Peter Thomas is not a photographer with whom I’m familiar. But upon stumbling upon some of his work at VPL’s online historical photos site, recently, I have to say I like his style.
The image above was apparently made at the northwest corner of Pender and Homer, where, roughly from the 1960s until the 1990s, Downtown Parking Corp. (DPC) had a small parking garage. The image is one of four similar photos made by Thomas of the attendant. I like this one best.
The exterior of the attendant’s hut is visible here a couple of years later (in 1974) beneath the wall ad for the Niagara Hotel:
In this perspective image (made in the same year), it is clear that the DPC lot wasn’t much of a garage. Two levels, evidently.
The parking garage replaced longtime resident of this corner, Ellesmere Rooms.
Hans Gottfried Edita Lankau (1897-1971) was born and raised in Germany. He immigrated to post-war Canada in 1951 when he was in his mid-50s, settling in West Vancouver.
His principal work in Canada consisted of casting large coats of arms in metal. The Bank of Commerce example which appears above (the only work of his of which I’m aware that is extant in Greater Vancouver) appears to be a coat of arms plus. It seems to me to be similar to a piece of jazz music: the straight-ahead theme is in the coat of arms (encircled in the middle of the work), with improvisations surrounding it. It is, in my judgement, a brilliant piece of relief sculpture.
There was another, later (1965), coat of arms in Vancouver by Lankau, commissioned by the former Bank of Canada at 900 West Hastings. But Lankau’s specialization of coats of arms tends to lead to even more speedy disappearance of the art than happens with other kinds of public artwork in Vancouver. Once the corporation leaves the site of the coat of arms, the arms, generally speaking, are doomed. (This wasn’t the case, technically, with the Bank of Commerce work, but it was squirrelled away into such a non-travelled corner of the new Birk’s headquarters as to be gone in all but fact).
Lankau’s other work is listed here. Just how much of it is extant, I don’t know. Little, I suspect.
A giant piece of biographical mystery is his pre-Canadian training and works.
One of Lankau’s sculptures that remains in B.C. is the Canadian Coat of Arms at Confederation Court in Victoria. The Dictionary of Canadian Artists tries to make a case for Lankau’s Victoria work being deserving of the highest marks. The Confederation Park work may have been the more technically challenging of the two works. But in my opinion, the Bank of Commerce bronze is by far the most visually stunning of Lantau’s work in the province he adopted as home.
The Langara School for Boys was one of two private schools (the second was a school for girls known as Braemar) that were under the authority of Western Residential Schools. Principal McKay (of Westminster Hall) was president of Western Residential Schools and Rev. E. D. McLaren was the superintendent.
The photo above shows what I believe to have been the temporary quarters of Langara. The school was at this downtown location on the corner of Bute and Georgia streets, apparently, for the best part of 1913. The principal of the School for Boys at this time was A. R. Tait.
Sometime in 1914, the school moved into its permanent quarters which had been under construction during 1913. This new location was located on 15 acres of land “adjoining the Shaughnessy Golf Course between Bodwell [33rd Ave.] and Whitehead [37 Ave.]”. The main building was situated at the corner of what is today 33rd and Heather.
The ‘permanent’ site of the school proved to be less than stable. By 1917, Langara was asked to shift out of its building so that a military hospital could be established there. Langara would move to Kitsilano to one of the corners at Larch and 2nd Ave. Residency was to be located in a separate building across from the school. I couldn’t find a photograph of the school at its Kitsilano location.
By 1920, Western Residential Schools was in the hands of the liquidators and negotiations were underway with the federal government to buy the Fairmont Hospital (formerly Langara school). It isn’t clear to me exactly why Western Residential Schools faced liquidation less than 8 years after establishing the schools. But I would speculate that being moved from their custom-built quarters near the end of the Great War probably didn’t help.
The federal government converted the former Langara property into a Vancouver barracks for the RCMP. The former Braemar would have a wing added to the Shaghnessy Hospital as a training site for Great War veterans (to be known by the awkward bureaucratic title: “Soldiers’ Civil Re-Establishment”.
