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Program Summaries

Glimpses of the Past through description, related books and internet connections

Select a year from the drop-down menu below to view summaries of talks

VPL #14750, Leonard Frank Studio, 1945, United Distillers Limited Liquor Bottle  
VPL #14750, Leonard Frank Studio, 1945, United Distillers Limited Liquor Bottle  

Sobering Dilemma: a History of Prohibition in British Columbia
[January 26, 2006 (VM) Douglas Hamilton]
Because of an excessive amount of drinking and its destructive effects on Canadian society, self-designated moral arbiters chose to act in society's interest and impose restrictions. The first restriction from the 1850s was a prohibition against selling liquor to the native peoples and eventually it led to more than three and a half years of general prohibition, ending in 1921 about the time the Americans began the same experiment south of the border. The lingering effects of restrictive liquor laws are still being felt today. (see Douglas L. Hamilton's Sobering Dilemma, a history of Prohibition in British Columbia, Ronsdale Press, c.2004; see also

Greenpeace: the Inside Story
[February 23, 2006 (VM) Rex Weyler]
Greenpeace, a Vancouver-born ecological crusade, came into being because of the coming together of various elements. Articulate and media savvy individuals coupled together with nuclear bomb test protestors, pacifists, hippies, Canadian nature lovers, American draft resisters, Québécois youth, Buddhists, Quakers, Unitarians, womens' groups all jelled into a critical mass to become the world-wide movement it is today. (see Rex Weyler's Greenpeace: how a group of ecologists, journalists and visionaries changed the world, Raincoast Books, 2004; see also and

VPL #19796,Bailey Bros, 189-, Stanley Park entrance arch  
VPL #19796,Bailey Bros, 189-, Stanley Park entrance arch  

Whose park is it anyway? Race and Remembrance in Stanley Park
[March 23, 2006 (VM) Jean Barman]
Stanley Park, Vancouver's attractive pride and joy, has had a mixed history. Originally intended but never officially designated as a military reserve, it was logged, had roads built on it, and had removed 50 First Nations and early settlers to make way for a settler-free and somewhat manicured park. The monuments erected to fairly narrow constituencies have tended to erase the memory of its rich and varied beginning. (see Jean Barman's Stanley Park's Secret: The Forgotten Families of Whoi Whoi, Kanaka Ranch and Brockton Point, Harbour Publishing, 2005; see also

Jean Coulthard: A Life in Music
[April 9, 2006 (Vancouver Day Luncheon at UBC Golf Club) William Bruneau, David Gordon Duke, Brian Mix (cellist)]
The music of Vancouverite Jean Coulthard, one of Canada's best known composers, must be heard to be appreciated.
(for details see May 26, 1999)

VPL #10902, Frank Leonard, 1920, C.N.R. and G.T.P. Railway Ticket Office, 527 Granville Street  
VPL #7355, Frank Leonard, 1920, C.N.R. and G.T.P. Railway Ticket Office, 527 Granville Street  

Railroading a Renegade: Great Northern, John Hendry and the Battle for False Creek Flats
[April 27, 2006 (VM) Frank Leonard]
False Creek Flats, a garbage strewn tidal estuary, was filled in during the period 1917-21 to create two railway terminals. Prior to this, complex arrangements between the Great Northern Railway's J. J. Hill, his son and the Vancouver, Westminster and Yukon Railway's John Hendry eventually led to abuse, manipulation, in-fighting and the eventual ousting of Hendry before the final arrangements could be made to fill in the flats. (see Frank Leonard's A Thousand Blunders: The Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and Northern British Columbia, UBC Press, 1996)

A VHS “Show-and-Tell”
[May 25, 2006 (AGM at VM) VHS members]
As various members of any historical society are usually pursuing various historical projects, it is sometimes productive for all members to hear about these projects in a relaxed social setting.

HMCS Discovery at Stanley Park
[June 17, 2006 (Field Trip)]
(see October 3, 1999; see also

VPL #7355, Phillip Timms, 1910, Mountain View Cemetary  
VPL #7355, Phillip Timms, 1910, Mountain View Cemetary  

Mountain View Cemetery
[July 22, 2006 (Field Trip with John Atkin)]
Established in 1887 and now Vancouver's oldest functioning place of internment, Mountain View Cemetery now contains 100,000 individuals.
(see Mountain View Cemetery: Index of Monumental Inscriptions, Richmond, B. C.: British Columbia Genealogical Society, 1997; see also

Leg-in-Boot and Area Walking Tour of South Shore of False Creek
[August 19, 2006 (Field Trip with Donna Jean McKinnon)]
The south shore of False Creek is a unique experiment of planned living within the city. (see

Rare Cyril Littlebury Photographs of Early Vancouver: Each Picture Tells a Story
[September 28, 2006 (VM) Dudley Booth]
Between 1922-1932, Cyril Littlebury captured the vibrant life of the still young Vancouver in several thousand photographs, over 1,000 of which survive today. Negatives of these photographs were handed down in 1946 to a teenage Dudley Booth who has restored, printed, digitized and researched them. (see;

The Making of Simon Fraser University
[November 2, 2006 (VM) Hugh Johnston]
Simon Fraser University sprang onto the world stage in 1965, coinciding with the biggest building boom in the history of universities and the awakening of the counter culture from the rigor mortis of the comfortable 1950s. It was a story of Gordon Shrum being given two-and-a-half years to build a university from scratch, an impossible goal. He started in March 1963 and opened it on time in September 1965. (see Hugh Johnston's Radical Campus: making Simon Fraser University, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005;

VPL #19796,Thomson, Stuart , 192-, Pantages Theatre, 20 W. Hastings and Army and Navy Stores, 40 W. Hastings  
VPL #11023, Thomson, Stuart, 192-, Pantages Theatre, 20 W. Hastings and Army and Navy Stores, 40 W. Hastings  

