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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


2011
VPL #43418, Province Newspaper, September 16, 1955, Portrait of a bus driver in the driver's seat  
VPL #43418, Province Newspaper, September 16, 1955, Portrait of a bus driver in the driver's seat  

On Film: Vancouver at Work and at Play
[January 27, 2011 (MoV) Colin Preston]

Just how Vancouverites worked and played in the 1960s can be gleaned from select films chosen from amongst the 250,000 housed in the CBC film Archives. Even though the films are relatively recent in the city�s history, they reveal how considerably we have changed in outlook and behaviour since that time. One such short on a day in the life of a working bus driver reveals passengers exhibiting unsmiling demeanor as correct social public behaviour. Whereas the bus driver narrates his own daily work routines, in another film the voice of a waitress, who oversees a cafe selling mainly coffee and dessert - mainstays for the rather bleak cafes and restaurants of the time, is guided by a male voice-over. All pervasive smoking is obvious everywhere, particularly with the customers of the behind-the-counter waitress as well as in the environment of a musician who ekes out a living in nightclubs. Further, the films project the public face of Vancouver at the time as basically white, the main vehicle for proper social behaviour whereas a film on the interactions at the Hastings racetrack reveals a much more complex medley of peoples who were the true blood of Vancouver at the time.

 

VPL #43418, Province Newspaper, September 16, 1955, Portrait of a bus driver in the driver's seat  

Top 10 Endangered Sites in Vancouver
[February 24, 2011 (MoV) Donald Luxton]

In 1991 the Heritage Committee of the Community Arts Council became an independent organization called the Heritage Vancouver Society. Initially in 2001, to celebrate its 10th anniversary and now an annual event, ten of the most threatened sites in Vancouver have been put on lists and advertised widely resulting in considerable success. A few of the sites which have benefited from this much needed attention are the Stanley Theatre, Victory Square neighbourhood and Lions Gate and Burrard Street bridges. This year, 2011, the 10 most threatened sites are 3 Schools: Carlton, Kitchener and Sexsmith; 2 Residences: Shannon Estate, Gordon T. Legg Residence; 2 Districts: Strathcona North of Hastings, and Lower Mount Pleasant; 1 Street: Granville Street; 1 Library: Collingwood and 1 Motel: 2400 Motel. (see http://www.heritagevancouver.org)

 

Vancouver Public Library - Special Collections tour
[March 7, 2011 Field Trip with Andrew Martin, Kate Russell]

Vancouver Public LibraryThe Vancouver Public Library Special Collections serves Vancouver City as a rich archival source. Its Northwest History Collection contains heritage material (books, fire insurance maps, directories, newspaper indexes, etc.) from early British Columbia and is particularly strong in the areas of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. It similarly has materials in a variety of formats from books to DVDs, on early Yukon, Oregon, Washington and Alaska history. Ninety thousand of its 240,000 black and white photographs can now be accessed on-line. Care is taken to preserve the photos in a temperature controlled vault and must be handled with cotton gloves. As many of the directories have seriously deteriorated from constant use over the decades, its 1860-1915 Directories (they ceased publication in 1996) can be accessed online or, or all can be accessed at the library on microfilm. Other specialized collections include early children�s and young adult�s books, audition and production lists as well as an assortment of ephemera ranging from illuminated manuscripts to a page of the Gutenberg Bible. (see: Vancouver Public Library website)

 

The Natural Landscape of Vancouver
[March 24, 2011 (MoV) Bruce Macdonald, Celia Brauer]

Bruce MacdonaldThe area of Vancouver has gone through enormous changes from 15,000 years ago when the weight of glaciers had pushed the area well below sea level. As the climate warmed and land rose, various vegetations took hold with the First Nations people following the outward growth of the expanding delta. Animals such as beaver built dams creating water habitat for a panoply of wildlife. Bears harvesting migrating salmon inadvertently fertilized the forest floor with nitrogen-rich fish carcasses, thus facilitating the growth of giant trees. First Nations people managed the flora by creating meadowland through controlled burning, and maximized their take through selective harvesting, transplanting and pruning. The cedar tree was exploited for its endless uses. Fauna was similarly managed, for example, by creating sandy areas to facilitate clam harvest and fish weirs to capture migrating fish. The various streams in Vancouver could also be harvested for their trout and eels.

Visual History Map  
Map of Vancouver in the 1980s from the book Vancouver: A Visual History  

Arriving outsiders, particularly Europeans, saw their marriage to the landscape and sea a commercial one. Out went the old growth forests to be replaced with imported flora. Streams were filled in as were parts of the city. Industry and people moved in changing the landscape forever. The amazing original landscape of Vancouver is almost entirely gone today, but our city is so young we have an unusually good record of what has been lost. (see Bruce Macdonald�s Vancouver: A Visual History, Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1992; see also www.falsecreekwatershed.org)

 

 

Visual History Map  
Photo courtesy of
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward
 

Bard on the Beach
[April 10, 2011 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Christopher Gaze]
Bard on the Beach, Western Canada's largest professional Shakespeare festival, is held every summer in open-ended tents in Vanier Park allowing spectators to absorb Vancouver�s spectacular scenery while taking in first-class theatre. Begun in 1990 as an equity co-op in a rented tent, a surprise summertime attendance of 6,000 prompted the small group to reorganize under the Bard on the Beach Society. By 2011, with four usually sold-out Shakespeare plays run each summer on the Main and Douglas Campbell Studio Stages, the annual attendance has grown to 100,000, still under the guidance of actor-director Christopher Gaze. The Society, which also provides lectures and workshops to students, teachers and lifelong learners, is currently overseeing an expansion of its seating capacity to accommodate its ever-growing audience. (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bard_on_the_Beach)

 

The Cucumber Tree - Boyhood memories of life in Vancouver in the 1940s and 1950s
[April 28, 2011 (MoV) Bob Ross]

Cucumber TreeExperiencing one’s formative years in the 1940s and 50s in Vancouver meant that the rules of behaviour, dress, loyalty and obligations were clear reflecting the more limited voice and cultural boundaries of the population of the time. To children in Kerrisdale it was an unfettered life: building forts, shooting slingshots, catching muskrats, making campfires in the local woods and hanging out on the branches of a local tree, which they dubbed the “Cucumber Tree”. It was a world in which children played outdoors from dawn ‘til dusk without supervision. As time progressed and for people like Bob Ross, traditional private school imbued a sense of grounding, loyalty and duty. The 1950s, however, brought the unsettling aspects of television, Rock and Roll and the dark shadow of the Cold War. The belief that the Russians would soon bomb Vancouver imbued such a fear that more than a few became very creative with their own survival plans. (see: The Cucumber Tree – Memories of a Vancouver Boyhood, Vancouver, BC, 2009).

 

Passing Time: Photographing Vancouver Over Four Decades
[May 26, 2011 (MoV) Trevor Martin]

Trevor MartinBlack and white images from photographer Trevor Martin not only add a rich texture and dimension to the tonality of our city’s history, especially the last four decades, but also reveal a physical and attitude change. During this time, Granville Island has been transformed from a refuse-piled industrial area to a people place. Waterfront piers and waterfront that no longer exists have been transformed into Convention Centres; an open car park into the Erickson-designed courthouse. People-wise, the haze of smoke from Stanley Park “Be-Ins” has morphed over the decades into more directed protests to save land for parks, stop wars, etc.  While PNE “girlie” shows have disappeared from our consciousness, embedded Asian traditions elsewhere remain steadfast whereas city fashions have evolved slowly. In the not too distant future, fleeting memories of the Olympics will be made vivid once again by the care and art crafted into these black and white photographs.

