A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1937
[caption id="attachment_5830" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="Mayor Miller planting the coronation oak tree in front of a group of dignitaries at City Hall, May 12, 1937. Item # Tr N10."]
In 1937 one bridge was completed and another began, a business owner familiar to most Vancouverites passed away and a new political party was formed.
By Chuck Davis, The History of Vancouver
Photos courtesy of Vancouver Archives
The average annual income in Canada in 1937 was $617.
The Main Event: The Pattullo Bridge opened
On November 15, 1937 the Pattullo Bridge opened to traffic, joining New Westminster to Surrey. Premier Duff Pattullo, wielding a welder’s torch, ceremonially cut a metal chain across the roadway. Length of the $4 million bridge, including approaches: 7,800 feet (2377 m). Its clearance above the Fraser 150 feet (45.72 m). The Dominion Bridge Co., and Northern Construction & J.W. Stewart Ltd. built it. Major W.G. Swan was the consulting engineer. Several services had been installed beneath the deck, the heaviest being water mains for the municipalities to the south. There was a toll on the bridge of 25 cents which would not be not removed until February 12, 1952. Said Premier Pattullo at the opening: “It is a thing of beauty.”
On the first day the Pattullo opened 5,000 cars crossed it. Because there was a toll when the bridge opened locals referred to it at the time as the Pay-Toll-O Bridge.
A Coronation Day service (celebrating the accession to the throne of George VI and Queen Elizabeth) was held May 12, 1937 at Brockton Point in Stanley Park. Jonathan Rogers planted the King George VI Oak in the park in his last public appearance during his time with the parks board.
On June 2, 1937 Charles A. Woodward, department store founder, died in Vancouver, aged 84. He was born July 19, 1852 on a farm near Hamilton, Ont. In 1891 he visited Vancouver and bought two lots for a store, then moved here in 1892 and opened his first store where Georgia meets Main. The big Hastings Street store opened in 1903, known later especially for its Woodward’s Food Floor, the first self-serve food floor on the continent. In a day when grocery stores were small, this gigantic emporium was—the right word—exciting. In 1910, the store held its first one-price sale day, 25 Cents Day, a forerunner of $1.49 Day. Woodward was a one-term Liberal MLA at age 71. When he died his son William took over. Woodward’s lasted 100 years, a good run. He was named to the Canadian Business Hall of Fame in 1966. See The Woodwards by Douglas Harker.
Old Sun Tower
On March 22, 1937 fire destroyed the business and editorial offices of the Vancouver Sun
, at 125 West Pender, with damage set at more than $200,000. There was just one casualty: the janitor suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation. The newspaper came out on time that day. The paper moved into the Bekins Building across the street and bought the building May 18. We still know it today, more than 40 years after they moved out in 1965, as the Old Sun Tower.
[caption id="attachment_5831" align="alignright" width="320" caption="Mayor Miller administers the oath of office to Miss Helena Rose Gutteridge, March 30, 1937. Item # Port P276.1."]
On March 24 London, England-born Helena Gutteridge of the CCF became the first woman ever elected to Vancouver City Council. But she had been active long before that. Gutteridge was born in London, England about 1880, came to Vancouver in 1911 and organized the B.C. Women’s Suffrage League, fighting for votes for women. In 1915 she convinced the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council to support equal pay for equal work in their constitution, and in 1919 she united labour with women's groups and won passage of B.C.'s first minimum wage act. (It varied by industry, but $13 to $15 a week was the range.)
“The Vancouver Non-Partisan Association was formed at a luncheon meeting at Hotel Vancouver today,” the papers reported November 12, “when a large group of representative citizens met to discuss the action of the CCF (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation) in nominating a party slate for the municipal elections in December.” Elections were staggered back then, and just four aldermanic seats were to be filled. Of the four victors, we believe Henry Lyman Corey was NPA (party affiliations weren't shown on the ballots back then.)
On May 22, 1937 the Palomar opened at 713 Burrard Street at Alberni in Vancouver. In its day the Palomar was the place in town for big-name entertainers: the Ink Spots appeared there frequently in the 1940s and ‘50s, and for those of you younger folk who just said ‘Who?,’ here are a couple of other names you will recognize: Louis Armstrong (February 2, 1952) and Duke Ellington (April 11 to 15, 1952.) Dal Richards joined the Sandy De Santis house orchestra at the Palomar in the fall of 1937.
That was a slice!
Canadians tend to take longer to warm to new-fangled stuff, so it’s no surprise that sliced bread, which had been available in some US cities for a few years, didn’t get to us until July 19, 1937. Sliced bread gave a big boost to the sale of the electric toaster. 1937 also brought us the shopping cart and Kraft Dinner. All in all, a momentous year.
