60th Anniversary of CBUT- Part 3 – CBUT and the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games

This Wednesday, July 30th, marks the 60th Anniversary of the opening of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (BE&CG) held in Vancouver –  at the time “the most spectacular event of its kind in Canada’s history and the greatest Empire and Commonwealth sports meet ever staged”. It also marks the 60th anniversary of CBUT’s (and the CBC network’s) first national (and international) live television broadcast.

The CBC purchased exclusive world rights for complete coverage of the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games in Vancouver (July 30 to August 7) for $50,000. Jack McCabe, a CBC sports producer, was appointed by the CBC to co-ordinate radio, television and film coverage of the event. In the early days of television, before communications satellites, it was one of the most ambitious enterprises ever undertaken by Canadian radio and television.

The Commonwealth looks to Vancouver. Graphic promoting CBC's TV and Radio broadcast of the 5th BE&C Games from Vancouver.

The Commonwealth looks to Vancouver. Graphic promoting CBC’s TV and Radio broadcast of the 5th BE&C Games from Vancouver.

The 1954 BE&C Games marked the first time Eastern and Western Canada were linked for a simultaneous live telecast.  This unique feat was made possible by a circuitous route totaling some 2,750 miles (4,425 km) across the United States from Seattle to Buffalo (via Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, Des Moines, and Chicago), thus linking CBUT, Vancouver, with CBLT, Toronto, and the microwave-connected television stations of Eastern Canada. In connecting the Vancouver production centre with the eastern network stations, CBC television coverage of the Games was made available to Canadians the same day.

Rear Screen slide of CBUT graphic created for the television broadcast of the 1954 BE&C Games.

Rear Screen slide of CBUT graphic created for the television broadcast of the 1954 BE&C Games.

Television coverage was provided to those stations not connected by microwave facilities through the use of kinescope recordings that were made available from Toronto the following day. In addition, in the event of possible technical failure during closed-circut telecasts, arrangements were made to fly television recordings from Vancouver to Toronto for processing, printing and distribution.

CBUT’s first official “live” mobile telecast was on Air Force Day, June 12th, 1954. A mere 6 weeks later, CBUT put its new mobile unit to the test for the broadcast of the 5th BE&C Games. Equipped with 3 portable electronic TV cameras and a crew of 10, the Vancouver mobile unit, along with one on loan from another CBC centre, traveled around the various BE&CG venues making it possible for the TV viewer at home to see many BE&CG events broadcast live.

CBUT (Channel 2) Mobile Unit. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

CBUT (Channel 2) Mobile Unit. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

One mobile unit was stationed close by the broadcasting centre at Empire Stadium to cover the track and field events with three “electronic” TV cameras. One camera was located at the finish line, the second was for interviews with the athletes as they made their way back to the dressing rooms, and a third was mounted on a jeep – providing full general coverage of track and field events and infield activities.

CBC "electronic" television camera mounted atop a jeep at Empire Stadium covers the Track and Field action, August 7th 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

CBC “electronic” television camera mounted atop a jeep at Empire Stadium covers the Track and Field action, August 7th 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

The 2nd mobile truck unit, on location at Empire Pool at the University of British Columbia, concentrated on the swimming and diving events.  CBC film cameramen covered the other sporting events at the seven different locales (the mobile unit provided coverage for the cycling and boxing finals). Film footage of events, such as rowing at the Vedder Canal venue, was edited in Vancouver and integrated into the daily cross-country “live” telecasts.

CBC television camera at Empire Pool, August 2, 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

CBC “electronic” television camera at Empire Pool, August 2, 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

According to a 1954 edition of the CBC Times, more than 700 miles (1,126 km) of lines were used for the CBC’s radio and television coverage at the nine BE&CG venues. The farthest away was the Vedder Canal at 45 miles (72 km) and the nearest one was Empire Stadium right next to the CBC broadcasting centre at the Exhibition Grounds – master control for the CBC’s entire operations. Lines from all the venues terminated at the broadcasting centre, making possible inter-communication at any time during the Games.

Roger Bannister being interviewed by a CBC reporter after the "Miracle Mile", August 7th 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Roger Bannister being interviewed by a CBC reporter after the “Miracle Mile”, August 7th 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Not only was equipment brought to Vancouver for the Games, but also much of the broadcasting staff. Since CBUT was only 7 months old, the majority of the CBC staff and technical crew that worked to broadcast the Games came from Toronto and other regions in Canada.

The greater part of the CBC BE&CG crew. Includes inserts of the local CBUT executives involved. Photo from the "CBC Times" special supplement for teh 1954 Games.

The greater part of the CBC BE&CG crew. Includes inserts of the local CBUT executives involved. Photo from the “CBC Times” special supplement for teh 1954 Games.

John W. Hughes, on loan to the CBC from the National Film Board in Ottawa, served as liaison officer between the public relations committee of the BE&CG and CBC television cameramen. His task was to see that the film reel, still photographers and TV cameramen were free of obstructions in order to provide viewers the best pictures possible.

Four sports commentators covered the Games for CBC television, working under the direction of George Retzlaff. Producers for the television broadcasts were Peter Elkington from Vancouver; Jack Lingman and Wilf Fielding from Toronto; and Gerard Renaud from Montreal.

"CBC Times" Special Supplement for the 1954 BE&C Games in Vancouver.

“CBC Times” Special Supplement for the 1954 BE&C Games in Vancouver.

As the host broadcaster for the Games, the CBC provided individual coverage for all parts of the Commonwealth save for the the U.K. and New Zealand who had their own representatives in Vancouver.

The setting up of Canada’s first direct East-West TV link was made in co-operation with the four American TV networks. Negotiations began in January 1954 and were carried out with the assistance of the National Broadcasting Company [NBC], whose officers took a personal interest in the CBC project, applying on behalf of the CBC for the necessary allotments of time on the network.

On August 7th 1954,  the final day of the British Empire Games, NBC carried the CBC’s “live” telecast of the arrival of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh at Empire Stadium (for the closing ceremonies), as well as the “miracle mile” race. These events were seen by NBC viewers throughout the United States.

In Canada, TV coverage of the Games was sponsored by the Northern Electric Company.

The "CBC Times" local Vancouver television schedule for the Games.

The “CBC Times” local Vancouver television schedule for the Games.

 

The final day of events of the Games, August 7th, provided stadium spectators and television viewers (to quote the intro for ABC’s Wide World of Sports) “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.

First, the “agony of defeat”. English marathon runner (and world record holder), Jim Peters collapsed repeatedly during the final 385 metres of the BE&C Games marathon. He entered Empire Stadium 17 minutes ahead of the field, however the effects of severe dehydration and heat-stroke took over and he never completed the race. CBUT staff photographer, Alvin Armstrong, captured the following photos with his Leica camera.

AA-220-4 AA-220-5 - Alvin Armstrong AA-220-6 - Alvin Armstrong

Jim Peters entering Empire Stadium, he stumbles around the track before completely collapsing, August 7th, 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Still Photo Collection

Jim Peters entering Empire Stadium, he stumbles around the track before completely collapsing, August 7th, 1954. Photos: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Still Photo Collection

CBC TV cameras also captured Peters’ heartbreaking marathon finish.


BE&CG – Vancouver, Jim Peters, August 7th 1954 – excerpts – YouTube.

The “thrill of victory” is best exemplified by the Men’s 1-Mile Final, which saw the only two sub-4 minute mile runners (Roger Bannister and John Landy) compete against each other. Dubbed the “Miracle Mile” this race is still considered one of the most exciting moments in sports history. CBC television cameras captured the entire event live.

▶ “Miracle Mile” August 7th, Vancouver – Live television footage – YouTube.

 

For more information about the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games I suggest you check out the new exhibit at the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum called “A Week You’ll Remember a Lifetime”, it opens July 30th. The Vancouver Sun is also marking the 60th anniversary of the Games with some interesting features.

 

Fun fact: At the time, the 35,000 seat Empire Stadium was the largest stadium in Canada.

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The Electric Company

As I sit writing at my computer, with two fans oscillating the warm air of my top floor apartment around me,  I can’t help to think how lucky we are to have access to reliable (and relatively inexpensive) electricity. Which reminded me of a photo I discovered online in the catalogue of the Vancouver Archives – this month’s vintage photo of the month.

