A note to readers: This
is a first draft of the 1931 chapter proposed for the book.
It was completed July, 2008. By the time the book appears in 2010
it may be much altered.
1931 (Sample Chapter)
The city’s links to the outside world strengthened
in 1931 with the opening of the Vancouver Airport and Seaplane Harbour
July 22—a welcome bright spot during the Depression. Premier
Tolmie officiated, and a crowd of 55,000 turned up for the four-day
opening ceremonies. The complex covered 192 hectares (474 acres).
Aubrey Roberts, aviation editor for the Province,
reported that “Vancouver this week celebrates an important
and a memorable occasion—official opening of the $600,000
first unit of her airport, which, because of the city’s geographical
position at the gateway to the Orient, is destined to play an increasingly
effective role in international and interempire communication.”
One of the features that most delights visiting airmen, Roberts
wrote, “is the combination of facilities for land planes and
sea aircraft—an asset which many other cities seek in vain.”
One story tells of how William Templeton, the airport’s
first manager, saved thousands of dollars by laughingly declining
the services of an American airport design firm and doing the job
himself for about $14. One reminder of his 1931 work: Cowley Crescent,
which circled the first terminal: Templeton laid a light bulb down
on the plans and traced around it with a pencil. That’s why
Cowley, still there today, looks the way it does. (Templeton had
shown initiative before: with his brother and a cousin to help,
he built and flew a home-made biplane at Minoru Park race-track
on April 28, 1911, our first local plane.) His tireless promotion
got the airport off to a strong start.
A present-day writer, Sean Rossiter, who writes frequently on
aviation, says “Unofficial airport statistics for its first
year show the overwhelming majority of passengers, 2,652, were there
to embark on sightseeing flights. (Another 536 arrived there from
other points on 309 incoming flights.)”
309 incoming flights. That's nearly one a day!
One of our favorite stories about the opening tells of a group
of local dignitaries taken up for a celebratory flight over the
area. One passenger, a prominent alderman, became violently airsick
and threw up in the police chief’s hat.
In other aviation news this year, Elizabeth “Betsy”
Flaherty, a buyer for Spencer's department store, got her flying
licence. She was 53, making her the oldest female pilot in Canada.
Transportation was making news down on the ground,
too: the Province headline for January 10 read: New Record
for Number of Autos. “Motor tourist travel into British Columbia
from United States,” the report read, “showed a big
increase in 1930 over 1929, according to reports from the Greater
Vancouver Publicity Bureau.” (The bureau was a forerunner
of Tourism Vancouver.)
“Entering British Columbia through the ports of Pacific
Highway, Douglas and Huntington,” the story continued, “came
128,856 cars, carrying a total of 417,581 passengers. This was an
increase of more than 7,000 cars and more than 26,000 passengers
over the previous year . . . It is estimated that the auto tourist
makes an average stay here of three days. In more prosperous years
it was figured each one spent $30 a day in the country. But even
with the spending figure of the visitors decreased, British Columbia’s
tourist trade in 1930 from the dollars-and-cents standpoint, was
an important and flourishing one.”
January was also the month that work began by the CPR on a tunnel
under downtown Vancouver to keep the railway’s trains off
the city’s streets. The tunnel would open in 1933 (and is
used today by SkyTrain).
More people, more cars
According to the census of 1931, the total population of Canada
on June 1, 1931 was 10,376,786, of whom 5,374,541 were males.
The census showed that the population of Vancouver
city was 246,593.
North Van City
North Van Dist
A reminder that Belcarra, Langley City, Lions Bay and White Rock
did not exist as separate entities in 1931.
Major Matthews and other historical matters
This was a major year in the history of the city’s
history: James Skitt Matthews, 53, became Vancouver’s unofficial
archivist. He would become the official one in 1933. His methods
were chaotic, his research was occasionally shaky, and his temper
was terrible, but Vancouver’s first city archivist amassed
a body of work on the city’s past that is quite simply titanic.
