Update: First Posted April 2014The panorama image shown above was made by B.C. professional photographer, John W. Freeston, sometime in the 1920s or perhaps earlier. I’m not certain where it was made, but there is some evidence to conclude it was somewhere in California.
From what I’ve been able to determine¹, Freeston had a brief and unhappy life. There is some evidence to indicate that he lived in California; one account maintains he had an early marriage that ended in divorce in that state. He seems to have been married to Florence circa 1906 (although there is no evidence of a B.C. marriage certificate). He and Florence had three daughters.
Early in May, 1923, Freeston was admitted to the New Westminster Hospital for the Insane (known by locals today by the shorthand, Woodlands). He was diagnosed pretty quickly with General Paresis. He slept poorly throughout his stay at Woodlands and rest was possible primarily through medication. Although his physical condition was considered good when he was admitted, scarcely two months later, it had deteriorated significantly. By the afternoon of July 30th, 1923, he was dead. He was 39 years old. Cause of death was recorded as “Exhaustion of General Paresis”.
The City of Vancouver Archives (CVA) has identified those in the image as employees of “an unidentified shoe company”. There are two placards in the image above, but unfortunately attendees blocked the parts of the signs identifying the group. There are two US flags hanging in the vehicle visible in the panorama image. That, together with what appears to be a California license plate and the large number of employees makes me wonder whether this was a California-based shoe firm. There is a sign behind the group (which is just detectable at the left of the panorama) which also makes me wonder whether the image was taken in a southwestern state: “Scenic Drive Through Beautiful … (Word(s) obscured) … Mesa Country”. In addition, the background of the image doesn’t appear to resemble the “wet coast” of Vancouver (nor the landscape of much of Washington state). The image is made in front of a Texaco gas station, adding more weight to my suspicion that it is shot in the U.S. somewhere. In the Lower Mainland, at this time, it was very unusual (unheard of?) to encounter a Texaco station; it was far more likely that one would see a Home Oil or Imperial Oil service station.
¹I’m indebted to David Mattison of Camera Workers for his generous help with primary research into the life of J. W. Freeston.