The RCMP barracks have now moved off the former Langara School site to a location in Surrey. In October 2014, the Heather Lands were acquired by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations and Canada Lands Company “in an historic joint venture. The agreement will see the joint venture partners working side-by-side with local communities and municipalities to establish new visions for this site.” The former Braemar school for girls site is today Braemar Park at corner of Willow and 27th Avenue.
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.
The Schooleys moved to their final residence at 2057 Pendrell Street in 1914.
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 be accurately 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.
To the best of my knowledge, the robbers were never brought to book for this crime.***
Kate Schooley pre-deceased her husband in 1927. Schooley died in 1931 at the age of 84.
Charles and Kate Schooley seem to have been childless. I had initially wondered whether Jennie Schooley, a teacher at Strathcona School from 1928-1959, might have been their daughter, but I later learned that she was the daughter of another local Schooley: William Francis Schooley.
*These early details of Schooley’s life were found in British Columbia From Earliest Times to the Present: Biographical. Volume IV. 1914. S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., p. 819.
**Mrs. Schooley was a devout member of a different church: St. John’s Presbyterian (just a few blocks from First Baptist).
***There was a report on November 1, 1922 that Tacoma, WA police had two men in custody on suspicion of being parties to the Vancouver robbery. It was established pretty quickly, however, that the two who were detained were in no way responsible for the theft.
This image is a powerful reminder, to me at any rate, of a Fred Herzog image. I make no claim at all that this is a Herzog photo (it isn’t; it is one taken for the Vancouver Planning Department by a photographer for whom no attribution was attached). But it does have a few elements that remind me of Herzog’s published prints: 1) the mid-20th-century hint of smog in the air (most evident in the background near the BC Electric HQ on Nelson at Burrard); 2) the palate of blues, greens and rusty red; 3) the overall tone of the image that cannot be truly captured by a digital camera (nor with post-processing software); it comes only with images made around the mid-century period with traditionally-processed film.
At the same time, there is a major clue that this wasn’t a photograph made by Herzog. There doesn’t seem to be any artistic point to the photo. What do I mean by ‘artistic point’? This is where things get fuzzy and harder to relate in prose; but I’ll try. A huge part of it is that there are no people in this image (except for the part of a shoulder in the lower right corner). Not all of Herzog’s photos from the 1950s/60s were populated, but I’d guesstimate that at least 70% or more captured at least one individual that contributed to the ‘story’ of the photograph. For the Herzog images of this period – with and without people (for one without, see Blue Car, Strathcona) – there generally seemed to be a ‘story’ that he wanted to tell about life downtown (or in Vancouver generally) at this time. As with most art, however, the interpretation of that story is left to the viewer.
Although I’ve made the claim that the image above doesn’t have an artistic point, it certainly had a pragmatic point. It was taken by a photographer for the Vancouver Planning Department with a purpose in mind. I’d speculate that the point of this image was to be a ‘record shot’ of the three rooming houses.
Where on Helmcken Street was this image taken? It seems to have been made on the 500-block between Richards and Seymour. The CVA image below claims to be an image of the north side of that block in about 1981. It is remarkable how much remained unchanged between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s. The single-level commercial structure seems still to be present, as are the three rooming houses (by the 1980s, probably, looking worse for wear, although that is less obvious in a black & white image).
Although the roughly twenty-year period from the 1960s to ’80s left the buildings on this side of the 500-block remarkably unchanged, the subsequent 30 years have been less ‘kind’. The north side of that block has been wholly given over, now, to residential towers.
Happily, however, the next block (the 400-block between Richards and Homer) includes a few vintage homes that have been re-done for commercial purposes, but still retain something of the ‘early-Vancouver home’ style.
The title of this post was inspired by lyrics by Lew Brown (melody by Sammy Fein) of a tune by the same name. For the record, I prefer Diana Krall’s rendition to that of Sinatra (who had a hit with this song in 1960).
