End apartment in 1959. A Romanian sailor was later extradited from Hawaii and charged with White’s murder. He was found guilty of the reduced charged of manslaughter; he served just a few months of his 3-year sentence in B.C. and then was deported to West Germany (Montreal Gazette, 17 Sept 1959). White appears to be included in the photo featured above, standing next to Ken Stauffer.
  • Legendary local jazz pianist Chris Gage (1927-1964) was a fixture at the Arctic Club after his first night there in 1957. By 1959 he was being described in the local press as the Arctic Club’s pianist”. I believe he continued in that capacity until the 1961 fire. The Arctic Club had a reputation for being supportive of all sorts of local music talent.
  • Australian, Rolf Harris, had one of his first major gigs at the Arctic Club in 1961. And a “live” LP recording was made of “Rolf Harris at the Arctic Club” (possibly a year or two later). Following Stauffer’s passing, this quote was attributed to Harris: “Kenny’s death is a big loss. . . I owe virtually everything to him” (Victoria Times-Colonist, 11 Dec 1978).



(1) The Arctic Club on Pender Street was not the first club of that name; another club, the full name of which was the Arctic Brotherhood Club, was often referred to in abbreviated form as “the Arctic Club”. The Brotherhood met in the offices of senior members of the club, until taking rooms near the corner of Main and Broadway (World, 20 Jun 1908). One of the principal requirements of membership in Vancouver’s Arctic Club was that you had resided north of the 54th parallel for at least a year. Whether the Arctic Brotherhood Club had any substantive connection to the Arctic Club on Pender Street remains an open question. However, to me that appears doubtful.

(2) In 1963, Stauffer branched out beyond The Cave by purchasing the Cock ‘n Bull restaurant on West Broadway (today, adjacent to Jordan’s). He renamed the restaurant The Lulubelle (a gay-nineties-themed family spot) and in 1975 changed the name to Charmaine’s, transforming it into a discotheque for the younger set. When the Lulubelle opened, Stauffer took at least two of his former Arctic Club staff with him: Bert Williams (manager) and Samuel Mee (food services) (Province, 16 Jan 1963).

(3) In 1947, Mitten Sr. reportedly bought the the Arctic Club property for $50,000, however by the time of the ’61 fire, the Club property was owned by F. A. Menzies, who was also a part-owner of Leonard’s Cafe.

I’m indebted to Tom Carter for making much of his Arctic Club ephemera available for reproduction in this post.

Posted in cafes/restaurants/eateries, interiors, people | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vending Before Food Trucks

CVA 800-843 "Description in progress". n.d. Al Ingram photo. Note: The image shown here has been cropped and enhanced. See CVA online for original.
Crop of CVA 800-0843. Food vendor on Granville Street, just south of Commodore Lanes. I am guessing this was taken sometime between 1975-85. Al Ingram photo.
CVA 1184-753 – Woman and small child at a street vendor’s popcorn cart. Probably taken in or near Stanley Park. 1943. Jack Lindsay.
Crop of CVA 7-152 – Street vendor’s bicycle (tricycle?) cart, vending lemon sodas and Almond’s ice cream. Dunsmuir Street, looking east towards the Drill Hall on Beatty Street. ca1914. J L Quiney.
Still showing a really goofy Expo ’86 Hot Dog Stand made from video produced by Yaletown Productions (CVA).
CVA 586-1339 – Appears to be a Stanley Park concession stand with girls participating in a Canadian Youth Hostel bike hike. I have deliberately not included most images of concession stands (excluding, primarily, PNE concessions), but this Stanley Park concession is just too iconic to leave out. 1943. Don Coltman.
CVA 99-4559 – Woman using pineapple juice vending machine at the Hudson’s Bay store. This photo isn’t, strictly speaking, of a traditional food vendor, but I couldn’t resist including it, as it represented a technology shift and it is simply such a cool image.1933. Stuart Thomson.
My all-time favourite food vending image. Woman with umbrella walking dogs past popcorn stand. Made along English Bay during the Sea Festival. July 20, 1967. English Bay. (230 of 245, CBC/Franz Lindner)
Posted in Al Ingram, people, street scenes, yesterday & today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Flying Was Still Exotic


VPL 27452 Waitresses-stewardesses at the Sky Diner Cafe 1947 Province photo.
VPL 27452 Waitresses-stewardesses at the Sky Diner Cafe 1947 Province photo.

This image is one of several available online at VPL showing Clancy’s Sky Diner Cafe. This unusual cafe took clever advantage of the long, narrow interior space to create the impression of a DC-3 aircraft fuselage. The Sky Diner seems to have been established in the late 1940s and continued to be in business at 776 Granville (near the former Birks building and the Vancouver Block) until, I believe, the 1960s. The Sky Diner was part of a local restaurant food chain which included the various White Lunch establishments.

The following charming vignette about the Sky Diner was offered by Harvie Davidson, in response to a very detailed and helpful history of local eateries written by Mia Stainsby for the Vancouver Sun: “[The Sky Diner] had the tail section of a commercial sized aircraft jutting out from the restaurant and partially protruding over the sidewalk. Inside along the walls, moving scenery passed by rectangular portholes.” I take it that the ‘rectangular portholes’ mentioned by Mr. Davidson are those that appear along the two long walls in the image above.

Remarkably, given the atypical neon signage attached to the structure, there are no exterior images available (at least, none that I could find), solely of the Sky Diner. However, there are some Foncie photos of various Vancouver residents and visitors, collected courtesy of the Knowledge Network, which show the Sky Diner sign in profile, in the background. Here is one:

Foncie’s Corner, Knowledge Network. “May Shopping” 1956. Foncie Pulcie photo.

I’ve noticed recently that Clancy’s was one of a few restaurants at that location. A 1940 photo taken by Joe Iaci of Kandid Kamera Snaps (Foncie’s first employer, made after Foncie had left the firm), shows in the background a neon sign for Chanticleer Lunch with a rooster mounted over the name. A 1946 image (a Foncie/Iaci-like photo but unattributed to them or anyone else) shows in the background the old Chanticleer rooster sign, but the name beneath had been changed to Rooster Lunch. There are no interior shots of which I’m aware showing the interior of the cafe under its Chanticleer/Rooster management, but it seems safe to assume that the decor was not of an aircraft, nor very likely of a barnyard! (“Chanticleer”, by the way, apparently is a reference to a male vocal ensemble, such as the U.K. group, The Kings Singers, or this group. It is also – probably more pertinently – a literary reference to a rooster who appears in the fables of Reynard the Fox).

vpl 21401 Stores on Granville Street. 1923. Dominion Photo.
VPL 21401. Stores on Granville Street. 1923. Dominion Photo. (Note: Chanticleer Lunch, as it then was, appears to have been on far right of the image).

There was another Clancy’s eatery, the “Clancy’s Downtown Restaurant” – from at least 1955-65 – located in the Roger’s Building, adjacent to O. B. Allan Jewellers. See below:

CVA 1385-3 - [O.B. Allan store, corner of Granville and Pender Streets] 1965 or earlier
CVA 1385-3 – [O.B. Allan store, corner of Granville and Pender Streets]. The sign for Clancy’s Downtown Restaurant is adjacent to the Jewellers and seems to be pointing down the stairs which led (and lead) downstairs to the basement. 1965 or earlier.

Posted in cafes/restaurants/eateries, Foncie Pulcie, people | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Crowd Welcomes Kilties at Union Depot/Thornton Park

CVA 99-1170.1 – Seaforth Highlanders returning to Vancouver from WW1. The gents in the automobile appear to be Lt-Gov. Ballard and General Leckie. In this image, the camera seems to be pointing northeast. 1919. Stuart Thomson photo.

The photos above and below are identified by the City of Vancouver Archives as being a “large crowd gathered around automobile, men in military uniforms” and the date shown for the photos is “ca1915.”

I had doubts about the attributed date when I saw the Great Northern Freight warehouse in the scene. Vancouver’s Union Depot, of which the GNR Freight Warehouse was part, was not completed until June 1917. The site of the photo is confirmed in the first photo with the presence of the Ivanhoe Hotel: the crowd clearly is gathered on what would be known within a couple of years as Thornton Park (the green space that is in front of what today is known as Pacific Central Station (originally the Canadian Northern Railway depot, which was adjacent and south of Union Depot; Union Depot was demolished in 1965).

I was able to pin down the date the photos were made a little more accurately by consulting local newspapers. An article describing the event appeared in the June 20, 1919 edition of the Daily World, reporting that “an immense crowd” gathered at Union Depot to welcome Seaforth Highlanders (aka, “Kilties”) who had rolled into the city after serving in the Great War:

And such a rush there was when the gates were opened! Such a hurrying in search of the son, the father, the brother or the lover! Everywhere were anxious, eager, expectant faces, searching, searching, searching for the face and the form they knew was there. Glad cries, little screams of joy, even tears of keenest pleasure were heard and seen on every hand. The scene was a most affecting one, and even the most unemotional could not help but be affected.

Vancouver Daily World, 20 Jun 1919

There were VIPs present, as well: Lieutenant Governor Francis Stillman Barnard (1856-1936) was there (I think that he is the hatless gent being helped from the automobile in the middle of the crowd), Mayor Harry Gale (1878-1950), and Brigadier-General R.G.E. Leckie (1869-1923) (the gent who is standing behind Barnard, still in the car).

CVA 99-1170.2 – Seaforth Highlanders returning to Vancouver from WW1. The gents in the automobile appear to be Lt-Gov. Ballard and General Leckie. The camera, in this case, seems to be pointing northward. 1919. Stuart Thomson photo.
Posted in military, railways, stuart thomson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

J. W. Freeston and a California Shoe Company Outing


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.

From what I’ve been able to determine¹, Freeston had a brief and unhappy life. There is evidence that he lived in California; one account maintains he had an early marriage that ended in divorce in that state. He seems to have been married to Florence Hall (ca1881-1944) around 1906 (although there is no evidence of a B.C. marriage certificate). 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, adding more strength to my hypothesis that the panorama shot was made in California.

Indeed, Robert Moen has found 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 pretty soon thereafter with General Paresis. He slept poorly throughout his stay at Woodlands and 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. 


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

Posted in J. W. Freeston, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Getting Nowhere – Fast – in 1901

CVA Trans P52 – Men on bicycle training machines: Harry Hooper, Mr. Burke, and another young fellow. (Note: I assume that Hooper and Burke are riding the two-seater bike and that the un-named dude is on the solitary cycle). 1901.

This seemed like an apt image to post in this season of broken fitness resolutions. The image was made, according to the City of Vancouver Archives, about 120 years ago. My two questions, regarding the photo: (1) Where was it taken? and (2) Who were the guys who were featured in it?

I’m pretty sure that this was taken at Brockton Point. It looks to me as though there was a platform behind the bikes — perhaps intended for an orchestra to gather upon. The floor on which the bikes are situated looks like a dance floor to me; the area to the left of the two-person bicycle looks like a dining room. I found a 1902 Province article pertaining to upgrades to clubhouses of the Brockton Point Athletic Association – including “repairs to the bicycle club training room” (Province, 29 Apr 1902). I concluded from this that the photo was made at the Bicycle Clubhouse of the Brockton Point Athletic Association.

CVA SGN 983 – Men with bicycles assembled on front steps of Brockton Point clubhouse, 1897? William M. Stark photo.

The rightmost cyclist I haven’t been able to identify.

Harry Hooper (who I’m assuming is in the front seat of the two-seater) was a pioneer taxicab driver in the early 19-teens (Frank H. Ellis, “Pioneer Flying in British Columbia”, BC Historical Quarterly, Oct 1939, p. 248). There is an entertaining tale in this article (recounted in a footnote on this page) of how Hooper transported an airplane to Bellingham from Vancouver in 1914 using his “big Winton touring car”.

CVA 84-4 – A Winton car belonging to the Stirtons. Presumably this auto resembled Harry Hooper’s vehicle. 1910-12.

It is unlikely that Hooper was plying the taxicab trade at the time the bike photo was made, however. In Major Matthews’ Early Vancouver Hooper notes that he “learned to drive in 1904 with Dr. Riggs’ two-cylinder Ford” (Early Vancouver, Vol IV, p. 215).

The other fellow on Hooper’s bike, Burke, might be Stanley Burke. He went on to become manager of Pemberton & Son Realtors in the city.

Posted in bicycles, sports, William M. Stark | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shoot the Chutes!

Park P4 – View of buildings, rides and amusements at “Happy Land” (PNE midway) – with the Shoot the Chutes ride in the foreground – at Hastings Park. 193-. Leonard J. Frank photo.

The “Shoot the Chutes” ride at the Hastings Park midway from 1925 through 1957 was among the most popular rides. It had wooden boats into which passengers would climb. The boats would then be released, one at a time, from the top of an incline and, taking advantage of gravity, hurtle down the incline and into a basin of water with a great splash. The chute doesn’t seem to my present-day eyes to have had much of an incline, but judging from accounts at the time, it was plenty exciting!

CVA 260-499 – Shoot the Chutes ride at the PNE midway (Happy Land) at Hastings Park. ca1936. James Crookall photo.

The notion of shooting the chutes didn’t originate with the PNE ride. It seems to have come from the logging industry as a way of moving logs into the water, where they could be stored and towed.

Mi P8 – Logs on chute at Hastings Sawmill. Charles Macmunn. 1888.

Shooting the chute(s) for recreational purposes locally was advanced at English Bay with a slide that took children down to the bay (with or without the aid of a device to ride on — although, judging from photos, it appears that kids mostly slid down on their rear ends).* This was installed in about 1905. It seems to have continued in some form at least as late as the 1960s (Sun 15 July 1960).

There was a proposal for another water-oriented chute-shooter ride that was to be installed at Deadman’s Island as part of the ‘Coney Island’-type amusement park that was rumoured to be under consideration there in 1909. The park and ride were both ultimately non-starters, however.

Shooting the chute even became, for a short time, a way of referring to what today we would call sliding down a playground slide. This reference quickly fell into disuse, however.

Be P1.1 – English Bay Beach showing the Shoot the Chute. ca1900. Edwards Bros.
CVA 1184-88 – Less than happy times at Hastings Park: Vehicles, confiscated from Japanese nationals. Shoot the Chutes looms in the background. March 1942 Jack Lindsay

In 1957, the decision was made to move the midway to a new location within Hastings Park (the current location of Play Land). As part of that move, the Shoot the Chutes ride was demolished.

Bu P536.1 – Demolition of the Shoot The Chutes ride in Happy Land at Hastings Park. 1957.
Bu P536.2 – Demolition of the Shoot The Chutes ride in Happy Land at Hastings Park. 1957.

Apparently, there was at least one later Shoot the Chutes-style ride at Hastings Park, however. In 1990, mention was made in the press of a Wildwassbahn flume ride being a modern incarnation of Shoot the Chutes. It was installed for a sum of $1.4 million. It seems fair to say that that is substantially more than was spent on the original ride (Province 17 Aug 1990).


*However, it should be noted that the Shoot the Chutes slide at English Bay was sometimes referred to as a toboggan slide. Thanks to Neil Whaley for this piece of the puzzle. He is my go-to-guy for all things pertaining to old English Bay! (The photo below seems to me to better illustrate a toboggan slide than does the English Bay contraption!)

CVA 99-2076 – First snow scenes on Grouse Mountain, taken for the Star. 1929. Stuart Thomson photo.

Posted in James Crookall, Leonard J. Frank, Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Lodge Cafe

CVA 99-3424 – The leftmost building is the Lodge Cafe (556 Seymour), on which are birds that I take to be bluebirds. A residence which, by this time, had been converted into commercial space (574 Seymour) is next door. Rexmere Rooms is two doors south of the Cafe (at 568 Seymour). The 3-storey Arts & Crafts Bldg (576 Seymour) is the rightmost structure in this photo; the A&C Bldg was later built up to its current height of 5 stories (ca1928). ca 1922. Stuart Thomson photo.

The Lodge Cafe was an eatery and dancing establishment from May 1919-1924. The original proprietors were Mr. M. B. Fleming and Fred A. Bush. Not much is known by me about these two, except that they were new to the city (and possibly to B.C.). 556 Seymour was occupied earlier by McIntyre’s Cafe (1911-1916); this well-known establishment (proprietors, James A. McIntyre and Herbert M. Rose) was located at 439 Granville before it moved to 556 Seymour, and was afterwards at 720 Pender.

Before it was opened as The Lodge Cafe, the interior was decorated by Southwell & Aiken at a cost of about $9,000:

The whole interior will be beautified with a series of floral and mural and decorative panels, a number of which will comprise well-known local scenes artistically executed. Over 700 yards of fine carpet have already been contracted for and in addition there will be a special, hard, maple polished dancing floor of 30 square feet laid near the orchestra stand for dancing purposes. The new proprietors will…cater to high class trade only.

BC Record Apr 11 1919
VPL 20676. Exterior of the Lodge Cafe. The building to the north of it (left) would become home to Clarke & Stuart Stationers in 1920; C&S purchased the property for $100,000 from the owner of the Virginia Hotel. May 1919. Dominion Photo.
CVA 99-5283 – Interior of the Lodge Cafe (a Victory Loan Lunch, shortly after the Lodge opened). 1919. Stuart Thomson photo. (Note: This luncheon event didn’t have the need of the dance floor, but presumably it was located near the rear of this image back where the band was situated).
VPL 20674. Interior of the Lodge Cafe. May 1919. Dominion Photo. Note the pre-fire murals.

There was a good dance floor at the Lodge. Calvin Winters and his Novelty Jazz Orchestra played there from the opening of the Cafe in 1919 for an indeterminate period. The Lodge introduced four other entertainers to its regular roster by September 1919. In addition to “the Orchestra” (presumably Cal Winters’), there were Harry Belting, Bob Manning, Shirley White, and Neva Latham. Except for Shirley White and Harry Belting (White was apparently a vocalist and Belting a pianist/accompanist), just who these people were is a mystery to me. White went on to be an opening songstress at the Columbia Theatre, after the Lodge closed; White would sing prior to the showing of a film.

In the Victory Loan lunch photo above, there is on one of the pillars these words: “Shimmying Strictly Prohibited”. This sign was directed at dancers. The shimmy had become popular in about 1919 and consisted of dancers shaking their upper torsos (to put it politely). Madame Sonia Serova had this to say about the dance: “It was never a popular dance, if it may be called such….Instead of the ball room it belongs rightfully to the bedroom.” As it turned out, the shimmy was not to die so quickly as forecast. It continues to be a move still used today in modified form.

In February 1921, a fire broke out at the Lodge Cafe (Province 15 Feb 1921). Apparently the blaze began at about 2:30 a.m. in the basement (below the dining room), long after guests and workers had vacated the premises. The cause of the fire was unknown. The worst of the damage was in the kitchen and in the “musicians’ balcony” (although that is how the balcony was referred to in the Province, I have never seen any photos of the interior which shows anyone, musicians or otherwise, in the balcony).

After the fire, the Cafe was closed for about a month. In March 1921, the Lodge was reopened following a complete redesign of the interior. The design work was done by James J. Osborne, assisted by Mr. H. H. Meeker, of the Merchants’ Display Service, located at Cordova near Cambie Street. This re-do included a “beautiful new wall mural design” (Sun March 21 1921). The account in the press as to the nature of the wall mural was vague. But according to it, the ceiling consisted of a painted representation of a summer sky of white clouds with blue peeping through. High above, evidently, bluebirds were discernible, soaring and swirling. By 1921, Francesco Maracci’s Bluebird Orchestra had taken over as the resident dance band at the Lodge.

By September 1922, the Lodge had a new owner. Mr. A. I. Harvie had purchased the Lodge and he wanted it to have a new look and taste. This included a dance floor that had been doubled in area and a new chef — namely, Monsieur Rioual –formerly of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco.

CVA 778-403: The site (if not the building) of the Lodge Cafe and the earlier McIntyre’s Cafe. The site was the flagship of A&B Sound until it went belly-up in 2008. 1974. (These days, the Lodge Cafe site is occupied by a nightclub at a slightly different address, 560 Seymour).

Despite Mr. Harvie’s efforts, the Lodge Cafe evidently folded in 1924. The site went on to house the flagship store of A&B Sound from ca1970 until it folded in 2008. Most recently, it has been a nightclub.

Posted in businesses, cafes/restaurants/eateries, stuart thomson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gutta Percha and Rubber Ltd.

I love this stiff cardboard window ad concept. Note that “Weather Probs.” is probably an abbreviation of “Probabilists” (see comment below from J. Jones). GP’s fox terrier mascot, “Perky” (aka “Tootsy”), puts in a cameo! The ad is likely from the 1950s. MDM Collection.

Gutta Percha and Rubber Ltd. was a Toronto-based company with regional offices across Canada, including in Vancouver. During the early 1900s (when the Vancouver office was established) the Pacific Division was at 100 W. Hastings Street, where Prado Coffee is today; later the office was in the 500 block of Beatty, just a couple of doors south of the Sun Building.

CVA 99-3450 – Gutta Percha & Rubber Ltd. at 526 Beatty Street. ca 1924. Stuart Thomson photo.

GP was founded in 1883 by H. D. Warren in Toronto. The company endured until 1960 when it went into voluntary liquidation. It struggled with competition from the U.S., in particular, and foreign markets in general, during much of its corporate life.

The name of the company was peculiar, with “Gutta Percha and Rubber” being partly a corporate brand as well as the names of generic products (gutta percha is a product that was similar to, yet different from rubber). It was kind of like the words “toilet paper” being elevated to the status of a corporate brand to become, say, “Toilet Paper, Ltd.”

The firm produced belts for industrial and farming applications, automobile tires, fire hoses, and footwear, including those items which were widely known as “rubbers” during my growing-up years. Such rubbers, sometimes called “toe rubbers”, were intended to keep one’s business shoes safe from the potential harm to leather that comes from rain.

You may well inquire, as did I: “What were Campacs?” Sometimes the additional descriptors “camp shoes” accompany the word “Campacs”. Perhaps these were akin to today’s “runners”, with an emphasis on a relatively thick sole for urban camping/hiking settings?

Near the end of its corporate life, GP specialized in industrial applications, and one of the most notable of these, locally, concerned construction of the Deas Island Tunnel (today’s George Massey Tunnel). GP was responsible for the design of rubber gaskets to keep the Fraser River out of the tunnel during its construction.

Vancouver Sun. 15 Jul 1959.

Posted in businesses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Mysterious Mr. Langer


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

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

I was re-reading Ivan Ackery’s memoirs, recently, when I came across mention of 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 Roman Catholic family. 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.

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.

May and Dora Langer. Photo courtesy of Susan Oddy. Date unknown.

Langer married Henrietta Maria (Hattie) Van Coller in 1893 (1869-1931) 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. Why? It seems he was flat broke. He said of his financial status upon leaving Vancouver for England in 1914: “I had no money when I went back” (3). If anything, that was an understatement. The fact is, Langer left several creditors in the Vancouver area. (4)

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

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

Vancouver Again

Setting Up House

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 apparently part of 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). Jennie and Joseph were married by a Justice of the Peace in Washington State in May 1925.

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.

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

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

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

Bu N331 - [Kerrisdale Theatre building at 2136 West 41st Avenue] 1927 W J Moore
CVA Bu N331 – Kerrisdale Theatre building at 2136 West 41st Avenue] ca1927. W J Moore

Final Years

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12. McCallum, p9.

13. Ackery, p.90.

14. McCallum, p.9.

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

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

Posted in biography, businesses, theatre/vaudeville/cinemas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Archives Image Corrected by Horizontal Flip



CVA – 2010-006.062:  The back side of B.C Hydro building (today The Elektra residential building). The Clements Block (on south side of Robson between Hornby and Howe) is being demolished in this image. Ernie H. Reksten photo. June 2 1965. Note: This image has been corrected by me flipping it horizontally.


2010-006.062 – CVA’s UNCORRECTED Version.

It can be disorienting when a historical image’s negative is printed from the wrong side. By viewing the image to the right, you can see the way the image appears on CVA as of mid-February, 2017. (That the image was wrongly oriented when printed is apparent upon clicking on the uncorrected version of the image and enlarging it to try to read the ‘No Parking/No Stopping’ sign).

Let’s take a tour of the correctly oriented image.

