The Pro-Rec Program (1934-1953)

Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley PArk

Group of women doing a Pro-Rec fitness display in Stanley Park, 1940.   Photo City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 1184-2355

Pro-Rec dance demonstration. CVA 586-237

Pro-Rec dance demonstration in Stanley Park, 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-237

These intriguing photos are from a series of images that depict a ‘Pro-Rec’ mass demonstration held at Brockton Oval in Stanley Park in 1940. “Pro Rec”, short for Provincial Recreation, was a community sport and recreation initiative offered through the Physical Education Branch of the BC Department of Education. It was developed by Jan Eisenhardt (program administrator) with the support of BC Minister of Education, George Weir.

Pro Rec [demonstrations in] Stanley Park, ca. 1940. Photo: CoV Archives - CVA 586-226

Pro Rec [demonstrations in] Stanley Park, ca. 1940. Photo: CoV Archives – CVA 586-226

The community-oriented scheme (initially set up in 1934) offered volunteer-run games and recreation classes for those unemployed aged 15 and over. The program proved so popular, that the Pro-Rec program was eventually made available to all in 1936. Summer displays (like these from 1940) were used to promote a changing schedule of activities.

Men’s Pro-Rec demonstration in Stanley Park, 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-228.

Men’s Pro-Rec demonstration in Stanley Park, 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-228.

It all started with the economic depression of the 1930s. BC (and Vancouver in particular) was especially hit hard by the Great Depression. Groups of men who had headed west in hopes of employment and a milder climate, found only desperation and poverty. City of Vancouver officials were burdened with providing what relief they could to thousands of unemployed people, while maintaining order in the midst of widespread hardship.  Earlier solutions for unemployment, like the Unemployment Relief Camps (basically hard labour camps), were highly criticized and eventually discarded in favour of “more constructive and less punitive” solutions like the Pro-Rec program. Recreation and sport were seen as an antidote to economic woes. And so in November 1934, the publicly funded British Columbia Pro-Rec program was formed.

Pro-Rec

Pro-Rec demonstration being filmed in Stanley Park, 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-235

The head of the Pro-Rec program, Jan Eisenhardt (1906-2004), was born in Denmark and came to Vancouver in 1928 at age 22. He worked for the Vancouver Parks Board, initially as a playground supervisor and was soon promoted to the Supervisor of Playgrounds. Eisenhardt brought to Canada a Scandinavian sensibility and a “dedicated commitment to physical health and activity as a means for securing social and personal freedom”. The Pro-Rec program he developed is noted for its innovative approach to both fitness and unemployment issues.

Pro-Rec members putting on a display at UBC. ca. 1940. Photo: COV Archives - Sp P46.4

Pro-Rec members putting on a display at UBC. ca. 1940. Photo: COV Archives – Sp P46.4

The Pro-Rec program offered free classes and sports to its members including: exercise and fitness classes, bowling, basketball, volley ball, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, and dancing. Pro-Rec also sponsored swimming galas, organized mass gymnastic displays, and social activities like hiking, picnics and youth hostelling. The BC Recreation and Physical Education Branch provided instructors for the various Pro-Rec activities, along with basic gymnastic apparatus and athletic equipment. In turn, local communities were expected to provide a facility that could serve as a recreation centre. In many communities, a church hall or a school auditorium served as the local Pro-Rec Centre. Pro-Rec participants came from “all walks of life” – unemployed youth, housewives, young working women and business men.

CVA 586-1344

Man, woman and baby on Pro-Rec bike hike in Douglas Park, 1943. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 586-1344

CVA 1184-2352

Group portrait of some posed Pro-Rec acrobats, ca. 1940s. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 1184-235

I discovered that there was even a Pro-Rec marching song, it appeared on a leaflet for the 6th Annual “Pro-Rec” Mass Demonstration.

Pro-Rec Centres’ Marching Song (Words by Alex Hood):

We’re hale and hearty Pro-Rec’s, the pride of old B.C.

Of all Canadian people, there’s none so fit as we.

Wave on the Pro-Rec banner, while lusty voices ring

Until the nations echo, the Pro-Rec song we sing!

The impressive demonstrations by young women’s Pro-Rec fitness classes staged at Stanley Park in the summer were highlights on the annual program of events (think Pep-Rally for Pro-Rec). These Pro-Rec displays combined exercise, health, fitness, grace and a splash of glamour which gave them a youthful, contemporary feel. They proved very attractive to a wide range of young women (and men I imagine) in the city. In fact, overall the Pro-Rec program attracted more women than men, very unusual for a physical recreation program. Clearly ahead of his time, Jan Eisenhardt supported the professional and personal advancement of female Pro-Rec leaders and members.

Pro-Rec float in the 1950 PNE Parade. Photo: CVA 180-1630

Pro-Rec float promoting fitness and health (though how healthy is it to be covered in silver paint?) in the 1950 PNE Parade. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – CVA 180-1630.

BC’s successful Pro-Rec program inspired other provinces to initiate their own recreation schemes, as well as influencing national recreation programs sponsored by the federal government. Jan Eisenhardt’s work in BC was so highly regarded that he was appointed the first National Director of Physical Fitness in 1943 after Canada passed the National Physical Fitness Act.

Two "Pro-Rec" members receive scrolls [I believe Jan Eisenhardt is pictured on the right]. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives - Sp P46.1

Two “Pro-Rec” members receive scrolls [ Jan Eisenhardt is pictured on the right] ca. 1940. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives – Sp P46.1

Inconceivably Jan Eisenhardt’s career as the National Director of Physical Fitness came to an abrupt end in the early 1950s. In the midst of the Cold War he “was designated a security risk” and was (inexplicably) blacklisted as “Un-Canadian”. At the same time, “Fading idealism and Cold War skepticism” led to the 1943 national scheme being dropped 10 years after it began. Canada’s National Physical Fitness Act was repealed in 1954.

The Pro-Rec program in BC was dropped in 1953. Curiously this coincided with the advent of local broadcast TV, thus a generation of couch-potatoes were born.

 

The story of Jan Eisenhardt’s blacklisting was told in the National Film Board of Canada film “The Un-Canadians” directed by Len Scher, 1996.

▶ “The UnCanadians” Jan Eisenhardt Segment 1 – YouTube.