We owe him an incalculable debt. His second wife, Emily, helped
him in his tireless efforts to collect city memorabilia and reminiscences.
He will appear often in these pages, and is the focus of the 2008
book The Man Who Saved Vancouver, by Daphne Sleigh.
Margaret Ormsby, born in Quesnel in 1909, earned
an MA in history at UBC this year. She will go on to become the
doyenne of British Columbia history. She “legitimized the
study of British Columbia history as a scholarly endeavor.”
Her 1958 book British Columbia: a History is a standard
On January 10 Lt.-Gov. Robert Bruce officially opened the old
Hastings Mill Store Museum at its location in Pioneer Park, north
foot of Alma. The little building had been barged to the park in
1930. The store was one of the very few buildings in Vancouver to
survive the Great Fire of 1886. Today it’s a museum on summer
weekends, operated by the Native Daughters of British Columbia.
The book Spanish Explorers of the British Columbia
Coast by Dr. W.N. Sage, head of history at UBC, appeared in
1931. An excerpt: “Vancouver . . . had come around the Cape
of Good Hope and had crossed the International Date Line without
taking off a day.” If this is correct, Vancouver’s date
of June 21, 1792 for his meeting with the Spaniards, for example,
was actually on June 22. And he would have entered Burrard Inlet
on June 12th, not 13th.)
A lot of physical changes to the city happened this year, some
of them still visible. One prominent and handsome 1931 addition
to the city’s skyline was the Royal Bank Building at the northeast
corner of Hastings and Granville. The first tenants moved in on
May 1, the official opening was June 5. This was the bank’s
main branch back them, and its vast main hall is still one of the
great rooms in the city. There is a legend that, because of the
restricted size of the lot, the bank put up a building that was
one-half (the left half) of its main branch in Montreal.
The original building isn’t around anymore, but on October
5 the Vancouver Art Gallery opened at 1145 West Georgia, a few blocks
west of its current location. Construction on the building, designed
by Sharp & Thompson, had started in April.
In 1973 the gallery’s registrar, Wylie Thom, wrote an excellent
brief history of its early years, accessible on the gallery’s
web site. We learn from it that in 1926 “after years of striving
toward the founding of an art gallery in Vancouver by the many art
societies that had existed in the city since its incorporation that
the Gallery's founders, a dedicated group of art enthusiasts headed
by H. A. Stone, first offered to donate [money] towards the purchase
of a collection for a civic art gallery if the city of Vancouver
would build a suitable gallery to house it.
“Unfortunately for the founders there was little public
support in the mid 1920s for the creation of a civic art gallery
. . . and this first proposal was rejected by the city's taxpayers.
[T]he founders persisted year after year in their efforts to convince
this city that it should co-sponsor a Vancouver Art Gallery.”
In January 1931 an amended proposal was finally approved. It called
for the city to supply only the site on which the gallery would
“The donations of the founders would pay for the building
and furnishing of the Gallery in addition to providing funds for
the purchase of objects . . . [T]he founders wisely chose to limit
the area of concentration to an historical collection of British
paintings from the 18th century on, and an historical collection
of Canadian paintings. This decision was based on the realization
that the purchase of ‘old masters’ was beyond the limited
resources of a small gallery and the fact that in the early 1930s
it was still possible to find paintings by minor masters of the
English school which were within the Gallery's means. Canadian paintings
were of course reasonably priced at that time.
“It is appropriate to remember,” Thom’s article
continues, “that in common with the rest of Canada in 1931
tastes in Vancouver were essentially conservative. The Group of
Seven were still considered rather far out by many of the city's
art lovers. It must also be remembered that at this time a considerable
proportion of the city's population still retained strong ties with
Britain and there is much evidence to suggest that the taste of
a surprising number of the city's older artistic cognoscenti had
been moulded by the more conservative elements of the Royal Academy
in the early years of the 20th century. With these facts in mind
it is easier to understand some of the first accessions to the permanent
Sculptor Charles Marega was commissioned to create large busts
of Michelangelo and DaVinci to flank the entrance, and a frieze
of medallions showing famous artists. (When the gallery moved to
its present location in 1983 and the old building was demolished,
researcher Peggy Imredy discovered, the busts and medallions were
discarded and sent to a garbage dump. Luckily word got out, and
they were rescued. The busts now rest in a secure location with
a private collector in the Fraser Valley. The medallions are in
gallery storage.) Today, the VAG is the fifth largest gallery in
Canada and holds the world's largest collection of works by Emily
A building that made the news in 1930 did it again this year.
