THE STREETS OF CANADA: Government
It walks from Victoria's seafront like a dowager, turns seductress and merchant, and dies like a tramp. In its two-mile odyssey it is haunted by gold seekers, a genius, eccentrics, and the visionaries who wed Canada to the Pacific
Grovernment Street, the first Canadian street built west of the Rockies, starts at the seashore, cuts from south to north through the middle of Victoria and, after exactly two miles, ends in poverty and chaos.
It contains one little stretch of opulence and beauty, about a quarter of a mile long, but physically Government Street doesn't amount to much. Historically, though, it is one of the most notable streets in North America. Beside it the structure of the Canadian nation was completed and the continental boundary anchored a few miles away in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
More than national and international history lives in this drab-looking thoroughfare. It is not only the home of the provincial government and the true axis of British Columbia’s affairs, but the birthplace, shrine and symbol of the Victorian myth, than which there is none more powerful, publicized and misunderstood throughout the land.
But don’t start me on this native mythology and my memories of more than half a century along Government Street or we shall never traverse those two beloved miles. Most visitors, indeed, seldom get past the one short stretch of grandeur and the photographers usually fall, swooning—as the tourist industry intends—against the lamp posts and their famous hanging flower baskets.
No, let us approach this complex Canadian phenomenon quietly, systematically and on foot.
From Government Street's beginnings, just above the sea rocks, one looks out on what any impartial observer must regard as the noblest view in Canada. (I state this, without local continued on page 58
Government Street continued from page 16
Emily Carr lived there ... “A frumpy person, said to paint atrocious pictures and keep a monkey”
prejudice, as a recognized geographical fact attested by Rudyard Kipling and countless other unimpeachable authorities.)
Plica’s Strait glints in the Mediterranean blue of summer or breaks in white winter foam against the sea wall to hurl its salt against the faded old houses of Dallas Road. Westward looms the nether tip of Vancouver Island, hard and black like an oversized whale against the Pacific. Southward, by the American shore, the white Olympic Mountains reel in stately ghost-dance all the way to Cape Flattery.
On the grassy headland where Government Street is born you might be pacing the cliffs of Dover or Cornwall while the ships of the world pass by at your feet— a spot haunted and bewitched in the memory of any true Victoria boy. We used to play football there, fifty years ago, skate on certain secret ponds long gone, boil mussels on the narrow sea shelf and swim in water only a few degrees above freezing. That was before progress reached our street.
Nature gave no street a better start in life, but men quickly marred Government. Most of the houses in the first half mile or so were built not long after the turn of the century or before, when architects designed ugliness at heavy cost, the furnace was a new fad not likely to last long and an up-to-date Victorian home had no basement but required a coal fireplace in every room. Fortunately these houses have been pretty well maintained. modernized and invariably surrounded, according to Victoria’s highest tradition, by neat little gardens.
Among this humble company, at the corner of Simcoe Street stands a truly national relic, the home of an odd genius almost unknown in life but in death a Canadian legend. Here, in this monstrous edifice of gables and gimcrack, lived Emily Carr.
She must have been painting some of her first, unsuspected masterpieces as early as 1908 when I attended her sister's kindergarten in the tiny school behind the house—the school so often mentioned in her books. She had just reached the peak of her powers when Miss Alice taught my children the alphabet. The Carrs lived long on Government Street, busily and, perforce, frugally.
As children we paid no particular attention to Emily but gave that formidable spinster a wide berth, her temper being
notoriously short. I recall a frumpy person in antique shirtwaist and billowing skirt who was said to paint atrocious pictures and keep a monkey.
Yet this woman’s perception of the forest at her door, and her ability to put it on canvas with inimitable, flowing brush strokes, was British Columbia’s greatest cultural gift to Canada. Anyway, she was the second most distinguished resident of Government Street. (We shall encounter the first in a moment.)
The Carr estate continues, by happy coincidence, to nourish art. Jan Zach, a versatile Czech, working with paint, clay, wood and stone, lives in Alice's old schoolhouse and no doubt profits from Emily’s inspiration.
