Stork Works Overtime
                                                  Stork Works Overtime!

You’ve heard of Show Biz. This is Biz Biz, the history of business in Vancouver, told through the activities of The Vancouver Board of Trade.

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1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
1906 1907 1908 1909 1910  
1926       1932 1933
1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940


Some 1932 highlights (described in more detail below):

  • Trade with Australia booming
  • BC exhibit “disappointing and disgusting”
  • 45 New Factories
  • Steelman tells us: Abandon Isolation
  • Wartime Registry for all citizens!
  • One-Cent Cafeteria!

Good News . . . sort of . . . from Australia

The February 19, 1932 Province (Page 20 ) told of the visit to Vancouver of Major L. R. Andrews, representative of the British Columbia Government in Australia for more than two years, who spoke to members of the foreign trade bureau of the Board of Trade at luncheon in the Hotel Vancouver today.

The paper reported that British Columbia's lumber trade with Australia in 1931 brought $1 million to this province, provided 80,000 days work and netted the Provincial Government directly $50,000. “Various aspects of Empire trade were dealt with by Major Andrews,” the Province said, “who accompanied the delegation of British Columbia lumbermen which visited the Antipodes in 1929. He remained in Australia to continue development of the trade for which the delegation laid the foundations.

“In 1931, Major Andrews declared, Australia bought only 85 million feet of lumber, compared with its normal consumption of 300 million. Curtailed purchasing power was responsible for this sharp decline. Of this, however, 50 million feet was supplied by British Columbia. The total supplied by this province in 1931 represents a sharp proportionate advance over previous years, due principally to the trade agreement between Australia and Canada which gives this country a preference over competitors. Normally it would have supplied 10 million feet. The minimum Australian tariff on lumber is $80 per thousand and on this rate the Canadian preference is $4.80.

“‘In British Columbia the government owns all of the standing timber and it draws $5 million of its income annually from this source,’” Major Andrews continued.

Doubles her Exports

“The history of trade agreements between Australia and Canada,” the Province continued, “was briefly sketched. In 1925 the first agreement was negotiated and resulted in Australia doubling her exports to Canada by 1930, compared with the five years before the treaty. Lumber, however, was not mentioned in this pact, although without it Canada still had a favorable trade balance with her sister Dominion.

“In 1929 a small subsidy was granted for ships carrying lumber to Australia, and this aided the exporters of this province considerably in the development of trade. However, in 1930 a new treaty was negotiated at Ottawa by Australian delegates returning from the Imperial Conference and in return for further tariff concessions to Australia in the matters of fresh and canned fruits, canned meats and other basic products, the Australians agreed to a preference on lumber.

Americans Losing Ground

“Until the subsidy in 1929 and the subsequent treaty, the Australian lumber trade was dominated by United States exporters. Aided by subsidies they were able to retain their hold, the speaker said. At present British Columbia exporters are cutting into the American shipments to a large extent. Support of the Australian treaty in British Columbia was urged by the speaker. Purchase of Australian goods in Canada will mean the further development of the trade to the interests of both countries and an opportunity for further expansion of trade.”

Cheap Energy Great Aid

“British Columbia is singularly fortunate in the wealth of its water power, furnishing cheap energy without which many of its largest industrial developments would be unable to operate economically, if at all.” That was said by Major J. C. MacDonald, Provincial Comptroller of Water Rights, addressing the Transportation and Customs Bureau of the Board at luncheon on Tuesday, April 19, 1932. The Sun reported on the talk the next day (Page 24.)

“‘Engineering estimates placing the available hydro-electric power of the province at 7 million horsepower tell only part of the story,’ Major MacDonald said. ‘They are based only on the power of running streams with known power sites whereas there are many elevated lake deposits, the tunneling of which to lower levels would multiply the estimate many times.’”

Development at Trail

“The enormous mineral and metallurgical development at Trail would be impossible without the cheap water-power of West Kootenay. There would be no paper industry at Powell River and Ocean Falls but for the combination of waterpower and water transportation. Even in Vancouver, at least 50 per cent of industrial plants can operate only because of the cheap power furnished by the B. C. Electric, he said.