More about the BC Pro-Rec program and the National Fitness programs can be found by consulting these sources:

*Strong, Beautiful and Modern: National Fitness in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada 1935-1960 by Charlotte MacDonald (Chapter. 5).
*“Pro-Rec:” Recreational and Physical Education, 1934 – 1953 – article written by Patrick A. Dunae

For a more detailed account of Jan Eisenhardt’s life check out this source:

*“Canada Needs You”: The Jan Eisenhardt Story by Susan Markham-Starr, Acadia University and Tom Delamere, Malaspina University-College

 

Pro-Rec members putting on a display. Photo: COV Archives -Sp P46.2

Pro-Rec members putting on a gymnastics display. Photo: COV Archives -Sp P46.2

 

Fun fact: In addition to conducting community-based athletic programs, the Recreation and Physical Education Branch of the BC Department of Education published a monthly magazine (The Gymnast) and produced a series of radio broadcasts entitled “Gym of the Air”.

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“Please wait a minute Mr. Postman”

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of her move to this Province, a friend of mine recently mailed out postcards from her extensive personal collection to all her friends. Each of the thoughtfully selected postcards contained a brief narrative about one of her many experiences over the past 25 years. It was a delight to receive such a personal memento in the mail.

Postcard from my friend along with a flyer (what I usually receive in the mail) arrived in my mailbox recently. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Postcard from my friend along with a flyer (what I usually receive in the mail) arrived in my mailbox recently. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Analogue experiences like this are far and few between these days thanks to the internet. There is no doubt that everyone loves to receive a handwritten card, however very few people actually take the time to write one these days. Since the advent of email, texting, twitter, Facebook and other digital technology there really isn’t a need, nor desire, to write and send letters (or cards) via snail mail. Even etiquette traditionalists, bowing to the new technology, agree that email is an acceptable way to deliver an invitation, thank-you note or business letter.

What does this all mean? It means the end of the conventional post office and mail delivery as we know it. I’m afraid that door-to-door mail delivery is going the way of the rotary dial landline telephone (remember those?) and I think that is a real shame.

Illuminated letter drop at the main Vancouver Postal station. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Illuminated letter drop at the main Vancouver Postal station. Photo: C. Hagemoen

It’s a shame because it’s not just about the lost art of letter writing and receiving hand written items in the mail. It’s a shame because it’s also about losing the tradition of having your mail delivered personally to your door by another human being.

There was a time when the postman was just one of the many people in your neighbourhood; a person that you met each day.  If you lived in the Broadway and Granville area of Fairview in the mid 1960s you might have met the postman featured in this CBUT documentary. Produced in 1964 for the ‘7 O’Clock Show’, this CBUT (CBC Vancouver) documentary follows a postman through a working day as he delivers mail on his route (South Granville/Fairview).  He starts off in the Postal Outlet at 1535 West Broadway and before walking his route, has a coffee break in a nearby cafe. In voice-over, the unnamed postman discusses the details and merits of his job.

▶ A Day in the Life of a Postman, B&W, 1964 – YouTube.

 

Almost two years ago Canada Post announced that it will phase-out home delivery while at the same time substantially increasing postal rates. Most Canadians will now get their mail delivered to community mailboxes (don’t even get me started on those!).  Less service and higher costs; even a business amateur like me knows that is a losing business strategy.

The door handles at the Vancouver Canada Post building. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The door handles at the Vancouver Canada Post building. Photo: C. Hagemoen

At one point in its history, Canada Post’s motto was “servire populo” or, “to serve the people”. With these recent changes it seems like Canada Post is no longer interested in  serving the people of Canada. Today, their corporate values include phrases like “we value innovation in the marketplace” and “integrity and respect in our actions”. Ugh. Vague phrases like that sound somewhat insincere and are rather uninspiring.

Once a strong and powerful national institution, Canada Post is now becoming a shadow of its former self. The problem? Expenses are rising while use plummets, all thanks to the internet. The Globe and Mail’s Barrie McKenna believes that this diminished version of Canada Post “will inevitably be less relevant to Canadian businesses and individuals”.

In his article, McKenna suggests that “a shrunken Canada Post may be exactly what the federal government wants”. A scenario reminiscent of the situation facing another one of Canada’s Crown Corporation’s, the CBC, also a mere shadow of its former self.

“Ottawa rejected possible reform paths favoured by other national postal systems: British-style privatization or a move into financial services, as the United States is pondering. [In many countries around the globe] financial services have become an economic salvation for any postal services facing challenges similar to Canada Post’s”

It seems that the Board of Directors (and ultimately the Federal Government) chose to ignore these creative solutions, potentially saving and cultivating Canada Post, in favour of cutting service, jobs and increasing prices.

Canada Post display at the PNE, 1971. Photo: COV Archives - CVA180-6831

Canada Post display at the PNE, 1971. Notice in the photo the Canada Post crest that reads : “servire populo” or “to serve the people”. Photo: COV Archives – CVA180-6831

Wanting to keep this public service (door-to-door mail delivery) is not just about resisting change either. It is about providing a secure service to all Canadians (young, old, rich, poor, urban and rural).

Community mailboxes are out in the open and vulnerable to tampering. If you were a senior (or anyone) with limited mobility, would you want to leave the safety of your home to pick up your government pension cheque or new credit card at a community mailbox? I know I wouldn’t. Would you even want one of these community mailboxes sitting in front of your house?

And, as hard as it may be for some digital natives to believe, not all Canadians have gone digital and use the internet. Some are overwhelmed by its complexities (I wouldn’t even call these people digital immigrants, as they never left their analogue homeland) and many simply cannot afford it. As more and more businesses and government offices turn to web-based services, the greater the digital divide becomes.

Lastly, some people rely on the Post Office not only to deliver their mail; they rely on the letter carriers for guaranteed human contact once a day. This aspect of the situation should not be underestimated.

Ostalgie, a hybrid of the German words for east and nostalgia, is the German term for the phenomenon of nostalgia that some Germans had for the former East Germany. With the loss of door-to-door postal service and a diminished Canada Post will Canadians soon suffer from Postalgie? Nostalgia for the old postal system?

Main Post Office Vancouver, 1965. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Main Post Office Vancouver, 1965. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

And to add insult to injury, we are losing the iconic Post Office building in downtown Vancouver. Like another of Canada’s crown corporations, the CBC, Canada Post is looking to reduce its debt load through the sale of some of its real estate assets. The downtown Vancouver Post Office building was sold in 2013 when Canada Post relocated its processing facility to a plant near the Vancouver International Airport.

Opened in the heart of downtown Vancouver in 1958, this monolith of a building takes up one entire city block (between Georgia, Dunsmuir, Homer and Hamilton streets) and has a total floor area of almost 16 acres (686,000 sq ft). The building is the finest example of International Style architecture in the city. Heritage Vancouver included the Post Office on its annual list of Top Ten Endangered Sites in 2012 and 2013. Its ultimate fate is still unknown at this time. According to the folks at Heritage Vancouver, the Main Post Office building was ineligible for the protection of municipal heritage designation, as municipal bylaws have no legal standing for properties owned by a higher level of government. The fact that Canada Post is a crown corporation and not a federal department also works against the fate of the building, as there is no obligation for crown corporations to participate in federal heritage programs.

