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The Great Depression had settled like a sodden shroud on the city. Thousands of us were on relief (34,000 at the peak), and hundreds more were riding the rods into town on every freight train. (The author’s father was one of them.) The Sun’s Alan Morley counted 1,250 men in the breadline at First United Church. The city's relief cost for the 1931-1932 year was over $1.3 million. A symbol of the economic downturn: the unfinished form of the Hotel Vancouver.

January The old Hastings Mill Store, now moved to Pioneer Park at the north foot of Alma, was officially opened as a museum.

February 26 Singer Johnny Cash born.

February 28 Actor Don Francks born in Vancouver.

February Victor Odlum killed the Star, a morning paper, when the printers refused to take a pay cut. Now the city was back to two newspapers, the Sun and the Province, both evening sheets. (Some of the people who worked for the Star would launch the News in November. It had a short life. But then they and others would launch the Vancouver News-Herald in 1933.)

February The Strand Theatre, on the south side of Georgia Street at Seymour, was closed as a result of the Depression. (One of the regular vaudeville attractions at the theatre, the great Fanchon and Marco musical productions from California, was transferred to the Orpheum, as was Earl Hill, the Strand’s orchestra conductor.) The theatre would reopen in 1933.

March 31 The advent of sound didn’t entirely kill off silent movies. On this 1932 date the Beacon Theatre (the old Pantages) on Hastings Street was showing the 1915 classic Birth of a Nation.

May 27 The first performance of the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra.

April 13 Famed pianist Ignace Paderewski performed at the Vancouver Arena. Eight years later he was at the head of the Polish government in exile during the Second World War!

Also April 13 Sister Frances (Mrs. Fanny Dalrymple Redmond), our first public health nurse, died in Vancouver aged about 80. She was born c. 1852 in England, arrived in Vancouver not long after the Great Fire of June 13, 1886. She was a nurse at St. James’ Church, and was called the “Florence Nightingale of the City” for her nursing care during the smallpox epidemic of the 1890s.

April 14 B.C.’s 27th premier, William Richards "Bill" Bennett was born in Kelowna to W.A.C. and May Bennett.

April 25 The Vancouver Sun 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.”

April 26 UBC researcher Michael Smith, 1993 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, was born in Blackpool.

April The Vancouver Police Department inaugurated a full radio system in April of 1932.

May 4 A large demonstration by the unemployed occurred at Vancouver City Hall.

May 16 Robert Dollar, steamship lines president, died in San Rafael, California aged about 88. He was born in 1844 in Falkirk, Scotland, came to Eastern Canada at 14. By age 19 Dollar was an experienced lumberjack. He moved to California in 1888 and bought Newsboy, the first in a shipping empire of More than 100 vessels. In 1912 he established the Canadian Robert Dollar Co. in Vancouver to run the fleet of Dollar Steamship Line of California. Timber stands bought from the B.C. government supplied his sawmill on Burrard Inlet. The Dollar flag, a white dollar sign on a red background, was known worldwide. He was called “The Pacific's Grand Old Man.”

Spring The first Bradner flower show was attended by huge crowds with a grand concert and dance in the evening.

June The Capilano Timber Company mills are destroyed by fire. The company, started in 1917, ran a logging railway up the Capilano Valley to bring out the red cedar for which the Valley was famous. One of its bridges, the Houlgate Creek Trestle (named for R. Kerr Houlgate, one of the company owners), was 400 feet long and 90 feet high.

July 1 “A snip of a pair of golden scissors in the hands of Mayor Louis D. Taylor,” ran a news report today, “and Vancouver's $3 million Burrard Bridge was opened to the public Friday afternoon, July 1 . . . Hardly was the ribbon cut in front of the devouring eyes of movie cameras, than thousands of pedestrians and hundreds of cars surged across the magnificent white structure in a procession of triumph, celebrating another step in Vancouver's progress.”

The Kitsilano Boy's Band played; so did the Fireman's Band. An RCAF seaplane zoomed under the bridge, “to the great amazement of the congregated thousands.”

At a civic reception later, in the Hotel Vancouver, a replica of the bridge was unveiled. It was made of sugar.

The architect (of the concrete version) was G.L. Thornton Sharp, of Sharp and Thompson. It was Sharp who was responsible for the most noticeable physical feature of the bridge, those tall galleries in the middle. “Both central piers,” Sharp told a reporter, “were designed and connected with an overhead gallery across the road. This helped to mask the network of steel in the truss from the two approaches, and has been treated as an entrance gateway to the city.”