Old Theatre District History and Restorations
[November 23, 2006 (VM) John Atkin]
Vancouver's early history is rich in theatres as it was part of the North American vaudeville circuit. Unfortunately many of these ornately decorated vaudeville and movie theatres have been torn down. One such theatre, constructed by Alexander Pantages in 1907 and opened in 1908 has not been torn down and efforts are being made to restore it as a community arts centre. (see;

Poster of the movie  
Poster of the movie  

“The Silent Barrier”
[December 12, 2006 (a special cinematic event at the Roundhouse, Yaletown, the resting place of locomotive 374, the first engine to cross Canada)]
Filmed around Revelstoke almost 70 years ago, The Great Barrier (aka The Silent Barrier), staring Richard Arlen, Antoinette Cellier and Lilli Palmer, shows the Canadian Pacific Railway's difficulties in building a route through the mountains of B. C. The film is dated and plays fast and loose with some of the facts. (see;

VPL #7234, Timms, Philip, 1904, Chinatown street  
VPL #7234, Timms, Philip, 1904, Chinatown street  

100-60-40-10: The Rise and Fall (and Rise Again) of Pacific Vancouver
[January 26, 2007 (VM) Henry Yu]
The year 2007 which marks a series of anniversaries of watershed moments in Vancouver's relationship to Canada and the Pacific world. From the 1907 anti-Asian riots through the 1947 Citizenship Act, the 1967 Immigration Act, and the 1997 Hong Kong handover, the local history of Vancouver has reflected its place as a global city. (See Henry Yu's Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America (Oxford University Press, 2001); see also

Scene from the Harbeck film  
Scene from the Harbeck film  

Vancouver Through the Archives of the CBC
[February 22, 2007 (VM) Colin Preston]
A variety of film footage of ordinary days in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s Vancouver and its residents, shot by professional film companies and amateurs alike show the true vibrancy of the city over these decades. Such films are among the 200,000 items that have been saved and preserved in the CBC film archives. (see reference entry for November 25, 2004)

The Shake, Rattle and Pole: Vancouver's Striptease Past
[March 22, 2007 (VM) Becki Ross]
Burlesque and striptease have had a long and vibrant past in Vancouver. During the post-war Vancouver period institutions such as the Penthouse, Isy's and the Harlem Nocturne headlined female performers with stage names such as Chesty Morgan, Big Fanny Annie and Choo Choo Williams. These dancers and others helped to stoke Vancouver's reputation for being “home of the hottest nightclubs north of San Francisco.” (see Becki Ross' “Spectacular Striptease: Performing the Sexual and Racial Other in Vancouver, B. C. 1945-1975“ The John Hopkins University Press, Journal of Women's History 17.1 (2005) 137-164; see also manuscript in progress, Becki Ross' “The Shake, Rattle and Pole: Vancouver's Striptease Past”)

Stanley Park  
Stanley Park (Image: Vancity Buzz)  

Stanley Park: 100 years of history
[April 1, 2007 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Jim Lowden]
The success of Stanley Park, originally suggested as a military reserve, can be measured in what it also did not become: a rifle range, a speedway, a stadium, an area for goat cart rides, a coal mine, a gas station, a youth hostel, elephant rides, luminous paint for Siwash Rock, a ferris wheel, a floating cabaret on Lost Lagoon, etc., all equally bad ideas. In its 100 years, the 1000 acre (405 hectares) park and one of North America’s big three civic parks (after New York [Central Park] and San Francisco [Golden Gate Park]) Stanley Park now hosts 7 million visitors a year, with 50,000 people walking at least part of the seawall every day. Although suffering an enormous number of blowdowns in the windstorms of 1962 and 2006, its retained natural state is unsurpassed and now hosts a variety of wildlife which has recently returned in numbers to make it their home.

Comrade Dad poster  
Comrade Dad poster  

Comrade Dad: A Father and a Vancouver Bookstore
[April 26, 2007 (VM) Karin Lee]
Wally Lee ran a communist bookstore on Vancouver's Skid Row from the mid-1960s until the early 1980. His quintessentially Vancouver story reveals a conflicted family which, with equal amounts of idealism and stubbornness, marginalized itself within the greater society of the time all of which is captured in the film/DVD Comrade Dad. It is also a little known story about how a segment of Vancouver's Chinese community embraced Chinese socialism and how their idealism was affected by a changing political climate in China. (see Karin Lee films exploring Chinese/Canadian themes: Oyster and Chocolate; Made in China - the Story of Adopted Chinese Children in Canada; Canadian Steel: Chinese Grit; Songs of the Phoenix; My Sweet Peony and Comrade Dad)

VPL#6655, Phillip Timms, 190-, Chehalis Monument  
VPL#6655, Phillip Timms, 190-, Chehalis Monument  

Monuments Tour of Stanley Park
[July 29, 2007 (Field Trip with Chuck Davis)]
The Stanley Park statues of Lord Stanley and Robert Burns as well as the monument to U.S. president Warren Harding are clearly visible. Other monuments such as the one to Pauline Johnson, the plaques to Shakespearean actors, the Japanese War Memorial, the Chehalis monument and the Jimmy Cunningham plaque require some searching as they are sometimes obscured from view and can be easily missed. (see Richard M. Steele's Stanley Park, Surrey, B. C.: Heritage House, c.1993 and Jean Barman's Stanley Park's secret: the forgotten families of Whoi Whoi, Kanaka Ranch and Brockton Point, Madeira Park, B. C.: Harbour Press, 2005; see also

Painting by John Horton  
HMS Discovery is shown careened for repairs following a serious grounding. Painting by John Horton  

Captain George Vancouver's voyages in and around Vancouver
[September 27, 2007 (VM) John M. Horton]
West coast marine artist John M. Horton is passionate about restoring Vancouver's reputation as a great man who was unfairly and maliciously tarnished by an influential subordinate. This maritime artist has sailed on his converted fish boat studio the entire Northwest Coast section of Vancouver's 1792-94 mapping voyages from Washington State's Olympic Peninsula to Alaska. From this, he has turned out a number of paintings of Vancouver's voyage, now sought after around the world. (see Peter Vassilopoulos' Marine Artist John M. Horton, Heritage Press, 2007 and Horton's Re: discovery '92: exhibition of marine paintings & historical writings to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the voyage of discovery by Capt. George Vancouver featuring the paintings of John M. Horton, Steveston, B. C.: Gulf of Georgia Galleries, 1992; see also