But this time, thanks to the Depression, the news was not good:
just a year after it opened, the Marine Building was up for sale.
Its owners were willing to sell it to the city for its new city
hall for about the same as, and maybe even a little less than, it
had cost them to build. But that deal fell through.
On July 1 the cornerstone was laid for St. Andrews-Wesley United
Church at 1012 Nelson at Burrard. Construction had started in 1927,
just two years after the United Church of Canada had been created.
It was the successor of two congregations, Saint Andrew’s
Presbyterian and Wesley Methodist. The building would be finished
A prosaic little building went up this year when the Vancouver
Fire Department’s Fire Dispatch Office opened at West 20th
Avenue and Cambie. It would serve in that capacity until the new
Fire Dispatch Centre at #1 Fire Hall on Heatley Street opened in
1980. (On the subject of fire, the first annual convention of BC
fire chiefs was held in the Hotel Vancouver on May 29 this year.)
Another little building went up in 1931 when the UBC golf clubhouse
opened at 2545 Blanca. Today, it has Canada's only provincial golf
museum, housing classic clubs, old trophies and prints from early
days of golf. And an even tinier structure went up this year when
Mount Seymour's first ski mountaineering hut was built.
Not every building in the news this year went up: St. Andrews’
Church, at Richards and Georgia, built in 1889, was torn down. But
then, St. Augustine's Church in Kitsilano was built.
And not everything that was built was a building: on August 15
we marked the official opening at Kitsilano Beach of the Kitsilano
salt-water swimming pool, the largest of its kind in North America.
Kits Pool was 200 by 60 metres [660 x 200 feet], cost $50,000 to
build, and was greeted in perfect weather by a crowd of 5,000 who
waited impatiently for the inevitable opening speeches before diving
in. The original pool would be replaced in 1979 by a gigantic saltwater
tank, 150 metres across and filled with heated water. Kits Beach
is in an area originally known as Greer's Beach, named for the pioneer
who unsuccessfully challenged the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)
takeover of his homestead here in 1891. (See that year for more
A man whose name in Vancouver was associated with building for
many years, Harvey Hadden, died in London, England February, 1931.
He was 79. A wealthy Englishman (he was a Nottingham textile merchant,
big in hosiery), born in Nottingham September 29, 1851, Hadden first
visited Vancouver in 1891, became a major property owner here before
1913. He was said to have made more than $1 million on his real
estate holdings. He owned the Birks site, then at the northeast
corner of Hastings and Granville. He once bought 160 acres in Capilano
Canyon, sight unseen, from architect S.M. Eveleigh. He built Hadden
Hall there in 1903, “a sort of Garden of Eden in the forest,”
with attractive gardens with piped-in water for fountains and pools.
He sold the property in 1926; it is now Capilano Golf and Country
Club. Hadden Park at Kitsilano Beach, popular today as an “off-leash”
park for dog owners, is on land purchased by Hadden from the CPR
(in either 1928 or 1929) and donated to the city. In his will, he
bequeathed $500,000 to Vancouver parks. In 1957, parks at Georgia,
Adanac, Woodland and McLean were purchased with his bequest. Hadden
is well remembered in Nottingham. There is a stadium named for him
Homelessness was a problem all during the Depression.