Power lines and supporting structure in lane west of Main Street at Pender Street. March 10 , 1914. Photo: British Columbia Electric Railway Company, CoV Archives, AM54-S4-: LGN 1241,

Power lines and supporting structure in lane west of Main Street at Pender Street. March 10, 1914. Photo: British Columbia Electric Railway Company, CoV Archives, AM54-S4-: LGN 1241.

How crazy is that photograph? And we think there are too many overhead wires today! I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to service those power lines. It made me wonder when did electricity first come to the city of Vancouver?

I decided to check with one of the best general reference resources penned by the late, great Chuck Davis. According to Davis, electricity first came to Vancouver on August 8, 1887 when “the first electric lights [were] turned on in Vancouver”.

Another source, Major J.S. Matthews (via the Vancouver Archives) confirms this fact. According to Matthews (the City’s first Archivist), The Vancouver Electric Illuminating Company (great name, eh?) “started operations in July 1887 with 53 street lights, and about three hundred lights in private homes and offices”.  The narrative from Matthews continues:

The first electric lights in Vancouver (not on Burrard Inlet) [were] turned on August 8th 1887… the lights were carbon filament bulbs of weak power, such as 8, 12, or 16 candle power [100 watt incandescent bulb = 120 candlepower ]. The power station stood on the lane between Hastings and Pender St., and about sixty six feet east of Abbot St.

The city directory for 1887 features the following write up about The Vancouver Electric Illuminating Co. Ltd.:

Page 10/11 of the 1887 Williams’ City Directory tells the story of the Vancouver Electric Illuminating Co.

Page 10/11 of the 1887 Williams’ City Directory tells the story of the Vancouver Electric Illuminating Co.

So, thanks to the Vancouver Electric Illuminating Company, a year after the Great Fire of 1886, electricity came to this growing metropolis.

View of Cordova Street looking east from Cambie Street. July 12, 1893. Photo: Bailey Bros. CoV Archives, AM54-S4-: Str P301.

View of Cordova Street looking east from Cambie Street. July 12, 1893. Photo: Bailey Bros. CoV Archives, AM54-S4-: Str P301.

The photograph (above) of an 1893 Loyal Orange Lodge parade on Cordova St., is a good illustration of the carbon arc street lamps that were the first widely-used type of electric light. According to a note that Matthews made on the print of this photograph, the “electric arc street lamps [were] lowered daily to insert new carbons”. Evidently, electric lights were initially a lot more work than just flipping on a switch.

It seems, however, that 1887 Vancouver wasn’t the the first time electricity was used in the Province.

That honour goes to the Moodyville sawmill on the north shore of Burrard Inlet. Where on February 4th 1882, the first electricity came to B.C. On his History of Metropolitan Vancouver website, Chuck Davis noted that “these were the first electric lights on the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco”. This was such a momentous moment, that the mayor and council of Victoria made a special trip over to see the electric lights being turned on.

 

Fun electric fact: The first traffic light was installed in Vancouver on October 18, 1928 at Main and Hastings.

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Beveridge, Vancouver and the Great Fire of 1886

Today a new regular (hopefully) feature debuts on vanalogue – vintage photo(s) of the month. This month I’m featuring the work of Scottish amateur photographer, Erskine Beveridge and some of his photographs of early Vancouver a year before the Great Fire of 1886.

1885 view of street in Granville, now Vancouver, BC. Copy of photograph titled “Main Street, Granville.’  [Looking East on Water Street near Carrall] From "Wanderings with a Camera" by Erskine Beveridge. Photo:  Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP042683

[June] 1885 view of street in Granville, now Vancouver, BC.  Copy of photograph titled “Main Street, Granville.’ [Looking East on Water Street near Carrall] From “Wanderings with a Camera” by Erskine Beveridge. Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP042683. [Compare this view with the 1886 H.T. Devine (COV Archives )photo below.]

This Friday, June 13th marks the 128th anniversary of one of the greatest calamities in the history of Vancouver.  A year earlier, wealthy Scottish businessman, Erskine Beveridge was in Vancouver [then known as Granville] documenting a rough and tumble township on the cusp of becoming a city.

Erskine Beveridge (1851-1920) was not only a successful textile manufacturer  (specializing in the production of fine table and bed linen), he was also an enthusiastic historian, archaeologist and talented amateur photographer.  Beveridge was fascinated by landscapes, seascapes, buildings and archaeological monuments.  He traveled extensively across Scotland, taking hundreds of photographs that captured Scotland’s rural heritage. [A collection of his photographs can be seen on the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) website.]

In March 1885, Beveridge sailed to New York on a business trip to visit a distribution warehouse that had been set up in support of his flourishing textile business. From New York, he traveled extensively around the U.S. and Canada, taking photographs throughout his “wanderings”. A two-volume collection of Beveridge’s photographic reproductions was published (posthumously) in 1922 as Wanderings with a Camera, 1882-1898 (edited by John H. Beveridge). Recent advancements in photographic processes gave Beveridge the freedom to travel with his camera without the burden of transporting a darkroom and chemicals – pre-sensitized glass plates could be easily purchased and processed later. A precursor to roll film, the gelatin dry plate process used by Beveridge was first developed in 1871, and by the 1880s was widely manufactured.

Around June of 1885, Beveridge traveled to British Columbia and took the following photos of the rugged beauty of Vancouver (then Granville) – a city (literally) being carved out of the forest.

View of Burrard Inlet and Moodyville from Granville, now Vancouver.Copy of photograph titled 'Burrard Inlet, Moodyville, from Granville (now Vancouver)' . Photo:

1885 view of Burrard Inlet and Moodyville from Granville, now Vancouver. Copy of photograph titled ‘Burrard Inlet, Moodyville, from Granville (now Vancouver)’ . Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP050374

 

1885  view of Burrard Inlet and Hastings Mill from Granville, now Vancouver, BC.  From "Wanderings with a Camera" by Erskine Beveridge Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP050375 .

1885 view of Burrard Inlet and Hastings Mill from Granville, now Vancouver, BC. From “Wanderings with a Camera” by Erskine Beveridge Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP050375 .

 

1885 view of cleared forest in Granville, now Vancouver, BC. Copy of photograph titled “clearing for a new city (Vancouver) at Granville.’ . From "Wanderings with a Camera" by Erskine Beveridge. Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP050372.

1885 view of cleared forest in Granville, now Vancouver, BC. Copy of photograph titled “clearing for a new city (Vancouver) at Granville.’ . From “Wanderings with a Camera” by Erskine Beveridge. Photo: Erskine Beveridge, RCAHMS, DP050372.

Compared to the photo of Vancouver in 1886 (below) much progress had been made since Beveridge’s visit a year earlier. True, there was much to be done on the C.P.R. townsite lands that surrounded the small city, but Vancouver had grown significantly in that short year:

  • On April the 6th 1886, the township of Granville officially became incorporated as the City of Vancouver.
  • Later the official notice calling the first civic election, on May 3rd 1886, is nailed to the “Maple Tree” in the spot today known as “maple tree square” at the intersection of Water and Carrall streets in Gastown. Vancouver held its first civic election in the “Court House” on Water Street. [In actuality a small wooden cottage in which Provincial Constable Jonathan Miller and his family lived].
  • A week later, on May 10, 1886 the first Mayor of Vancouver, Malcolm Alexander MacLean, delivered his inaugural address at the first meeting of the City Council.
  • On May 28, 1886 Vancouver’s first fire department, Volunteer Hose Company Number One, is formed armed initially with only shovels, axes and buckets. A fire-fighting steam pump had been ordered by the City of Vancouver, but would not arrive until August 1886!
Photograph shows the Maple Tree at the corner of Carrall Street and Water Street - June 7, 1886. Photo: attributed to H.T. Devine,  City of Vancouver Archives - AM54-S4-: Str P83

Photograph shows the Maple Tree at the corner of Carrall Street and Water Street – June 7, 1886. Photo: attributed to H.T. Devine, City of Vancouver Archives – AM54-S4-: Str P83

However, that all changed on Sunday, June 13, 1886. 16 days after it’s first Fire Department is formed, one month after its first Civic Election, and 2 months after its official incorporation, the City of Vancouver virtually burns to the ground in less than 45 minutes – though some accounts say it was closer to 20 minutes.