The photo was taken southbound on Howe Street through the windshield of an automobile. To the right of the car (and outside the photo frame) is the courthouse (1906 Rattenbury; 1912 Hooper – annex)/art gallery. To the right and just ahead of where the car is is some metalwork. That was the above-ground indicator of the courthouse public washroom, which was located underground. The lawn surrounding the couthouse/gallery would later be removed as part of the redevelopment of the block (and replaced with concrete) to make possible the construction of such features as the civic skating rink.

The structure that is under demolition in the photo is the Clements Block (1922-65). Clements (SE corner Hornby and Robson) was home to a number of businesses, not least Danceland. Just behind Clements (facing onto Hornby Street) is the hotel that was known at the time this photo was taken as the Johann Strauss Hotel (and restaurant and cabaret). Later the hotel would be known as the Mayfair.

The church tower to the right of the BC Hydro (1957; Thom/Pratt)/Elektra block is the tower of St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church (1933; Twizel & Twizel). The building to the left of Hydro (now The  Elektra) is what was Sir William Dawson School (1913-1978; Edward E. Blackmore), the site today of Sheraton Wall Centre.

The other buildings in this image I won’t identify. Suffice to say that the area between Clements and Hydro (Block 61) was made up primarily of ground-level parking lots and would ultimately become the Erickson-designed Law Courts structure.

Posted in businesses, cafes/restaurants/eateries, churches, Ernie Reksten, hotels/motels/inns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

1972 BC Progressive Conservative TV Ads


Derril with Labourers in Background

Derril Warren in BC Tory ads for 1972. This head shot is set against a background of labourers – similar to how one might expect an NDP ad to appear. Was this how BC Tories wanted to imagine themselves in ’72?

There are a series of television ads on CVA located here¹ (to find the first of the PC ads, go to the 7.08 minute mark in the clip) that represented another in a long series of attempts by BC Tories to woo voters away from the BC Social Credit Party.  Since 1956, the Tories had suffered shut-out after shut-out in all general elections. The party had also gone through leaders as often as they went through facial tissues on election night:

  • In 1953, 1956, and 1960 Deane Finlayson (1919-2005) led the BC Tories. They won just one seat (but the leader lost his seat) and garnered less than 2% of the popular vote in 1953. In ’56, the popular vote rose to just over 3%, and the first-past-the-post system wasn’t kind to them – they lost their solitary seat. In the 1960 election, the Tories doubled their share of the popular vote (just under 6%), but didn’t win any seats.
  • In 1963, the Tories under new leader, Davie Fulton (1916-2000), again nearly doubled their popular vote percentage (a little less than 12%); no seats.
  • The PCs barely contested the 1966 election; there was no leader and they nominated only 3 candidates (they nominated 44 for the 1963 contest). The popular vote was hardly worth mentioning (less than 1%).
  • John DeWolf (ca1931-2003) took up the Tory reigns of leadership (such as they were) in June, 1969. Premier W. A. C. Bennett (1909-1979) called the election for July. It was scarcely imaginable that the PCs could have performed any worse than they did in 1966, but they managed to do so. The popular vote was hovering close to that of the BC Communist Party!
  • In November, 1971, Derril Warren (1939-2005) challenged and beat out DeWolf for leadership of the Party. In the ’72 general election, the Tories won two seats and captured over 12% of the popular vote. (To borrow from a 1980 pop tune, it was indeed “Celebration” time for the Tories). Unhappily, though, neither of the two seats won was the seat contested by the leader. Warren tried to get himself elected to the Legislature again in a 1973 by-election. But no soap.

Warren left political life shortly after his by-election loss in 1973. George Scott Wallace led the PCs into the 1975 general election; they would lose one of their two seats in that contest and their popular vote would again plummet to less than 4%.

Derril Warren had, arguably, one of the best minds in BC politics of his day. He earned his B.A. degree from UBC in 1961; graduated from Dalhousie Law School with a Bachelor of Laws; and earned a Masters of Law from Harvard in 1965.

He practiced law for several years, including a stint as General Counsel to the Mannix construction business, based in Calgary. Mannix had served as an incubator for another young lawyer who would lead another provincial Progressive Conservative Party – the difference being he would lead his party to big victories over SocCreds in his province, starting in 1971: Peter Lougheed (1928-2012) of Alberta.

In the early 1990s, Warren was Executive Director of the BC International Commercial Arbitration Centre. He died in 2005 at the age of 66.

The 1972 TV ads had pretty high production values, in my opinion, although the lyrics to the tune that played during each ad were schmalzy:

When we look out on the land we call BC
Does the future hold a place for you and me?
Will the waters and the seas still be as clean? (later, this word was changed to “blue”)
Will the sun come shining through?

There’s a man who’ll take a stand
To protect this land we love
For the people and the sea and sky above.

So raise your voices, spread the word
There is still time to be heard
It’s your British Columbia
And we can lead the way
And we can lead the way.

Male voice-over: “Darril Warren and the Progressive Conservative team — now you do have a choice.”


¹For a laugh, there is a quite creative and well-made commercial near the start of the video (at about the 22 second mark). It seems to be a comedic play on The Creature from the Black Lagoon (ahem – from English Bay!) for Plimley Chrysler Dodge, featuring Basil Plimley (1924-2014). The ad seems to have been made ca1973. Watch it. I think you’ll agree that it’s superior to many of today’s TV ads made for much more moneyed businesses (and, arguably, superior to the ’54 feature film on which the ad was based)!

Posted in advertising, politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembrance Services Past at First Baptist Church


VPL 40788 Rembrance Day Service (at First Baptist Church), Nov 6, 1966 The Province - Ross J. Kenward photo.

VPL 40788 Rembrance Day Service (at First Baptist Church), Nov 6, 1966 The Province – Ross J. Kenward photo.

I was browsing through images in the Vancouver Public Library historical photos database this morning; I saw the image above and almost immediately recognized it for what it was (and what had, apparently, been forgotten or mislaid in the institutional memory of The Province newspaper upon donating this image to VPL): that this photo was made inside my home church, in the sanctuary of First Baptist Church. This 1966 congregation (Rev. Dr. S. Arnold Westcott was Senior Minister at the time) was not collectively known to me, as I was worshipping then with my family in a smaller church in Alberta. But this image of the sanctuary is unmistakably that of FBC. It looks as though it was made from the slightly elevated choir loft at the front (north end) of the sanctuary, viewing one of the Remembrance wreaths on the podium from behind and with a view of congregants in the background. November 6, the day that this image was made, was a Sunday. That was the tradition at FBC for many years; to have the church Remembrance Service on the Sunday immediately preceding Remembrance Day (November 11th).

I cannot recall Remembrance Services past without recalling the true force behind those services for many years, Rev. James Willox Duncan (1906-2002). I can readily remember him at the front of the sanctuary on a Remembrance Sunday with the Canadian Red Ensign on the podium (the Canadian flag during both world wars and afterwards until the Maple Leaf became the official flag in 1965). There was a reading, often from John McCrae’s WWI poem, In Flanders Fields, the playing of Last Post and Rouse by a trumpeter and of Lament by bagpipes. And always, always, the very moving reading of the Ode of Remembrance (which is an excerpt from Lawrence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen).

Sanctuary Padre's seat

Padre Duncan’s obituary, reproduced below, sketches in some of the highlights of his life (I had not recalled that he died in the month of November in 2002, but it seems fitting). For an opportunity to hear Padre Duncan’s voice, one of his sermons is free online at Regent College’s Audio site. It is appropriately titled “Vitality for All Ages”.

Padre James Willox Duncan, (n.d.) Jennifer Friesen photo.

FBC Archives. Padre James Willox Duncan, 2000 Jennifer Friesen photo.

Padre James W. Duncan Obituary. Nov 19, 2002.

Padre James W. Duncan Obituary. November, 2002.


It makes me smile today to see the number of lady congregants who were wearing head gear of various descriptions in 1966. Today, such an abundance of hats would be unthinkable (today, neckties on gents is very nearly unthinkable; having a Starbucks coffee in hand is becoming commonplace; and bringing a Tim Horton’s breakfast into the sanctuary to munch on during a worship service – if still widely considered very poor form – is not unheard of. Sadly.)

Posted in biography, churches, First Baptist Church, Vancouver, jennifer friesen, people, Ross J. Kenward | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Behind This Wall at Hotel Vancouver…



Two of the six public elevators which flank the wall which probably was home to Beatrice Lennie’s Ascension in the lobby of current Hotel Vancouver from 1939-ca1967. March 2017. Author’s Photo.

Behind the wall shown above, in the elevator court of the third (1939) Hotel Vancouver, lies, quite possibly, Ascension, a work of bas-relief sculpture created by Beatrice Lennie (1904-1987) a renowned and very able good sculptor. Doris Munroe, in her M.F.A. thesis (UBC, 1972, p. xix), described Ascension, installed in 1939, as follows:

The theme with its vertical lines, arches, elongated figures, sun and stars was one of ascent. It was finished in tones of blue steel, brass and chromium which harmonized with the cream marble walls and bronze elevator doors. The hotel was opened on May 25, 1939. At the time of the reconstruction of the hotel in 1967 the ceilings were dropped and the artist believes the mural was then boarded up and faced with a new textured facade.

The image reproduced below is the only one I’ve found that shows all of Ascension. (Also shown below is part of Ascension from a Hotel Vancouver publicity brochure.)


Bea Lennie standing with her mural for the Hotel Vancouver c 1939. From First Class: Four Graduates of the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, 1929. Letia Richardson. 1987. The Floating Curatorial Gallery, Women in Focus, p. 40.


This is from a ca1940 Hotel Vancouver brochure (which touts on its cover that the hotel is “one of the most modern hotels in the British Empire”). There appear to be flanking images in the brochure taken from Ascension. Source: Vancouver Public Library, Special Collections (647.94711/V22va).

Ascension and the Artist

In an August 1, 1975 interview for the Vancouver Province, Lennie said:

I used to think your sculpture would outlive you, but they boarded up one of mine, a 12-foot panel in the elevator court on the main floor of the Hotel Vancouver. They covered it with a wooden wall when they lowered the ceiling. It’s discouraging in one’s own lifetime. At the time (1939), the CNR [for whom the hotel was initially built; it later became a CPR property] asked me to do something that wouldn’t be out of date in 30 years.

In another piece published about Lennie, she remarked (with bitterness and some overstatement): “I never go back to see my work because they always do such dreadful things to it” (emphasis mine). To the best of my knowledge, Ascension is the only Lennie work that is ‘lost’.

An article was published, likely in the Sun, shortly after the sculptor’s death in 1987, that recalled Lennie’s body of work and related something of her history and family background in British Columbia.¹  It is interesting that the article noted that Lennie came from a pioneer B.C. family, but there was mention made only of her maternal grandfather, Benjamin Douglas, who arrived in the province in 1862 for the Gold Rush (the Douglas border crossing near Blaine, WA was named in his honour). No mention was made of Lennie’s paternal grandfather, Rev. Robert Lennie, who came to New Westminster in 1884 and established the Baptist church that is still there (although worshipping in a different building than he would have recalled), Olivet Baptist Church. Lennie also served as ‘the first missionary pastor’ to the small body of believers who would ultimately form First Baptist Church, Vancouver.

CVA 1184-1129 - [Sculptor at work] 1940-48 Jack Lindsay

CVA 1184-1129 – “Sculptor at work.” 1940-48. Jack Lindsay photo. Although the artist isn’t identified by CVA, I’m certain that this is an image of Beatrice Lennie in her studio.

It seems likely that Beatrice, one of Rev. Robert Lennie’s twenty grandchildren, had grown away from her grandfather’s Baptist roots.² But I wonder whether she may have been subconsciously paying tribute to her dad’s dad with the creation and naming of Ascension.

At one level, of course, the naming of her Hotel Vancouver sculpture was a case of word play. Ascension would be located in the elevator court and was one of the last things which guests would see as the elevator doors closed and they were lifted to their rooms.

But at another level, I cannot look at the image of Ascension without wondering about the prominence of stars and halo-like objects, which taken together, seem to me to speak of Easter, the highest and holiest holiday in the Christian calendar.

HV - Main Floor Plan

Hotel Vancouver – Original (1939) Main Floor Plan. Note that eight elevators appear in this plan. The two elevator shafts closest to what was designated as the porter’s area (no. 4 and no. 8) were, apparently, walled up, presumably by ca1967 with Lennie’s Ascension.

According to a concierge at the Hotel Vancouver with whom I spoke in preparing this post, there are other things buried behind that wall. The original hotel drawings called for eight elevators, but part way through its construction, it was decided that six elevators (three on each wall that flanked Ascension) were ample. The abandoned two elevator shafts remain hidden behind the wall, to this day. Along with, quite possibly, Beatrice Lennie’s bas-relief work.

CVA 1184-1130 - [Sculptor at work in elaborately decorated studio] 1940-48 Jack LIndsay (is this Beatrice Lennie??)

CVA 1184-1130: Sculptor at work in studio. 1940-48. Jack Lindsay. Again, unidentified by CVA, this seems to me to be almost certainly Bea Lennie, probably in her studio. If this is an older photo of her, it probably is of a later than that estimated by CVA.


¹The article referenced here was found in the Vancouver Art Gallery library’s clipping file and no attribution was noted. So I’m guessing that it was a Vancouver Sun piece. (For a detailed list of Lennie’s extant work and biographical info pertaining to her, see this excellent site.)

²I didn’t find in my research indication of Lennie’s religious denominational  affiliation, if any.

Posted in art, churches, First Baptist Church, Vancouver, hotels/motels/inns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Clement Welch: A Passion for Choral Music

James Clement Welch (1871-1962) emigrated from England to Canada in 1886, the year of Vancouver’s incorporation as a city — and the year of Clement’s 15th birthday. By the time he was in his mid-30s, he would lead what would become, arguably, his greatest legacy: the Vancouver (Amateur) Operatic Society. But that period was still 20 years in his future and nearly a continent apart from where he initially settled with his parents: in the still-tiny, recently-christened Canadian national capital.


Clement arrived on our shores with his parents, Thomas (ca1836-1920) and Mary (ca1843-1925); the family settled in Ottawa. Thomas took on the organist’s job (and for a few years, that of the Choirmaster) at St. Alban’s the Martyr Church (Anglican; today the church is known simply as St. Alban’s).

Daily World. 11 Oct 1924.

It isn’t clear what exactly Clement did for the first few years after his family moved to Canada. Chances are, he did what most teens do: got some sort of training (judging from what came later, I’m guessing that included some accountancy training; I know for certain only that he graduated from Ottawa Normal School in 1894), and likely went through typical teenage rites of passage.

In 1896 (when he turned 25), however, Clement started his first full-time, professional job as a teacher in Ottawa’s public schools. His teaching career spanned 1896-1906 and from what I could find in Ottawa press reports, it appears that he spent most of his teaching career working at the same school.

1895-96 was a red-letter year for Clement, as he would begin a second career (simultaneous with that as teacher) — one that would feed his great passion for choral music. By that year, St. Alban’s Church had scaled back the responsibilities of Clement’s father, Thomas, from Organist/Choirmaster to just that of Organist. The new Choirmaster chosen by St. Alban’s was Thomas’ son, Clement! Two years later, the powers-that-were at St. Alban’s must have been pretty pleased with themselves for this personnel decision. The Ottawa Journal gushed: “[Clement Welch] is a great worker, and the boys esteem him highly — no small thing, mark you, for choir boys are difficult cattle to handle and to get such results as does Mr. Welch needs much tact and a peculiarly endowed temperament” (Ottawa Journal 30 Sept 1899).

Clement married Mabel Burtch (1875-1901) also in 1895. Their eldest child, Velma Ann Maud (1896-1925) and a boy was born to the pair, named Clement Bentley (1899-1974). (1)

Clement’s and Mabel’s marriage was destined to be very brief. Mid-way down a long, bleak column headlined the “Death Roll of 1901”, the local newspaper noted that “On Oct. 5th, Mrs. J. Clement Welch died at her residence…” (Ottawa Citizen, 2 Jan 1902). It seems that Mabel died of septicemia — although the circumstances under which she contracted it are unknown to me.

Taste of the West Coast

In July, 1903, Clement took himself on vacation from a probably uncomfortably hot and humid Ottawa for the mild west coast air of North America, specifically (according to local press clippings) San Francisco and Victoria. No mention was made of him stopping at Vancouver, but it’s possible that he spent some time there, too.

In 1904, Clement married his second wife, Minnie Ernestine Budd (1879-1970). Welch brought the two kids from his first marriage (Velma and Bentley); Minnie and Clement also had a son together, Thomas Kenneth (1905-1988).

Clement received a teaching promotion in July 1906 — which took effect in September. He was appointed to the position of musical director of all Ottawa public schools. The starting salary was $900 per year (Ottawa Journal, 6 July 1906). Furthermore, when September rolled around, he received a further promotion to become “relieving principal” and that as of one year later, he would become a full principal of a four-room school. His teaching career seemed to be taking off in an administrative direction. (Ottawa Citizen, 7 Sept 1906).

Interestingly, the September 1906 press report would prove to be the final such pertaining to Clement in Ottawa. Probably during the Ottawa winter of 1906-07 (not the best of seasons in the nation’s capital). Clement decided to pack it in with school teaching there and head for the west coast with his family. They arrived in Vancouver sometime in 1907.


After the Welchs rolled into Vancouver, one of Clement’s priorities was to become connected with a local Anglican church. One of the nearest congregations to where they were living at the time (842 West 7th Avenue) was Holy Trinity Anglican (at 10th Ave. and Pine Street; no longer at that location). Apparently, the Welchs became members there and it wasn’t long before he was invited to become the Choirmaster. As had been the case at St. Alban’s in Ottawa, Clement quickly developed a very positive reputation as leader of the choir at Holy Trinity.

For his first 10 years in Vancouver, Clement was kept busy with music at Holy Trinity and with his non-musical vocation. He maintained a non-musical career (like his teaching career in Ottawa) simultaneous with a musical one. When he left the teaching profession and came to Vancouver, he left it for good, never (to my knowledge) to return to it. When he arrived in Lotusland, he immediately took up an accountancy career. Initially, he operated as a “book-keeper”, presumably freelance, working out of his home. In the 1910s, he served as accountant to BC Market Co.; in the 1920s and ’30s he was accountant to the Vancouver Medical Association Credit Bureau; and in the 1940s and ’50s, before retiring, he was a “collections specialist”.

Vancouver Operatic Society

By the start of the Great War, Clement was inspired to start the group that became the Vancouver Operatic Society (it was known for the first year or two of its existence as the Patriotic Operatic Society) (2). Their first production, in May 1915, was George F. Root’s The Haymakers. Later that same year, they followed up with the first in a string of Gilbert & Sullivan comic operas: Patience (1915, 1921). This was followed by The Pirates of Penzance (1916), and The Yeomen of the Guard (1917). The G&S series was broken by producing Jones & Hall’s The Geisha (1918) and The Country Girl (1920). After that, the Society produced Tanner & Nicholls’ The Toreador (1921) and The Mikado (1922).

For the first several years (1915-22), Society performances were almost invariably held at The Avenue Theatre (at Main and Georgia). However, The Cingalee (1923), The Rebel Maid (1924), and The Arcadians (1925) were performed in the “old” Orpheum Theatre on the west side of Granville Street. Proceeds from the performances of wartime productions went to support soldiers fighting in Europe. Proceeds from post-war productions supported local charities.

CVA 8-07 – “The Geisha”. Vancouver Operatic Society, Avenue Theatre, May 1919.

1926 marked the end of Vancouver Operatic Society productions, although it died with more of a whimper than a bang. There were no announcements of its demise in the press. But, J. C. Welch continued to put up comic operas and light musicals with various other groups.

North Van Operatic Society and Kiwanis and Kiwassa Glee Clubs

A North Vancouver Operatic Society was formed in 1926, with Clement conducting. That year, they performed Florodora. In 1927, Welch teamed up with the Maple Ridge Glee Club in March to produce Iolanthe at Hammond Theatre in Maple Ridge and at the end of the year, partnered with a musical bunch at the YMCA to produce the musical, Tulip Time, for five nights at the Avenue Theatre. In February 1929, Welch again led the North Vancouver Operatic Society in producing Planquette’s musical, Rip Van Winkle at the Lonsdale Theatre. He led the North Shore Operatic Society in 1930 in a production of a pre-Christmas Gilbert & Sullivan offering of The Gondoliers.

Clement had been a chartered member of the Vancouver Kiwanis since 1919. He quickly became involved with the Club’s music side. He organized a Kiwanis minstrel show in 1921, ’22 and ’23. That was followed by a series of annual musical comedies: Pung Chow of Po (1925), Pickles (1926), The Prince of Pilsen (1927), The Attached Attache (1928), The Firefly (1929), The Chocolate Soldier (1930), A Country Girl (1931), Florodora (1932), The Geisha (1933), The Chimes of Normandy (1934), The Red Mill (1935), The Wizard of the Nile (1936), The Toreador (1937), The Arcadians (1938), and A Runaway Girl (1939) (Vancouver Sun 24 June 1939).

In 1941, Welch retired form leadership of the Kiwanis Glee Club (The Province 3 Oct 1941). He turned 70 that year. He spent some of the time during his post-Kiwanis Glee Club years auditing the books of the women’s division of the Kiwanis, the Kiwassa’s and leading their Glee Club (The Province, 7 May 1948). Most of the Kiwassa productions were presented for a limited audience, typically just for Kiwassa Club members.

In 1945, Welch retired from the Choirmaster’s role at Holy Trinity after 35+ years. He led the Kiwassa’s Glee Club from about 1948 until at least 1954. There is no press report of him retiring from the position.

Clement Welch died on January 26, 1962 at the age of 90.


(1) Velma was born Velma Ann Maud Welch. She trained for a nursing career for a period starting in 1916, but ultimately left that course uncompleted due to ill health. Later, she spent some time with the Vancouver News-Advertiser and as society editor of the Vancouver Sun. She married Harold Robert Milner Potter in 1919 in Calgary. She spent a couple of years in Banff as a corespondent for a number of western Canadian newspapers. She died in Calgary in 1925 “after an extended illness”. She seems to have taken a new middle name at some point after marrying Potter and became Velma Albirdie Welch Potter. Following a funeral service in Calgary, her remains were interred in Vancouver’s Mountain View Cemetery as Velma Potter. (My thanks are due to Robert of WestEndVancouver for his help tracking Velma).

(2) There was at least one previous Vancouver Operatic Society in the city before J.C. Welch’s group was founded in 1915. A Vancouver Operatic Society seems to have been started in 1895 with the production of Dorothy. That group seemed to peter out within a couple of years, however, finishing with The Chimes of Normandy in 1897. Nothing more of the Society was evident in press reports until 1910, with the production of H. M. S. Pinafore at the Vancouver Opera House. This society seems to have fizzled by 1911, however, after the staging of The Mikado.

There was at least one amateur group that followed on from J.C. Welch’s Society after it died ca 1926. This next Society had service club origins similar to that of the Kiwanis Glee Club. It started life in 1950 as an arm of the Lions Club and was known as the Central Lions Operatic Society. However, before long, the name was changed to the Greater Vancouver Operatic Society. This group seems to have been the longest-lived of all, lasting, according to one authority, from 1948-1992 (although there is evidence in press clippings that this organization endured until as late as 2001).

Posted in churches, music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Shop at Sich’s Corner

CVA Port P1793: F.V. Bodwell, J.W. Bodwell, C.J. Loewen and H.E. Connon in front of Sich’s Corner “Real Estate & Retail Tobacconists”, 1896.

Sich’s Corner was the name of an early Vancouver tobacconist’s shop located on the southwest corner of Cambie at Cordova. The person who named it and for whom it was named remained at the corner and, indeed, in Vancouver, for scarcely three years. And yet the shop’s name took on wider meaning, for several years becoming synonymous with “Cambie at Cordova”.

Thomas Thrale Sich, ca1890, VDW Souvenir Publication, 1891.

Thomas Thrale Sich (1858-1935; pronounced “sitch”) came to Vancouver from England in 1890. In England, he had been in the tea business for the better part of 10 years and, after that, worked in the hops trade for 4 years (whether he was farming or brewing them, isn’t clear). In 1890, he sailed for Canada, with his wife, Esther, and settled in Vancouver.