A web site called Squatting in Vancouver reports that in
1931 “about 1,000 homeless people occupied four east-end hobo
jungles. One jungle bordered Prior Street, close to Campbell Avenue
and the Canadian National Railway yards. Another existed under the
Georgia Street Viaduct, a third was located on the harbour at the
end of Dunlevy Avenue, and the fourth was situated at the Great
Northern Railway sidings. Shacks were built from boxes, boards and
There was homelessness in Stanley Park. A group
of native “squatters” in the park, with one exception,
lost their appeals against eviction. (The city had launched legal
proceedings in 1921.) They were allowed to remain in their homes
for a fee of a dollar-a-month until they were finally evicted this
year. The Vancouver Fire Department burned down their homes. The
Cummings family at Brockton Point had refused to take part in the
legal proceedings, upset they had not been consulted when the land
had been turned into a park. The Parks Board agreed to let the family
stay for a $5-a-month fee. They lived there until their deaths.
(Agnes Cummings would die in 1953 at age 69, and Tim Cummings died
in 1958 at age 77.) The 2005 book, Stanley Park’s Secret,
by Jean Barman, tells the story.
British Pacific Properties
Shacks were not in the future of the north shore of the inlet.
In October West Vancouver agreed to sell 4,700 acres to a syndicate
called British Pacific Properties for $75,000, just under $16 an
acre. (The syndicate was financed with Guinness Brewing money.)
There was one condition: $1 million was to be invested in developing
the land, initially called Capilano Estates, into a residential
area. In 1931 that was a lot of money, especially considering that
the West Vancouver property had no access to downtown Vancouver.
Development would be slow at first, and even the building, again
with Guinness money, of the Lions Gate Bridge, which opened in late
1938, would not be a real spur to growth because of the Second World
War. Not until the 1950s would British Properties really begin to
Vancouver’s Charlie Crane is one of the more
notable of the city’s people: he became the first blind person
to attend a Canadian university when he was accepted this year at
UBC. His achievement becomes doubly remarkable when you learn that
he was also deaf. He willed his private collection of more than
10,000 volumes of Braille books to UBC. After his death in 1965,
those books became the foundation of the university’s Charles
Crane Memorial Library. His remarkable life is recalled in The
Crane Story, by Laurie Bellefontaine.
Arts and Entertainment
On February 22 pianist/composer Sergei Rachmaninoff performed
in Vancouver. His appearance brought out all the swells. The large
audience included: Mrs. B.T. Rogers, Miss Margaret Rogers, Mrs.
Jan Cherniavsky, Mr. and Mrs. J. Edge Malkin, Dr. and Mrs. W.L.
Coulthard, the Misses Coulthard, Mr. and Mrs. J.V. Clyne . . .”
etc., etc., and etc. (One of the “Misses Coulthard”
would have been composer Jean, 23, who had begun writing music at
The Orpheum Circuit management finally accepted the decline and
fall of vaudeville and sold Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre outright
to the burgeoning movie house chain Famous Players. Vaudeville could
still be enjoyed for a few more years in Vancouver, mainly at the
Beacon Theatre on Hastings, but its glory days were over.
Band leader Mart Kenney, who began his career in
the late 1920s with the CJOR Radio Orchestra and with Len Chamberlain
at the Hotel Vancouver, formed a group in 1931 called Mart Kenney
and the Western Gentlemen for a one-off engagement at the Alexandra
Ballroom in Vancouver. The rest is, as they say, history. He and
his orchestra would stay for years. (“I was the Bryan Adams
of 1944,” Kenney once said). In March, 2000 to mark his 90th
birthday, Kenney would release a new CD of original music to mark
his nearly 70 years in showbiz.
The Kitsilano Boys’ Band, founded in 1928 under the direction
of Arthur Delamont, won first place at the Toronto Exposition.
Actor John Qualen, born December 8, 1899 in Vancouver,
appeared in Street Scene, his first movie. He would go
on to perform in more than 140 films. His father, pastor of First
Scandinavian Church (Lutheran) on Prior Street from 1898-1900, was
against his son’s acting career.
Colored comics in the Province in 1931
included Rock-Age Roy, Harold Teen, Smitty, Gasoline Alley, Little
Orphan Annie and The Gumps.
