A Year in Five Minutes: Vancouver 1943
[caption id="attachment_6352" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="Amphibious army truck driving from water onto Kitsilano Beach during a mock invasion. Photo by Jack Lindsay. Item # CVA 1184-625."]
Italy surrendered this year, but the Second World War raged on and more than 25,000 workers were busy at the city's shipyards. The Vancouver Foundation, Burnaby Hospital and a German credit union also got started in 1943.
By Chuck Davis, The History of Vancouver
Photos courtesy of Vancouver Archives
War News Items
From the Province
, Page 6, May 3, 1943: “City police Sunday seized two cameras and a quantity of film from persons taking photographs in prohibited waterfront areas. A Lt.-Cdr. of the U.S. Navy lost his camera and film when he was stopped by police at Prospect Point in Stanley Park. Two girls, photographing each other at the North Vancouver ferry wharf, were required to turn over their picture-taking equipment. A man reported to be taking pictures of English Bay from Queen Mary School grounds, Fourth and Trimble, could not be found when police searched the district Sunday.”
On January 1, the sale of whipping cream was forbidden in British Columbia, a result of Second World War rationing restrictions.
Effective January 4 boys who had reached the age of 17 were allowed to enlist for training in active units or formations of the Canadian Army. They were paid 70 cents per day.
RCAF war ace “Buzz” Beurling, “King of the Air over Malta,” visited Vancouver March 2. He wasn’t your everyday war hero, a quirky—and not entirely likeable—fellow.
When Burrard Dry Dock laid the keel of the SS Fort St. James, the first of its ‘North Sands’ 10,000-ton cargo vessels, on April 23, 1941 it had taken nine months to complete. Despite thousands of workers new to the ship-building industry, mass production techniques quickly enabled the formation of an efficient workforce. Construction on the last ‘North Sands’ ship, built this year, would take just three-and-a-half months. (The ‘North Sands’ ships were so called because they conformed to original British working drawings supplied by the North Sands shipyard of J. L. Thompson & Sons, Sunderland.)
A new type of ship began to be built. Construction began March 18 on the Fort Columbia, first of the Victory ships to be built by Burrard Dry Dock. With oil-fired boilers they were cheaper to run than the coal-fired North Sands ships, although some Victory ships were built to run on either. Burrard would build 34 of these ships in a little over two years.
On June 26 the cornerstone was laid for HMCS Discovery on Deadman’s Island, Stanley Park.
On September 3 Italy surrendered. The country’s leader, Benito Mussolini, would be found and shot April 28, 1945. (Italy had allied itself with Hitler from 1936 and joined World War II in June 1940. But military defeats in the Balkans and North Africa severely dented confidence in Mussolini as a leader and he was ousted in July 1943 by a group of senior military officers and politicians.)
On November 11, Remembrance Day, after being silent for some time because of wartime shortages, Vancouver’s famous Nine O’Clock Gun resumed firing. There were a few more days of silence, then it was back to regular operation
Kitsilano Beach was used for rehearsing commando beach assaults. Still, the receding danger of attack brought a gradual reduction in local defences to release trained personnel for the Canadian Army in Europe, which was now in continuous action.
[caption id="attachment_6354" align="alignright" width="320" caption="A drydock being moved into position at North Van Ship Repairs in 1943. Photo by Jack Wardlaw. Item # Wat P67.3."]
“Responding to the war crisis,” Jim Lyon wrote in The Greater Vancouver Book
, “Vancouver's shipyards turned out hundreds of cargo vessels and warships and by the peak year of 1943 the work force had grown to more than 25,000. This number did not include several thousand more employed in support industries such as boilermaking and the manufacture of steering engines and winches. In just four years West Coast yards built more than three million tons of new shipping and repaired, converted and refitted a similar amount. In 1943 alone Burrard Drydock completed 33 cargo vessels, North Vancouver Ship Repairs completed 15, West Coast Ship Builders turned out 17 and the remaining yards in British Columbia launched four. The vessels, of 10,000 tons and 4,700 tons, were produced at remarkable speed, some completed in just 65 days.”
Construction began on Burkeville, west of Airport Road in Richmond. Harold Kalman, architectural historian, has written: “Burkeville was laid out and built by the federal government during the Second World War to provide 328 houses for workers employed at the Boeing Aircraft plant. It was named for Stanley Burke, president of Boeing. The streets are named after airplane manufacturers. The plain, no-frills dwellings came in several standard sizes. Most have been altered to fit the needs of two generations of residents. After the War, Boeing sold the houses to returning veterans. The tightly-knit community, already encircled by airport uses, is currently threatened by the intended further expansion of roads and runways.” Ironically, the “plain, no-frills dwellings” were designed by McCarter and Nairne, who gave us the splendidly ornate Marine Building. The name of the development was chosen in a competition among Boeing employees.
The precursor of the Vancouver Volunteer Centre was formed in 1943. It was initially charged with mobilizing women for the war effort and providing accommodation for children evacuated from Britain and for those whose mothers worked on the assembly line. The Women's Voluntary Service, as it was known at the time, began by helping 37 agencies and registering 267 volunteers. By the end of the war approximately 10,000 volunteers were involved.
Activities of the Ukrainian Labour-Farm Temple Association were once again allowed. In 1940 the ULFTA’s community hall at 805 East Pender in Strathcona was seized (one of 108 across the country!) because of the association's opposition to Canadian involvement in the war. At the time, journalist Kevin Griffin has written, the ULFTA supported the Soviet Union which had yet to join the Allied effort against Nazi Germany. Now, in 1943, the ban was lifted. (In 1946, the ULFTA would change its name to the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians.)