He opened his tobacco business at 301 Cambie. He kept in stock, among his cigars a nice variety of Cuban brands, including Havana, Upman, Partagas, Larranagas, La Intimidad, and La Corona. Among the loose tobaccos he sold were the W.D. & H.O. Wills brand and Sich’s Own Mixture (his own preparation). Imported cigarette brands included: Melachrino, Khedive (Egyptian brands), Papadupoula, and Turkish varieties. The Daily World concluded, in a profile of Sich’s Corner, that it was “one of the most prominent [stores] in the city and a very popular resort for all lovers of the weed…” (Vancouver Daily World, 1891 Souvenir Illustrated Publication, p. 18).

Sich had had enough of retail sales by late 1892, evidently, sold Sich’s Corner to other tobacconists and moved himself and Esther out to the Fraser valley. Thomas established himself as a farmer of hops somewhere between the towns of Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs. He remained on his farm until 1895, at which time he returned to England. There, he went into business with his brother, H.J. Sich. We know that he returned to the land of the Lotus on vacation with his brother in 1905 (Province, 2 Dec 1905) There is Census evidence that by the 1910s, Sich was acting as a shipping agent in England. Thomas Sich died in 1935.

“Sich’s Corner” became a landmark until the turn of the century for early Vancouver residents — not dissimilar to the Maple Tree of the early (Gastown) townsite and the later Trorey/Birk’s Clock.

Here are a few samples from the Daily World, offering hints as to ways in which Sich’s Corner was perceived and used by early residents:

  • Bulletin Board: This 1892 press ‘report’ suggests that the Corner had a small-town, community bulletin board, with the problems that typically come with community bulletins: If any responsible person has charge of the bulletin board at “Sich’s Corner” he ought to see that reliable news is posted there. For instance some dolt this morning credited the Conservatives with a gain of 15, when the morning papers showed that the net gain was by the Liberals for 16.
    (VDW 7 July 1892)
  • Lost and Found: Lost: Fox terrier dog, black and tan head, evenly marked: black spot at root of tail, making a ring around tail; answers to the name of Fleet. anyone returning him to Buxton & Rodney’s cigar store, Sich’s corner, will receive the above reward [$5.00], and anyone detaining him after this notice will be prosecuted. (VDW 7 April 1893)
  • Way-finder for nearby businesses: NOTICE: Crowder & Penzer’s uptown coal office has been removed to 307 Cambie St next to Sich’s Corner. (VDW 2 Dec 1893)
  • Bicycle/pedestrian concerns (how little has changed, in this regard!): The rule should be rigidly enforced concerning the ringing of bells. A lady was nearly knocked down at Sich’s Corner on Saturday night by a furious [speeding] cyclist. (VDW 29 Apr 1895)

Thomas sold Sich’s Corner in 1892 to Buxton & Rodney, other tobacconists. J.G.V. Field-Johnson opened a realty/brokerage business at 301 Cambie in 1898 and for some years, the two businesses seemed to co-exist at the same address (as shown in the photo at the beginning of this post).

The Sich’s Corner brand was retained until roughly 1900, after which the name gradually fell into disuse.

CVA 810-285: The Townsite Corner – Cambie at Cordova. 1950-68. “Sich’s Corner”, although by this time, the name had long since fallen into disuse.

Posted in businesses, street scenes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

One of the Largest Organs West of Winnipeg


Pipe Organ in the former St. Andrew's Presbyterian (New West) and, today, Emmanuel Pentecostal Church, ca1920.Russell Photo Studio
Pipe Organ in the former St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (New Westminster) and, today, Emmanuel Pentecostal Church, ca1920. Russell Photo Studio. (Note: The seat for the pastor is, curiously, raised in this image. This struck me as odd, as it puts the pastor (or pastors – there is room for more than one, here!) well above the pulpit). (MDM Collection)

I purchased this photo at The History Store. Since then, I’ve been on a quest to know which church it is/was that housed the amazing-looking pipe organ.

What I Knew (or Thought I Knew)

The clues I had to work with were:

  • The photographer was the Russell Photo Studio of New Westminster. Vincent Russell had his New Westminster studio only from 1918-21. (He later established a photo studio in Penticton in the 1930s and in the City of Vancouver in the 1940s).¹ This led me to suspect strongly that the image was made in a New Westminster church.
  • The organ pipes appeared to be distinctive. In all of the images that I’ve perused of church interiors in Greater Vancouver, I never saw another set of pipes with a similar design. The closest set I saw was at St. Paul’s Anglican in Vancouver.² The design on the pipes in my image was similar to that of St. Paul’s, but definitely different.
  • I was pretty sure that this sanctuary wasn’t any of Olivet Baptist’s several structural incarnations. I saw no sign of a baptismal tank behind the choir loft (where Baptist churches normally would have situated it) nor the tell-tale curtain that would typically be drawn across when the tank wasn’t in use.

I looked at every online archive of photos that I could think of and spoke with everyone whom I thought may have some knowledge of where the organ pipes were located. No dice.

Then it occurred to me to contact New Westminster historian, Jim Wolf. And Jim knew! Apparently, the church in question was formerly St. Andrew’s Presbyterian (New Westminster), and today is home to Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.

What I Now Know (or Think I Know)

Emmanuel - Organ Pipes3
Emmanuel Pentecostal Church Sanctuary. February 2018. MDM Photo.

Here are a few bullets about the organ and the building in which it resides:

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian seems to have been one of the roughly 70% of Presbyterian congregations that joined the Church Union movement. Rev. A. C. Wishart was called to St. Andrew’s in 1931 and it seems to me that he must have been the last Presbyterian pastor called to that church. Ultimately (sometime in the 1932-35 period, I’m guessing), St. Andrew’s joined Queen’s Avenue United Church and later sold the St. Andrew’s buildings.

I was told today by the Emmanuel Pentecostal congregant who kindly granted me admission to their sanctuary, that Emmanuel has been worshipping in the former Presbyterian building since the 1940s. Although the pipe organ is rarely used by the church, sadly, I must give considerable credit to the congregation (and to the City of New Westminster) for preserving both Old and New St. Andrew’s buildings.

Here are a few other images made today of the organ and the church building:


¹Camera Workers.

²Tom Carter suggested that St Paul’s organ pipes might be a match for my ca1920 image. See here for the organ at St. Paul’s.

³Indeed, the design harkens (for me) to the maple leaf that was part of Lester Pearson’s preference for the Canadian flag (initially). A similar maple leaf is also part of Ontario’s provincial flag, today.

Posted in churches, new westminster, Russell Photo Studio, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Forgotten Purcell Hall

(Crop of) Van Sc P15: Vancouver, B.C.from the air looking east from Lost Lagoon, 1931. Annotated by MDM.

Purcell Hall and the B.C. School of Church Music (the two were ‘tied at the hip’ for most of their lives) came into being in 1936 at the SW corner of Georgia at Denman Streets (1808 W Georgia), adjacent to where the Running Room is located today. The Hall/School had two pianos and a Hammond Electric Organ. It was founded and directed by Frederick Chubb with occasional teaching assistance from his son, Arthur Chubb.

It was never publicly stated, as far as I could tell, where the name of the hall originated, but it seems safe to assume that it was borrowed from the late 17th century English baroque composer, Henry Purcell. If this was the origin of the Hall’s name, it was a peculiar choice, for the music that was played there was predominantly modern. Holst, Ravel, and Vaughn Williams were more likely to be played and sung there than were Bach, Handel or Purcell. Indeed, I could find just one occasion when a Purcell work was played at the Hall/School.

One of the major users of the space, in addition to private and Church Music School recitals, was the B.C. Music Festival competition. (It was from the 1937 Festival programme that I first learned of the existence of Purcell Hall).

Province. April 30, 1941.

The School was at pains to portray itself as non-sectarian. “[I]ts help is willingly given to churches which feel the need of fine church music, especially in the case of smaller churches where the musical equipment may be unavoidably crude and undeveloped” (Province, 19 April 1937). Non-denominationalism may have been a goal of the school, but in fact it tended to be dominated by Anglicans (the Chubbs were Anglicans) and by the very nature of the music that was played there, which tended to exclude participation by denominations that were ‘lower church’ in terms of music preference (e.g., Baptists, Pentecostals). The music was simply too high brow, even ‘snooty’ for such churches.

The School of Church Music (Vancouver) seems to have been modelled to some extent on the St. Nicholas School for Church Music (today it is known as the Royal School of Church Music – RSCM). It may be that one or both Chubbs spent time at the English school. At the inaugural recital given at the Vancouver Hall/School in November 1936, a lecture was given by Leonard Wilson (local Anglican church organist and later Sun music critic) about the English school.

Purcell Hall faded to black even more quietly than it had started. By 1943, the Hall/School no longer appeared in the Vancouver directory, and that address was being used as a gathering place by a church called the Christian Institute. By 1946, the Sunday occupants of the former Purcell Hall were Parkway Gospel Hall; they were still there in 1953. By 1955, it had become a coffee shop. (Whether or not it was deemed necessary to demolish and rebuild the site for this new use, isn’t known by me).

Purcell Hall seems to have been widely forgotten, today. It was a very tiny meeting space (I’d be surprised if it could have seated many more than 50 people); the space as it appeared in 1978 appears below. (1)

CVA 786-8.02: 1802 W. Georgia Street, 1978. Annarva (a retail TV shop adjacent to the Royal Bank in the late 1970s) was the location from 1936-1943 of Purcell Hall. It appears to have been a very small space.


(1) Many thanks to Robert, of the very detailed Westendvancouver blog for tracking down this CVA photo of the former site of Purcell Hall and for his help with a couple other details in this post.

Posted in churches, music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

First Baptist Church’s Iron Fence/Notice Board Memorials

Dominion Construction drawings of Iron Fence/Notice Board Memorials. First Baptist Church Archives. Who the draftsman was (V.E.W.) is unknown to me. But the person who was the drawing checker, C.B., was almost certainly FBC Deacon and Dominion Construction Chief Executive, Charles Bentall. (Note: In the drawing, the notice board appears to be situated squarely (at 90 degrees) with the sanctuary wall. In fact, it was placed roughly at 45 degrees across the lawn).

Judging from what I’ve heard and what appears to be the ‘vision’ of the current First Baptist Church building project, upon its completion, there will no longer be an iron fence surrounding the garden near the tower entry. That is, to me at least, a bit of a pity — not only for the loss of the fence itself, but for what it (and the already-gone notice board) represented.

It may come as a surprise to many of today’s FBC members and adherents to learn that the iron fence was donated in 1952 by the Selman family as a memorial to three generations of Selmans in Vancouver, and the notice board in memory of Flying Officer Robert Gilroy (“Bob”) Selman, an FBC member who died in WWII. If you weren’t around the church in 1952, these are the sorts of facts that easily slip away. There is no plaque (correctly, in my view) on the fence, nor was anything affixed to the notice board, as far as I know, that identified these items as donations of the Selmans.

Excerpt from 1952 FBC Board of Management Minutes. First Baptist Church Archives.

For those who are regular readers of VAIW, the Selman name may ring a bell: the story of the drowning death of young Elva Selman at Second Beach in 1908. How was Elva related to these Selmans? She would have been, had she lived, a great-aunt of Gordon Rex Selman (one of the donors).

The wooden notice board, three or four years ago (after serving some 60 years), had decayed to the point where it could no longer function and had to be destroyed. It was replaced with the — patently unsuitable — digital monstrosity which, today, squats across the garden lawn behind the iron fence.

Part of the Iron Fence Memorial and the Notice Board Memorial in the FBC Centennial Garden. From Our First Century: 1887-1987, by Leslie J. Cummings, p.78.
Posted in churches, First Baptist Church, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

H.M.S. New Zealand at Vancouver, 1913

CVA 99-1200.5: View of the deck of H.M.S. New Zealand, ca1913. Stuart Thomson photo.

This post will showcase a few of the photos made by Vancouver photographer, Stuart Thomson, in 1913 on the occasion of a visit to the city of H.M.S. New Zealand.

The ship had been funded by New Zealand as a gift to Britain and was launched in 1911. It was a battlecruiser of the indefatigable class. Commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1912, it was sent on a 10-month goodwill tour of British dominions in 1913. It arrived in Vancouver on July 27th and stayed here for a week, after which it left for Victoria.

The image above shows Captain Lionel Halsey and other crew on the deck of the New Zealand.

CVA 99-1197: H.M.S. New Zealand at anchor in Burrard Inlet, 1913. Stuart Thomson photo.

While Mayor Baxter may have got a little carried away when referring to the visit as epoch-marking, there was no question that the coming of the New Zealand was a big deal. Among the events to help celebrate the arrival: the I.O.D.E. (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) had planned a ball; the Thoroughbred Association had organized a day at Minorou Racetrack (in Richmond), the Canadian Club would stand Captain Halsey a lunch (he would pay for his meal by delivering a talk, subsequently), and His Worship himself declared Saturday, August 2 to be a Public Half Holiday, whereby all businesses were to close between noon and 6pm “to enable all citizens to witness the parade of the crew of H.M.S. New Zealand to Brockton Point grounds” and the later sports at Coal Harbour.

Daily World, 29 July 1913. (What, pray, is “Balkan Style” in this context?)
CVA 99-1200: H.M.S. New Zealand forward main armament, 1913. Stuart Thomson photo.

Among the countries visited by the New Zealand prior to and after Victoria (not all ports of call were British dominions), were: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Tasmania, Fiji, Hawaii, Panama, Peru, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Jamaica, Bermuda, and then back to its home port of Portsmouth, England.

CVA 99-347: H.M.S. New Zealand, Pelorus Jack, Mascot, 1913. Stuart Thomson photo.

The photo above shows the New Zealand’s mascot, Pelorus Jack. The bulldog was named for a dolphin that was famous for escorting ships into New Zealand’s harbour. There were two mascots of the H.M.S. New Zealand over its 10 years of service. This was the first one.

CVA 99-1200.6: An officer (Captain Lionel Halsey of H.M.S. New Zealand) and civilians on a small boat at the Coal Harbour dock. Denman Arena is in the background. 1913. Stuart Thomson photo.

The images immediately above and below this paragraph relate to the sports that were held on the Public Half Holiday at Coal Harbour. Captain Halsey is rightmost in the photo above; he is also visible in the diving photo below (to the left of the platform wearing his Captain’s hat, as usual). Who was making the attractive leap from the diving board, I do not know. Other sports anticipated for the holiday included: sock race, three-legged race, gun wheel race (that one is a mystery to me), and tug-of-war.

CVA 99-1200.7 – A man diving off a high board with crowd watching, 1913. Stuart Thomson photo.

All of the photos in this post were made by Stuart Thomson, and were probably among his earliest professional images. He arrived in Vancouver from his birth country of Australia in 1910. Within a couple of years of arriving in Vancouver, he had launched his photography business. Already, in evidence is his custom of shooting pin-sharp, well-exposed and composed photos. A video tribute to early Vancouver photographers is viewable here.

Posted in Navy, sports, stuart thomson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Adult Ed in Technical Subjects in 1930s Vancouver

CVA 99-5427: Women typing, ca1937. Stuart Thomson photo.

This post focusses on a series of photographs made in about 1937 by the great pro photographer, Stuart Thomson, of what appears to be adult education going on in a variety of technical subjects.

The photo above, it may be argued from our 21st century perspective, doesn’t appear to be of a particularly technical subject. After all, the young women seem to be doing what I’m doing now and what nearly all computer-literate people on the planet do on a daily basis. Aren’t they? No, these ladies are doing something quite a bit more complex than typing on a Mac that familiar ode to the fast fox who leapt over the lazy canine!

Let’s begin with a ‘key’ difference between typing on the ’30s-era Underwood Typewriters shown above and a computer keyboard. As any of you who have tried to type on one of these manual machines knows, it is altogether a different experience. Without getting into details, I can testify from early experience learning to type on a 70’s version of these manual typewriters that it is a decidedly wrist-strengthening exercise!

But more is going on in the photo above than merely a physical workout. These women are performing a mentally challenging skill. If you go to the original CVA link of the photo and examine closely the source material they are working from on their desks, you will see what appears to be undecipherable squiggly code. That’s shorthand, a form of stenography. A subject which, if you went to school in Canada when I did (the 1970s), or later, you probably didn’t encounter. I was able to identify the text they were typing from as shorthand because my Dad was a business ed instructor and taught women (and some men) how to write and read in this code.

So the women in the photo are not simply typing “longhand” words, but are doing the more complex task of reading shorthand, translating that in their brains into longhand and then typing those words with their Underwoods. It seems to me likely that the class wasn’t merely a typing class, but a shorthand and typing course! I have new respect for those women and the many others who did these things on a daily basis for many years…skills that are largely lost today (unless you trained as a court reporter to use a steno-type machine).

CVA 99-5439: Men in headphones learning technical skills, ca.1937. Stuart Thomson photo.

For the next photo and the other two shown in this post, I have leaned heavily on the knowledge of my old friend, Wes, who seems to me to have wide-ranging knowledge on all sorts of subjects!

So what were the ‘technical skills’ which the men in headphones were learning? It looks as though they are transcribing another form of code — probably Morse code. Given the period at which this series of photos was made (pre-second-world-war), this would be a useful skill to have learned.

CVA 99-5436: Group of men soldering (actually, this shows just one man welding – not soldering; he is being observed by someone who appears to be an instructor (standing behind him) and a couple of other students), ca1937. Stuart Thomson photo.

This is a great photo. It really demonstrates Mr. Thomson’s skill at managing available light to great advantage. It looks to me as though he used just a single light source for this image in addition to the light thrown off the welder’s tool. Wes noted that the blackboard drawing shows how to bevel the edges of two pieces of steel where they are to be welded so that you achieve a strong joint.

CVA 99-5437: Men looking at electric machinery, ca1937. Stuart Thomson photo.

The curious machine shown above is identified on the metal plate attached to it as a “spark tester”. But what exactly these gents are testing with it, I cannot say (could it be testing the spark on a motor’s ignition?)


So, do we have any idea where these images were made? It seems to me doubtful that these would have been made at any of the private business colleges in town at that time – although that wouldn’t have been a bad guess if the steno typists had been a stand-alone image. But it seems to have been made as part of the series with the very specialized equipment (and photographed entirely with males in those images). Given the presence of this, presumably expensive, and not-widely-available machinery, my best guess is that these photos were made at the Vancouver Technical Secondary School at night (or perhaps on weekends) as part of the Vancouver School Board‘s adult education program.

The only problem with my guess that this series was made at VanTech, however, is the presence in the first photo of women. According to the VanTech link, females weren’t admitted to VanTech until 1940. The series of photos was made, according to the City of Vancouver Archives, ca1937. So it could be that they were made a little bit later (1940 isn’t far off the ca1937 mark, after all), or, more likely I think, the no-women-prior-to-1940 rule did not apply to the adult education extension program.

(Crop of) CVA – Sch N70.2: Exterior view of Vancouver Technical School, 1938. W J Moore photo.

To see others in the series of fascinating adult ed tech school images by Thomson, go here.

Posted in stuart thomson, W J Moore | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

S.S. Islander’s Forgotten Gulf Ferry Service

CVA – SGN 54: Canadian Pacific Navigation Co. steamer “Islander”. 189-?

The Islander is today known by some as a gold-laden ship that was sunk by an iceberg off the Alaskan coast in 1901. But what seems to have been forgotten (1) is that prior to that unhappy event, it served as the principal ship for transporting Vancouverites to Victoria and Victoria residents to the Lower Mainland. In short, the Islander was a very early B. C. Ferry. The circumstances around the Islander’s sinking have also been forgotten.

The Islander was built in Glasgow, Scotland at Napier, Shanks & Bell shipwrights for the Canadian Pacific Navigation Co. (2) The Islander was designed by the great BC ship captain, then the head of CPN, John Irving (1854-1936). The steamship was finished by 1888 and began its lengthy journey from the U.K., across the Atlantic, around South America at Cape Horn and up to California, from San Francisco to Victoria, and to Vancouver at the end of December. What a Christmas gift to the recently incorporated City of Vancouver!

The Vancouver World described the steamer (somewhat incongruously) as both a “Gulf of Georgia Greyhound” and a “Floating Palace”. It’s status as Greyhound of the Gulf was established in it making the Victoria-Vancouver sailing (from harbour to harbour) in just over 4 hours. (Today, all told, the trip from city to city takes about the same time, when one factors in driving to/from ferry terminals) (Vancouver Daily World, 31 Dec 1888).

Royal BC Archives. Item B-02257 – Part of the interior (dining saloon?) of the SS Islander. 1901

As for its palatial features, according to the World, the dining saloon could seat 76, with the CPN’s monogram carved into the wood of each chair. The linen, silver and plateware were apparently among the best money could buy. The state rooms were fitted out with electricity, a call bell, a lavatory, and “an abundant supply of water”. There were four (four?!) bridal state rooms. The cabins could sleep a total of 130 people. The upholstery throughout the Islander was of “the most recherche [desirable?] description” and the ceilings were “elaborately ornamented with carved work and lincrusta of beautiful design”. Finally, “life boats, preservers, and all such appliances are to be found in suitable places should they be wanted.” (This sentence makes it seem as though any passenger who would insist on having such things handy was just the tiniest bit gauche!) (Vancouver Daily World, 31 Dec 1888).

Royal BC Archives. Item A-06316 – Central staircase aboard the SS Islander. ca1890.

I should pause to remind you that the principal function of the Islander for most of its sailing year was to provide ferry service between Vancouver and Victoria. There would have been no need on that run for cabins, much less for state rooms (bridal ones or otherwise!) I can see why the ship would be so outfitted for the 60-hour Vancouver-Skagway trip, but, that service was offered only from July through September (at least in the earliest years of the Islander’s Alaska runs starting ca1892). So why have a “floating palace” of a ferry including cabins and state rooms instead of offering a somewhat more basic ferry ship with serviceable seating areas (comparable to what is provided today on Gulf ferry runs)? I don’t know. Perhaps the sea traveller of the late Victorian period could not conceive of an ocean journey (no matter how brief) having anything less than cabins and seemingly first-class service.

The Islander would depart Vancouver at 1pm, arriving in Victoria a little after 5.00pm. Travel back to Vancouver was a little less convenient, departing Victoria at 4am and arriving in the Terminal City at sometime around 8.00am.

Sinking and Salvage

The Islander left Skagway, Alaska for Vancouver at 7.30pm on August 14, 1901. By 2.15am on August 15th, the ship was sunk, 20 minutes after having struck an iceberg off the coast of Juneau while travelling in dense fog. The lives lost included: Captain Foote, 16 of the 65 crew, and 23 passengers (two of whom were children) of 107. (3)

The findings of the inquiry into the sinking of the Islander included the following:

[W]e find that no special instructions had been issued by the master [captain] to the pilot, or person in charge of the deck, when he left the bridge, relating to the navigation or speed of the vessel in the event of falling in with floating ice — which was not unexpected in the locality through which the ship was passing. We think that Pilot Le Blanc is open to censure for his action in keeping the ship full speed — at the rate of nearly fourteen knots an hour — after having seen floating ice some ten minutes before the accident.

We would also condemn the custom apparently in vogue in coast waters in leaving the bridge of any steamer at night, and more especially a passenger steamer, in charge of only one officer. (4)

Victoria Daily Times. 23 Oct 1901.

There was a substantial quantity of gold that went down with the Islander stemming from mining activity in Alaska at the time. Attempts (and fantasies) at salvaging the gold began to be considered almost as soon as news of the sinking hit the press. Some of the gold was recovered in 1934, but it wasn’t until 2012 that all legal entanglements (not to mention logistical ones) were cleared away and a substantial quantity of gold was salvaged from the wreck of the Islander.

VPL 42429 Maritime Museum model boat. The Islander, 1967. Province photo.


(1) In contemporary accounts I’ve read of the S.S. Islander, it is noted that she was designed specifically for runs north and south through the inside passage. But no mention is made of her principal function: as the Gulf of Georgia Ferry.

(2) CPN was incorporated in 1883 and endured until 1901 (shortly before the wreck of the Islander) when Canadian Pacific Railway acquired the firm and made it an important part in the basis of CPR’s marine division (later to be known as Canadian Pacific Steamships Ocean Services, Ltd). In 1960, after job action was initiated by employees of CP Steamships, B.C.’s W. A. C. Bennett government decided to create a crown corporation called BC Ferries which has serviced BC’s coastal transportation needs since. CP Steamships got out of the passenger ocean transport business and focussed on container and other forms of ocean cartage.

