Vancouver is 60 this month . . . Gassy Jack and Roughhouse would gasp themselves right off the skid road if they could see her now
THE LIGHTS of Vancouver had faded to a glow on the southern horizon, but the old logging camp bull cook, signed out for another hitch in
the woods, still leaned his elbows on the upcoast steamer’s taffrail.
“Sure,” he drawled to the chokerman beside him, “she’s a mighty big town.” He mused a while longer, then said, “Should do all right too—just so she never forgets whose packsack she come out of!”
A day may dawn when Vancouver abandons her memories of the Hastings Mill and Gassy Jack’s Saloon, of the slow-foot bull teams and the giant firs, and the men who felled those trees to make room for a city.
Today, though, in the spring of her Diamond Jubilee, Vancouver hasn’t forgotten. There are far too many reminders.
Buy a lot in suburban Point Gray and you are likely to find on it stumps and salaal brush of the original forest. There are afternoons when facing into
the west wind that whips along downtown Hastings Street you can breathe the evergreen air of the wilderness. Now and then on a quiet night the pulse of tomtoms carries from Musqueam Indian Reserve by the Fraser River to the staid residential blocks of Dunbar district.
Vancouver, currently putting up her hair for a birthday party, is a big girl now. Her war-boosted population stands at something over 310,000 and her claim to place as Canada’s third city is no longer seriously contested by Winnipeg. To her Yankee neighbor, Seattle, she yields nothing in sophistication.
But as cities go she’s still a youngstereven though a precocious one. In the 60 years since her incorporation she has achieved metropolitan stature, but relics of her beginnings are plentiful. Her first white man’s house squats, with smoke curling from its chimney, in the lee of the Marine Building, the steel and concrete shaft that dominates her sky line. Two miles from that skyscraper anglers cast for and frequently catch both trout and salmon. Her founding pioneers remain numerous, spry, and vigorously vocal in civic affairs.
Vancouver is a city of contrasts-beautiful from certain angles—warmhearted
Continued on page 22
Continued from page 21
if she likes you—community-minded, but almost as rowdy as Montreal—more insular than Toronto, but the melting-pot city of the Dominion. Bright colors glint through the Anglo-Saxon monochrome of her population. In an after-lunch stroll you may meet a sombrero-topped cowhand from one of the interior cattle spreads, or a turbaned East Indian walking with a wife clad in the graceful gay sari of her people. While your own wife is looking at spring millinery you can be watching amphibious boom men prod brown fir logs into the maw of a sawmill.
For the rest of Canada Vancouver possesses a quality of fable. She’s the town at the end of the rainbow, the happy land where some day you’ll live with mountains framed in your windows, and rose bushes out front from which you’ll pluck full-blown blooms on a balmy Christmas Day.
The Vancouver legend has grown with the years. Part of it is true, but part undoubtedly stems from the fact that your Vancouverite needs more elbowroom than most when he starts extolling the merits of his city.
He is a classic boaster . . . and he has plenty to boast about.
The approaches to Vancouver are spectacular, whether by sea, land or air. On your right, as you roll in from the east along Canadian Pacific steel, is the narrow, intensely blue ribbon of salt water called Burrard Inlet. North across the Inlet a Coast Range spur rears its snowpeaks above green-and-tawny foothills. Burrard Inlet pinches to a wasp waist at Second Narrows, then widens dramatically to one of the world’s most noble harbors.
On your left, on the other side of a gentle height of land, all in solid fir and cedar forest when Captain George Vancouver sailed this way 154 years ago, the Fraser River estuary parallels the Inlet. British Columbia’s big grey river drops past the hilly port of New Westminster to the Gulf of Georgia through delta land speckled with fine dairy herds, dotted with wellkept barns and farmhouses, squared with the black and green of immense produce gardens.
Between river and inlet sprawls Vancouver. Here is your sunset town, your end of steel, jumping-off port for the Orient and chief trading post for a rugged province that still has less than a million people in its 355,855 square miles.
Here it is—and your first inspection may leave you disappointed. Stay only a day or two and you are very likely to go away with the impression that the city doesn’t live up to its setting. The mountains are breathtaking, but the people seem to be a cold bunch of fish. The city hall is a notable piece of architecture but the public library and museum are housed in quarters that would be disgraceful in a town of half the population. You’d like to investigate Stanley Park with its flower gardens and woodsy trails, but the sky that was blue in the morning has closed over, and by the look of the weather now, it’s going to rain for a week. Probably it will.
Your attitude will begin to change, however, when the comforts of your room in the flossy new Hotel Vancouver pall on you, and you venture out. Nobody, it seems, bothers about the rain. Anyway, it’s a gentl * rain, lacking the precipitate wetness of a Winnipeg near-cloudburst.