A few blocks northward Government Street, so far residential, begins to take on a modern look and the bustle of business, though it is now entering the scenes of a forgotten history without which there’d be no nation of Canada today.
Observe then, on the street’s east side, a square functional block of government offices, the Douglas Building and, on the west side, the grey-domed Parliament Buildings set in their acres of lawn and blossom, surmounted by the clumsy image of Captain Vancouver in shiny new gilt and weighted down by many another western pioneer in bulbous granite.
Observe the best-known sight in British Columbia but try to look through its stone walls to the origins of the nation. For all Canadians this should be sacred soil.
It is the year 1859. The colonies of the St. Lawrence and the Maritimes are groping and quarreling their way toward Confederation. The plains beyond Upper Canada tire empty and so are the valleys west of the Rockies, all except the furious gorge of the Fraser where a horde of madmen is sifting the river's sand bars for gold.
In all that wilderness between Fort Garry and the Pacific there is only one town. Governor James Douglas' Fort Victoria, built sixteen years earlier by imperial strategy near the southern point of Vancouver Island to hold the boundary against the Manifest Destiny of the United States.
Victoria is a pitiable knot of houses outside the log palisades of the fort and a huddle of tents sheltering the miners on their way to the Fraser. Nevertheless, the inhabitants have high hopes for their town. Already it has become the capital
of the Vancouver Island crown colony and must have a worthy seal of government.
Douglas has therefore plunged, with his customary recklessness, into an extravagant public investment. Selecting a site on the southern shore of the harbor, called James Bay, and at the side of a muddy track called Government Street, he has started to build, at an appalling cost of a hundred thousand dollars, three absurd official buildings of F.nglish brick, which he has brought around the Horn.
The curved roofs of these buildings
look, the natives say, like Chinese pagodas or maybe like bird cages. Thus with civic contempt and later with affection, they are christened the Bird Cages.
Familiar figures, too familiar to excite the natives, and not yet recognized by historians, are seen in top hat and frock coat about the Bird Cages. They include the solemn swarthy Douglas, who lives in a grand new house across Government Street, the father of British Columbia, a loyal Briton and opponent of the expanding American Republic; his son-inlaw, Dr. J. S. Helmcken, Speaker of the colonial assembly, who regards annexation by the United States as inevitable; and that remarkable editor, Amor de Cosmos, a theatrically handsome giant who had been born plain Smith, had become L.over of the World by act of the California legislature and who, almost alone in this frail outpost of the British Empire, has conceived his dream of a transcontinental Canadian nation.
That dream is too visionary altogether for most of the colonial legislators at Victoria. The rich republic across the strait is beckoning and will pay a high price for British Columbia. All Victoria’s business and its only contacts with the world move through San Francisco. Besides, the colony is almost bankrupt and must join some nation, Canada or the United States, if it is to survive.
The decision facing the puzzled occupants of the Bird Cages on Government Street is one of the largest and most doubtful in America’s history. It involves the future of half a continent.
When Canada reached the Pacific
Victorians go about their business paying little heed to the angry debates across James Bay, but the eyes of the British government and the wise old eyes of Sir John A. Macdonald are focused anxiously on the Bird Cages.
Imperial screws, as Macdonald calls them, are therefore applied to the colonial assembly; an improbable railway across the plains and Rockies is promised to the islanders; De Cosmos arouses the embryonic democracy of Victoria; and British Columbia finally enters Confederation in 1871.
The infant Canadian nation has reached the Pacific, via Government Street. Possibly, after all, Victorians agree, Governor Douglas’ Parliament Buildings are worth their cost.
At any rate, Government Street beside them is being built up rapidly as the CPR crawls westward at snail's pace. Governor-General Dufferin drives its full length in a shiny coach but refuses to pass under a floral arch denouncing the railway's slow arrival and threatening withdrawal from Confederation. The railway reaches the coast at last and its builder, Sir John himself, strolls down Government Street as Victoria's new member of parliament.
