A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1923
[caption id="attachment_4412" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="President Harding in Stanley Park, Juy 16, 1923. Photo # Port P583.1."]
By Chuck Davis, The History of Vancouver
Photos courtesy of Vancouver Archives
Vancouver's population topped 130,000 in 1923, a growth of 13,000 in two years. (Today, the city's population is just over 600,000.)
Main Events: President Harding visits; Chinese Immigration Act; Pacific Highway
On July 26, 1923 U.S. President Warren Harding visited Vancouver, the first sitting American president to come to Canada. Premier John Oliver and Mayor Charles Tisdall hosted a lunch in his honor at the Hotel Vancouver. More than 50,000 of us crowded into Stanley Park to hear him speak, thrilled that such an important figure was visiting, and had chosen Vancouver.
Seven days after visiting, Harding died in San Francisco. A shocked Vancouver public wished to commemorate his visit. Harding belonged to the Kiwanis Club, and so did Vancouver sculptor Charles Marega, which didn't hurt. Marega was commissioned to design a memorial, and the handsome result stands on the spot in the park where Harding spoke. Read more here
Harding was succeeded by his vice-president, Calvin Coolidge.
On July 1, 1923 a new Chinese Immigration Act came into effect in Canada. It virtually banned Chinese immigration. Only four kinds of Chinese immigrants were allowed: diplomats, children born in Canada, students and merchants. Only 44 Chinese entered Canada during the next 24 years. Chinese Canadians long referred to July 1 as 'Humiliation Day' and many refused to join in Dominion Day celebrations. The act would not be repealed until 1947 and then only wives and children under 18 of Canadian citizens were admitted. Chinese were not able to come to Canada on the same basis as other immigrants until 1967.
Great Pacific Highway
On September 3 Vancouver was linked with California with the opening in Cloverdale of the Great Pacific Highway. "A smooth unbroken highway, dustless and rutless," the Province
reported, "now undulates evenly from Vancouver to Los Angeles, linking two nations and joining three states to the Province of British Columbia."
The new link was now the world's longest paved road. (Drive down 176th Street in Surrey and you link to I-5 in Washington. That route is this road.) The road benefited from a planting effort by the Kiwanis Club of Vancouver, who put in 1,150 ornamental trees as a gesture toward hiding some ugly clearcuts left by decamped lumber companies.
Ward System Returned
A referendum held back in 1920 had brought in an experiment [in Vancouver] of proportional representation, then being tried out in a number of North American cities. This year another referendum brought back the eight-ward, single-member system.
Construction of Ballantyne Pier at the north foot of Heatley Street was completed in 1923. It was described as the most technologically advanced port in the British Empire. Architectural historian Harold Kalman has written: "Although only a cargo-storage and loading facility for Vancouver's busy port, the original Ballantyne Pier was designed more as a triumphal gateway to the city than a warehouse."
[caption id="attachment_4413" align="alignright" width="330" caption="The opening of the B.C. Electric Railway Company bus line on Grandview Highway, March 23, 1923.Photo # Trans P101.2. "]
Buses on Grandview
On March 19, 1923 the BC Electric Railway inaugurated a motorbus line on Grandview Highway. Brian Kelly, transit historian, has written: "In 1923, under [B.C. Electric Railway] general manager George Kidd, the first vehicle to challenge the supremacy of the electric streetcar arrived on the scene. To inaugurate a new route connecting Broadway and Commercial with the Grandview area at 22nd and Rupert the company bought two 23-passenger buses from the White Motor Company, with bodies built locally by G.W. Ribchester. They were hand-cranked, sported solid tires, and were so successful that more buses were ordered . . ."
Prospect Point Signal Station
On July 27 occurred the official opening of the Prospect Point Signal Station in Stanley Park. It was installed to regulate all shipping in and out of Vancouver's harbour. To quote the old web site of the Prospect Point Lookout: "The Lookout is the most popular panoramic viewpoint in the city, situated 64.3 metres (211 feet) above the sea. It has also been named South Head, Calamity Point, Observation Point and Prospect Bluff."