A recent article in the Vancouver Sun (May 8, 2015) states that the new owners have submitted a development inquiry to the City of Vancouver “that contemplates reusing the post office building, while adding additional office and residential space above”. What this means exactly is unknown, but without official heritage designation I’m afraid this will likely be another case of architectural taxidermy. Since the Canada Post building is “built like a tank” perhaps by brute force alone it will be preserved. We will have to wait and see.

Vintage Vancouver postcard ca. 1938.

Vintage Vancouver postcard ca. 1938. Send someone a postcard today.

Inspired by my friend’s recent postal actions, I think it’s time to bring back the post card in a big way. It’s short and sweet and even has a cool picture on it – what more do you need? Make someone’s day, send them a postcard! It is a small gesture, but in these days of globalization, it is the little things that sometimes convey the most.

 

Fun Fact: In 1964 Canada’s only (non-wartime*) female letter carrier, Norah Stackard, is fired after one and a half days on the job because of her gender. A spokesperson for the Postmaster General says that the job will be reserved for men until the Civil Service Commission and the post office finishes studying the feasibility of employing women letter carriers. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that women began to be regularly hired as posties.

*Women worked as letter carriers during the First World War (1914-1918) and the Second World War (1940-1945) after each war they were fired to make room for the male soldiers returning from war.

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The city in flux: Cedar Street (aka Burrard Street)

Spend any length of time living in Vancouver and you know it is constantly changing (old buildings come down, new buildings go up). Vancouver is a city in flux.

For a relatively young city (in the global scheme of things), Vancouver has certainly gone through its fair share of changes in its 129 year history. Personally, I am amazed how quickly one can get used to the new scenery and forget what used to be there before. In my own experience, that is just in the past 40 years. Imagine how much the city would have appeared to have changed for people who lived here 80 or 100 years ago – it would be almost unrecognizable to them.

Here is a brief snapshot look at one part of that flux – Cedar Street aka Burrard Street.

Cedar St.

This sidewalk stamp found along Burrard St. near 11th Ave. dates to 1931. Photo: C. Hagemoen

This sidewalk stamp reveals the former name of the southern portion of Burrard Street in Vancouver. According to “Street Names of Vancouver” by Elizabeth Walker, Cedar Street dates back to 1885 and was named by L. A. Hamilton, Vancouver’s most influential street namer. When the Burrard Bridge was completed in 1932, Burrard St. (north side, downtown) was then linked to Cedar St. on the south end of the bridge. Cedar Street was officially renamed Burrard Street in 1938.

Looking northwest towards the intersection of Cornwall Avenue and Cedar Street (Burrard Street), July 1931. Photo: Stuart Thomson, COV Archives - CVA 99-4630.

Looking northwest towards the intersection of Cornwall Avenue and Cedar Street (Burrard Street), July 193[2?]. Photo: Stuart Thomson, COV Archives – CVA 99-4630.

The addition of the Burrard Bridge in 1932 dramatically changed this part of the city, and eventually Cedar Street permanently. As seen in the photo above, this part of Cedar Street from the southern end of the Burrard Bridge to 1st Avenue was mainly undeveloped, scrubby land – no Molson’s Brewery complex (originally Sick’s Capilano Brewery – 1953) or Seaforth Armoury (1936) to be seen.

Burrard Street, 2015 Photo: C. Hagemoen

Molson’s and Seaforth Armoury on Burrard Street, 2015 Photo: C. Hagemoen

Burrard Street between Cornwall and 1st Ave looking south. May 2015. Photo: C.Hagemoen

Burrard Street between Cornwall and 1st Ave looking south. May 2015. Photo: C.Hagemoen

In the photographs below, I was amazed to see how rural and simple Cedar Street (Burrard St.) looked before the Burrard Bridge was built.

View of Cedar Street (Burrard Street), looking north from 1st Ave. July 1931. Photo: COV Archives, Br N5.3

View of Cedar Street (Burrard Street), looking north from 1st Ave.  July [ca.1929?]. Photo: COV Archives, Br N5.3

These are two views of Cedar Street at approximately 1st Avenue – one looking north, the other looking south. Though they are both dated 1931, they clearly show an earlier time (perhaps by only a year or two) before the Burrard Bridge was completed in 1932. By that time Cedar Street was widened and paved and concrete sidewalks were added to accommodate the increase in traffic along this route.

J.S. Matthews standing on Cedar Street (Burrard Street) at 1st Avenue, looking south, Aug. 1931. Photo: COV Archives - SGN 419

J.S. Matthews standing on Cedar Street (Burrard Street) at 1st Avenue, looking south, Aug. ca. [1930]. Photo: COV Archives – SGN 419.

The photo below, dated 1934, shows how quickly the intersection of Cedar (Burrard) at 1st changed compared to the earlier photo above. If you look closely, you can see the same peak roof house on the right side of the photo (at approximately 2nd Ave.) in both images.

Looking south along Cedar Street, 193 . Photo: Stuart Thomson, COV Archives - CVA 99-4632.

Looking south along Cedar Street (approaching 1st Ave.). An Imperial Oil gas station is on the right, 1934 . Photo: Stuart Thomson, COV Archives – CVA 99-4632.

Below, is the same intersection (Burrard at 1st Ave) today.  It is interesting to note the continued presence of a gas station in approximately the same spot along Cedar/Burrard street.

Burrard Street at 1st Avenue, May 2015. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Burrard Street at 1st Avenue, with Petro-Canada gas station (behind the trees) on the right. May 2015. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Below are two views of Cedar/Burrard St. at 6th Avenue, 70 years apart. The rail crossing and tracks are front and centre in the earlier photo. Whereas, they are just a memory in the 2015 photo and the lushness of the community garden is now the main focus.

Cedar (Burrard) and 6th Avenue railroad crossing, July 1934. Photo: Dominion Photo Co., VPL Special Collections, 23563.

Cedar (Burrard) and 6th Avenue railroad crossing, July 1934. Photo: Dominion Photo Co., VPL Special Collections, 23563.

Burrard at 6th Ave. railway crossing. May 2015. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Burrard at 6th Ave. railway crossing. May 2015. Photo: C. Hagemoen

One thing I noticed in all the 2015 photos, compared to the earlier photos, is how the hard edges of the built environment have been softened by the street landscaping. They add natural character to the city. Check out The benefit of Trees from Quiet Nature to see why trees are so important to the urban landscape.

I hope to make The City in Flux: a semi-regular feature on Vanalogue. Look for more snapshot looks at different parts of the city in future posts.