Granville Island, Trevor Martin

 

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

Great Fire Walk
[June 22, 2011 Field Trip with John Atkin]

On June 13, 1886 brush fires started in freshly cut forest debris generally west of the escarpment and fed by unanticipated high winds, built into a wall of flame which roared over and around the bluff and through the newly incorporated city of Vancouver consuming almost everything in its path in 30 minutes. Wooden buildings still fresh with pitch simply exploded in flame and people found they could not outrun the raging inferno. Those who fled into the ocean saved themselves but others who acted irrationally in the spur of the moment simply vaporized and were never seen again. The exact number of dead has never been determined. That day volunteers from New Westminster began sending in emergency supplies and the very next day, people began to rebuild from the ashes of the consumed city.

 

Labour History Walking Tour
[July 23, 2011 Field Trip with Joey Hartman]

CPR crossing under construction on Cordova between Seymour and Granville ca 1887CPR crossing under construction on Cordova btwn Seymour and Granville ca 1887

The story of organizing Vancouvers working class within the context of an ever-evolving socio-economic order has always been with the end-goal of a fair return for, and improvement in the lives of the working man. From 1893, organized labour advocated free trade, free libraries, public parks and abolition of both child labour and the scrimping or shanghai-ing of drunken workers. When Chinese labour was perceived as being used as pawns to drive down wages, organized labour briefly saw itself on the side of excluding the Chinese. Yet, the Japanese formed their own unions and the first union on the Burrard Drydocks comprised mainly aboriginal workers. In 1912, Wobblies and Socialist Party members got around free speech issues by integrating their message into Salvation Army style soap-boxing of the day. During the Great Depression there was considerable public support for the plight of the workers especially for the younger men whose relief had been cut off at the age of 16. Because of companies trying to understandably protect profits by imposing their own unions and using city police and the RCMP to restore order in their favour, organized labour has worked hard to keep excesses in check and bring about a fair shake for the working man. (see: http://www.vdlc.ca or google search Pacific Northwest Labour History Association)

 

Orpheum Theatre Tour
[August 20, 2011 Field Trip with Rob Haynes, Barbara McLean, Arthur Allen]

Exterior view of the Orpheum Theatre with advertising for the movie 'Lady Luck' ca 1946 - CVA 1184-2304
Exterior view of the Orpheum Theatre with advertising for the movie 'Lady Luck' ca 1946 - CVA 1184-2304

The Orpheum Theatre (now the Orpheum Concert Hall), opened in 1927 as a silent movie/vaudeville house with almost 3000 seats as part of the large American Orpheum Circuit chain of touring performers. With the introduction of talkies and the decline of vaudeville, it evolved into a Famous Players movie theatre. Locally made pre-cast plaster and concrete forms comprise its many often fantastic architectural styles. Numerous local careers were started from the stage of the Orpheum such as Mimi Hines and Phil Ford, Yvonne de Carlo [Peggy Middleton], Juliette, Mart Kenny and Dal Richards; as well, countless well known Hollywood and international stars performed there over the years.  Under Ivan Ackery’s colourful management style (1935-1969) the theatre was almost always filled and hugely popular with Vancouverites. In decline the 1970s and threatened with a gutting to make way for a multiplex theatre, many rallied around for its preservation. Even Jack Benny, whose wife Mary Livingstone [Sadie Marks] who had been raised in Vancouver, flew in help save the icon. Consequently, the City of Vancouver purchased it in 1974. It closed in 1975 and reopened in 1977 as an acoustically sound permanent home for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Today, in spite of some minor structural changes the theatre retains all the glitz, glamour and glory of its heydays and is considered a Vancouver architectural gem. (see:: Ivan Ackery, Fifty Years on Theatre Row, Vancouver: Hancock House: 1980; Doug McCallum, Alice Niwinski, John Carter, Vancouver’s Orpheum: the life of a theatre, Vancouver: Social Planning Department, 1984)

 

Canadians of Indian Heritage: Their History in Vancouver
[September 22, 2011 (MoV) Sarjeet Singh Jagpal]

Sarjeet Singh  Jagpal

The story of Indians/South Asians in Vancouver and British Columbia is much greater than that of the Komagata Maru incident of 1914. Their story starts in the 1780s and 1790s with their presence in the Pacific working on British maritime fur trading ships and then, coming from Punjab 100 years later to a less than friendly reception. In 1897 Sikh soldiers from Punjab returning to India from having taken part in Queen Victoria’s jubilee, passed through Vancouver. As British subjects within the British Empire, they liked what they saw and were determined to return as immigrants. Considered a threatening block of votes and as low-paying threats to European-held jobs, Indians faced active discrimination from the start.  However their cohesiveness and resilience through the Gurdwara (place of worship and community centre) and their sense of hard work and enterprise saw them through the bad times.

Becoming Canadians

Since enfranchisement in 1947 and a further relaxing of immigration rules, Indians have arrived from all over the South Asian continent, not just the Punjab, and are now a vital part of the country’s fabric being prominent in all walks of Canadian life. [see Sarjeet Singh Jagpal’s Becoming Canadians: pioneer Sikhs in their own words, Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 1994]

 

From Gangs to Terrorism: Crime in Metro Vancouver
[October 27, 2011 (MoV) Kim Bolan]

Kim BolanVancouver has always been a safe city for its citizenry in spite of the fact that the Vancouver area has had a long history of crime. Early policing involved curbing alcohol, drug and brothel activities. In the 1940s, prudish laws encouraged bootleggers as did after hours gambling and private clubs. By 1950 heroin, mainly in the Downtown Eastside area, and in the 1960s biker driven marijuana trade became problematic. By the 1980s, the Asians and Russian gangs were added to the mixture resulting in an explosion of addictions. Over the years, various gangs battled it out for control of trade as well as prostitution, illegal immigration and extortion.

Mounted police constable at Davie and Granville Streets
Mounted police constable at Davie and
Granville Streets. SGN 1067

At least a dozen gangs are recognized now some being organized locally and some international. Terrorism is a recent phenomenon for the Vancouver area. The seeming immunity from political, religious events and eco-terrorism happening elsewhere, was shattered with the Air India bombing. No longer could we dismiss it as happening elsewhere be it Sons of Freedom, the FLQ kidnap or the assassination of embassy officials.  It has come home to roost. [see Kim Bolan’s Loss of Faith: How the Air India Bombers got away with Murder, Toronto: McLelland & Stewart, 2002]

 

The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton
[November 24, 2011 (MoV) Sheryl Salloum]

Mildred Valley ThorntonStill not a household name in her chosen city of Vancouver, Ontario born Mildred Valley Thornton (Hon. CPA, FRSA) is an artist whose works have stood the test of time; those who own pieces from her widely scattered collection, prize them dearly. During her lifetime, 1890–1967, Thornton acquired a reputation nationally and internationally but in Vancouver she was sidelined by the modern and abstract art of the time. Accomplished with landscapes and portraits, watercolours and oils, all done in bold colours laid down with large brush strokes, the story of this distinctive artist is an important part of BC’s history.

