A Brief Revealing Tale

I’m reliably informed that this story has been told before, more than once. But it was new to me, and so, working on the assumption that others likewise may be unaware of the tale, I’m sharing it below.

CVA 677-591 – Cropped image of Joe Fortes diving into water at English Bay. The bathhouse in question appears behind Fortes. ca1906. P T Timms.

The story has its beginning in July 1905. The wood frame bathhouse shown above had recently been erected at First Beach on English Bay. A letter was written by “The Odd Man Out” to the editor of the Vancouver Daily World informing citizens that

the glass in the windows of the bathhouses (sic) is so transparent that all the “beauty” (?) of the male bathers and the entire angelic form of the female can be seen to perfection by all outsiders on the beach . . . .

World, 11 July 1905

Apparently in the mornings, when the sun hit the changing room windows just right, those inside the bathhouse who were changing were visible to those outside.

More than a fortnight passed, and nothing had been done about the non-opaque windows, so “Modesty” picked up his pen and wrote a letter to the World notifying Vancouverites of the inaction of civic authorities. This writer speculated, very presciently, upon possible future legal ramifications:

. . . . The question arises as to what would happen if the police took action against the bathers. Would the mayor and aldermen or the members of the board of works, or all of them, be responsible? And in the event of a conviction for indecent exposure, would they be open to conviction as accessories before the fact? One can understand how easy it would be for an innocent person to get brought up before the police court; and, in such a case, would not the authorities be the most criminal of the parties? A few hours work and a few pounds of paint would be all that is necessary to put the matter right.

World 24 July 1905

Fully a year passed, and still nothing was done by the City about the bathhouse windows.

And then, a series of events very close to those speculated upon by “Modesty” came to pass:

. . . . [A] young man, apparently refined and well educated . . . was arrested by [Special] Constable Joe Fortes for indecent exposure at the Beach last Friday. The defendant claimed that if he had committed the crime it had been done unwittingly, and was due to the condition of the glass . . . . [The Magistrate] . . . . dismissed the charge. It was now up to Park Commissioners to act. If they desired the present conditions to continue, well and good, but he believed some change should be made.

Province 9 July 1906

By July 12, the Parks Board had finally acted. The exteriors of the windows were given a coat or two of opaque paint. Problem solved.

Imagine the expense (to the legal system) and embarrassment (to the young man unfairly charged with indecent exposure) that could have been avoided if the Parks Board had applied opaque paint back in 1905!

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1 Response to A Brief Revealing Tale

  1. A lively scandal!

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