Paddle-wheelers, the Premier, Yosemite, Princess Louise, and R. P. Rithet were among the ships that filled in for the Islander when she was on Alaska service, was engaged on excursion runs with private groups, or was in dry dock for servicing.

The Charmer would take over the Gulf Ferry run from the Islander after its sinking. Later, the CP Steamships would name their BC coastal ships Princess of _____ (e.g., Vancouver) to contrast with then names of their international ships (the Empress ships).

(3) The children lost in the sinking were the 1-year-old child of Mrs. J. H. Ross and her 15-year-old niece. Mrs. Ross, the wife of Yukon Governor Ross, also perished. It was thought that Mrs. Ross and the two children died in their cabin, possibly (hopefully) still asleep.

(4) The S.S. City of Seattle, only 3 months after the Islander incident, had a very narrow escape near where the Islander was sunk.

Early in the evening she had run among a number of small icebergs, and she was coming down the [Gastineau] channel under a slow bell. The weather was rather dirty [foggy], and it being hard to see any distance, the steamer was almost upon a small berg before it was seen.

The helm was immediately thrown over, and the steamer slipped past only a few feet away from the dangerous floating ice-mountain.

There are four men always on watch at night on the City of Seattle.

The Province. 2 Nov 1901.

One is forced to ask, in light of the Islander Inquiry recommendations and this experience of the City of Seattle later, whether the Islander might not have dodged its grave had it been operating under a ‘slow bell’, instead of going “hell bent for leather” at top speed, and had there been more than just a single set of eyeballs on the bridge watching for icebergs!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sea of Hats


CVA 99-1015 - Crowd watching soccer game in progress at Cambie Street ground ca1920 Stuart Thomson photo.

CVA 99-1015 – Crowd watching soccer game in progress at Cambie Street Grounds ca1920 Stuart Thomson photo. (Note: This version of 99-1015 has been cropped and had the exposure adjusted slightly by me. For the original state of the image, see CVA online).

This is a somewhat unusual view of the Cambie Street Recreation Grounds (for ome later years, the site of the long-distance bus station, later still – optimistically – dubbed Larwill Park and serving as a City car park with recent aspirations to become the site of the Vancouver Art Gallery). The image was taken from the SW corner of the block toward the NW corner. The crowd of mainly men was viewing a soccer game. And, remarkably, virtually every head in the crowd is covered. The players were evidently permitted to play bare-headed without social impunity; however, notably, the men in striped jerseys – game officials, I presume – were be-hatted.

The second site of the YMCA is visible in the distance (near mid-photo, at corner of Dunsmuir and Cambie), as is part of the Sun Tower (right) and Vancouver High School (the school’s prominent, pointed tower appears to the left, behind Cambie Street residences).

I won’t pretend to understand fully why hats were such a dominant and lasting feature of men’s and women’s fashion in the 19th and 20th centuries. For extended commentary on men’s hats in earlier years, see here and here. This near-contemporary essay written by the late, great American writer, William Zinsser, is very good.

I cannot resist showing another CVA image of an Australian cricket team visiting Vancouver in 1911 (and including the photographer of this image and of the soccer image above, Stuart Thomson, a former Aussie who emigrated to Canada the year before this image was made and who would make his home and career in Vancouver until his death in 1960). Interestingly, a couple of the gents in the photo seem not to have received ‘the memo’ and appeared hatless (gasp!).

CVA 99-123 - Australian XI [group photo, poss. S. Thomson on right in bowler hat] ca 1911 Stuart Thomson photo.

CVA 99-123 – Australian XI [group photo, poss. S. Thomson on right in bowler hat] ca 1911 Stuart Thomson photo.

A man’s hat was the status symbol that distinguished the white man from the aborigine, the God-fearing from the heathen, the clad from the unclothed. The hat was something to raise to a lady, to remove in church, and to hang in the home. It had the magic properties of the amulet, warding off evil, shielding the wearer at the most vulnerable part of his anatomy: the crown of his skull. — Eric Nichol, Vancouver.

Crop of CVA PAN N14A – Opening Game Base Ball Season 1915, Vancouver vs. Victoria. At Athletic Park (5th and Hemlock). 1915. W J Moore.

Posted in people, sport, street scenes, stuart thomson | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Prof. Ludwig Zimmer, Herbalist . . . and Zimmerton’s Namesake

“The world is my country and to do good my religion.”

Ludwig (“Louis”) Zimmer (1838-1895) was born in Grunberg, Hessen Darmstadt, Germany, but left his homeland when a young man. He settled in Guelph, ON in 1861. In 1867, he married Salome (b1829), who was also born in Germany. His business focus during the time he was in Ontario was on wild animal hides (oddly, to my way of thinking, he incorporated the hide trade into his Vancouver business a couple of years after getting his herbalist business business going here). He left Guelph and settled in Waterton, NWT (later Alberta), later living for a brief time in Winnipeg before coming to Vancouver in the autumn of 1888. He and Salome did not have kids.

During his years in Vancouver, Zimmer identified himself as “Prof.” and as a “Herb Druggist” operating out of 10 (later 110) Abbott St. (nearby the railway track). I don’t know what educational background he had, but it wasn’t uncommon in Vancouver’s earliest years for someone to refer to himself as “Prof.” when he had less than advanced educational credentials, but wanted to be identified as having such.

Zimmer was a frequent advertiser in the Vancouver press. One of his earliest ads read as follows:

“Relief for all pains. I have just received a large consignment of fresh herbs that, properly handled, will certainly cure all diseases as mentioned below. These herbs have not lost their virtue by long standing on shelves, but are the recent season’s growth with all their strength. They will cure the following diseases:

For colds and burns of all descriptions. Dyspepsia. For worms in the Bowels and Stomach, for Swellings in any part of the body, for Killing Tape Worm, for Relief of Toothache, for cure of Seventy-seven different Fevers, for Swellings, for Worms in all Joints of the Body, for Colic, for Stopping Rupture in Young People [acne, I think, rather than hernias], for Erysipelas, Wild Fire or Saint Anthony’s Fire, for Burned Sores, for Limbs, for Sore Eyes. for Healing Wounds, for Polypus [polyps] of the Heart, for Fresh Wounds, for Jumping Toothache, for Killing Hair Worm, for Rheum in the Eye, for Curing Worms in the Fingers, for Remedy of all kinds, Bodily Defects (to cure old blemishes), for Jaundice, for Podagra, for Cure of Warts, Cramps and many diseases peculiar to Men, such as Gonorrhea, Gleet, Etc.

When all physicians fail to affect a cure, call and see what herbs can do for you..

Daily World, 23 Nov 1888

At the very least, I found that ad to be an education in medical terms that were largely unknown to me!

As I read through local news clippings in which Zimmer was mentioned, I expected eventually to come across a charge of quackery. And sure enough, within days of the above ad appearing, the following appeared in the same paper:

An appeal will be taken in the case of Prof. Zimmer, fined the other day in the Police Court for an infraction of certain clauses of the British Columbia Medical Act. It is believed [by the Daily World, I guess, or perhaps this was a clandestine ad paid for by Zimmer] that the Professor is quite within the law in claiming that he can bring about good health by a liberal use of herbs. He is certainly doing wonderful things in this line, and is favorably spoken of by those who have consulted him.

Daily World, 28 Nov 1888

Nothing much appeared to come of this 1888 police court business. Later, in August 1894, according to the Daily World, Zimmer received a summons to appear before Justice of the Peace Schofield on a similar charge. Again, the summons seemed to fizzle (Daily World, 4 Aug 1894). I did see one brief write-up claiming that Zimmer had been fined $28 on one occasion (Daily World, 10 Oct 1889).

These moments aside, however, Zimmer seemed to carry on his herbalist business relatively unmolested by police courts or attorneys-general. Remarkably, he appears not to have been perceived as a quack by the general public. This positive perception was probably assisted by his ads which, as time went on, consisted less of lists of ailments which he could cure with his herbs and more of testimonials by Vancouver residents — some of whom were well known and influential. For exanple, in 1894, a lengthy ad/testimonial appeared, excerpts of which appear below:

We, the undersigned, are well acquainted with Professor Zimmer…and know him to be all that he represents himself as an Herbalist, and we recommend him to the public….

[Zimmer] does not claim to be a physician in any sense of the term, and, though often solicited, never visits a patient; but he believes in the curative virtues of herbs, roots, bark and berries and is an Herbalist and Botanist….

The Professor has traveled much and seen a great deal of the world in sunshine and shade. He is in every respect a perfect gentleman, kind-hearted and generous, whose fame as a benefactor is now spreading far and near. The cures effected by his treatment have been so astonishing that they have formed the subject of gossip throughout the province.


R. A. Anderson, Mayor
F. Cope, ex-Mayor
J.W. Horne, M.P.P.
James Orr, ex-M.P.P.
Henry A. Mellon, Justice of the Peace
W. Godfrey, Manager, Bank of British North America
M. A. MacLean, ex-Mayor
Alb. Zeplien, Captain, German barque Gutenberg
Thomas Dunn, hardware merchant and ship chandler
John McLaren, Chief of Police
V. W. Haywood, Sergeant of Police
G. A. Jordan, P.M. [Police Magistrate]

[At the conclusion of that omnibus testimonial, appeared this one, specific to an individual]:

Dear Sir: It affords me much pleasure to bear testimony to the success which has attended your treatment of various diseases by the use of Botanical Remedies, and the confidence which is placed in your methods by the people of this city and district. I believe that the more extended use of herbs, which are Nature’s primary remedies, would prove highly beneficial to humanity, and I wish you every success in your efforts to bring them into popularity.

I am faithfully yours,

D[avid] OPPENHEIMER [2nd Mayor of Vancouver]

Daily World, 25 May 1894

Village of Zimmerton?

Zimmer established a ranch in the vicinity of Seymour Creek (aka Seymour River in North Vancouver near the Second Narrows Bridge). (1) The legal description of the land (in bold) in the notice was:

NOTICE is hereby given that 60 days after date I intend making application to the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, for permission to purchase the following described lands in Group One, north side of Burrard Inlet, in Seymour Creek Valley, District of New Westminster, viz:

Commencing at Philip’s northwest corner post on his purchase claim, thence west 20 chains, thence south 40 chains, thence east 20 chains, thence north 40 chains to point of commencement, containing 80 acres more or less.

1892 Vancouver Feb 19
Ludwig Zimmer

Daily World, 6 Apr 1892

There was consideration given in 1890 to naming a village in the Seymour Creek Valley Zimmerton in honour of Louis Z. Believe it or not! To the best of my knowledge, nothing came of this proposal. And Ludwig Zimmer seems today to be utterly forgotten by the populace of North Vancouver and Vancouver alike.

Zimmer died in 1895 at age 58. His death came about from him being outside most of the night, on his Seymour Creek ranch. It started to pour, evidently, and Prof. Zimmer didn’t get out of the rain and, thus, got himself well and truly soaked. The cold he caught that night was considered the precipitating event (if you’ll excuse the pun) that led to his death a couple of months later.


(1) There was an earlier notice (in 1889) of Zimmer’s intention to purchase 2 acres of land on Boulder Island and also to purchase land on an (unnamed) island (perhaps what is now known as Hamber Island?) west of Turtle Head. Both of these land parcels were along the North Arm of Burrard Inlet. It isn’t clear to me whether Zimmer actually purchased this land; since no mention was later made of him owning land in these places, I assume nothing came of these plans.

Posted in businesses, medical matters | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cleve’s Win Impacts at Least a Couple of Vancouver Residents

Str P82 - [A man in a wheelbarrow is pushed by the loser of a bet regarding the United States presidential election] 1892 Bailey Bros

CVA – Str P82: Man in a wheelbarrow is pushed by the loser of a bet regarding the United States presidential election. 1892. Bailey Bros photo. (Note: Dog and kid are both too curious about stuff going on around them to hold still for the long exposure needed by the early photographer. Most of the grim adults don’t have that problem).

Who are the principal figures in this image? What is the context? And where is this bunch of early Vancouverites gathered on this occasion?

This brief article in the Vancouver Daily World is helpful:

Fulfilled the Wager

At 2:30 this afternoon, in payment of a bet made on the United States Presidential election, Dave Douglas wheeled R. G. McKay along Cordova Street from Dunn’s hardware store to the Real Estate Exchange. While on the way  Mr. McKay waved an American flag that he had carried in a [Grover] Cleveland procession in Cincinnati in 1884.

— Vancouver Daily World 14 Nov 1892

The U.S. presidential election in 1892 involved incumbent, Republican Benjamin Harrison, Democrat Grover Cleveland, and Populist James Weaver. Cleveland and his running mate, Adlai Stevenson I  (not to be confused with grandson Adlai Stevenson II) — known informally as the ‘Cleve and Steve’ ticket — won the election in 1892 and became President and Vice-President, respectively. 

Not a lot is known of “Dave Douglas”; he appears to have been David Freemont Douglas, Sr. who was born in Madison, Wisconsin October 1, 1865. It isn’t clear when he moved north, but he married Clara Straube in 1893 in Vancouver (she was born in Waterloo, ON). Douglas, Sr. was a realtor in Vancouver and in the States. He was still living in the Vancouver area during the 1901 Census; he moved his family to Alberta for a while, and ended up in California where he died in February 1917.¹

About the bet winner, Robert G. McKay, we know he lived in the St. Paul, Minnesota area during the 1880s. He married Ann D’Arcy and had a daughter named Constance. In the 1890s, McKay moved up to Vancouver where he remained a relatively brief time. He was back in Minnesota by about 1900. He was involved in realty sales both in Minnesota and in Vancouver. His daughter, Constance — who made a name for herself as an author and producer of pageants — married Roland Holt, the son and heir of publisher, Henry Holt (Burlington Free Press, Apr 7 1923).

The principal connections between Douglas and McKay seem to have been their country of birth (USA) and their occupation (realty).  

The American flag in the image above, which presumably is the flag obtained by McKay in Grover Cleveland’s earlier presidential win in 1884 (the first of Cleve’s two, non-consecutive presidential terms) would have been a 38-star version of the stars and stripes, I’m assuming. (By 1892, the flag consisted of 44-stars).

According to the Daily World article reproduced above, the wheelbarrow trip began at Dunn’s  Hardware, which was in the Dunn-Miller block — today, more commonly known as the Army & Navy Department Store. The ride proceeded west from the hardware up Cordova for about two blocks until they reached Cambie, at which intersection, they would have turned left and stopped on the west side of Cambie at the “Real Estate Exchange” (today, where Danny’s Inn is located). The image at the top of this post was made at the wheelbarrow trip’s finish point. 

CVA – Str P222: The west side of Cambie Street near Cordova Street. 1888.


¹Thanks to Robert of WestEndVancouver for his impressive digging that yielded these details about Douglas and McKay.

Posted in Bailey Bros., businesses | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who IS this Woman?

CVA 174-01 - Portrait of Bertha Goudron from France ca1890 (She ran Goudron's Hardware on Hastings)

CVA 174-01 – Who could this be? Is it Bertha Goudron? Or someone else?

Who was this attractive woman with such a determined countenance¹?

If you were to ask this question at the City of Vancouver Archives — where this photograph has resided, probably, for most of its life — staff there might, quite sensibly, direct you to the inscription near the bottom of the portrait (Bertha Goudron) and to the ‘title’ and ‘scope and content’ sections of the photo record: Bertha Goudron, who came from France and was proprietor of “Goudron’s Hardware on Hastings Street.”

However, to borrow a phrase from a Professor I know, putting your faith in such a strategy, in this case, “would lead you to a bad place.”


  • Bertha Marie Goudron was born 1890, so (if the date of the photo is roughly accurate, and I’m assuming that it is; although I’d bump it up a year to 1891, the year the family moved to Vancouver from Montreal), the subject of the portrait would have been a babe-in-arms rather than a 30-something woman.
  • Bertha, like all her siblings and her mother, Malvina, was born in Montreal, not France; the only family member to have been born in France was Bertha’s father, Jules²;
  • Goudron’s Hardware (1891-1898) was located at 424 Westminster Ave.; never on Hastings Street (it was about half a block south of Hastings, on the east side of today’s Main St.)
  • Bertha was never an owner of the family hardware store. That was her parents’ joint concern until Jules died in 1897 (Vancouver Daily World 27 Nov 1897). Note: In the Vancouver directory listings for the shop in 1894 and 1895, both Goudrons appeared, but Mrs. Malvina Goudron in each case appeared first! More importantly, the name on the shop was “Malvina Goudron”; Jules’ name doesn’t appehar anywhere on the signage — at least not in the ca1891 photo shown below.³
  • I believe the portrait shown above was made in Vancouver (by a photographer unknown to CVA), not, for example, by a photographer based in Montreal. The reason I reached that conclusion is the very distinctive armchair in which the sitter is posed. The same chair appears in this Vancouver portrait made of W. L. Fagan and this one of Alfred Wallace.
  • Bertha didn’t have any sisters, and that fact, taken together with the foregoing leads me to conclude that the woman pictured above is not Bertha, but her mother, Malvina Goudron.

Ch P95 - [Exterior of Malvina [G]oudron hardware (formerly First Baptist Church) on Westminister Avenue] ca 1890 Harry T Devine

CVA Ch P95 – Exterior of Malvina Goudron’s Market Hardware (424 Westminster Ave.), ca 1891. Harry T Devine photo.

Bertha Goudron

I suspect that CVA has correctly identified the photo below as being of Bertha. There is definitely a family resemblance between this image and the first one in this post. But this woman, it seems to me, has a more rebellious spirit; there is a mischievous smile on her lips; and her eyes say to me “I’ll try anything once!”

CVA 174-12 - Portrait of Bertha Goudron ca1900

CVA 174-12 – Portrait of Bertha Goudron, ca1910. I don’t recognize the photographer’s mark as being a Vancouver image-maker. It may have been a pro on Vancouver Island, however, where her sometime-husband, Edward Marcotte, had a farm.

CVA claims, as of the publication date of this post, that the year of this photo is ca1900. But this woman appears to be wearing a wedding ring on the appropriate finger. Bertha married Edward Marcotte in 1910 (and was divorced from him by 1919 – the year he remarried), thus I conclude that it was made more likely ca1910.

First Baptist Church’s First Chapel

You may wonder how on earth First Baptist Church could wriggle into this post about a patently French-Canadian, Roman Catholic family.

This segment serves as a sort of update to my post titled The First First, which pertained to the location of First Baptist’s first owned worship building. You will see in the “Post-Chapel Applications” section of that post that I mention the “Coudron Hardware” being the purchaser and modifier of the former chapel.

Well, you don’t need me to tell you, now, that “Coudron’s Hardware” should actually read “Goudron’s Hardware”!

Yes, the formidable-looking lady whose portrait is featured in this post was the owner of the first post-chapel application of the little building that once was FBC’s.


¹My thanks to Maurice Guibord, for his generous assistance with this post. Maurice is Président, Société historique francophone de la Colombie-Britannique.

²The family consisted of (with birth years): Jules (husband, ca1851); Malvina (wife, 1859); Paul (son, 1881; “for a number of years booking agent for the old Orpheum Theatre” – Province, 3 Jan 1934); Gaston (son, 1886); Alexander (son, 1888); Bertha (daughter, 1890). Some of the given names differ, at times, due to French spelling variations (e.g., Berthe, Alexandre, Malvine). The surname has been misspelled, notably: “Gondron” in B.C. vital statistics and in census records, and “Coudron” in CVA’s photo record showing the family’s hardware store. I am in the process of seeking corrections to these errors.

³Jules’ hardware store failure in Montreal may have had something to do with the emphasis on Malvina as owner of their Vancouver enterprise. An “insolvent notice in the matter of Jules Goudron Hardware, Montreal” appeared in the Montreal Gazette on 11 Sept 1891.

Posted in biography, businesses, First Baptist Church, Vancouver, Harry T. Devine | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The McIntosh Girls in Tent Town

SGN 167 - [Two women seated in front of tent at Greer's Beach (Kitsilano Beach) 1894? Bailey Bros

SGN 167 – Two of the McIntosh sisters (probably twins Grace and Gertrude, roughly 21, here) at Greer’s Beach (aka “Tent Town” aka, later, “Kitsilano Beach”), 1894? Bailey Bros photo. There are two other related images that appear to have been made the same day by Bailey Bros. One of these shows the sisters having some fun with (I’m guessing), their brother, William. The other shows the sisters posing with an oar and a musical instrument.

I’m not sure what it is about this image that I find compelling. It is a well-made photograph, to be sure; the exposure and composition are flawless. But I don’t think the technical competence of the photographer is what draws me. It may be the uncommon playfulness of the subjects in this late-Victorian image; not just the obvious sisterly affection evident between the girls, but also the discarded clothes, hats, and even the business end of a broom, upon a bed. Evidently, nobody did much of a tidy-up of this tent before the photographer arrived!

How do I know that these ladies are McIntosh sisters? Well, none other than J. S. Matthews so avers. On the verso of the print held at the City Archives, Vancouver’s first Archivist has scrawled (over his signature): “[T]hese are the McIntosh girls.”  But of which McIntosh family were they?  Matthews gives a hint in a related note in which he claimed that there were “several” McIntosh daughters and a son, and that they were “a prominent family”.

I had a look at the census records for 1891 for McIntosh families in Vancouver consisting of “several” girls and one boy. There was only one family I could identify that met those criteria. The family headed by Charlotte McIntosh (and the late, by this time, Alexander) and their progeny: William (31), who was a local butcher (31); Margaret (27), Maude (21), Grace, who taught at Central School (18), Gertrude (18) and Fanny, who became a dressmaker for awhile at Hudson’s Bay Co. (16) — one son and five daughters.

How can I be sure the image was taken at what is known today as Kitsilano Beach (which was originally named, informally, Greer’s Beach, after a “squatter” on CPR-owned land, Sam Greer; and even more informally as ‘Tent Town’)? Again, thanks to notes left by J. S. Matthews on the back of the print shown above. He noted that the tent was on “Kitsilano Beach” and that it sat on the “present [in 1937, when he wrote the note] ‘Hotel Site Park’ at the foot of McNicol (sic) Ave.” at the “north end” of the beach. I think he meant by this that the tent was situated near the ‘chin’ of Kits point. This looks accurate to me, given the image of Tent Town shown below ca1900; in order for the McIntosh tent to have been so surrounded by trees as it plainly was (this is clearest in the two other McIntosh tent images that are part of the series made by Bailey Bros.; see the caption above for the links), the tent would need to have been located toward the northern end of the beach, closer to Kits Point (where a pretty thick stand of trees stood) than to the beach itself.

Be P99 - [Greer's Beach (Kitsilano Beach)] ca 1900

Be P99 – Greer’s Beach (Kitsilano Beach), aka as Tent Town, ca1900. See my annotation with arrow showing where I think the McIntosh tent images were made.

Speculation on Proposed CPR Hotel at Kits Beach

What follows is indirectly related to the tent image of the McIntosh sisters. It pertains to a proposed hotel drawing by American architect, Edward Osborn, reproduced (from the University of Washington Libraries site) by my friend, Jason Vanderhill, at his blog, Illustrated Vancouver

Jason maintains that the proposed hotel shown in the drawing was to go on the 1600 block of Beach Avenue.

I’m speculating that the location of the hotel was to have been at the rough location of the tents shown in the images earlier in this post (almost directly across English Bay from 1600 Beach).

See this excerpt from 1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map for Kitsilano Point (and the notation of “Hotel Reserve” at the corner of McNicoll and Maple).

1912 Goads Map Showing Kits CPR Hotel REserve. McNicoll and Maple.

1912 Goad’s Fire Insurance Map showing Kits CPR “Hotel Reserve” at McNicoll and Maple.

Here is what Matthews has to say about the “hotel reserve”, aka the “hotel site”:

The “Hotel Site” is so named from the fact that it so appears on certain early maps of Vancouver as the site of a proposed C.P.R. hotel. The piece of land so known is bound by McNichol (sic) Avenue and Maple Street, and was so marked on the maps when the section of land to the east of Kitsilano Beach was surveyed and opened for occupancy and settlement in 1909. At that time, the General Superintendent of the the Canadian Pacific Railway in Vancouver was Mr. Richard Marpole, and it is stated that it was his dream to have erected on the “Hotel Site” a palatial tourist resort hotel.