Sheryl Salloum
Sheryl Salloum

Fiercely independent, adventurous and driven, Thornton was also a noted journalist, Vancouver Sun art critic (1944-1959), book reviewer, published poet, recipient of a Canadian Authors’ Association Award for her book, Indian Lives and Legends (1966), and an advocate for social justice. Her collection of approximately 300 portraits of First Nations peoples of Western Canada, scenes of aboriginal life, and her vibrant landscapes are a unique legacy. (see: Sheryl Salloum’s The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton, Salt Spring Island: Mother Tongue Publishing, 2011)

City of Vancouver Archives tour
November 17, 2011 Field Trip with Heather Gordon]

The City of Vancouver Archives, a Vancouver gem, now boasts an online version of Major Matthew "Early Vancouver", a project which the Vancouver Historical Society helped fund. The vault and cold-storage areas house various historical treasures which are kept in good condition with modern preservation techniques. (see: City of Vancouver Archives website)





 

2012

The Drive: A Retail, Social and Political History of Commercial Drive
[January 26, 2012 (MoV) Jak King]

The DriveThese days East Vancouver's Commercial Drive is a fiercely independent, wildly entertaining, multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-sexual district with a reputation to match. From the days when natives sold its Grandview elk meat to settlers in Vancouver to a skid road running roughly along the present-day path of Commercial Drive below Hastings, and from the time it acquired the name "Grandview" for its great view drawing in early home builders, the area has been known for its self-reliance. Anchored by independent-minded people and independently-owned businesses, the area successfully fought to make sure it was not by-passed by transit routes planned for industrial corridors thus ensuring its healthy survival. It is this sense of independence that has made "The Drive" the vibrant artistic, creative and thriving community of today.

Jak King(See Jak King's The Drive: A Retail, Social and Political History of Commercial Drive, Vancouver, to 1956, Vancouver: The Drive Press, 2011; The Encyclopedia of Commercial Drive, Vancouver: The Drive Press, 2012)

 

 

Exploring a Dead End: the Chinatown Tunnel Myth
[February 23, 2012 (MoV) John Atkin]

John AtkinStories of tunnels beneath Chinatown persist in Vancouver. So do they in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle and many other cities. Even though joined basements and spaces under sidewalks exist, the rumoured tunnels don't. They never have and are figments of over-active imaginations. So why have such stories embedded themselves so deep in our in our psyche that they have become the stuff of urban legend? Tunnels have long been part of the human experience and imagination. However, mix together the early marginalization of the Chinese, "eye witness" accounts of all things dark, hidden and nefarious, early pulp fiction, side show attractions, early film and you have a recipe for a persistent story which won't go away.

 

 

Purdys Chocolate Factory tour
[March 23, 2012 Field Trip with Charles Flavelle, Grace Dale, Ross Pearson, Todd Tarasov, and Madeleine Lee Chuy]

Purdy’s ChocolateOperating for over a century, Vancouver’s Purdy’s Chocolate has never compromised quality and tradition. The company has gone through three ownerships since its founder Richard Carmon Purdy set up shop on Robson Street in 1907. It was taken over in 1925 by the Forrester family, creditors who couldn’t bear to lose the product from the market. The owners since 1963 were at first a Wilson-Flavelle partnership but now it is an exclusively Flavelle family owned and operated business under the guidance of second generation daughter Karen.

Purdy’s ChocolateUsing smell, sight, sound, touch and taste as a guideline in its varied production from Truffles, to Mints and Melties to hedgehogs, Purdy’s chocolates are now sold in exclusive company outlets from BC to Ontario making it the premier chocolatier in Canada. Today, functioning out of its 5300 sq meter (57,000 sq. ft) factory site on Kingsway, the family-run Purdy’s supports not only sustainable and responsible cocoa farming but also local community events. (see also Purdy’s Chocolate website)

 

 

Creating Chucks Capstone: Publishing Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver
[March 22, 2012 (MoV) Howard White]

Chuck DavisWhen the late Chuck Davis died in November 2010 without completing the book, his sprawling History of Metropolitan Vancouver, which he described as the capstone of his career, it fell to his publisher, Howard White of Harbour Publishing, to take over where Chuck left off and pull the gargantuan project together in a matter of months to meet Chuck's objective of honoring Vancouver's 125th anniversary. Because Chuck left a legacy of tremendous good will through his long years of public exposure, a strong team of contributors and donors stepped forward to help and by working around the clock, the massive 512-page tome was completed in 2011. By the day the book was launched in November 2011, the initial run of 5000 copies had been sold out. Five months later, it was into its third printing, testament to Chuck’s popularity. (See The Chuck Davis History of Metropolitan Vancouver, Madiera Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2011)

 

Vancouvers Visual Orphans
[April 15, 2012 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Colin Preston]

Colin PrestonFilms become orphaned when they are stored away, forgotten or dumped. Luckily the CBC Archives has become a repository for films which help us retain the Vancouver narrative and sense of ourselves. Some private non-professional films exhibit a surprising degree of context and smooth narrative and tell complete stories. Other family pictures boldly show surprising bawdy scenes such as those from the PNE that no self respecting reporter would convey. Commercial films, such as one meant as a way to put food on the table while pursuing an artistic career, show a youthful humour and brilliance that few can match. Even an unlikely 1964 police surveillance film of a Vancouver Rolling Stones concert reveals something about ourselves. While meant to act as legal support should any possible charges of bad behaviour be laid, they are a window to the past in terms of dress, responses to cameras and the limits of acceptable public behaviour. Vancouver’s visual orphans tell us a lot about ourselves.

A Vancouver Romance: John and Ruth Morton
[April 26, 2012 (MoV) Bruce A. Woods]

Ruth Morton Baptist ChurchJohn Morton (1834-1912) was one of the Three Greenhorns who settled in 1862 on the claim now called Vancouver's West End. After the CPR acquired much of their property, Morton moved to Mission, where, shortly after becoming a widower, married Ruth Mount (1848-1949). In 1888 John and Ruth went to England and where Ruth stayed overseeing their children's education for four years. After her returning to Vancouver, in 1899, John and Ruth, set up housekeeping at 1151 Denman Street. John put money towards establishing the First Baptist Church at Burrard and Nelson in 1910-11 and, shortly before he died in 1912, agreed to fund a Baptist church (left) on East 27th Avenue in the name of his wife and love of his life, his wife Ruth. This structure memorialized their lifelong romance.

 

Vanishing Vancouver, 20th Anniversary edition
[May 24, 2012 (MoV) Michael Kluckner]

Vanishing VancouverSome cities, particularly in North America, reinvent and transform themselves every decade or so because of a variety of factors: the limitations of space and the pressing needs of growth during booming economies, developers' need in the name of progress to create profit opportunities, the dominance of the automobile, the lack of an embracing aesthetic, etc. On the other hand, some cities retain their heritage by default, slow economic growth, street widths and block and building sizes that don't have to be readjusted to accommodate a new reality. Vancouver carries a little of each. Even with the city's founding mythology of instant modernity (or replaceable heritage) that began in 1886 when the city burned down and was instantly rebuilt, some buildings have been better able than others to adapt to changing times.