VPL #9362, Frank, Leonar , 1927, View of the Council of Jewish Women Club House , 800 Jackson Avenue  
VPL #9362, Frank, Leonard, 1927, View of the Council of Jewish Women Club House , 800 Jackson Avenue  

In the Footsteps of Jewish Vancouver
[October 14, 2007 (Field Trip with Greg Robinson)]
Key residences and businesses of the Jewish community existed in the 1880s-1930s era in Gastown and Strathcona. The businesses supported a diverse immigrant population which was arriving in large numbers at that time. (see Cyril Edel Leonoff's Pioneers, pedlars, and prayer shawls: The Jewish communities in British Columbia and the Yukon, Victoria: Sono Nis Press, 1978; I. Bill Gruenthal, et al In the Footsteps of Jewish Vancouver, 1886-2006, Vancouver: The Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia, 2006; see also

Philip Timms and bicycle at Spanish Banks  
VPL#18546, Timmas, Phillip, Philip Timms and bicycle at Spanish Banks  

Philip Timm's Vancouver: Photographs and Post Cards from 1900-1910
[October 25, 2007 (VM) Fred Thirkell and Robert Scullion]
Toronto-born photographer Philip Timms (1874-1973) came to Vancouver in 1898 with the prospect of prosperity from the Klondike Gold Rush. A complex man, Timms managed his own photography and printing shop for decades producing thousands of postcards and photographs capturing Vancouver's golden age between 1900 and 1910. (see Fred Thirkell and Robert Scullion's Philip Timm's Vancouver: 1900-1910, Surrey, B. C.: Heritage House, c.2006; see also

Lambs to the Slaughter: How and why Vancouver Became a Haven for Penny Stock Crooks
[November 22, 2007 (VM) David Baines)]
British Columbia has long been a place of laissez-faire cut and run speculation. Home-grown speculation aided with ineffectual regulation has allowed Vancouver to become a haven for stock market predators. The corrupt behavior of stock promoters, lawyers, accountants and brokers continues to plague the Vancouver investment scene and impair the city's business reputation. (see regular columns in Vancouver Sun; see also


The History of the Italian Community in Vancouver
[January 24, 2008 (VM) Ray Culos]
Italians have come in waves to Vancouver from the 19th century and have left their mark in all fields from food to jurisprudence, from acting to sculpting. Various societies have sprung up to promote and sustain the Italian culture in Vancouver but Italian nationalist organizations of the 1920s and 1930s were by default often pro-fascist and presented a dilemma for the city's Italian Canadians during WWII.
(see Ray Culos' Vancouver's society of Italians, Madeira Park, B. C.: Harbour Publishing, c.1998-c.2002; Clifford J. Jansen's The Italians of Vancouver: a case study of internal differential of an ethnic group, Institute of Behavioural Research, York University, 1981; see also

VPL #8116, Frank, Leonard, 193- , Men, women and children 
                          at St. Michael's Church on the Musqueam Indian Reserve  
VPL #8116, Frank, Leonard, 193- , Men, women and children at St. Michael's Church on the Musqueam Indian Reserve  

Musqueam - First People of Vancouver
[February 28, 2008 (VM) Larry Grant]
Still situated on a Fraser River site which was settled several millennia ago by the Musqueam First Nation, the Musqueam Reserve is the only native reserve within the city limits of Vancouver. Through the tenacity and determination of Musqueam descendants, its culture and language live on. In 1808, because of previous negative experiences with traders on ships, the Musqueam forced Simon Fraser to retreat back upriver ending his quest to reach open waters.
(see Helen Baulch and Michael Bloomfield's Troubled Waters: a profile for community action, Harmony Foundation, 2002; Sheilah K. Titchmarsh's The Indian land settlement in British Columbia: The Musqueam Indian Reserve [n.p., n.d].; see also;

Inside the H. Y. Louie Family
[March 27, 2008 (VM) Willis Louie]
After H. Y. Louie arrived in Vancouver in 1896 and starting from a base of a few hectares of Vancouver farmland, the eleven Louie children and their descendants have flourished in sports, community service and business. By H. Y. allowing each descendant to reach his/her full potential the Louie family has left their indelible mark on the city, province and country.
(see E. G. Perreault's Tong: The Story of Tong Louie, Vancouver's Quiet Titan, Madeira Park, B . C., Harbour Publishing, 2002; see also

VPL #19995, Bailey Bros., 189- , First Nations' people in canoe on the Fraser River near Yale  
VPL #19955, Bailey Bros., 189- , First Nations' people in canoe on the Fraser River near Yale  

The Search for Simon Fraser
[April 6, 2008 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Stephen Hume]
After losing her husband in revolutionary America, Simon Fraser's loyalist mother brought him to Canada. Young Simon subsequently forged a career in Montreal's North West Company which took him west at a young age. A pioneer in traveling through First Nations' territories in what is now British Columbia, Fraser had to employ tact and diplomacy to travel down the turbulent river which now bears his name. Although he made it only to tidal waters, he forged his way back upriver leading his dispirited crew back to McLeod Lake which he founded and now the oldest non-native continuously occupied site in British Columbia.
(see Stephen Hume's Simon Fraser: In Search of Modern British Columbia, Harbour Publishing, Madiera Park, B. C., 2008; Simon Fraser: Letters & Journals, 1806-08, W. Kaye Lamb, ed., Toronto, MacMillan of Canada, 1960; see also

VPL #46724, Frank, Leonar , 1979, Old post office clock - corner of West Hastings and Granville  
VPL #46724, O'Neill, Daniel, 1979 , Old Post Office Clock - corner of West Hastings and Granville  

The History of the Vancouver Post Office
[April 24, 2008 (VM) Jim Bain]
There is a big difference between 1869 when future Vancouverites had to trek from Hastings Mill to Maximilian Michaud's hotel at what is today New Brighton Park to pick up their mail and today when from its large Georgia Street building mail is quickly dispatched all over the city in a matter of hours. Over the years, the post office has played a central role in the development of the city.