Edelweiss Credit Union
Edelweiss Credit Union was established in Vancouver this year to serve the area's German-speaking community. The story of how this credit union was created and functioned during the war is genuinely interesting. It began with a fellow named Michael Bach who had come to the city from Germany in the 1930s. Motivated by his inability to get credit and by the anti-German prejudice he experienced in Vancouver, with 12 others Bach formed a “closed bond” credit union in November 1943—open only to German immigrants and people of German descent. Edelweiss was named after the hardy flower—described as a symbol of unity for Germans, Swiss and Austrian people—and became more than a credit union: it became a haven from anti-German prejudice and a social focus for local German-speaking residents. For the first 14 years it operated out of Michael Bach’s house! Edelweiss eventually would become part of Prospera Credit Union.
Also in 1943
On January 1 St. Francis in the Wood church in Caulfeild, West Vancouver, was consecrated. It was designed by Henry A. Stone, a local resident, businessman and early benefactor of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Stone died June 27 this year, aged about 82.
In March the canoe called Houmiltichesen, built by Jericho Charlie (Chin-nal-set), was presented as a gift to the City of Vancouver by the B.C. Loggers’ Association and the Consolidated Red Cedar Shingle Association of B.C. They had purchased it from August Jack Khatsahlano, his stepson.
Six paintings by Emily Carr went on sale May 15 at an exhibition of works by Carr and others at the 33rd Annual Exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The Carrs were priced at $50 each.
[caption id="attachment_6355" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Telescope presentation to the city. Sir Gerald Burrard is second from the left. Photo by Louis A. Jarche. Item # CVA 371-199."]
On June 13 Sir Gerald Burrard, a descendant of Harry Burrard, the friend of George Vancouver after whom Burrard Inlet was named, presented a telescope to the city. (Gerald Burrard was famous for his knowledge of weaponry. He wrote on shotguns, etc.)
In June, 1943 Burnaby endorsed a “closed shop” for civic employees—the third municipality in Canada to do so, and the first in B.C. (A closed shop is one in which the employer hires only union members in good standing.)
Langley Memorial Hospital was incorporated July 14, 1943.
The first annual exhibition of the Vancouver Gladiolus Society opened August 19.
They re-created the dedication ceremonies in Stanley Park on August 25. The official party was driven by Frank Plant, who had driven Lord and Lady Stanley and Mayor and Mrs. Oppenheimer to the original dedication 55 years earlier! The 1889 ceremony was re-created at the same spot. Playing the role of Mayor David Oppenheimer was his great-nephew David Oppenheimer . . . of Oppenheimer Brothers (food wholesalers).
On September 8 Southam bought the Vancouver Daily Province
The West Vancouver Parks Board was established September 13, 1943.
A great news item appeared in the Province
September 23: “When Mr. and Mrs. E. R. Valleau purchased a home on Burke Street in Burnaby they proceeded to build a home. That was last February. Just the other day when Mr. J. H. Treaves purchased a lot, he discovered he owned the Valleau home. Arrangements for the transfer are being completed, and Mr. and Mrs. Valleau will soon have title to their home. They had mistakenly built their home on the adjoining piece of property.”
Vancouver’s water supply was chlorinated October 6.
On November 13 newspapers reported that the Dominion Bank Building, the 15-storey office structure at the northwest corner of Cambie and Hastings, had been purchased by Samuel J. Cohen, president of the Army & Navy Department Stores Ltd., and would be remodelled as a modern department store after the war. Wonder whatever happened to that idea? (Samuel Cohen's granddaughter, Jacqui Cohen, says that it was never intended to be a department store. “He bought it because the price was right.”)
Burnaby Hospital had a humble beginning. A group of Burnaby citizens interested in building a local hospital met and formed a fund-raising committee; $6,000 was raised by door-to-door canvass. That prompted the city to provide more funds and the hospital was on its way. (Burnaby’s population at the time was 35,000 and average weekly wage was $33.81).
The Vancouver Foundation was established. The key figure in its creation was W. J. VanDusen, lumber magnate and philanthropist. Whitford Julian VanDusen came from Tara, Ontario where he was born July 18, 1889. His long, solid work in the lumber industry from 1912 to 1969 (much of it beside H.R. MacMillan) is deservedly overshadowed by his remarkable philanthropy. The Vancouver Foundation now gives more than $20 million annually, supporting a wide range of charitable, educational and cultural activities. It ranks first in Canada in terms of the value of grants. (VanDusen also paid for and donated the land now occupied by Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden. He died here December 15, 1978.)
The Southlands Riding Club was incorporated. Today it sits on just over seven hectares in the heart of the community. The clubhouse, once an abandoned fisherman's net storage hut on Deering Island, was dismantled and carried piece by piece, by members on horseback, to its present site.
Victor Odlum, 62, soldier and newspaper publisher, was named Canada’s first ambassador to China. He would serve to 1946.
Hockey’s Lynn Patrick joined the New York Rangers, coached by his father Lester Patrick, and scored 13 goals in his first season.
H.R. Butler was club champion this year of the old Shaughnessy Golf Club.
Toronto-born Elmore Philpott, 47, joined the Vancouver Sun
, began a political affairs column that lasted to 1961.
John Henderson (1880-1968) began 21 years’ service as a Vancouver School Trustee. He would be named Vancouver's Good Citizen in 1961 because of his long service in a score of organizations and for many personal deeds. An elementary school is named for him.
, a bimonthly published by the Vancouver Bar Association, began publication.
Vancouver-based E.J. Ryan Contracting, one of Canada's largest contractors, filed for bankruptcy.
On her husband R.J. Sprott’s death, Anna Ethel Sprott, became president of the Sprott-Shaw Schools of Commerce, Radio and Telegraphy. She was the founder of the West Coast Radio School.
On July 7, 1943 Canadian mining tycoon Sir Harry Oakes was murdered in the Bahamas, a famous unsolved Canadian mystery.
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.