The forested land around the townsite of Granville ( the area which is now downtown Vancouver) was being cleared by the C.P.R. and there were great piles of slash. [As is depicted in Beveridge's photo (above) “clearing for a new city (Vancouver) at Granville".]

"The Great Vancouver Fire" from 1932 sketch by J.S. Matthews, Archivist Vancouver.  (Print by Art Engraving Co.). City of Vancouver Archives, AM1562-: 75-54

“The Great Vancouver Fire” from 1932 sketch by J.S. Matthews, Archivist Vancouver. (Print by Art Engraving Co.). City of Vancouver Archives, AM1562-: 75-54

In order to clear the land from this mass of debris, controlled slash fires were set. It was one of these fires that at 10:00 am on Sunday, June 13 1886 got away from the C.P.R. men. The day started out calm, but a “freakish squall” from the west changed everything, fanning the “smouldering embers of the clearing fires into flame”.

In 1931 Vancouver pioneer, W.H. Gallagher [then 72] recalled the scene that was set:

“people of today may gather some conception of the general appearance of all that tract mentioned if they will imagine brush, limbs, and timber to a depth of ten feet or more lying strewn over the ground in an almost solid mass in every direction; a dry spring, and especially with a little wind, an ideal setting for a gigantic fire”.

 

The death toll from the fire is uncertain (there were many transients in the city at that time), but it is believed that as many as 28 people died in the fire. In 1886, the population of the city was about 1,000.

Vancouver after fire. Photograph shows George R. Gordon's tent among debris at Cordova Street and Carrall Street and the Regina Hotel in the background. Photo: Vintage print attributes photograph to J.A. Brock and Co. Photographers, H.T. Devine was likely the photographer. City of Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: LGN 455

Vancouver after fire. Photograph shows [Merchant] George R. Gordon’s tent among debris at Cordova Street and Carrall Street and the Regina Hotel in the background. Photo: Vintage print attributes photograph to J.A. Brock and Co. Photographers, H.T. Devine was likely the photographer. City of Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: LGN 455

By the next morning Vancouver was already beginning to re-build. Tents and building frames were erected and a temporary City Hall was open for business. A month later, armed with a seemingly unending supply of timber, Vancouver, like the mythical phoenix, was reborn out of the ashes.

4 Weeks after Fire. Photograph shows a view looking east from Richards Street toward the intersection of Water Street and Cordova Street, plank roads, buildings including the Greyhound Hotel under construction and Princess Louise Tree. Photo: J.A. Brock and Company, City of Vancouver Archives, AM54-S4-: Str P129.

4 Weeks after Fire. Photograph shows a view looking east from Richards Street toward the intersection of Water Street and Cordova Street, plank roads, buildings including the Greyhound Hotel under construction and Princess Louise Tree. Photo: J.A. Brock and Company, City of Vancouver Archives, AM54-S4-: Str P129.

Much has been written about the Great Fire, for more information I recommend you check out the following accounts:

Museum of Vancouver (MOV) – 2 Great Vancouver Fire Stories.

Past Tense – The Great Vancouver Fire.

Vancouver Exposed: A History in Photographs – The Great Fire of 1886 by Jacqui Underwood.

Fun Fact: June 13 is also known as Vancouver Day (proclaimed by the city in 1929).  It marks the day in 1792 that Captain George Vancouver first sailed into Burrard Inlet.

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NFB celebrates 75 years!

Documentary films and filmmakers are currently being celebrated in Vancouver at the DOXA Documentary Film Festival (May 2- May 11, 2014). DOXA is presented by The Documentary Media Society, a Vancouver based non-profit, charitable society “devoted to presenting independent and innovative documentaries to Vancouver audiences”.

Screen still from "Creative Process: Norman McLaren" - NFB.

McLaren demonstrating his creative process. Screen still from “Creative Process: Norman McLaren” – NFB, 1990.

Canada’s oldest documentary film institution the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) is also celebrating this month. The public film producer and distributor turns 75 this year. Started in 1939, the NFB has in the past 75 years produced over 13,000 productions and has earned 72 Oscar nominations. The NFB has won more than 5,000 awards, including 12 Oscars and 90 Genies. An agency of the Government of Canada the NFB/ONF reports to the Parliament of Canada through the Minister of Canadian Heritage. Representing Canada’s two official languages, the NFB has English language and French language (ONF) production branches. Though the NFB is known for much more than just documentary films, documentaries are truly the backbone of the institution.

Screen capture from the NFB documentary, Soccer, 1974.

Commercial Drive , Vancouver. Screen still from the NFB documentary, Soccer, 1974.

So, what characterizes a film as a ‘documentary film’? There are three broad classifications of motion pictures: fiction, documentary, and avant-garde. A documentary film, in the simplest terms, is defined as a non-fiction motion picture – a document of facts and reality (real people, places and events). In this sense, we could easily say that documentary films have been made since the beginning of moving images themselves. These films were initially known as “actuality” films. However, this is a very broad definition and it doesn’t speak to the continually evolving and expanding world of documentary filmmaking.

Screen shot of children playing on a beach in Vancouver from "Gateway to Asia", NFB, 1945.

Screen shot of children playing on a beach in Vancouver from “Gateway to Asia”, NFB, 1945.

A film that examines the birth of the NFB and documentary filmmaking in Canada had its world premiere this weekend at DOXA. Shameless Propaganda (Robert Lower, 2013) is the story of the establishment of the National Film Board of Canada under the direction of its first Commissioner, John Grierson. The NFB was founded in part to create propaganda in support of Canada’s involvement in the Second World War, Shameless Propaganda highlights this period (1939-1945) using archival footage.

Appointed by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King the National Film Board’s first commissioner was documentary pioneer John Grierson. Under his leadership, the NFB documented the Canadian experience in the Second World War both at home and abroad. As the driving force of the NFB, Grierson was “charged with interpreting Canada to Canadians”.  Though he appreciated the art of technical filmmaking, Grierson wasn’t interested in film as art per se.  He was captivated with the social effect of film – the social impact it had on a people. This was his vision for the NFB.

Screen still of John Grierson's infamous penetrating gaze from the NFB film Grierson.

Screen still of John Grierson’s infamous penetrating gaze from the NFB film Grierson, 1973.

When Scotsman John Grierson was starting out as a young filmmaker in England in the 1920s there was no name for the type of film he wanted to make, so he invented one – he called it the documentary film. Though he didn’t ‘invent’ the documentary film genre, he certainly developed and advanced it. Grierson was acutely aware of the cinema’s unexplored possibilities. He wanted to document and to “bring alive with penetrating vividness” the daily lives of ordinary working men and women and the new world that was growing up around them. He initially worked in the film unit for the Empire Marketing Board (EMB), a governmental agency which had been established to promote British world trade and British unity throughout the empire.

Still screen from Where You Goin' Company Town?

Cominco Smelter in Trail, BC. Still screen from Where You Goin’ Company Town? – NFB, 1975.

Eventually Grierson stopped directing documentary films himself and instead focused his energies on building the new Documentary Film Movement. He wanted to create a film unit that would create films under his guidance, making the documentary style films he wanted to make.

During this period Grierson also developed the idea of having film screenings not only in traditional theatres but in schools, train stations and other public buildings – he brought the films to the people where they were (he eventually brought this system to Canada with the NFB). His documentary film production and distribution processes were refined during the 1930s while he worked for the EMB, General Post Office (GPO) and private sector industry.

In 1938, he was invited to Canada to advise the Canadian Government on the use of film for promotional purposes.  It was during this time that a curious alignment between Grierson and Prime Minister King developed (a Scottish simpatico, perhaps?). The results of Grierson’s study were included in the National Film Act of 1939, which led to the establishment of the NFB with Prime Minister King appointing John Grierson as its first commissioner. [ I strongly recommend viewing both Shameless Propaganda (2013) and Grierson (1973) for a more comprehensive look at John Grierson and his association with the NFB.]