Those squat bungalows in which Confederation was rounded out stood on the harbor bank until 1897. Two of them were then demolished and the third, containing the tiny legislative chamber, was moved to the back of the public square to make room for the new stone buildings. They were opened in 1908 and completely overshadowed their humble predecessor.
Until the spring of last year the last Bird Cage stood neglected and forlorn. No British Columbia government had imagination or even business sense enough to protect the most historically important piece of architecture west of the Great Lakes.
Victorians, who had ignored it so long, awakened one morning to find only a
Victoria has lavished money, labor and invention to make a minor acropolis out of a twenty-acre plot
pile of hot ashes. Too late, they realized the significance of the burned monument and most of them learned its story for the first time.
Of all that Confederation era on Government Street there remains only Dr. Helmcken's house, a well-kept museum of antiquities. The growth of the city has left it marooned a little to the east on a side street called Elliott.
The stone Parliament Buildings are sufficiently handsome, in a conventional and obese fashion: they have accumulated a legendry of their own and they preside impressively over one of Canada s favorite picture-postcard scenes. This is the heart of Victoria, Government Street’s single touch of distinction and solely a product of man's cunning.
Douglas, on his arrival here a hundred and fifteen years ago, found at the eastern edge of the cramped harbor a tidal basin of mud emitting a nauseous marine smell. He wisely built his fort on the harbor's northern arm, well away from the stinking ooze.
Later on a rickety wooden bridge was strung across this bottomless quagmire as an approach to the Bird Cages. It served the town until it was replaced by the present broad stone Causeway.
The mud was drained, the basin filled and on the fill, with nothing but wooden piles to support its foundations, rose that elegant combination of French chateau and English manor house, the Empress Hotel.
The green square of the Parliament Buildings, the lawns and gaudy flower beds of the hotel, form a semicircle around the bathtub harbor, where the sleek white ferry boats, those pampered Princesses of the CPR, dawdle over their ablutions, morning and night.
For upward of fifty years Victoria has lavished its labor, money and invention on a precious area of some twenty acres. She has made it a stage set, a civic pantheon, a minor acropolis and altar of the Victorian spirit.
These mysteries are too deep for explanation here but the outlander might as well understand, if he trains his camera down Government Street, that he is; photographing only the thin outer shell of Victoria.
To be sure, Victoria does everything possible to accommodate the tourist, flatter him and relieve him of his money.
George I. Warren, the town's official greeter, is strategically installed at the northern end of the Causeway, his eye automatically counting the foreign license plates as they move past his window.
The flower baskets were hung from the lamp posts to advise the visitor that he has arrived in Arcady and therefore should spend without stint.
The horse-drawn tallyhos, the antique stores and the tea-hour ritual at the Empress are all designed to persuade the innocent American that Victoria is a magic Little Bit of Olde England on the Shores of the Pacific, though no Englishman would recognize it as such.
These hard commercial necessities cannot deceive any Victorian walking down Government Street, for this corner of a private universe contains his deepest recollections and proclaims his special civilization.
In two world wars the boys of Victoria marched across the Causeway to board their ships, and marched back as men.
Every Victoria child sees his first glimpse of Christmas here. The Parliament Buildings are outlined against the
night sky in electric lights, the sequoia in front of them is spangled with stars (the biggest Christmas tree in Canada) and the hollies of the hotel are decked out in tinsel.
Every teen-age boy and girl has danced all night in the hotel's crystal ballroom to the music of Billy Tickle's immemorial orchestra and, reaching the years of discretion, has listened to his
subdued genteel chamber music in the lounge. Victoria's collective living room.
The rich widows who engorge tea there, at exactly four o'clock, have been written up. with a smirk, by every strolling scribbler until they have become a tiresome fiction in print, but they are real in life. So are the crumpets and heavy English fruit cake.