So if you've ever wondered what those two big concrete structures were for, the answer is they're to hide all that messy steel. (The story that people once lived in apartments inside one or both of them is an urban myth.)

The bridge piers have provision for a rapid transit vertical lift span beneath the highway deck, but it was never installed.

Busts of Captain Vancouver and Harry Burrard jut out from the bridge’s superstructure (a V under Vancouver’s bust, a B under Burrard’s), a gleaming and colorful coat of arms welcomes the visitor, and—bridge engineer John Grant’s inspiration—there are huge lamps at both ends of the span, a tribute to Canadian WWI prisoners of war, who huddled around open fires in their prison camps.

There’s a sheaf of correspondence at the Vancouver City Archives between Grant and an American consulting engineer (and friend) whom Grant had commissioned to advise him during the building of the bridge. It amounts to a continuing progress report on the work, much of it technical, and contains some fascinating stuff about a rival, a very well known Vancouver engineer, who tried to get the work away from him. (Grant, by the way, was the engineer for the present-day Granville Street Bridge, too.)

One small change that resulted from the construction of the Burrard Bridge: Cedar Street disappeared. When the bridge went in, it connected to Cedar Street south of the bridge—the name Burrard was simply extended and Cedar disappeared.

Road crews working on the northern approaches to the bridge paved over the ruins of Chip-kaay-am, Chief George's potlatch house.

July 17 The first CPR trains began to run through a tunnel under the downtown, built to get the trains off city streets. That same tunnel is used today by SkyTrain. “It was built,” says Robert Harris in The Greater Vancouver Book, “by Northern Construction Co. and J.W. Stewart, for $1.6 million. The tunnel is 6 to 24 metres below the surface and is 1,395.72 metres in length. It follows an elongated S-curve, starting with the west portal on Burrard Inlet (now the Waterfront terminal for SkyTrain,) curves left up Thurlow, and switches back south under Dunsmuir, follows Dunsmuir to Cambie, then curves again almost due south, ending at the east portal near the Georgia Viaduct.” A new eastern portal was built to the north of the original when the tunnel was rebuilt for SkyTrain use. The new portal features two bores. Most of the original tunnel floor was slightly lowered to accommodate stacking the east and west-bound tracks of the SkyTrain just inside the new portals.

August 1 The Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), forerunner of the NDP, was founded in Calgary. Its first leader was James Woodsworth.

August 20 Vancouver beer parlors can now be open from 9.30 am to 11.30 pm.

August 31 Columnist Allan Fotheringham was born.

September 8 Singer Patsy Cline was born.

September 9 Future entrepreneur Peter Toigo was born in Powell River, B.C. In December 1982 he will buy the White Spot restaurant chain.

September 17 New Vancouver coroner's court and city morgue opened at 238-240 East Cordova. Today, that little building is the Vancouver Police Museum.

September 25 Pianist Glenn Gould was born.

October 3 Broadcaster and politician Hugh Curtis was born.

October 18 B.C.’s lieutenant governor Iona Campagnolo (the first woman appointed to that post) was born on Galiano Island.

October Construction began on homes in the British Properties in West Vancouver which, at the height of the Depression, gave 150 local men steady employment.

October The province established relief camps for single unemployed men . . . of which there were many. (More than 6,000 by 1934.)

November 1 Some former Star staffers, including Gus Sivertz and J. Edward Norcross, started up a newspaper called the News. Its offices were at 614 West Pender. It lasted five months.

November 13 The Vancouver Garrison dedicated a plaque marking the site of the city’s first drill hall. It’s in the lobby of the Shelly Building across Pender from the Old Sun Building. (It was from that location that a small contingent of men left Vancouver for the Boer War in 1899.)

November 17 Broadcaster, politician and ombudsman Barrie Clark was born.

November 21 The Province cited a young local "artiste" and "promising composer" named Jean Coulthard.

December 8 Businessman (and ex-politician) H.H. Stevens walked around Stanley Park on his 54th birthday. He continued his birthday walk for 40 years. His last was December 8, 1972 when he was 94. He died June 14, 1973.