In the real estate boom days [what period in Vancouver cannot be called “real estate boom days”?] the Board of Park Commissioners secured an option on the site for the park purposes for $200,000. The purchase price not being available, they [the Park Board] continued to lease it for many years [from the CPR], paying a rental equal to the amount of taxes imposed. Finally, about 1929 or 1928, a bylaw to purchase park sites was passed by the Electorate and the “hotel site” purchased. In the meantime, the option had been dropped, and they finally secured it for $50,000, one quarter of the original price.

— James S. Matthews, Early Vancouver, Vol II, p.410

The CPR Hotel proposal at Greer’s Beach seems to have had some possibility of development in the 1901-02 period; mention was made in the 2 November 1901 issue of the Vancouver Daily World that work on it would begin “at once”. This unattributed claim was made by the World following a site visit by Marpole, “Mr. Hamilton” (presumably L. A. Hamilton, representing the City) and Thomas Tait (CPR transportation manager).

The last local newspaper reference I could find to the ‘CPR hotel site’ in Kitsilano was in the Vancouver Daily World of 28 January 1914 summarizing recent Vancouver Park Board decisions: “The area known as the C. P. R. hotel site would be reserved wholly for picnic grounds and kept as far as possible in its natural condition. Dead trees would be removed and shell walks leading to the sea promenades and the pier would be laid down.”

The park, as it now is, seems to have been left pretty much as the Park Board in 1914 decided.


The northern end of the former “CPR hotel site” at Kits Beach. July 2019. MDM Photo.


¹There is a question mark in my mind regarding this speculation about the drawing of the hotel. That pertains to Osborn’s nationality. Why would the CPR have gone to an American architect to design the proposed hotel when there were many competent local architects whom they might have approached?

Posted in Bailey Bros. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jean Fuller, Night Club Owner/Singer

Substantially Updated

First posted February 2016


Jean Fuller. Sun. 31 Dec. 1935.

Jean Fuller was one of very few black nightclub singers, and probably was the only female black nightclub owner, in Vancouver in the 1930s and ‘40s.

The first appearance I found of Miss Fuller in Vancouver newspapers was in a review of ‘Harlem Cabaret’, sponsored by the BC Institute of Journalists in October 1929. The review was written in a manner that would be described today as somewhat offensive; this near-final paragraph mentions Jean: “[A] group of dancing beauties presented some clever numbers that were the very raciest of entertainment and helped to put the cabaret over [as in ‘over the top’, I assume]. Then at the dusky midnight hour Jean Fuller and Joe Wilson, two of Harlem’s own folk, sang and danced to the delight of everybody” (Sun, 29 October 1929). 

I suspect “Harlem’s own folk” was meant to be a clever way of making the point that Wilson and Fuller were black without saying so (I’m pretty sure that Jean, at least, never lived in Harlem).

Early Years

Jean was born ca1897 in Texas – probably in or near Houston – to Frank Fuller and Ada White. I haven’t been able to learn much about her early life, but have found out that Jean was a graduate of a Houston school for “colored” young people. It was called the Houston Baptist Academy (later, Houston College for Negroes; today, Texas Southern University), and was founded in 1885. Mention is made of “Jeannie Fuller” in a 1906 review in the Houston Post. Jean played a leading role in a musical produced by the Academy’s music department that year. It was called Ruth the Moabitess, and was based on the Old Testament story of Ruth (in the biblical book of the same name). Jean played the soprano part of Orpah (Houston Post, 12 May 1906).

That is all I was able to learn of Jean’s early life.


The question of what motivated Jean to move to Vancouver has not been answered in my research. Whatever the reason(s), she seems to have settled here sometime in 1926, when she was about 30. Period directories show Jean from 1926-28 as the resident proprietress of Alter Rooms at 620 Powell (near Princess; two blocks east of Oppenheimer Park). 

An early appearance by Jean in the Vancouver press was in March, 1931 in a public note of thanks from Mr and Mrs Ross Hendrix – parents of Jimi – for her singing at the funeral of another son, Leon Marshall Hendrix, who died at age 17 that year and whose service was at the African Methodist Episcopal Church near the heart of what was then Vancouver’s black community, Hogan’s Alley (Sun 24 Mar 1931).

By 1934, Jean bought what became her home for many years at 1124 Seymour, on the east side of Seymour just south of Helmcken, near the apartment block known today as Brookland Court (what was, in Jean’s day, called Lightheart Apartments). Today, the location of her home/club would have been at the northern end of Emery Barnes Park.


CVA 99-691 – ca1918. Stuart Thomson photo. I believe the home that is only partly visible in this shot is what was Jean Fuller’s business and home at 1124 Seymour Street. Neither that building nor the one which housed Central Garage in 1918 is still standing. The 6-storey apartment block remains on the corner. It was known at the time as Lightheart Apartments; today it is called Brookland Court).

Jean’s Seymour Street home also served as an unlicensed, informal nightclub which was widely known alternatively as “Nigger Jean’s” (she so named it, apparently) or as Jean’s “Chicken Inn”. About Nigger Jean’s, former Orpheum Theatre manager, Ivan Ackery, had this to say:

Jeannie’s place was full of well-known people. It was THE place to go and all the well-to-do met there. A lot of them used to get drunk and stay overnight. When you’d go in she’d whisper, “Don’t make too much noise now… I’ve got General So-and-So or Governor So-and-So asleep upstairs.” Jeannie sang the blues in the club and she used to bring in black entertainers – girls whom she’d find work for in various clubs around town.

— Fifty Years on Theatre Row (1980), 120

Because of the prominent status of many of Jean’s guests at 1124 Seymour, it was tricky for Vancouver Police Department officers to slip into the place undetected to see whether there were bootlegging or other liquor-related charges which they could lay against Jean and her guests. But on at least a couple of occasions the VPD successfully entered the premises. One of these was in 1943; Jean was charged with allowing a patron to consume liquor in a restaurant. When the charges came before a magistrate, the question arose as to whether 1124 ought to be regarded as an ‘unlicensed restaurant’ (as the VPD claimed) or as her home in which she served chicken dinners to friends (as Jean said). Ultimately the magistrate decided in favour of the VPD’s definition. But before he did so, Magistrate H. S. Wood “remarked [in court] that he had heard of the house but never had the pleasure of going there.” Jean replied: “I’ll gladly cook you a chicken dinner.” The magistrate didn’t indicate whether he’d accept Jean’s offer (Sun, 24 Apr 1943) – at least he didn’t so indicate during court proceedings!

Jean Weds Don Flynn

Jean married Don Flynn (1900-1948) in 1940. Don was another local musician who played piano in various bands in Vancouver from the 1920s. Don and Jean were a mixed race couple who married quite late in life (Jean was 43; Don 40).¹

Don was born in Mountain Station, ON and lived for some of his early years in Calgary. He tried to enlist in the Canadian armed forces in 1916, but was quickly discharged for lying about his age (he claimed he was born in 1897). He identified his occupation as early as age 16 as “musician”. It isn’t clear to me what Don was doing between 1916 and 1922, but he was in Vancouver by 1921. An ad in an issue of the Vancouver Daily World showed Don playing piano that year (with “Don Flynn’s Novelty Orchestra”) at the Patricia Dansant – a dance joint attached to the Patricia Hotel on East Hastings. The 1927 Vancouver Directory indicated Don spent at least part of that year playing at the Empress Theatre. And there is further evidence of that in an ad from the periodical of the BC musicians’ union; he was playing the Empress for awhile with Frank Maracci. But there is no mention of Don in directories again until 1935, where it was noted that he was playing at the Commodore Cabaret. In the early and mid-1940s, it looks like he played piano for the CPR Orchestra.

Life After Don

Don Flynn? Playing with Frank Maracci's Bluebird Orchestra at the Ambassador Cafe 1924. Crop of CVA 99-3500.Don died very early and tragically in November 1948. His death certificate describes his death as being by “misadventure”; the principal cause of death was accidental poisoning by him consuming methyl alcohol. He was buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

The years of WWII seem to have been good years for Jean’s singing career. In December 1939, “the well-known Jeanie Fuller and her artists” provided entertainment at the Eburne Hotel for that year’s “New Year’s Frolic” (this may have been an early event which ultimately evolved into the “Screwball Frolic” events of the 1940s (Sun 28 Dec 1939). She had supporting roles in Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) productions, such as “Hit the Deck” (Province, 11 Jul 1944) and in the mid- and late-1940s she sang at the Mandarin and Cave supper clubs.

Jean remained at 1124 Seymour after Don’s death through 1950. But in 1951, she moved to Suite #3 at 839 W Pender Street (the Massey Block – between Hornby and Howe). By 1954, Jean was still residing at 839 Pender, but she also was also proprietress of a short-lived entrepreneurial venture – an eatery called the “Jeannie Cafe” at 814 East Hastings. It didn’t seem to last for more than a year or so.

According to Ivan Ackery’s memoirs, Jean worked in her later life as ‘Aunt Jemima’ at the PNE and, finally, as a women’s room attendant at a local cabaret. He noted that she returned to “her home” in the States (to Texas, presumably) where she died “some years ago” – in the 1970s sometime, I assume, since Ackery’s memoirs were published in 1980. (Ackery, 120). (I could find no evidence to support Ackery’s claims about Jean’s later career, but I have always found the facts in his memoirs to be accurate.)


¹Many thanks to Robert of WestEndVancouver for very tactfully making a couple of corrections to this post.

Posted in biography, cafes/restaurants/eateries, jazz/blues, music, stuart thomson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

International Harvester BC/Yukon HQ

Party place demo1

Demolishing The Party Bazaar (formerly IH’s HQ) on June 29, 2019. MDM photo.

The demolition of The Party Bazaar building this week, after 7 years at its Station Street location, made me wonder what other businesses had been in that building over the years.

In fact, few.

In 1950, the heavy truck manufacturing and retailing multinational, International Harvester of Canada, decided to establish its BC/Yukon headquarters at 1296 Station Street (adjacent to the CN Rail Depot; today, the long-distance bus/rail facility called Pacific Central Station). An artist’s conception of what IH’s new building would look like on completion appears below.

IH remained on the site from 1951 until the mid-1980s. After they moved out, the building didn’t have any occupants for a couple of years. Then, beginning in the early ’90s, BC Transit Security Services took at least some of the space. It isn’t clear to me how long they remained at Station Street, but sometime around 2012, The Party Bazaar moved in from their previous location near Olympic Village.

IH Station Street HQ Proposed Bldg

Artist’s Conception of the Completed IH Facility. Province, 15 April 1950.

The original International Harvester complex was a vast structure and it seems that in recent years, after IH’s exit from Station Street, it was thought prudent to slice the huge building into three smaller ones (see Google Street View image below). The Party Bazaar had the leftmost building, until recently. The other two buildings that are behind it are part of what was, in IH’s day, a single building.

Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 2.49.59 PM

Google Street View.

CVA 447-253 - CNR [Canadian National Railway] Station 1973 W E Frost-2

Crop of CVA 447-253. 1973. W E Frost. Showing part of International Harvester’s HQ just south of the CN Depot.

Posted in businesses | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Adam’s Rib Cabaret



This business card was purchased recently from Vancouver ephemera collector, Rein Stamm. MDM Collection.

I love the scantily-clad, outrageous word play on this card!

Adam’s Rib (1047 Granville) was located on the west side of Granville Street, midway between Helmcken and Nelson. Specifically, it was between where “The Mexican” restaurant and the “Vietnamese Supermarket” are today, in a space that seems currently vacant. And for good reason — from the outside, it looks like a realtor’s nightmare.

It wasn’t the first or last cabaret to be at this location. It was preceded by the Italian Paradise Cabaret (1966-68) and (lasting just a few months) The Lantern Cabaret. Adam’s Rib endured from late in 1968 until sometime in 1974. It was succeeded by The Fox’s Den (1974-75) and The Windmill cabarets (1975-82; one of their early acts was the Asparagus Band!).

Dec 11 1968 V Sun

Vancouver Sun. 11 Dec 1968.

The ad at left was one of Adam’s Rib’s first.  It strikes me as odd. They chose to play on their name, which derived from the biblical Book of Genesis, Chapter 2, in which the story of Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib is told (verses 21-23).¹ But I must say that the illustrated Adam and Eve look like they’ve seen better days (and after the ‘serpent’ was finished with them, I imagine they had). But I’m not convinced that showing Adam and Eve in this unattractive fashion, looking as though they’d just come off some ’60s bender, was the best way to persuade customers to venture into a new Cabaret.

It isn’t clear from the business card what the opening and closing times were. The card only shows when the Businessmen’s Luncheon ran: from Noon (presumably, although they used the less-than-conventional time form of ’12:00 a.m.’) until 4 p.m. To find out the general open hours I had to rely on another ad: “Dine and dance nightly 5pm to 2am.”

Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 7.18.10 AM-2

Sun. 22 Aug 1969.

What would have been the nature of the live entertainment at lunch and other times? It seems almost certain (judging from the none-too-veiled puns on the card) that there would have been women dancing, probably topless, although it isn’t clear to me from the little information available whether they would typically have peeled anything besides their tops.²

As far as I can tell, Adam’s Rib did not re-locate in Vancouver after closing at 1047 Granville.

CVA 1184-3471 - [Board of Trade members watching a woman on stage at a Christmas in June luncheon at the Cave cabaret] 1948 Jack Lindsay

CVA 1184-3471 – Board of Trade members watching a woman on stage at a Christmas in June luncheon at The Cave cabaret. 1948. Jack Lindsay photo. Note: Most men’s gazes are in a predictable direction!


¹”Adam’s Rib” was also the name of a hugely popular motion picture starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn (1949). There were other Adam’s Ribs both before and after this cabaret: the biblical story lent the name to a ’50s line of perfume by Lentheric; and in the mid-’70s, Woodward’s marketing department must have decided that there was money in the creation story: they flogged ‘Adam’s Rib’ towels and blouses.

²Stripping was part of the entertainment at several other night spots around the same period (notably, Isy’s Strip City and The Penthouse — the names say it all; and the State on Hastings in the ’50s with acts including Yvette Dare ‘and her sarong-stealing parrot’!) Oddly, whether a cabaret planned to include strippers as part of their entertainment seems to have had little impact on whether a cabaret was granted a license. Licensing was mainly about the booze.

Posted in cafes/restaurants/eateries, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Connaught Beach Club


The proposed Connaught Beach Club designed by McCarter & Nairne.

By Neil Whaley, Guest Blogger

English Bay’s Crystal Swimming Pool had its beginnings in a 1926 proposal for a private luxury facility called the Connaught Beach Club. That club was to have a pool, tennis courts, separate Turkish baths for men and women, a beauty parlor and barber shop, private and general dining rooms with meals prepared by a Parisian chef, a ballroom, and sleeping quarters (each with a private bath) for members and their out-of-town guests. The Vancouver public would be blocked from access to the private beach on the section of the land owned by the club.

The Connaught Beach Club evolved from a proposal for a hotel at English Bay. In 1926 a Los Angeles company wanted to build a 250 to 300-room hotel on Beach Avenue at Nicola. The project made progress after the Californians stepped to the background and Vancouver businessmen fronted the idea, led by Walter F. Evans, who had financial interests in a city music store and in the Devonshire Apartments. Honorary governors included mayor L.D. Taylor, premier John Oliver, Sun publisher R.J. Cromie, UBC chancellor Robert McKechnie and businessmen like Frank Begg of Begg Motors.


A page from a promotional brochure when the Connaught Beach Club was proposed.


The idea of a private beach had to be abandoned in order to get building approval from the city.

CVA 99-2212 - Crystal Pool, interior. 1929. Stuart Thomson photo.

This 1929 Stuart Thomson photo shows the completed pool with chairs & ferns on balconies. With the chairs put aside, 500 spectators could watch swim meets. (City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-2212.)

The Connaught Beach Club backers promoted the idea of an exclusive institution that would be a social benefit for the entire family. A promotional brochure said:

Membership taken out by the head of a family automatically makes that man’s wife and dependent sons and daughters members also, enjoying equally with him all the privileges of the Club. Every member of the family, therefore, gains the privileges of association in thought and play with the most desirable companionship in the community. Where whole families associate thus in pleasant and luxurious surroundings, impulses are generated, friendship are formed by the younger members, which influence their whole after lives. And in these times of startlingly advancing youth, the Connaught Beach Club is one place where parents, anxious to guide their children safely through the danger shoals of adolescence, may oversee the pleasures and social contacts of their children without curtailing, or seeming to curtail them.

City council approved the proposal on the condition that a 50-foot strip of beach remained accessible to the public. The salt water pool was the focus of the $60,000 first phase of construction, which started in autumn 1927 with completion expected by May 1928.  The project ran into trouble. Construction stopped, the company was reorganized in July 1928 and the architectural plans were altered.


McCarter & Nairne drawing from a 1929 Sun newspaper, with ‘Crystal Swimming Pool’ on the building.

By the pool’s July 1929 opening, the Connaught name had been abandoned and the facility became the “semi-public” Crystal Pool. It offered a 100 by 30-foot pool, a lounge with deep pile rugs and comfortable chairs grouped around an open fireplace, a tea room for lunch, and dressing rooms with showers and a steam room. Ads promoted “dancing every night” with a live orchestra, until the city refused a permit. None of the Connaught’s other proposed facilities was ever built.

The business seems to have functioned routinely, although there were at least minor problems with the valves and technology which drew salt water from English Bay and heated it. The facility hosted swim meets, lifesaving courses, bridge tournaments and other social events.

Drownings and near-drownings in Vancouver waters were in the news in that period. The Crystal Pool promoted itself in a newspaper ad with the gruesome text: “Children and adults are safe in our warm sea-water swimming pool. Funerals are expensive – don’t take chances – buy a summer pass.” (I can only find the “funerals” ad published once. After that, ads mentioned safety but stopped short of alluding to the death of children.)

Fast forward to 1937. The owners were in tax arrears and offered to sell the pool to the city park board. Ratepayers approved $27,000 for the transaction in a 1939 plebiscite – then grew increasingly frustrated when the pool remained closed.

Sunset Beach Reifel plaque

This heritage plaque (and most mentions on the internet) use a 1928 date for the Crystal Pool. 
Construction actually started in 1927 and problems delayed the opening until July 1929.

In late 1940, Park board chair R. Rowe Holland said an un-budgeted $15,000 was needed to repair the facility. Holland said the board had been interested in acquiring the property in its quest for an unbroken stretch of public waterfront, got it for less than expropriation would have cost and had only intended to operate the pool for a few years (which wasn’t mentioned at the time of the plebiscite). Mayor Lyle Telford wanted it to be clear that the closure wasn’t the city’s fault; the park board knew about the repair cost before the plebiscite. Once that information became public, the park board and city council worked quickly to fund the repairs, and the pool re-opened in April 1941.

I knew that Crystal Pool had a history of preventing Asians and blacks from swimming with whites, but I didn’t know that the policy only started immediately after the city took over operation of the facility. And I didn’t know that the black woman who went public after being turned away was one of the original shareholders when Crystal Pool bonds were sold in 1929.

The Aquatic Centre replaced the pool in May 1974 and the Crystal structure was demolished that year.

CVA 180-5042 - Crystal Pool parade float 1928 Harry Bullen photo

CVA 180-5042 – Jantzen Swimwear/Crystal Pool parade float, ca1928. Harry Bullen photo.

Posted in sport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crookall as Colville

CVA 260-1136.1 - [Men on a sailboat]ca1918 James Crookall-rook2

CVA 260-1136.1 – Men on a sailboat. ca1918 James Crookall photo.

This CVA image made by local amateur James Crookall strikes me as being an outstanding photograph.

It shows four men in a sailboat on relatively calm water. The gent with the cigar appears to be the eldest of the four — possibly the father. It is technically a very good photo. But there is something about it that rises above its technical competence.¹

This photo has an artistic element to it. It was made about 1918, two years before the Canadian artist, Alex Colville (1920-2013) was born. And yet, it seems to draw on Colville’s later brilliance at capturing the ordinary and then turning normal on its head by introducing a component of imminent danger.

I think this Crookall image has, in spades, all of what would later become Colville’s trademark qualities:

  • Only one face of the four is fully visible (the person farthest from the viewer);
  • The men seem to be doing ordinary tasks on a sail craft (the older man is fiddling with the rigging; the guy to his right seems to be at the wheel; the fellow at left, background is loafing; and the gent whose face we can see seems to be on lookout);
  • And yet, I don’t think I’m imagining the tension in this photo. The lookout guy isn’t positioned to be very effective at his job (assuming that I’ve got his job right): the orientation of the sails prevents him from seeing what lies in front of the craft! Furthermore, while I’ve deduced that the fellow at right front is at the wheel, there is no wheel to be seen. Both of these features create a tension in the viewer. I believe the blackness of the companionway between ‘father’ and ‘wheel guy’ reinforces it.

As my old friend Wes rightly remarked when I brought this image to his attention two years ago, “Of course, if it were a Colville, one of these fellas would be loading a revolver!”

Alex Colville, January 1971 Acrylic polymer emulsion on hardboard 60.9 × 81.2 cm Collection of TD Bank Group © A.C. Fine Art Inc.

Alex Colville, January 1971 Acrylic polymer emulsion on hardboard 60.9 × 81.2 cm Collection of TD Bank Group © A.C. Fine Art Inc. (Note that neither face is fully visible and they are undertaking what appears to be an ordinary day of snowshoeing… and yet, although there is nothing overtly dangerous in this painting, there is something that gives the viewer pause. What is it that the woman sees? What is behind the hummock in this apparent prairie scene?)


¹There were three other images made by Crookall, evidently on the same day with the same subjects, but not one of the others approaches the quality of this one. For all four images, see here.

Posted in James Crookall, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

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. We introduced Alexander in an earlier post and related his stubborn streak when faced with a pastor who was, in his judgement, unreasonable.

Alexander had been the organist for Candlish Presbyterian Church in Edinburgh. He arrived in Vancouver in 1903 (Province, 25 July 1903). 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 at this link. 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 his job there in September 1907 to take up a post with a North Vancouver church (Province, 21 Sept 1907).

I wasn’t able to find a record of the year Alexander died.

F. G. M. Grundy (1906-1910?)

Miss F. Grundy was appointed to replace Alexander in June 1906 (Province, 2 June 1906).

The information available today on Miss Grundy is remarkably scant (before, during and after her time at First), save that she was the organist at St. James Anglican Church prior to going to FBC.

The quality of Grundy’s playing, is described in a 1907 feature of the church, as being nice, though unambitious — faint praise, to be sure (Province, 6 Apr 1907). But if Grundy’s reported playing matched her personality, I suspect that probably suited church leaders, after their experience with Alexander.

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

fbc-choir-1915-2T(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 OrganistDuring 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 PMEvan 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).² 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 PMSherwood 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 FBC1Darryl 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 still lives in Vancouver, with his wife, Carol.

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).

²Dale 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.

Posted in churches, First Baptist Church, Vancouver, music, Organs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

J. C. Rowley: Painter, Decorator and (Gasp!) Debt Absconder

SGN 68 - [Men standing with paint buckets and brushes outside J.C. Rowley House and Sign Painting, 508 West Pender Street] ca 1894

Crop of CVA – SGN 68 – Men standing with paint buckets and brushes outside J.C. Rowley Painter and Decorator, 508 West Pender Street. ca 1894. It isn’t clear to me which of these gents was Rowley (but if pressed, I’d say it was the gent third from left).


John Capper Rowley (1844-1941) was a real character (and a ‘bounder’) who was a resident in Vancouver during its pioneering period! Born in Staffordshire, England, he was the son of a coach shop owner. He began a lifetime of wandering when in 1861 he left Staffordshire for London to find work as a house painter in and around the capital (his occupation, in a couple of records, is shown as painter and plumber, but I’ve seen no evidence to confirm that he ever practiced plumbing professionally).¹ A decade later, when he was about 27, he seems to have married Caroline.²

‘A Wandering Painter, He…’

In 1873, Rowley’s wandering spirit was given free reign when he and his wife boarded the Wild Duck, bound for New Zealand. Nearly 4 months after leaving England, they disembarked at Wellington, NZ. Rowley found work, not least winning a contract to paint the then-new ‘Old Government Buildings‘ in Wellington, then and now the ‘largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere’.

