Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 24 – Mandarin oranges

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 24: Mandarin oranges have been a seasonal tradition in BC for 130 years…

Easy to peel, no seeds, and super sweet… who can resist? Photo: C.Hagemoen

For the most part of the 20th Century, the arrival of the first shipment of Japanese Oranges in Vancouver unofficially marked the start of the holiday season. It was a much-heralded occasion. Sometime in the third week of November news would appear in the local media announcing the arrival of the first shipment of Japanese Oranges to the port of Vancouver, signalling that Christmas would soon be here.

The earliest account I could find of Japanese oranges arriving in BC for the Christmas season was from the December 5, 1888 issue of the Nanaimo Daily News, announcing that they had arrived for sale at George Calvasky’s Fruit Store on Victoria Crescent in Nanaimo.

It is believed that the Oppenheimer Bros. and Company (founded 1858) were the first importers of Japanese Oranges to British Columbia for the general market. According to their website, it was was in 1891 that the company sold their first Japanese mandarin oranges.  This date does not match up with the one from the Nanaimo Daily News, so perhaps the Oppenheimer Brothers weren’t the first importers, but they were certainly the largest. Nonetheless, we have been enjoying mandarin oranges in this part of the world for over 125 years.

I recently wrote an in-depth post about Christmas oranges which you can read here.

Seasons Greetings to you all! I hope you have enjoyed my Local History Advent Calendar, I have enjoyed the challenge of bringing it to you.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 23 – BC Tel ads

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 23: Telephonic fashion fantasy: When BC Tel was king….

This is the penultimate post of the Local History Advent Calendar and if you are still following along, then thank you! Hopefully you will understand if I’m a bit lazy with this one, but it is a fun film clip! You will enjoy it if you are a fan of vintage TV ads, old fashioned technology, and advertising  – and who isn’t?

Two BC Tel TV ads from the early 1960s promoting their fashion and beauty phones.

I wrote an ode to the rotary dial telephone 5 years ago you can find it here.

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 22 – Junior TV Club

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 22: Harvey Lowe and Avril (Kim) Campbell on Junior TV Club…

1950 Harvey Lowe, yo-yo expert, VPL 81284; Artray Studio.

Junior Television Club was a magazine format program for children produced out of Vancouver and broadcast on CBUT (CBC Vancouver) in the late 1950s.  The show had five child hosts each with their own specialty. One of the hosts was Avril Campbell (Kim Campbell) future Prime Minister of Canada (Canada’s 19th PM)! Hosts of the Jr TV Club would often interview famous people in the community – like local hero and yo-yo champion Harvey Lowe!

 

 

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 21 – Miles for Millions

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 21: Eartha Kitt walks Miles for Millions in Vancouver…

Miles for Millions participants vying for space with traffic on the Burrard Bridge, 1972. Vancouver Sun April 28, 1973.

Somewhere in the crowd in the photo above is my older sister and Dad starting their Miles for Millions walk for charity. My Dad was an avid recreational hiker, but I don’t think he was quite prepared for a trek quite like this:  25 miles on city pavement wearing incredibly inappropriate footwear (by today’s standards) armed only with Glossette raisins and baby powder. As I was deemed too young to participate, my contribution was limited to accompanying my stepmother to meet up with them at a checkpoint along Spanish Banks with sandwiches and snacks in hand (how this was accomplished without the aid of cellphones is a miracle). My sister remembers that Dad was absolutely “broken” by the end of it.

Starting in 1967, Miles for Millions was an annual walk-for-charity event in Vancouver and other cities & towns across Canada. Participants, many of them children and teens, would gather pledges sponsoring them by the mile with the intent of raising money for about 20 international charities, most of which helped “needy children”. By 1977, the metric system had taken hold, apathy had set in, and interest in the walk waned.

For the second annual Miles for Millions walk on May 6, 1968 singer Eartha Kitt, who was in town appearing at the Cave nightclub, was one of 6,000 walkers who completed the 25-mile trek. She was given a round of applause as she entered the Seaforth Armoury at the end of the walk. Ms. Kitt told reporters that she was sponsored at over $100 per mile by “a conglomeration of people in Vancouver“. The average participant’s sponsorship was anywhere from $1 – $20 per mile. Sporting a white tennis outfit for the trek, Ms. Kitt apparently walked the final 6 miles without her shoes “because my feet were hurting so much“. She was not complaining though, commenting that “If I had to do the walk again, I would. I was held to help children in need all over the world, and that is good enough for me“.