Also, as you get acquainted with him, the attitude of the typical Vancouver dweller will become less puzzling. He may not admit it in so many words, but he’s convinced the East has handed him, is handing him, and will continue to hand him a dirty deal.
When he mentions Ottawa, the name is likely to land with the impact of a hefty curse.
‘ He feels that altogether too much of the revenue from the natural resources of his province has gone to the Federal Government, and that too little has returned.
He has uneasy memories of the parades and riots and window smashings of a depression during which his city played host to more than its share of unemployed and unemployables from every other province (end of the rainbow, remember: town where you never need an overcoat), and he’s doing a good deal of worrying about the future of industries that mushroomed with the war.
He will be a very long time forgetting how in the touch-and-go days of the Pacific fight he went his rounds as an air raid warden, wondering if that general was speaking gospel when he said the defense of Canada would start with the Rockies in the event of invasion.
He is wary of all things Eastern—and the East, for him, begins six inches across his provincial borderline.
Convince him, though, that you are honestly interested in his city and he begins to steam as do his shingled roofs when those
Continued on page 59
Continued from page 22
hopeless clouds part to release the sun. j Tough times may lie ahead—and Vancouver faces a terrific problem in housing and employing the horde of new citizens who drifted in with the war —but the city has only started to grow.
Big projects are in the making. British Columbia Electric Railway Company plans a $50 million expansion of its light and transportation services, j A new city centre is also being planned.
Once the country gets over its postwar letdown, there should be new industries and more work for many of those industrial plants already producing.
At present Vancouver has 900 industrial firms turning out $400 millions worth of manufactured products annually. Within the next six months secondary industries are expected to create new jobs for 1,000.
Last year cargo tonnage moved in Vancouver Harbor was exceeded only by Montreal, and Vancouver led all eight National Harbors Board ports in number and tonnage of ocean vessels arriving.
The future of Vancouver’s five shipyards, which employed 33,000 men and women at their peak, is still to be settled. So, too, is the fate of the big Boeing Aircraft Corporation plant which provided work foranother 10,000. ! Uncertain times; but with a world crying for rehabilitation there need be j no very grave doubts as to how British Columbia's—and Vancouver’s—basic industries will prosper. Lumbering, j mining, fishing and agriculture, the four main revenue producers in that order, are expected to boom; and as they go, so goes Vancouver.
Physically the city’s growth has slowed at times but never ceased. During the past half dozen years it has sprinted. Whole new residential areas have filled in former blanks on its map as the town extends its suburbs west, south and east.
Vancouver builds with stucco and wood. A brick house is something of a curiosity, and the white cedar siding bungalow on a wide lot is the dream of newlyweds. Chances are the bungalow will be roofed with western red cedar. In its basement will be a furnace which will burn either coke, soft coal, sawdust or oil—and that furnace won’t be there for ornamental purposes. It will be started in October, and it may still be going in Junebut cost of fuel for furnace and living room fireplace won’t likely exceed $100.
Time now for an unsentimental glance at the weather myth which Vancouver shares with cities of California and Florida.
While temperatures have been known to mount into the 90’s and to drop below zero, the moderating influence of the Japanese current, warm river in the i Pacific, is steady and strong. Mercury j rides at comfortable levels, usually well above 30 in winter, rarely over i 85 in summer.
You really can go skiing in the North Shore hills and swimming at Kitsilano, j Spanish Banks, Second Beach or I English Bay between a May dawn and sunset. There really are Christmases when you can pick your own roses or admire those in your neighbor’s garden. Almost any old New Year’s you can gather an armful of pussy willows on your way home from a round of golf.
The serpents in this Eden are rainhumidity which often gives to your sheets a shroudlike clamminess and the infamous, insufficiently publicized Vancouver fog.
The fog may strike at any time1 between October and March. It is not
the innocuous mist which Torontonians in their innocence call fog, but a vapor turgid as habitant soup, a woolly blanket that blots out street lights or turns the sun to a heatless round of mild Canadian cheese. Pedestrians get lost in it and wander for hours. Streetcars inch through it with clanging bells, each tagged by bemused motorists whose only hope of staying off the curbs and each other’s fenders is to follow the tracks.
It comes just as often as the warm air from the Pacific strikes a colder air stratum over the city, and it may last for weeks at a stretch, lifting toward noon, stealing back with its all-butimpenetrable cloak and its steam laundry smell as afternoon wears toward evening.
There is a tale about a visitor who arrived during one of these periods of reduced visibility. He observed a sea gull on the window ledge of his hotel room and, setting down his drink, got up for a closer inspection. The gull, he found, was standing not on the ledge but on solid fog.