The week-long, so-called ‘gasoline strike’ of April 1940 should probably more accurately be called an embargo or boycott. This wasn’t a withdrawal of labour, thus inconveniencing management and pressuring the latter to negotiate with labour’s trade union representatives (the common meaning of ‘strike’). Rather, this was an act of the oil companies of the day to pressure consumers to bring pressure to bear on their elected representatives. This episode had that effect, but probably not quite as the oil companies had in mind.
With a former base price at Vancouver of 27 cents an imperial gallon for ‘regular’ grade gasoline… retail prices in interior parts are in most cases 35 cents, and sometimes in excess of 45 cents. In the smaller towns retail margins are usually 7 cents and frequently more. Such spreads are not always a reflection on high retailing costs, however, but of collusion between a handful of dealers who know that the next settlement is 80 miles away. (Enke’s article from Quarterly Journal of Economics, May 1941 and quoted in Bladen)
The province of B.C. appointed a Coal and Petroleum Products Control Board in 1938; the Board issued an order fixing the retail price of gas.
That ‘tore it’ as far as Big Oil was concerned; an injunction was sought and a legal tussle was begun. The Supreme Court of Canada, in April 1940, ruled that the province was able to establish the Control Board.
Having failed to defeat the legislation in the courts, the oil companies decided to “strike”. On April 26, they agreed to furnish no gasoline to dealers in British Columbia. Stocks quickly ran out. (Bladen)
B.C. Premier, Duff Pattullo’s government took a surprisingly tough and activist stance vis-a-vis the oil companies. The Assembly amended the Act to allow the Province to
take over existing plants in the event of another emergency. Amendment after amendment proposed by opposition ranks went down to defeat as division after division revealed the government and C.C.F. members voting together against Conservative and individual Liberal support. (Chilliwack Progress, May 15, 1940)
A compromise agreement was reached between Big Oil and the Control Board. In most regions of the province, the consumer would enjoy a two-cent per gallon cut in gas prices. The retail dealers and wholesale distributors would each be expected to eat 1 cent of this cut.
The Gasoline ‘Strike’ of 1940 was over.
It isn’t clear to me whether the amended B.C. Act was ever proclaimed into law. It seems to me that it would have been vulnerable to legal challenge. The Supreme Court of Canada was not until 1949 the highest court of appeal. At this time, the oil companies could have sought leave to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the U.K.
Who is the apparent rock star above? A fellow who, in his day, was a household word: American opera baritone, John Charles Thomas. Today, his vocal stylings are not quite forgotten (although his name is all but so); his English rendering of Johann Strauss’s “Open Road, Open Sky” was used in Audi’s 2011 advertisement for its A6 Avant automobile (featuring robotic bird animation). In the image above, he appears to be in Kellys Appliances shop (Georgia at Seymour). Thomas was well known and appreciated by Vancouver music lovers; most notably, he drew some 15,000 to an outdoor concert at Stanley Park’s Malkin Bowl in 1939. I cannot imagine a crowd of that size at the Bowl!
August 4/16 Update:
Here is a shot I recently stumbled across on CVA that cracks me up. It shows John Charles in his pinstripes mugging as though he had something to do with the construction of the Brockton Point grandstand being built for Vancouver’s Diamond Jubliee at the time (1946).
And here is another chuckle: John Charles in full costume as Captain Geo. Vancouver (and an unknown young Vancouver resident, I presume). As I recall, the Diamond Jubilee pageant was organized by an American who didn’t take Vancouver’s tendency to dampness into account. The pageant was not the roaring success that had been hoped for, as a result.
These two images are, in my judgement, outstanding examples of pictorial photography (or camera work as art). Both were made by Vancouver photographers: Harold Mortimer-Lamb was an amateur; John Vanderpant a professional. But when looking at these two lovely images, such labels become irrelevant. They speak only to how a person earns their daily bread, rather than to skill or compositional eye.
The first photograph reminds me of the former Britannia Mines, but I have no way of knowing whether that was where the image was made. The second, I’m pretty sure, was made in the City of Vancouver.
August 3rd, 2016 Update
I’ve just noticed an image made by Leonard Frank in the same year as Harold Mortimer-Lamb (from what appears to be an identical vantage point – although with Frank’s quite different, ‘sharp and shiny’/f64, photographic take on it). The photo is identified as Premier Mine (near Stewart, Portland Canal, BC). This is a much more distant and remote location from Vancouver than is Britannia Mine. For more information about the Premier Mine, see here.