The NFB’s 75th Anniversary by ONFB, National Film Board of Canada

Starting May 2, the NFB site will feature content celebrating its 75 years – including the NFB Moment of the Week,  a special birthday programming initiative.  Every week, the NFB will “post a different iconic NFB film with some info about why it’s a must-watch for all Canadians”.  More details about this initiative and other birthday activities coming up can be found on the NFB blog. The NFB is also asking Canadians to tell them about their favorite NFB moments via social media. Using the hashtag #NFB75 Canadians can participate and celebrate the NFB’s 75th birthday via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

In collaboration with Canada Post, the NFB has selected stills from five of its film favourites – Flamenco at 5:15 (1983), The Railrodder (1965), Mon oncle Antoine (1971), Log Driver’s Waltz (1979) and Neighbours (1952) – to appear on a series of limited-edition NFB 75th birthday postage stamps .

And to prove that the NFB is changing with the times, artist Stan Douglas in collaboration with the NFB’s Digital Studio have created an interactive app called Circa 1948. It is an immersive art app, reconstructed from historical records, set in post was Vancouver. Circa 1948 is a free app optimized for iPad and iPhone, and you can download it from iTunes here.

Fun Fact: The National Film Board of Canada  was the inspiration for the name of the Scottish electronic music duo the Boards of Canada. An example of their work can be found here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVWcptE6UAI .

Here is my personal playlist of NFB films available to view on the their website:

Creative Process: Norman McLaren (https://www.nfb.ca/film/creative_process_norman_mclaren) – Donald McWilliams, 1990, 116 min 32 s – This feature length documentary is a journey into Norman McLaren’s process of artistic creation. A cinematic genius who made films without cameras and music without instruments, McLaren produced 60 films in a stunning range of styles and techniques, collecting over 200 international awards and world recognition. Drawing on McLaren’s private film vaults, a gold mine of experimental footage and uncompleted films, this film explores McLaren’s methods, including his celebrated “pixillation” technique.

Screen capture of clip from

Screen still from Creative Process: Norman McLaren -  NFB, 1990.

Grierson (https://www.nfb.ca/film/grierson) – Roger Blais, 1973, 97 min, 50 s – This feature film is a portrait of John Grierson, the first Canadian Government Film Commissioner and founder of the National Film Board in 1939. Interweaving archival footage, interviews with people who knew him and footage of Grierson himself, this film is a sensitive and informative portrait of a dynamic man of vision. Grierson believed that the filmmaker had a social responsibility, and that film could help a society realize democratic ideals. His absolute faith in the value of capturing the drama of everyday life was to influence generations of filmmakers all over the world. In fact, he coined the term “documentary film.”
Neighbours - (https://www.nfb.ca/film/neighbours_voisins) – Norman McLaren, 1952, 8 min 6 s – In this Oscar®-winning short film, Norman McLaren employs the principles normally used to put drawings or puppets into motion to animate live actors. The story is a parable about two people who come to blows over the possession of a flower.
Keep Your Mouth Shut (https://www.nfb.ca/film/keep_your_mouth_shut) – Norman McLaren, 1944, 2 min 20 s – This animated short from Norman McLaren features a human skull cautioning Canadians to “keep their mouths shut” in an effort to end gossiping during World War II.

And some lesser known British Columbia-themed films:

Gateway to Asia (https://www.nfb.ca/film/gateway_to_asia) – Tom Daly, 1945, 10 min 5 s – This short film highlights the province of British Columbia and its position after World War II. Located on the Pacific Coast, it is the gateway for those traveling to Asia and Russia and a vital link between the rest of Canada and its neighbours in the Far East. The film looks at British Columbia’s population, natural resources and industries along with some of its social issues.[Lorne Greene narrates this war-time propaganda film].

Screen still from Gateway To Asia.

Chinatown in Vancouver. Screen still from Gateway To Asia, NFB, 1945.

Red Runs the Fraser (https://www.nfb.ca/film/red_runs_the_fraser) – E. Taylor, 1949, 11 min – This short documentary looks at the deep gorge of the Fraser River, shadowed by the mountain ranges of British Columbia. It is a highway for the mysterious migration of the Pacific salmon. The river shallows appear red with the flailing fish as they push up-river to spawn and die. A natural wonder puzzling to the scientist, the fish migration of spring and summer provides renewed activity for fishermen and cannery workers.

Screen still from Red Runs the Fraser.

Traditional salmon fishing on the Fraser River. Screen still from Red Runs the Fraser – NFB, 1949.

The Zoo in Stanley Park (https://www.nfb.ca/film/zoo_stanley_park) – Bernard Devlin, 1953, 14 min, 47 s – In this documentary short, a superintendent at Vancouver’s Stanley Park Zoo discusses issues related to feeding and acclimatization of birds and animals from other zones.
Whistling Smith (https://www.nfb.ca/film/whistling_smith) – Marrin Canell & Michael Scott, 1975, 27 min 20 s – This film is a revealing portrait of a tough cop with a big heart. Sergeant Bernie “Whistling” Smith walks the beat on Vancouver’s Eastside, the hangout of petty criminals, down-and-outs and a variety of characters. His policing is unorthodox. To many drug users, petty thieves and prostitutes in this economically depressed area he is more than the iron hand of the law, he is also a counsellor and a friend.

Screen still from Whistling

The streets of Vancouver. Screen still from Whistling Smith – NFB, 1975.

British Empire and Commonwealth Games (https://www.nfb.ca/film/british_empire_commonwealth_games) – Jack Olsen, 1954, 11 min – This short documentary presents highlights of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games. In Vancouver, top-ranking athletes from the far corners of the British Commonwealth competed for new records. The film records outstanding feats in racing, jumping, pole-vaulting, swimming as well as the “miracle mile” duel between John Landy and Roger Bannister.
The Big Swim (https://www.nfb.ca/film/big_swim) – Gilles Carle, 1964, 9 min 24 s – This short documentary shows Canada’s top swimmers in training for the 1964 Olympic Games. Under the critical eye of coach Ed Healy, they practice long hours in the gym and in the pool to build strength and stamina. Filmed entirely at Empire Pool at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Soccer (https://www.nfb.ca/film/soccer) – Shelah Reljic, 1974, 27 min 20 s - This documentary short shines a light on British Columbia’s soccer culture. With a special focus on the successful Vancouver Italia team, the film celebrates the province’s most popular sport.

Screen still from Soccer.

Screen still from Soccer – NFB, 1974. Italian Restaurant on Commercial Drive.

Pen-Hi Grad (https://www.nfb.ca/film/pen_hi_grad) – Sandra Wilson, 1975, 27 min 14 s – This documentary short is about Penticton, BC, and what happens when students from the only high school in town graduate. Most know that job opportunities and higher education lie elsewhere, most likely in Vancouver. So, for one memorable week, they go through a whirlwind of formal ceremonies, wild celebrations, hi-jinks and farewells that involve the whole population of this Okanagan Valley community. [ A BC version of Dazed & Confused].

Screen still from Pen-Hi Grad.

Screen still from Sandra Wilson’s Pen-Hi Grad, NFB, 1975.

Bella Bella (https://www.nfb.ca/film/bella_bella) – Barbara Greene, 1975, 27 min 20 s – This documentary short is an introduction to the Bella Bella Indians of Campbell Island, 500 km North of Vancouver on the Pacific Coast. Since the coming of settlers, these fishing people have watched their ancient Heiltsuk culture and their independence all but disappear. Today, in an energetic attempt to become self-sufficient, they are regaining both – successfully combining economic development with cultural revival.
Bill Reid (https://www.nfb.ca/film/bill_reid) – Jack Long, 1979, 27 min 54 s – This documentary follows Haida artist Bill Reid, from British Columbia. A jeweller and wood carver, he works on a traditional Haida totem pole. We watch the gradual transformation of a bare cedar trunk into a richly carved pole to stand on the shores of the town of Skidegate, in the Queen Charlotte Islands of B.C.
Where You Goin’ Company Town? (https://www.nfb.ca/film/where_you_goin_company_town) – Stephen W. Dewar, 1975, 27 min 32 s – This short documentary examines the changing relations between labour and management in the long-established company town of Trail, BC, in which 90% of the workforce is employed by Cominco, the world’s largest lead-zinc smelter. The metal workers in the town are outspoken about the health risks associated with their line of work, and a debate about unionization ensues. The days of paternalistic management are gone, and the emphasis is now on participation and involvement. An eventual strike over dissatisfaction with labour relations turns violent when management, union executives, and workers clash over competing interests.
That’s The Price (https://www.nfb.ca/film/thats_the_price) – Michael Scott, 1970,40 min 45 s – What happens to two dying coal towns in British Columbia when an American corporation provides a contract for millions of tons of coking coal? The film follows the consequences for the towns of Natal and Michel, suggesting that industrial growth has its price, especially with regard to the environment.
Canada Vignettes: Logger – (https://www.nfb.ca/film/canada_vignettes_logger) – Al Sens, 1978, 1 min – This very short film from the Canada Vignettes series offers an animated history of logging on the British Columbia coast.