In 1876, Rowley spent some time in Australia (Melbourne and Tasmania), although it isn’t clear whether his wife accompanied him on this less ambitious journey or remained in Wellington. Sometime after his Australian venture, he planned to return to England, but ended up in Cape Town, South Africa where presumably he found painting work aplenty.  By 1881, he had returned to NZ, settling in what today is described as a ‘village of Auckland’, Devonport.


He left NZ again in 1887, in search of a better economic situation than was then present in his adoptive nation. This time, he set off for the west coast of British North America, to the freshly minted city of Vancouver.

The first mention of Rowley in the local press was in an ad placed by him in December 1888 seeking staff for his painting business. “None but good hands need apply,” it said, and was signed “J. C. Rowley, Hastings” (Daily World, 20 Dec 1888).³ There is evidence in B.C. provincial government records of the same year that Rowley did work on new school buildings in the city. By 1890, his painting business appears to have been headquartered at 104 Hamilton, near Hastings, close to what would become the city’s heart.

In 1893, Rowley moved his Vancouver business to the location shown in the photo above, at 508 Pender. His business remained there, as far as I can tell, until 1894. In that year, he was a sub-contractor on the job of painting (presumably) the Inns of Court building nearby his former business site at SW corner of Hamilton and Hastings. Also in that year, BC government records show that he billed the Province for $9,300+ (well in excess of $200,000 in today’s dollars) for work he did on the then-new Parliament Buildings in Victoria. By 1895, Rowley was living on Pacific near Burrard.

At the end of 1895, J. C. Rowley vanished!

Screen Shot 2019-04-15 at 1.04.25 PMOn January 25, 1896, a legal notice appeared in the Daily World. The notice declared that the Hon. William Norman Bole of the Supreme Court of B.C. had found J. C. Rowley to be “an absconding debtor”. The creditor who had pushed for Rowley to be so identified was Vancouver Sash and Door Co. (located at north end of Granville St. Bridge).

The Absconding Debtors Act was legislation which provided a way for creditors to lay hands, legally, upon a debtor’s property remaining in the province after he’d left with debt unpaid. In the case of Rowley, he’d not only left the province, but the country and it seems doubtful, to me, that the owners of Vancouver Sash and Door ever got the satisfaction of laying hands on the debt Rowley owed them. I don’t know which ship he boarded, but Rowley made his way back to New Zealand. He picked up the house painting business again there. He lived in various suburbs of Auckland after retiring in 1902 and died there in 1941.


¹Many thanks to Robert of the WestEndVancouver blog for his generous research assistance with this post — especially with Rowley’s life in New Zealand.

²Whether JCR married one woman named Caroline or two remains an open question. Rowley seems to have married a woman called Caroline (pre-married surname is unknown) in 1871 and Rowley evidently boarded the Wild Duck with a woman identified as “Caroline J. Rowley” in 1873. But there is also evidence of him marrying someone identified as “Caroline Makepeace Rowley” in 1903. Caroline Makepeace died on May 5, 1927. It could be that the woman who boarded the Wild Duck with Rowley was his wife in all but the legal details and that he delayed “making an honest woman of her” until 1903. Or there could have been two wives and either he and his first wife parted company, or she died and he married someone of the same first name in 1903.

On a related note, Rowley, in a published profile of his life in the New Zealand press, claimed that he “has no descendants”. But there is evidence that that may have been a porky. In 1894, one Louisa Swindell published a request in Reynolds’s newspaper seeking information on her father, J. C. Rowley, “house painter and plumber” who left Staffordshire in 1871. (Reynolds’s Newspaper, 3 June 1894).

³Hastings at the time was described in the 1888 Williams Directory as “situate on the south side of the Inlet, three miles from Vancouver by a good road, and is connected with New Westminster and Vancouver by the C. P. Railway. It is the ‘Brighton’ of the Mainland and the fashionable resort for visitors especially during the sumer months. The ‘Brighton’ Hotel is one of the best and most popular hotels on the Mainland.” Whether Hastings townsite was ever considered a ‘fashionable resort’ seems to me to be open to question.

Posted in businesses, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

B.C. Lions SNORED in ’54!


Gordon Poppy Collection. Digital copy made from GP’s original slides. “The Lion’s Snored in ’54” Display Window for T. Eaton Company. The Lion is apparently in traction! Vancouver. 1954.

This post is a fun excuse to show off a few of Gordon Poppy’s photos of a window display he helped set up for the Vancouver flagship store of  T. Eaton Company (at the time, from 1949-1973, in the former Spencer’s Department Store space on West Hastings between Seymour and Richards).

Lions RoarThe B.C. Lions football club had been expected to do well in 1954 (unreasonably, probably). So well, in fact, that their public relations machine had ground out the slogan that “The Lions ROAR in ’54“. Annis Stukus (1914-2006) had recently been imported from the ‘near east’ as the first head coach and general manager of the Leos. And the Lions would play home games at the brand-new British Empire Games Stadium, adjacent to Hastings Park. (There was a connection between the Spenser family and the Lions and the Empire Games being hosted by Vancouver. Victor Spenser  (1924-2015), a son of store founder, David Spenser, was a key lobbyist for both.)


Gordon Poppy Collection. Digital copy made from GP’s original slides. “The Lion’s Snored in ’54” Display Window for T. Eaton Company. Vancouver. A dejected fan sitting on the foot of the Lion’s sickbed. 1954.

But victorious roaring was not to happen that year; in fact, it would be another decade before they would win the Grey Cup. Their win:loss ratio in 1954 was 1:15 and by October they were finally knocked out of contention for the finals by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

This ditty appeared in the Calgary Herald in October 1954; it seems to me to be written for singing to the tune of The Band Played On:

Benson would walk through a shuddering line
And the Lions snored on.

He’d glide ’round the ends with the greatest of ease,
And the Lions snored on.

His team was so loaded, it nearly exploded,
The half backs would shake with alarm.

He’d ne’er leave the field ’till the game was on ice.
And the Lions snored on.

Calgary Herald. 25 Oct 1954

Speaking of Lions ditties – unofficial and otherwise – I’ve recently learned that the official ‘fight song’ of the Leos is “Roar You Lions, Roar“, composed by none other than local Big Band great, Dal Richards (1918-2015). Give it a listen. The lyrics are pretty predictable, but – as such music goes – it is quite tune-full.


Gordon Poppy Collection. Digital copy made from GP’s original slides. “The Lion’s Snored in ’54” Display Window for T. Eaton Company. Vancouver. Two apparently dejected female fans visible (one on foot of sickbed; the other seated on the floor). 1954.

Posted in sport | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sleeper Photo Reveals Lost Deco Interior


Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 8.27.33 AM

Opportunities journal, 1911. UBC Historical Books Collection.

Thanks to a 2012 publication by Michael Windover, Art Deco: A Mode of Mobility (Québec : Presses de l’Université du Québec), I have learned that the mural on the wall shown below (with a deco-style airplane and ocean liner at left; an Americas-centric map of the world in centre; and what appears to me to be a rendering of Vancouver Harbour Commission Grain Elevator #1 – or perhaps the Alberta Wheat Pool elevator – in East Vancouver at right) was the creation of L. J. (Louis James) Trounce (1885-1963).  Trounce was born in Saskatoon and by the 19-teens, had moved to Vancouver, where he founded the L. J. Trounce School of Show Card Writing (which I take to be what we’d call business advertising postcards, today). After serving in the Great War, he returned to Vancouver where he was a local artist (he described his career in these years as “designer”) in the 1920s and ’30s — there is evidence that he worked as an instructor at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts in these early years (Sun 28 Jun 1926) — and as an advertising man/commercial artist by the ’50s. He was married to Eleanor Kate Trounce (1882-1970).

We are also able to pinpoint the location of the Merchants Exchange more accurately, thanks to Vancouver Public Library’s collection of Leonard Frank photos. Here is Frank’s photo of the main floor plan:

Vpl 12016 First floor plan of Marine Bldg Nov 1931 Leonard Frank

VPL 12016 First floor plan of Marine Building. Nov 1931. Leonard Frank photo.

The Exchange was located, in fact, on the northern wall (in the NW corner) of the Marine Building. Windover describes the location of the mural and clock as being on the eastern wall of the Exchange. All of these details better conform to the location, size and configuration of the windows in the photo shown below. In my original post, I had the Exchange (mistakenly) located where the “Shipping Office” is on the floor plan above.



Interior of the Vancouver Grain Exchange in the Marine Building at 355 Burrard Street. 1930s. Frank Leonard photo. (UBC Rare Books and Special Collections – MacMillan Bloedel Limited Fonds. Identifier: RBSC-ARC-1343-BC-1930-575-1).

This is an amazing photo that has been ‘hiding’ within UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections under a mistaken identity for an unknown period.¹ The building that housed this space (Marine Building) is extant but, sadly, virtually none of the art deco features that appear in the image above remain.

The photo shows the Vancouver Grain Exchange — a division of the Merchants’ Exchange — which, before the Marine Building opened at 355 Burrard Street, was a few blocks east of there at 815 West Hastings. By 1930, however, the Exchange moved into the Marine Building.

In a 2011 article on the Marine Building, John Mackie of the Vancouver Sun noted:

An extensive $17-million renovation was carried out from 1982-89 to update the electrical, mechanical and air-conditioning systems. Heritage activists were not pleased with some of the renovations, such as replacing with marble the lobby’s original multi-coloured ‘battleship linoleum,’ which had been imported from Scotland. The former Merchant Exchange was also gutted and changed into the Imperial restaurant favoured by an elite clientele (the Rolling Stones like to eat there when they’re in town). But the Merchant Exchange’s signature mural of the world was destroyed in the conversion, and its beautiful floor covered up when it was raised so diners could take advantage of the room’s huge windows.”

Vancouver Sun, 31 March 2011


Smirking whale being hunted by Vikings. Tile work in lobby of Marine Building.

There are many aspects of the photo to love. To identify just a few: the mural of the world map (I’m especially partial to the whale figures near the bottom of the mural; they remind me of the smirking whale engraved into the tile in the Marine’s lobby), the swirly light fixtures, the fluted clock (and columns), the plaster detailing on the ceiling, the ‘korkoid’ floor with the ‘compass rose’ in the design, and the metal work on the mezzanine.

As Mackie pointed out, most of the deco features of the former Vancouver Grain Exchange were lost during the ’80s demolition/renovation. The former Grain Exchange  office seems today to be out-of-bounds, under lease by another tenant.


¹The photo was titled “The reception area of the Canadian Transport Company Limited, Vancouver, B.C.?” I checked the address of the CTC; it was at the Metropolitan Building in the ’30s. That was a nice building, but not anywhere near as nice as the building shown in the photo. That is what started me digging. I discovered a photo with many features identical to those in the ‘CTC’ image in a book of Frank Leonard photos, “An Enterprising Life” (by Cyril E. Leonoff), page 155. It was that image which began to reveal the actual tenant (the Grain Exchange) and its landlord (the Marine Building). One other related image was likewise ‘hiding’ at UBC’s site: it shows the same space, but the photographer’s back is to the clock. It is here.

Posted in art, Leonard J. Frank | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Phone Exchanges: Tools for Local Historians

CVA 1184-2842 - [B.C. Telephone operator] 1940-48 Jack Lindsay.

CVA 1184-2842 – Vancouver switchboard operators for BC Tel, ca 1940-48, Jack Lindsay photo. The transition to “automatic” dialing in different areas of Vancouver led to the end and start of numerous exchanges from 1939 to the mid-1950s. The project was barely complete when everything changed again with the switch to 7-digit numbers. To accommodate continent-wide direct dialing of long distance numbers, every number in the city was changed to 7 digits between 1956 and 1960 (and into the ’60s for some surrounding communities). The 604 area code was introduced in 1957 and direct dialing began in select BC cities in 1961.

By Neil Whaley, Guest Blogger

I collect vintage Vancouver items and I like to be able to pin down the date they were created as accurately as possible. Phone numbers on items are helpful; many telephone exchanges in Vancouver existed only for a certain number of years, so they can provide a useful date range.

I was surprised that there wasn’t a list of phone exchange dates online, so I started compiling an ad hoc list. Then I looked at antique shows for issues of the BC Tel employee publication called Telephone Talk, which had news about ‘cutovers’ as one exchange closed and a new exchange replaced it. Eventually, someone mentioned to me that UBC’s Rare Books and Special Collections division in the Irving K. Barber Library has a complete collection of Telephone Talk (1911-1961). I sat in UBC’s library for days until I had gone through every issue. Newspaper articles and BC Tel phone books helped fill in remaining gaps, and I could be satisfied that I had accurate information for all exchanges up to 1965.

Here are the dates of local telephone exchanges:




A Few Notes on Exchanges

If no telephone exchange is shown with a number, a phone number from the City of  Vancouver (not the suburbs) is from before June 1911; that was the time that a second exchange was introduced in Vancouver. Before that, there was just one unnamed exchange. The Seymour equipment was in use for years before June 1911, but it didn’t get the Seymour name until there was more than one exchange.

An R-F number is the Douglas exchange in 1920. It was called R-F for a few months before being renamed Douglas.

A single letter before numbers is how Vancouver two-party and four-party shared lines were written until June 1911; after that, party lines were shown as one letter after the number.

The first two letters of an exchange represent numbers on a rotary telephone’s dial. For example, MNO is 6 and TUV is 8, so MUtual 1-6437 is 681-6437. (For a few early exchanges, letters don’t match numbers. This is the case mainly in the suburbs).

A Vancouver number as short as “Seymour 3” existed until  1939. Numbers as long as “Seymour 8585” existed as early as 1911.

Vancouver had no 7-digit numbers before 1956; the entire city was 7-digit by late 1960.

The first two letters of an exchange were often emphasized in print; for example, Bayview might be written BAyview or BA.

Beginning in the early 1960s, BC Tel gradually discontinued the practice of writing the first two numbers as letters. The 1966 phone book was the first one to use only numbers. Some businesses continued to write their phone numbers in the old-fashioned way, but it is likely that any document showing letters as part of a phone number is from before 1970.

‘Telephone Talk’ Anecdotes

A few surprising stories surfaced while I was working through Telephone Talk looking for exchange info:

  • Vancouver had phones from its earliest days. When the three-month-old city suffered the Great Fire in 1886, phone lines outside the fire zone were used to make arrangements for relief.
  • When U.S. President Warren Harding visited Vancouver in 1923, BC Tel pre-arranged with U.S. phone companies that Harding would be able to reach Washington, DC. BC Tel proudly reported that when a call was placed in Vancouver, it took only 20 minutes to connect to Washington.
  • When transatlantic long distance service was launched in 1928 — at a time when a Coca-Cola cost a nickel — a call from Vancouver to London, England cost $57 for the first three minutes, $19 for each additional minute, and $5 if the party could not be reached.
  • Newspaper photos were transmitted through phone lines (or ‘wired’) directly from Vancouver for the first time in 1939 during the Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen’s mother). Prior to that, photos were mailed to a Seattle transmitter station.

CVA 180-1219 - B.C. Telephone exhibit on dial telephones 1941 PNE.

CVA 180-1219 – BC Tel exhibit on how the dial telephone functions, 1941. PNE photo. The Marine telephone exchange was the first exchange (1939) to enable Vancouverites to dial local calls themselves instead of using an operator. BC Tel explained the new system at the 1941 PNE. “Automatic” dialling had been in place in Chilliwack, Aldergrove and Victoria since 1929-30 but the Great Depression delayed its introduction in the City of Vancouver.

Posted in technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Comfort’s 1954 Portraits at UBC


The Charles Comfort Portraits of 1954: Lemuel F. Robertson, Henry F. Angus, Hector J. MacLeod, Harry T. Logan, Chancellor Sherwood Lett, and Otis J. Todd. (UBC Archives Photograph Collection).

This is just a line to accompany the images of the portraits shown above. It was learned this week that these six images of UBC faculty and officials (which had been shown in UBC’s Archival Collections as painted by “unknown” in an “unknown” year were in fact painted by Charles Comfort (1900-1994) in 1954. Comfort was brought to the west coast by UBC (he was professor of art and archeology at the University of Toronto at the time) for 10 weeks of painting these portraits in oils (Sun, 19 Aug 1954).

These UBC records have now been updated.

Posted in art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tag Days

CVA 99-1955 - Dr. R.E. McKecknie, tag day at U.B.C. 1929 Stuart Thomson

CVA 99-1955 – Dr. R.E. McKecknie (UBC’s second Chancellor, 1918-1944) being ‘tagged’ on tag day at UBC in 1929 (beyond the time frame of the tags included in this post). The tags in this photo appear to be early poppies, possibly for November 11th, Armistice Day (today, Remembrance Day). Stuart Thomson photo.


— By Neil Whaley, Guest Blogger

‘Tag days’ were one-day fundraisers held in Vancouver before, during and after WW1. Volunteers canvassed on street corners for a particular cause, and donors received a tag on a string they could wear around a button to show that they had done their part.

The tags shown in this post were found together and look to be from Vancouver circa WW1. The ones which can be more precisely dated are 1916-18.

Vancouver’s first tag day was held in 1902 and by WW1 there were about a dozen tags a year. Their popularity exploded during the Great War — 33 tags in 1917 raised $124,000 and 37 tags in 1918 raised $105,000. Tag days dropped to six a year by 1923 but continued for decades, eventually morphing into tagless poppy days (Canadian Legion) apple days (Kinsmen) and carnation days (Lions).

The volunteer labor to run tag days was overwhelmingly female, even when the benefactor was an all-male group. Newspapers ran long lists naming each canvasser and her street corner. One rare time in 1916 when a significant number of canvassers were male, organizers offered prizes — kids were canvassers and the boy with the highest donation total won a bicycle (which would have been a big prize at the time), the second highest boy got a wristwatch and the top girl got an umbrella. I bet she would have preferred a chance at the bike.

City Council had to approve each event, and generally rejected political causes. Vancouver Island coal mine strikers in 1913 were forbidden to canvas to get workers out of jail but were allowed to have a tag day to support the jailed unionists’ destitute wives and children. In the 1930s, unemployed men were turned down for a tag to fund the On to Ottawa Trek but a leftists theatre group got a tag to finance a trip to Ottawa to perform “Waiting for Lefty” in the Dominion Drama Festival.

The quantity of tags printed ranged from 15,000 to 175,000, and was typically 50,000. Donations were often 10 cents, and it was not unusual to raise $3000.

In 1916, Vancouver’s Nicholson Printers advertised that they could print a two-colour tag on both sides with rounded corners and a string hole, all in a single pass through the press.

Most (if not all) of the tags shown below are from before spring 1919, when at least one printer started offering a tag with a buttonhole slit so that no string was needed. Before then, volunteers spent hours adding the strings.

The tags were found glued to black pages.


Belgium Relief tag days were held in 1916, ’17, and ’18.

Serbia July 21, 1917: A tag for Serbian relief was held in Vancouver that day.

Italia: Italian Red Cross tags were held in 1916, ’17, and ’18.

VGH Infants Hospital Save the Babies: “‘Save the Babies’ is a motto of the Infants Hospital Committee which will make its public appeal on Saturday when a tag day is to be held to provide . . . for furnishing with needed linen and blankets the hospital on Haro Street, where the little ones that are too ‘seeck’ to be taken home by their mothers are tenderly nursed back to health and strength . . . The hospital is a public institution, one of the branches of the Vancouver General Hospital . . . and its continued and efficient existence is necessary if all that is possible is to be done to conserve human life in Vancouver to make up for the terrible losses sustained beyond the seas” (Vancouver World newspaper, Oct 8 1918).

The first tag day for the Infants Hospital was in 1918 and others were held after the war.

Van Kids home

Vancouver BC Children’s Home: Vancouver held tags before, during, and after WW1 for three organizations that operated children’s homes: the Children’s Aid Society, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, and the Alexandra Orphanage. The color and shape of this tag are consistent with the Catholic group’s “Shamrock” tag day, which was held each year near St. Patrick’s Day.

United Auxiliaries: United Auxiliaries only tag day was in 1918. Auxiliaries of various battalions raised money for soldiers comforts for: University Battalion, Seaforths, 29th Battalion, Forestry Battalion, 158th Battalion, 7th Battalion, 68th Battery and Engineers. “Comforts” was a common term for such items as tobacco, food, rubber boots, and hand-knit gloves, scarves, and sleeping helmets.

Prisoners of War: A Prisoner of War tag day was held on Oct 6 1916. Felix Penne wrote a poem for that day’s World newspaper to encourage people to give. The poem said the event was using a “little tag that is shaped like a loaf of bread”.


Hart McHarg Auxiliary Soldiers Comforts: “Those who gave a contribution on Hart McHarg day will be interested to know what has already been done with the money. It is only two weeks since tag day, but the Auxiliary has already purchased comforts and filled 1200 boxes for the men of British Columbia battalions at the front . . .” (Vancouver World, Sept 25 1918). The auxiliary was named after a Lieutenant-Colonel from Vancouver who was killed in battle in 1915 at Ypres.

Jewish War Sufferers: “The committee in charge of the tag day for relief of Jewish sufferers report an exceptionally busy day . . . Out of 15,000 tags, there were only 1,500 in stock at noon . . . The  tags, badges, and boxes all bear the Shield of David with the words ‘Jewish War Sufferers’ inscribed.” (Vancouver World Sept 15 1917), A tag day was also held in 1915 to aid four to five million Jews suffering or made homeless in Russia and Poland as a result of the war.

Alexandra Non-sectarian Orphanage: The orphanage opened in Vancouver in 1892. It held annual tag days from 1918 onward.

Help Red Cross Today: Red Cross tags were numerous during WW1.


Food for our Prisoners of War: Tag days were held in 1915-18 to fund food parcels for BC soldiers who were PoWs in German camps.

Vive la France: Tags for the French Red Cross were held 1916-19.

Vancouver Sailors’ Home: The British and Foreign Sailors Society held a tag day in 1917 for a Sailors’ Home on Alexandra Street. Shown on the tag is Admiral David Beatty, who became commander-in-chief of the British Grand Fleet in late 1916 and served as vice-president of the British and Foreign Sailors Society.

M.A.M.W.S.S. Boys Comforts: The Mainland Association of Mothers and Wives of  Soldiers and Sailors of the Army and Navy held their only tag in 1918. In addition to providing “comforts” for soldiers, the group “was instrumental in securing the release from the army of a few soldiers whose wives had died during their absence, leaving children to be cared for.”

our day

Our Red Cross Day and Red Cross Material Fund: Before and after the war, a local organization would hold no more than one tag day a year. The exception was the Red Cross during WW1, which was allowed to hold tag days as frequently as six weeks apart.

Our Blinded Heroes: “The tag that will be used in Saturday’s collection for the blinded men of St. Dunstan’s Hostel has been specially designed by Miss Nan Miller, who has expressed artistically and with dignity the raison d’etre of the collection. Encircled by a wealth of laurels are a pyramid of canon balls and two pieces of field artillery, above which the words ‘Our Blinded Heroes’ are boldly inscribed. The design in black shows very effectively on a small colored card. Miss Miller is to be congratulated on her very artistic work” (Vancouver World June 15 1917). St. Dunstan’s was a facility in London, England.

Shell Shock Installation: “The Great War Veterans’ Tag Day on Saturday is one which should appeal to each and every person in Vancouver. The proceeds of this tag day will pay for the installation of ‘shell shock machinery’ in a wing of the Vancouver General Hospital to be called the Military Hospital. There are many returned heroes who will benefit by this apparatus . . . .” (Vancouver World Sept 21 1917). VGH’s new wing was created without government funding after private citizens raised $75,000. The tag was held to raise $3000 to install hydro-therapy equipment.


Victorian Order of Nurses, St. Paul’s Hospital, SPCA, and Catholic Children’s Aid (CCA): Military charities drew money away from regular annual tag days for local organizations. Of 33 tags in 1917 for all causes, the SPCA attracted the lowest total, $1400.