 

Burrard Dry Dock Tour
[July 20, 2012 Field Trip with Leigha Smith]

Burrard Dry DockStarting in 1905 in North Vancouver as the Wallace Shipyards, the Canadian company, Burrard Dry Dock Co. Ltd eventually build more than 450 ships during its lifetime. In 1928, the wooden St. Roch was built in North Vancouver by them. Also constructed were freighters, warships, navy repair ships as well as Coast Guard icebreakers, research vessels, patrol vessels and ferryboats. After going through various name changes the Burrard Dry Dock closed its North Vancouver operations in 1992 and is now a regional historic attraction. [see: Burrard Dry Dock Company History, Vancouver: J. S. Marshall & Co., 197_; George N. Edwards Waterfront to Warfront: Burrard Dry Dock Company during World War II, North Vancouver: 1995; Francis Mansbridges Launching History: the saga of Burrard Dry Dock, Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2002]

 

Mountain View Cemetery Tour
[August 18, 2012 Field Trip Lorraine Irving]

Mtn. [Mountain] View Cemetery, Chinese portionReplacing the earlier ad hoc Stanley Park graveyard in 1887, Mountain View Cemetery opened as a civic cemetery in an initially isolated four block, heavily forested space between 33rd and 37th Avenues along Fraser Street. Showing its historical roots and having grown considerably since then, the graveyards burial sites are still divided somewhat by religion, nationality, military and pauper areas, the older divisions of which are still in evidence today. The first burial in February 1887 was that of a 10 year old child, Caradoc Evans. An earlier suicide, which should have been the first burial, had to be temporarily buried under Fraser Street until the trees could be cleared so that his larger coffin could be carried to the gravesite. Subsequent burials comprise a whos who of Vancouver history. [see: British Columbia Genealogical Society, Mountain View Cemetery; index of monumental inscriptions. Richmond, BC; BCGS, 1997; see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_View_Cemetery_(Vancouver)]

 

Long Time Indigenous History of the Vancouver Area
[September 27, 2012 (MoV) Rudy Reimer]

Rudy ReimerIn what we know as the city of Vancouver today, many Coast Salish peoples lived, gathered a wide variety of resources and marked this place with habitation sites, resource use areas, place names, road networks, giving meaning to prominent landmarks. Meaningful indigenous deep history can be pieced together by a combination of oral tradition, the meaning of place names, archaeology, known food resources, geology and trade patterns.

The Coast Salish language can be rendered more understandable to non-indigenous people through a modified orthography to accommodate long strings of consonant clusters and glottal stops. Hence, we have the likes of Squamish [Skwxwú7mesh], Musqueam [Xwméthkwyiem] and Whoi Whoi [Xwáýxway].

 

Vancouver Noir
[October 25, 2012 (MoV) John Belshaw, Diane Purvey]

Vancouver NoirExpressing the cynicism and pessimism of the time, cinematic Film Noir of the late 1930s to 1950s, became newspaper noir in North Americas print media with the advent of the speed graphic press camera. The new device allowed reporters and photographers to record the immediacy of crime and corruption revealing a previously unseen fascination and moral ambiguity of people mesmerized by crime scenes. Vancouverites, who thought themselves above the crime of elsewhere, found that the graphic camera revealed themselves in a different light they are actually fascinated with crime scenes and the trials of those involved. This period also revealed that the city was awash in other contradictions. Repressive liquor laws were applied unequally depending on class. Fear of juvenile delinquency resulted in youth being pathologized; as well, political parties and groups were marginalized in various moral panics. [see Belshaw and Purveys Vancouver Noir:1930-1960, Vancouver: Anvil Press, 2011]

 

To/From BC Electric Railway: 100 Years
[October 27, 2012 Field Trip with Annabel Vaughan]

Men raising power poles at Burrard and Smithe StreetsMen raising power poles at Burrard and Smithe Streets. CVA: AM54-S4-: LGN 1191

The BC Electric Railway building at the corner of West Hastings and Carrall was once the main passenger transportation hub of Vancouver serving as the centre for the companys Interurban system extension beyond the city. It saw thousands of people daily arriving and departing to and from the heart of the city from as far away as Chilliwack and Steveston. Operating from 1912 to 1954, its closure sparked the start of the decline of the East End. Conceived in 1911 when the city was exploding in growth, architects W. M. Somervell and J. L. Putnam put together a grand design for a BCER headquarters and depot based on their experience in Chicago and New York. The tram depot and loading platform, once located on the ground floor of the building and accompanied by newsstands, and coffee shops has been filled in. In spite of the repurposing of the ground floor, the building still maintains a sense of its stately past.

 

British Columbia: A New Historical Atlas
[November 22, 2012 (MoV) Derek Hayes]

Derek Hayes

Historical atlases are a great way to gain insight into history. Through a combination of old maps, charts, photographs tied together with a written narrative, historical atlases lead to a greater understanding of a evolving geopolitical landscape of an area. Such is the case of Derek Hayes’ latest work focusing on the province from the beginning of recorded history.

From 1999, award winning historian Derek Hayes has produced 15 such atlases focusing on various areas in North America. (see: British Columbia: A New Historical Atlas (Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2012).

 





 

2013

Vancouvers Duke of Connaughts Own Rifles
[January 24, 2013 (MoV) Colonel (retired) Keith Maxwell, OMM, CD]

January 2013The British Columbia Regiment aka the Duke of Connaughts Own (Rifles), has a long (distinguished history in Vancouver and British Columbia. Having been through a variety of name changes, the Vancouver Regiment still has its base in the Beatty Street Drill Hall and as such has deep roots in many local family histories. In WWI it brought home 912 awards and performed equally gallantly in WWI as part of the allied offensive. It has since has become involved in everything from civil duties to peacekeeping overseas. The late city archivist, Major James Skitt Matthews was a member of The Dukes. [see: Colonel Keith Maxwell et al, Swift & Strong: A Pictorial History of the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaughts Own), Vancouver: BC Regiment, 2011]

 

Curt Langs Vancouver, 1937-1998
[February 28, 2013 (MoV) Claudia and George Cornwall]

Book Cover

Throughout the decades, creative people in Vancouver have had to be extra inventive to earn a living and be true to their intellectual aspirations. Curt Lang was one such person who moved with the time working in logging, fishing, photography, inventions and high tech, always moving with the times. Additionally, well placed in the pantheon of Vancouver artists, he turned out poetry and works of art. Twelve thousand of his photographs rest in the Special Collections of the Vancouver Public Library. [see Claudia Cornwall’s At the World’s Edge, Curt Lang’s Vancouver, 1937-1998, Salt Spring Island: Mother Tongue Publishing Ltd., 2011]

 

 

Alvo von Alvensleben: Vancouvers Flamboyant Entrepreneur
[March 28, 2013 (MoV) Eve Lazarus]

Constantin Alvo von Alvensleben, German Consul, CVA AM54-S4-: Port P1082

Alvo (Gustav Konstantin) von Alvensleben (1879-1965) the son of a highly placed German count, was an entrepreneur and Vancouver booster of great flamboyance. Arriving in the city in 1904 with four dollars in his pocket, he drew millions of dollars for the citys development from Europeans because of his family connections. He became a major player in many companies including the Vancouver Stock Exchange. Associated with various architectural landmarks and with the help of his 13 servants he threw parties for 600. However, his highly placed German connections fed unsubstantiated rumours of his being a spy and so at the outbreak of WWI, with his Vancouver wife, went to Seattle where he tried, without success to duplicate his incredible Vancouver good fortune and prosperity.

 

The Beachcombers at 40
[April 14, 2013 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Jackson Davies]

Beachcombers

What began as a series called Partners in 1972 and renamed Beachcombers, ran through 1990 making it the longest running English-language television series in Canada. Shot in an around Gibson’s, BC, and shown in a variety of countries around the world, it probably makes “Molly’s Reach” the most well known building in BC. Featuring a wonderful range of characters: Nick Adonidas (Bruno Gerussi), Relic (Robert Clothier), Constable Constable (Jackson Davies), Molly (Rae Brown), Jessie Jim (Pat John) and others, the series has left a legion of international fans who make Gibsons a British Columbia destination.