Fun Fact: The tree streets were intended to be laid out in alphabetical order, as L.A. Hamilton planned. However, a clerical error changed those intentions permanently. Who knows what tree street Cedar Street was initially intended to be called?

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Handy Meat Market

We are all familiar with the adage a picture is worth a thousand words, so when I came across this (ca. 1972) charming image of a man and woman in the window of a store in Strathcona, I wondered what thousand words would describe it? Seemed like a good opportunity to delve into a little historical research.

[Handy Meat Market, 894 East Georgia Street], Strathcona , ca. 1972.  Photo: Art Grice , COV Archives - CVA 677-920.

[Handy Meat Market, 894 East Georgia Street], Strathcona , ca. 1972. Photo: Art Grice , COV Archives – CVA 677-920.

Being a true Vancouverite, my first thought was: Is the building still standing? [knowing full well that many old buildings in Vancouver get torn down before their time] And if so, what was its history?  A quick check on Google Maps street view showed that, indeed, the building was still standing and a field trip to the area confirmed it.

The former Handy Meats store front, 2014. Photo: C. Hagemoen

894 East Georgia. The former Handy Meats store front, 2014. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Perhaps a little worse for wear, but actually looking pretty good for over 40 years on. I next wondered, just how old is the shop and building anyway?  The best way to find this kind of information out was to do some building history research.

One of the first resources I checked was the Heritage Vancouver Society’s Building Permits database. Checking the Building Permits registry allows the researcher to get a general idea of the age of a building. Volunteers at Heritage Vancouver have transcribed building permit data from original hand-written permit ledgers stored at the City of Vancouver Archives into a searchable online database. Currently the database covers the years from 1901-1921 and includes building permit data from Vancouver, South Vancouver and Point Grey (prior to amalgamation in 1929).

I first searched the address “894 East Georgia Street”,  this search came up empty. I next searched under East Georgia Street’s former name Harris Street (prior to 1915). Again, I got no results. Knowing that, unlike the legal address,  the street address of a property can change over time, I tried searching without the address number and only using Harris Street.  Eureka!

District: Vancouver
Permit: 4809
Owner: Smith & Keats
Architect: Honeyman & Curtis
Builder: Brehaut, W. W.
Legal Address: DL: 181 Block: 93 Sub: Resub: Lot: 20
Date (Y-M-D): 1913-04-19
Street Number: 892-898
Street Name: Harris Street
Value: $7,000.00
Remarks: Apartments/rooms (also 705 Campbell)
Reference ID: VN-3400-3401-686

The building permit information reveals that 894 is part of a parcel of buildings on the same property and that a building permit was issued in 1913.

[To get a more exact date of when a building was occupied researchers can check Water Service Records. Since water hookup is usually saved until the very end of construction, these records can give a date close to the completion of a house or building.]

Using the legal address of a building, instead of the street address is the best way to accurately research any given property. Street numbers and names can change over time, but the legal address is constant. A great tool to use to determine the legal address of a property is VanMap. VanMap is a Web-based  application that lets you view data about Vancouver in map form. VanMap has many features that allows you to research the development of a neigbourhood.

Another great resource that you can use when researching property are Fire Insurance Plans. They reveal details on buildings gathered for insurance purposes, including type of construction, number of stories, position of building on the lot, and lot features such as driveways and location of oil tanks and water hydrants. This kind of research requires a trip down to the Archives (in this case the City of Vancouver Archives) to view the plans on microfiche. Handy finding aids and guides help you through the process.  The COV Archives also have microform scanners which allow you to create a PDF copies for your own reference.

Section of

Section of Map 342 (1912) showing D.L. 181, Block 93, Lot 20. This map shows the property where the future 894 E. Georgia St. will be, at the corner of Campbell and Harris Street (E. Georgia).

The 1912 Fire Insurance plan (Map 342) corroborates the date of 1913 for the age of the property as no buildings are indicated on the lot.

I next checked out Fire Insurance plans for the years 1925-1950 (Map 599) hoping that I could glean more historical information about the building that housed Handy Meat Market.

Section of Map 599.

Close up section of Section of Map 599 (1925-1950).

The location of the future Handy Meat Shop at 894 E Georgia now clearly shows up next door to a Beauty Shop and the map clearly indicates that there are rooms (or apartments) over the ground level shops (as indicated on the building permit). The dotted line between 894 and 890 also indicates that previously the two addresses were once a larger shop.

1950 City Directories listing for Handy Meat Market.

1950 City Directories listing for Handy Meat Market found by searching the street address (East Georgia).

City Directories are also a great resource to help determine the approximate year a building/house was first occupied. Searchable by either address or name, directories can  provide information (names, occupations, marital status) about owners or tenants. The Vancouver Public Library has an online collection of digitized British Columbia city directories dating from 1860 up to and including 1955. To access Directories after 1955 you will have to visit either VPL Special Collections or COV Archives in person.

Some systematic checking in the city directories revealed that the location of Handy Meat Market (894 E. Georgia) had previously been a grocery store (combining 894 & 890), a gospel mission, and vacant (during the Depression) before finally becoming Handy Meat Market by 1942.

More research in the directories revealed that Antonio (Anthony) Negrin (likely pictured in the image below) was the proprietor of Handy Meat Market right from the start. When he started the Handy Meat Market, Negrin lived at 533 Union Street (along with the rest of his family it seems). Later directories list his wife’s name, Hazel M, and I can only assume that she is pictured below alongside her husband. Negrin is listed as the proprietor of the Handy Meat Market until the 1973 City Directory. By 1974, there is no longer a listing for Handy Meat Market.

Detail of [Handy Meat Market, 894 East Georgia Street], Strathcona , ca. 1972.  Photo: Art Grice , COV Archives - CVA 677-920.

Detail of [Handy Meat Market, 894 East Georgia Street], Strathcona , ca. 1972. Photo: Art Grice , COV Archives – CVA 677-920.

Since the Handy Meat Market had been in operation since approximately 1942, one can only assume that the Negrin’s retired their mom-and-pop meat shop some time in 1973, after some 31 years in business serving the residents of Strathcona in East Vancouver.

After a little on line sleuthing I found Antonio Negrin’s obituary in the Jan 26th, 1977 edition of the The Chilliwack Progress newspaper. He was 59. It stated that Antonio was born in Vancouver, worked as a butcher, was a member of the Legion and lived in Sardis for the last 4 years (moving there after giving up the Handy Meat Market). Prior to moving out to the valley, the Negrin’s lived in Burnaby (confirmed by the City Directories). Antonio and Hazel had three children.

 

Fun Fact: This post is actually 1,028 words.

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60th anniversary of CBUT, Part 4 – Drama from the left coast

On this 4th and final installment celebrating the 60th anniversary of CBUT, we take a dramatic turn and look at a few interesting stories in the “long and honourable” history of television drama on CBUT (CBC Vancouver).