Screen still from Logger. Al Sens animated short.

Screen still from Canada Vignettes: Logger, NFB, 1978.  An Al Sens animated short.

This is not a comprehensive list, by any means, of my favorite NFB films.  Just a few old favorites and some  I recently discovered that I thought may be of interest to my readers. What is your favourite NFB/ONF film?

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60th Anniversary of CBUT – Part 2 – All That Jazz

Two images of the exterior of the former Cellar Jazz club. Left- January 2014 a couple of months before the building was torn down To make way for more condos! Photo: C. Hagemoen. Right- March 21, 1961, CBUT on location at the Cellar, Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Two images of the exterior of the former Cellar Jazz club. Left- January 2014 a couple of months before the building was torn down To make way for more condos! Photo: C. Hagemoen. Right- March 21, 1961, CBUT on location at the Cellar to record Jazz #3, Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

I knew its days were numbered when I saw the blue construction fencing being installed around its perimeter a few weeks ago. Sure enough, two days later a bulldozer was pulling down the final remains of a piece of Vancouver’s jazz history – The Cellar Jazz Club. Officially located at 222 East Broadway, the entrance to the basement club was in the rear along the “alley like” Watson Street. The Cellar, which opened in April 1956, was a “bottle club” – it had no liquor license. British Columbia historically has had very odd liquor laws (still does in many ways) and so most cabarets would sell ice and soft drinks while allowing patrons to bring in their own concealed containers of alcohol. The Cellar was founded and operated by members of the local jazz scene.

Composite of images inside the Cellar Jazz club from March 21, 1961. CBUT was on location to film Jazz #3 and still photographer, Franz Lindner captured the event. Photos: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Composite of images inside the Cellar Jazz club from March 21, 1961. CBUT was on location to film Jazz #3 and still photographer, Franz Lindner captured the event. Photos: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Practically at the same time the remains of the Cellar Jazz club were being torn down, another “Cellar” jazz venue was closing across town. After 13 years, [though I recall it being around earlier than that- probably with a different owner]  Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club (3611 West Broadway) closed its doors. Named one of the the world’s best jazz clubs by Downbeat Magazine, the popular Vancouver jazz venue eventually closed, not from lack of support, but due to financial reasons. [For more about Cory Weeds' Cellar Jazz Club listen to an interview with Weeds and CBC Radio Hot Air host, Margaret Gallagher here.]

But what, you may be thinking, does this “tale of two cellars” have anything to do with the 60th anniversary of CBUT? Plenty! This next post in the series celebrating 60 years of CBUT is all about jazz!

In the 1950s and 1960s Vancouver had a thriving jazz scene. Jazz in all its forms was very popular. That popularity was reflected in the local television (CBUT) and radio (CBU) programs on which many local jazz artists were frequently featured. In that sense, along with the various clubs and coffee houses (e.g. The Cellar, The Black Spot, The Cave, Inquisition Coffee House) CBC TV and radio became just another performance venue in the Vancouver jazz scene. In many ways, the “tale of two cellars” represents the arc of the Vancouver jazz scene –  its birth and renaissance- the appearance of each venue suggesting a thriving local jazz scene.

Like most things television, it all began on the radio. The locally produced CBC Radio (CBU) show, Hot Air, has been giving modern jazz its weekly due in BC since 1947. Originally hosted by jazz columnist Bob Smith (1947-1982), the program covers jazz from all eras with a particular interest in B.C. artists. So in 1955, 7 years after Hot Air began broadcasting and only months after CBC TV (CBUT) went to air, it was only natural to put all that jazz on the new medium of television.

 1963 Nightclub set for CBUT's "Showcase". Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

1963 nightclub set for CBUT’s “Showcase”. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

In the very beginning CBUT had very little local programming. Its wasn’t until after being the local broadcaster for the 1954 British Empire & Commonwealth Games that CBUT local programming really came into its own.  CBUT began to produce musical variety shows like Parade (premiering October 25, 1954) which ran for eight episodes and featured musicians and singers from the local music (jazz) scene including: Eleanor Collins, Ray Norris Quintet, Lorraine McAllister and Chris Gage. Singer Eleanor Collins also appeared earlier in 1954 in the CBUT live production titled, Bamboula: a day in the West Indies. In this excerpt from the program she sings the jazz standard “Ill Wind (You’re Blowin’ Me No Good)“.

 

Collins soon had her own television series, the Eleanor Show. Alan Millar acted as host for this summer of 1955 weekly music series starring singer Eleanor Collins and pianist Chris Gage. Collins was also accompanied by the Ray Norris Quintet featuring Ray Norris (guitar), Fraser McPherson (saxophone), Carse Sneddon (trumpet), Jim Wightman (drums) and Stan Johnson (bass). Regular performers on the show include dancers Leonard Gibson and Denise Quan. The Eleanor Show regulars along with a variety of guests (like Pat Kirkpatrick, singer Don Francks, Tott Moons, Thelma Gibson, and Juliette Cavazzi) performed music around a particular theme each week.The show first aired on CBUT Channel 2, Sunday, June 12, 1955 at 10 pm.

August 7 1955. "Eleanor" (l-r) Juliette Cavazzi, Alan Millar, Eleanor Collins. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

August 7 1955. “Eleanor” (l-r) Juliette Cavazzi, Alan Millar, Eleanor Collins. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Known as “Vancouver’s first lady of jazz” Eleanor Collins was (is) a ground breaking figure in Canadian history. At a time when she “didn’t see a lot of my people on TV”, being the first black woman in North America to star in her own television series was a significant milestone. In fact, Eleanor beat Nat King Cole’s achievement of being the first black person to star in their own show on American television by over a year – The Nat King Cole Show debuted November 1956 on NBC.

You can learn more about the luminous Eleanor Collins in this 1988 profile of her on the CBC Vancouver program Here & Now. Lynne McNamara talks with Eleanor about her life and her career. The segment includes many archival TV clips and photographs.

The one-off show Back O’ Town Blues (1955) starring Eleanor Collins, Thelma Gibson and Don Francks featured a number of jazz and blues songs. This dixieland blues themed program also featured Ray Norris and his orchestra with the music arranged by Al Macmillan and Doug Randle.

On the set of "Harmony House" in 1954. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

On the set of “Harmony House” in 1955. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

In October of 1955 Harmony House first aired. Sponsored by Nabob Foods, Harmony House was a successful radio show for 13 years that moved to television on October 8, 1955 and ran for 26 occasions to April 12, 1956, airing 8:00-8:30 pm each Thursday. It was a music show of popular songs that featured many artists from the local jazz scene. The cast of regular performers included the following: Alan Millar- Host, Pat Morgan-Vocalist, Fran Gregory- Vocalist, Terry Dale-Vocalist, Diane McLellan- Nabob Quartette, Pat Trudell- Nabob Quartette, Art Lintott- Nabob Quartette, Bobbie Reid- Nabob Quartette, Ricky Hyslop- Conductor-Arranger, Lance Harrison-Sax- Clarinet, Fraser MacPherson- Sax-Clarinet, Cliff Binyon-Clarinet, Art Lintott- Sax, Stu Barnett- Trumpet, Carse Sneddon- Trumpet, Bobbie Reid- Trumpet, Dave Pepper- Trombone, Pat Trudell- Accordian, Stan Johnson- Bass, Bud Henderson- Piano, Jim Wightman- Drums.