Two former BC premiers died in 1923. On March 2 'Fighting Joe' (Joseph) Martin, premier for four months in 1900, died in Vancouver, aged 70. Born in Ontario in 1852, Martin, a former Manitoba MLA and cabinet minister, began practising law in Vancouver in 1897. He became one of the city's largest landowners. He was elected an MLA (Vancouver City) in 1898. After Premier Semlin was forced to resign by Lt. Governor McInnes in February 1900, Martin became acting premier. Four months later, he was defeated by James Dunsmuir. He moved to England in 1908, and was elected to the British House of Commons in 1910! Back in Vancouver, he tried (and failed) to get elected as an Asiatic Exclusion League candidate, and lost out in a bid to become mayor.
On December 9, 1923 former BC premier John Turner (1895 to 1898; no relation to the former prime minister) died, aged 89. We got this, and other information about past BC premiers, from a delightful blog from Dr. Beth Snow
. Her entry on Turner reads, in part: "Apparently, he was not so good with money. Throughout the period that Turner was minister of finance (1887-98), the provincial budget was in deficit each year and by the time he left office the gross public debt had climbed to nearly $7,500,000, a sevenfold increase from 1886."
On February 27, 1923 the Surrey Gazette
, a weekly, began publication in the White Rock area of Surrey.
On March 26, 1923 the Province
published a special edition to mark its 25th year as a Vancouver daily.
The Canadian National Railway station had just been completed and in March the parks board started work on an undeveloped parcel of land in front of the station, at the corner of Main and Terminal. Sir Henry Thornton, the first president of the CNR, provided a special track to bring sand and black soil from Chilliwack. Upon completion, the park - outfitted with benches and rare trees - was named after Thornton.
On June 1 the CNR established a Radio Department. Thanks to Thornton [see previous item] the CNR began installing radio sets in their passenger cars. They needed stations to provide programming that passengers could listen to along the CNR's various routes, particularly its coast-to-coast transcontinental line. The general public could also receive the broadcasts if they lived in the vicinity of a CNR radio station.
CFXC, founded by radio-shop owner Fred Hume, began broadcasting out of a tiny room in the back of his shop in New Westminster.
In August the Southam company assumed control of the very successful Vancouver Daily Province
On September 4 West Vancouver High School opened in the Hollyburn elementary school building.
printed this knee-slapper on September 8, 1923:
Foreman: Yes, I'll give ye a job sweepin' and keepin' the place clean.
Applicant: But I'm a college graduate.
Foreman: Well, then maybe ye better start on somethin' simpler.
On December 5, 1923 radio was used for the first time in a Vancouver mayoralty election campaign: candidate W.R. Owen, a former blacksmith, gave a ten-minute speech over Station CJCE. He won the election.
Thomas George Shaughnessy died in Montreal December 9, aged 70. The old-money Vancouver neighborhood was named for him. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1853, Shaughnessy became a railroader. In 1882 he was recruited over a glass of beer as general purchasing agent for the CPR. He became the railway's president in 1898, held the job for 20 years. He was knighted in 1901 and became Lord Shaughnessy in 1916.
On December 12 the Rotary Club's first Christmas Carnival was held.
Jimmy Butterfield, aged about 44, began a daily column in the Province
. Butterfield's name stands out because he wrote on local doings (beginning this year and carrying on to his death to 1941), at a time when newspaper style was often stiff and long-winded, in a voice that sounded human. His column was titled The Common Round
The Vancouver Park Board issued a map showing the location of 'squatters' in Stanley Park. The map is at the City Archives. A court case was initiated to attempt to expel eight Indian 'squatting' families from the park. More of the story is told in Jean Barman's 2005 book, Stanley Park's Secret
The parish hall at St. Mary's Church at 2498 West 37th Avenue in Kerrisdale was built. It is a heritage building today.
In her book Ports of British Columbia
(1943) Agnes Rothery says Diesel engines began to be used locally in tugboats this year.
The oldest local functioning amateur sports organization in Vancouver, the Meralomas, was established in 1923 as the Mermaid Swim Club. 'Meraloma' was coined from 'mer' for mermaid, 'al' for alpha and 'om' for omega. The last 'a' was added for the sound.