The recent series of CBC cutbacks and layoffs announced by CBC-SRC’s dispassionate president, Hubert Lacroix, were essentially the fatal blow at the end of a long slow death for all original (non-news) programming on CBC TV. There was a time (long, long ago) however, when the CBC was at the forefront of original programming.

Many Canadians (especially those of a certain age) will be familiar with the history of CBC-TVs documentary and music programming, however many may be unfamiliar with the history of its dramatic programming.

Production still from the set of Spectrum's - Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody (1958).

Production still from the set of Spectrum’s – Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody (1958). Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Like much programming on the CBC, drama had its start on CBC’s radio service.  In it’s early years, CBC radio’s national and regional drama series featured the best of both domestic and international drama. This dramatic tradition continued on the small screen when CBC started its television service.

CBUT played a very important role in the early history of Canadian TV drama. In his publication for the BC Provincial Archives, Camera West: British Columbia on Film 1941-1965, media archivist Dennis Duffy notes that “Vancouver had nurtured important elements of the Canadian radio drama tradition, and there was considerable interest in television drama there”.

Mary Jane Miller states in Turn Up the Contrast: CBC Television Drama since 1952,  that “CBC television drama in Vancouver has [had] a long and honourable history, starting with good children’s programming like Hidden Pages“. The establishment of CBUT’s Film Unit in 1956 allowed CBUT to produce a number of significant documentaries and dramatic programs alongside the many studio shot productions. By 1957, CBUT was producing its own drama anthology series like, Spectrum, Pacific 13 and Studio Pacific, as well as contributing to the CBC network anthology of regional drama, Playbill.

Some readers may be familiar with CBUT produced dramatic series like Cariboo Country and The Beachcombers, but may not be familiar with (or have long forgotten) some of its earlier one-off dramatic productions. The story of CBUT television drama is so rich and full that one little blog post could hardly do it justice, I present instead the stories of four interesting notables:

Mercedes McCambridge and John McDonald in a scene from 'Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody'. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Still Photo Collection.

Mercedes McCambridge and John McDonald in a scene from Some Days You Have To Hit Somebody. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Still Photo Collection.

“Some Days You Have to Hit Somebody”, Spectrum, air date: July 17, 1958.  Writer – Len Peterson. Cast – Mercedes McCambridge, John McDonald, Rosemary Malkin, Ian Thorne, Sally Campbell and Gary Rogers.

The sensational title already makes this teleplay noteworthy, the addition of Hollywood actress Mercedes McCambridge is just the icing on the cake.

Writer Len Peterson said in an interview in CBC Times that “he liked to explore in dramatic form the relationship between the people involved”. For instance, one of his plays, he said “was a study of a man generally considered unworthy of her, but who yet finds something in him that she needs”. The name of that play was Some Days You Have to Hit Somebody which aired on the CBUT series Spectrum and starred Academy Award winning actress Mercedes McCambridge.  It is the tense story of a former New York newspaperwoman who has set aside her career for domesticity is married to a man (John McDonald) her visiting friends think is beneath her, both socially and intellectually. Rather modern themes for 1950s Vancouver television.

Mercedes McCambridge came to star in this CBUT production via her then husband, ex-Vancouver actor/producer/director Fletcher Markle who starred in the 1958 CBUT Spectrum drama, Joe Faceless.

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Patrick Macnee and Glenyss McDiarmid on the set of 'The Child Wife'. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Patrick Macnee and Glenyss McDiarmid on the set of The Child Wife. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

“The Child Wife”, Pacific 13, air date: July 31, 1957.  Writer – Ian Thorne. Cast – Glenyss McDiramid, Patrick Mcnee.

The Child Wife, produced by Andrew Allen and starring local actress Glenyss McDiramid and Patrick Macnee (most famous for his role on The Avengers), aired on CBUT’s Pacific 13, Wednesday July 31, 1957.

According to an anecdote in an article of the July 1957 issue of CBC Times, Vancouver actor and writer Ian Thorne wrote a dramatic teleplay called The Child Wife, but he wasn’t happy with the dialogue so he was reluctant to show it to CBUT producer, Andrew Allen. He did, however, outline the plot to Allen, who thought it sounded like a good comedy. So, though originally conceived as a drama, The Child Wife, was later reworked into a comedy.

The two main actors in The Child Wife are Glenyss McDiramid as the ‘child wife’, whose school teacher husband won’t let her grow up and Patrick Mcnee as the famous young writer of lurid covered novels who arrives to live close by. Unfortunately, that is all we know about the plot, as a copy of the production no longer exists.

Five kinescope (or kine) prints were made on the telecast night to be distributed to the various stations.  Kinescopes were used to distribute copies of TV productions to the regions and affiliates which lay outside of the extent of the Mt. Seymour transmitter prior to the launch of the Anik satellites. Unfortunately, the distribution card indicates that at some point the kine negative was destroyed and only one positive print was kept. However, it also reveals that the final print was out “on permanent loan”, as authorized by CBUT’s then regional director, Len Lauk.

“Permanent Loan” is the bane of the CBC Vancouver Archives. As a primarily production based institution, once the prints were distributed and returned (in the days before satellites), they lost their production value and were occasionally were given away (“on permanent loan”) to interested parties. Back in the day when many people had access to a 16mm projector, this was a gesture, I suppose, of goodwill, as many permanent loans seem to have gone to participants or subjects of the various productions. My hope is one day these permanent loans will make their way back, and in some manner become accessible to Canadians again.

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'Moose Fever' cover of CBC Times featuring Don Crawford and Margot Kidder. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

‘Moose Fever’ cover of CBC Times featuring Don Crawford and Margot Kidder. Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

“Moose Fever”, Studio Pacific, scheduled air date: March 20, 1967.  Writer – Paul Wayne. Cast – Don Crawford, Margie [Margot] Kidder.

Moose Fever, a drama written by Montreal playwright Paul Wayne was produced and directed by Len Lauk for the CBUT drama anthology, Studio Pacific.  According to the March 1967 write-up in the CBC Times, Moose Fever tells the story of Larry Fraser (Don Crawford), a 35-year-old railroad porter who, while resting in his apartment one afternoon, is startled by a young woman who is attempting to enter his room through the window. After helping her in, he learns that her name is Bonnie Merrick (Margie Kidder) and that she and her father occupy an apartment in the building directly across from Larry’s. She also confesses that she has been secretly watching him for two weeks. At first, Larry is slightly amused by the young woman’s intrusion, but his amusement later turns to annoyance and finally terror [!] as she relates events from her past and her actions of the previous day. [Isn’t that plot outline intriguing?]