This is the year Alfred Butts devised a word game he first called
Lexico, but that we know today as Scrabble. The Vancouver connection?
Thousands here play it!
She’s not local, but the death of Anna Pavlova made headlines
here. The world-famed ballerina, who had so thrilled Vancouver audiences
in 1910 and in two subsequent visits here, died in a bedroom of
the Hôtel des Indes in The Hague in the early hours of January
23. She was nine days short of her 50th birthday. Pneumonia.
Sports and Recreation
Vancouver won rugby’s McKechnie Cup. The
Ubyssey, the student newspaper at UBC, for February 18,
1931 had promised its readers a great game when the university’s
club met Vancouver on the 21st at the Brockton Point oval. “Varsity
is staging a plucky uphill fight for B.C.’s major English
rugby cup, and deserves the undivided support of the student body
. . .” Alas, for UBC it was not to be: town beat gown.
Canada’s first baseball game played under lights took place
on July 3, 1931 at Athletic Park in Vancouver.
A man named George Burrows began to supervise Vancouver's beaches
and pools. He would hold that job to 1971, a remarkable 40 years.
A cairn donated by lifeguards and dedicated to Burrows is near the
bathhouse at Kitsilano Beach.
Victoria-born William John “Torchy” Peden, 26, won
Vancouver's first six-day bicycle race. A “flame-haired youth
who led the pack like a torch,” he was famed during the Depression
as “a six-day immortal” bicycle racer.
Winnipeg-born Jim Coleman, 20, who would become
the doyen of Canadian sports writers, and spend his final years
in Vancouver, got his first job this year with the Winnipeg
Curling was introduced to the Forum in 1931. The arena's 10 sheets
of curling ice made it the biggest curling rink in the world at
the time. The dues at Vancouver Golf Club, which had been $6 a month,
were reduced during the Depression to $1 a month and 20 cents each
time you played. Caddies earned about 75 cents for four hours work.
The entrance fee stayed at $100.
Percy Norman, 27—locally famous as a marathon swimmer—became
the head coach of the Vancouver Amateur Swim Club at Crystal Pool.
He would hold that title for 24 more years.
On August 28 Jack Dempsey, 36, came to Vancouver on one of his
many comeback tours, and boxed three two-round exhibitions at the
old Vancouver Arena, at Georgia and Denman. Some say Dempsey was
the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. Twenty-six of his
opponents were knocked unconscious during round one. He’d
been champ from 1919 to 1926, losing the title to Gene Tunney. A
rematch with Tunney on September 22, 1927 —the famous ‘long
count’ fight — led to another loss and Dempsey’s
Andy Lytle of The Vancouver Sun wrote
that “Dempsey stopped Frank Sawyer in less than a round, ruined
Tiny La Marr in one, and just about wrote off Del Wolfe in two at
the arena last night . . .” Wolfe, Lytle wrote, had been telling
people “just how he was going to throw that right hand of
his and knock Dempsey out when some son of a buck pinched the Wolfeian
grip and went south with the big Bellinghammer’s shoes and
trunks.” Translation: someone stole Wolfe’s gear, and
he had to borrow someone else’s.
And a Sun writer named Kate Wiltshire, “tingling with curiosity,”
interviewed Dempsey and liked him. She liked him a lot. You could
practically hear the heavy breathing.
Political and related doings
Louis D. Taylor, mayor of Vancouver from 1910 to 1911, and in
1915, and then from 1925 to 1928, was elected yet again. This stretch,
which lasted to 1934, would be his last.
C.E. Edgett became Vancouver’s police chief, succeeding
W. J. Bingham. Edgett will serve to 1933. He’s the same man
cited in the March 18 story below when he was warden of the B.C.
Penitentiary. Incidentally, the Police Department got a new armored
car this year, built in Vancouver.
Oscar Orr became city prosecutor for Vancouver.