Still from William Harbeck 1907 film  

City Reflections: 1907-Vancouver-2007
[May 22, 2008 (Vancouver Planetarium Auditorium) DVD Premiere with Jim McGraw]
A Vancouver Historical Society re-shoot and 3 year remake of the oldest surviving (once thought lost forever) film of Vancouver, has resulted in a 53 minute main feature plus several additional chapters such as the biography of film maker William Harbeck. This VHS project, uses the voices of Jim McGraw, Chuck Davis, Dal Richards, Grace McCarthy and Dave McCormick to take the viewer through a revealing view of old and new Vancouver. It is unfortunate the original film maker went down with the Titanic for he would have approved of the new DVD, which is being marketed by the VHS.
(see City Reflections: 1907-Vancouver-2007; see also this VHS website;

A Ride on BC Electric Railway Interurban Car #1231
[August 24, 2008 (Field Trip with Henry Ewert)
Renovated Interurban car #1231 which went into operation in 1913 mostly served the Steveston route from the north end of the old Granville Bridge, through Kerrisdale, Marpole and across Lulu Island to Steveston. The service ended in 1958. The car now runs tourists from Granville Island to the car barn at Ontario and First Avenue. At the car barn is also restored streetcar #1207. (see Henry Ewert’s The Story of the BC Electric Railway Company, North Vancouver: Whitecap Books, 1986; Henry Ewert and Heather Conn’s Vancouver’s Glory Years: public transit, 1890-1915, North Vancouver, Whitecap Books, c. 2003; see also

Percy Williams wins Olympic glory  
Percy Williams wins Olympic glory  

BC’s Olympic Athletes: Past and Present
[September 25, 2008 (VM) Tom Hawthorn]
Percy Williams and Harry Jerome were just two great Olympians from the Vancouver area. BC has produced many more such as Nancy Green, Karen Magnusson and more recently Carol Huynh from Hazelton. Behind each of the many Olympic medals brought back by BC Olympians, is a great story of perseverance, persistence and sacrifice. (see;


The Devonian Park Sign  
The Devonian Park Sign  

Historical Interpretation Sign Unveiling
[October 7, 2008 (Devonian Park, Vancouver) Bruce M. Watson]
The quiet manicured park of the 18- and 1900 block West Georgia belies the activities of its own past. In the late 1800s, six Hawaiian families turned the area into a thriving farming area. The Patrick Brothers in the early 1900s built an artificial ice arena which rivaled Madison Square Gardens and it was home to the Vancouver Millionaires, the only Vancouver Hockey team to win the Stanley Cup. An auditorium was added and featured an array of world famous people over the years. In the 1900 block William Boeing build a plant to build seaplanes. Finally, in the 1970s when a large number of hippies attempted to stop development of the area, the Devonian Foundation of Alberta purchased the land for a Vancouver park. A VHS interpretive sign now reveals this complex activity. (see Jean Barman’s Stanley Park’s Secret: The Forgotten Families of Whoi Whoi, Kanaka Ranch and Brockton Point, Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2005; see also;

History of Punk Rock in Vancouver
[October 23, 2008 (VM) Scott Beadle]
Vancouver’s Punk Rock scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s was nurtured from the same environment which gave impetus to the earlier folk and hippie counter-culture. Being part of a world-wide punk rock culture, by 1982 bands such as DOA, the Subhumans, Pointed Sticks, Rude Norton, Dishrags, Young Canadians, Modernettes etc. had come and gone, or were on their way out within a few years. Publications such as Snot Rag and Skitzoid chronicled the relatively short-lived subculture which put Vancouver’s punk rock scene on the world scene.
(see: Greil Marcus’ Ranters & Crowd Pleasers: punk in pop-music, 1977-92, NY: Doubleday, c.1993; Joe Keithly’s I, Shithead: a life in punk, Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, c.2003; Vancouver Compilation [sound recording], Burnaby BC: Sudden Death records, 2005; see also;

VPL #7182 , Timms, Philip , 190-, Cabs at the Canadian Pacific Railway depot  
VPL #7182 , Timms, Philip , 190-, Cabs at the Canadian Pacific Railway depot  

The CPR and Vancouver
[November 27, 2008 (VM) Frank Leonard]
The Canadian Pacific Railway was the major force contributing to the development of the City of Vancouver. When the CPR decided that the site of present-day Vancouver was preferable to the terminus of Port Moody, CPR President William Van Horne negotiated furiously to set up the terminus on English Bay but failed. The terminus ended up on Coal Harbour. Nevertheless, the CPR got a sweet deal of 6000 acres of land which it sold off to its considerable benefit.
(see: M. Picken’s City of Vancouver, terminous of the Canadian Pacific Railway, British Columbia handbook, Vancouver: Daily News, 1887; Donald Gutstein’s Vancouver Ltd, Toronto: J. Lorimer, 1975; David L. Davies & Lorne H. Nicklason’s The CPR’s English Bay branch; the intended terminous of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Vancouver: Pacific Coast Division, Canadian Railroad Historical Association, 1993;

Vancouver Post Office Behind the Scenes Tour
[November 29, 2008 (Field Trip with Fred Danells)]
The Vancouver Post Office has gone through major changes from being a small pick up point in a store in early Vancouver to a major four storey operation which covers one city block in the middle of the city and employs 1500 people. As a result of the continuing effort to improve efficiency, now vast sorting machines have reduced 350 employees to a handful. On the other hand, these machines can rapidly sort outgoing mail with a high degree of destination specificity. Further, volunteer past-employees are kept busy answer thousands of letters to Santa Claus from all over the world, all of which carry the postal code HOH OHO and redirected to major Canadian post offices. It is another way the Vancouver Post Office stays in touch with the world.
(see: (see May 3, 1957); (see March 14, 1958))