While visiting firemen, statesmen, ty-
coons and movie stars are always making headlines at the Empress, to all Victorians the biggest news story of modern times recorded the death of the ivy vines on the hotel's brick towers some two years ago in a November blizzard. (Something went wrong with Canada's Evergreen Playground that dreadful night.)
Since then the army of civil servants, on its procession across the Causeway
every morning, anxiously watches the new sprouts creep upward. The lowers will be naked for a long time yet.
What all these things mean to Victorians the tourist is unlikely to discover. Anyway, he—or more likely she—is too busy discovering the treasures of the Government Street stores. Thanks mainly to them, the street has been saved from ruin and rejuvenated for five blocks north of the Causeway.
It had enjoyed a lively and sinful youth in the days of the gold rush. It was double-lined with saloons even in my boyhood, while still unpaved and dusty. But about twenty years ago it began to run down. Much of its business moved two blocks eastward to its boisterous rival, Douglas Street, which has no history but is undeniably Victoria’s main stem. Government, with only some half a dozen modern buildings, seemed doomed to slow decay.
Then its merchants undertook a quiet renaissance, spruced up stores long out of date and, by importing specialties of every kind from all over the world, lured the traveler straight northward from the harbor before he could reach Douglas.
Government could not hope to compete with the upstart in commercial volume, but it became the tourists' caravansary, a profitable business location and a traffic problem.
You will find it a pretty run-down street if you examine it too closely and detect the old wrinkles under the new make-up. No matter, the tourists think it quaint, as it certainly is not, and the natives love it for its past. Like any wellbred Victorian dowager, it grows old gracefully. Its only danger, in fact, is the present rage to rebuild it into just another typical Canadian street.
Old-timers say no
A stranger on holiday can hardly stroll a block of its length without serious damage to his purse, unless he is quite immune to lovely things.
He certainly will not get past the fine old Belmont Building and Sydney Reynolds' windows full of glass and china at the Causeway's northern end and just opposite the former post office (which has just had its aged face lifted, against the old-timers’ protest).
Mr. Reynolds, a Dorset man, says he has been in the antique business all his life, from floor sweeper to proprietor. Don't believe him. Antiques and modern ceramics are not his business; they are his passion.
Usually you will find him in the basement, his shirt sleeves rolled up, fondling some dinner set from England, a goblet from Venice, a vase from Vienna or a Blackthorn shillelagh from Ireland, with a collector’s sensuous delight.
"If you don't really feel something when you look at it, if it doesn't do something to you, don't buy it,” he tells his customers. And he means it too. Often his wife, two sons and a daughter are almost afraid to sell some piece that has struck his fancy.
A few paces north the Wedgwood Shop glistens in a litter of English china.
In The Spode Shop—it sells nothing but Spode—Mrs. Margot Bowden, being Scottish. knows that the customer means a meat platter if he asks for an “ashet.” Very likely she will hurl a bone-china plate on the floor and stand on it to prove its strength.
She also likes to boast that her “China Room” at the back was once a Chinese opium den. A hole in the floor near the fireplace was burned by a hot opium pot. (Remember that this is an old street covered by a new veneer.)
At the corner of Government and Courtney the Tudor House and its imported clothes give a partial disguise to the first brick building erected in the town. It was built during gold-rush times as the palatial Victoria Hotel, changed its name to Windsor and. upstairs, is still a hotel of a modest sort.
Next door you can buy moccasins, bead work or bows and arrows at the Indian Craft Shoppe and the jewelry of Asia in the Persian Arts and Crafts, but you may pass by, unnoticed, perhaps the most remarkable establishment on the Pacific Coast.
About 1885 an eccentric fruit dealer from Massachusetts, the late C. W. Rogers, arrived in Victoria to seek his fortune. He did not find it in the fruit business, however. Instead, he invented a recipe for chocolates that have been sold ever since around the world.
Rogers locked himself in his kitchen every morning at four o'clock to mix his candy with a short-handled garden spade. If he liked the look of the customer, not otherwise, he might sell him a single box of sweets when he opened his store for an hour or two in the afternoon.