In the fall of 1957Meet Lorraine with singer Lorraine McAllister,  Chris Gage on piano, Stan Johnson on bass, and Jimmy Wightman on drums debuted. A series 15-minute popular music shows with the charming Lorraine introducing and singing all the musical numbers ran on CBUT from 1957-1959. Occasionally, McAllister’s husband and big band leader, Dal Richards would take time out of his busy schedule to appear on the show.

Dal Richards and Lorraine MacAllister with the Chris Gage Trio on CBUT's "Meet Lorraine" ca. 1958. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

Dal Richards and Lorraine McAllister with the Chris Gage Trio on CBUT’s “Meet Lorraine” ca. 1958. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Other instances of jazz television programming on CBUT in the 1950s included:

Strange House (March 1956).  A one-off show, starring Eleanor Collins,Thelma Gibson and Don Francks. Music by Ray Norris and his Orchestra. The half-hour musical takes its name from an original composition written by Al MacMillan. Music for ‘Strange House’ was arranged by Al MacMillan and Doug Randle.
Pacific 13’s – Jazz at the PNE  August 27, 1956 – A live jazz program from the CBC Show Tent at the Pacific National Exhibition, was hosted by Bob Smith and featured singer Eleanor Collins, the Vancouver Jazz Society’s 18-piece orchestra led by Bobby Reid and a Dixieland group lead by Lance Harrison.
Pacific 8’s – Jazz Variations on a Theme – 1959. Variations on the Hoagy Carmichael song “I Get Along Without You Very Well” were performed by Dave Robbins and an all-star band, comprising Vancouver musicians from the Chris Gage Trio, the Fraser MacPherson band and the Lance Harrison Dixielanders. The arranger and conductor is trombonist Dave Robbins. The program was broadcast simultaneously on TV and radio.

Cool Pepper (1957), a musical series featured musician and arranger Dave Pepper and his orchestra, first aired Friday May 3, 1957 at 10:00 p.m.

May 10, 1957. Cool Pepper set with the Dave Pepper orchestra. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

May 10, 1957. Cool Pepper set with the Dave Pepper orchestra. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

A very special jazz performance was captured on CBUT in 1958 on the program “The 7 O’Clock Show” when African-American poet, Langston Hughes recited his poem, “The Weary Blues” to jazz accompaniment with the Doug Parker Band.

All that great jazz continued on CBUT through the 1960s until the start of the 1970s:

A series of jazz programs produced by Jim Carney aired on CBUT in 1961. Simply called Jazz (1 through 8) the programs featured the best of jazz in and around Vancouver. The premiere program Jazz #1,  Mind Of Mingus, featured renowned jazz bass virtuoso Charles Mingus in performance with his quartet – Danny Richmond (drums), Charles McPherson (alto sax), and Lonnie Hillyer (trumpet). Between numbers, Mingus talked with Bob Quintrell at a Vancouver nightclub. Jazz #2 featured big-band jazz led by New Westminster musician Ray Sikora, and was telecast live from CBC’s studio 41 in Vancouver. During his career, Sikora played and arranged for famous North American orchestras as those of Stan Kenton, Les Elgart and Jerry Gray. Jazz #3  was taped on location at The Cellar (222 East Broadway) using the CBUT mobile production unit.

March 21, 1961. "Jazz # 3" - CBC mobile unit on location. Inside mobile truck. If anyone can identify these CBUT employees please let me know. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

March 21, 1961. “Jazz # 3″ – CBC mobile unit on location – inside the mobile truck. If anyone can identify these CBUT employees please let me know. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

The Cellar was the impetus for another jazz special on CBUT – jazz artist Ernestine Anderson’s appeared in her own jazz special Ernestine: jazz from Vancouver (October 7, 1963). Anderson was in Vancouver for a two-week performance at The Cellar, it was held-over for a third week, and it was during that period that the show was taped using a band comprised of some of Vancouver’s leading jazz musicians.

In 1961 Eleanor Collins was joined by the Chris Gage Trio appearing in a program called Blues and the Ballad. Three years later in 1964, Eleanor Collins was starring in another music series simply titled Eleanor. In this l964 Eleanor series, Collins was backed once more by a trio led by Chris Gage. They performed their renditions of show tunes and popular music from the USA. Guests included local jazz musicians: trumpet and trombone player Carse Sneddon, alto sax and flute player Fraser MacPherson, and Don Thompson (vibraphone).

Eleanor Collins with the Chris Gage (Piano) Trio -  Stan "Cuddles" Johnson on bass, and Jimmy Wightman on drums, CBUT-TV studios. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

Eleanor Collins with the Chris Gage (Piano) Trio – Stan “Cuddles” Johnson on bass, and Jimmy Wightman on drums, CBUT-TV studios. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Unfortunately, tragedy devastated the local jazz scene when Vancouver’s leading jazz pianist Chris Gage committed suicide December 27, 1964. Chris Gage was the regular pianist on many CBUT (and CBU) music programs (including Cool Pepper, Eleanor Show 1955 & 1964).  Born 1927 in Regina, Saskatchewan Gage started playing the piano (by ear) in amateur contests at the age of five.  At the age of six (or seven) he began touring with a small band led by his brother Jerry through Saskatchewan. At ten he played his first summer resort and by 11 was playing in a small nightclub for two years, playing from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. nightly. Early on he became interested in writing and arranging, and by the age of 14 was arranging music for Christmas mass with orchestral background. He first played for the CBC (Winnipeg) with a band ( which he and his brother Tony formed in Winnipeg) in 1946. In 1948 the band was in Vancouver and played the Vancouver ballroom. After the band broke up Chris returned to Vancouver in 1949 to play the Palomar Supper Club. Thus beginning a series of long standing gigs at jazz venues around Vancouver including the Arctic Club, The Cellar and The Cave. Canadian jazz great Oscar Peterson allegedly once said Chris Gage was the only pianist he feared.

August 14, 1963. "Showcase with Eleanor Collins" production still. Al Johnson on drums. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

August 14, 1963. “Showcase with Eleanor Collins” production still. Al Johnson on drums. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

Local Jazz Festivals allowed CBUT programs to feature jazz greats from around the world. On Jazz Festival (September 1964) artists appearing at the Summer Jazz Festival in Vancouver were interviewed by Maurice Foisy backstage including: Dave Robbins, Wally Lightbody, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto (shortly after the worldwide success of Girl from Ipanema). The show also included clips from the jazz performances and Vox Pop from Jazz Festival attendees.

Contemplations (aka Spring Music Festival - Jazz)  aired in April 1965. A premiere performance of an original jazz suite ‘Contemplations’ composed by former Vancouver bassist Paul Ruhland and played by Dave Robbins and his 20 piece orchestra. The performance took place April 10 in the Hotel Vancouver ballroom. ‘Contemplations’ was scored for five trumpets, five woodwinds, four trombones, tuba, piano, rhythm section and tympani.

Dave Robbins in 1962. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collections.

Dave Robbins in 1962. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collections.

In 1966 jazz musician, Fraser MacPherson (originally from Victoria) was featured in the  CBUT (CBC Vancouver) program 20/20 in a documentary titled – “Diary of a Musician”. In these excerpts Fraser MacPherson is seen at the CBC radio recording studios in the Hotel Vancouver and leading his band at the Cave Supper club. Also seen playing are local musicians Doug Parker and Stan “Cuddles” Johnson.

 

Quiet Nights (1967), was a seven week ballad-jazz series from CBUT Vancouver’s Studio 42. The program featured Don Thompson on piano and vibes, who each week was joined by other well known Vancouver musicians.

A second variety series called Parade (CBUT had a thing about recycling show titles back then it seems) with Carse Sneddon’s Sextet and the Parade Dancers aired in the 1966/67 season.

Another longtime regular on CBUT (starting with Harmony House) was the Vancouver born and raised jazz musician Lance Harrison. Lance’s Jazz House , 1967 highlighted Lance Harrison’s passion for Dixieland jazz. In 1971 Lance travelled to New Orleans (the birthplace of jazz) to film the CBC TV special Journey to New Orleans: Impressions of a Canadian Jazzman.