Vancouver's Neighbourhood Stories
[January 22, 2009 (VM) Lisa Smedman]
Although early Vancouver was a paradise for developers and realtors who sold off lots that were sometimes impossible to find alongside the freshly cut grid roads, the real stories were with its people and how their lives played out in this new environment. For example, the privileged of Shaunessey Heights built appropriately luxurious homes and surrounded themselves imported ornamental trees. In the rest of the future city area, some squatted on open land in shacks while others purchasing surveyed lots, established homes bordered by plank sidewalks. While the False Creek sawmills were a source of employment for many, others found various ways to survive and raise family in their new city.
(see: Lisa Smedman's Vancouver: Stories of a city, A history of Vancouver's neighbourhoods and the people who built them, Vancouver: the Courier newspaper, 2008; also see modern division neighbourhoods:, (Arbutus Ridge; Business District; Downtown Eastside; East Hastings; Dunbar/Southlands; Fairview; Grandview/Woodland; Kensington/Cedar Cottage; Kerrisdale; Killarney; Kitsilano; Marpole; Mount Pleasant; Oakridge; Riley Park/Little Mountain; Renfrew/Collingwood; Shaughnessy; South Cambie; Strathcona; Sunset; Victoria/Fraserview; West End; West Point Grey; Yaletown);

Stanley Park's Hollow Tree Postcard, Courtesy:  
Stanley Park's Hollow Tree Postcard, Courtesy:  

Stanley Park's Hollow Tree
[February 26, 2009 (VM) Lorne Whitehead and Hal Kalman]
The Hollow Tree in Stanley Park, a millenium old red cedar, has been an icon of the park for over 100 hundred years; the favourite location for photographing dignitaries, distinguished visitors, tourists from every corner of the world as well as the citizens of Vancouver. When the Vancouver Park Board, decided that the tree, diminished by rain and wind and with a precarious list, was a hazard and must be cut down, there was a predictable outcry. Engineers, arborists. historians, and heritage consultants and members of the public came forward to form the “Stanley Park Hollow Tree Conservation Society”. The Society convinced the Board to reverse its decision on condition that it raise the money required to get the necessary work done. To date it is well on the way to achieving that goal.

The Woman Who Fought City Hall and Won
[March 26, 2009 (VM) Shirley Chan]
In the 1950's the Federal Government embarked on a national program of urban renewal. Cities were asked to designate "slum areas" which would qualify for government assistance. Vancouver designated the Strathcona district for demolitions and the resettling of its residents, mostly ethnic Chinese, to a housing project at Lougheed Highway and Boundary Road. The City Council had obviously not taken into account the love of place and pride in their community of its residents nor their willigness to fight for what they had built and loved. Led by the indominable Mary Chan, they formed the Strathcona Property Owner's and Tenents Association (SPOTA). By tireless campaigning, money raising, and wooing, rather than fighting, politicians with lavish lunches they won the day. Federal Cabinet Minister Paul Hellyer was instrumental in having the Urban Renewal plan shelved. To cap the work of all the tireless women and their supporters Vancouver's Chinatown has just been nominated for designation as a National Historic Site of Canada.

Major James Skitt Matthews  
Major James Skitt Matthews

The Man Who Saved Vancouver: Major James Skitt Matthews
[April 5, 2009 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Gold Club) Daphne Sleigh]
Major James Skitt Matthews had already lived an adventurous action-paced life before he arrived in Vancouver in 1898 and took up the heritage cause of the city. Noted for his fiery nature as he was for his obsession with collecting artifacts and histories, his dogged dedication, dogged persistence and guerrilla tactics were instrumental in preserving the history of the city for future generations. In founding the City of Vancouver Archives, the prickly Major ensured that the history of his beloved “magic city” would be available to all who came after. (see Daphne Sleigh’s The Man who saved Vancouver: Major James Skitt Matthews, Surrey, BC: Heritage House Publishing, 2008;
see also

VPL #85559 , Daniel O'Neill, January 1, 1985 , Centerm terminal - Vancouver inner harbour.  

History of the Port of Vancouver
[April 23, 2009 (VM) Roy Babin]
The Port of Vancouver is undoubtedly one of Vancouver and British Columbia's success stories. What began in the mid 19th century with the shipping of lumber to Australia has become the import export hub of $53 billion in goods annually. It is now the largest most diversified port in Canada, equipped with the technology to handle every category of cargo from grain to logs to automobiles to containers carrying a wide variety of goods. And in addition it should be noted that it is the port of embarkation or an important port of call in the exceptionally popular Alaska Cruise Itinerary. A year-long open water Port of Vancouver has become the largest port in North America in total foreign exports. Some notable dates in the growth of the port; by 1913 Ballantyne Pier was the most sophisticated facility of its kind in the British Empire; 1927 saw the opening of Pier BC; in 1938 it acquired its own fire boat; during the Second World War it was a centre- of ship building with 100 ships being built; 1967 saw the opening of the Roberts Bank terminal, the largest coal shipping facility on the west coast of North America. Containerization required greatly expanded facilities and led to the amalgamation of two Fraser River Ports with the Vancouver Port under the title of the Port Authority of Vancouver.

St. Patrick's  
The original St. Patrick's Church at 116-12th Avenue near Main was replaced in 2002 by a new church building.  