The temple of confectionery was decorated with imported mirrors, oak beams and bronze nudes in curious combination, arranged by Mrs. Rogers. This enterprising pair soon accumulated riches and became far better known abroad than any other citizens of British Columbia. Their happiness was brief.
After the tragic death of their young son, they became hermits, carrying all their money about with them in a black satchel and giving most of it to charity. But they continued to make chocolates with furious energy.
Their chocolate recipe is still kept locked in a vault under the key of their successor, a wealthy Los Angeles widow. No outsider is ever admitted to the back room where each candy is shaped by hand.
Rogers’ Chocolates have never been advertised. Two empty red boxes in the front window alone indicate the shop’s wares, but they are shipped regularly to the U. S., Europe, Africa, Australia and the Orient. Every attempt to imitate them has failed.
At the corner of Broughton Street the big Straith clothing store is filled all summer like a social club by tourists drooling over its imported woolens, especially English and Scottish tweeds, and all the year by the smarter-dressed set, male and female, of the town.
Some of the best woolens produced anywhere are woven in Victoria by the Island Weavers and sold on Government Street between Broughton and Fort.
A quarter of a century ago Mrs. Robin Murray became interested in the primitive weaving methods of Kashmir. She studied the craft in England and Scotland and with her husband, a retired major of the Black Watch and the 9th Gurkha Rifles, installed a hand loom in an old Esquimalt house, just because they liked Vancouver Island.
They have brought their cloth to such perfection that it amazes the connoisseur and sometimes is sold in Scotland. Lately they have designed a brand-new tartan to represent British Columbia. For after all, they say, this province was once known as New Caledonia.
The explorer reaches the boundary of Douglas’ original kingdom at the intersection of Fort Street. Shops and offices along the west side of Government stand on the eastern line of the old stockade. It ran down to the harbor arm and faced, on the far side, the village of the troublesome Songhees tribe.
Nothing but a bronze plaque on the
and Eskimo — have replaced the finest liquors ever known in British Columbia, as her customers have replaced the provincial statesmen who used to govern the province with their feet firmly planted on the Brown Jug's brass rail.
One of demon rum’s most ardent enemies and British Columbia’s first merchant prince established himself, in 1862. just north of poor Golden's unprofitable bar.
David Spencer, a genial Santa Claus person as I remember him, his massive white beard making a necktie unnecessary, came out from Britain to join the gold rush but changed his mind and opened a reading room and library on Government Street.
Later he went into the clothing business. His draper’s establishment quicklyexpanded into a department store, the largest west of Ontario, and finally, under his many sons, into a commercial colossus embracing Victoria and Vancouver.
All went well for Spencer’s empire until the night of October 25, 1910, when the huge department store and many smaller stores around it were burned by Victoria’s most spectacular conflagration.
Next morning, having chartered a ship and brought a cargo of goods from Vancouver, the incombustible Spencer familyopened a new store in the Driard Hotel just to the east, on Broad Street and View.
That fire altered and improved the town’s central geography. Through the charred ruins, View Street was driven westward from Broad to Government and its lofty office buildings became the centre of the financial business.
Strangers baffled by skill
The Spencer firm rebuilt on Government and joined the new store to the Driard Building, and to a still newer addition on Douglas Street, by tunnel. Now, in the proliferous premises purchased from the Spencers by the T. Eaton Company, you can walk from Douglas, under Broad, to Government and emerge with anything from a roast of beef to a grand piano.
The crowded corner of View and Government has been skilfully arranged to baffle strangers and slow down traffic. View Street comes in from the east but, once across Government in a slight jog. it passes the fine old-fashioned granite Bank of Montreal and is transformed into Bastion Street.
Of course Victoria would not change the name of Bastion merely because it is an extension of View, or View because it is a continuation of Bastion. For Bastion is sacrosanct as celebrating the wooden fortifications of the fort and, moreover, it is consecrated to the legal profession.