December 20 Burnaby, battered by the Depression, defaulted on its bond payments and went into receivership December 31—and would stay in it until 1942. North Vancouver District suffered the same fate. Like a lot of struggling places in North America, the District—its tax base hammered by the loss to North Van City of major industries and the lucrative ferry service—collapsed into bankruptcy. One old-timer recalled jigging for salmon in local streams to have something for dinner. Some 75 per cent of landowners saw their property revert to the municipality for unpaid taxes. The District was placed under the control of a commissioner, Charles Tisdall, and would not have representative government again until 1951.

December 25 Greater Vancouverites listen to the first Christmas radio message from the sovereign as George V speaks from Sandringham.

Also in 1932

In the 1932-33 season Vancouver will ship out 96,869,841 bushels of wheat, making it the world’s largest grain port.

The City of Vancouver formally recognized Major J.S. Matthews as the city archivist, and paid him an honorarium of $30 per month. This would later lead to a dispute. See Donna Jean McKinnon’s article.

Vancouver racer Percy Williams ran in the 1932 Olympic Games, but pulled up short with a severe muscle injury. He would never race again.

The Richmond Review newspaper began publication.

Mrs. J.R. Paton won first prize for her griddle scones at the Surrey Agricultural Fair.

Italy-born Oreste and Agnes Notte move to Vancouver from Victoria and open a bakeshop at 14th and Granville. (Three years later they would move the shop, called Notte’s Bon Ton, downtown.)

Jimmy Pattison, 4, moves with his family from his hometown, Luseland, Sask., to Saskatoon.

Australian aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith was knighted. For more on Sir Charles and his connection with Vancouver, see this item.

The M.V. Scenic began service, the only floating post office in the British Empire. She will serve to 1968, known as the Burrard Inlet T.P.O. (Travelling Post Office.)

Future judge Angelo Branca, 29, born March 21, 1903 in Mount Sicker on Vancouver Island, became Canadian amateur middleweight boxing champion. “I was a tough little bastard,” he said, “tough as hell and all solid muscle.”

An outside worker for Surrey Municipality this year was paid between 37.5 cents and 56.25 cents an hour.

Thanks to site visitor Malcolm Page, we learn that the Australian XI touring cricket team played B.C. at Brockton Point in 1932. Don Bradman, the greatest batsman of all, played there and described the ground as the loveliest in the world.

The Burrard Inlet Tunnel & Bridge Company went bankrupt, and ownership of the Second Narrows Bridge (the first one) eventually passed to the Crown. The bridge would be closed for four years. Despite all the accidents the bridge had undergone, there were no injuries.

Cooper & Smith Towing, which had started operations on the Fraser River in 1919, became Westminster Tug Boats Inc. They began to specialize in boat handling in Burrard Inlet.

Likely B.C.’s most famous artist, Jack Shadbolt came to Vancouver this year. He was born in Shoeburyness, Essex, England February 4, 1909. He came to BC in 1912, to Vancouver in 1932. He would teach at the Vancouver School of Art for nearly 30 years.

The Vancouver Concert Orchestra, a predecessor to the CBC Radio Orchestra, was formed by John Avison. “In those days,” Avison once told a Province interviewer, “we played a lot of light music, and we used to do radio shows from the CN station and the Hotel Vancouver.” Avison took over his new duties with enormous enthusiasm. He did everything: chose the repertoire, conducted, selected the players and handled the contracting. (He was, by the way, a superb accompanist and performed with many of the internationally recognized performers who visited Vancouver.)

York House School, a private girls’ school in Vancouver, was founded in 1932 by Lena Cotsworth Clarke, who called the school after her home town, the ancient cathedral city of York, England. York, in turn, was named for the House of York whose symbol is the York Rose, which the school adopted as part of its crest.

It became possible for the first time this year—thanks to the “Copper Highway”—to place a call to the other side of Canada without having it route through American cities. When the first trans-Canada telephone call—it was between Vancouver and Montreal—was placed in 1916 the circuit ran 6,763 kilometres through Buffalo, Chicago, Omaha, Salt Lake City and Portland, Oregon.

Thanks to local aviation pioneer Don MacLaren and Canadian Airways you could now fly to Victoria for $20. “The plane,” Sean Rossiter wrote, “was a luxurious eight-seat Sikorsky S-38 amphibian that made two or three flights a day to and from Victoria at $20 a seat, out of an office at the foot of Cardero Street on Coal Harbour.” Unfortunately, the Sikorsky was not designed to withstand the effects of salt water. Within two years, it was ‘just one gob of corrosion,’ according to maintenance engineer Rex Chandler. View this site.