The Earl of Bessborough became Governor General in 1931, succeeding
Viscount Willingdon. Being GG seems to be an almost inevitable path
to having your name put on the map. The Bessborough Armoury in Vancouver
was named for the Earl, and his predecessor had a major street named
for him in Burnaby.
On August 1 John William Fordham-Johnson, 64, was sworn in as
BC’s Lieutenant-Governor, succeeding Robert Bruce. Fordham-Johnson
was born in Spalding, England in 1866, came to Vancouver in 1898
to work in a bank here. In 1900 he went to work for the B.C. Sugar
Co., and rose in the ranks to become president of the company in
1920. He would serve as Lt.-Gov. until 1936.
On August 2 there was what the Province
called a “Communist demonstration” near the Cambie Street
In October a plebiscite in North Vancouver City approved sale
of beer by the glass.
In the November 8 Province, on Page 10,
was a commentary on Adolf Hitler and his appeal to Germany’s
disenchanted youth. World War Two was still eight years in the future.
The Statute of Westminster was passed December 11, granting legal
and political independence to Commonwealth countries.
Citizenship was granted this year to Japanese in Canada. They
could not yet, however—with a very few exceptions—vote.
The exceptions were survivors of the Japanese-Canadian soldiers
who had fought for Canada in WWI, but only 80 out of the more than
200 soldiers were still living.
Jessie Columbia Hall (née Greer) became president of the
Burrard Women's Conservative Club. Her father was Sam Greer. See
the Kits Beach item above.
Alexander Duncan McRae, Vancouver soldier and businessman, became
a senator. McRae is the man who in 1909 had Hycroft, the Shaughnessy
mansion, built for his family.
Health and hospitals
The City of Vancouver granted the Crippled Children's
Hospital Society 3.4 acres of land between 59th and 60th Avenues
and Manitoba and Columbia Streets.
The Rotary Club joined with IODE (Imperial Order Daughters of
the Empire, a service club) to begin the Vancouver Preventorium
for kids exposed to TB. This was the forerunner of Sunny Hill Hospital.
From the Province for August 2, 1931,
one of the more compelling leads to an article we’ve ever
seen: “One person in every 300 in British Columbia is insane.”
Jimmy Cunningham, stonemason, was named master stonemason for
the Vancouver Parks Board with a special task: to secure Stanley
Park's shores. Jimmy was born in 1878 on the Isle of Bute, Scotland.
He came here in 1910, served in WWI with the Canadian Expeditionary
Force. He worked extensively as a stonemason, with work at UBC,
at Vancouver homes, pools at Lumberman's Arch, 2nd and Kitsilano
beaches, the Empress Hotel and the Banff Springs Hotel. In 1917,
he had begun work on the Stanley Park seawall.
Dan Sewell arrived in Horseshoe Bay and opened a marina. Very
few families lived in Horseshoe Bay year round at the time.
The park surrounding the Peace Arch at Douglas on the B.C.-Washington
border was enlarged to 40 acres, a project made possible with the
help of school children from Washington and British Columbia who
donated their pennies, nickels and dimes to the project.
This appeared in the Province’s
“Congratulations, my boy!”
“But you just said that I flunked out of medical school.”
“Ah, but think of the lives you have saved!”
On March 19 the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement began a Mission
to Japanese residents of Steveston, and ran a nursery, a Sunday
School, and English classes. (When the Steveston Japanese who were
interned at Greenwood during the Second World War left, the Mission
would go with them.)
On March 18 the Province ran an article
that showed that life in the B.C. Pen was, gee, sort of swell. The
headline: MEN REMADE IN B.C. PENITENTIARY. Writer Doris Milligan
began her tour in Warden C. E. Edgett’s office: “Through
opened windows (barred though they are) comes the cheerful sound
of men at work.” It seems all the furniture in the office
was made by the inmates. “This swivel chair included. And
that hatrack with its brass finishing. Yes, and that bronze coal
box, too. Splendid work, isn’t it?” Edgett tells Ms.