Today’s post is a bit of a detour from the usual for VAIW.
I was reminded today, by a couple of events, of these wonderful illustrations. I was engaged this morning in the happy task of re-arranging the volumes in our bookcases and in so doing, I re-discovered the monograph (Canadian Content by Charles van Sandwyk) from which these three scans were made. Second, the book was a gift from my wife and me to ourselves on the occasion of an anniversary (the number of which neither of us can recall). It will be our Silver Wedding Anniversary in a couple days.
For more about van Sandwyk and his illustrations, see this site.
Here is a link to Van Sandwyck reading from the volume from which these pieces were scanned.
When I first ran across this image in the City of Vancouver Archive online images, I was inclined to be scornful. Until I remembered some of the ads I’ve seen in recent years for so-called ‘body sculpting solutions’ and a wide variety of other ‘cures’ for a couple surplus cookies. Vanity of vanities.
Darlyne Slenderizing Glamour Salon was located at 1009 Nelson – adjacent to First Baptist Church (where FBC’s parking lot is today).
I recently purchased the print from which the above scan was produced. It was made by one of my favourite early Vancouver professional photographers, Stuart Thomson. The photo seems to have been taken in a commercial food/drink establishment, somewhere in Vancouver I’m assuming. There is no year on the print, but I’m guessing it was a fairly early Thomson image, made in the 1920s, perhaps.
After buying the print, I did quite a lot of hunting for a similar image. I didn’t have much success.
The closest I came in my search was the interior shot shown below of the Peter Pan Cafe also made by Thomson (in 1929). I thought the space shown in my print might have been an earlier incarnation of the Peter Pan at 1138 Granville Street.
This image has some features in common with space shown in my print, but there are a number of differences, too (not least, that the space in the print appears to be wider than in the Peter Pan). At the end of the day, however, I eliminated the Peter Pan space as a possible contender by the fact that there is no evidence that it was ever a restaurant prior to it becoming the Peter Pan.*
Ultimately, after pursuing the photo search for several more days, I said “Enough!” and decided to let the mystery rest in my subconscious for awhile.
This week, I was reading an excellent volume of oral histories by Vancouver old-timers .** I was reading David deCamillis’ early recollections, when I came across these sentences:
My father rented the basement of the Lotus Hotel and called it the Lotus Cabaret, with a partner who used to own a taxi company here. I was about 18  and I went down to see my father….It was fixed up real nice with these booths on the side with curtains, and we had a five-piece orchestra up on a stage that was built-in. (Opening Doors: Vancouver’s East End, p.82)
I allowed myself a muted and internalized “Eureka!” after reading (and re-reading) these lines. I couldn’t find evidence of a drinking establishment at the Lotus Hotel known as the “Lotus Cabaret”. Indeed, as far as I can tell, it was known at the time – in city directories, at least – as the “Lotus Hotel Beer Parlour” – a much less mysterious/sexy name. But the description of the place offered by Mr. deCamillis was enticingly similar to what appears in my scanned print.
I should emphasize that I don’t consider the case closed.
I’m not convinced that my print is actually of the Lotus Cabaret. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that it is not. More digging is wanted. I’ll pursue this with the staff at today’s Lotus Hotel (an SRO, currently) and see if they have any photos that show something akin to the scene in my print.
Researchers tend to be optimistic. I continue to hope that I or someone else will eventually find a matching photo and/or some other clinching piece of evidence as to the location of the Thomson print. Perhaps not this month or this year. But eventually.
If it turns out that you figure out the location of the image, I’d appreciate hearing from you!
*B.C. Electric and Vancouver Gas Co. appear to have been occupants of the space for several years prior to it becoming the Peter Pan Cafe.
**It is called Opening Doors: Vancouver’s East End. Part of the Sound Heritage series (Vol VIII, Nos. 1 & 2). n.d. (c1980).