Jackson Davies

The series rich humour lasts until today with people like Jackson Davies who claims the only reason he got the job as Constable Constable was that the RCMP uniform in the CBC wardrobe department fit him, although, he complained, the sleeves were a little short so he couldn’t wave his arms around during production. (see: Mark Strange and Jackson Davies’ Bruno and the Beach: The Beachcombers at 40, Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2012)

 

 

Our Friend Joe: The Joe Fortes Story
[April 25, 2013 (MoV) Lisa Anne Smith]

Joe Fortes

Joe Fortes was not only a fixture in Vancouver after his arrival in 1885 aboard the Robert Kerr, but also a legend. After the Great Fire he supported himself working as a shoeshine boy, porter and bartender. He then made his home at English Bay where he became an unofficial lifeguard saving dozens from drowning and teaching countless Vancouverites how to swim. In l900 his job was made official and ten years later he was presented with a gold watch and financial bonus. His stature only increased over time and when he died at the age of 59 in 1922, thousands of mourners lined Vancouvers street to bid farewell to our friend Joe. He has been commemorated by a monument, Library, restaurant, and a postage stamp. The Vancouver Historical Society named him Citizen of the Century in 1986.
(see: Barbara Rogers and Lisa Anne Smiths Our Friend Joe: The Joe Fortes Story, Vancouver: Ronsdale Press, 2012)

 

Prohibition Vancouver
[April 27, 2013 Field Trip with Will Woods]

Forbidden Vancouver

The Vancouver of 1917 was not only awash in alcohol and the stresses of an overseas war, but the Edwardian forces of sobriety and the Womens Christian Temperance Union came together in a strange clashing brew of forces that led to the prohibition of alcohol in the province. The citizens of Vancouver, however, managed to skirt the law in two ways. In the back alleys of Ward 2 and Gastown illegal drinking establishments called Blind Pigs emerged; they were secret dens of drinking, gambling and prostitution. At the other end of the spectrum, private clubs served alcohol to their members during the ban, bypassing the BC Prohibition Act which mercifully ended in 1921. (see: http://forbiddenvancouver.ca)

 

 

The Hidden History of the Chinese Canadian Food Industry
[May 23, 2013 ((MoV) Henry Yu and Alejandro Yoshizawa]

Exterior of Lim Gong fresh fruits and vegetable store at 157 - 2nd Street. Photo Courtesy: City of vancouver Archives; CVA Bu P670
Lim Gong in front of his fruit and vegetable store at 151 2nd Street in North Vancouver in 1910. CVA Bu P670

Wherever they have gone in large numbers as sojourners or immigrants to the various “Gold Mountains” around the Pacific Rim, the Chinese have always been part of a largely hidden integrated food industry. Since Vancouver’s inception, for example, Chinese farms and farmers have been vital to feeding the city’s inhabitants. More recently as owners of corner grocery stores, major food distribution companies and even 95% of Japanese restaurants, as well as supplying cooks to various nation-wide institutions, ethnic Chinese have continued to play an important role in not only the city’s but also in the country’s food industry.   
(see: Henry Yu’s Thinking Orientals: Migration, Contact, and Exoticism in Modern America, New York: Oxford University Press, 2001; see also Alejandro Yoshizawa and Wendy Phung’s Covered Roots: The History of Chinese Farms, Vancouver: Chinese Canadian Stories, 2012)

 

The Grandview area
[July 24, 2013 Field Trip with Maurice Guibord]

Houses on McLean Drive. Photo Courtesy: City of vancouver Archives; COV S501: CVA 780-118
Houses on McLean Drive. COV S501: CVA 780-118

Much of the area now called Grandview was acquired by the Hastings Sawmill Company which logged and crossed it with a flume in the late 1860s to carry water from Trout Lake to its sawmill in Gastown. Construction of the Interurban Line to New Westminster in 1891 opened the area for worker settlement and before 1912 it was promoted as a middle class alternative to the West End resulting in a hodge-podge of cottages and mansions which did not survive the real estate collapse. Many mansions were subsequently chopped up into apartments or became private hospitals. Today the area still reflects variety of architecture populated by a diverse group whose social lives gravitate towards nearby Commercial Drive.

 

 

Secrets of Stanley Park: 125th Anniversary Historic Walking Tour
[August 31, 2013 Field Trip with Jolene Cumming]

Houses on McLean Drive. Photo Courtesy: City of vancouver Archives; COV S501: CVA 780-118
The Nine O'Clock Gun at Stanley Park
[Photo: Maurice Jassak]

Stanley Park, a substantial part of Vancouvers mythology, holds many past secrets. Some are not evident; for example, the former native site of Whoi Whoi is now Lumbermans Arch; the Chinese settlement is now a cleared area on Anderson Point behind the Yacht Club. The Rock Garden in the area of the Pavilion has only been rediscovered in its entirety. Others like the Nine OClock Gun, Brockton Point Lighthouse remain obvious. But behind the Gun and the now disappeared early settler houses, is a graveyard. And there are many more stories that the park can reveal some appearing in the many books written on Vancouvers prized park.

 

 

 

Deadlines: Obits of Memorable British Columbians
[September 26, 2013 (MoV) Tom Hawthorn]

Deadlines: Obits of Memorable British Columbians
Deadlines: Obits of Memorable British Columbians

History can be said to be made one obituary at a time because it is the lives of people that makes up the greater part of our historical narrative. Over time, just how lives have been recorded have gone through various stages from the short and clinical to florid and maudlin. These days obits are usually honest and forthright. Yet, because British Columbia has had more of its share of people who lived incredible lives spent in the shadows, the extent of their lives is only being revealed in their obituaries after their deaths. [see: Tom Hawthorn’s Deadlines: Obits of Memorable British Columbians, Madeira Park, BC, Harbour Publishing, 2012]

 

 

 

 

Liquor, Lust and the Law: the story of the Penthouse Nightclub
[October 24, 2013 (MoV) Aaron Chapman]

Liquor, Lust and the Law, The Vancouver Penthouse Nightclub
Liquor, Lust and the Law: the story of the Penthouse Nightclub

The enterprising Philliponi brothers intentionally tested Vancouvers draconian liquor and morality laws when they opened the Penthouse Nightclub after WWII. What resulted was a revolving door of vice squads, politicians, judges, con men, liquor inspectors on the take, well known entertainers as well as members of Vancouvers underworld. Tested by the law in 1975 and reopened four years later, the nightclub is part of Vancouvers historical narrative as well as a contributor to its soul. [see Aaron Chapmans Liquor, Lust and the Law: the story of Vancouvers legendary Penthouse nightclub, Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012]

 

 

 

 

The History of Theatre in Vancouver
[November 28, 2013 (MoV) Jerry Wasserman]

Vancouver Opera House; Bailey Bros. Photo ; AM54-S4-: Bu P509
Vancouver Opera House; Bailey Bros.
Photo ; AM54-S4-: Bu P509

Vancouver has had a long tradition of theatre since its incorporation in 1886. The early days of vaudeville were also fused with productions of Shakespeare. During its early heady growth years up to WWI, Vancouver brought in actors from all over the world filling its many theatres. Over time, especially in the 1970s, vibrant locally developed theatre exploded onto the scene and since then, even though some theatre companies have come and gone, the city still has a very vibrant theatre scene which continues to support a large number of actors.
(see: Jerry Wasserman’s Modern Canadian Plays, Vancouver: Talon Books, various editions)





 

2014

Suspect Properties: The Vancouver Origins of the Liquidation of Japanese Canadian property
[January 23, 2014 (MoV) Jordon Stanger Ross]

Two trucks, confiscated from Japanese nationals, at Hastings Park; AM1184-S3-: CVA 1184-87
Two trucks, confiscated from Japanese nationals, at Hastings Park;
AM1184-S3-: CVA 1184-87

Shortly after Japan declared war on December 7, 1941, Japanese Canadians living along the coast were removed inland with the promise that the federal government, the Custodian of Enemy Property, would protect and preserve their hard earned property. However, archival sources in Ottawa and Vancouver reveal the story of how the federal governments initial 1942 policy to rent and thus preserve the property of Japanese residents of the Powell Street area of Vancouver was transformed by local influence into a policy to sell all Japanese property. Reflecting racially biased influence at the municipal level, the story offers new insight into an important but little understood moment in Vancouvers history.