Milligan that “there’s not a convict in the penitentiary
but would leave there in an instant if given the opportunity. But
he will tell you also that most of them become interested and even
happy in their work . . . ” Hi ho, hi ho.
On May 24 West Vancouver celebrated its second May Day and crowned
its first May Queen—a tradition that would continue until
1973. Thereafter the celebration— renamed Community Days,
and without May Queens—would be held in June.
A July 12 advertisement announced that the Crescent Hotel in White
Rock was selling fresh crab salad for 50 cents. On a larger scale,
a brand-new Chrysler Straight Eight sedan was going for $1,950 f.o.b.
In October, strikers at Fraser Mills, protesting repeated wage
roll backs, were dispersed by mounted police charges.
On November 5, the first Annual Provincial Ploughing Match was
held under the auspices of the Delta Farmers’ Institute at
A.D. Paterson's farm near Ladner. There was a Horseshoe Pitching
contest (Ladner vs Langley Prairie) for the David Spencer Shield.
The Banquet and Entertainment cost $1.
In December Greater Vancouver residents formed the Common Good
Cooperative Society to engage in a “war against poverty.”
A self-help society, it operated a store, grew food on vacant land,
and helped many through the worst of the Depression. The Credit
Union movement in B.C. is an offshoot of the society.
Burnaby's first Year and Reference Book was published, and Burnaby
was extolled in it as the “twentieth largest place in Canada.”
The Community Chest began in Vancouver, modeled after the Vancouver
Jewish Community Chest.
The Ubyssey, the UBC student newspaper,
was briefly shut down this year over a censorship issue, and printed
a fake funeral notice. The memorial read: “Sacred to the memory
of Free Speech.”
The British Columbia Catholic, a weekly,
began publishing. So did the Langley Advance.
W.S. MacGregor was president of the Vancouver Real Estate Board,
and Mayne D. Hamilton, a banker, became president of the Vancouver
Board of Trade
Harold Merilees, “Vancouver's first great ad man,”
moved from Spencer’s Department Store—where he had worked
since 1925—to the B.C. Electric Railway Company, and eventually
became the firm's manager of public information.
In Port Coquitlam a Mrs. Struthers donated a chair to serve as
the May Queen’s throne. In the nearly 80 years since, the
only change to the chair—used every year—has been the
On February 19 Henry Ogle Bell-Irving died at age 75. He was the
first of a battalion of Bell-Irvings who figure prominently in our
history. H.O. was born January 26, 1856 in Dumfriesshire, Scotland,
came to Canada at 27 as a surveying engineer for the CPR. He was
briefly an architect in pre-fire Vancouver, then opened a general
store in Gastown. By 1891 he was into the canning business, and
that made his fortune: he became Canada’s largest exporter
of canned salmon. We owe some of our knowledge of the early look
of this area from his accomplished amateur watercolors. He left
half of his own paintings to the provincial archives.
Koichiro Sanmiya, entrepreneur, died in Vancouver
March 11 aged about 51. He was born c. 1880 in Sendai, Japan. Sanmiya
arrived in Vancouver in 1907. He owned the Strand Hotel restaurant,
and established K. Sanmiya Co., an importer/ exporter of Japanese
goods, and Canada Daily Newspaper, a Japanese-language
paper published until 1921. In the 1920s he started the Vancouver
Malt and Sake Co., and was issued the only distiller's license in
B.C. He sponsored the Asahi baseball team. Sanmiya was a founder
and president of the Canadian Japanese Association (Nipponjin Kai,
now the Japanese Canadian Association). He sold war bonds to finance
the war memorial to Japanese-Canadian soldiers in Stanley Park.
In April Rachel Goldbloom, philanthropist, died
in Vancouver aged about 66. She was born in New York c. 1865. In
the mid-1900s she and her husband William moved to Vancouver, and
their home at 540 Burrard became the centre of Jewish community
life, with almost every Jewish organization of that time said to
have started there. The Hadassah's second Vancouver chapter was
named for her during her lifetime. She was described as a “one-woman
philanthropic organization.” See the book Pioneers, Pedlars,
and Prayer Shawls by Cyril E. Leonoff.