On September 1 pilots Billy Wells and Maurice McGregor completed a round-trip from Vancouver to Seattle and back for a brand-new airline, Trans-Canada Air Lines (nee Canadian Airlines). Trans-Canada was founded by the federal government, and Don MacLaren was its first employee. Lockheed 10s were its first aircraft. Regular intercity and transcontinental air mail services now became available from Vancouver.
In January 1937 the Privy Council ruled invalid provincial laws regulating the marketing of tree fruits and vegetables that had the effect of stifling Chinese farmers. Ladner farmers Chung Chuck and Mah Lai had appealed to the Supreme Court.
Performer Alan Young began “in early 1937" at CJOR, Vancouver. He joined the staff of CJOR as assistant to program director Dick Diespecker. He scripted and starred in a weekly show, Signal Carnival
, helped with news broadcasts, typed extra copies of drama scripts and occasionally swept the office. He stayed there for three years, playing every kind of role in radio drama.
The first mention of “marihuana” in a Vancouver newspaper appeared March 5 in the Province
. The story in the Province
reported that traces of hemp were found in a dead man’s stomach.
Construction began on the Lions Gate Bridge March 31, 1937, then the longest suspension bridge in the British Empire, to give better access to the British Properties. More than 300 men were employed in the construction. It would open to traffic in November 1938.
The Common Good Credit Unit (BC’s first credit union), established August 22, 1936, made its first loan May 22, 1937, totalling $27.
On May 26 the Vancouver Sun
had a short item about city barbers protesting against “cut-throat” haircutters who were charging as low as 15 cents. A spokesman for the barbers, Harold Freeman, presented to city council a petition “signed by 208 of the 231 white proprietors of barbershops in Vancouver, and added that the secretary of the Oriental barbers’ organization, with 75 members, has approved the petition.” Prices at regular shops ranged from 15 to 50 cents, but a 40-cent rate is asked by many barbers “who are trying to improve their conditions.”
Not local, but a good story: on May 27, 1937 the Golden Gate Bridge opened in San Francisco.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were married in France June 3.
On June 16 the federal government announced a contract for eleven Blackburn “Shark” warplanes to be built by Boeing at Coal Harbour for the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Bus service to replace electric street cars was inaugurated in New Westminster July 1.
Aviator Amelia Earhart, three weeks short of her 40th birthday, went missing on a flight over the South Pacific. She was never found.
Gordon Sylvester Wismer, Vancouver lawyer, began serving July 5 as attorney general in the Pattullo cabinet.
In a ceremony July 20 at the Peace Arch, women from Canada and the U.S. sang the two national anthems.
Dr. Norman Bethune spoke August 2 in Vancouver for the Canadian Blood Transfusion Service.
The Oak movie theatre opened August 4, 1937 with great fanfare at Kingsway and Marlborough—tickets were 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children. Hailed as a masterpiece of “art moderne,” it operated until 1968.
The first annual Kiddies’ Karnival at Brockton Point began August 20.
[caption id="attachment_5832" align="alignleft" width="320" caption="Visit of President Roosevelt at Government House, Victoria. Item # LP 40."]
October 1 is the date on a photo (VLP40 City of Vancouver Archives) showing U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt, his wife Eleanor, BC’s Lt.-Gov. Eric Hamber and Premier Duff Pattullo on the steps of the legislature in Victoria.
The Vancouver Golf Club clubhouse burned to the ground November 14.
A benefit tea was held November 24 in Vancouver for Chinese war refugees from the Sino-Japanese War.
The Lougheed Highway was completed this year.
The Cave Supper Club opened on Hornby Street. It would be a part of the night club scene in Vancouver until 1981.
Winnipeg-born Bob Smith, the city's first jazz disc jockey, began playing big-band 78s as a teenager (he was 17) on the CJOR program Hilites
The Federal Building (housing federal government offices) was built. Today, one of the few remaining art deco buildings in the city, it’s part of Sinclair Centre.
George Miller became mayor of Vancouver. He was the first mayor elected under the at-large system, running as an independent. Wards had been done away with by an earlier plebiscite and party politics made its entry into Vancouver government.
Gordon Shrum became head of physics at UBC in 1937.
With more than 3,000 patients in care, insulin shock and Metrazol therapy (no longer used) was introduced at Essondale mental hospital, the first full-time dentist was appointed, a new nurses home was built and the first psychologist appointed.
The first Lions Ladies’ Club was established this year in Vancouver.
, a monthly publication of the United Fishermen & Allied Workers Union, began appearing.
The Turner Valley oil discovery in 1936 triggered a boom market in the VSE's junior oils, with the volume reaching 120 million shares this year.
Nat Bailey, who had opened the White Spot Barbecue at 67th and Granville in 1928, replaced it with the White Spot Restaurant and Drive-in. The legend began.
Centre Park, a 1,200-seat softball diamond location, opened at Broadway and Fir. It would be demolished in 1950.