Vancouver General Hospital: VGH held the city’s first ever tag in 1902. The annual event was known as Hospital Saturday, an idea borrowed from “the old country”. Local Chinese and Japanese had a reputation for giving generously to it, even though VGH segregated Asian patients in the hospital basement at the time. For the earliest Hospital Saturdays, street canvassing was supplemented by donation cans that were left in saloons for a day. Although saloons had a tawdry reputation, saloonkeepers were portrayed as good citizens for their promise to do all they could to see that donations were strong.

For a few years until 1916, donors for the VON’s “Rose Day” received hand-crafted paper roses instead of tags.

Our sailors

Our Sailors: Tag days were held in 1916, ’17, and ’18 for “Our Sailors”.Army





Army Chaplain’s Emergency Fund: December 1917 tag day

Help Red Cross Today: Numerous tags were held for the Red Cross during WW1.

RSC &YMCAReturned Soldiers Club: “Miss Nan Miller has designed a very distinctive tag for next Saturday’s collection in aid of the Returned Soldier’s Club. On a primrose-colored card a black shield serves effectively as the background for a bayonet surmounted by a victor’s crown — the bayonet being emblematic of the fighting at close grips, so characteristic of the great war. The nationality of our soldiers is symbolized by maple leaves and above the script ‘Returned Soldiers Club’ a Victoria Cross and a Military Cross appear in token of the glory with which our forces have covered themselves on the battlefields of France and Belgium” (Vancouver World, Nov 22 1917).

Nan R. Miller was a teacher at Braemar private girls’ school before heading an 18-person staff which taught wood-carving, basket-weaving, embroidery and leatherwork to soldiers convalescing at local military hospitals. Needlework was said to soothe soldiers’ nerves.

YMCA Military Department: The Military Department of the YMCA held tags in 1916 and ’17. Money was raised to help ordinary Canadian “rankers” overseas as well as in training camps from Victoria to Halifax. In 1919, the department opened Red Triangle Club on Cordova Street to temporarily house 180 returnees at a time, serve meals and provide recreational activities. The department also handled recreation at various local military hospitals.

Central City Mission: Tag days were held 1917-19. Central City Mission started as an interdenominational organization to provide food and lodging to destitute men. Shown on the tag is 233 Abbott Street, its home from 1910-1989. When BC undertook Prohibition in 1917, the mission sought to provide more of a social venue. Today’s Central City provides social housing, addiction treatment, health care and youth services.


Patriotic Guild Sock Fund: “The proceeds of the tag day . . . of the Women’s Patriotic Guild will be used entirely to buy a supply of socks to be sent directly to the Canadian soldiers in France. The guild is the parent, so to speak, of several well organized leagues, the membership of which is made up exclusively of the wives and dependants of men of the military and naval forces, their meetings being held solely in the interest of Red Cross and soldiers’ comfort work . . . . During the three years of its existence the Women’s Patriotic Guild has mainly concerned itself with the interests and welfare of soldiers’ dependants and families, varying its function as circumstances changed the needs . . .” (Vancouver World Oct 20 1917).

Army Chaplain’s Emergency Fund: December 1917 tag day.

Our Sailors: Tag days were held in 1916, ’17 and ’18 for “Our Sailors”.


Vive la France: Some of the most successful WW1 tag days were for the French Red Cross. The 1917 day raised $6588, double what tags often raised at the time. Of 33 tags that year, the French drew the second highest response. Only Vancouverites’ outpouring of support for victims of the unparalleled Halifax Explosion exceeded it, raising $8400 to be sent to Nova Scotia.

Returned Soldiers Club: The Returned Soldiers Club was one of the few local WW1 organizations which continued after the war — it was still operating into the 1960s. The club held tags from 1917 to at least 1923.

Its original purpose when formed in December 1915 was to provide aid to soldiers and sailors who were returning from battle in Europe. Returnees were offered one week’s free accommodation, subsidized meals, job placement assistance, emergency funding and social activities including free billiards. All were welcomed: Vancouverites (including wives and kids), men passing through on their way to BC towns and soldiers from other countries.

St. Paul’s Hospital: St. Paul’s held annual tag days from 1916 onward.

Overseas Nurses Fund: “The Local Council of Women has organized a tag day for nurses who have become ill or unfit for further duty while serving in overseas hospitals. Many nurses have been caring for the sick and wounded of all nationalities for two or three years, giving not only their time and strength, but often providing much needed comforts or necessities from their own purses . . . The public will be asked to show its appreciation of the noble work these women are doing” (Vancouver World, Aug 6 1918).

plaidOur Sailors: Tag days were held in 1916, ’17, and ’18 for “Our Sailors”.

French Red Cross Society: Tag day was held in 1916.

Plaid & Union Jack: There is more than one possibility for these two.

When a tag day drew a stronger-than-expected response, “hurry up orders were sent to printers to print flags or any old thing that would answer the purpose . . . ” (Vancouver World, May 15, 1915).

The plaid swatch appears to be the Seaforth Highlanders’ tartan. Seaforth cadets held a tag in 1916 to buy uniforms.

There was a tag day variation called Flag Day, where the International Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) sold large and small Union Jacks near July 1 to encourage people to decorate their homes with full-size flags or wear the smaller version.

CVA 259-1: B.C. Miners Liberation League tag day outside Labour Temple, 1913.
Posted in Charity, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A ‘Whisper Off Granville’: Delmonico Cafe

Like me, you may never have heard of the Delmonico Cafe. It was on the south side of Robson Street ‘just a whisper [west of] Granville’ (to borrow from one of their slogans) for scarcely six years. In its brief life, it had its own taxi service, it offered an only-Chinese-food menu in an upstairs dining room, and there were rumours (this was never advertised) of Del’s catering to those who wanted a helping of jailhouse dress-up with their ‘meat, spuds, and veg’!

Excerpt from CVA 99-5191 - Delmonico Cafe Baseball Team ca 1918 Stuart Thomson - Could this be Cy Switzer??

Crop of CVA 99-5191 – I’m pretty cetain that this is Cy Switzer, one of Delmonico Cafe’s owners.

Del’s opened in 1915 with two owners: Harry D. Reckner and Ervin “Cy” Switzer. Within a year of opening, however, Reckner sold his interest in the cafe. Reckner was originally from California. He’d settled in Vancouver for about three years, but by 1916 had been offered a job in Los Angeles that appealed to him (Sun. 1 Feb 1916). Whether the job in L.A. materialized or not isn’t clear. In any event, in 1918 he died.

It isn’t clear whether Reckner sold his interest to Switzer or to someone else. But Switzer did his best to imply that he’d bought Reckner’s share in the business; before long, there were references in cafe ads to Switzer being the ‘sole owner and manager’ and to the cafe being ‘Cy Switzer’s place’. It’s unclear whether Switzer was telling ‘porkies’ pertaining to the ownership of Del’s in the immediate post-Reckner period. But when the business was ultimately sold in the early ’20s, there were apparently two partners: Cy Switzer’s business partner at that time, it turned out, was also his life partner, wife Jessie Switzer (nee Allard).

In April 1917, Switzer got a building permit from the City so that work could be done on the cafe. Changes included, according to an ad in the Sun, a larger kitchen and new appliances.

Within two months of the announcement of the overhaul of Del’s, an ad appeared in local papers that surprised me and may well have surprised some of Switzer’s contemporaries:

The Orpheum Cafe

Takes pleasure in announcing to the Cafe-going public that Mr. E. (Si) Switzer (formerly of the Delmonico Cafe) has taken charge as floor manager of this cafe and will be pleased to meet his many friends and regular patrons. Si promises you the highest speed consistent with first-class service.

Meet me face-to-face at Vancouver’s Leading Cafe — THE ORPHEUM — Si.

Sun. 7 June 1917.

This announcement was odd.

It created the impression that Switzer abandoned his ownership of the Delmonico Cafe to assume the ‘floor managership’ of the Orpheum Cafe on a permanent basis. There are a couple of hints at this in the ad’s language: (1) that Switzer was “formerly of the Delmonico”; and (2) that the Orpheum was described in this ad as “Vancouver’s Leading Cafe” – a slogan which formerly had been associated with the Delmonico.

And yet, the April news of Switzer’s renovation work on the Delmonico created a strong impression that the Del would be out of commission for only a relatively brief time. And so it was. Two months, in fact.

By 18 June 1917, the Delmonico was advertising that “All the Old Help is Back: Old-Time Service. Old-Time Eats. ‘Cy’ Switzer, Sole Owner and Manager.”

1917 at the Del remains a head-scratcher for me!

Sun 22 March 1919

Sun. 22 March 1919.

By 1919, the print ads published by the Delmonico in local newspapers had changed. In the cafe’s early years, the ads typically had only the barest, sparest language — just the minimum required to entice hungry stomachs into his shop. With the physical renovation behind him, Switzer seemed to give himself permission to create (or have created by a professional copywriter) more wordy ads. Ads that told a story. The one shown at left seems to me to be one of the first of this more prosaic type. This one has a very ‘folksy’ feel to me. I don’t know if you remember the TV ads in which the spokesman for Woodward’s Food Floors used to be featured. To me, if ‘Delmonico’s’ was replaced with ‘Woodward’s Food Floor’, this ad might well have served as copy for him to read in his TV spots. The Save-on-Foods ‘Darrell’ ads, today, are much the same.

In 1920, Cy Switzer, established a taxi service called “Delmonico’s Taxi” that was based at the cafe. Switzer was the owner of the taxi company for its first year in business. However, by 1921, presumably having found running a cafe and a taxi service to be a bit taxing, he sold the taxi biz to a chap called Earl Morrison. Delmonico Taxi survived the demise of Delmonico Cafe, but only just. By 1926, the taxi service ‘faded to black’.

In 1920, Switzer launched one of his most ambitious changes to the cafe: the creation of a Chinese food dining room upstairs from the main dining area. He called the new sub-restaurant Delmonico Topside (a bit of word-play; the pidgin English word for ‘upstairs’ is ‘topside’). I’ve included two of the Topside ads in the PDF document showing samples of Del’s ads over the years. I didn’t include the ad shown below in that document, however.

Sun 27 June 1920

Sun. 27 June 1920.

The ‘voice’ in this ad isn’t folksy (nor is it Wodehouse-Woosterish, as is at least one of the Topside ads included in the attached PDF). To my ear, this ad generates the impression of a genial, sophisticated friend who wants to let you (the reader) in on some of his worldly, cultural knowledge. My 21st century eyes are offended by reference to the Chinese chef, Sun Fong, as being an “honest-to-joss Chinaman” and to the so-called ‘Chinese idiom’. But it’s unlikely that those aspects of the ad would have troubled many readers in the ’20s.

I wasn’t sure where to put this next Delmonico’s feature in this roughly chronological history of the cafe because I don’t know when it was established. Indeed, if it weren’t for a sentence in a somewhat gossipy column in the Province in 1963, I’d be unlikely to know anything about it. So here goes:

….[d]o you recall the old Delmonico Cabaret upstairs where the booths were made like cells and the waiters wore prison uniforms?

Province. 2 Nov 1963.

Yup, that’s it! I have nothing to add to the above!

In January, 1922, many of the cooks and waiters at the Delmonico downed tools and smocks and walked away. They brought suit (and won) against Cy and Jessie Switzer for back-wages. The Del’s furniture was ordered sold at auction to help recover the wages.

A “New Delmonico Cafe” was established shortly after. It was owned by A. Marano, A. Ritenti and H. Christen¹ and managed by Alfonso ‘Frenchy’ Moreno (Sun. 10 Dec 1921), a former waiter at the ‘old’ cafe. The NDC lasted longer than many may have anticipated. It was still serving meals into the late ’30s. It seems not to have survived the second world war, however.

This post relies almost exclusively on information mined from ads published in local newspapers by the Delmonico Cafe. So I’ve published a supplemental PDF along with this post to show a few of those ads. I think that, for the most part, they make ‘jolly good’ reading (if you’ll pardon the lapse into Woosterism)!
Delmonico Cafe Advertisements


¹Thanks to Robert Moen of WestEndVancouver for identifying the proprietors of the New Delmonico and his correction of an image shown initially in this post which I thought showed the (SW) corner where the Delmonico Cafe once was, but which actually showed the NE corner of Robson at Granville. The mistaken image has now been removed.

Posted in cafes/restaurants/eateries, stuart thomson | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Where Was This Photo Made?

CVA 586-8845 - T. Eaton Co. - bldgs. exterior, main bldg. Hastings DEc 14 1948 Don Coltman photo-2

CVA 586-8845. December 14, 1948. Don Coltman photo.

I’ve intentionally not shown a caption description of the location of the above image. I’d like you to study the photo and take your best guess as to which block is shown here.

Okay, ready?

It is the east side of the 300 block of Seymour Street. None of the buildings shown are extant. Most of that block today is the foundation of Harbour Centre tower (with an entry to the mini-mall/food court and a donut shop being the sole relief from a concrete wall, today).

The date the image was made was December 14, 1948. All of the buildings on the block bounded by this street (Seymour), Cordova, Richards, and Hastings had been the property of  David Spencer’s department stores for many years until just a few weeks before this image was made.

Late in 1948, T. Eaton Co. had purchased the Spencer’s store at this location, as well as its other properties in B.C.  It seems to me probable that Don Coltman, a local pro photographer, was retained by Eaton’s to produce a photographic record of the downtown Vancouver store’s exterior at the time of purchase.¹

So what are the buildings in this image of long-gone Seymour?²

  • The building at far left housed the shipping and receiving dock (that helps explain the presence of multiple trucks in the area). Presumably, there were other departments housed in this building over the years.  Customers who wished to access that part of the store would likely enter from the rear off Cordova.
  • The wee Greco-Roman building in the middle was the only building in the Spencer’s/Eaton’s complex that was not connected to the others. This was probably because there was not a customer service function to the departments housed within it. The building (330 Seymour) had been there from about 1909 — well before it was purchased by Spencer’s in the mid-1930s. It was, for most of its life, the HQ of local realtors known as Mackenzie Bros. and later as Robertson Bros. By looking at Vancouver directories, I’ve been able to confirm that the building had a number of functions over its years as a Spencer’s/Eaton’s property: it began as Spencer’s ‘Food Division’ office³ (1936-43) and later, was Spencer’s ‘Ice Cream’ dept. (1944-46); in 1948, it was Spencer’s ‘Sales Office’; from 1949-52, it was Eaton’s ‘Construction Dept’; and from 1955, it served as Eaton’s ‘Stockroom’.  I suspect this building was demolished at the same time as the shipping/receiving building and the old Molson Bank building were (in 1973, according to Changing Vancouver).
  • The old Molson Bank building (far right) was established here in 1898 but was purchased by the Bank of Montreal by 1925. Spencer’s bought the property that year and it remained with Spencer’s/Eaton’s until Eaton’s moved to its final location at Pacific Centre in the early ’70s. Interior features of the old Molson Bank are fondly remembered by Gordon Poppy, a 47-year Spencer’s/Eaton’s veteran (he worked out of the Molson block in the Display Department):

[I remember] the fabulous old metal cage elevator, just inside the door that we used to take to get to our office on the 5th floor. The old metal open caging of the elevator was like plant stems, with leaves branching off the stems. Every leaf, was made with a person’s face in silhouette on one side — all hand crafted. There was a stairway that surrounded the elevator, circling upwards.  When Spencer’s took over the building, they created a new entrance, at the corner on Hastings and Seymour, but the old elevator remained in its original location. I remember the old marble slab steps, surrounding the elevator were worn down from the many people using the stairs over many years.

Gordon Poppy, email message, 26 Oct 2018.


¹Mr. Coltman made several other photos on the same day as this one. I anticipate writing another post based on two or three of the other photos, with a focus on Spencer’s/Eaton’s automobile parking capacity prior to the establishment by Eaton’s of an extant multi-storey parking garage on Cordova between Richards and Homer ca1950.

²In identifying especially the middle building, I have leaned on the knowledge of one of Spencer’s/Eaton’s longtime employees (and a friend of mine), Gordon Poppy.

³Spencer’s had a Vancouver grocery store located apart from the downtown campus at 2310 West 4th Avenue.

Posted in Don Coltman, yesterday & today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wilf Wylie


Vancouver Sun, 22 Sept 1951.

Wilf Wylie (1913-1985) was a local musician, music teacher, and band leader.

He was born George Wilfred Wylie to George Primrose Wylie (1881-1949), of Bowness-on-Forth, Scotland and Marion Ida MacKay (1887-1920), of Woodstock, ON. GPW was a plumber in the city who came to Vancouver from Scotland when he was 13 (ca 1894) and ran his own business here from 1911 until 1948 (Province 20 Oct 1949).

Wilf had two older sisters — Alice Janet (1907-?) who was 7 years his senior and Esther Marion (1908-1931) who was 6 years older. Their mother died when she was 33 (and Wilf was 6).

I presume that Wilf went to primary and secondary schools locally and was enrolled in private piano lessons during that time. There is nothing to indicate that he enrolled at UBC nor that he attended a post-secondary piano training college.

Although he wasn’t taking classes at UBC, he was busy making a name for himself there as early as 1936. The Ubyssey had this to say about the music on offer at a “super-colossal pep meet” at the Point Grey campus:

Jackie Williamson¹ and his orchestra provided incidental music — and not so incidental at that, especially in Duke Ellington’s ‘Solitude’, when the air was taken up by trombone, trumpet and clarinet in rapid succession. Wilf Wylie proved his right  to a place among the moderns in his catchy, quick-moving solos of ‘Body and Soul’ and ‘Some Day Sweetheart’.

Ubyssey 28 Feb 1936

Wilf was 23 at the time of the pep meet.

Within three years, Wilf was leading his own band and playing the White Rose Ballroom. His band consisted, at this time, of the following personnel: Cliff Binyon, Sid Goldstraw, Pete Lucky, Sam Rainaldi, Ray Turnbull, Pete Watt, and voclist Irene Francis (Sun 23 Dec 1939).

Sun 6 Sept 1947

Sun. 6 Sept 1947.

By 1941, he was teaching piano for George Rex’s Popular Music Studios. Rex had a ‘method’ of instruction to help students master a musical instrument. Wylie by 1942 was managing the Vancouver operation, located at 422 Richards. He managed the Vancouver studio through the 1940s.

Wilf spent at least a year in the U.S. (1947?) playing with medium-to-big-name bands in the Los Angeles area; he was lead pianist for a time with Tommy Dorsey’s big band, and with the less-well-known Ray Badauc’s band. Apparently, he also made a recording on the Columbia label with trombonist, Kai Winding sometime in the early ’50s (Ubyssey 5 Oct 1956).

In 1951, Wilf left Rex Studios and accepted a position at Williams Piano House. He would be involved in sales and repair work, and specialized in tuning instruments (Sun 22 Sept 1951). He continued to moonlight as a band leader in the period from the late-1940s until the early ’70s. He played supper clubs and dance locations.

Wilf seems to have retired by the early ’70s. He died in 1985 from heart failure.

Sun 29 Dec 1971

Sun. 29 Dec 1971.

He married Frances Robson in 1942. But by 1947 she’d divorced Wilf. In 1952 he married again, this time to Katherine Widdess; and in 1957, history repeated itself with Katherine divorcing him.

As for kids from Wilf’s marriages, there appear to have been at least two: Thomas Milton and Frances Arletta.

He composed and published just one piece of music, as far as I can tell. According to Dale McIntosh, he wrote “High Winds on the Prairie”². This is odd, since, as far as I could tell, Wylie never lived on the prairies, and ‘his’ genre was jazz (rather than country/western, of which genre I assume “High Winds” was).



¹Jackie Williamson and his Rhythm Band played regular gigs at the Mandarin Gardens  restaurant in Chinatown.

²Dale McIntosh. The History of Music in British Columbia. Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1989, p. 256.

Posted in music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Love . . . with a Photograph

Str P258 - [The south side of Robson Street looking east from Howe Street] 1948 O F Landauer photo

Str P258 – South side of Robson Street looking east from Howe, 1948. Otto F. Landauer (1903-1980) photo.

I think this is a superb post-war image of a Vancouver intersection.

What do I love about it?

First and foremost, I love that it is not a standard Vancouver view. This is not an intersection that was often photographed and, when it was, it was never (dare I be so categorical?) shot this way.

What do I mean? Well, consider for a moment what buildings are not in this image that might well have been included: the York Hotel (by ’69 to be demolished to help make way for the Eaton’s/Sear’s/Nordstrom’s monstrosities that have squatted on the NE corner ever since) — Landauer has included a couple of the York’s signs, but not the building; and the Clements Block/Alexandra Ball Room that housed Sprott Shaw Schools at that time on the SW corner (again, Landauer just hinted at the building by including Sprott’s sign without allowing his image to be overwhelmed by the whole structure).

I love that this image was made (just) prior to the construction of the new (and current) Granville Street Bridge. In my opinion, we seriously overbuilt that bridge. And the bridge had an impact (and continues to do so) on the look and feel of downtown. One of the subtle but very nice aspects of this photo is that Howe Street is still a two-way street in 1948. After the new bridge was up, it would become a one-way (northbound) thoroughfare. I think that affected this corner in a negative way.

I love the memories that stick with you when you’ve been inside shops in buildings like these. No, I wasn’t living in Vancouver in 1948; I wasn’t even born, then. But in the 1990s, I recall browsing in a used bookshop (it specialized in music and music scores) that was inside what was once the space occupied by Ann Muirhead’s floristry shop. Maybe it was the aroma of the space. Probably it had something to do with it being an independently owned book shop. But I have never forgotten being in that shop. You and I have been inside countless big box outlets over the years. But how many of those browsing experiences do you remember, specifically?

Finally, I love that the shops are human-scale and that they meet everyday, practical needs. As my wife put it so succinctly: “Who wouldn’t want to go into a shop called “Satin Dairy”?

Today, there is a big box sportswear retailer on the corner. How many times a year are you tempted to enter a sport shop?

Runners . . . Satin Dairy? ‘Nuf said.

Posted in advertising, cafes/restaurants/eateries, food, Otto F. Landauer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Public Drinking Fountains


A very early (if not the first) Vancouver water fountain was situated at the corner which, from the 1930s, was known as Pioneer Place but is better known, today, as Pigeon Park. This piece of real estate was useless for much of anything, and so the CPR (which owned it), gave it to the City (with typical CPR ‘generosity’).

I have been instructed [said CPR Land Commissioner, J. M. Browning] by the trustees of the Vancouver townsite to offer to the city, free of charge, that triangular piece of ground at the intersection of Hastings and Carrall Streets, measuring 17 ft. 6 in. x 16 ft. 1 in. x 11 ft. 8 in., upon which to erect a public drinking fountain.

Daily World, 2 April 1889

I haven’t been able to find any visual trace of a fountain at that corner in any of our local, public image archives and cannot find any visual trace of a fountain in the 1986 photo shown below, although, oddly, there is a fountain present there today.

CVA 791-0790 - 337 Carrall Street (revised address 1 West Hastings Street) 1986

CVA 791-0790 – PIgeon Park on the NW corner of Hastings and Carrall. There is no sign of a drinking fountain on the corner at this time. 1986.

New Slaking Stations

In 1904, it was reported in the local press that a few new drinking fountains (constructed of concrete and faced with portland cement) would be installed in the city that year (Province, 17 June 1904):

  • At the ‘triangle’ on the corner of Georgia at Pender streets. There is still a ‘triangle’ there today, but it is populated primarily by flagpoles. Few pedestrians walk past this corner these days, so it isn’t surprising that no fountain is extant.
  • On the road at the base of the reservoir within Stanley Park. This is almost certainly gone today.
  • The location of a third fountain was still up for grabs in June, 1904, but it was thought likely to be placed at “the depot” (which, I take to be the main B.C.E.R. depot in the city).

By 1912, ten other quaffing sites had been chosen by the city. To the best of my knowledge, there are no drinking fountains today at any of these locations:

  • City Hall (it was located, at that time, on Main Street, just south of what today is Carnegie Centre)
  • Hastings at the old courthouse (what would ultimately become Victory Square)
  • Corner of Georgia and Nichol
  • Fifteenth and Westminster Road (Main Street)
  • Powell and Victoria
  • Victoria and Keefer
  • Commercial and Broadway
  • Cornwall and Yew
  • Heather and Broadway
  • Granville and Davie

Two Types

There were two sorts of drinking fountains which were popular in Vancouver over a large chunk of our history.  If you grew up in the 1960s or later, you are likely accustomed to water fountains that conform to a pretty standard form: a unit with a device on it which you press or twist that sends water out the top from which you slurp to take in a mouthful (or, perhaps more typically, less than a mouthful!)