But when the fog is ready to leave, of a sudden the west wind comes whooping down Burrard Inlet, the twin peaks of The Lions lift proud white heads against a sky of washed and burnished blue, and Vancouver is once again almost the earthly paradise that the publicity bureau brochures would have it.
This is your chance to visit Stanley Park.
If you’ve been expecting a few tame acres, prepare for a jolt. Stanley Park, 10 minutes by streetcar and five by automobile from your hotel, has its lawns and riotously colored gardens, its picnic grounds, admirably sheltered swimming pools and open beaches. But all these are mere trimmings. Here, covering most of a whale-backed peninsula and protected with jealous determination by each successive park board, is one of the last remaining blocks of first-growth big timber left on the coast. A nine-mile road girdles the park’s 1,000 acres,and other roads cut through it. There are trails enough to keep you hiking for a week, a natural lake with lily pads and noisy squadrons of wild ducks, and a creek that dashes to the Inlet not far from where the dragon figurehead of the old Empress of Japan glares at the peaks across the water.
But your dominant memory, when you leave Stanley Park, will be of dim green giant woods, and a hush that smooths and soothescity-jangled nerves.
There have been minor threats to the sanctity of the park, but the first was the worst. In 1862, when the area was an admiralty reserve, and there was no Vancouver at all, a sea captain turned lumberman prepared to log those high woods. Difficulty of establishing booming grounds made him change his mindCapt. Edward Stamp moved on down the Inlet to build Stamp’s Mill, and the park of the future was spared.
In 1867 Capt. Stamp passed out of the picture in a tangle of lawsuits. Two years later the mill reopened with a new name bestowed in honor of Rear Admiral G. F. Hastings,commander-inchief of the Royal Navy’s Pacific squadron. St) it was Hastings Mill now, but the shack town that had sprouted around it—described unflatteringly by the new mill boss as “a sink of iniquity” —had acquired a name of its own.
On a day in 1867 there had arrived by canoe from New Westminster an amiable Yorkshireman who could talk the ear off a brass monkey. His name was Jack Deighton. Soon they were calling him “Gassy Jack.” Soon, too, he
had charmed his thirsty neighbors into building a saloon for him; and, in no time at all, the settlement with the Inlet before it and the woods at its back was known as Gastown.
To the embarrassment of the straitlaced element, the name clung even after the place was officially christened Granville in 1870. It didn’t fade completely into history until April 6, 1886, when the City of Vancouver was incorporated.
Less than three months after that date the pioneers had to start all over. Fire on the windy day of June 13 wiped Vancouver out almost to the last house. But they built again—the CPR, which had brought its first transcontinental train to Port Moody at tidehead 12 months earlier, pushed its steel on to Vancouver in 1887—and Vancouver knew her future was assured.
It was a sawmill that gave the city its start, and lumbering has been more of a factor in its growth than any other industry. Fishing and mining have played and will play an important part. A growing share of Canada’s wheat pours through the city’s massive elevators, and vessels of 36 steamship lines lade and discharge at her docks.
But that northbound bull cook had the right of it. She’s a paeksack town, a logger’s town, and will be until the last hook tender has told the last whistle punk to wind up his wire.
When the white pine of Michigan and Wisconsin began to dwindle, the lumber barons turned their eyes toward Oregon, Washington and the British Columbia Coast. And while the industry was developing, Vancouver was moving uptown, away from Cordova and Carrall and those other streets near the water front which were once her pride. The loggers took them over. They became the skid road, the boisterous thoroughfares where the Tame Apes frolicked when they hit town after anywhere from a couple of months to a year in the woods. They formed an aristocracy of labor, those native Canadians and immigrant huskies from the Baltic lands. They worked hard and dangerously, and when it was time to play they knocked the neck off the bottle and let the rum flow free.
You’ll rarely hear Paul Bunyan mentioned on what’s left of the Vancouver skid road,or in the coast camps. But they still remember Roughhouse Pete, still yarn about him in the holein-the-wall cafés, the beer parlors and hotels and outfitters’ stores of Carrall, East Hastings and Cordova. Roughhouse Pete was a flesh and blood character— but what flesh and what blood !
He was the dude who, if he didn’t like the grub served in a camp, would run down the cookhouse tables, clearing them with his caulked boots. They say the manager of a skid road hotel onde locked him in his room, and that Pete didn’t bother breaking the door down. He battered his way through the brick wall to the street.
