Jean Fuller, Night Club Owner/Singer

Substantially Updated

First posted February 2016

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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.

Vancouver

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-central-garage-seymour-street-ca1918-stuart-thomson-photo-jean-fullers-1142-2

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).

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.)

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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.

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Adam’s Rib Cabaret

Update!

IMG_20190612_0001

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.

Notes

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.

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Sea of Hats

Updated (Originally posted September 2015)

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 some 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 appears to be 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

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Connaught Beach Club

ConnaughtBeach_exterior

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.

ConnaughtBeach_02

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

ConnaughtBeach_04

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.

1929_06_24_Sun_p14

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.

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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?)

Notes

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.

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70 Years of FBC Organists

fbc choir 1915

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

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

Not dull at all!

Earliest Days

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

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

John Alexander (1905)

The first organist/choirmaster identified in FBC’s records was John Alexander, a Scot. 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)

fbc-choir-in-pre-1931-fire-sanctuary-may-1922During 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)

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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.³

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

Notes

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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.

Vancouver

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.

Notes

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.

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B.C. Lions SNORED in ’54!

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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Sleeper Photo Reveals Lost Deco Interior

Update!

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.


 

cdm.macmillan.1-0351874full

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

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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.


Notes

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.

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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:

T1

T2

T3

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.

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Comfort’s 1954 Portraits at UBC

Comfort

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.

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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

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”.

McHarg

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,,,

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.

VON

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

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

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.

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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


Notes

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.

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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.


Notes

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.

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Wilf Wylie

WW2

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).


 

Notes

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.

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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

Early

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.

Memorials

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

Bubblers

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?

 

Notes

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.

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Follow the Bouncing Grand Union Hotel

IMG_4786

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’!

Oxford

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.

 

Notes

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!

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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.

Clinic

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.

___

Notes

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

WHAT-ithumpians?!

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.

Notes

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

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

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Valentin Shabaeff’s Lost Art in the Hotel Vancouver

Update (Originally published December 2018)

VAS

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.

IMG_0571

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

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

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

Shabaeff HV3

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

Secondary Panel

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

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

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

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

Crop of CVA 586-5271.

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

Hotel Lobby

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

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

Untitled

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

Shabaeff Neptune in HV3 lobby-2

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

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

Mermaid

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

Hotel Ballroom

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

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

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

— Vancouver Sun. May 27, 1939

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

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

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

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

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

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

All Gone

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

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

 

Notes

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

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

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

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

postcard showing interior of fbc hamilton:dunsmuir-side1 copy

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

Context

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

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

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

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

It Begins

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

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

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

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

Surely not.

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

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

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

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

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

Here is how the minutes record the meeting:

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

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

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

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

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

The chairman asked Mr. Alexander:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

screen shot 2019-01-16 at 4.44.26 pm

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

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

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

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

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Missing?: Monument to First City Survey Stake

mon n32 1952?

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

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

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

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

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

So what has become of the commemorative plaque?

cva 778-142 1974

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

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

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

img_9656

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

300 w hastings - sfu innovation centre

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

Mon P63.1 - [Miss Isobel O. Hamilton and J.S. Matthews unveil a bronze plaque to commemorate Lauchlan Alexander Hamilton] 1953 W J Dennett photo

Mon P63.1 – [Miss Isobel O. Hamilton (daughter of Lauchlan Hamilton) and J.S. Matthews unveil a bronze plaque to commemorate Lauchlan Alexander Hamilton], 1953. W J Dennett photo.

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‘Bailey Bridge’ in Downtown Vancouver, 1944

Updated (First Published August 2015)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Foot!

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

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

Jack Stead

Jack Stead (1926-1990)

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

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

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

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

Baffle your friends. Wish them Happy Hogmanay!

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

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First Baptist’s “Living Room” to be Demolished

Update (first posted October, 2018)

hobbit down

Wrecking machine with a jaw-full of wreckage from now-demolished Hobbit House. January, 2019. MDM photo.

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

— J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

_______

Hobbit

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

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

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

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

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

FBC #2 656

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

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

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

Hobbit Brochure_

 

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

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

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

 

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

— J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

_______

Notes

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

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

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

Posted in churches, First Baptist Church, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Details of the Artistic Life of Rolph Blakstad

Introduction

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

Early Years

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

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

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

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

Early Fifties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Untitled Brock Hall Mural and “Kitsilano Garden”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_6275

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

Verso of Blakstad's Kits Garden work

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 6.36.35 AM

Map Data: Google 2018.

 

 

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

After Vancouver

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

Rolph Blakstad died April 2, 2012 in Ibiza.