Capilano Golf Course was established. The club’s first professional was Jock McKinnon, who, wrote Ted Hunt in May, 2002 for Vancouver Magazine
, played there virtually every day from 1937 to 1967. “His remarkable collection of best scores,” Hunt wrote, “gave him a 16 on the outward nine and 17 on the back. Every hole was eagled or double-eagled save two: the par-3 16th, which became too long to ace at 230 yards; and the 18th, too long to deuce at 590. The Guinness Book of Records
honors McKinnon for his unsurpassed 33, only two strokes from complete perfection on a par-72 course.”
The Vagabond Players were formed in New Westminster. They perform in the Vagabond Theatre in Queens Park, have produced more than 250 plays, won over thirty awards at the Regional and Dominion Drama Festival.
City archivist J.S. Matthews and native elder August Jack Khaatsalano compiled a map showing Indian Villages & Landmarks: Burrard Inlet & Howe Sound Before the White Man Came. It’s at the Vancouver City Archives.
Edmonton-born radio pioneer Bill Rea, 28, who had been commercial manager at CJAT, Trail, came to Vancouver in 1937 and began at CJOR. He would launch CKNW in 1944.
The Fisheries Commission was formed. One of its organizers was Thomas Reid, a Liberal MP representing New Westminster.
Jung Jin Sow, superintendent of a local Chinese school, presented a Chinese perpetual calendar he had created, the first of its kind, to the Vancouver City Archives.
Using her own money, New Westminster-born Dr. Ethlyn Trapp set up a centre in Vancouver to prove the benefits of radiotherapy.
Vancouver’s Foon Sien Wong, a legal translator and interpreter, was named publicity agent of the Chinese Benevolent Association's (CBA) aid-to-China program during Sino-Japanese War.
In 1937 a total of 538 people were squatting the Vancouver waterfront, in houseboats, shacks and tents. Their numbers continued to grow over the next two years, despite attempts of the city to destroy their homes.
In her 1943 book The Ports of British Columbia
Agnes Rothery says radio began being used on local tugboats this year.
Perth, Australia-born Dorothy Somerset, who had been at UBC since the 1920s, teaching French, became the first permanent staff member of UBC's fledgling Dept. of Extension in 1937. In 1938 she would found the university’s Summer School of Theatre.
American movie stars Richard Arlen and Lilli Palmer starred in a 1937 production called Silent Barriers
. It’s about the building of the CPR through the Rockies! (The title is now The Great Barrier.) There were a lot of familiar names portrayed: William Van Horne, Sir John A. Macdonald, Major Rogers, James Hill, George Stephen, Thomas Shaughnessy, Donald Smith and R.B. Angus. The movie plays fast and loose with historical fact, but it has real vigor . . . and it was fun to see CPR president William Van Horne land a punch on the jaw of a striking rail worker. For more fun details, visit The History of Metropolitan Vancouver
On February 2, 1937 Eudora Jane Lochead, pioneer store owner and poet, died in North Vancouver. Her (estranged) husband, James, was a logging contractor. Wrote Constance Brissenden: “She opened Hastings Grove Store, the first general store in the area, on Curtis in Burnaby in 1911. Above the store, she ran a rooming house with 20 bedrooms (tents outside housed the overflow); the dining room sat 60 boarders. Concerts were held fortnightly with Eudora playing the violin. Her next store, in an area now called Lochdale, opened in 1913 at Sperling and Hastings, with a post office added March 1, 1914. A poet, her best-known work was Would Life Be Worth Living
Frederick McBain Young, judge and Masonic leader, died May 31 in Vancouver, aged 73. He was born October 30, 1863 in English River, Que. He was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of B.C. Masons in 1901 and 1902. Young laid the cornerstone of Vancouver's Carnegie Library on March 29, 1902.
On November 18 Julia Willmothe Henshaw, botanist and novelist, died at Caulfeild in West Vancouver, aged about 68. She was born in Durham, England in 1869. “She followed in her naturalist father's footsteps,” wrote Constance Brissenden, “photographing mountain wildflowers. She settled in Vancouver about 1887 with her husband Charles Grant Henshaw. She was an editor of the Province
and a columnist for the Vancouver Sun
. A novel, Hypnotized
(1898), was called Book of the Year. In 1914 the Henshaws drove the first car across the Rockies. She wrote several important plant studies, including Mountain Wildflowers of Canada
(1906) and The Wild Flowers of B.C.
(1908). She won the Croix De Guerre as an ambulance driver in France during the First World War.” Mrs. Henshaw was the one woman listed in the pre-war Canadian Who’s Who
. She strongly opposed giving women the vote.
Edmond Maillard, Fraser Mills confessor and the man for whom Maillardville was named, returned to France to teach at a Franco-Canadian College in Rhone. He died in France in 1966. For more, see the 1909 chronology.
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.