A Few of my Favourite Junk Yards

I confess to a longstanding fondness for junk yards; well, actually it is more accurate to say that I harbour a fondness for the idea of junk yards. This is a holdover, I think, from my pre-teen enchantment with The Three Investigators novels. In these mysteries, Jupiter Jones was a rotund and brilliant Jr. Sherlock Holmes character who lived with his aunt and uncle at their junk yard business and where he and his Watson-like sidekicks had their investigatory HQ.

So, when I began looking at Vancouver images of early junk yards, I was transported back some 40 years to those innocent days when, within the pages of those novels, Jupe, Pete, and Bob would occupy the hours they weren’t in school, busting crimes and criminals.

VPL 20677 - 195 Alexander Street, 1919.

VPL 20677 – Alexander Street, 1919.

The Canadian Pacific Junk Co., shown above, was in 1919 located at 195 Alexander Street. Just a few short blocks east of this address, on Alexander, could be found Vancouver’s red light district (near Jackson). I don’t think this building continues to stand today. But, I believe that just a couple of buildings from this one is the structure which today houses The Alibi Room – a local pub with a great name.

CVA City N6 - Canadian Northwest Junk Co., 1931.

CVA City N6 – Canadian Northwest Junk Co., 1931.

Canadian North West Junk Co. (145 Powell) had the distinction of being on the site of Vancouver’s 1899 City Hall. Plainly, the Powell Street district had fallen on hard times during the intervening years. It was by the 1930s an immigrant enclave (principally for Japanese-Canadians). Ironically, the ‘junk’ products of this business were treated better than would be its co-residents of Asian ancestry; with the onset of WWII, all Japanese Canadians here and elsewhere in the City would be forcibly removed to interior locations and have their property confiscated by the state.

CVA 99-4607 Canadian Junk Company Ltd. Office and Main Warehouse at 250 Prior St., Stuart Thomson photo, 1934.

CVA 99-4607 Canadian Junk Company Ltd. Office and Main Warehouse at 250 Prior St., Stuart Thomson photo, 1934.

Across the street from the Prior Street location of the Canadian Junk Co. were the ‘front’ of the properties of Hogan’s Alley (the predominantly black neighbourhood that was wiped out following the demolition of most of the homes there in preparation for construction of the Georgia Viaduct in the late 1960s and early 1970s).

CVA 1184-189 - Exterior View of Walsh's Auto Wrecking on Main St. Showing Facade of Former Imperial Theatre. Jack Lindsay photo, 1943.

CVA 1184-189 – Exterior View of Walsh’s Auto Wrecking on Main St. Showing Facade of Former Imperial Theatre. Jack Lindsay photo, 1943.

The final image (above) makes me quite sad, whenever I encounter it.   It shows Walsh’s Auto Wrecking and, still visible beneath, the ‘bones’ of the Imperial – an early Vaudeville theatre in Vancouver.

The romantic ideas which I associate with the junk yard where Jupiter Jones lived and worked were doubtless distant from the gritty realities of the early junk yards featured in this post. They typically were located in less desirable parts of town since they needed a relative abundance of land to accommodate their product. No doubt crime was an issue for many of these businesses and their employees. (So, perhaps there is a connection at some level to Jupiter and the boys, after all. . . wouldn’t crime-fighters want to be near the centre of ‘the action’?!)

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