“The most recent development of the Cora Linn plant in West Kootenay [note: the Cora Linn Dam was completed in 1932] brought the total present hydro-electric development in the province to 700,000-h.p. and sales of electrical energy in the province run to an average of $23 million a year. One of the most interesting possibilities for the future lies in the water-power of the Fraser, between Lytton and Quesnel. It has been estimated that dams at natural sites would make possible the development of 2 million h.p.

Blessing in Disguise

“Failure of the United States to ratify the proposed Fraser River sockeye salmon treaty might be a blessing in disguise, Major MacDonald asserted. International control of the spawning streams might prevent water-power development worth many times as much as the value of the salmon fisheries, once estimated at $13 million yearly, but recently averaging only $2 million.

“The speaker was introduced by E. A. Cleveland, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Area.”

Great Depression Still Shaping Canadian Life

From the Sun for April 25, 1932 (Page 1): “Unemployment in Canada should be treated as a national emergency and full leadership in tackling the problem should be assumed by the Dominion Government, said Frank C. Brown, chairman of the B.C. Division, Canadian Manufacturers' Association. Brown spoke at noon today in the Hotel Vancouver at a joint luncheon meeting of the Civic and Insurance, Real Estate and Financial Bureaus of the Vancouver Board of Trade. [note: in 1932 the Hotel Vancouver referred to is the second, now vanished, of that name. It stood at Georgia and Granville.]

Brown said that labor battalions for land clearing and land settlement would be of definite value to B.C. “if developed in a practical, intelligent way in conjunction with the Dominion Government. The chief burden in any case should be borne by the Dominion because the main responsibility of the situation so far as B.C. is concerned rests with the Federal Government.’

No New Roads

“Land clearing,” Brown said, “should be on lands controlled by the governments, of which there is much in different parts, such as logged-off lands in the Fraser Valley, light bush land in Northern B.C., around Fort Fraser and Vanderhoof, and at many points along the PGE, especially north of Williams Lake. [note: the Pacific Great Eastern Railway is now BC Rail.]

“There should be no new road construction beyond necessary repairs, except on the Trans-Canada Highway. Present road camps could be used to some extent or moved to more convenient spots. Answering objections to the battalion system as sounding ‘too military.’ Capt. Brown held that men are better morally and physically and mentally when under organized leadership where discipline is maintained. [Not sure what the “battalion system” was.]

Canada Built by Land

“Under such conditions they will maintain or improve their condition for return to various occupations, whereas when idle and allowed to drift they go to seed, losing initiative and often their self-respect. In this connection Capt. Brown voiced his gratification at learning that this very system had been advocated by J. S. Woodsworth, M.P., of Winnipeg.

Brown approved the Dominion Government's decision not to carry on any extensive public works as in the main these yield no return on capital invested and only draw on future employment, thus robbing legitimate labor of future work and reward. He questioned the wisdom of continuing the P. G. E. in its present incomplete and unproductive state, serving 3,000 people—less than the population of Vernon—while adding daily to the taxation burdens of the whole province.

“‘Unless as business men we dedicate ourselves to solving some of the problems and get more men to work we will see unemployment insurance saddled on the taxpayers, and I predict that from the day such a scheme as the dole is put into effect, thousands of healthy men in this young country will never do another day's work,’ Capt. Brown said.”

He advocated severe measures for men who refused to work while demanding relief.

Stork Works Overtime

Not a Board-related item, but irresistible: the April 25, 1932 Sun (Page 2) reported that the Vancouver General Hospital maternity department had broken all previous records for the number of babies born there in one day: eleven.

The previous record was eight. “It was,” said the Sun, “the busiest day doctors and nurses have had in the history of the department. One wee Japanese and 10 white babies, including a set of twins, form the record-breaking crew, six of whom are boys and five girls.”

That photo at the top of the page, needless to say, is not of those 1932 babies!

"Disappointing and Disgusting"

E.G. Allen, managing director of the Wrigley Printing Co. of Vancouver, had just returned from a trip to England, and Boy was he mad! He’d been to see British Columbia’s exhibit at the British Industries Fair in London, said the Province of April 26, 1932 (Page 16), and he described it as “disappointing and disgusting.”

