Newsie Jack

Newspaper vendor near the corner of Granville and Robson Street. Photo: James Crookall, City of Vancouver Archives CVA-260-1372

Newspaper vendor near the corner of Granville and Robson Street, May 24, 1940. This photo shows ‘Newsie Jack’ in his early days as a news vendor.  Copy of Photo: James Crookall, City of Vancouver Archives CVA-260-1372

In an era where the daily newspapers would print two editions a day, the street news vendor was a common sight on busy downtown street corners. The vendors would stand all day beside their small display kiosks, hawking the papers and shouting the headlines out loud. Newspaper vendors, like street photographers, were active participants in the daily buzz of the city.

I spent several years working as a media librarian in the CBC Vancouver Media Archives on a film preservation project. During that time, I was introduced to much of Vancouver’s engaging moving image history. Every now and then, a slug, or title would pique my interest and I would be lured to take a closer look. Such was the case when I came across a film item titled “Newsie Jack” in the log book.

This B&W, silent film reel was used as an obit for a newspaper vendor, known as ‘Newsie Jack’. It aired December 2, 1969 on the CBUT (CBC Vancouver) current affairs program “Hourglass” and was accompanied by a sound track of the song “Jimmy Brown The Newsboy“. According to the lineup sheet for the program, Newsie Jack sold newspapers on the street corner in downtown Vancouver. The footage shows him vending at Granville and Georgia, in front of Birk’s, and hamming it up with a young man peddling the (then) underground paper “The Georgia Straight”.

“Newsie Jack” – newspaper vendor, ca. 1969 – YouTube.

I wanted to find out more about Newsie Jack, but I would need to learn his full name to do so. I decided to use the BC Archives Vital Event Indexes to search the Death Registration Index using the three things I knew about him – his year of death (1969); his first name (Jack) and the location of his death (Vancouver).

There were several possible matches, but the strongest one was for a Jack Kanchikoff who died November 29, 1969, three days prior to the date that the CBC Vancouver obit for “Newsie Jack” aired. I decided to look in VPL’s online city directories to see if I could find a listing for a Jack Kanchikoff. The old city directories are great because they give you personal information about an individual including their marital status and occupation. Using the 1955 city directory (the latest directory to be digitized) I looked for the name “Kanchikoff” and found: Kanchikoff Jack (Lottie) news vendor r 1128 Davie. Looks like I found the right “Newsie Jack”.

I decided to take a trip to the 5th floor of the Central Branch of the VPL and look for a newspaper obituary listing for Jack Kanchikoff in the late November / early December 1969 editions of The Vancouver Sun newspaper.

As I was scrolling through the paper on microfilm, I noticed this headline on page 12 of the December 1, 1969 edition of The Vancouver Sun: Newsie Jack Collapses and Dies.

“Newsie Jack” died Saturday. His proper name was Jack Kanchikoff, but few of the people to whom he sold newspapers from his kiosk at the south-east corner of Georgia and Granville knew him by that name. Jack had been there since 1940 and at other locations for 10 years before that. His customers knew him as “Newsie”, a man who drew rough cartoons in chalk to illustrate the big or little news of the day. And they knew him as a man who squeezed their pockets each year for contributions to the March of Dimes appeal for crippled children. Jack was 69 when he died. He collapsed in The Bay just across from the corner where he stood for so many years.

When I read the last line of the article my heart sank, what a sad way to die.

When I decided to write about ‘Newsie’ Jack Kanchikoff, I wanted to find more images of him to illustrate my post. I found a record for a James Crookall photo (dated 1940) of a unnamed newspaper vendor at the City of Vancouver Archives. The photograph is catalogued in their online database, but the image has not been scanned. The original photograph is a 35mm B&W nitrate negative, but the record showed that the image was also available as modern print and copy negative. So I asked to see the print version. As soon as I slipped the photograph from its protective sleeve, I knew that this was indeed an image of a young ‘Newsie’ Jack Kanchikoff. Unfortunately, I only had my phone camera with me at the time to take a copy of the print, so I apologize for the low image quality.

Detail of Photo - Newspaper vendor near the corner of Granville and Robson Street. Photo: James Crookall, City of Vancouver Archives CVA-260-1372

Detail of Photo – Newspaper vendor near the corner of Granville and Robson Street, May 24, 1940. Copy of Photo: James Crookall, City of Vancouver Archives CVA-260-1372

Further research revealed that Jack Kanchikoff was born June 15, 1900 and was married to a woman named Lottie (1893-1985). Both Jack and Lottie are buried at the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery in New Westminster. It does not appear that they had any children as none are listed in the article, nor any other directory I searched through. [ I was hoping to search the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC online, but their website is currently under maintenance and is off-line. I will check back later, and if I find out any more information about Jack or Lottie I will post an update.]

The fact that two of the major media outlets in the city, made an effort to comment of the passing of ‘Newsie Jack’ speaks volumes about his character, and the presence he had in the city at the time. If anyone remembers ‘Newsie Jack’ or knows more information about him, I would love to hear from you.

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