The History of the Archdiocese of Vancouver
[May 28, 2009 (VM) Jacqueline Gresco]
Many changes have taken place in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver over more than 100 years as the needs and demands of the community changed. Initially the tasks involved establishing missions, parishes and elementary schools in a new land. Meeting these challenges fell mostly to French and Irish priests. After BC joined Confederation, greater influence came from Canadians from the Canadian Maritimes. Particularly impressive was the long lasting influence of three Archbishops--Neil McNeil, Timothy Casey and William Mark Duke. Their legacy encompassed the establishment religious orders, the building of Catholic hospitals and schools, and emphasizing the importance of post secondary education by building a seminary and a university.
(see Jacqueline Grescoe's Traditions of Faith and Service; Fraser Port-freighting to the Pacific 1858-1958 ed. Jacqueline Grescoe and Richard Howard;

The Bowmer-Shoetham Museum of Military Medicine
[July 20, 2009 (Field Trip – Lt. Col. Adrian French)]
This small military medical museum, presently located on the site of the Jericho Garrison in Vancouver, contains photography and medical artifacts used by the Canadian Army in wars in which Canada has participated. It also reveals Vancouver in a wartime context. (see “A lovely letter from Cecie”: The 1907-1915 Vancouver diary and World War I letters of Wallace Chambers, John Graham Gillis, ed., Vancouver: Peanut Butter Pub., 1998; A pictorial record and original muster roll, 29th Battalion, Vancouver, Canada, John N. McLeod, ed., Vancouver, BC, Published for the 29th Battn. Association, 1919; Record of Service, 1914-1918. McGill British Columbia. Vancouver college, Vancouver, Ward, 1924; The front page story of World War II: as told through the front pages of Vancouver’s daily newspapers from 1939 to 1945, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 1994; Douglas E. Delaney’s The soldier’s general: Bert Hoffmeister at war, Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2005)

Sins of the City Tour
[August 15, 2009 (Field Trip with Patrick Callas, Vancouver Police Museum)]
Various locations within an area from the edge of Chinatown to the edge of Gastown reveal sites of the city’s early drug trade, brothel activities, gangsters, rum-runners, and troublemakers. (see:

VPL #21341  
VPL #21341, Dominion Photo Co., September 14, 1922, Taylor Hotel, formerly Woods Hotel. On Hastings Street at the corner of Carrall.  

Saving the Pennsylvania Hotel
[September 24, 2009(MoV – formerly VM) Tom LaViolette and Mitch Sakumoto]
Designed in 1906 by architect William Tuff Whiteway, the five-storey 70-room Woods Hotel was one of the finest of its time in Vancouver being centrally located at 412 Carrall St. near the BC Electric Railway Interurban and Great Northern Railway stations. With a corrugated front, tiers of bay windows, three fire escapes and an electric elevator, the “fireproofed” hotel was run by a manager brought in from San Francisco and the kitchen overseen by a French chef. Among other prestigious guests, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen spent a month there in 1911. Over the years the hotel declined assuming the names of Rainbow, Taylor, Portland and, finally, Pennsylvania Hotel. While sitting empty for eight years, the Portland Hotel Society gutted, earthquake-proofed and enlarged some rooms, thus reducing the total to 44, converting it into a housing complex for the homeless.
(see: [for original architect] Donald Luxton, Building the West, Early Architects of British Columbia, Vancouver: Talon Books, 2003, p. 116-119;
[for July 26, 2001 recommendation to City of Vancouver to purchase site]

VPL #3115, Leonard Frank, September 19, 1930, Second Narrows Bridge Collapsed from Ship Collision.  

Vancouver: Bridging its History 1895-1980
The Photos of Otto Landauer and Leonard Frank

[October 22, 2009 (MoV) Molly Winston]
During many decades in the last century Two photographers, Leonard Frank and Otto Landauer  created iconic images of Vancouver. Both were German of Jewish heritage. Frank came to  British Columbia from a small town where his father had run a photographic studio, intending to prospect for gold, but fell in love with the country and stayed. His photos cover every  apect of the burgeoning city, and appeared in prestigious publications such as the New York Times. Many of the works can been seen on the VPL website. Otto Leonard arrived several decades later a fugitive from Nazi oppression. He had been an amateur photographer in his home in Bavaria principally photographing mountains while on skiing holidays. After a daring escape he arrived in Cuba and from there made his way to Vancouver where he bought Frank's business. He was frequently hired by construction and engineering companies to photograph their work in progress. Perhaps his most famous photograph was of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge at the time of its collapse. All of his works are in the holdings of the Jewish Musem and may be viewed there.
(see for Leonard Frank and Otto Landauer photos

VPL#10072 - View of Court House and Hotel Vancouver #3 Under Construction  
VPL #10072, Leonard Frank, September 16, 1931, View of Court House and Hotel Vancouver #3 Under Construction.  

The Fairmont – Hotel Vancouver
[November 22, 2009 (Field Trip with Eugene Mensch)]
The Hotel Vancouver has gone through three transformations, the first by that name was a short-lived, waterfront area, private wooden hotel which burned down. The second was and lavish one built by the CPR in various stages from 1887 at the corner of Granville and Georgia and was torn down in 1949. The third, started by the CNR in the Depression of the 1930s, opened in 1939 just in time for the Royal visit. This third and last one, a large elegant complex covering half a block, contains a richly decorated convention centre for 2000 people, a Royal Suite, a resident female ghost dressed in red and capable of walking through walls and the Panorama Room where notables such as band-leader Dal Richards used to play. Formerly it contained a broadcast centre for the CBC and was also capable of feeding power and water to several surrounding buildings. Over the years it has gone through a variety of ownerships and has recently been restored to its original elegance. (see Hotel Vancouver: One of the most modern hotels in the British Empire, Vancouver: Hotel Vancouver, 1952?; see also