The Alcazar Theatre, built on Commercial Drive in 1913, was taken over by Vancouver Little Theatre. Today, Vancouver developer Bruno Wall has financed a multi-million-dollar restoration of the theatre in return for density transfers elsewhere in the city.
Charles Campbell sold the World
to the Sun
's Robert Cromie this year. Now Cromie had a paper in the morning (the Sun
) and in the evening (the World
Burnaby got its first fire truck, a Model T Ford converted in his garage by mechanic (and fire truck driver) Bill Banks. Banks later converted a 12-cylinder Packard limousine.
Coquitlam joined the Greater Vancouver Water Board. Annual rates were introduced: 75 cents for houses without bath, $1.15 for houses with.
Ocean Park got its first post office. It was featured in Ripley's "Believe it or Not" as the smallest in the world. People wrote from distant places just to get the postmark.
Pacific Stage Lines and B.C. Rapid Transit Company, subsidiaries of B.C. Electric Railway, began regular passenger service in the Fraser Valley.
Construction began on the Main Library at UBC. Architectural historian Harold Kalman writes: "The central portion (1923-25) features the stone walls and medievalizing detail of the Collegiate Gothic style, originally intended for the entire campus."
Construction began this year on the Centre Lawn building at Essondale mental hospital (now Riverview Hospital). Another 1923 highlight: milk output at Essondale's Colony Farm reached almost a million pounds. Among the more notable of the 62 Holsteins there was Colony Grebegga Valdessa, two years old, who produced 28,371 pounds of milk, a world record for her age group. (That's nearly 78 pounds of milk a day!)
The Burnaby Civic Employees Union Memorial Fountain was erected, designed by William Williamson of Westminster Monumental Works. Made of BC granite, the fountain was erected to honor union members killed in the First World War. Originally located on Kingsway near Edmonds at the old Municipal Hall, in 1974 it was moved to Burnaby Village Museum.
Star of the Sea Parish in White Rock, a Catholic church, was established.
The Women's Institute, a province-wide group of community-minded women, sparked the idea of creating a Crippled Children's Hospital in Vancouver. The name would change to Children's Hospital in 1947.
The West Ender/Kitsilano News
first appeared (as the West Ender
The Toronto-based Bank of Hamilton, which had several Vancouver area branches after opening its first one in the city in 1898, merged with the Bank of Commerce.
The big wooded area known today as Pacific Spirit Regional Park, adjacent to the University Endowment Lands, was once a source of timber for the Hastings Sawmill. Their logging, started in 1860, ended this year. Then the land was endowed to the university. You'll see second-growth Douglas fir, western red cedar, western hemlock and more here.
Scotland-born William Marr Crawford, shipping executive, was named president and managing director of Empire Stevedoring, B.C.'s largest waterfront employer.
[caption id="attachment_4414" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Jimmie McLarnin, world's champion prize fighter, circa 1929 or 1930. Photo # PortN49. "]
Vancouver boxing promoter "Pop" (Charles) Foster began training a future world welterweight champion in 17-year-old Jimmy McLarnin, who had been selling newspapers in Vancouver.
England-born Charles Cleaver Maddams, a Mount Pleasant settler, who in 1888 had bought five acres on the south shore of False Creek and, because of nearby Chinese farms, named the area China Creek, transferred his "Maddams Ranch" to the Vancouver park board to cover his taxes. Maddams Street, originally a Mount Pleasant trail, is named for him.
North Vancouver mountaineers Don and Phyllis Munday 'discovered' Mt. Waddington, B.C.'s highest peak. They would make four attempts to reach the top, coming within 18 metres in 1926. Don Munday described their attempts in an exciting 1948 book, The Unknown Mountain
. Two more editions appeared. See also 1920.
Fritz Ziegler, who had established Ziegler Chocolate Shops in 1921, died. His widow Wanda became president, grew the chain from three to 11 Lower Mainland stores.
Construction began on a bridge across the Second Narrows. (Not the present bridge.)
Port Coquitlam paid tribute to the men it lost in the First World War with the construction of a cenotaph. It stands today in the park in front of city hall.
Chuck Davis is a Vancouver writer who has written, co-written, or edited 15 books. Most of them are on local history, and he describes his next book, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, as the capstone of his career.