The British Industries Fair, he told the Advertising and Sales Bureau of the Board during its weekly luncheon at the Hotel Vancouver, was “‘an enormous undertaking with thousands of exhibits and hundreds of thousands of visitors from all parts of the Empire . . . and the BC exhibit was in a little cubby hole 15 x 15 feet and consisted of a few boxes of apples and a few boxes of salmon. The apples were not even named by variety and the advertisements were written by hand on brown wrapping paper.’

“With regard to the sale of BC goods in England Mr. Allen said he had been unable to buy BC apples, and on inquiry found that dealers said they were unable to buy them. One importer said BC apples were too small. He found representative dealers knew nothing of BC butter, cheese, honey and eggs. ‘I don't know why, but it is evident these products have never been properly sold there,’ he said. ‘BC apples don't need to be sold. They will sell themselves . . . It would have been better if we had had no exhibit at all. What we need in London is a real salesman or advertising man.’

“With regard to lumber, he said BC vendors laid down conditions that the trade over there could not accept. Lumber dealers accustomed to the trade name ‘Oregon pine’ did not yet know that Douglas fir was the same thing. When they asked for Oregon pine they were told B. C. had no Oregon pine.”

Gold seekers helped found BC

John Galloway, provincial mineralogist, told members of the advertising and sales bureau of the Vancouver Board of Trade at a luncheon in Hotel Vancouver May 1, 1932 that “this province was founded on advertising of the discovery of gold in the Cariboo.” The report of his talk was in the Province for May 3, 1932 (Page 3). [He’s referring to the announcement by Governor James Douglas of the discovery of gold on the Fraser. Within weeks 30,000 American prospectors had poured into the region, an 1858 “invasion” that prompted Douglas to create the mainland colony of British Columbia. The colony of Vancouver Island already existed. In 1866 the two colonies were united and in 1871 joined Confederation.]

The mineral wealth of British Columbia is responsible, indirectly, for the foundation of this province, Galloway said. “The advertising value of the find was demonstrated in the thousands of gold-seekers who came to British Columbia and virtually laid its foundation. Those miners were pioneers who advertised the country.

“‘Even the present ‘mild’ rush for gold in the Cariboo will have permanent results, as many prospectors will stay in the area,’ he observed. The plight of British Columbia's coal industry is due to lack of proper advertising, he contended. This province's potential coal resources and excellent quality of produce make it unnecessary to import any coal here, he declared.

James Farrell says Abandon Isolation!

The May 25, 1932 Province (Page 1) reported on a talk to the Board by James Farrell, a former president of U.S. Steel. “For fifty years,” said the Province, “Mr. Farrell has been in American business, manufacturing and marketing steel and iron to all corners of the world..” He had arrived in Vancouver aboard RMS Empress of Japan from Honolulu.

[As far back as 1910 Farrell had had dealings in steel in Vancouver, and had apparently established something back then called The New York & Vancouver Line, about which we could learn nothing more, other than that it had no ships of its own. Google had precisely one reference to the line.]

Isolationist sentiments must have been in the air. Said Farrell: “People of all countries should unite in resistance to undue isolation and the restriction of international trade . . . Canada and the United States must look across the Pacific,’ he declared. ‘Vancouver is a tap from which trade may flow throughout the Pacific basin.

“‘Across, around and through this area there flow already vast currents of international trade, to the Antipodes, the Orient and the Indies . . . This demand is now temporarily suspended by causes beyond the power of the producer and consumer—causes in the most part political. Commerce is not so much suffering from over-production as it is from under-consumption.

Natural Westward Flow of Civilization

“‘With world trade free of unnecessary restrictions, these potential markets are open to the industrial nations of the world, and the possible rise in living standards and the resulting power of consumption is sufficient to blot out the present anomaly of one-half of the world suffering from a surplus of goods while the other half is subject to extreme deprivation. This is indeed a heavy price to pay for nationalistic desire for self-containment.

“‘If and when the natural westward flow of civilization and increased living standards is resumed, our industrial advance will be resumed and our prosperity will return. When this occurs British Columbia will benefit by reason of its geographical position. Bordering as you do on the Pacific Ocean, ships from your shores can reach directly four of the six continents, and traverse direct trade routes in contact with something like half the population of the world.