Until the mid-20th-century, things were different.


Our forbears, for reasons which I don’t pretend to understand, often considered it fitting, when a major personality died, to create a memorial to him/her that included a public drinking fountain.

Three Vancouver examples of this type of fountain are discussed below.¹

King Ed VII: One is the King Edward VII memorial, which, after it was created by local sculptor, Charles Marega, for the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), was located on the south side of Georgia Street in front of the then-new courthouse building.  Here is my favourite photo of it:

From Van & Beyond - King Ed with Girls drinking

From Vancouver and Beyond, Thirkell and Scullion. Girls drinking at the King Ed VII Memorial.

What are the two young gals drinking from? Well you may ask! They were tin cups that were attached to the memorial with metal chains. Yes, community cups, quite literally! (I can hear your 21st century, germ-sensitive self reacting to this. I know. Me, too.) Water flowed from the mouth of the lion figure and into the basin over which the girls were drinking.² Today, the Edward VII fountain has been shifted out of its proud place in front of the courthouse/Art Gallery has been moved to the west side of the Art Gallery. It has suffered significantly from vandalism and wear/tear over the years.

Vicky: Another example of a memorial fountain — one which pre-dated Ed VII by a few years — was the Queen Victoria memorial (Victoria died in 1901; Ed, Victoria’s son, died in 1910).

Mon P32.1 - [Women in roller skates around the Queen Victoria Memorial Fountain] ca 1940

CVA Mon P32.1 – Women in roller skates around the Queen Victoria Memorial Fountain, ca 1940. The girl on far right has hold of one of the metal chains that held one of the bronze cups once upon a time. It was long gone, by the time this image was taken.

This monument has been within Stanley Park from the date it was first established there (in 1906) to the present. Victoria’s memorial was designed by local artist, James Blomfield. The cups (which had disappeared by the time the above 1940s-era image was made, leaving just the metal chains) were made of bronze, rather than tin.

The Maple Tree: This final example of a memorial fountain commemorated not a deceased person but a former tree (and the memories associated with it by Vancouver pioneers). The memorial plaque, which originally resided above the fountain (as shown below) was removed from the fountain pedestal (the fountain was scrapped, probably during a 1970s refit of Gastown) and integrated instead into the ‘Gassy Jack’ monument.

The Maple Tree Fountain bridged the two sorts of drinking fountains in Vancouver: not only was it s memorial, it was also a ‘bubbler’.

CVA 677-167 - Drinking fountain at Powell and Carrall Streets [Maple Tree monument] 1928

CVA 677-167 – Drinking fountain at Powell and Carrall Streets. The Maple Tree monument and Drinking Fountain, 1928. Charles Marega (the gent nearest to the fountain monument) was its creator


Two disadvantages of the memorial sort of fountain were germ issues and the fact that the cups were very prone to vandalism (they were invariably stolen).

Bubblers didn’t have the second problem; but they still had the former issue.

Bubbler drinking fountains (sometimes called – with more than a little wishful thinking – “sanitary” fountains) bubbled the water upward, as most fountains do today. The crucial difference is that public bubblers in the city until about the 1960s didn’t have an on/off valve, so they bubbled water ‘eternally’, and a person could slake his/her thirst by simply bending over the fountain and interrupting the stream with their mouth.

The problem with this design was that birds, dogs, and other critters liked the bubblers, too, and weren’t shy about partaking of its life-giving flow when humans weren’t using the devices.

Province columnist, D. A. McGregor, expanded on this shortcoming of bubblers in this 1948 piece:

Where the diagonal pedestrian traffic way through Victory Square divides across Cambie Street from the Province office, is a bubbling drinking fountain much used by birds and dogs and humans. The sparrows have a rather hard time of it when thirst drives them to the fountain, for they must perch precariously on the edge of the cement basin and take their drink a drop at a time. The pigeons having more bulk, do better.

Some of the dogs show considerable ingenuity at the fountain. One little black spaniel comes quite frequently, always approaches joyously with a run and a jump that lands him square on top of the basin and there he sits and laps and laps. Other little dogs look longingly and pass by. Some have to be held up to the water spout by their owners. The larger dogs stand up much like people, and yesterday a big old fellow embraced the whole fountain with his forepaws while he quenched his thirst for a good five minutes, pausing now and then to take in the scenery.

The humans seem seldom to come by when the birds or dogs are at the fountain. so, they do not know when they drink they drink from the bird bath and from the dogs’ dish. It may be all right at that. Perhaps what the patrons of the fountain do not know doesn’t hurt them, and perhaps Fido’s tongue is antiseptic and the much-licked water spout quite sanitary. It merely occurred to me that the park board and the medical health officer might like to know what is going on, and might be persuaded to place a bird bath and dog trough at the foot of the fountain.

Province 11 May 1948

CVA 180-3647 - Dog drinking from water fountain 194- PNE

CVA 180-3647 – Dog drinking from water a bubbler drinking fountain in Hastings Park. A human looks on. 194-

I applaud Mr McGregor for his concern and for making his fellow-residents aware of this public health problem, but it seems to me that his proposed solution would have had little effect as long as bubblers continued to bubble ‘eternally’ with no shut off/on valve.”

Why Did Bubblers Persist in Vancouver So Long?

The public health issues associated with memorial fountains was solved by their other disadvantage: cups were stolen almost as soon as the memorials were erected!

But what about bubblers? Why is it that Vancouver allowed these things to continue until roughly the 1960s — when fountains were by default in the ‘off’ mode?

I was able to suss out at least three possible reasons:

Reason 1: Anti-Alcohol Movement. There were those who maintained that if fountains were readily available, they would serve to discourage folks from entering saloons (Daily World, 2 Oct 1914).

Reason 2: City cheapness. I’m certain that lack of technology for a ‘default off’ bubbler was not a reason. It may have been that this option was more expensive, however. And from what I saw in press reports, the city seemed to always been on the lookout for cheaper models of bubblers, over the years. Oddly, it wasn’t until the late 1950s, when a major drought hit the Vancouver area, that folks seemed to give much consideration to the cost of lost water due to the ‘eternal’ bubblers.

Reason 3: Willful ignorance. The general public didn’t seem to be hugely worked up about the public health issues associated with bubblers (if the few letters to editors can be taken as indicative).

It wasn’t that there wasn’t public health information warning locals away from the dangers of fountains. A New Westminster physician by the name of Dr. Hall was quoted in the Province as early as 1906, remarking on a connection between tuberculosis and public fountains:

The greatest need . . . is for the taking of ordinary precautions against the spread of [tuberculosis]. Some of the very worst centres of infection are the public drinking fountains. Not only tuberculosis, but all manner of diseases are spread from these . . . . If a man wants a drink when he is out, let him go to a saloon — they will give him a drink of water for nothing; but avoid the drinking fountain.

Province, 26 Oct 1906

Well, Dr. Hall has put Reason 1 and 3 in their place; and I suspect that he wouldn’t have much positive to say about Reason 2! What is monetary cost when compared with threats to public health?



¹Other memorial type drinking fountains included: the Pauline Johnson memorial in Stanley Park (yes, when it was first unveiled, it had a “drinking fountain” component) – Province, 22 May 1922. Also the Joe Fortes memorial was originally, in part, a drinking fountain. (Province, 25 June 1927). The final memorial fountain that I could find being erected in the city was one that was in 1957 dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Sally Birmingham and Mrs. Agnes Lutes. It was sponsored by the Kiwassa Girls Club and was located at the Club headquarters at 600 Vernon Drive.

²For more about the King Ed VII monument, see this VAIW post. This other VAIW ‘fountain’ post may also be of interest.

Posted in street scenes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Follow the Bouncing Grand Union Hotel


Grand Union Hotel, 2019. MDM photo.

When it occurred to me, recently, to research the history of the still-standing Grand Union Hotel (on unit block West Hastings), it seemed to me that it should be a fairly straightforward task. How mistaken I was. It turned out to be a story of some complexity — and numerous real estate ‘flips’!


The predecessor of the Grand Union Hotel was known as the Oxford Hotel and was at 38 West Hastings Street (ca1907-1911). The hotel at this address had 32 rooms, a small bar room and a parlour (with a piano in it).

There are no CVA photos available of the Oxford.

Grand Union #1

The Oxford was sold sometime in Spring 1911. Permission was granted in May by the city’s hotel licensing board to change the hotel’s name to the Grand Union Hotel and to move it to the Godson building (aka Braid-Godson; aka Braid-Robertson-Godson; aka Robertson-Godson), just east of the site of the Oxford. In June, the former Oxford Hotel was gutted and the furnishings sold at auction. (Daily World 31 May 1911)

The building in which the first Grand Union Hotel would be located as of 1911, had been constructed in 1901 amid some controversy brought on by multiple accidents on the construction site:

A persistent hoodoo seems to follow the new Braid-Robertson-Godson block. . . . The fourth of a series of accidents occurred there at noon today . . . . The accident was occasioned by the fall of the elevator which is used to hoist building material to the top of the building.

There were seven men on the lift at the time. They were just coming down for lunch . . . . and the engineer, receiving the signal, started to lower away . . . . The descent of the hoist is controlled by a friction brake, which did not seem to hold at first, and when within about thirty feet of the floor, the engineer put it on a little harder to check the rapid fall. Just then the crosspiece supporting the cable at the top of the elevator shaft on the third floor gave way, and the elevator, with its living freight, came down with a crash that could be heard for several blocks.

When the cloud of dust had settled the other workmen who had gathered around saw the seven unfortunate workmen lying around the broken hoist, none able to rise. . . . Of those hurt J. G. Bell sustained the most serious injuries, consisting of a double compound fracture of the left leg and a dislocation of the right. James Paull also suffered a fracture of the left leg and a dislocation of the right. This unfortunate accident calls to mind three previous accidents which have occurred since construction commenced on the block.

The architect who drew the original plans is now in a sanitarium and shortly after the construction was commenced a workman named Penway was injured by being struck by the elevator as it was coming down. A few weeks later Mr. W. T. Whiteway, the architect who is supervising the construction was also struck by the same elevator. The third chapter in the series of accidents happened on Tuesday when Contractor Forshaw had the misfortune to fall down the elevator shaft alongside that on which the accident occurred today.

Province. 24 July 1901.

‘Persistent hoodoo’? Nonsense! What was needed was someone charged with ensuring workers’ safety on that job site.

The first Grand Union Hotel had 102 rooms, thus giving it about 2/3 greater capacity than the Oxford had. According to a press account, the new hotel also had an “airy” dining room and a “strictly modern” bar. It was four stories.

The first co-owners of the new hotel were Leslie Park Clement and Isbrand DeFehr. Both men had cut their teeth in business enterprises in Alberta. Clement had hotel experience in Didsbury and Edmonton. DeFehr didn’t have any prior hotel experience, it seems, but was formerly a lumberman in Didsbury and Carstairs.

Within four months of buying the Grand Union, Clement bailed and DeFehr was left as the sole proprietor. Before the advent of 1912, De Fehr had sold the hotel to Harry Watson and William Murdoff for $65,000. The sale did not go smoothly, however, and by January, a receiver had been appointed to run the Grand Union while DeFehr sued the new owners to recover $30,000 for breach of contract; Watson and Murdoff, in turn, counter-sued DeFehr to recover their deposit paid for the property. DeFehr won both the suit and counter-suit and was granted possession by Mr. Justice Murphy of the Grand Union (again). But only for a few months. By the Fall of 1912, the hotel had been sold again — this time to T. J. Hanafin and W. Lucas.

But the hotel had only a few years before the wreckers came calling. By 1916, the Grand Union Hotel (32 W Hastings), the Strand Theatre¹ (36 W Hastings) and a then-vacant store that had earlier been the site of Mainland Meat Market would all be demolished to make room for the second Panatges Theatre (later known by the names Beacon, Odeon and Majestic Theatres). The demolition of the three properties would give the Pantages a huge frontage along Hastings of 102 feet. Demolition work began in July 1916.

There are no CVA photos available of the Grand Union Hotel #1.

Grand Union #2

I don’t understand how (or why he’d want it after finally successfully selling it), but by July 1916, through some real estate shenanigans, Isbrand DeFehr had snatched back ownership of the Grand Union Hotel.

Just in time for another move!

V SUN 10 May 1939

Vancouver Sun. 10 May 1939. Photo shows some of the exterior re-decorating done to the Grand Union Hotel in this year by Girvan Studios.

By July 1916, the first Grand Union Hotel was dust. Within a month, DeFehr had received permission from the city to re-establish the hotel at a new site (in the same block of W Hastings, but closer to Abbott Street than to Carrall). The former businesses at this site had been Bergman’s Rooms (74 W Hastings) and Bergman’s Cafe (76 W Hastings), both built in 1913. The rooming house component would become the second Grand Union Hotel, while the cafe would become the Grand Union beer parlour (today, “Vancouver’s Favorite Country Music Pub”) and a boot shining establishment. I could find no evidence that the number of guest rooms was increased between the rooming house period and the opening of the second Grand Union. Indeed, it appears from an auction notice that appeared in the local press in May 1930, that the Grand Union in that year had 20 guest rooms. (Province, 27 May 1930)

Grand Union Today

The ‘hotel’ is extant, but according to recent press clippings, it no longer functions as such. It is a type of Single Room Occupancy residence for seniors.

The Grand Union has been in decline since it was first established at 32 W Hastings in 1911. It began life in the heart of the business district and was the subject of considerable realty competition. More recently, it has been on the border of Vancouver’s east end, no longer the subject of competition by realtors nor those with spare cash to spend on hot properties.



¹The Strand Theatre on Hastings should not be confused with The Strand Theatre (first known as the Allen Theatre) on Georgia at Seymour.  The Hastings Strand was known as the Electric Theatre when it was built in 1911; as the Panama (1912); the Regal (1914) and, finally as the Strand (1916). Thanks to Tom Carter for helping keep me on the ‘straight and narrow’ when it comes to the history of Vancouver’s theatre names!

Posted in hotels/motels/inns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

700 Seymour in ’47

The three images featured in this post of the 700 block of Seymour Street are among the finest available of the block from CVA online. Professional photographer, Don Coltman, was commissioned to make the images for Shell Oil, Co. in 1947.¹ Not only are the images of high quality technically, but subject-wise they were made at a point in time when the block was at its prime — before it ceased to be a stroll-worthy downtown block of retail shops and became a less friendly block of non-human-scale buildings.

West Side

cva 586-7267 - shell oil co., stock exchange bldg., seymour st. - fire hall and b.c. telephone bldgs. don coltman 1947-2

Annotations by MDM, 2019.

cva 586-7268 - shell oil co., stock exchange bldg., seymour st. - fire hall and b.c. telephone bldgs. don coltman 1947-2

Strand (Allen) Theatre

The Strand Theatre (earlier known as the Allen Theatre when it was built in 1920) was demolished, as was Birk’s building (visible from Seymour, but actually fronting on Granville) in 1974. These buildings would be replaced by the initial instalment of Vancouver Centre Mall and Scotia Tower (1974- ). The earlier occupant of the SW corner of Seymour at Georgia (1891-1920) was the Waverly Hotel (owned by the Queen brothers, who also ran the livery stable there).

Girvan Arts & Crafts Studio

John Girvan was proprietor of the Arts and Crafts Studio, an interior decorating concern that appeared on the block by the mid-’30s. Girvan was a member of the Royal Scottish Society of the Arts and of the Incorporated Institute of British Decorators. Girvan’s firm did the redecorating of the interior and exterior of Capitol Theatre in 1929; they also re-did the interior of Holy Rosary Cathedral in 1951.

There was also a plumber and electrician in the block.

According to the 1947 city directory, there was another occupant of 721 Seymour that year: a group hitherto unknown to me called the Legion of Frontiersmen. This was a voluntary paramilitary group dedicated to the defence of Britain; it was started in 1905 by former RNWMP constable, Roger Pocock, and has had its ups and downs since then (most of the ‘ups’, not surprisingly, came during the two world wars). It is still functioning today under the patronage of Edwina, Countess Mountbatten. Interestingly, one of the officers of the Legion during WWII was John Girvan. He may have been the Legion’s Vancouver landlord.

province 12 march 1942-3

Captain John Girvan, staff officer; 2nd I.C. Major L. O. Dennison (L.F.), provincial commandant; Lieut. H. A. Fairbairn; comprising the B.C. provincial command staff of the Legion of Frontiersmen.  The Province. 12 March 1942.

Code’s & Royal Parking (Used Auto Sales)

The two single-storey parking facilities just south of Girvan Arts & Crafts Studios seem to have been ‘parking lots’ but only secondarily. Principally, the two seem to have been used car lots (possibly serving as an overflow lot of Blackburn’s on Seymour’s 800 block.

In addition To being called “Royal Parking”, that lot was known variously over the years as “Burrard Motors Ltd.”, “Seymour Auto Sales”, and “Hav-A-Car”. The auto sales component of these two lots seemed to peter out by the early 1950s. About this time, a “Rite Park” lot was established there. This lot apparently made its money exclusively from charging for parking. It may be that this was the four-storey concrete parking lot which was at this site until recently (see photo below), when construction crews demolished it and began to dig for the establishment, by 2021 it is claimed, of the second instalment of the Vancouver Centre Mall and office tower adjacent to the Scotia Tower. VCII, as it will be known, will have a footprint extending from Scotia as far south as Vancouver House (605 Robson), about which more below.

cva 779-e02.24 - 700 seymour street west side 1981

CVA 779-E02.24 – West side of 700 Seymour, looking north towards Georgia street. 1981. np. Note concrete 4-storey parkade on sites of the former Royal/Code’s Parking Lots.

McFarland Building (and Orillia Rooms)

In 1947, this building was known as the Ambassador Hotel. However, it was called the Lolomi Hotel upon its construction in 1913 and was later known as the Hudson Hotel. The Ambassador lasted through Expo ’86, but not long after, I gather. It was demolished to help make way for an office building known as “Vancouver House“, completed in 1989, at the NW corner (605) of Robson at Seymour.

Although Orillia Rooms faced onto Robson rather than 700 block Seymour, strictly speaking, it was no less part of the block (not unlike Strand Theatre). The Orillia was a mixed-use commercial/residential block over which much ink has been spilled, including on VAIW. I won’t add more here.

sun 23 aug 1913

Vancouver Sun. 23 August 1913.

vpl 8963a the lobby of the hotel hudson 1927 stuart thomson

VPL 8963A. The lobby of the Hotel Hudson (McFarland Building). 1927. Stuart Thomson

East Side

cva 586-7266 - shell oil co., stock exchange bldg., seymour st. - fire hall and b.c. telephone bldgs. don coltman 1947-2

Annotations by MDM, 2019.

crop of cva 586-7266

Crop of CVA 586-7266. My buddy, Wes, has identified the vehicle directly in front of Rose Cowan & Latta as a ’38 Chevy Master Deluxe Coupe.

All of the east side of 700 Seymour was swallowed by the enormous development of BC Telephone Co. (now Telus) in the late ’60s or early ’70s, I believe. Most of the properties from the Fire Hall north to Georgia were consumed by BC Tel. (Telus has since then taken BC Tel’s property-munching ways to the extreme by developing the block into TelusGarden).

As we did with the west side, we will begin at the north end (not all properties of which are visible in Coltman’s photo) and work our way south to Robson.


At the SE corner of Seymour and Georgia in 1947 was a medical clinic; it was within the Publicity Building. By the early ’50s, however, the physicians who’d worked in this clinic abandoned the space for, presumably, cushier digs at the NE corner of Broadway at Fir.

cva 69-21.07 - seymour street businesses across w. georgia street intersection ernie fladell 1972-74

CVA 69-21.07 – SE Corner of Seymour at Georgia looking south down Seymour towards Robson. 1972-74. Ernie Fladell photo. The Publicity Building which housed the medical clinic in 1947 is still visible in this early ’70s image… but not for much longer.

Finch’s Garage

The garage at 714 Seymour, known in the late ’20s as Strand Garage, came to be Finch’s Garage, Urwin Finch proprietor, by the mid-1930s and remained so until 1950 upon Urwin’s death that year.

Quadra Club (Technocracy, Inc. and Spritualists)

The Quadra Club has been elsewhere discussed on VAIW. The club was at the Seymour site from ca1942 until the early ’70s, when it wrapped up operations. Before the Quadra Club moved into this space, however, there were a couple of tenants who were arguably of a quirkier variety.

In 1940, a group known as Technocracy, Inc. moved in. They had been around Vancouver at least since the mid-’30s. But that year the federal government outlawed them and in this province, the BC Provincial Police enforced the action. So much for that lease.

Hard on the heels of Technocracy Inc. came the Christian Church of Spiritual Light. This bunch was affiliated with the National Spiritualist Association of Canada. I expect that they would have presented a comfortable pew for then-Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King! This group lasted just a couple of years; they were gone from 724 Seymour by 1942.

sun 14 dec 1940-2

Vancouver Sun 14 Dec 1940.

Smith’s Button Works (the first fully visible business in Coltman’s east side image)

province 24 feb 1929

The Province. 24 Feb, 1929.

This tailoring shop had a long life on Granville Street from ca1917-1929. They moved to 736 Seymour in 1929, presumably because rental rates had escalated to unbearable levels for proprietor, Alex S. Smith to retain his business on the main drag.

His business seemed to retain custom at the new location as his shop remained in business from 1929 through 1947 when the Coltmam photo was made and as late as 1963. Alex Smith died in 1964.

In 1963, the Inquisition Cafe moved into 736 Seymour, for a matter of months.

Rose, Cowan & Latta (and vocal instructors)

This printing company was a partnership of Robert R. Rose, John B. Cowan and Robert P. Latta. The firm began as R. P. Latta & Co. at 500 Beatty (ca1910-ca1920) and became a partnership at 748 Seymour ca1923. In 1956, BC Telephone Co. bought their property for future expansion. The business moved to Strathcona.

VFD Fire Hall No. 2

Fire Hall No. 2 originally was built in 1888 a little bit north of this location – at 724 Seymour (roughly where the Quadra Club was by 1947), but this structure came down in 1903. In 1904, the building at this location was established. In 1951, the City offered the Fire Hall for sale and (surprise, surprise) BC Telephone Co. bought it for future expansion,

BC Telephone Co.

The 8-storey structure adjacent to the Fire Hall was BC Tel’s existing office block. It was built in 1919. Adjacent to it (on the NE corner of Robson and Seymour) was the construction site of what would become known as BC Tel’s William Farrell Building. The Farrell block still stands; it is scarcely recognizable, however, as it was covered in a glass ‘skin’ a few years ago.

One of the original homes in this part of the east side of 700 Seymour was the Australia Boarding House, a boarder at which Aussie import and much-appreciated local pro photographer, Stuart Thomson, laid his head upon first arriving in Vancouver.

cva 99-29 - [australia boarding house, 776 seymour street] ca 1915 stuart thomson

CVA 99-29 – Australia Boarding House, 776 Seymour Street. ca 1915. Stuart Thomson.



¹It isn’t clear to me why Shell commissioned these images of Seymour. As far as I know, they didn’t own any property on this block. Perhaps they were considering buying property along here. The only connection I can come up with is that Shell mounted their logo atop the Vancouver Block in the ’50s. But that seems to me like a stretch as a motive to commission photos of the block behind that building. (It is a pity that these three Seymour Street images aren’t ‘keyworded’ as such by CVA. They turn up during a search for Shell Oil, but not when searching for Seymour Street).

Posted in businesses, Don Coltman, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


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

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

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

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

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

11 May 2017 Woodstock Sentinel-Review 

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

Fear not, gentle reader. Read on.

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

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

8 September 1890 Vancouver Daily World

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

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

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

27 April 1925 Vancouver Sun

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Posted in parades, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Valentin Shabaeff’s Lost Art in the Hotel Vancouver

Update (Originally published December 2018)


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

Mini Bio

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

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

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

Shabaeff in Vancouver

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

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

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

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

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

— Vancouver Sun. April 29, 1939

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

Primary Panel

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

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


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

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

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

Shabaeff HV3

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

Secondary Panel

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