Dal Richards  
Dal Richards

Vancouver's Favourite Bandleader: Dal Richards with Chuck Davis
[November 26, 2009 (MoV) Chuck Davis]
At the age of 91, full of vigour and good humour Dal Richards. band leader extraordinaire, is undoubtedly one of Vancouver's outstanding success stories. He is also an inspiring example of turning a misfortune into an asset. While still in school Dal in an accident lost the sight in one eye. His concerned parents worried that this might have unhappy psychological effects,and on the advice of his doctor enrolled him in the music program at Kitsilano School where he joined the Kitsilano Boys Band. Under the direction of Arthus Delamont the band went on to win competitions culminating in its winning the high school band competition at the 1933 Chicago's World's Fair. On completion of high school Dal and some friends formed a dance band. One of the favourite pastimes of people, during the Depression days was dancing.The young band had no trouble in getting hired and after an evening performing at the Panorama Roof of the Hotel Vancouver the management was so impressed that they were hired finally on a permanent basis. This was 1940, and until 1960 Dal and his band entertained Vancouverites and were heard on radio from coast to coast. By the sixties musical tastes had changed and the hotel agreed. Dal then decided that his best option was to take a hotel course so he enrolled at BCIT, and went on to be employed in the hotel business. However, he and his band continued to accept small engagements when they could. By the mid 70's tastes had begun to change again and people wanted the hummable danceable music of the 30's. 40's and 50's which had been Dal's specialities. Once again Dal and his band were back in vogue and playing in venues large and small, prestigious and unpretentious. He had contributed so much and had become such an important player on the musical scene that by the 1990's he received the honour of becoming a Member of the Order of Canada, 1994, and being granted an Honourary Doctorate by his alma mater BCIT, 1999. For a complete account of Dal Richards life and career see his recently released autobiography "One More Time!" The Dal Richards Story.

John Blatherwick  
John Blatherwick
Photo: Order of British Columbia

History of Public Health in Vancouver
[January 28, 2010 (MoV) Dr John Blatherwick]
Dr. John Blatherwick, at the time of his retirement in 2007, after 36 years of service to the city had become the face of Public Health in Vancouver. Assuming duties in this field of medicine when the city was growing,expanding and facing new health problems such as HIV Aids, Dr. Blatherwick proved to be the right man, in the right place, at the right time. He combines compassion with common sense and quickly proved that he was not reluctant to take a stand on any issue which he considered important, no matter how controversial. He was, to quote the Vancouver Sun, "uniquely skilled at turning complex medical information into straightforward messages...delivered with skill to the public". A few of his achievements include campaigning to ban smoking in the workplace, introducing new immunization programs in the schools and other initiatives designed to improve the health of school children, improving the quality of the city's drinking water, fighting the discrimination faced by AIDS sufferers, and successfully preventing the SARS virus from spreading to the city. Dr. Blatherwick's knowledge of the evolution of public health in BC and particularly Vancouver is extensive and proves that an otherwise dry subject can be delivered with wit and charm. (See History of Public Health in British Columbia eds. Ewan and Blatherwick: FJB Air 1980)

Larry Wong and his father  
Larry Wong as a young boy with his father, Wong Mow
Photo: Larry Wong

Chinatown: Personal Memories
[March 25, 2010 (MoV) Larry Wong]
Few family histories of Canadians of Chinese ancestry go back as far as that of Larry Wong who grew up in the evolving community in Vancouver’s Chinatown. His father Wong Mow had arrived in Vancouver in 1911 to a Chinese community which numbered only a few thousand, many of who had worked on the CPR. He was young married man who had left his wife and son in a drought stricken area of China to earn enough to support them in a new land. He paid the Head Tax of $500 and found employment in a tailoring shop on Main Street. It was here, at the back of the shop that Larry grew up in a community that was expanding from Carrall Street, along East Pender Street and into the adjacent streets until by the 1930's it numbered approximately 15,000. Stories abound about the ingenious ways in which the hated tax was avoided and most immigrants belonged to the Chinese Benevolent Society which aided them in becoming adjusted to their new environment. A revealing picture of children graduating from a kindergarten class shows them to be well dressed, smiling and happy. By the end of the Second World War, whose veterans included many Chinese men and women, all Chinese were finally accorded full citizenship and gained the right to vote. Many of Larry’s Chinatown school contemporaries became influential, two of the most noteworthy being Wayson Choy, author and Milton Wong, financier and philanthropist. (See: Wayson Choy’s The jade peony, Vancouver: Douglas and Mcintyre, 1995 and Paper Shadows: a Chinatown childhood, Toronto: Viking Press, 1999)

L. D. Taylor, Mayor of Vancouver  
L. D. Taylor, Mayor of Vancouver

The Rise and Fall of L. D. Taylor, Mayor of Vancouver
[April 11, 2010 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Daniel Francis]
Landing in Vancouver in 1896, L. D. Taylor was fleeing a financial scandal in Chicago. After putting down roots in the young city, he became the most elected mayor in Vancouver’s history, serving seven times between 1910 and 1934. A journalist and entrepreneur, L. D. was responsible for building the not immodest Sun Tower and promoting public works such as the airport at Sea Island. Known as the friend of labour, he paradoxically opposed labour militancy and left-wing movements. After an investigation by police of wrong doing, of which L. D. was cleared, his reputation was tarnished and he was soundly defeated by Gerry McGeer in the election of 1934, and although he sought public office several times after that was never again elected. (see Daniel Francis’ Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver: L. D., Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2004; see also

The History of Women’s Hockey in British Columbia  
The History of Women’s Hockey in British Columbia

The History of Women’s Hockey in British Columbia
[April 22, 2010 (MoV) Wayne Norton]
Women’s hockey in British Columbia began in 1897 in the mining community of Sandon, one of the first of many mining communities to form such a team. Similar female teams followed shortly after in Rossland, Nelson, Grand Forks and the West Kootenays. In 1911 in Vancouver, the Patrick brothers built the 10,000 seat Denman Arena near the entrance of Stanley Park in order to showcase the male players of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. In 1915 a women’s team was formed and in two years had matured to become the Vancouver Ladies Hockey Club. They lost their pre-eminence in 1917-18 when challenged and defeated by the rough playing (“unladylike” stick work) high school girls called the Amazons. The Amazons triumph was more long lasting and with a constantly changing roster in the 1920s along with teams like the Fernie Swastikas, Victoria Kewpies, and Seattle Vamps went on to play at Banff for the Western Canadian Championship. Women’s hockey began to fade at the end of the 1920s and by the middle to late 1930s and through WWII had disappeared, only to re-emerge again in the 1980s. (see Wayne Norton’s Women on Ice: The Early Years of Women’s Hockey in Western Canada, Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2009)