Notes

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

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

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MIA: The Loss of a 20-foot Painting

cdm.arphotos.1-0028806full

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

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

IMG_2596

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

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

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

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

Clues

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

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

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

Polled Students Hate New Painting

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

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

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

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

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

In Search Of . . . the Artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eureka

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belkin-20181023-150214-16705

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


Notes

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

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

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

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Pierre Elliot Trudeau in Vancouver: 1976

Update (First Published July 2014):

Pierre_Trudeau_tour#1BF726E

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

cdm.arphotos.1-0145390full

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Musical Occupations of Horace W. Harpur

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

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

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

Family

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

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

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

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

Church Organist

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

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

ch-p31-interior-of-first-congregational-church-vancouver-b-c-1890

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

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

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

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

Music Teacher

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

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

Harpur continued to offer private music lessons until about 1926.

Dance Band Leader

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

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

Great War

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

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

Final Occupation

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

Horace died in 1937.


Notes

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

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

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

¤McIntosh, p. 234, 247.

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

 

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Park Lane

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

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

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

Like Mayfair, London?

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_7829-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIMBY to NIMMP (Not in my Mount Pleasant!)

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

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

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

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

Guess where?

Yup, Park Lane.

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye Park Lane

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

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

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

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

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

2010-006.104 - Great Northern Depot 1965 Ernie H Reksten

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

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

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

Notes

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

²Walker, p. 116.

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Turn On Your Headlights for Car Service

Update (First Published October 2017):

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

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

This is an unusual photo.

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Werner!

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

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

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Professor Alan C. Cairns

UBC Archives Photo. UBC 44.1:2270 - 1993

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alfred Lafond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-09-12 at 6.07.55 PM

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

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

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

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

Azilda Lafond died in Quebec in 1944.

Notes

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

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

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

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

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1930s View Down Richards Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CVA 778-372 - 500 Richards Street east side 1974

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

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

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

IMG_20180913_0002

PR brochure. Author’s collection.

IMG_20180913_0003

PR brochure. Author’s collection.

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

Notes

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

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

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500th Post: A Case of Mistaken Identity

Stanley Park - Leth Acquisition

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

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

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

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

88599 QEP

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

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

Bingo.

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

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

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

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

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How Victory Square and Its Cenotaph Came to Be

cva-784-084-victory-square-block-27-1986

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

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

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

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

Before the War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great War and Change of Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting from Square to Cenotaph

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 2.47.45 PM

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

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

Notes

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

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

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Speculations on a Black ‘House of Ill Fame’

IMG_7896

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 2.15.22 PM

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

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 2.53.18 PM

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

Notes

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

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Bully Off!* Very Early Ladies’ Grass Hockey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VDW 16 Dec 1897

VDW 16 Dec 1897

 

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

 

 

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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Three Early Seafood Nosheries

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

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

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

Oyster Bay Cafe

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

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

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

Old Country Fish & Chips

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

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

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

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

Only Fish & Oyster

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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Charles Schooley: City Paymaster and Prominent Baptist

Update (Originally posted August 2014):

Charles Abraham Schooley - FBC LIfe Deacon and COV Chief Paymaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VW 29 Sept 1922-1

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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Victorian Picnic Images of the 1890s

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

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

Here are a few examples.

A Pear With Your Tea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If You’re Grumpy, Say ‘Cheese!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strawberry Social

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

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

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

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

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Arcadians’ One-Hit Wonder?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vancouver Daily World 9 September 1918
(Emphasis mine)

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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Vancouver Bible Training School

CVA 790-0634 - 1601 West 10th Ave

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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Spencer’s Details

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

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

What’s in a Name?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Spencer's fall and Winter Catalogue 1928-29

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

Re-Development Eyes Exceed Capacity?

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

spensers spring summer 1926 magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Native Figure ‘Standing’ on Hastings Canopy

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

scan20180528

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

Neo-Roman Speculations . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Window Displays

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

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

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

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

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

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

part 2 garden window

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

Notes

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

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

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

Zion’s Friend and Rebel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackson Avenue Baptist

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

Jackson Ave Baptist Ch.

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

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

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

Dowie and Fair

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

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

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

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

Fair in Rebellion

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

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

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

The Fable of the Mice and the Buzz-Saw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dowie After Fair

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

Fair After Dowie

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

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

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

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

He died on 31 January 1951.

Jackson/Zion Church After Fair

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

Notes

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

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

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

Sources

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Update

Originally posted April, 2017

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

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

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

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

vpl80441 Black Motors auto dealership 1948 Art Jones

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

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

vpl 80442 Black Motors auto dealership parts department 1948 Art Jones

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

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

VPL 83253

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

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

IMG_6268

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

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

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

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

Bull is back

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

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

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

Flirtation by Postcard?

 

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

I’ll transcribe the message:

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

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

Unsigned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm.

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

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

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

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

Note

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

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“Old Books” Seller

Str P94

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Transition

NWA - IHP0215 Building Site- Vancouver BC ca1910

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Selected Sources

Posted in new westminster, Norman Caple, yesterday & today | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Age of Aquaria

CVA 180-5198 - Fisheries building Pacific 191-?

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

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

Hastings Park (1915-1930s)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bathhouse Years (1939-55)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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