Moose Fever was Margot Kidder’s first major role, she was 18 years old. According to a an account from producer Len Lauk, [Margot] was “a natural actress and a truly great theatrical find”. While videotaping the play Lauk found that “Margie’s performance completely captivated everybody on the set – a rare thing among seasoned television crews”. Margot also appears in another Studio Pacific production called The Club Man before it seems she left Vancouver for Los Angeles via Toronto. It is interesting to note that none of her online biographies ever mention her acting debut in Vancouver on CBC.

Margie Kidder and Don Crawford on the set of the CBUT's 'Moose Fever', March 1967. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Margie (Margot) Kidder and Don Crawford on the set of the CBUT’s ‘Moose Fever’, March 1967. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Moose Fever was videotaped in the CBUT studios and, as was customary practice at the time, kinescopes of the production were made at the same time. The original 2″ videotape was long since wiped and reused (again, as was customary practice) and the kinescopes were never found. Since a copy was never found (thought destroyed), but the production was known, the CBC rumour mill was all a buzz. One such story was that at the last minute the production was deemed too racy to be shown, due to the age and race differences between the two leads.

Moose Fever was scheduled to air on CBUT on Monday, March 20 1967. However, despite all the rumours, a recent serendipitous discovery in binder labelled “CBUT Dramas” reveals that it did not air due to a dispute with the writer.

Further research in the CBC Vancouver archives produced a film production card, which indicated that one kine print and one videotape was made from the studio production which was filmed March 15 (or 16), 1967 (4 days prior to its scheduled air date). That print (#1) was sent to writer Paul Wayne on (or about) March 15, 1967. It was returned to Vancouver on March 19th.  The print was then sent to “Outside Broadcasts” in Toronto (presumably a department at the CBC), it was returned to Vancouver on July 18th, 1967.

A year later, the print was sent back to Toronto on May 23, 1968, to Don Crawford (the lead actor) c/o his management company, ostensibly for screening and then return. A bold note on the bottom of the film production card states that the Post Office in Toronto informs them that the management company moved and it’s “present address unknown”. Additionally, the film production card reveals that, “print #1 therefore not recovered after request for return to Don Crawford”. It ends with an enigmatic reference to “see Sept. telexes”.

So what really happened to Moose Fever? Is it still languishing somewhere in the bowels of Canada Post in Toronto? Did it get lost in transit? No one may ever really know. Like The Child Wife, hopefully it will just appear one day, until then we can be satisfied with the production stills shot by Alvin Armstrong and Franz Lindner.

Margie Kidder and Don Crawford on the set of 'Moose Fever', March 1967. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

Margie Kidder and Don Crawford on the set of ‘Moose Fever’, March 1967. Photo: Alvin Armstrong, CBC Vancouver Still Photo Collection.

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“Night Music”, Studio Pacific, air date: April 17, 1967.  Writer – George Robertson. Cast – Jackie Burroughs, Terence Kelly, John Sparks, Rae Brown.

Terence Kelly and Jackie Burroughs on the set of 'Night Music' (1967). Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Still Photo Collection

Terence Kelly and Jackie Burroughs on the set of ‘Night Music’ (1967). Photo: Franz Lindner, CBC Still Photo Collection

Night Music is a “poignant story set in an all-night Laundromat, where a naïve waitress (Jackie Burroughs) discovers a strange young man (Terrence Kelly) sleeping in one of the dryers”. He is a “callous” junior advertising executive, spending the night there on a bet. However, his strangeness and flattery captures the heart of the vulnerable young woman.

Night Music was written by Vancouver writer/producer George Robertson. ”The play,” Robertson said in a 1967 CBC Times article about the production, “resulted from a true story about a Toronto actress named Jackie Burroughs”.  According to the story, one night she walked into an all-night Laundromat on DuPont Street where she found a young man asleep in a dryer.  She later became his girlfriend. Robertson explains that “this bizarre fact set me to considering the possibilities of the incident for a short TV play – and, of course, Jackie Burroughs should play the part of the girl”. That young man was Zalman Yanovsky, of the folk-rock band The Lovin’ Spoonful. And the actress? None other than Canadian acting icon, Jackie Burroughs,  who stars in this play as the young waitress. Talk about an extraordinary example of art imitating life!

In Robertson’s version of the story, the young man is not a member of a folk-rock band, but “is a member of that faceless generation of bright young men in their twenties on the road to executive success”. Robertson explains that the young man is in the dryer on a prank, “an event as unmotivated as the nocturnal entertainments his friends devise for themselves”. The plain and vulnerable waitress who discovers the young man, Robertson reveals, “becomes slowly and surely victimized by the young man’s virtuoso display of verbal flattery. Or is it really just flattery?”

“There are ambiguities in Night Music because so much of life is ambiguous. When Night Music is over, it has been just that – a tune heard in the sleeping recesses of the heart, the melody difficult and painful to recall.” – George Robertson

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With up and coming Canadian actors like Margot Kidder, Jackie Burroughs and Terrence Kelly appearing in well written CBUT dramas along with established international actors like Patrick Mcnee and Mercedes McCambridge, it appears that the dramas CBUT produced at the time were part of a very significant and exciting scene. Brock University television studies Professor Emerita, Mary Jane Miller, further explains that “television drama from Vancouver has been a distinctive voice from a distinctive region of the country… Vancouver has frequently been ignored and underfunded, yet it has enjoyed the freedom to go its own way”.

For a more insightful and in depth investigation into the history of CBC television drama (at least its first 25 years), I recommend Mary Jane Miller’s book: Turn Up the Contrast: CBC Television Drama since 1952, UBC Press (1987). Especially chapter 10 – Regional or “What Toronto doesn’t know!”, a regional look at CBC television drama. Also recommended is Dennis Duffy’s: Camera West: British Columbia on Film 1941-1965, Provincial Archives of BC (1986).

Fun Fact: You can see examples of some of CBUT’s early dramas at the Cinemathque in a history of film in BC series curated by Harry Killas of ECUAD’s film studies department. On Monday, January 26, 2015 two episodes of Cariboo Country will be screened.

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Rose Marie the Riveter

Two images of women (1943 & 1945) on the back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder.

Two images of women (1943 & 1945) on the back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder.

I found these great photographic images of these women serendipitously while doing another task at the City of Vancouver Archives. [Isn’t that the best way to discover interesting new things?] Though both images essentially depict the same thing – an attractive woman – despite being taken only two years apart, I was intrigued by how differently these women were portrayed. Especially since these images appeared on back covers of the same publication, Wallace Shipbuilder. The side by side juxtaposition of the two images piqued my interest.

Wallace Shipbuilder covers.