Any morning, at ten o'clock, you can see the impressive persons of lawyers and visiting judges walk (never drive) down the narrow canyon of Bastion to the courthouse, a block westward, which looks like a minor Bastille and is haunted by the ghosts of many distinguished murderers, there condemned.
Long before View Street was extended, Victoria’s first civic rebel, Thomas Trounce, felt outraged because, on the town’s incorporation in 1858, the blundering municipal authorities left no convenient access between Broad and Government. So he laid out an alley across his own land, allowed the public to use it and closed it once a year to confirm his ownership.
Trounce Alley, a few yards north of View, used to be a disreputable short cut, usually avoided, but of late years
wall of a modern building marks the place where the British Empire asserted and made good its decision to hold Vancouver Island, the British Columbia coast to Alaska and half of North America.
Government Street was a muddy trail outside the fort's eastern gate, so named because the log government offices clustered beside it. The last of those buildings were demolished in 1864 as the gold rush turned Victoria into a real town.
A brawling town it must have been by all accounts and one of its most famous resorts was the Brown Jug Saloon
at the southeast corner of Government and Fort.
The proprietor, Thomas Golden, packed the customers in but somehow never made any money. He therefore jumped off the steamship Prince Alfred on her way to California. Most inconveniently, the sailors rescued him for further financial difficulties. His saloon, under various owners, was closed only by the prohibition law of 1917.
The Brown Jug occupied a perfect site, in my youth, for the innocent young collector of cigar bands. Its customers
were always high-class and smoked the best cigars. After refreshments in the mysterious interior, they would usually oblige us and occasionally donate a nickel or even a dime in addition to the band. Once I received a rare collector’s item plus a genuine American cartwheel. That was my first lesson in the dangers of alcohol.
Bessie Fitzgerald may not realize that her Quest Shop occupies this celebrated location, that her collections of handcraft, the work of more than two hundred Canadian craftsmen—white, Indian
the adjoining merchants have primped it with (lower boxes, decorated it with a costly wrought-iron entrance and turned it into an English arcade as the rebel’s monument.
On its northern side stands the oldest business establishment in Victoria. Here William Wilson, an Englishman, built a log store in 1862 and brought his stock of clothing around the Horn. Ninety-six years later his descendants, down to the fourth generation, are still prospering at the same stand.
W. & J. Wilson is a name known not only to every Victorian but all down the Pacific Coast, especially in California. The firm sells imported men's, women's and children's clothing of the better kind, with a touching and genuine air of dedication. Its salesmen and tailors are trained to remember every customer's name and peculiarities: they speak familiarly of half the actors and actresses of Hollywood: and fit a suit, hat or pair of gloves like surgeons performing a particularly delicate operation.
This stretch of Government Street was once the core of the pioneer village. The wooden post office stood on the west side, where a palatial new’ post office of shiny marble stands today. The southwest corner of Yates and Government at first accommodated the colonial treasury and other public buildings but they were replaced by the memorable Adelphi Saloon, whose swinging doors opened on both streets to keep business moving.
Between those doors Frank Campbell's tcbacco store became Vancouver Island's focus of news, gossip and politics. The public-spirited tobacconist posted bulletins of "‘intelligence’' whenever a ship brought out-of-date newspapers from San Francisco. He also listed all employment opportunities. (Wages for laborers were eighteen cents per hour for a tenhour day.)
The removal of the post office to the shore of the harbor, a change deeply resented and attributed to the political power of the new, aristocratic James Bay suburb, ended the reign of “Campbell's Corner,” though it is still one of the busiest spots in town.