Teeming Millions

“‘West of you lies the Orient with the teeming millions of hard-working thrifty people, the great majority of whom, unfortunately are still existing on a standard of life materially below that of some of their neighbors. It is apt to be forgotten,’ he continued, ‘when viewing the current cessation of trade, that the Pacific area is perhaps the most rapidly developing market in the world. Even during the decline of the past two years the interchange of goods between the countries bordering on the Pacific has continued to increase in volume, even though declining in value. All other trade areas have declined in both volume and value.

“‘It is significant to note that this growth of trade was not accompanied by a corresponding increase in population. It was, however, accompanied by a striking development in communication and transportation, the constant companions of commercial progress.’”

45 New Factories

R.H. Arnott was listed as The Board’s “Industrial Secretary” in the byline for an item he wrote in the Province on May 25, 1932 (Page 1).

“A review of industrial progress in Vancouver for the past year,” Arnott began, “reveals that a total of 45 new plants were opened in the city in that period, giving employment to 409 workers and representing an investment of $885,000.

“At the last meeting of the industrial committee of the Vancouver Board of Trade Mr. C. J. Kay, president of the Columbia Paper Company, was unanimously elected chairman for the ensuing year. During a period of world-wide depression, it is hardly to be expected that Vancouver could show any major increase in number of employees engaged in manufacturing or in her industrial payroll. Nevertheless, progress has been made in attracting and establishing new plants and considerable expansion has taken place in our established factories.

He Lists the Commodities

“The principal commodities made in new factories commencing in Vancouver in 1931 are: Food products, illuminated advertising signs, machinery products, dairy products, lumber products, automotive equipment, fur garments, tiles, oil burners, wood preserving, cement products, salt and others.

“The Dominion Bureau of Statistics has just released industrial statistics on the Greater Vancouver area for 1930 which present in concrete form the picture for that year as compared with 1929. Forty-five firms commenced manufacturing in 1930, largely due to the efforts of the industrial department of the Vancouver Board of Trade. [Emphasis added by this web site.]

Manufacturers’ Directory

“Let us review for a moment,” Arnott continues, “the internal operations of the industrial department. As a result of the compilation of a manufacturers' directory, covering all British Columbia products, prospective manufacturers are enabled to obtain a complete picture of what is being made in Vancouver and realize at once the diversification and success of those enterprises. Western Canadian purchasing agents find this a most useful reference and have made use of it most loyally in giving our manufacturers preference to the exclusion of Eastern Canadian and foreign competition. They have played no small part by their efforts in supporting our factories. In addition, this, the first comprehensive directory of its kind ever published in Western Canada, has been of inestimable value in a great many other channels by promoting the consumption of B. C. products.

Industrial Survey

He referred briefly to an industrial survey carried out by The Board, “compiled to present in pleasing and accurate form all the preliminary information an interested manufacturer would require in his primary investigations of the feasibility of making his products here, prior to a personal visit. The distribution of this survey was most carefully planned, care being exercised to get it into the hands of plant executives most likely to require the data it contained and to influence them in considering Vancouver as the best place in which to erect their plant.

“Many hundreds of worthwhile contacts have been made by this means which should, with the improvement in industrial conditions, lead to the establishment of new factories in Vancouver, directly due to the department's efforts . . . The constant enquiries received have proved the absolute need for such data, which was not available in the city prior to the department's inception.”

Empire Conference in Vancouver

The Empire Conference was highlighted in two Vancouver dailies today. The big event was held in the Hotel Vancouver and sponsored by the Vancouver Board of Trade, and a highlight was visits by delegates from Australia and New Zealand.

“Distinguished delegates from ‘down under’,” said the Sun, “were introduced by President Harold Brown of the Vancouver Board of Trade which sponsored the notable gathering in honor of the visitors. Rt. Hon. S. M. Bruce of Australia and Rt. Hon. J. G. Coates of New Zealand, heading their respective delegations, responded to introductions and the speakers were Hon. H. S. Gullett, Australian Minister of Trade and Customs' and Hon. W. Downie Stewart, New Zealand Minister of Trade and Finance, a notably effective orator in spite of being bound to a wheel chair.