Eartha Kitt rests after her 1968 Vancouver Miles for Millions walk. Vancouver Sun May 6, 1968.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 20 – Langston Hughes

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 20: Sixty years ago this month Langston Hughes came to town…

Still of Langston Hughes appearing on the CBUT programme The 7 O’Clock Show, 1958.

Poet, novelist and playwright Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was in Vancouver 60 years ago this month. He was a guest of lecturer Jacob Zilber of UBC’s English Department who invited Hughes to speak at the university. Later that same day Hughes appeared as a guest on the CBUT (CBC Vancouver) programme The 7 O’Clock Show where he recited his famous poem, The Weary Blues (1925), to a jazz accompaniment.

In a December 3, 1958, Vancouver Sun interview, held at Jacob Zilber’s kitchen table, Hughes explained to the local press that he was “a professional writer. I write for money, I don’t make a lot. I make less than a school teacher, less than a plumber. I have no house. No car, no dog. I have nothing but books.” In fact, Hughes was the first black writer in America to earn his living from writing. Talking about his writing, Hughes said “I write emotionally, from my feelings. I let my characters say something and then I go back and see what they’ve said.

This film clip shows African-American poet, Langston Hughes reciting his poem, “The Weary Blues” (1925) to jazz accompaniment by the Doug Parker Band (feat. Fraser MacPherson, Stan “Cuddles” Johnson) on the live CBUT (CBC Vancouver) program “The 7 O’Clock Show” in 1958. Host, Bob Quintrell introduces the performance.

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 19 – Loggers invasion

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 19: Loggers once “invaded” the city at Christmas…

There was a time in this city’s history when the newspapers would not only announce the seasonal arrival of the first Mandarin Oranges, but also announce the seasonal arrival of the annual influx of loggers. All during the week before Christmas the city’s population would swell by the several thousands as the woodsmen arrived by steamship from logging camps on Vancouver Island and the Mainland.

“When you’ve been in the woods for a month the bright lights of the city are attractive. After six months they become an obsession”

That’s the way 32-year-old logger Harry Greene described, in a 1954 newspaper article, how loggers feel about the months of isolation and toil before they “burst out of the woods” for Christmas and head for the “big city”.

Photo of loggers in the forest ca. 1940s (Santa hats added by me and not part of original photo). Photo: Jack Lindsay, CoV Archives, CVA 1184-2182.

During the loggers’ annual Christmas trek to Vancouver they would arrive in their “store clothes” with their pockets full of “wooden dollars”, ready to spend and celebrate the “way of men who play as hard as they work”. For some of the single men, this may have meant going to the beer parlours and “chasing women” (especially in the early days), but for most it meant spending the seasonal “lay-off” with family and friends.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 18 – Jennie Wong

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 18: Vancouver’s Jennie Wong was the first female and first Chinese-Canadian disc jockey in Canada…

Teen Town Talk column in The Vancouver Sun, May 1948.

In 1948 Jennie Wong was one of three finalists in the CKWX-Teen Aid Disc Jockey Contest. The contest was co-sponsored by The Vancouver Sun’s Teen Town Association where Jennie was an active member of the Chinese Y Canteen. Each of the three finalists had their audition tapes sent to a panel of judges consisting of Freddie Robbins, a New York City disc jockey, crooner Frank Sinatra, and orchestra leader Claude Thornhill.  Though she was ranked #3, Jennie was given a half-hour Saturday afternoon program on CKMO that she called “Jennie’s Juke Joint”. On her program, Jennie would introduce the popular music of the day made by artists like Frank Sinatra (her favourite), Kay Starr, Bing Crosby, and Nat King Cole. This made 17-year-old Jennie Wong the first female and first Chinese-Canadian DJ in Canada.

Jennie (Jenne) Wong’s column in Teen Town Talk, The Vancouver Sun, June 1948.

Jennie was the older sister of local author Larry Wong. After she married in 1950 and moved from Vancouver, Jennie worked for CBC Edmonton for a time and then later started her own business doing theatrical and television make-up in Edmonton. Jennie died in Edmonton in 2011 at age 79.