A (Forgotten) Dragon Named Sue

Cropped and edited CVA 1415-195 – The first(?) “Centennial Sue”, a smoke-spewing Chinese dragon and an accompanying Chinese junk at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park, ca1958

Monster Mash

The 150-foot dragon (“painted in an Indian motif and floating on oil drums”) was installed in Lost Lagoon by the B.C. Centennial (1858-1958) Committee in June 1958 (Sun 19 June 1958). The Chinese junk, which was to be part of the art installation was added in July (Province 11 July 1958). The dragon was named “Centennial Sue”. The dragon was constructed of B.C. plywood and it and the junk were illuminated at night (Province, 19 June 1958).

The monster and sailing junk on Last Lagoon are causing a little embarrassment to the park board. Few people like them and most everybody wishes they would go away — but the board is stuck with them till the centennial committee takes them away. . . . Park superintendent Phllip B. Stroyan explained it this way:

“We gave the centennial committee permission to put up decorations on English Bay and in the Lost Lagoon. The only snag was that we did not know what they had in mind for the lagoon.

“These things appeared overnight. The monster, whatever it is supposed to be, is bad enough. But then this junk appears, with a ‘for sale’ sign on it. Well, we tore that sign off quickly enough, but the rest is there to stay till Frank Bernard — special events chairman for the centennial committee — takes them away.

“I guess it won’t be too long now,” Mr. Stroyan added.

Province 5 August 1958

I don’t understand why it was that the Province was convinced that the dragon was generally disliked. I quite like it. I’m guessing that the dragon/junk installation wasn’t in the Lagoon for much more than two or three months.

Province, June 21, 1958.

Cartoon Cutie

There seemed to be a lack of originality by the various Centennial committees, when it came to naming. In April 1958, it was announced by L. J. Wallace that there would be a “Centennial Sue” who would be the companion to “Century Sam“. These cartoon figures would serve to boost tourism in B.C. (Chilliwack Progress, April 2, 1958).

It isn’t clear which of the “Centennial Sues” was the first, the dragon or the cute/folksy human cartoon character. However, based on the description at the Museum of Vancouver, I’m inclined to put my money on the “monster.”

Centennial Sue. MOV. H2017.41.2. 1966.

Century Sam was a cartoon prospector created as a symbol for BC’s Centennial celebrations in 1958. In 1956 Lawrie Wallace created the idea of the character, while illustrator Bob Banks was tasked [with] actualizing the character. Banks had an extensive career in illustration, working on a range of projects including portraiture, Buzzer transit pamphlets, textbooks, magazines, and work for corporate clients including MacMillan Bloedel, BC Rail, and Air Canada. Century Sam, in his iconic hat, checkered shirt, yellow vest, and chinstrap beard, became a symbol for BC’s Centenaries and tourism in general. Banks also created a companion for Century Sam, Centennial Sue. The figures were used in 1958 and again for the 1966 celebrations of the formation of BC as a colony, as well as the 1967 centennial celebrating Canada’s confederation, and the 1971 centennial celebrating BC’s entrance into Canadian confederation.

MOV

Sam seems to have been ‘actualized’ by Banks before Sue was, but it’s difficult to say for sure, and since Mr. Banks has now gone to his reward, it’s now probably impossible to know.

But one thing is certain: the dragon of Lost Lagoon has been all but forgotten.

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