 

 

The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Hockey Association, 1911-1926
[February 27, 2014 (MoV) Craig H. Bowlsby]

Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast  Hockey Association
Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association

Wet and mild Vancouver did not have proper space for a professionally organized hockey team until the Patrick brothers came along in 1911 and built the 10,500 seat Denman Arena replete with artificial ice. This new arena at the corner of Denman and Georgia Streets became the home base for Vancouver’s contribution to the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, the Vancouver Millionaires.

By 1915 the Millionaires were a powerhouse in ice hockey and went on to win the Stanley Cup that year against the Ottawa Senators. The Association lasted until 1926 and the Arena burned down in 1936. [see Craig H. Bowlsby’s Empire of Ice: The Rise and Fall of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association, 1911-1926, Vancouver: A Knights of Winter Publications, 2012]

 

 

 

Image of Vancouver Through Time
[March 27, 2014 (MoV) Jason Vanderhill]

Vancouver Souvenir Folder
Vancouver Souvenir Folder

With a little bit of detective work, one can reveal, through artistic murals, postcards, advertisements in newspapers or on posters, etc., just how Vancouver artists depicted the city and province. Although this type of art is eschewed by art galleries, reclaiming it is nonetheless important for it helps to sustain the veracity of our historical narrative. Fortunately, through the internet these disparate and once-thought-lost gems have begun to emerge helping us to see our past more clearly.

 

 

Moving Images of Parades and Royal Visits from 1936
[April 6, 2014 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Michael Kluckner]

King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
CVA: AM54-S4-: K and Q P1

Colourful moving images of events such as parades with their creative floats and royal visits with excited crowds capture the past enthusiasm of Vancouverites for not only celebrations but visiting royalty. They give us a yardstick of how much we have changed and, at the same time, how much remains the same. Captured forever by the movie camera is the excitement of children and their endless rehearsals preparing for the visit of a queen and the more subtle expressions of a tired monarch just wanting to get on with it after a long, touring day.

 

 

 

The Life of a Building: The Continental Hotel
[April 24, 2014 (MoV) John Atkin]

Continental Hotel
The Continental Hotel at Granville Street near Pacific Street (then and now)

The Continental Hotel is an otherwise nondescript building at the north end of the Granville Street bridge. A closer examination, however, reveals the fascinating lives of two respected clothiers who in 1911 went into building development close the end of a boom cycle and lost the building when the economy went bust. Both bon vivants, one thrived while the other sank into poverty. The hotel went through several iterations, was purchased by the city, surrounded by off-ramps of the 1950s bridge, having ended its usefulness, will soon be torn down.

 

Vancouvers East End Roots: Strathcona North of Hastings
[April 26, 2014 (Field Trip with James C. Johnstone)]

Vancouvers East End Roots   Vancouvers East End Roots   Vancouvers East End Roots
[Click images to enlarge]

A walk around the now quiet area of Vancouvers East side, which includes the historic Japanese centre of the city, reveals little known facts about Vancouver. For example, wooden blocks provided the original foundation for Vancouver streets. Alexander Street, now a quiet mix of low rise office buildings and houses, used to be a thriving brothel district. Al that remains are the well-built row houses built in the style of the time. Many more secrets lay hidden in this early part of Vancouver.

 

The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975
[May 22, 2014 (MoV) Geoff Meggs, Rod Mickleburgh]

The Art of the ImpossibleThe Dave Barrett-led New Democratic Party’s term in power from 1972-1975 passed a remarkable amount of progressive legislation, much of which remains firmly in place today. Some of the changes brought about were the formation of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), creation of the Agricultural Land Reserve, expanded provincial parkland, the BC Ambulance Service, free prescription drugs for seniors and even the banning of pay toilets.  The dizzying speed of change brought about a reaction and his party’s defeat in 1975. [see Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh, The Art of the Impossible: Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975, Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2012]

 

The Third CPR Station: 100 years old
[August 1, 2014 (Field Trip with John Atkin)]

CVA 152-1.206 - [Construction progress photograph of the third CPR station.]The first CPR station lasted almost thirteen years as it was nothing more than a large wooden shed on the CPR docks on the shoreline below the escarpment, the bluff which was becoming dotted with CPR executive mansions. This first terminus was replaced in the late 1890s by a chateau gothic revival second station with its entrance off Granville Street. However, a quickly growing city rendered the charming structure too small and so, in 1914, it was replaced nearby along Cordova Street by a Montreal designed station. Still seen today, this large neo-classical colonnaded structure opened coincidently on August 1, the day Germany declared war on Russia; understandably there was no mention of the event in the newspapers. It was under threat of demolition until 1970 when the disastrously conceived Project 200 failed. Still not a done-deal, its existence was finally assured in 1977 when the station became an integral part of the Seabus terminal. Since then the lobby has regained its original elegance with the stripping back to its original levels and with the refurbishment of the 1916 Adelaide Langford paintings showing scenes from the train trip between Vancouver and Calgary. A treasure saved.

 

Stanley Park Fort on Ferguson Point
[September 15, 2014 (Field Trip by Major [retd] Peter Moogk)]

Ferguson Point PlaqueMost people know the peninsula only as a public park, but Stanley Park has a military history. In 1914 the point of land near Siwash Rock was occupied by a temporary gun battery when an attack by Germany’s East Asia naval squadron was considered likely.  In the Second World War the Japanese navy was regarded as the greatest threat, and as a result a two battery gun emplacement was built at Ferguson Point, in front of what is now the Teahouse in Stanley Park.  Two large guns were placed forty meters from the cliff’s edge as part of a large concrete structure that included an underground magazine for ammunition and three large searchlights.  A  camp for 140 men was built nearby at Third Beach.  Vancouver’s Town Planning Commission had opposed the Ferguson Point battery at the outset, and when the war was over the guns were quickly removed and the concrete installations covered over.  Stanley Park’s wartime history, like the gun emplacements that stood guard over Burrard Inlet at Ferguson Point from 1939 to 1945, has been buried and mostly forgotten.  [See Peter Moogk, Vancouver Defended: A History of the Men and Guns of the Lower Mainland Defences, 1859-1949 (Surrey, BC: 1978)].