Helped Vancouver Grow
So run the legends. Pete was a type of the logger in his heyday, the stakey lad who high-stepped along the old skid road in a ninety-buck suit and a patterned silk shirt, who lit his cigar with a 10-spot and, until he went broke or began to hanker for the woods, brushed off the company mancatchers who begged him to sign out again. The mile posts of his logging progress were Cowichan Lake and Myrtle Point, Jervis Inlet, where the mighty fir stood thick as hairs on a dog’s back, Green Point and Campbell River. He flattened the big timber from South Vancouver Island to Seymour Narrows
in the north, but he helped Vancouver grow.
Unionization of his trade, the depression and the dwindling of the great timber limits have toned him down, but even though he now signs out from an agency decorously close to the big Burrard Street churches, he still lends Vancouver a color that no other Canadian city can duplicate. There’s one beer parlor on whose walls this color is concentrated in crude but remarkably vigorous logging murals. There, if you tire of the Hotel Vancouver’s statelier murals, you can acquire something of the feel of the more spacious British Columbia.
While the logger was partying on the skid road, some of his bosses were building themselves mansions on either side of South Granville street in Shaughnessy district. Shaughnessy once spelled class in big letters, and it’s still worth crossing the tidal finger called False Creek for a look at its estates. Many of them have fallen on less flourishing days and are now boardinghouses, but many remain among Vancouver’s show places.
The carriage trade has drifted toward Southwest Marine Drive now, or to sections of Point Gray near the University of British Columbia campus, or over the water to the municipality of West Vancouver.
There, sprawled on a lower slope of the Britannia Range, not far above the Capilano River of which the Mohawk poetess, Pauline Johnson, sang, is the swanky residential development called variously “The Highlands,” Capilano Estates or British Pacific Properties. It has its own golf course and country club, and Lions Gate Bridge, which flings its clean-lined, lovely span 200 ft. over the tide swirls of First Narrows, owes its existence to that high-flying venture in real estate.
The $6 million bridge from Stanley Park to the North Shore and 4,500acre British Properties were reputedly fathered by the Guinness interests, an outfit with a reputation for investigating before it speculates.
Vancouver still doesn’t know quite how to take this particular invasion by outside capital. The city has a forthright Western contempt for any putting on of dog, but Vancouver is just as proud of Lions Gate Bridge as it is of the city hall which Gerald Grattan McGeer practically rammed down her throat in 1935.
“Gerry” McGeer was mayor of Vancouver then—a post which the grapevine whispers he may resume after the next mayoral election. Just as Roughhouse Pete typifies one Vancouver, McGeer, M. P., and latterly a
senator, is the symbol of another. He is a big, red-faced, hard-eyed, ham-fisted English-Irisher with sweeping notions about monetary reform and even more sweeping ideas about the city to which his parents brought him as an infant. Gassy Jack would have loved him.
When he came to office, the city’s affairs were run from a leased building on Hastings Street. McGeer decided that larger quarters were needed. He wheedled and bludgeoned his councillors into agreement. Even mousewhiskered Alderman John Bennett, traditional warden of the purse strings, was charmed into going along. A plebiscite was held, but failed to gain the necessary two thirds majority. Gerry McGeer wasn’t licked. Spark plugged by him, the city council obtained authority to float “baby bonds” for the financing of a hall. Special legislation permitted the city fathers to steam right ahead without any chaffering with the ratepayers.
Vancouver City Hall—known by the light-minded as “Gerry’s Castle”—rose lickety-split on a superb site south of, and high above, the business section, a 12-story edifice of modern design fit to share the sky line with the Marine Building and the new Hotel Vancouver.
As an afterthought McGeer helped break the False Creek traffic bottleneck by slinging up Burrard Bridge. Motor traffic now whisks over this four-lane bridge without any waiting for swing spans as is necessary on the other bridges that link downtown and southwest residential areas elsewhere.
There’s plenty else to see and hear in Vancouver. You’ll want to visit University of British Columbia, now, with an enrolment of 7,000, second only in number of students to Toronto’s Varsity. You will also wish to visit Chinatown, especially if there’s a dragon parade forward, and perhaps to walk the few Powell Street blocks still known as “Little Tokyo.” There a good many of British Columbia’s 23,000 Japanese lived before the forced evacuation.
Grouse Mountain, whose chalet lights ride like a low star north above the city, will beckon you. Over the dark-blue Gulf of Georgia, Vancouver Island lies in soft haze, and the lesser islands of the coast stretch south and north in a scarce-broken chain. This is the jumping-off place as well as the town at the rainbow’s end.
Maybe you’ll leave Vancouver with a strong itch to return. Perhaps you’ll go away hating the place, as some Philistines actually have been known todo. But this at least you certainly will discover to be true: whichever way Vancouver hits you, she hits you hard!