The photo was made to commemorate the Maple Tree Monument at the corner of Carrall and Water streets. The monument was created by prolific Vancouver sculptor, Charles Marega, originally as part of a drinking fountain in 1925. In 1986, with the establishment of the sculpture of “Gassy” Jack Deighton (artist, Vern Simpson, working from a drawing by Fritz Jacobson), the monument was incorporated into it instead. It isn’t clear to me when exactly the drinking fountain was removed from the site, but probably during the renovations to the Maple Tree Square/Trounce Alley section of Gastown in the early 1970s.
The gent who is apparently haranguing his fellow Vancouver Pioneers from atop the chair is Frank W. Hart. I suspect this was a bit of fun, staged for the camera. But it was probably not wholly outside of his personality to give others their marching orders; he was a funeral director/embalmer.* I expect he was used to getting his way and having his say; his customers couldn’t talk back!
A larger gathering of the pioneers present for the unveiling of the drinking fountain monument in 1925 appears below.
*Hart was also the owner of Hart’s Opera House located on Carrall St. It had the distinction of being the first opera house in the city, but by all accounts there was substantially less to see, architecturally, than the name suggested.
This is something I don’t recall seeing in recent track and field days: a dude standing next to a pole vaulter with a rake at the ready! Gotta love those stripy jackets with short pants! (Presumably, the rake was to smooth out the soil after a vaulter had finished his turn).
The 80-foot Bow-Mac sign at 1154 West Broadway, has been a landmark in the neighbourhood since it was erected in 1958.
There were a couple of aspects about Bow-Mac’s history of which I wasn’t aware until today: (1) the lot was originally called the ‘Bow-Mac (Used Car) Supermarket’; and (2) that it was the used automobile lot associated with Bowell-McDonald (later, Bowell-McLean) Pontiac, Cadillac, and Buick (and, later, Vauxhall) new auto lot located at 615 Burrard Street (roughly where the Burrard Skytrain Station is located today).
For more info pertaining to the sign, this page is pretty detailed.
This letter was written by John D. Rockefeller’s attorney, Starr J. Murphy (1860-1921), in response to a now-lost letter sent by Dr. L. N. MacKechnie (1864-1926) of First Baptist Church (Vancouver). It seems reasonable to conclude from the context that the letter from FBC was a plea for financial support from Rockefeller (1839-1937), to which Murphy replied in the negative on JDR’s behalf.
Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, was a noted philanthropist and well-known Baptist. He attended and supported (in both deeds and dollars, apparently) Erie Street Baptist Mission Church (later known as Euclid Avenue Baptist Church) in Cleveland.
MacKechnie was a major mover and shaker at FBC in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and was prominent in the building of FBC’s current structure at the Burrard and Nelson streets.
In June 1911, First Baptist was on the verge of moving into their brand new ‘fortress’ church at the corner of Burrard & Nelson (the dedication service was on June 9, 1911). Exact figures are hard to come by, but there is no question that the new church building had set the congregation back by an unanticipated amount. So much so that the FBC ‘powers that were’ had been in contact with the architects (Burke Horwood & White) and Heard (of Matheson & Heard, general contractors) about getting them to reduce their charges, which were in excess of the original estimates. Burke, apparently, was prepared to accommodate FBC. But Heard was more uncompromising. According to a minute from March 28, 1911, a committee had had “several interviews” with Heard “regarding the suggestion made by the Committee, that in view of the excessive cost of the buildings over the estimates, particularly the Contracts under Mr Heard’s charge, some reduction might be made in Heard’s charges by the way of commission or otherwise.” According to the minute, Heard was prepared to make “some reduction”, but not nearly enough to satisfy the committee: $100.
MacKechnie, who appears to have been the de facto chairman of the church board at this time, must have been at his wits end and in desperation thought to invite the richest Baptist of the day to make a donation to FBC’s financial mess. There is no mention in any FBC minutes that I’ve been able to unearth of the church instructing MacKechnie to approach JDR.
A few years subsequent to the Murphy/MacKechnie communication, JDR would give $10,000 to the Western Canadian denominational regional body (the Baptist Union) to support missions work in the area.*