 

The Other Western Front British Columbia and the Great War
[September 25, 2014 (MoV) Greg Dickson, Mark Forsythe]

World War I - WikipediaBritish Columbia’s proportional participation in the 1914-18 Great War was considerable, the province even having but only for a brief time, two submarines in its tiny Pacific Coast fleet. Canada in all contributed 620,000 soldiers, over 60,000 of whom never returned. On the home front from during the war years, women got the vote, large numbers of people left the farms to work in munitions factories, the French and English Canadian split widened, prohibition denied the population access to alcohol and a “temporary” income tax came into effect. An impressive memorial to Canada’s war effort stands on a ridge at Vimy, Pas-de-Calais, France. Here in 1917 the four divisions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force captured the ridge from the Germans. It has become a nationalist focus for the country because of the then use of technical and tactical innovation, meticulous planning, powerful artillery support and extensive training. [see Greg Dickson and Mark Forsythe’s From the West Coast to the Western Front: British Columbians and the Great War. Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2014]

 

Vancouver Police Museum, Morgue and Important Cases
[October 23, 2014 (MoV) Robert Noon]

Handcuffs (Source: FlickrBuilt at 240 East Cordova Street by the City of Vancouver in 1932, the building that housed from that day the combined facilities of the Coroners Court, City Morgue, autopsy facilities and City crime laboratory, was a vibrant place from that date until the 1980s when the services were defused throughout the growing city. Now, functioning as the Vancouver Police Museum, it is considered one of finest museums of its kind in North America. It houses over 20,000 documents (from history of squads to annual reports), photographs and artifacts (from badges to confiscated items) dating from the mid-1800s, all of which come to life in interactive displays. Aside from regular visits by curious Vancouverites and tourists, twelve thousand visiting elementary and high school students each year learn the hands-on secrets of forensic science to solve crimes. Special displays, for example, focus on the still unsolved 1947 Babes in the Woods Murders, the 1959 autopsy of movie legend Errol Flynn, and the 1965 Milkshake Murder that sent a CKNW public relations man to prison for life. The Vancouver Police Museum is one of the historical gems of Vancouver.

 

The Founding Role of French Canadians in British Columbia
[November 27, 2014 (MoV) Jean Barman]

Fort LangleyAbsent from common historical memory is the fact that French Canadians were at the forefront when the Rockies were crossed for furs and prospects at the end of the 18th century. For the next half century French Canadians were the largest group of non-indigenous people in the future province and French was the principal non-indigenous language. It was the French Canadians who: facilitated the first non-indigenous overland crossings of British Columbia by Alexander Mackenzie and Simon Fraser; sustained the subsequent fur economy at the various fur trade posts in the Pacific Northwest and initiated non-wholly indigenous settlement with indigenous women as is evidenced today by the large number of French Canadian names found in First Nations communities. Very importantly, it was the French Canadians’ hard work that ensured, when the Pacific Northwest was divided in 1846, the United States would not get it all as it dearly sought, but the northern half would go to Britain, giving today’s Canada its Pacific shoreline and bringing the province of British Columbia into being. [see Jean Barman’s French Canadians, Furs, and Indigenous women: The Pacific Northwest Reconsidered, Vancouver:  UBC Press, 2014]





 

2015

Mr. Roeddes Neighbourhood: a glimpse into early settlement of one part of the West End (1891-1913)
[January 22, 2015 (MoV) Chris Stocker]

Roedde HouseNeighbourhoods are defined by their location within a city, the people who live there, their occupations and architecture with which they wrap, identify and express themselves. When Vancouver emerged through explosive development and growth shortly after its incorporation in 1886, people settled in neighbourhoods like those around Gustav Roeddes family home in the West End. Lots were divided, apartment houses built, and different classes of people moved in to give the neighbourhood a distinct identity. Chris Stocker found that the people of Roeddes Neighbourhood were disproportionately English and engaged in middle class occupations such as drygoods merchandising or white collar employment with the CPR. [see: Roedde House Museum, 1415 Barclay Street, Vancouver]

 

Hogans Alley, Black Vancouver and Public Memory
[February 26, 2015 (MoV) Wayde Compton]

Hogans Alley (CVA AM54-S4-: Bu P508.53)Black people have been in the Vancouver area since the 1860s, but the closest thing the city had to a centralized black neighbourhood, Hogans Alley, thrived in what is now Strathcona in the early to mid-twentieth century. It was a truly vibrant, safe place which developed its own pantheon of rich characters. The neighbourhoods demise occurred when it became collateral damage and disappeared under the 1970s effort to modernize the city. However, recent efforts have been made to memorialize the community in terms of its prominent individuals, social conditions, collective actions and important institutions. (Image: [View of Hogan's Alley] CVA AM54-S4-: Bu P508.53)

 

Len Norris and the Vancouver Imagination
[March 26, 2015 (MoV) Michael Kluckner]

Len Norris' Book of CartoonsThe Sun cartoons of Leonard Matheson Norris (19131997), drawn between 1950 and 1988, captivated generations of Vancouverites and, unusual for editorial cartoons, continue to be as relevant and funny today as when he created them. With their "everyman" cast of characters and universal themes of hypocrisy, pomposity and the fate of the downtrodden little guy, they differ from the hard-edged political content of most of Norris's contemporaries. As well, Norris created memorable landscapes of places like "Ambleside and Tiddlycove" and Victoria that have coloured perceptions of them for a half-century.

 

The Urban Food Revolution: Local Food Comes Full Circle
[April 12, 2015 (Vancouver Incorporation Day Luncheon, UBC Golf Club) Peter Ladner]

The Urban Food RevolutionOur reliance on industrial agriculture has resulted in a food supply riddled with hidden environmental, economic, and health care costs and beset by rising food prices. With only a handful of corporations responsible for the lion’s share of the food on our supermarket shelves, we are incredibly vulnerable to supply chain disruption. As well, real environmental and dollar costs to food are often ignored and were they to be part of the real costs, the total cost of a hamburger, for example, would be more like $200. Cities like Vancouver, however, are taking a forward thinking role in community food security through small area food production. Growing community through neighbourhood gardening, cooking and composting programs, help to make people healthier, alleviate poverty, create jobs, and make cities safer and more beautiful. [see: Peter Ladner’s The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, Gabriola, BC: New Society Publishers, 2011]

 

Bread and Roses: The History of Women in the Vancouver Labour Movement
[April 23, 2015 (MoV) Joey Hartman accompanied by the choral group, Re:Sisters: Nicci Beninger, Barb Coward, Karen Dean, Janet Dempsey, Janet Hall and De Whalen]

Female Shipyard Workers, Vancouver 1943. Photographer: Joseph Gibson. National Film Board of Canada. Image courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.From Vancouvers early days women have played important roles as supporters, activists and leaders in the labour movement. For example, in 1900, when 8000 in the fishing industry went on strike, 700 women cannery workers, mostly aboriginal women, helped win a settlement. Women also formed unions such as the 1913 Home and Domestic Employees Union which fell apart when the union fell apart. In 1935 the striking Corbin Mining wives suffered brutal repression when they attempted to support the strike and in 1938 activists like Helena Gutteridge spoke at rallies supporting strikers at the Sinclair Centre and Art Gallery. During WWII women took on roles manufacturing and as shop stewards but most were pink slipped at the end of the war to make way for returning soldiers. As late as 1981, Grace Hartman, national president for the Canadian Union of Public Employees was jailed for 45 days for defying back-to-work order issued to the Hospital Workers Union. Women have long been active in the labour movement. [Image: Female Shipyard Workers, Vancouver 1943. Photographer: Joseph Gibson. National Film Board of Canada. Image courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.]

 

Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition Museum, 1875 Boundary Road
[April 25, 2015 Field Trip with Terry Rea]

The Deeley Motorcycle MuseumThe Trev Deeley Motorcycle Company, the oldest motor cycle dealership in Canada, was begun under Fred Deeley Sr. as a Harley Davidson dealership in 1917 and, in 1957 was the first company in the English speaking world to sell Honda bikes. Located in the same facility as the present dealership is the Deeley Motorcycle Exhibition, a museum which now houses 120 years of motorcycle history from all over the world. Displayed in this Trev Deeley collection are 250 privately owned vintage and antique motorcycles, machines which are cultural icons of desire, evasion, wonder and speed. For many they represent freedom and independence. Thus, for the motorcycle enthusiast, it evokes rich memories.