Lance Harrison with guest Earl "Fatha" Hines on CBUT in 1967 on Lance's Jazz House. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

Lance Harrison with guest Earl “Fatha” Hines on CBUT in 1967 on Lance’s Jazz House. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

By 1967, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times they were a changin’. Later that same year the changing social scene in Vancouver was reflected in the series The Enterprise – 1967. This experimental program was without a host to guide viewers from item to item; it attempted to let the audience enjoy the excitement of the experience of discovery without the intrusion of a guide. It was an open-ended program varying in length as was dictated by the material presented that particular week.  The Enterprise featured items of an experimental nature including featuring local jazz musicians Doug Parker and Al Neil.  In one episode [The Enterprise No. 3], pianist Al Neil read poetry to an accompaniment of jazz and musique concrete by the Al Neil Trio (Nov. 15, 1967) – “a sound experience with the Al Neil Trio of Vancouver”. In another pianist Doug Parker improvised a musical accompaniment for video images that appeared on monitors in the TV studio. The 13-week series began on CBUT Wednesday, November 1, 1967 at 11:43 p.m. Gene Lawrence was the show’s producer and CBUT film director, Stan Fox was it’s executive producer.

April, 1970. Production still from "In the Round" with special guest, Duke Ellington. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

April, 1970. Production still from “In the Round” with special guest, Duke Ellington. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection

Over the years CBUT was host to international jazz artists who would often appear as guests of regular CBUT programs or even star in their own one-off jazz specials. One such example of this were the two shows hosted by comedian Mike Neun in 1970 and 1971. First, In The Round (1970) was a Vancouver-produced series hosted by Mike Neun and featured the Doug Parker Quartet.  As the series title suggests, the hosts and their guests were arranged in a circular pattern in the studio. Jazz great Duke Ellington made an appearance in April 1970.  For the 1970/71 television season Neun hosted The Mike Neun Show with Doug Parker’s house band providing the music. In October of that same year American jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan was a guest performer.

 October 1970,  American jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan performing on CBUT's  "The Mike Nuen Show". Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

October 1970, American jazz singer, Sarah Vaughan performing on CBUT’s “The Mike Nuen Show”. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

By the 1970s and into the 1980s the jazz scene (and entire music scene) in Vancouver had dramatically changed. Jazz music was not as universally popular as it once had been in the 1950s and 1960s. This change in musical tastes saw  jazz programming virtually disappear from CBUT during this time (only to be heard on CBC radio).

Lying dormant for a while, the local jazz scene was revived starting in the mid 1990s. The opening of Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club in 2000 signaled in the renaissance of the local jazz scene. Unfortunately, this time period also marked the beginning of the end for local programming on CBC-TV and musicians from the local jazz scene were rarely to be seen on CBUT-TV again. [So far] Thankfully CBC radio is still able to feature artists from the local and international jazz scene with shows like Hot Air – only time will tell how long that tradition will be able to continue.

On the set of the 1955 Eleanor Show. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photograph Collection.

On the set of the 1955 Eleanor Show. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photograph Collection.

 

In 2008, while working in the CBC Vancouver media archives, I was fortunate to be able to provide many still photographs for the Coastal Jazz and Blues Society’s interactive website on the history of jazz in Vancouver – JazzStreet Vancouver.  Already a fan of jazz music, while researching images from the CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection for the JazzStreet project, I really began to learn about, and appreciate Vancouver’s rich jazz history. I strongly suggest you spend some time exploring this important resource of Vancouver history – http://www.jazzstreetvancouver.ca/ To learn more about the original Cellar Jazz Club check out this very informative blog by Gregg Simpson – http://theoriginalcellarjazzclub.blogspot.ca/

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That Cold Day in the Park

A cold day in the park. Park bench in Tatlow Park, Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

A cold day in the park. Park bench in Tatlow Park, Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

One of Vancouver’s oldest parks, Tatlow Park (at Point Grey Road and MacDonald), was the central location of one of the first Hollywood features filmed in Vancouver; Robert Altman‘s often neglected 1969 film, That Cold Day in the Park.

A newly restored 35mm print of the film is screening this weekend (March 8th & 9th) part of the the UCLA Festival of Preservation. This biennial festival is making its only Canadian stop at The Cinematheque in Vancouver. The UCLA Festival of Preservation reflects the “broad and deep efforts” of UCLA Film & Television Archive to preserve and restore America’s national moving image heritage.

The historical sweep and technical wizardry of UCLA Film & Television Archive’s preservation projects—from early silent films and Golden Age classics, to fascinating rarities and contemporary gems—are showcased in our biennial UCLA Festival of Preservation.

Hosting this Festival allows the Cinematheque to showcase “the important preservation and restoration work being done by other cinema archives, film studios, and specialty distribution companies around the globe”. The preservation of Altman’s first feature, That Cold Day in the Park (1969), was funded by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation.

Movie poster for 'That Cold Day in the Park' (1969).

Movie poster for ‘That Cold Day in the Park’ (1969).

That Cold Day in the Park, based on a novel by Richard Miles, tells the story of a woman (a lonely spinster, named Frances Austen played by Sandy Dennis) whose well-appointed apartment [Killarney Manor] overlooks a park [Tatlow Park] in Vancouver.  From her window, one cold day, she observes a rain-soaked young man (Micheal Burns) on a park bench whom she assumes is homeless. Hoping to repress her loneliness, Frances invites ‘the boy’ inside her home to get warm and ends up encouraging him to stay. The young man, apparently mute, “accepts her every hospitality—food, clothes, profuse conversation, and a room of his own”. Little does she realize that her guest is not the person he appears to be. Nor, for that matter, is Frances the woman that she appears to be. Without giving the film plot away, this is the point when things start to get a little creepy “as Frances’ loneliness takes on a ferocity that drives the story to a harrowing conclusion”!

Killarney Manor (built in 1956) beside Tatlow Park was the location for Sandy Dennis' apartment in the film "That Cold Day in the Park". Photo: C. Hagemoen

Killarney Manor (built in 1956) beside Tatlow Park was the location of Sandy Dennis’ character’s apartment in the film “That Cold Day in the Park”. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The film was initially a critical and box-office disaster. [You can read film critic, Robert Ebert's 1969 review here - he gives the film 1.5 stars]. In recent years, with the breadth of Altman’s work in clear view, the film has received some critical acclaim as an important film in Altman’s oeuvre. (The Hollywood Foreign Press Association would certainly agree). Altman’s other shot in BC film, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) , is generally more critically acclaimed.

Personally, That Cold Day in the Park is not my favorite Altman film. Which isn’t saying much as, save for a few exceptions, I generally don’t like Robert Altman’s films – a little too ‘quirky’ for my tastes. What I do like about the film is that it was shot in Vancouver, and more importantly is actually set in Vancouver – neither of which it had to be. Too often Vancouver stands in for other cities in the motion picture and television productions filmed in the city.

In 1968, other than television, there was no film industry to speak of in Vancouver (or British Columbia). The breadth of film production facilities, technical production crews and talent available in B.C. today, simply did not exist. According to an interview in the book Altman on Altman, the production team for That Cold Day in the Park had to build the entire set inside an old warehouse.

The cast is comprised of mainly American actors, however, the film does feature a few local actors – Frank Wade (who appeared in several local CBC television dramas), Edward Greenhalgh (a pioneer in local theatre and in various CBC Vancouver productions including Tidewater Tramp), Doris Buckingham (who also appeared in local stage and CBC produced dramas) and Rae Brown (also featured in several CBC productions most notably as Molly on The Beachcombers).

This fantastic, rare CBC Vancouver footage from October 1968 features an interview with actress Sandy Dennis, Robert Altman and Producer Donald Factor. Most noteworthy in the interview is the reason why Altman chose Vancouver for his film – the cold, grey weather. The perfect backdrop for his psychological horror film. The footage also features a behind the scenes look (silent) at the making of this picture. On location (somewhere in the city, possibly on Georgia Street) to shoot a scene, we get a glimpse of Robert Altman, Sandy Dennis, Laszlo Kovacks (Cinematographer) and the rest of the crew in action.