Buzzer nameplates through the years  
Buzzer nameplates through the years

Stories from the Buzzer
[May 27, 2010 (MoV) Jhenifer Pabilano]
Distributed on public transportation across Vancouver since 1916, the in-house pamphlet sized newsletter, the Buzzer, is and has been Vancouver’s unique window to the past. Started in 1916 to keep people informed about public transit, it also served to foster rider loyalty to their streetcars in the face of competition by ‘jitney’ operators who patrolled streetcar routes offering competitive rides for five cents. Although ‘jitney’ service was abolished in 1918, the Buzzer continued. Still surviving within Metro Vancouver, unlike most of its counterparts in North America begun a century ago, this tally sheet of interesting facts, anecdotes and delightful cartoons by Robert Banks (1954-76), has became a mainstay of Metro Vancouver’s public transit and serves as another connection to much of the city’s history.
(see: current issues on any Translink vehicle in Metro Vancouver; see also

Gibson Creek Walk
[July 4, 2010 (Field Trip – Dan Fass)]
Gibby's Field Plan
Photo courtesy of Jeff Nulty, taken in 2007

Of all the creeks that flowed into False Creek, by far the largest was the 16 km China Creek which was part of a much larger network of creeks, Trout Lake being an integral part of the overall system. Abundant with salmon, trout, eels and stickleback, China Creek, which was named after the Chinese Market gardens and pig farms at its False Creek mouth, wound its way from west of Renfrew Highlands from 45th to 4th Avenue. In early settlement times, the owner of a drugstore which was built on pilings over the creek near where it crossed Kingsway, would go under the store to catch a trout for his meal. Similarly, the owner of a mink farm further down the creek would spear migrating salmon to feed to his mink. Over time, the creek bed began to fill with garbage and, in the 1950s deemed a health hazard, the creek’s waters were diverted into a large sewer pipe. The sometimes-recognizable former path of the China Creek is now dotted with private and public housing. (see

Industrial Building  
VPL #9382, Leonard Frank, September 16, 1931, View of the Industrial Building at Hastings Park

The Pacific National Exhibition: One hundred years, 1910-2010
[August 25, 2010 (Field Trip – Laura Balance, Peter Male, Debie Leyshon)]
One Vancouver icon to which generations of Vancouverites can relate is the Pacific National Exhibition. In 1889 on a piece of land at the Vancouver-Burnaby boundary, a 160 acre plot which was given the name Hastings Park was set aside by the Province of British Columbia in trust for the City of Vancouver. In 1910, from its opening as “The Industrial Exhibition” by the then Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier, the PNE within the larger park has evolved over the years to meet the changing needs of the city. Many early buildings, however ornate, were not built to last and were torn down and/or replaced. Others such as the PNE Forum, Agrodome, Livestock Barns, and Pacific Coliseum have become memorable fixtures hosting numerous sports teams and events important in Vancouver’s history. Now, over two million people come annually to visit the sporting and cultural events, Playland (formerly Happyland), community concerts, trade and consumer shows and festivals. The PNE is self sustaining, receiving no subsidies and is overseen by a Board appointed by the City of Vancouver which has operated it since January 2004.
(See: David Breen & Kenneth Coates’ The Pacific National Exhibition: an illustrated history, Vancouver: UBC Press, 1982)

Vancouver Special  

Vancouver Special
[September 23, 2010 (MoV) Charles Demers)]
Vancouver is special and not for the usual Tourism Vancouver advertisement reasons of its natural beauty of mountains, oceans and beaches. The city has its own full rich character and always has had. However, given the propensity of newcomers arriving with a wish to selectively leave behind their own histories and reinvent themselves here as well as the city’s pathway through generations of boom and bust cycles which have left behind many architectural changes, one is left with the impression that the city is completely reborn every generation or two. Not so. There are unrecognized strong threads of continuity which are constants for this port city. A perusal of decades old articles on the subjects of Vancouverite’s appreciation of nature, thrusts of creativity, attitudes toward immigrants, poverty, crime, drugs, political movements, protests, etc., reveal an attitude as modern as the day they were written. Once Vancouverites look beyond nature’s gift that makes Vancouver special, they will also find a full, rich, and vibrant city that has been here since its inception.

Wreck Beach  

Wreck Beach
[October 28, 2010 (MoV) Carellin Brooks)]
Vancouver’s Wreck Beach directly below the University of British Columbia has gone by many names over the years from the time when the Musqueam freely controlled the whole area up to recent times. The present name stuck reflecting the sunken barges used in the 1920s to make a breakwater in the nearby North Arm of the Fraser River as well as a few smaller scattered wrecks along the shore. From the 1970s and almost entirely screened from the city, the beach has been a slice of non-conformist heaven and a clothes-free sanctuary where food and drinks are freely sold and whole families relax in the nude. In spite of protests and attempts by police, moralists and politicians to control it or close it down, Wreck Beach still thrives as a precious Vancouver institution with its own developed vocabulary of words and phrases as well as its own consensus rules of behaviour necessary in such an area to ensure its continuation into the future.

Wreck Beach  
VPL #1094, H.T. Devine, June 14, 1886, Morning after Vancouver fire of June 13, 1886  

The 1886 Vancouver Fire
[November 25, 2010 (MoV) John Atkin)]
A seminal event in Vancouver’s history, the Great Fire of 1886 has many variations as it was told through eyewitness accounts printed in newspapers of the day. What started as a small fire to burn brush and stumps in the southwest corner of the city quickly turned into a raging inferno driven by a strong southwest gale (although some newspapers reported the wind direction from the northwest). The blaze, variously reported as lasting anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes literally ate the city in “one mass of firey flame.” The death toll ranged between 8 and 28. Eyewitness accounts revealed the city didn’t burn but was consumed by flame in which buildings appeared to melt. The wooden sidewalks burned so fast that Vancouverites could not outrun the fire. As quickly as it started, it was over and the two-month old city had to start again.


Last updated December 10, 2010. For more recent data, please consult archived newsletters.


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