Meanwhile, however, in 1858, Michael Young opened the New England Hotel, on the west side of Government, just north of Yates. His unequalled food, cooked in deep underground kitchens, his wine from cellars recessed in the living rock, soon made his eating place second in reputation only to San Francisco's Poodle Dog. For over seventy years, until it went broke in 1935, the
New England was Victoria's only true night spot, the private rendezvous of politicians and a glorious shambles every New Year's Eve. At this point Government Street runs to seed. It is crossed here by Johnson, once the promenade of the red-light district, and now' the dingy approach to the bridge across the harbor arm. Still, even Johnson is getting spruced up in Victoria's recent boom. At its intersection with Government stands the latest and gigantic version of Colonel E. G. Prior's pioneer hardware store which.
tor selling a few shovels to the government, impelled its proprietor, a man of quixotic honor, to resign as premier of British Columbia. (He was rewarded later with the office of lieutenant-governor.) Two blocks farther north. Government Street enters Chinatown, a dismal stretch of unmapped rabbit warrens and newly opened, garish but excellent chop-sueyresorts. A score of luxurious curio shops, smelling sweet of silk, sandalwood and teak, still flourished here in the old days but there is now left on Gov-
ernment only The Orient. It manages, in spite of the present trade barriers, to present the embroidery, furniture and oddments of China. What goes on behind the dilapidated front of Chinatown, few white men know. 1 have seldom explored it since a Chinese cook named Joe Kee used to take me and other kids to the theatre for plays acted by touring Chinese actors from Canton — a fetid, clamorous aromatic chamber of wonders — and would fill us with astounding, sticky sweets, or let us peer into smoky dens
and watch fan-tan played in silence and solemnity.
The theatre is no more. If the old vices of opium smoking and gambling have not been quite suppressed, the town hears little of them nowadays.
When the Chinese were regarded as hardly human beings and only as the Yellow Peril, it was the custom of the police to raid their harmless card games and lotteries several times a week while white men gambled freely in first-class clubs and hotels.
Now that the Chinese community is respected by everyone, many of its leaders live in the best parts of Victoria and its children no longer speak Chinese. Chinatown has lost the glamour of sin and attracts no attention. Only some dried ducks, ginger and spices in the windows, or some edible seaweed drying on the sidewalk outside, distinguish the Chinese stores. The Yellow Peril has shrunk to a few old men smoking meditatively in the doorways.
Strange things used to happen in this district. Occasionally a citizen of Chinatown would be found minus his head after a tong war. On September 4, 19 IK. a young Chinese barber and patriot.
Chong Wong, found it necessary to commit a political assassination for the good of some obscure revolution in China.
Having dressed himself in new clothes, he hid in Fan Tan Alley and shot down Tang Him lung, an eminent visiting statesman from Peiping, on Fisgard
Street. Pursuing Tang's secretary up
Government Street with a fusillade from his revolver. Chong turned up Pandora and blew his own brains out at the corner of Broad.
A cub reporter's lucky chance permitted me to observe this suicide as I walked home from church with old George Perdue, chief of detectives, but neither he nor anyone else ever found out the reason for Government Street's only international incident.
Chinatown bounds the street's active life. Tired by its march of a mile and a half from the sea, it collapses into lumber yards, a gas works and many ruined houses, but presents one last relic of better times.
The big brewery of the Lucky Lager Brewing Company has been making beer in the same premises for more than seventy-seven years and on the same site for a hundred. W. E. Spershott, manager and brewmaster, is proud of this record, of his spotless odorless plant and of his product; also of a model recreation room, designed like a handsome pub and decorated by a cougar skin from his rifle.
Alas, the sleek horses, the clattering wagons, the fat oaken barrels and the red-faced drivers we used to know have disappeared. Without them beer is only a beverage.
Two miles north of Fuea’s Strait, Government Street becomes little better than slum. It finally gives up the struggle, converges with Douglas, its victorious competitor, and falls into a well-planned vortex of uncontrollable traffic from six streets that run like wheel spokes into Fountain Circle.
In this ultimate civic chaos, which the city council is always promising to reform and never does, Government Street dies without ceremony after the splendors of its southern beginnings and the adventures of a century. That is The Fountain's only apparent purpose. It used to be a dusty square, providing water for horses in an iron trough. Today it is a disc of grass, a hideous iron fountain at its centre, the sort of place where an> self-respecting street w'ould choose to die. ★