“Mr. Stewart gave eloquent credit to Canada for showing the other dominions and the Empire as a whole the way to self-government coupled with unquestioned allegiance to a common sovereign. Senator A. D. McRae, representing Premier R. B. Bennett and the Government of Canada, and Ald. E. W. Dean, representing Mayor L. D. Taylor, were among head table guests.”

[Today, we’d call R.B. Bennett “Prime Minister.”]

“‘Of the many facts that bind Canada to the Antipodes,’ said Mr. Gullett, ‘the loneliness of the two Dominions away by themselves in the Southwestern Pacific was the chief. We watch therefore with very approving and not altogether unselfish interest the tendency of your Northwest provinces to turn a heavy portion of their trade towards the Pacific seaboard. We like the idea that Canada will inevitably become not only a great force in the Atlantic but also in the Pacific.’

“During the War, Mr. Downie continued, the Dominions were comrades in arms. Owing to the present world depression and catastrophic fall in prices they were now companions in distress.

“‘But, if we are companions in distress we are also companions in good fortune. We enjoy the inestimable privilege of being part of the British Empire, and we live under the august prestige and power of that great country whose sovereign and peculiar virtue is that she has grown gray in the art of governming men. Great Britain alone has learned the paradoxical secret that if you wish to bind men to you, you must leave them free to live their own lives, to observe their own customs and to govern themselves.’

Left for Ottawa

“Scores of Vancouverites attending the luncheon were at the CPR station at 3 p.m. when the visitors left for Ottawa and gave the delegates a final sendoff. Mayor L. D. Taylor, Ald. E. W. Dean and Ald. Harry DeGraves were at the station to wish the party bon voyage and the Firemen's Band added music to the colorful send-off . . . During their brief stay in Vancouver the distinguished visitors from ‘down under’ had every opportunity to see as much as possible of Vancouver. Automobiles were placed at their disposal from early morning by members of Vancouver Board of Trade, who drove them about the scenic beauties of the city and environs.”

One-Cent Cafeteria

The Board of Trade is not involved in this story—unless some of its more impecunious members were patrons!—but it’s wonderfully illustrative of the times.


Wrote the Vancouver Sun on July 15, 1932 (Page 4): “Here in Vancouver, you can get a full course meal for less than 10 cents, and ‘sinkers and’ for a nickle. [We’re guessing that ‘sinkers and’ means donuts and coffee.]

“‘No item more than three cents,’ is the menu slogan of the One Cent Cafeteria which opened Wednesday at 44 East Hastings Street. In its first seven-and-a-half hours of business it served 790 persons.

“The average cost to the customer per meal was seven cents. And you don't have to ‘gobble and git’ either. There's lots of room to eat your meal in comfort. A Vancouver Sun reporter had a full course meal at noon today and if he had paid for it, it would have cost him just 13 cents. He was the guest of J. C. Keenan and Ray Ellis, who are operating the unusual venture.

“Both are Vancouver men. Mr. Ellis having attended school here and lived in Vancouver all his life. The quality of the food was excellent.

“Here's part of the menu, all visible from clean steam tables and counters: Ten-cent size bowl of soup, 3 cents; generous helping beef stew, 3 cents; two slices of whole wheat bread, 1 cent; butter, 1 cent; coffee, 1 cent; milk, 1 cent; and sugar 1 cent. Three prunes cost 1 cent, and a big basting spoonful of pork and beans, 1 cent.

“Rice custard pudding with creamy milk is 2 cents. Potatoes, onions, carrots and other vegetables sell for 1 cent. Doughnuts are 1 cent each.

“The restaurant operates on cafeteria lines, and employs all-white help. It is excellently furnished and beautifully decorated. There are no seats, but roomy counter-tables. There is a big kitchen on most modern lines.

“Mr. Keenan and Mr. Ellis have been studying the idea for many months. They are hopeful that with a sufficient volume of business the one cent cafeteria will be successful.”

What else was happening locally in 1932?

For a once-over-lightly look at the history of The Vancouver Board of Trade, go here.

Next: 1933 »











The CPR's downtown tunnel opened July 17, 1932.
The CPR's downtown tunnel opened July 17, 1932.






































































E.A. Cleveland (photo:
E.A. Cleveland


























































BC goodies at the Victoria Produce Co., 1743 Commercial, in 1932.
Leonard Frank photographer. Vancouver Public Library Collection