Wallace Shipbuilder covers. An employee magazine for the Burrard Dry Dock workers during WWII.

Wallace Shipbuilder was the company newsletter for the Burrard Dry Dock workers during WWII. Sharing news of production, health and safety and social activities, Wallace Shipbuilder was published monthly, running from July 1942 to September 1945.

Wallace Shipyards from the water,  ca.1910. Photo: Out P1164 , CoV Archives.

Wallace Shipyards from the water, ca.1910. Photo: Out P1164 , CoV Archives.

First, a brief history of Burrard Dry Dock. Originally called the Wallace Shipyards, Burrard Dry Dock had its humble beginnings in Vancouver in 1894. It was a one-man yard, in the backyard of Alfred Wallace. He started with one contract – lifeboats for the C.P.R. and one helper – his wife. In 1906, Wallace moved the operation to North Vancouver on the north shore of the Burrard Inlet. Over the years, despite a destructive fire in 1911, the shipyard business grew. In 1921, Wallace Shipyards was renamed the Burrard Dry Dock Company. Alfred’s son Clarence took over the business after the death of his father in 1929. It was Clarence Wallace who was at the helm of the business during WW2.

In the pre-war years, only the North Yard existed and the nature of the work was mainly repairs with the occasional small ocean vessel built. The maximum number of employees was about 500 men – no women.

During the war years, 1939-1945, Burrard Dry Dock Company expanded tremendously – extending the North Yard and adding the South Yard. During this time, the “Yards of Burrard” produced a combined 109 ships. The workforce also expanded tremendously during this time with employment peaking at 14,000 workers, including 1,000 women.

Burrard Dry Dock, November 6, 1942. Photo:  Air P21 , RCAF, CoV Archives.

Burrard Dry Dock, November 6, 1942. Photo: Air P21 , RCAF, CoV Archives.

The first women came into North and South Burrard Shipyards in September of 1942. According to an article in the Wallace Shipyard, foremen and yard men were initially less than receptive and “cold shouldered the intruders into a man’s world”. Imagine coming into a situation like that? But these women persevered, buckled down and went to work and they soon won the respect of their male colleagues.

Burrard Dry Dock - Miss Heddy Brunkel, Jitney Driver, 1943. Photo: CVA 586-1152, Don Coltman, CoV Archives

Burrard Dry Dock – Miss Heddy Brunkel, Jitney Driver, 1943. Photo: CVA 586-1152, Don Coltman, CoV Archives

By Spring of 1944, there were 1000 women in the shipyards helping to build ships. Not just delegated to office and menial custodial jobs, these women excelled in the precision detail work of the Electrical, Sheet Metal and Machine Shops. The women also pulled their weight alongside the men in the Pipe, Plate and Blacksmith Shops, as shipwrights and reamers helpers, as welders, burners and bolters. Women were also employed in the Steel Yard, Mold Loft, at the lathes, driving trucks, lagging pipes and sweeping hulls. And in a nod to their American sister in arms, ‘Rosie the Riveter’, some worked as riveters or “passer girls” tossing and catching hot rivets with “skill and accuracy”.

Two of these pioneering working women were our Wallace Shipbuilder back cover models, Evelyn Moore and Rose Marie Yzerman .

Safety was the ultimate priority for the women (and men) working at Burrard Dry Dock, as evidenced by the numerous pages devoted to the topic in the Wallace Shipbuilder. Many articles, promotions and even cartoons reiterated this concern. It was the workers job to keep fit, healthy and safe, so that they could continue to work to support the war effort overseas. Evelyn Moore’s photo showing her looking glamourous in her practical and comfortable bandana-cap combination epitomizes how workplace safety was conveyed to the women of the Burrard Dry Dock.

"Glamour and Safety" !  Back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder 1943.

Glamour and Safety! Evelyn Moore on the back cover of Wallace Shipbuilder 1943.

The message here? Smart “girls”, like pipe lagger Eveyln Moore, don’t let vanity interfere with their work. This next example, in the form of a cartoon and verse, shows what happens to women who let vanity trump over safety:

Bessie Burrrad cartoon by S. Coble from Wallace Shipbuilder.

“Bessie Burrrad” cartoon by S. Coble from Wallace Shipbuilder.

Benny Burrard’s a whistling wolf,
Luring women to his lair.
Bessie Burrard’s a playful vamp,
Letting the drill get in her hair.
Now Bessie has gone to the hospit-al
And Benny is after another gal.

The message here? Following safety regulations (like keeping your hair tucked in) not only saves your neck, but allows you to attract men [Yikes!] . Though seen as sexist through modern eyes, this type of cheeky advice would have appealed to both male and female Burrard workers.

In stark contrast to Evelyn’s mid-war image of working women, is Rose Marie Yzerman’s back cover photo:

Back cover of July 1945 issue of Wallace Shipbuilder.

Back cover of July 1945 issue of Wallace Shipbuilder . “Rose Marie Yzerman interprets Holiday Spirit for Wallace Shipyard readers. Sunshine and freedom… the warmth of sandy beaches…the lick of waves… a week of carefree happiness in the outdoors, built on the knowledge of a job well done, a holiday well earned”.

This image that appeared on the back of the July 1945 issue of Wallace Shipbuilder was used to promote the then new Vacation-with-Pay Plan (authorized by the National War Labour Board on April 17, 1945).

A brief biography on cover model, Rose Marie found inside the issue reads:

Rose Marie Yzerman, who posed for our back cover this month, does and outstanding job in Sheet Metal on ships’ communication systems. She makes all the speaking tubes and assembles the fittings, has been with North Burrard for two years, come July, and says it’s more fun than being a stenographer, which she was before the war. She swims, plays tennis, is centre fielder for the Burrard Girls’ Fastball Team, and plans to do on her holidays just what she’s doing on the back cover.

With the white towel in her hand, to me, it looks like she is surrendering up her job in a man’s world and leaping right back to her traditional role as a woman in a man’s world. In many ways that is exactly what happened.

During the war, women in the workforce experienced equality for the first time. At Burrard Dry Dock, women were paid the same wages as men and earned the same medical and housing benefits. But this employment equity was fleeting, at the end of the war the women of Burrard Dry Dock were forced to give up their ship yard jobs to men returning from the war.

When the male workforce was severely depleted due to the war, companies willingly built separate women’s facilities (washrooms and change rooms) to accommodate their new female employees. However, after the war, employers (like Clarence Wallace) argued that it was that it would be impossible to maintain these separate facilities. In fact, women in the workforce faced public criticism (from both women and men) if it looked like they were taking work away from an able bodied man.