The CNRV Players, heard across the country on the railway's network from the CNR's Vancouver station since 1927, wrapped it up.

New Westminster’s St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church was damaged by fire, but successfully repaired.

Winona Grace Woodsworth, 26, the daughter of J. S. Woodsworth, who founded the CCF, precursor to the NDP, married a Labour MP from Vancouver named Angus MacInnis. Grace McInnis would go on to become one of Canada’s most famous (and effective) politicians, first elected in 1941.

Vancouver-born Cecil Merritt, 23, who will become famous in 1942 as a winner of the Victoria Cross, was called to the bar.

The Great Depression forced a reduction this year in UBC operating grants by the provincial government. Students mounted a successful publicity campaign against a suggestion that the University be closed; still, the budget was reduced from $626,000 to $250,000 and salaries were reduced.

The Depression just kept on coming. In 1928 the Canadian National Railway had started to build a huge chateau-style hotel at Georgia and Hornby Streets, but a depressed economy brought a halt to construction in 1932. The building stood uncompleted for five years. (We know it today as the Hotel Vancouver.)

The Jewish Administrative Council was founded.

“With the growth of the second generation, Canadian-born and schooled,” Cyril Leonoff, chronicler of local Jewish history has written, “a demand arose for the formation of a modern congregation without segregation of the sexes and with greater English-speaking content. This led in 1932 to the inauguration of a Conservative congregation, Beth Israel (House of Israel), which reconciles the traditional values of Judaism with modern forms.”

Duce McNaughton, a Magee High school grad who led his school to the first ever provincial boys’ basketball championship, won the high jump at the Los Angeles Olympics.

The Vancouver Rowing Club, coached by Bob Johnston, won a bronze medal in the 1932 Olympic double sculls event. One of the crew is Ned Pratt, soon to be a well-known architect. His partner: Noel de Mille.

17-year-old Stan Leonard won the B.C. Amateur golf championship. He would do it again.

The Vancouver Curling Club affiliated with the Forum.

A seaside pool is built at Stanley Park’s Second Beach.

In September, 1931 the Canadian Amateur Lacrosse Association had established box lacrosse as its official game, and in 1932 Reginald “Pop” Phillips brought the box version ("boxla") to B.C.

Vermilion, Alberta-born Gerald “Cap” Hobbis, 14, traded a bunch of old magazines for his first bicycle. He repaired it in his basement and sold it to his first customer, Fred Bramley, for $10. Cap will become a hugely successful bicycle retailer.

Thomas Coldicutt bought 500 acres at Crescent Beach, and built homes, a villa with lodges, a stable and tennis courts. These are today's Ocean Ridge townhouses.

The children of pioneer William Henry Ladner erected a plaque on the clock tower in Delta beside the museum. William and his brother Thomas Ellis Ladner were the first settlers in the area named for them.

Dr. Harry Warren began teaching at the B.C. and Yukon Chamber of Mines, his students being prospective prospectors. Warren would be vice-president of the Chamber from 1939 to 1951 and president from 1952 to 1954. (He is equally known as an amateur sports executive, and his name will pop up often in the book.)

At one time, if you had turned off every electrical installation Lennox Mackenzie designed in Vancouver, half the city would have been plunged into darkness. His work, starting in 1932, would go on to include the exterior lighting on city hall, the lighting of the Stanley Park Causeway, a lot of street lighting, all of the city’s major hospitals, a lot of hotels, stores, factories, apartment blocks, houses and office buildings.

North Shore citizens donated shrubbery and plants from their own gardens to complete the landscaping of the North Vancouver General Hospital, which had opened in 1929.

Michael W. Brighouse, one of Lulu Island's largest landowners, died. His father was pioneer Samuel Brighouse.

Farmers from the drought-stricken Prairies loaded their families into old vehicles and began to come West. Many squatted on land in Surrey, and some of those eventually bought land and became established.

Harold Brown was chair of the Vancouver Board of Trade.

B.C. Motor Transportation and B.C. Rapid Transit, both subsidiaries of the B.C. Electric Railway, were merged under the umbrella of Pacific Stage Lines, a wholly-owned B.C.E.R subsidiary and one of the largest intercity bus companies in Canada.