 

Daughters in the City: Mennonite Maids in Vancouver, 1931-1961
[May 28, 2015 (MoV) Ruth Derksen)]

Mennonite MaidsWhen young Mennonite women came to Vancouver to work as maids from the 1930s largely for the higher wages offered here, they brought with them their sacrosanct Low German language and a strict set of principles which circumscribed their lives. Living collectively in houses purchased by the Mennonites and overseen by matrons ensuring that they didn’t succumb to the “evils” of the city, they fanned out daily over the city via streetcar to their various places of daily employment. These young women were in high demand by many households throughout the city because of their work ethic and high  moral principles. The last home was closed in 1961; however, many descendants of the original Mennonite maids have become an integral part of the Vancouver fabric. [see Ruth Derksen’s Daughters in the City: Mennonite Maids in Vancouver, 1931-1961, Vancouver: Fernwood Press, 2013.]

 

Jericho Park History Walk
[July 25, 2015 Field Trip with Mike Cotter, Bob McDonald, Lisa Smith]


This photo of Hostelling International Vancouver Jericho Beach Hostel is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The quiet idyllic setting of ponds and expansive lawns of Jericho Park belie its importance in Vancouver history. For several millennia Jericho beach housed First Nations seasonal sites rich with flora and fauna. In the late 1860s Jeremiah (Jerry) Rogers began logging operations on land for which he was later given a crown grant. Logs taken from Jerry’s Cove (later shortened to Jericho) supplied the Hasting Sawmill Company in Gastown. In November 1892 the Vancouver Golf Club built its first six-hole golf course there but it was destroyed in a winter storm two years later. From 1907, the Jericho Country Club drew the upper classes until 1942 when they lost the lease and the club property, including trophies and Minutes Books, were dispersed among its members. Its socially prominent members then joined other golf clubs elsewhere in the city. The building served as an officers’ mess until 1945 and burned down in 1948. In 1920, on the western end of Jericho Beach, the Canadian Air Board leased land which the RCAF took over to create a flying boat station. In 1940 the Pacific Command Headquarters moved in. Acquired by the city and renamed Jericho Park in 1969, the old military buildings were converted into a youth hostel, Jericho Sailing Centre and the Jericho Arts Centre. In 1976 several of the hangars served as the site of the highly successful Habitat Forum. Just east of Jericho Park (Hastings Mill Park at Alma Street), stands the old Hastings Mill Store, now a Museum which was barged from its Dunlevy St. location in 1930. The Jericho Park area is indeed Vancouver history in layers. [see: James Skitt Matthews, Jericho, English Bay (“Jerry’s Cove”), Vancouver: Vancouver City Archives, n.d.; F. M. Chaldecott, Jericho and Golf in the Early Days in Vancouver, 1892-1905, Vancouver, 1935; Christopher Weicht, Jericho Beach and the West Coast Flying Boat Stations, Chemainus, B.C.: MCW Enterprises, 1997; Lindsay Brown, Habitat ’76, Black Dog Publishing Ltd., 2015; ww.hastings-mill-museum.ca]

 

B.C. Jewish history, 1858-1958
[September 24, 2014 (MoV) Lillooet Nrdlinger McDonnell]

Raincoast JewsThose who follow the Jewish faith have had a long, distinguished and productive history in British Columbia. In the early years starting from 1858 when relatively small numbers of anglo-acculturated Jews first came to BC for gold, trade and wealth, there was a disproportionate but remarkable period of civic contributions in terms of politics and commerce; in fact, thirty percent of the Freemasons were Jewish. When Vancouver’s popular second mayor David Oppenheimer died in 1897 a local newspaper proclaimed him as “the best friend Vancouver ever had”.  However, from the 1920s when Canada was becoming decidedly more discriminatory and Eastern European Yiddish-speaking Jews were coming into the country, attitudes changed. This change led the decidedly xenophobic and anti-Semitic Director of Immigration from 1936-1943, Frederick Charles Blair to deny entry to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution thus causing so many to subsequently needlessly suffer and/or die. Attitudes changed slowly after WWII; nonetheless, the province’s Jewish population continued to make significant contributions to the well-being of the overall society. (see: Lillooet Nördlinger Mcdonnell’s Raincoast Jews: Integration in British Columbia, Vancouver: Midtown Press, 2014)

 

Musqueam Traditional Territory Field Trip
[September 26, 2015 (field trip with Mary Point and Alec Dan)]

Musqueam Community CentreToday the Musqueam First Nation permanent settlement is located on its traditional territory on the north branch of the Fraser River. Set at the entrance of its Community Centre are richly carved welcome house poles. Inside is the Mary Point designed Musqueam logo of stylized frogs and bulrushes spiraling around a setting sun. Other artwork in the Centre often contains the “protecting eye”; as well, suspended in the corridor of the Centre is a 12 meter (40 ft) war canoe, carved from a single log. It is representative of the many battles fought with more northerly indigenous groups in order to protect their Musqueam women.

Near the Community Centre is the community’s Longhouse for formal events such as naming ceremonies. It’s modern gabled roof design contrasts with the traditional shed-roofed longhouses of the former village of Mali nearby  - the town centre at the time of contact 200 years ago.

This portion of the bank of the Fraser River represents the strong traditional relationship with the Musqueam as warrior-guardians of the river’s mouth. In the nearby cultural centre are artifacts used in traditional food gathering and preparation as well as for making clothes. In contrast, and occupying space at the edge of the reserve is the site of a Chinese market-garden settlement used during the first half of the 20th century. 

 

Vaudeville: The Great White Way
[October 22, 2015 (MoV) John Atkin and Tom Carter]

Gallaghter and Sheen, from Ziegfield FolliesVancouver had its own Great White Way along a five block stretch of downtown where mixed variety itinerant vaudeville entertainers strutted their stuff not that long after the city’s incorporation. Given the nature of vaudeville, it was entertainment for the everyman. As such, this vibrant entertainment found a home in five blocks along Hastings Street from Main Street west, an area which was originally the development territory of the Vancouver Improvement Company. This was in contrast to the more tony, upscale Opera House of Granville Street, part of the old CPR concession which ran from Cambie to Burrard Streets. (That area was for the Sarah Bernhardts and Mark Twains) Even the Opera House would eventually give way to the popularity of vaudeville and become an important venue for acts. The small area along Hastings Street comprising cinemas, pool halls and restaurants, thus became a natural anchor for less classy but highly entertaining acts in Vancouver. These performance theatres often changed ownership and names during the brisk years of the early 1900s; however, when vaudeville died elsewhere because of the Great Depression and “the talkies”, they persisted in Vancouver for some time attesting to the resilience of the owners and the unique character of the city.

 

Habitat Forum and the United Nations Conference of 1976
[November 26, 2015 (MoV) Lindsay Brown]

Exterior of one of the Habitat 76 hangars. Image courtesy Lindsay BrownAt the end of May 1976, Vancouver was abuzz with the opening of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements, the largest UN conference at that time. Focusing attention on the city, the conference drew 10,000 people from 150 countries, a big event for small Vancouver. Luminaries in attendance were Margaret Mead, Mother Teresa, Buckminster Fuller, Paolo Soleri, Pierre Trudeau, etc. Habitat Forum, a parallel utopian gathering of non-governmental organizations was organized by community activist Alan Clapp and others. For this, thousands of volunteers and local artists transformed the former military base at Jericho Beach into an extraordinary happening. In fact, this unofficial site became much more vibrant and alive that the downtown activities, drawing large numbers. The conference closed on June 11th but a strong if often unacknowledged wider legacy remained. The physical remains of the Jericho conference site, however, have all but disappeared.

 





Last updated October 26, 2015. For more recent data, please consult archived newsletters.

 

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