On May 16 Alexander Mitchell, the first farmer in Greater Vancouver,
died on Mitchell Island, aged 84. He was born May 8, 1847 in Masham
County, Que. Mitchell arrived in B.C. in April 1877; his wife and
two small children arrived shortly after. He settled in Moodyville,
later took out squatter’s rights as a pioneer resident of
Richmond's small Mitchell Island, named for him. He was active in
municipal politics, and represented South Vancouver’s Ward
3 as councillor. He was secretary of the school board and later
a councillor for Richmond's Ward 5. He promoted the Fraser Street
bridge. His first two wives died, but his third wife survived him.
William John Brewer, the first reeve of South Vancouver, died
in Vancouver June 24, aged about 90. He was born c. 1841 in Truro,
Cornwall, Eng. Brewer arrived in the Vancouver area in 1870 after
living in Australia. In 1884 he purchased 10.5 hectares in the Cedar
Cottage district. He moved to the South Vancouver area after the
great fire of 1886 destroyed his Granville Street business. He was
elected a Ward 4 alderman in 1889, and elected the first reeve of
the new municipality of South Vancouver on April 30, 1892. (South
Vancouver would amalgamate with Vancouver in 1929.)
On June 25 Dugald Campbell Patterson, Burnaby pioneer,
died in Vancouver, aged 71. He was born January 2, 1860 in the village
of Partick, Scotland, now a suburb of Glasgow. In 1884, aged 24,
he came to Canada. By 1894 he had settled in the newly formed municipality
of Burnaby where he built a pioneer homestead and farm on what is
now the northeast section of Central Park. Patterson was a civil
engineer and worked for Armstrong, Morrison & Balfour. In 1903
he established Vulcan Iron Works of New Westminster. He co-founded
Burnaby's Central Park, was the first postmaster of Edmonds in 1909,
was elected a school trustee in 1912 and developed a plan to preserve
ravines for parks. Patterson Avenue and Patterson Skytrain station
in Burnaby are named for him. In 1891 he married Frances Mabel Webb
of Victoria. They raised seven children. Patterson House, once the
family home (which they built themselves), is designated a heritage
building in Burnaby. We’re indebted to Raymond Reitsma for
Sanford Johnston Crowe, contractor, died August 23 in Vancouver
aged 63. He was born February 14, 1868 in Truro, NS, moved to Vancouver
in 1888. He became a contractor (Crowe and Wilson, 1890). Crowe
retired in 1909, was elected alderman (1909-15). He was Vice president
of the Vancouver Exhibition Association. Crowe was elected Vancouver’s
second Member of Parliament in 1917, joining Vancouver's sole MP,
H.H. Stevens. He was appointed to the Senate in 1921. Block-long
Crowe Street, running off West 1st Avenue a couple of blocks east
of Cambie, is named for him.
On November 22 Hugh Boyd, Richmond's first reeve
(mayor), died in Bangor, Ireland, aged about 89. He was born in
1842 in County Down, Ire., came to B.C. in 1862, lured by the Cariboo
Gold Rush. He failed to find gold. With Alexander Kilgour, Boyd
bought Section 19 on Sea Island on March 7, 1865. He was elected
Richmond reeve in 1880, served to 1886. He left for Ireland in 1887
to live near Belfast. His farm was purchased by the Mackie brothers
in 1890. Boyd crisscrossed the Pacific Ocean 12 times after his
retirement. Richmond was named in honor of the Yorkshire birthplace
of his wife Mary, nee McColl.
The 1931 Chrysler Straight 8
1942 - Sample
Vancouver Airport and Seaplane Harbour
Pacific Highway border crossing in the 1920s
Charlie Crane and his teacher Miss Conrod
The New Orpheum, built in 1927,
became a movie theatre this year
Multi-mayor L.D. Taylor
John William Fordham-Johnson became Lieutenant Governor in
Dugald Campbell Patterson