▶ “That Cold Day in the Park”, a look behind the scenes, (B&W), 1968 – YouTube.

That Cold Day in the Park may not be a historic film per se, as it will never make the list for The Top 100 Greatest Films of All Time.  It is, however, an important part of the audio-visual heritage of British Columbia and for that reason deserves our respect.

More historic milestones for BC film:

According to The History of Metropolitan Vancouver, the outdoor scenes in the 1936 movie, Rosemarie (starring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy) were shot on North Vancouver’s Seymour River. Making Rosemarie the first sound feature filmed in British Columbia.****

The prize for the oldest feature length film to be shot in British Columbia belongs to Edward Curtis’ 1914 silent film In the Land of the Headhunters (also known as In the Land of the War Canoes). The film, a portrait of the Kwakwaka’wakw (formerly known as Kwakiutl) people of B.C.’s northern Vancouver Island and central mainland coast, celebrates its centenary this year.

That means the BC film industry is also celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this year. Here’s to 100 more! This is why the preservation, conservation and public access of cultural heritage is so important. Let’s hope that in 100 years we are still able to view all the fruits of BC’s abundant film industry.

****Update: Apparently, Rosemarie was not the first sound film to be shot in BC. A reader, Randolph Jordan, sets the record straight:

“Producer Kenneth Bishop started his Commonwealth Productions company in Victoria in 1932, working out of studio space he leased at the Willows Exhibition Grounds in Oak Bay. Between 1932 and 1937 they produced 14 sound features shot in studio and on location around Vancouver Island. These have become known as the “quota quickies” because they were low budget films shot expressly for the British market, which, at that time, had a quota in place for exhibiting films produced within the Commonwealth. Bishop cashed in on the quota system by working in BC and hiring mostly British nationals as crew – until England changed the rules in 1938 and the quota market dried up. For some great info on these films see Chapter 6 of Peter Morris’ excellent book Embattled Shadows, and Chapter 2 of Mike Gasher’s also excellent book Hollywood North.”

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Reviving a Polaroid 360 Land Camera

Just because they don’t make film for a particular analogue camera anymore, doesn’t mean you should pass up the opportunity to own one. This is exactly what I thought  when I recently had the opportunity to take home a Polaroid 360 Land Camera (for free!).

My recently acquired Polaroid Land Camera model 360 with booklet. Photo: C.Hagemoen

My recently acquired Polaroid Land Camera model 360 with booklet [on a floor in desperate need of refinishing.] Photo: C.Hagemoen

At the very least I thought it would make a really cool objet d’art -  a great addition to my growing collection of vintage cameras. I was curious to learn more about my new acquisition so I did what anyone would do in this day and age, I “Googled” it.

Image from Polaroid Land Camera model 360 instruction manual - "How to make daylight pictures". Photo: C. Hagemoen

Image from Polaroid Land Camera model 360 instruction manual – “How to make daylight pictures”. Photo: C. Hagemoen

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that with only a few minor battery adjustments I could actually shoot film with this camera. What fun! Fuji makes pack film that fits into the Land Cameras. Fuji Color Film FP-100C and Fuji B&W Film FP-3000B are the only peel-apart-type instant films currently being produced.

Several sites recommend converting the camera to work on AAA batteries. The batteries used by my Land Camera were two #532 3V alkaline batteries – one for the shutter and the metering system and one for the built-in electronic development timer. Apparently these batteries are expensive and “kind of a pain to get a hold of”. [I later learned that I would only really need one battery as I didn't need one for the timer - I could just count!]

My camera with the 37-year-old original batteries still inside. Photo: C. Hagemoen

My camera with the 37-year-old original batteries still inside. Photo: C. Hagemoen

One of the first sites I consulted was Instructables.com – “Resurrect a Polaroid Land Camera“. The author of this post created a complete illustrated guide for getting started with the Polaroid Land Camera. In 33 steps, the author covers acquiring the camera and film, upgrading the battery, basic functionality, timing exposures, photo tips, and using a flash – it is a great resource.

I was most interested in the section about “upgrading the battery” as this was the one aspect of using these cameras that apparently needed to be addressed. However, in order to upgrade the battery, I would need to solder in a 2-AAA battery holder. Since I didn’t own a soldering setup, I decided to check out some more options for battery upgrade modifications. The next blog I consulted, lo-fi photography, offered several versions of battery modification using electricians tape. Much better I thought, I could actually see myself doing some of these. But, then I found the simplest battery conversion yet, using 2 CR123 batteries and a rubber band, on the photo.net forum. We have a winner!  I purchased two Duracell 123 photo batteries for $20 and looked around my home for a good rubber band.

My Polaroid Land Camera and all of its accessories! Photo: C.Hagemoen.

My Polaroid Land Camera and all of its accessories! Photo: C.Hagemoen.

In the meantime, I still needed to purchase some Fuji film to see if this would all work out. I am fortunate to live very close to Beau Photo Supplies, “one of the largest [and friendliest]  professional supply stores in Western Canada specializing in cameras, accessories, equipment rental, film, and more”.  They carry all sorts of interesting products including the Fuji instant film packs that I was looking for.

To make a long story short, while I was at Beau Photo I learned that they carry the original #532 3V batteries required for the Land Camera and they are only $7 each! So much for the theory that these batteries are expensive and hard to get a hold of. Needless to say, I bought the battery (and the film) and that was that.

In previous posts I have written about the history of the Polaroid Land Camera and my experiences with Polaroid’s SX-70 Land Camera. So I won’t go into much detail about this model of Land Camera, except to say these cameras were developed after the roll film models and were designed to use the newly developed 100 series pack film. Part of the 300 series of cameras, the Land Camera model 360 was a folding pack film camera produced from 1969 -1971. An upgrade from the 350 model,  the 360 originally retailed for about $200 and came with special electronic flash unit which couples to the focusing mechanism of the camera to provide auto flash exposure.

How To Load Film into a Polaroid Land Packfilm Camera – YouTube.

I was very excited to start using my camera, so after consulting my manual and some of the online resources I loaded up some film. I had a little trouble getting the black protective sleeve out – it ripped. So I opened up the back and grabbed a little bit more and this time it worked.

The ambient temperature is very important in regard to film development. Cold and heat have a great effect on print development and quality.  Since it was a cool day, and I was using colour film, I decided to use the Cold-Clip. The Cold-Clip makes it possible to get good colour pictures when the temperature is below 18 degrees Celsius. You need to warm the Cold-Clip in your pocket for at least 5 minutes before you begin.

Image from Land Camera model 360 instruction manual - removing film from camera. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Image from Land Camera model 360 instruction manual – removing film from camera. Photo: C. Hagemoen

I found the most difficult part of using my camera was trying to pull the film from the camera after exposure [ it wasn't as easy as the photo above would lead you to believe]. I ended up losing a few frames during my inaugural experiment. I persevered and finally success… my first photo!

My first photo with the Land Camera 360. Photo: C. Hagemoen

My first photo with the Land Camera 360. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Not terribly exciting and a little dark, but I was rather impressed with the results.  I decided to adjust the lighten/darken control for my next exposure. I ran into a little trouble between the two photos and had a frame get stuck in the camera. When I finally pulled it out, I must have pulled too hard because the next unexposed frame came out as well and oozed caustic gel all over the place. After washing my hands, I tried the exposure again and was successful in producing my 2nd picture.

Peeling apart my 2nd successful picture. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Peeling apart my 2nd successful picture – the positive and the negative. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The exposure is better on this image.  You may notice the excessive amount of caustic gel on the negative and Cold Clip, but the leak didn’t appear to affect the exposure. I will just have to be sure I thoroughly clean the rollers before I load another pack of film into the camera.

I am really looking forward to getting out on the next ‘warmish’ sunny day and experimenting more with this camera.

My first photos using my new (yet old) Polaroid Land Camera. Photo: C. Hagemoen

My first photos using my new (yet old) Polaroid Land Camera. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Though this blog is essentially about “celebrating the analogue in this digital world”, one thing I truly appreciate about our digital world is instant access to all the online resources about analogue instant photography.

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