Post war society was telling them – OK ladies, the war is over, time to go back to being women!  And perhaps for some women that was OK, but I suspect for others the work experiences at the shipyard opened up some new desires for a little more from life…

This thought made me wonder about whatever happened to these two women after the war? After a little research, I found out that after leaving her job at the Burrard Yards, Rose Marie was a student at UBC and graduated Law in 1952. According to her 2007 obituary, Rose Marie married [no children] and spent most of her working career as an executive at Woodward’s Department Stores.

The post war life of Evelyn Moore was much more vague. A 1943 local city directory listing revealed that Evelyn’s husband, Walter Moore was in active service. The 1948 listing for the Moore’s indicated that Walter was employed as a cabinet maker. After that, listings under “Moore – Walter N (Evelyn M)” no longer appear and the trail runs cold. It is very possible that they simply moved out of the area and lived a happy and full life in another city. At least that is what I would like to believe.

 

On this Remembrance Day it is important not only to remember the important contribution women like Rose Marie and Evelyn made towards the war effort, but to also acknowledge the contribution these pioneering women made towards the possibility of women’s equality in the workplace. In many parts of the world, the struggle continues today.

 

Fun fact: One of the most famous ships to be built at the Burrard Dry Dock was the RCMP Arctic patrol vessel, St. Roch, in 1928.

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The cure for writer’s block: molded gelatin salad!

I have been suffering recently with a case of writer’s block. I have several drafts of future posts for Vanalogue in various stages of completion, but have been unable to complete any of them. It has been very frustrating. In order to relieve the tension of uncompleted tasks and release the writer’s block, I decided it was time to try something creative, fun and a little daring – making a molded gelatin salad.

About a year ago I wrote the following in a post titled Cooking Up the Past:

My ultimate vintage recipe goal is to make a gelatin salad or aspic – there is something truly otherworldly about them. However,  first I need to procure a nice gelatin mold… and perhaps a little courage!

Though it took me about a year, I’m pleased to announce that I conquered my fears, found a vintage gelatin mold and made my first molded gelatin salad. In fact, I made two. Here’s the full story:

Vintage jelly mold. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Vintage jelly mold. Photo: C. Hagemoen

For months I have been scouring second hand stores and garage sales for a vintage gelatin mold. I finally found this 6″ tall one for $3 this summer. I thought it would make a very elegant looking gelatin salad (and would also be excellent for making a fancy ice cream bomb!).

I really wanted to make a gelatin salad with “things” suspended in it, so I scoured my collection of vintage cookbooks and the internet for suitable recipes. During my research I discovered that Jell-O once produced vegetable flavoured gelatin’s specifically for gelatin salads. Apparently the the possibilities were endless for what one could suspend in gelatin!

Vintage ad for vegetable flavoured Jell-O for salads.

Vintage ad for vegetable flavoured Jell-O for salads.

 

My mold holds about 6 cups of liquid so I purchased 4 boxes of lemon flavoured gelatin. I figured lemon (or lime) would be the most neutral flavour for my salad. Most of the recipes I found seemed to favour those two flavours when combining fruit and vegetables.

Photo of a melon molded salad from Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company, Chicago, Revised edition, 1958.

Photo of a melon shaped molded salad with grapefruit and avocado from Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company, Chicago, Revised edition, 1958.

In order to suspend pieces of fruit, vegetables (or other objects) in gelatin you have to carefully incorporate them into the gelatin after it has set for a bit. Timing is critical, if you add them too soon, they will simply float to the top. If you add them too late you compromise the integrity of your gelatin. Since I had grapes and and carrots on hand (and it seems for most of these recipes anything goes) I decided to suspend them in the lemon gelatin.

My first attempt immediately after release - a leaning tower of yellow jello.

My first attempt immediately after release – a leaning tower of yellow jello. Photo: C. Hagemoen

I seemed to have master the art of suspension, but my gelatin salad didn’t seem to have the strength needed to hold itself up. About a minute after I released my salad from the mold, this happened:

Complete gelatin failure! Photo: C. Hagemoen

Complete gelatin failure! Photo: C. Hagemoen

It looked like one of those red jellyfish you sometimes find washed up on shore on the West Coast.

There were two things I discovered with my first attempt. First, the gelatin to liquid ratio has to be adapted in order to get a stronger gelatin. Second, no matter how cute they looked, bits of carrot in lemon-flavoured gelatin is a very unpleasant flavour combination.

Aspic Recipe and another exemplar example of gelatin suspension.

Aspic Recipe and another exemplar example of gelatin suspension from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, Revised Edition, 1962.

For my next attempt, I decided to move away from the sickly sweetness of fruit-flavoured gelatin towards something more savoury and elegant – tomato aspic.  As I was perusing the ingredient lists of recipes for tomato aspic, I was constantly reminded of the flavours found in a Bloody Caesar (minus the vodka).

Eureka! Instead of a regular tomato aspic, I would make a Bloody Caesar aspic. I figured if I’m going to have to eat another molded salad, I might as well enjoy myself ( I hate wasting food).  Since I already had a bottle of vodka, celery and some Worcestershire sauce on hand, my investment would be limited to a bottle of Clamato juice and some plain gelatin. Since I’ve previously had good success with gelatin sheets, I decided to use them instead of powdered gelatin to set my aspic.

Bloody Ceasar Aspic. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Bloody Caesar Aspic. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Success! Look at that beauty!

View as seen from the aspic heavens! Photo: C.Hagemoen

View as seen from the aspic heavens! Photo: C. Hagemoen

With no sign of imminent collapse, I had plenty of time to try some food styling for these photographs.

The next step was to taste my creation. As I cut myself a slice of Caesar, I noticed the texture was quite different from a regular gelatin. I began to get a little concerned.

A slice of Bloody Ceasar Aspic. Photo: C.Hagemoen

A slice of Bloody Caesar Aspic. Notice the bits of celery that didn’t successfully suspend in the gelatin. Photo: C. Hagemoen.

The flavour of a traditional Caesar was certainly there (vodka and all), but the texture wasn’t what I expected. It is rather hard to put into words the exact nature of the texture, suffice it to say my aspic had a rather awkward mouth feel. Did I over compensate and add too much gelatin this time? Quite possibly. Even after cutting out a second slice, my aspic showed no signs of structural failure.

A bite of the Ceasar aspic. Photo: C. Hagemoen

A bite of the Caesar aspic. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The question is then do I want to eat a Bloody Caesar, or drink one? I think the latter is my preference.

I think I might make this recipe again (with slightly less gelatin) if I ever was invited (or hosted) a retro cocktail party. Otherwise, in the future, I think I will give molded gelatin salads a pass. For historical culinary context, I’m glad I tried making molded gelatin salads. However, I think they are best left alone in the annals of gastronomy.

If anyone out there has successfully made and enjoyed a molded gelatin salad, I would love to hear about it.

 

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