Josephine A. Dauphinee became president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs, would hold the post to 1935.

The Women's Auxiliary to the Rotary Clinic for Chest Diseases, founded in 1921, changed its name to the Rotary Women's Auxiliary. It remained a separate entity and financially independent of the Rotary Club.

Ephraim and Anne Sugarman founded Congregation Beth Israel.

William Woodward became Honorary Colonel of the 15th Field Regiment (RCA).

Ben Wosk, about 19, began dealing in old stoves from a small shop on Granville. He would become a major furniture dealer.

Ivan Ackery, manager since 1930 of the Dominion Theatre on Granville Street, began to show his promotional drive. In his autobiography, Fifty Years on Theatre Row, he says, “I began to do some good promotion work while at the Dominion. There was a 1932 Gracie Fields movie called Looking on the Bright Side that hadn’t been doing too well in early showings on the circuit, so we really went to work on it. We worked with the newspaper, giving free passes to the film to cooperative advertisers; we got free window space in shops, where we hid free passes among the merchandise and lucky customers would find them on making purchases. I worked with eight music stores in the city, having them feature Gracie Fields records and sheet music, and went on CKMO with a great radio man and Fields fan, Billy Brown. A cousin of Gracie’s played piano in Vancouver, and we got him to come on the radio broadcast at CKMO and two other radio stations. In short, we blitzed it!”

Here’s what Empire Films, which had made the Gracie Fields picture, had to say about Ivan’s results in a notice to other film folk: “Ackery did it—so can you! I.F. Ackery, manager of the Dominion Theatre, Vancouver, put over Looking on the Bright Side starring Gracie Fields in the Greatest Number of Paid Admissions ever recorded for that theatre. Outgrossed the Cavalcade first-run engagement. Played three weeks to extraordinary houses, 36,334 paid admissions in the first two weeks. Ackery is no magician, just a wide-awake manager, but he did transform a Double-Feature Policy theatre into an Extended Run House.”

As reward for his efforts, Ackery was transferred to Victoria to manage the Capitol Theatre there. But there was even better to come.

1932 CHLS Radio Station, 2nd floor, 198 West Hastings

CJOR Radio Station, 804 Hornby

CKCD Radio Station, 2nd floor, 198 West Hastings

CKFC Radio Station, West 12th Avenue at Hemlock

CKMO Station of the Sprott-Shaw Schools 815 West Hastings and 1704-500 Beatty

CKWX Radio Station, 801 West Georgia

CNRV Canadian National Railways, Station Street off Main

VE5FF Short Wave Transmitting Station 3527 West 33rd

VE9CS Short Wave Radio Station, West 12th Avenue at Hemlock


A 1932 Lincoln ZB V12 Boattailed Speedster
1932 Lincoln ZB V12 Boattailed Speedster

[1757 - 1884] [1885 - 1891] [1892 - 1899]
[1900 - 1905] [1906 - 1908] [1909] [1910]
[1911] [1912] [1913] [1914] [1915] [1916]
[1917] [1918] [1919] [1920] [1921] [1922]
[1923] [1924] [1925] [1926] [1927] [1928]
[1929] [1930] [1931] [1932] [1933] [1934]
[1935] [1936] [1937] [1938] [1939] [1940]
[1941] [1942] [1943] [1944] [1945] [1946]
[1947] [1948] [1949] [1950] [1951] [1952]
[1953] [1954] [1955] [1956] [1957] [1958]
[1959] [1960] [1961] [1962] [1963] [1964]
[1965] [1966] [1967] [1968] [1969] [1970]
[1971] [1972] [1973] [1974] [1975] [1976]
[1977] [1978] [1979] [1980] [1981] [1982]
[1983] [1984] [1985] [1986] [1987] [1988]
[1989] [1990] [1991] [1992] [1993] [1994]































Strand Theatre
Strand Theatre
[ Photo: Puget Sound Theatre Organ Society]

Pantages Theatre Carnegie Community Centre
Pantages Theatre
Carnegie Community Centre







































































































1932 (photo credit: BC Archives)
[Photo credit: BC Archives,
#F-05710 4-6-2, No. 2506]







James Woodsworth
James Woodsworth































































































































John Avison
John Avison
[CBC Stills Collection]